Valley Craft Beer

Craft Beer Forward: changing the world one pint at a time

Annette Bencomo wants to buy me a beer.

It comes with the caveat that I’ll pass along the good will at some point – craft beer it forward.

“It’s a small world when you think about it,” says Bencomo, sitting at the bar inside Goldstein’s Mortuary & Delicatessen, sipping a sample of something called Sofa King. It’s an India pale ale, and yes, the name is a pun.

Of course, that’s only if we’re connected to our community, which is why Bencomo is buying and why she started Craft Beer Forward, a social media movement that aims to have strangers sit down and chat over a pint or a bottle. Bencomo came up with the idea with her husband, Julian, after realizing they met many of their lifelong friends through the craft beer scene. Julian works at Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. and has been in the industry for 30 years.

Two weeks ago, the couple issued a Facebook challenge. They asked people to post a picture or a video of themselves paying a craft beer forward and then to nominate five friends to do the same. The initial response was so good that the couple created a Facebook community for the movement, launched a website and put together a quasi manifesto.

In part, it reads: “With so many controversial issues in the world today, the time has come to take action, take time to get to know a complete stranger over a craft beer. Listen to their story and share yours, come together as a Craft Beer Community. After all, we’re all in this together.”

There are Craft Beer Forward stickers and buttons floating around town. Hats and T-shirts should start popping up soon, Bencomo says.

Eventually, the couple wants to create a Craft Beer Forward app that would include an interactive map and games. It’s in the works, Bencomo says, though in the earliest stages. You can expect a series of fundraisers and Craft Beer Forward nights at local pubs and breweries in the next few months. The first will likely be a cornhole tournament, which makes sense seeing as the game already is part of the craft beer scene. The catch here, in keeping with Craft Beet Forward theme, would be that players would get randomly paired with their partners and forced to meet someone new.

Already, the Craft Beer Forward Facebook page is filled with pictures of others joining the cause. The Bencomos have been paying it forward every chance they can.

“I even got to buy a beer for a dog,” Bencomo says. Tioga-Sequoia’s beer garden is dog-friendly and carries Bowser Beer and, yes, dog beer is a thing.

Bencomo is obviously excited by the response she’s seen, but she is careful not to put any rules on the movement. She’d rather people discover it and use it in their own way, she says.

With craft beer, everything is a kind of discovery. It’s part of what makes the community so special, she says.

“First off, this is somebody’s art,” Bencomo says. It’s beer as a means of self-expression, both for the brewers and patrons.

That much is obvious, looking at the menu at Goldstein’s. The names are written in bright chalk on a series of signs above the bar. There are dozens of beers with names like Executioner’s Basket and Cuvee de Tomme and Old Rasputin.

For the uninitiated it might be intimidating, and that too is part of Craft Beer Forward, Bencomo says.

“There are so many people willing to help you out,” she says.

And yes, they may be strangers, but they share a passion: “Even if they have nothing in common, they do have beer in common.”

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479; @joshuatehee