At the beginning of December I posted an article to Medium titled, “It’s The Age of The Active Shooter and We Can’t Talk About It,” where I presented my ideas about long-term solutions that can get America further and further left of bang. The premise of the article is that strong, close-knit communities offer significant advantages to ensuring our own safety against the risk of mass killings and terrorist attacks at a local level. That article was a shift in many of the concepts that I typically write and teach about, as we primarily focus on the improving an individual’s ability to recognize threats here at The CP Journal. In Left of Bang and in the Tactical Analysis program, there is an implied assumption that, by developing a single person’s ability to identify those with violent intent, the collective community will benefit as a result of a the time spent by that person attaining a level of informed awareness.
However, in my “Age of the Active Shooter” article, the goal was to shift our awareness to a point even earlier on the bang timeline. Whereas behavioral analysis is designed to recognize people who have already made the decision to become violent, strong communities can also prevent some of the conditions that might lead a person to making that decision in the first place, ultimately reducing the number of people that protectors have to identify hiding within the crowd. But there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. It isn’t enough to simply write about community as the solution; those words only have meaning when we are actively contributing to making it a reality. It is in that pursuit that I’m excited to announce a new project that my fiancé Lisa and I have launched called Beer in Boulder.
The Role of Community
If you were to look at the last decade of my life, it would be pretty clear that “community” wasn’t something I was committed to developing or contributing to. Community has been something that has remained fairly compartmentalized to me since leaving college and, while it was a part of some aspects of my life, it wasn’t present in all of them. In the past ten years I have lived in seven different cities around the U.S. and, because I was constantly moving while an active duty Marine, I never really put in the effort to become part of the community in any of the cities I lived in. Because of the fact that many of those moves were a result of being on active duty, I had a false sense of what community meant. I was around a very non-diverse group (Marines) for the majority of my time, which led me to believe that, since I was a Marine and working to improve the lives of Marines, I was in turn involved in the community. It wasn’t until after I returned to the civilian world that I realized there were some faults to this understanding of what it meant to be a part of a community.
After moving from Southern California to the Northeast United States, for the first time in seven years I was not surrounded by people from the tribe that had supported me for so long, the Marine Corps. As I sought to rebuild that sense of community, I made a mistake that I think has become more common in the tech-saturated lives we currently live. Instead of becoming part of my community, I became very focused on expanding my network. The move to New York coincided with the launch of The CP Journal and, as I put everything I had into growing the company and making it a sustainable business, I found that instead of becoming part of a group that I could turn to for help and become a contributing member of, I was building a large number of transactional relationships. As I’ve come to learn, there is a stark difference between building community and building a network. While those relationships were absolutely essential for getting The CP Journal established, they weren’t with people that I could call to check on the house while I was travelling if something was wrong. This probably became the most apparent to Lisa and I after Hurricane Sandy, when the closest people that we could call to stay with (who weren’t also affected) because we didn’t have power were my parents, who were a four-hour drive away. In hindsight, many of the experiences Lisa and I had while living in New York have ultimately contributed to my current understanding that perhaps the most important sense of community is not necessarily defined by your tribe, but by your geographic location. This definition wasn’t fully formed until we landed here in Boulder, Colorado.
When Lisa and I moved to Boulder a little over a year and a half ago, we found ourselves in another new city and back in a spot where we knew nobody. Yet at the same time, we found ourselves constantly in conversations with people who, upon learning that we had just gotten here, were welcoming us to the area and sitting down with us to learn about our story and get acquainted with us. After the third or fourth time this happened, it got to the point of realization that this wasn’t an anomaly, this is just how people were in Boulder. I think we looked at our dog and, in Wizard of Oz fashion, said, “Quincy, we are not in New York anymore.”
What was perhaps most striking to me was that the people we were meeting reflected a broad range of backgrounds and interests. With so many people who have moved to the area from other parts of the country, they knew what it was like to uproot from family and friends and the challenges of getting settled in a new area, and they just wanted to help in any way that they could. In those first few months in Boulder I began to realize that community wasn’t just the tribe that you self-identify with. Community is also geographic and covers every single person living within those borders. With a new definition of what being part of the community meant, the question shifted to how we ourselves could contribute back into it.
