Bobby William Faithful V
Bobby William Faithful V
Front of House Manager, The Answer Brewpub and Instructor, University of Richmond
How did you get into beer?
When I was younger, my passion was music. I was in a touring band and when you work on the road, you need to make money. I started serving at Dogfish Head. It was around when the Cicerone program came out, and they told the staff that anyone who passed would get better shifts, and they’d pay for the certification. I started taking BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) classes and these other certifications to get a leg up at work. The certifications weren’t as cool then as they seem today!
From there a lot more opportunities opened up. I started doing beer dinners, speaking at events, and running our internal beer education program. It snowballed into what I’m doing today. I do a lot of in-house training at the Answer Brewpub, and we’re expanding and helping out some of our local friends with their brewing training. I also teach at the University of Richmond – I helped start their brewing certificate program and I lecture there.
What was the first beer you ever had?
I believe it was a Natty Light.
What was the first beer that turned you on to craft beer?
The first craft beer I had was a Rochefort 10. I was at a friend’s house watching a movie. He went to Total Wine and picked up a bunch of random beers because he liked the way he looked. That’s the first time I realized how complex a beer can get – I was drinking for flavor instead of drinking to get drunk.
How did you get into homebrewing?
When I was working at Dogfish, I was living with three other guys and I built a kegerator at the house so we could bring kegs home from work. A lot of fermentation is temperature control, and I had already spent all this money on one of the most expensive parts of the homebrewing process. With a kegerator, I had a place to keep my carboys. So it started with wanting to have a good time and I accidentally learned a lot of stuff in the process.
Can you share more about your family’s brewing history?
Brewing has been in our family’s blood for a long time. My family is directly related to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Peter Hemings, Sally’s brother, was the head brewer for Monticello. He trained others about brewing from Virginia to North Carolina.
What has your experience been like as a person of color in a predominantly white industry?
I don’t work anywhere that doesn’t truly accept diversity. I’m working at one of the few breweries where our entire management team is minority and female.
It’s hard in the sense that sometimes you want to reach over to someone and be like, “this just happened!” But there is not always someone to talk to. Once people get drunk, they are pretty honest, and it’s been interesting to learn how people truly feel.
Late one night I was closing the bar, and a white woman was like, “Hey come over here.” So I went over there, and she was like, “What are you? What’s your ethnicity?” I said that I’m African American. She said, “You’re not black, you’re cute black.” In another industry if there were more of us, I’d look around and tell the nearest black person, “Hey guess what this crazy woman said!” But a lot of times I’m the only one in the room.
You always feel like you’re on your toes. You want to make sure everyone understands that more than being black, you’re just a person that loves beer. There is a lot of reassuring people that I know what I’m doing. People will ask me easy things like, “do you like IPAs?” They’ll say, “I didn’t think black people liked IPAs!” There’s a lot of stereotypes that need addressing.
I know you used to work in sales, which is super white. What was that like?
Breweries are starting to diversify more quickly than distributors. I remember when I was in sales, I was the only minority at the very first meeting I went to. When you visit a distributor, sometimes the only other black people you’ll see are in the warehouse moving boxes. And it’s hard when you have to go to all these accounts, country clubs and things like that, and sell them beer. The main reason I left sales, though, is I’d rather have people coming to me to sell me things rather than me going to people and selling them things.
What would it take to achieve a more inclusive craft beer industry?
Right now I’m in a group, Brothers of Craft Beer, and there are 700 members. Never before in my beer career have I been able to talk to other people of color about something I care about. The craft brewing industry is growing and changing a lot, and now there is a lot more going on.
What style of beer do you think is most overrated right now?
When I first started brewing ten years ago, everyone was saying, “Everyone only cares about IPAs, and IPAs are going to be done.” But people are still drinking IPAs! What is going to change is a lot of the adjuncts that are being used are going to fall away. A lot of breweries are using fake and artificial ingredients and people are going to want to use natural ingredients. People are going back to more traditional styles.
Is there a particular beer you think is overhyped?
Currently I’m drinking a Heady Topper. They were the foreground for all these IPAs years ago, and we use their yeast in our brewing. A lot of people would bend over backward to get this beer, and it’s a great beer. Still, our beers in Richmond can definitely compete with this beer.
What was the last beer you drank that you bought for yourself?
The Answer's collaboration with Triple Crossing, Real Recognize Real.
What beer is in your fridge right now?
I actually have a cellar full of beer. I live across the street from Veil, so I have a bunch of Veil in the cellar. I have Crucial Aunt, Step Dad Chaperon, Falcon Smash, some Triple Crossing. We did a collaboration with Triple Crossing called Real Recognize Real. I have our Mouth Hug. I have some Aslin, Stellar Parallax. I have Hardywood Trickery. I have Broken Bird - it’s a stout we just did. Hardywood Christmas Morning. Rodenbach Grand Cru. Rodenbach Alexander. Someone gave me a growler of Tree House.
What’s your favorite local beer?
I like our beer at the Answer. I like Dirt Nap by The Veil, Paranoid Aledroid by Triple Crossing, and Foggy Notion from Final Gravity.
The apocalypse happens and you can only have one beer for the rest of your life. What would it be?
Rochefort 10, the one that started it all.
You’re at a mainstream grocery store. In a pinch, what do you buy?
Founders All Day IPA, a Stone Enjoy By, or a Dogfish Head Indian Brown.
If you were me, what questions would you be asking?
I’ve heard people ask why they don’t see black people drinking craft beer – it’s not a question of if black people drink craft beer, but a question of where they drink it. On canning days or release days, there are lots of diverse people in line. The question is are African Americans enjoying craft beer but not the environment where it’s served? The world as a whole has more growing to do, and if we work on the larger issues we experience, we will see more diversity in the brewing industry.