Born the son of a Lone Star distributor in Houston, Harry Schuhmacher was surrounded by beer from his earliest days. Derived from generations of beer distributors, Schuhmacher dutifully did his part, ringing plastic six-pack holders over cans, cleaning up bottle breakage, and driving a forklift at the disturbing yet enviable age of five. And things may have continued this way had his father not up and sold the beer distributorship.
In an almost soap operatic turn, the son went from the top of the glass pile to the dusty city streets, forced to make it on his own, with few marketable skills. Well, actually, Schuhmacher had plenty of skills, chief among them an insider’s knowledge of the beer industry. So fifteen years ago he made the fateful decision to start a daily email bulletin for the beer industry. “It was just when the Intertubes were getting popular, and I thought beer distributors and brewers needed a daily email covering the inside baseball stuff that they can’t get anywhere else — gossip, sales trends, who’s screwing whom — that sort of thing,” he says.
Far from a beer blogger, Schuhmacher runs a serious business dedicated to providing the beer industry with inside information and breaking news, a point reflected in his publication’s scorching $480 a year price tag. For the first decade, Schuhmacher focused much of his Beer Business Daily on the big brewers and distributors, but things have changed. He now dedicates half of his coverage to craft and regional breweries. “We’ve grown as the craft brewers have grown,” he says. “It has given me a renewal on my career, because covering the big guys exclusively was starting to be a drag.”
Schuhmacher has always treated the world of craft brewing with respect and interest, and perhaps a mild and understandable skepticism about its future. In his line of work, one so focused on the bigger brewers, such esteem wasn’t always a given. Just a few years earlier, one of Schuhmacher’s main competitors condescendingly wrote in the American Brewer of “the fantasy of the craft brewing revolution.” The competitor helpfully added, “Face facts folks: Wheat beer is not likely to be the next big thing!”
Fast forward a few years and a wheat ale is now the largest selling craft beer in the United States, a point often reflected in Schuhmacher’s redoubled efforts to cover the craft brewing scene.
A bit folksy at times and with a self-deprecating humor that disarms even his angriest big brewery targets, Schuhmacher is helping the industry at large take craft brewers more seriously, something we can all raise a pint to.
Disclosure: Having shared beers a few times and traveled together, I count Harry Schuhmacher as a friend.