What Quiet Scheme Is

I came up with the name, Quiet Scheme, as part of my planning for a small commercial brewery that never opened. I thought about abandoning the name as the chapter closed. I've done so before but this time, I chose to keep the name and have continued to think about what it represents. I have started to realize that although the name is new, some of what it represents has been important to me for a while.

The last update I shared was a year ago. To say it was an eventful year would be an understatement. Sparing you the details, I haven't been brewing much lately. Not since earlier this year. I have been thinking a lot about why I keep brewing, if I'll keep brewing, and what Quiet Scheme is after moving on from the idea of it as a business.

Brewery that Never Opened

Naming is hard, one of the hardest things for humans. A good name communicates a lot in an instant. It is part of that critical first impression. A name forms the basis of an identity, a collection of qualities, values, and actions that will become associated with it.

I thought I had a good name for my brewery, Peculiar Character. I came up with the name after another chapter in my life closed. To me, it represented a fresh start and a deliberate choice of voice and identity. I had invested a few years of podcasting into the name. Most of the people I knew in the beer and brewing industry knew me through that name.

Early in the planning, I worked with my lawyer on securing a trademark for Peculiar Character. Eventually, I secured one, but only for podcasting. Despite a couple of attempts, the USPTO decided my desired mark was too close to Theakston's Old Peculier. My lawyer advised against my idea of reaching out as other breweries have done to come to an agreement. Instead I went back to the drawing board.

Andrea and I brain stormed for a few days. We tried to draw inspiration from our lives and our shared history. We discarded references to our pets, our interest in history and historical re-creation. We made up a long list, found a few we kind of liked but nothing that felt right.

I grew frustrated so tried the approach I use for naming beers. I started looking up historical quotes and references. My starting point was our home county here in Maryland. I had named a few beers for local references, in particular my cream ale, Top of the World, refers to Maryland native, Matthew Henson. I found a quote from the namesake of our county, Richard Montgomery. He was speaking on the occasion of accepting a congressional appointment to serve as one of the first officers under Washington at the start of the American Revolutionary War.

Montgomery was a career soldier. He came out of semi-retirement to accept that appointment. He apparently grappled with the decision. He had already served during earlier colonial conflicts. He clearly had hopes of settling some land, of closing the military chapter of his life. He referred to the remainder of his life as his "quiet scheme," how he had to set it aside to serve the cause of an emerging democracy. I knew as I told Andrea what I found that I'd also found the name for our brewery.

The name was followed by an amazing logo by a designer, Sarah Brancy, I found through a very good friend. I even have a decent sized tattoo of the logo.

You can imagine how heart rending it was back in April of 2020 to realize we could not continue our plans to open a brewery due to an unfolding global pandemic.

Still Brewing, Mostly

No matter what has happened in my life in the last decade or so, one constant has been brewing. When times were difficult, retreating to the brewery helped me take care of myself and recharge. I always had something to invest my attention in deeply, to put everything else out of mind for a while. When things were better, brewing became a celebration, an excuse to spend time with friends. I made beer for friends and with friends.

Brewing took on extra significance working on the plan for the commercial brewery. I worked out recipe ideas. I shared what I made to help stakeholders experience some of what I envisioned. I expanded my ideas on the slate of beers to offer. I practiced my craft with an eye towards a commercial standard.

I have been on a hiatus from brewing since some plumbing woes back in April that literally put my brewery out of commission for a couple of months. Fast forward through a few more travails and I still haven't gotten back into the swing. My big limiter now is my tolerance when drinking. For health reasons, I have finally embraced moderation. If I am to brew more than a couple of times a year, I need to make giving it away as easy as possible. I mean cans, which I've made progress on but not nearly as much as I'd like. That is my focus, which still has me in my brewery on the regular. I still slowly scheme and experiment, making hop water and planning some imminent upgrades.

That shift from brewing more than monthly to a multiple month break got me to thinking. What is Quiet Scheme when it is empty of beer in process? Why do I maintain the space and still find reasons to work in it, even if not on a beer?

Benefit of Perspective

I gradually realized that I was lucky not to open a brewery after all. At the starte several friends told me very directly that if I loved brewing, the last thing I should do is open a brewery. Their reasoning was that a brewery also requires a lot of work on the business. I actually liked that part. I enjoy learning and planning even a small brewery was a crash course in a lot of topics. I agree with them now but not for their reasons.

I have transformed my health for the better, starting soon after our original decision not to open the brewery. I would not have been physically capable of achieving this and open any business at the same time, let alone a brewery. I enjoy how good I feel now. I find it hard to imagine going back to eating and living the way I used to. I am glad I had the chance to learn this about myself.

I have thoughts I am still working on about the industry of craft brewing. These thoughts are part of my gratitude for remaining an amateur. Suffice to say I am now skeptical of the common and accepted ways to start and run a brewery. I also doubt my strength and enthusiasm to do anything about it.

Missing the Taproom

As an avowed introvert, one of the surprising things I learned about myself planning a brewing business was how much I looked forward to having a tap room.

I have always enjoyed being a host. Andrea and I relished the idea of creating and decorating a communal space, informed by the aesthetic and comfort we have crafted in our own home. We looked forward to contributing to people's sense of welcome and enjoyment, not merely for the beer but also for the space. Vibe was important to us, as important as it is hard to ultimately define other than to know whether you've gotten it right or not.

It was also the idea of getting to meet and chat with people, especially regulars where the discussions can run a little deeper. We got to meet some very kind and interesting people who could have become future customers. You could see some of their homes across the street from from what would have been our front door.

There was a neighborhood green space we went to a couple of events at. The surrounding neighborhoods and our prospective landlord had collaborated to create and furnish the space. This would have been steps away from our door.

The local civic association held neighborhood gatherings and events there throughout the year, a few already had been supplied with locally brewed beer. They were looking forward to that beer coming from their very own community.

I mention the tap room because I think that social experience and expectation is now part of what Quiet Scheme means to me. Now that I see this connection, I am experiencing it in an unexpected but welcome way.

Unexpected Community

About a year ago, I recognized and started paying attention to my growing unease with Twitter and Facebook. I had been intellectually aware of their sins for years. Around that time, something in my experience of their services had shifted. I found less of the connection with other people I wanted, more of the repetitive output from their algorithms.

I had already been experimenting with the fediverse and Mastodon. The former is a network of servers running different kinds of open source software that can all communicate with each other through a common protocol to support social sharing and communication. The latter is one such piece of software that is relatively easy to setup and use. I was so intrigued by the idea of an alternative to commercial social media, especially for my community of friends in beer, that I purchased the domain mastodon.beer.

I didn't do anything with the domain until the day the deal to sell Twitter finally closed. I had learned enough to start up a server, paying a hosting provider to do the heavy lifting. That was a month ago and the server now hosts a little over two hundred people actively using it. The community we form, especially with the way Mastodon works with a timeline of local interactions, feels a lot like the one I imagined might find my taproom.

In hindsight, I think a domain like quietscheme.social may have been more appropriate. The conversations I am having and the role I fill as an admin definitely feels like one of the many spokes around the hub of Quiet Scheme.

Quiet Scheme has become motivating core concept more than any specific expression of it. Similar to The Command Line for my tech and professional interests, Quiet Scheme has become a unifying thread of thoughts and projects about my beer and brewing.

Tags: quiet-scheme
Posted by Thomas Gideon on 2022-11-27 00:00