EP-287 Jamal Robinson, New England Brew Co., & Phil Pappas, CT Brewers Guild


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This week’s guest is a long-time industry friend of mine from back when he and I worked tougher to help launch Stony Creek Brewery in Branford, Connecticut. He had just left his sales gig at Blue Point Brewing, and I was only a couple of years into launching Good Beer Hunting’s studio and strategy practice.

With his energy and insight, we became fast friends.

Jamal Robinson is the sales director for a fast-growing powerhouse called New England Brewing Co., or NEBCO as you’ll hear him call it. And despite all his previous his growth and success, this year turned out to be a year of radical transformation.

And today’s conversation is about that transformation—but also where it’s lead in a very short amount of time.

Stemming from the social unrest following the murder of George Floyd and many others, Jamal, himself a Black man, started looking both within and without at the community. He looked towards the Connecticut community, the Black community, and the brewing community. And he started to share what he saw.

That lead to a series of conversations and conversions. I’ll never forget the moment Jamal called me to tell me that he finally found the words he needed to lead a conversation within the brewery—a conversation not about politics or activism, things that terrify many small business owners afraid to jump into the fray, but about community. And he found those words in an article by Kate Bernot, called “Say It Out Loud — Who Do Breweries Talk About When They Talk About ‘Community’?”

When Jamal told me that story, and the profound reframe it helped him bring to his team, we both got a bit emotional. But that was just the beginning.

Now he’s kicking off a scholarship program, with the help of his employer and the Connecticut Brewers Guild lead by Phil Pappas, who is also on this episode. They worked with Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, to establish an endowment with the potential to fund a scholarship program that will outlive everyone involved.

In a year that saw some incredible new initiatives begin from powerful players like Dr. J Nikol Beckham of CraftxEDU and the Brewers Association, and Garret Oliver, the Brooklyn Brewmaster who started the Michael Jackson Foundation, in my mind, no one is punching above their weight quite as far as Jamal.

This is Jamal Robinson of New England Brewing Co. and Phil Pappasof the Connecticut Brewers Guild. Listen in.

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