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Weekend Agenda: Meet Matt Janzen

Matt is from small-town Wisconsin (Waterloo) and is currently living in Milwaukee. As Matt's passion for craft beer grew, so did his dreams and ambitions for highlighting craft brewers in Wisconsin. What started as travelling around Wisconsin taking photos of different breweries, quickly turned into what came to be Matt's book, "State of Craft Beer". This beautifully designed coffee table book is not only aesthetically pleasing but showcases the many different brewers in Wisconsin.

"This is a very important story about passionate, hard-working people, who care about the communities they live in. I figured a coffee-table book would be the best method to spread that story, because it's very approachable (using a lot of photos and some fun text to tie it all together). You might buy the book because you like craft beer, but you might have friends or family who don't, so they might pick it up and realize there's a lot more to craft beer than funky flavors or crazy names."

What is the book about?

“State of Craft Beer” is a photographic journey through the beer-making process, following raw products as they make their way from fields and factories, through breweries, and into your glass. 

Why Wisconsin?
Ballin' on a budget requires limitations. The state line seemed ambitious enough yet within reason, considering I can make it to any corner in under seven hours. Plus, Wisconsin's climate and rich brewing heritage provided me with everything I needed to dive deep into breweries' supply chains.

What is it about Wisconsin's craft beer culture that inspired you to dive deeper, and to ultimately create this book?

I first started following the craft beer industry in 2011; mainly through online articles and the aisles of liquor stores. Back then, you could tell something big was happening. Four years later, there were about 3,000 more breweries in the nation, and I was still getting most of my information through a computer screen. As a copywriter at an advertising agency, I decided it was time to go out and get a first-hand account, so I quit my job. Since I didn’t have a reliable income anymore, I decided to focus on Wisconsin breweries only, to stretch my savings, 401(k), and a good stack of plastic.

What went into the process of making this book?

I took over 30,000 photos during the course of a year, decided I was going to do a book, and talked my friend into helping me with the layout and design. Paring those photos down to the final 356 was a huge undertaking, but not even close to the financial hurdle of getting it produced. I spent eight months trying to raise the necessary funds (for paper, printing, binding, etc.), which I was able to do after convincing enough breweries to pre-order copies of the book.

Then, I immediately invested everything I had into getting the book produced entirely in Wisconsin. It would have been cheaper to get it printed in China (even after the cost of shipping books halfway around the world), but that didn't feel right. Especially when — at its core — the story is about small businesses supporting their community and other local companies. I needed to walk the walk, and Wisconsin's publishing industry had the resources to handle it.

Why are you passionate about craft beer?

I think it is important that we start moving toward a more sustainable way of life. One way to do that is to be more self-reliant on the communities we live in. Craft breweries support their communities and other small businesses within those communities, because they themselves are small businesses that rely on the communities they serve. So when you buy local beer, your money goes back into the local economy. Beyond that, craft breweries have a way of connecting people regardless of age, political leanings, or which way you place a roll of toilet paper — which strengthens our communities on a human-level.

What is one thing you learned from this process?

Some things (and people) require a bit more patience — no matter how fast you want something to happen — so it's best to leave all options on the table and avoid burning any bridges before you cross them.

Would you do anything differently?

I have failed a lot throughout this project. It never feels good, and I certainly don't try to bring it upon myself on purpose, but I have learned so much from so many stupid little and big things. I will do a lot differently in the future, but I wouldn't change how I've arrived at this point.

What would you tell the 5-years-ago you?

"Good luck, buddy." And then I'd be super pissed at myself for not passing along any stock information.

Habit worth picking up:

Do a "Polar Plunge" on the first of the year, every year. It's the coldest you'll be for 365 days, so the rest of them should be smooth sailing.

To learn more and purchase Matt's book, go check out "State of Craft Beer"
Thank you Matt!

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