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AMA’s Fall Trek: A Look Inside Craft Brew Alliance

When I received my schedule for the fall term, I was excited to see that classes were not held on Fridays.  Growing up, three day weekends were the best thing that could happen during the school year, and even now that it’s pretty standard, it still feels like a holiday every time.  Except in graduate school it’s really not a three day weekend…my Fridays are often filled with career fairs, workshops, informational interviews, and treks.

Don’t be confused – when I say “trek,” I’m not talking about Trek bikes, Star Trek, or some kind of Australian walkabout.  This is a whole new kind of trek that I have discovered at Atkinson: the student association trek.  These treks are opportunities to get an inside look at local companies and hear from executives and employees about what they do.

This past Friday I joined the Atkinson Marketing Association (AMA) on their first trek, which was a visit to the Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) in North Portland.  Driving over and pulling into their parking lot was a stark contrast to every other time I’ve been on that street.  I only travel to that part of town once a year, to run in the Bridge to Brews Run, when you have to park blocks away and muscle your way through crowds to get anywhere.  This Friday at 8:45 AM, there was nobody else in sight until the rest of the AMA crew showed up.

We were escorted into their warm building and seated in a conference room to hear from a panel of Craft Brew Alliance employees.  Visiting this alliance felt particularly relevant after spending the last two months of PACE hearing presentations on case studies of mergers and alliances.  The issues that CBA faced in their merger were very similar to those that I have studied – such as learning the art of bringing two work cultures together harmoniously and spreading resources strategically and fairly between companies.

When the panel was over we were handed over to Ike, a brewer at Widmer Brothers.  Before heading into the brewery, Ike told us about his past as a sail-maker, how he came to brew for Widmer Brothers and proudly announced that he wore shorts year round.  He also pointed out that he had dressed up for us that day by putting on a collared shirt.

Once indoors, Ike showed us around the machinery and gave a detailed explanation of the beer making process.  I missed a lot of the beer-making steps because I was busy resisting the urge to touch the big metal shiny things, which we had explicitly been told not to touch.  It was obvious why Ike was the brewer – he clearly knew what he was talking about, and several of my colleagues were vying for his job by the end of the tour.

Treks can include multiple company visits, but this one only involved CBA.  This turned out to be a stroke of good luck, because it meant that we got to head straight to the brew pub (the servers kindly let us in out of the cold ten minutes early), and have a taste of the product we’d just spent a couple hours hearing so much about.  As I started in on my 6-beer sampler, it was easy to forget that I was still participating in a school activity.  The Craft Brew Alliance Trek was not a bad way to start my three-day weekend!

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