Marley Rall: The Brewer’s Baker


[This article was originally published in Beer Advocate Magazine. Read the full article at]

Marley Rall was saved by beer. When she first met her husband-to-be, a hobbyist homebrewer, she was stuck, overworked, and plagued by inauthentic professional relationships in the nonprofit fundraising world. Rall knew her future happiness hinged on being her own boss and making a difference. And as it turned out, beer rescued Rall—in an unexpected way.

While observing her husband’s homebrewing process, Rall noticed that each batch of beer generated a huge amount of waste product. She took a closer look, and after some detailed research into large-scale brewery operations, found much of the same at the other end of the spectrum. Rall also discovered that up to 85 percent of this waste is spent grain that is discarded after its early role in wort production in the beer-making cycle.

Rall knew the life of these kernels of rye, wheat, millet, and barley was far from over. Tapping into her skills as an amateur home baker, she concocted an idea to recapture these brewery leftovers and bring the brewing process full circle. Now Rall is the face of The Brewmaster’s Bakery, an innovative purveyor of sweet and savory snacks, granola, baked goods, and dog treats made with the spent grain from six Seattle-area breweries and counting. This summer, less than two years after launching her home-based business, Rall opened The Brewmaster’s Taproom—a welcoming brick-and-mortar beer bar that showcases the craft breweries that supported Rall from the beginning.

[Read the full article at]


How to Make Beer Taste Better

beer-mug-patentSome drink beer to socialize. To break the ice. To celebrate. Others drink beer to unwind at the end of a long day, as a treat. There are people who drink beer to get into their creative groove. Tackle art projects. Cook up extravagant feasts. For me? All of the above. Or most recently, in my new Seattle home, I drink beer while shimmying around to soul music as I unpack the last of my moving boxes and settle in. I find the ritual brings a lighthearted and fun vibe to what otherwise might be a daunting task.

Not only are we creatures of habit, we are creatures of ritual. Studies published in Psychological Science show that the rituals we perform before eating, or drinking in this case, actually make our food and beverages taste better. Repeated behaviors change our perception, and the “intrinsic interest” that rituals foster—the fact that rituals draw people into what they are doing—leads to positive affects on our eating and drinking experiences. In trying to better understand some common beer rituals, I asked the Beer Advocate community to chime in.

One user shared, “I enjoy drinking imperial stouts outside in cold weather; 25-35 degrees. It’s interesting because you can start with a bomber at cellar temp and taste how it changes as it cools down.” I love the experiential element of this ritual. No doubt one could achieve the same results by chilling beer to varying temps in the fridge, but there’s something about the unconventionality of this tradition that makes it more compelling.

Another Beer Advocate enthusiast claims to take a memory-based approach to his ritual. “Many steins and glasses in my cabinet are from various trips across the world, and often, when enjoying a particular beer that is suited for a specific glass, I thoroughly enjoy reaching for that glass and using the moment as an opportunity to remember some of the good times I had in the past… If you’ve actually visited this or that brewery in Europe, there’s an entirely different experience thereafter when drinking their beer, especially if it is from a glass you carefully brought home from overseas.”

For another beer lover, ritual helps create community. “When I’m drinking a new beer by myself, I like to send a snapchat of the pour to my other Beer Advocate friends. More often than not, I’ll receive one back of the like. It lets us cheers a beer even when those friends may be in other cities or states.” What an excellent example of social media at its best! Personally, I appreciate the ease of Untappd, an app that also allows you to “cheers” your friends, while offering a nifty way to keep track of the beers you’ve tried, and a rating feature that allows you to refer back to the brews you liked or disliked. (If you’re on Untappd too, let’s connect! Find me HERE.)

In all of these cases (and countless others) drinking a beer is so much more than just, well, drinking a beer. The benefits of the rituals exceed the intoxicating results and create memories, learning experiences, community, and ease. Repetition has never tasted so good.

What are your beer-drinking rituals?