Back to Beer in Boulder
Besides just providing great tasting craft beer, breweries play a huge role in the local economy and community. It isn’t uncommon to see groups of people playing cards while drinking a craft beer at 300 Suns Brewing or families getting the opportunity hang out and catch up while their kids play games or play around with chunks of pizza dough at their table at Under the Sun. Powder Keg Brewing Company hosts a “Tuesday Nerd Talk” where they bring in people to talk and have discussions about a wide variety of topics, from social issues to a recent talk about drones. Loveland Aleworks and Upslope Brewing Company host regular “Pints for the People”events where a significant chunk of their revenue goes to the less fortunate members in the Boulder County community. The taproom at Avery Brewing Company is our go-to spot when friends and family visit from out of town, and we probably average at least a few hours there each and every visit while catching up and experimenting with taster after taster from their vast beer menu.
At its core, Beer in Boulder is designed to support the community. For us, the best way we can get started on that is to support the nearly 50 breweries that call Boulder County home. As the venues that many in the community already turn to, we are beginning by helping local breweries raise awareness for their beer, their restaurants and the events they put on. Many of the brewers we have met started their business so that they could make great beer, and many have found that it takes more than just a “if we brew it, they will come” mantra to succeed in what has become a very competitive industry. If we can help craft beer drinkers find these breweries and get more people to try their beers, we can help these local businesses grow and expand, providing a natural benefit to the local economy. Breweries are already places that are bringing people together and creating the conversations needed to strengthen our community ties. There are engineers, business owners, teachers, landscapers, venture capitalists, academics and every other profession that you can imagine who get together over a beer here in Boulder. Our local breweries are one of the few venues that I have seen in my life that don’t have to consider “outreach initiatives” to bring people together from different groups, but do it naturally simply by existing. Supporting breweries is our initial focus not only because they’re places we enjoy visiting and learning more about, but also because it allows us to play to the strengths of our existing community instead of trying swim against the current.
From A Strategic View to Tactical Actions
At this early stage in Beer in Boulder’s history, what we contribute to the Boulder Community is a weekly email that brings together all of the brewery-related events from the 45 breweries in Boulder County. When we first moved to Boulder, we were shocked at how much was happening, but there wasn’t a consolidated list where people could easily find events from breweries that they might not be familiar with. The only way to learn about them was to go to each individual brewery’s website or social media accounts, see what was going on, and then repeat the process 44 more times.
There are more than 60 events every week at Boulder County’s breweries, from tappings of new beers to live music, run clubs, trivia nights, food/beer pairings, classes, talks, and parties. The list with all of these events that goes out every Thursday morning was at first our way of scratching our own itch, but we quickly realized that other people were looking for the same information. Since we’ve got the process of consolidating all the events down into one email, all you have to do is subscribe instead of doing the research yourself each and every week.
Here are some of the ways that knowing about the events in Boulder can help to build community. When a brewery releases a new beer in a tapping event or release party, you often have the chance to talk to the entrepreneurs who have started a company, the brewery, in a highly competitive market with a large upfront cost and are creating truly unique craft beers through the application of science to their art. If you want to meet new people, you can attend one of the many run clubs that often provide a free pint when you finish as a reward, creating the opportunity to truly get to know others in the community whose interest align with your own. If you want to see up-and-coming artists, breweries consistently have full and vast schedules of live music from local acts.
The weekly Beer in Boulder List of Events is our small first step to building towards what we want to ultimately achieve with Beer in Boulder, but it takes the events that are already happening in the local community being run by local businesses and makes sure that more people know about them. We chose craft beer as an avenue by which to support the local community where we live not only because it is something that we enjoy, but also because craft beer brings together a cross section of people from every neighborhood in Boulder. It isn’t about going out and drinking for the sake of drinking, but if breweries are the place where relationships can be started, friendships developed and progressive conversations had, our initial goal is to make sure that people don’t miss these opportunities and events simply because they don’t know about them.
As a reader at The CP Journal and potentially someone who lives outside of Colorado, you might be asking yourself how this applies to your life as a member of the military, a police officer or a security professional. Consider that our military continues to look for ways to improve and strengthen local communities overseas as a way to fight extremism. Today, police officers here at home are working to re-establish the bonds of trust in a number of cities and developing the relationships needed to prevent the expansion of gang violence and online radicalization. Beer in Boulder is a project that we plan on building in public, letting you know what we find works, what doesn’t work, and providing feedback and information on its impact. I’ll provide updates here from time to time because I want to share these lessons learned so that you can in turn do something focused on building the bonds of your local community, thus making it harder and harder for predators to hide from detection within the community and use the anonymity of their neighborhoods as cover to launch their attacks.
If you do happen to live in or near Boulder or simply enjoy a good craft beer from time to time, take a look at our website, which you can find here. Sign up for the weekly Beer in Boulder List of Events email, sent out on Thursday mornings, to see all that is happening at Boulder County breweries that week. If you would like to get involved or if you have some level of experience in building community and want to share your expertise, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can connect. Cheers!
* Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons