Jesse Locke recommended Paul to participate here. He accepted immediately and enthusiastically, which led to my really looking forward to connect with him. We laid some plans to meet up at his tasting room and then make a trip to the brewery together, but due to time constraints, we stayed at the tasting room. After a short detour to the neighboring coffee shop, where we ran into Brandon Harris, we sat down at the bar and talked shop about beer and life and all the things you will read or hear below. And as we chatted, Paul’s wife, Staci, worked away on the computer and Hans kept busy in the other room. The place was full of life - quiet and productive life. It was so great to chat in Paul’s work space while that work was going on. That authentic scene set the stage nicely for our authentic conversation. If you’ve not stopped by The Ale Apothecary, I highly recommend it! And be sure to seek Paul out. You won’t be disappointed.
ACT: Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
PA: That's kind of a wide open question. Well, my name is Paul Arney. I grew up in the Northwest - up in Everett, Washington. Went to college up in Bellingham, which really shaped, I think, what I value as far as - not people value - but as far as outside. That was a good space to learn about mountains and rivers and that kind of thing, which became very important as time went on. I ended up falling into a brewing job, which also has defined me as a person. And then you combine those two things with this piece of land that my wife and I bought up Skyliners... we've got this piece of land with - it's very wild - lots of trees and a river and a little brewery. So, I think, nowadays, that is really what defines me. I have a little family. We have a little business. On this wonderful piece of property and we're just trying to enjoy as much of it as we can.
I enjoy playing guitar, getting out and cross country skiing or just walking. Music and organic things, I think, bring me a lot of joy. You know, these things... I think it's why I fell into the brewing industry is because I've always had this affinity for history and not just the fact that it's interesting, but finding things in my life that I could identify with, say, as you travel back through time. And brewing, you know, has this really old... it's one of man's first occupations, maybe. It's one of these things that we've been doing for a long time. And that kind of organic-ness - the see, the touch, the feel. The consumerism of this world kinda gets me down sometimes, so having a business where I can touch the thing that we're making and not only that, the thing that we're making is often on wood which has been grown out of the ground. And we get to interact with people, you know, and those things are all real. Yeah, so that kind of organic thing. It's (laughs) a funny world. Right?
ACT: What concerns you? What's on your mind regarding life, community, coexistence, humanity - that sort of concern - and then what motivates you to do something about it?
PA: That, I suppose, has changed - I would probably say significantly - since we've had kids. I think the ultimate thought process and the feelings I have personally that I have about that are the same, but the intensity level of how I feel those - they get very poignant when your kid is asking you about global warming (laughs) or something. Or, What's a Republican? And trying to answers those questions, they do resonate with me because I do think about that stuff and probably think about it more than I would like to. I've experimented - not listening to the news - and I always feel better, but some level of me is like, you know, I want to contribute. I want to be part of the community and society around me.
I know that, for me, I don't want to carry weight around. I don't want to have the weight of the world on my shoulders and slog around through life and constantly be depressed about how much is wrong and so I try to focus on the things that I can make an impact and that's often just the moments you have with people. Right? And the things you do throughout your day. And, fortunately, in this world, Im a white male, so I've had certain doors open to me, maybe, that others don't. I was able to go to college and understand, maybe at some level, how certain parts of the world work, for better or for worse. And I had this opportunity to take the skillset that I ended up having as a brewer and that knowledge of the world and be able to make a living that I hope reflects good things. I've always wanted this business to be a learning experience for me to understand the world and capitalism. Because it is, for better or for worse, it is the system that we're living in. I've done a little bit of traveling and I really haven't seen another model out there that works any better.
I do like the idea that people can work hard and attain something. Which isn't saying that everyone has the same opportunity, but I was able to leverage that and be able to understand, kind of, how this system works. And I do hope that at some point the reflection happens where the way that this business is run and how my life is intertwined with it, it reflects and makes ripples in some ways. Right? Where people maybe will think more about where stuff comes from or how stuff is made.
