The business of distribution is both a brutal and beautiful thing.
I wake up before the sun is ready to wake up. Sometimes it’s easy to jump up and get started, but most days I find myself asking why I didn’t go to bed earlier the night before. But so it goes. I make it in one way or another. Once the coffee is brewed, the routes are laid out and loaded, and the limbs start warming up, I’m generally ready to go. The body usually gets the hint rather quickly that once the blood starts pumping, it’s time to start the day.
Moving case after case and lifting a multitude of kegs at seven-thirty in the morning isn’t what most people would be willing to do. But there we are, the drivers and dock guys, loading up the vans and listening to whatever music sounds over the stereo (as long as there is a stereo - sometimes Josh sings while balancing on kegs doing some circus mojo act). It’s best to keep a steady pace and get a couple jokes going, especially during the winter months. It can get vigorously cold down there on the loading dock, especially during windy days. And during the summer months, well, I’ll let the sweat do the talking.
And that’s just the beginning of the brutal aspect. It’s not an easy job moving cases and kegs around town. Wheeling two barrels down two flights of stairs will quickly show you the meaning of muscle control - and there are a lot of stairs out there. We are often described as ‘the muscle of Rhinegeist’. I might add that we are also the ‘final frontier’. There are no shortcuts in and out of the brewhouse. It’s all hand-moved throughout town.
Out on the road, the variables are consistent. The drives can be long, delays happen, cases occasionally break, traffic and road problems ensue, receivers won’t be cooperative, kegs will be forgotten, days will be long and not to mention that a late night has its own affect.
But here’s the thing. Despite all the hardships that might happen, it’s without a doubt outweighed by the beauty that surfaces from the madness. We brew and self-distribute our beer - just us, no middle man, and we do it all with soul! It becomes a personal matter to be sure that people are getting what they want, because you know the people that put the sweat and hours into making it. Despite how early I come into work, the brewers and production team have already begun their day, sometimes even staying overnight. (I would be inclined to retract the earlier statement and say that all of us are the muscle of Rhinegeist).
This is where the beauty comes in. We deliver everywhere around the Cincinnati area, and then some. The history to this city is incredible. Sometimes I’ll deliver to a business and they’ll show me an abandoned vault from a bank back in the late 1800’s, or an underground tunnel that leads to a sophisticated network of underground tunnels. I have gotten to know all the back roads that are carved into this cities’ map. There are towns I have never been to that I get to not only visit, but meet the people and businesses that call that town home. Never am I short on recommending a new restaurant to eat at. Never am I short on finding excitement on venturing into new territory.
I’ll admit that sometimes on a busy day I make haste to get in and out of deliveries, but I have come to know some fantastic people that I bring beer to. There is such an uplifting feeling when you knock on the back door and the person answering it yells, “Rhinegeist is here, hell yeah!” It pumps you up and makes you feel that, whatever you are doing, you’re doing something right. Not only that, but it makes you look forward to the next drop.
We are madmen. We are beer lovers. We are damn hard workers. Days may be strenuous, but that all comes with the territory. However, at the end of the day when you pull into the loading dock, you realize that the work you are doing has meaning behind it - true meaning from good people who really do care about what they’re doing. And that pint of fresh ale straight from the tap after it’s all said and done, well, that speaks for itself.
Bryan Youtsey has been a part of the distribution team at Rhinegeist since June of 2014. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.