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Association for Psychological Science – “To Savor the Flavor, Perform a Short Ritual First”

TIME – “Rituals Make Food (and Drinks) Taste Better”

3 Things I Learned from Following Around a Beer Photographer

Talia Shapiro Simply Beeresistible

Photo by Will Foster @wfstr

I jumped at the recent opportunity to tag along with seasoned Seattle-based food and beverage photographer Will Foster for an afternoon of brewery exploration. His goal: offer a compelling visual series on two unique, local breweries—Holy Mountain and Lucky Envelope—to run alongside a Beer Advocate spotlight article. My goal: fully realize my calling as a designated beer drinker! I was excited for a special behind-the-scenes perspective on brewery operations while positioning, holding, and sipping their tasty brews for the camera.

I learned many things from the experience—in particular, I made three key observations about the intersection of beer and photography:
1.) Appreciate simplicity
2.) Build alliances
3.) Variety is the spice of life

Let me explain…

Sometimes the simplest icon is the most memorable. Stamped on their tap handles, coasters, and bottled offerings, Holy Mountain’s logo is an imperfect triangle with a single dot inside—an image that is both recognizable and a bit intriguing. Where did they come up with the design? You might just have to visit the brewery to find out!

In photography, presenting a unique point of view (POV) is what separates a great image from boring one. The simple POV that Will Foster captured transports you right into the Holy Mountain taproom, onto a barstool next to mine, and it hints at the complexities of each brew. Rather than trying to capture every graphic element into the shot (beer list, fermenters, merchandise, line of taps, etc., etc., etc.) a clean and simple photo proves much more enticing.

We get by with a little help from our friends, and brewing alliances are no different. When Lucky Envelope co-founders Barry Chan and Raymond Kwan began jumping through hoops to open their brewery, they tackled at least one hurtle with some unexpected guidance from the folks at Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery. Apparently, it’s best to “season” new brewery equipment before producing a stellar end product. Brewers can use less-than-top-quality ingredients (a.k.a. cheaper raw ingredients) for the first “throw-away” batches of beer without depleting their funds. Fast forward to present day. Lucky Envelope and Flying Bike both offer a collaborative brew on their tap lists called Flying Envelope Washington Lager… the product of an excellent new brewmance. 

There are a lot of generic beer photos out there. There are also many mediocre brews that make it into our pint glasses. On the other side of the spectrum, there are some truly innovative photographers—like Mr. Foster—who recognize the need for unconventionally framed shots, pictures that convey vitality and movement, photos that tell the story of the people behind the product. Craft breweries—like Holy Mountain and Lucky Envelope—know it’s essential to offer a variety of beer styles that cater to beer nerds’ tastes, food pairings, and even the weather. Breweries frequently brew small batches and offer rotating taps or guest brews to keep things interesting and keep patrons coming back for the next limited release.

There are more than one million home brewers in the U.S. And photographers? Pretty much everyone with a smartphone identifies as an amateur photographer. No matter, I learned a ton this time around by tagging along with the professionals, and I hope to be a designated drinker again soon!

What’s something you’ve learned while visiting a local brewery?

Beer Nerds Unite!

Image source:

Image source:

Most of us have come across a few self-proclaimed “wine snobs” at some point, and I recently became curious about the equivalent beer-drinking persona. Imagine my surprise to learn that one of the most popular terms for beer enthusiasts is “beer nerd!” The label doesn’t bother me personally, as I survived my adolescence as a “band geek” and have always been the “dorky older sister” to my hip younger siblings. Personal acceptance aside, I wondered: Are there informed beer drinkers out there who are offended by the potentially negative “beer nerd” description?

There is no simple answer, I discovered as I perused a popular Beer Advocate forum discussion on the topic (check out the Beer Nerds: Negative or Positive? thread here). At first it may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s widely agreed that “beer snob” is a negative term while “beer nerd” is positive. There are also those who prefer “beer guru,” “beer aficionado,” “beer geek,” and even “beer Jedi.” One Beer Advocate member explains the phenomenon quite well in saying that beer nerds are those who “talk about beer, not about how cool beer makes them.” This grounded sensibility, the unpretentiousness, is key.

Not quite sure how you fit into the beer nerdiness spectrum? Luckily, there’s a handy online quiz: So you think you know Beer?: Quiz for Beer Nerds. (I’m warning you, it’s really challenging!)

While hipsters across the globe may clutch their cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon for dear life, I’m happy to report that beer nerds can be found enjoying tasty craft brews, discussing a beer’s merits, and most certainly not trying to impress their fellow Jedi.

Question for readers: Besides “beer nerd,” is there another label that accurately describes your beer expertise?