I guess to answer that question, it's like a lot of times when I get stuck in a hotel room or at my in-laws and the TV's on, I think I really trip out on how much we as humans are affected by the stuff that is put out in front of us to generate corporations money. And that really bothers me because you take away all the political leanings of people and you find and you meet people on an equal playing field, more or less - I don't know if that's the right way to say it, but everybody's primarily a good person. And we all want to be happy. I think at some level I want more of that for my kids and the world that they're going to be growing up in. Those are the things we should be working towards.
ACT: What do we mean to each other, individual to individual?
PA: I would say just about everything. I couldn't even... I guess the first thing that comes to my mind when you say that is sitting here, right here, if I had to go through and name all the people that helped me or encouraged me to be the person that I am and do the things that I do, I couldn't. Because, I mean, it goes down the smallest comment.
I was working at this coffee shop in the mid-90s and it was after I had left college and I was thinking about what is it I'm gonna do with my life here? My parents and I spent a bunch of money to get me this degree and I don't want to be a geologist. Why did I go to college? And I was working in this coffee shop and there was this woman that I worked with who was older than I was. She had kids. Her husband would come in with her kids sometimes - we'd chat. And when I told her I was thinking about going to brew school to become a brewer, she looked and said, What a noble occupation. Right? And that one little sentence and her belief that A. I could do it and that that would be not just a great job but it would be something to be proud of. And that was huge. And then you take to your parents and that was the complete opposite. I mean the amount of things they told me and I learned from them outweigh that one statement by a lot, but at the same time, I can't discount that interaction with that woman.
So, I guess to answer your question, I go into every encounter with everybody that I have... I mean, really, that's all we have is our relationships with each other. If we want to make any change for our world, for our community, we're going to be engaging and working with the people around us. Yeah, I don't know. That's a big question. It's kind of intense (laughs).
ACT: Given that's your answer, on the grander scale, what does it mean to you to be part of community and to be part of community with people who don't see the world how you see it? If you raise people up to this level of importance - each and everybody along the way - how do you find peace with the fact that you're coexisting with people who definitely aren't viewing others in that way or who have an agenda that maybe even is attacking of that?
PA: Well, I guess I'll say first, that's kind of distinct. And I don't know if that's just a reflection of where I live, but moving to Bend, the community that I have here in town and the people that I associate with, for better or for worse, more or less, have similar outlooks - have shared values. And so when I think about the people that I engage with that maybe are not having those same values or that same outlook, it's gonna be people I run into at the grocery store. It's going to be the guy at the gas station. It's gonna be these really quick interactions, right, that don't go very deep. Or I guess they go as deep as you care to take them.
There's the community of friends that I suppose I have and I engage with and that is a certain part of my life, but there's that other one - and I guess the family members that you engage with at holidays is kind of a similar thing. I think right now we're in this time - and maybe it's like this all the time - where there's groups of people that have these ideologies that are in opposition to each other. They're almost in existence because of the other one. And it seems like the only reason that they're going to continue being that way is because the other one is there. It's like that opposition creates these distinct differences. To expect that everybody is going to have the same outlook or the same belief system, to me, that runs contrary to the idea of what my vision of America is or even the things that I find value in around the world. It's the cultural differences. There's gonna be good, there's gonna be bad, there's gonna be interesting things, there's gonna be not... I mean it's just too much to ask for everybody to be the same. Not only is it impossible, it wouldn't be very interesting, first of all.
I was just reading something - It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis. It was written in the '30s. There's this part in the book where he talks about the concept of we have to be different. We have to be able to get along and not let it frustrate us because that's the way it is. So, here we go fighting these things that are different in other people or other systems or the other. This battle - I'm right or you're right or whatever - when in reality, it seems to me that we should be celebrating the things that we appreciate in others - the things that work. Because the other battle for this supremacy, for the one who's right, is unwinnable. We've proven that throughout history that it's totally... there's no winning.
And so that's what I think about when I engage with people who may or may not have different opinions or views than I do. I just go in open and I try to just find that common thread - and that wasn't intentional (laughs). Driving up to the gas station in this truck, it sure opens doors of conversation. The amount of times that somebody's like, Oh, my dad used to have one of those! and where that leads. You may end up leaning differently politically, but all of a sudden you're sharing this moment where it's like we both appreciate a 1972 International pick-up and that feels good.
