I’d never met Drew Daly before I walked into Bangers & Lace for our interview but by the time I walked out a few hours later, I felt like I'd known him for years. Drew's one of those guys whose friendly, dissarming demeanor combined with his knowledge makes you feel like he's an old friend, and it's this quality that makes me believe he could sell snow to a polar bear... or whatever. Right now he sells Belgians and sours for Destihl Brewing Company. We got to our five questions over a round of Sünner Kölsch.
What Are You Drinking?
I'm drinking a Sünner Kölsch. I was first introduced to this beer when I was beverage buying for Bar Toma and we were revamping our beverage list and starting to introduce some craft brands. Adam Schulte with Artisanal Imports came in and tasted me on the book. I wasn't too familiar with Kolch's -- I mean, Metropolitan Krankshaft was another fantastic example that I knew but I'd never really been exposed to one of the traditional styles. He tasted me out on this beer and I fucking fell in love with it.
Obviously, I'm a good company man, I love drinking my own liquid but if you're drinking Belgian's and sour beers all the time, it's nice to switch it up with something lighter or hop-heavy.
WHAT'S SOMETHING WE CAN'T GOOGLE ABOUT YOU?
There was a point in time where I almost didn't come to Chicago because I was deathly afraid of the city. This was college-ish time and I was dating a girl and wanted to impress her. She was from the burbs so I was like, let’s go to Chicago and have a night in the city. We tried to go to this restaurant on the far north side and I got in a fender bender because I didn’t know how to parallel park… and then I got so lost on the way home. It gave me this really sour taste of Chicago. I used to tell people, “Why would I want to live in the big city? That’s just silly. Everything I need is right here: I got an Applebee’s.” Then when I actually spent time in the neighborhoods, I kind of fell in love with the city.
How Do You Explain Your Job To someone Outside the industry?
There's a very romanticized view of what this job is. It's the same romanticism that I had when I saw suppliers come in to my bars and restaurants and thought, "That's gotta be the sweetest job! You just drink booze all day and you sit down in restaurants and bars and you eat their really awesome food." It's a LOT more work than that. A lot more work. I try to tell people that when you do this job you're a middleman, you're a front man, you're the backman -- you're playing all points. You're the face of the brand, and you want people to associate you with the brewery, but also need to work with accounts and bring new product in, and work with the distributors. You’re wearing so many different hats. I try to explain to people that it's a little bit more like playing a game of really tricky chess - you're moving so many pieces and your day could go from "Today I've got 10 accounts that I'm going to go see" and all of the sudden you get a phone call from one of you're other markets about something that they're not sure of and your entire day goes out the window.
What makes the beer industry so special?
If you really want to look at what we do from kind of a twisted perspective (and this was said to me by a friend, I’m not trying to take credit for it): we’re just legalized drug dealers. We’re selling something that at one point in this country’s history was illegal. I think that’s hysterical. And awesome. It’s such an interesting juxtaposition.
Craft beer specifically is really cool because you're talking to people about a product that’s made with certain expectations but is so varied and so different. It’s also wrapped up in a ton of history. I think that’s super special and most of the people in this industry have that appreciation for it. Yeah, what we sell can get you drunk -- and that’s really, really cool -- but you have all these people that are super dialed into that 16oz glass sitting in front of them and all that went into it. And everyone in the industry really eats, breathes and sleeps that.
It’s a weird business, but it’s a great business full of really talented and super passionate people.
What makes the beer industry so frustrating?
This question is like tap dancing on a landmine.
There’s a lot of facets of it that can be frustrating and challenging at times. I work for a two year old brewery and we’re such a small piece in such a large puzzle and sometimes it’s tough to set ourselves apart. There’s so much liquid out there. So many great beers. You feel like you’re just one of the crowd. I always get this visual of being in Grand Central Station packed with people and you're just like, “Would somebody please just listen to me! No? Alright cool.” It’s one of those things that consumes a lot of my time. The goal is to get myself and my brewery out there. It’s a huge challenge.
Another huge thing is the highs and lows. Some days I look back and think, “Man, I feel like I was so unproductive and I worked my ass off all day” and some days I think, “I really knocked it out of the park.” You have really, really great days and you’re super pumped about it… and other days you’re just like, “Dude, I didn’t get anything accomplished.” There’s a lot of ups and downs and you really have to work through it to keep moving forwards. I’ll wake up in the morning and think “yesterday really sucked, I hope today doesn’t suck too.”
I have a hard time finding negativity about what we do because I love it so much. I mean, yeah, it can be a bit of a burden - a bit of a bitch sometimes but at the end of the day I’m not saving lives -- and I’m really happy I don’t have those jobs. Too stressfull.