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Thoughts on Creativity

Creativity is a way to connect, develop skill, and transform. In its pursuit, we become stronger, more resilient people. No better way to represent this than through the lens of a craft beer glass.

The Creativity of Craft Beer

One of my favorite things to do in life is try new craft beer. Admittedly, this is a bit of a left turn from my typical content and attempts at more profound thoughts. But beer is widely considered one of the more complex and creative fermented beverages in the world. I love it for reasons far beyond the loss of inhibition.

The flavor, the color, the mouthfeel, the strength. The creation of craft beer is a fascinating and wildly creative process. Breweries popping up all over the world are tasked with mixing their own culture, ingredients, and style. The complexity of the process demands a level of skill acquired over years of study, practice, and failures. The process generates something new from creative infusion into an otherwise fundamental process. It is in this creative process that we share and connect over the output, while we look forward in unison to what may come next.

We as humans gravitate toward creativity. It is easy to recognize in areas like art, athletics, and fashion. We pay top dollar for the unique painting. We watch replays of the amazing dunk or catch. For some reason, people still watch as models walk down a runway. Creativity draws our attention as sources of making old things feel new and valuable.

Creativity Versus Mass Consumption

This is where my love of beer is rooted. In the creativity behind the entirety of the process and the different tastes and drinking experiences that creativity affords. I’ve come to realize that my appreciation of creativity actually has developed over time. At a high level, it’s clearly indicated from the 15 year transition from frat house beer pong to 4 ounce pours of limited release stouts at a microbrewery.

Zooming in a bit, however, as I get older and come to value the creative process for myself, I can more clearly see the difference between creative work and hacks designed to meet public consumption.

For those breweries out there designed to mass produce i.e. Miller-Coors, Constellation, or InBev, the creative process takes a back seat to global production, mass distribution, and shareholder profits. In simple terms, the focus on growing a business can severely water down the product.

As creators, breweries must decide what values will drive the work they do. Will the beer they create remain a craft? Or will it ultimately need to be hacked for public distribution and consumption? Is there a middle ground or sweet spot? Or will profits and financial growth ultimately outweigh the ability to remain creative?

A brewery can forever focus on the creativity of its beers, brewing small batches that allow for experimentation and differentiation. This approach may deepen its local or cult following. It will keep the power of the creative process in the hands of the brewery and its team. It may limit the financial possibilities for the owners. And that may all be ok.

A brewery can also choose to sell off to a larger company. This will help distribution which in turn will get that beer to more people who otherwise may have never experienced the work. Inevitably, experimentation will be less available as the team now has to focus on meeting distribution demands. The business will grow as sales increase, but what will be sacrificed in the way of creativity?

The Art and Science of Creativity

There is both an art and science to creativity. Those of us looking to become creative and share our work can choose how far and in which direction we take our efforts. We can continue to learn, change, and evolve our work, which continually combines the science of our skills with the art of our personal touch. We can also choose a different value where we focus less on that evolution and instead on hacks or efficiency of distribution of work that will reach more people, more widely.

We have a choice between depth or surface.

Understanding my own creativity in the context of my affinity for craft beer has enlightened me to three key elements of the creative process: Mastery, Transformation, and Connection.

A Reflection of Mastery

Creativity comes as a product of skill mastery. As we become more competent and capable of doing things, as we develop the muscle memory to perform a task without thinking, the room for creativity becomes available. I mentioned the basic ingredients for brewing beer, but the complex process in which to use those ingredients takes years to master.

A brewer must surrender to the time and deliberate practice necessary to hone their craft. They must become intimately familiar with the impact of each ingredient on the process. They must embed the timing of each component of the process to memory, understanding what differences the slightest alteration generates. They must learn the tools and temperatures required to mix, mash, heat, cool and ferment the ingredients.

In the time and patience it takes to master a process, creativity can be born. There are no skipping steps. There is no bypassing the process. Therefore, creativity is a reflection of one’s earned ability. A brewer does not create a delicious batch of beer out of luck or raw talent.

Creativity is a product of skill.

From Common to Uncommon

The majority of things we define as creative are actually old or common things that are simply given a new spin. Common transformed into uncommon. Beer isn’t much different. The basic ingredients are water, malt, hops, and yeast. Yet it is taking those ingredients that you can brew a variety of types of beer. From there, each type can be delineated even further down into different variations of those types of beer.

The point isn’t to create a brand new beverage with each batch. The point is to take the foundation and skill learned over time to whip up a different version of that foundation. An IPA isn’t just an IPA if it has used hops with different flavor profiles, infused fruit or lactose for sweetness, or developed some haziness in the color with a blend of oats and wheat.

Sure, many IPAs may taste generally the same. This is the formula for wide distribution and consumption. Yet others can choose to deviate from that formula and creatively experiment with flavors, strengths, and ingredients that take a bit more of a deliberate approach to creativity.

Common ingredients are used, of course, but others are added and the taste is transformed. The combinations and usage happens in different ways. They are heated and mixed in different amounts of time, with different temperatures and methods. There is an art to the science and it is in the ways canvases are filled with the products of beakers and bunsen burners that we get creativity.

Creative people take common elements and transform them into uncommon products that people will value.

A Source of Connection

There is an inherent intimacy that comes from being creative. The work that goes into it, the skill on display, and the separation it brings from a typical state of being allows us to treasure creation more closely. Those who value such things can connect. We find people who understand and appreciate the creativity in the ways we do.

From what I have experienced, the community around craft beer is incredibly intimate. There is very little competition between breweries. Instead, it is common to find them supporting and promoting each other. The craft beer enthusiasts feel this connection and join in. We don’t chug the beautiful creation of these brewers, rather choosing to mindfully consume. We smell for the creative aroma. We drink with the intention of tasting the art and creativity that goes into each glass.

When a brewery is on the rise, there is a beautiful connection that it fosters among its team, its community, and the fans of its product. They have fun as a team coming up with all new names, types, flavors, and concoctions. They throw local events and invite other breweries to collaborate so that the creativity can be both shared and amplified. They use cool bottles and cans to display a different type of creativity. There are stories behind the names of the beers and the ways that the flavors intertwine with those stories.

It is in this creativity that people come together and share an authentic connection over something they mutually value, at a deep level.

The Pursuit of Creativity

Much like most forms of entertainment, I have the utmost reverence and respect for the artistry and science that goes into the craft of making beer. This sentiment, however, doesn’t come from the product. I don’t love craft beer because of the delicious pastry stouts, I don’t love baseball for the home run. I don’t love Tarantino movies for the twists. I love the creative process.

As I continue my growth process and work through my own journey of emotional maturity, I recognize that creativity is a beautiful part of my journey. Recognizing and learning from the creativity of others gives me healthy hobbies and models. Seeking to develop my own creativity naturally has me cultivating new skills and trying new things. Becoming creative is one of the more rewarding components of a growth journey.

Sure, I fail. Sure, I sometimes get frustrated and question my own ability. I am sure every brewer out there has tossed countless failed batches. It makes us better.

The pursuit of creativity builds us into stronger, more resilient people.

While it may have taken me a few beers to figure this out, I am grateful for where my journey has taken me thus far. My creativity comes out in my love for beer, in my love for coaching, and in the building of my partnership and other close connections. I am always looking for new creative paths, now that I have found a few. For anyone who’s read this far and wants to discuss their own creativity, let’s connect and chat about it over a beer. It’ll be fun.

If you feel a connection and want to learn more about coaching, creativity, and self exploration with me, please visit www.deliberateself.com/coaching.

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Alex Rood

Alex Rood

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Leader & coach deliberately focused on becoming a better human being each day. It is a process of slow growth, and it’s the only way - deliberateself.com