ACT: Do you have a sense of purpose - or a rephrase could be a compulsion to live with intention - and do you feel a responsibility to affect positive change?
PA: Yeah. I mean, maybe almost to my detriment. Yeah. Well, it just happened recently. I went to Colorado for a beer event and I did this podcast. And so this guy was asking me about my brewery and what I did and how we do things and all that and after it was over he turned to me and said, Why do you make things so difficult for yourself? And he was kind of joking, but I know what he meant. And, the funny thing is, there's a lot of intention there to not make it so (laughs). I intentionally went in to make it so it would be a manageable thing for me. Which, I think I have at some level attained. There's certain things that my business doesn't do that I abhorred about the brewing industry. But there are things that we do that are, on some level, kind of ridiculous. That in itself gives me joy for some reason. It's a different type of struggle (laughs).
But yeah, I think I was either blessed or cursed with a heightened sense of observation. I'm a good listener and sometimes it's hard for me to not pick up the energy from people around me. And so I end up being very intentional about a lot of things. And I think it is good, but anything in excess is probably unhealthy. So it's actually been something I've been trying to pull back from a little bit. I don't have to make eye contact and smile at everybody I see in the grocery store (laughs). But no, I think it's good. And I think that also is something I wish that maybe was more common in our culture.
Just for example, since we live out of town we spend more time than we'd like in vehicles. And it's kind of crazy to notice how you can almost get somebody's personality through how they drive. And I've been really kind of saddened a little bit by seeing how many people are in this gas and brake mentality. It's either the foot's on the pedal going a little too fast and then slamming on the brakes. Slamming on the gas, slamming on the brakes. And, to me, that reflects a lot on our society. And it doesn't leave a whole of room to open up and let other people in. You've got your blinders on and this is just what I'm doing. I'm trying to align with people who have more time to open their arms and let people in.
ACT: As we start wrapping up, do you have anything on your mind that you'd like to ask me?
PA: My question would be, because you've been doing this for a while now - a lot of people - if you had to put those 115 interviews and draw out a common thread between all of them, could you do that? Is there something that comes to your mind?
ACT: Well, the easiest thing to say - which I can't just say one thing and shut up, so you'll get a few different answers - the easiest thing to say would be now, just by default, it's me. I've linked them all together in some capacity. I also, as you know, ask pretty leading questions. This isn't scientific. I'm implying that you answer them in a way that makes you seem like somebody who cares and then also people are referring people who tend to answers the questions in a nice, positive, uplifting way. So, it's easy to say everybody gives a damn. Everybody cares about everybody else. This kind of thing. Not to say that I'm skeptical when I go and sit down with somebody, but it's also hard to believe that everybody can have similar answers to these questions - nuanced, but similar - when things are such a mess out there.
So then I start to wonder if I've just made this an easy quiz to pass. But even that says something endearing and it's that deep down, even if it's regurgitated information, it's the thing that we think is right so we say an answer that we're hoping to live up to. So even if this is an easy quiz to pass, at least people know somewhere inside that our concern for each other should be at the top of our list. Even if it's not altruistic. There's this argument that there is no such thing. Like, if I had all the money in the world, I'd want to give some of it to everybody so that everybody else could feel better so that the general vibe was a bit higher. But that wouldn't necessarily be for them, it would be for me. I don't know. I guess maybe in three or four or five more years, some of these themes will become a little bit more obvious. There's 90,000 people here, so I'll never interview everybody in town, but that would be really interesting if I could. Because then, I think, we'd actually start learning some things. 115 answers - that's a minuscule number in the community.
PA: Something you said there - not that the answers are regurgitated, but it's almost kind of a hope - it just resonated with me because I went through this phase of actively trying to make changes and then when I discovered that maybe certain things - say it was writing or playing guitar or exercising, whatever - when I wasn't doing those things and I thought about it, I would get frustrated, Oh! You were supposed to. Why didn't you? But I read something - I can't remember what it was - where now, when I hear these things, that's actually positive. Because we're engaging that part where we're remind ourselves. That's good. It came to our attention. That means that you are making those changes. You're thinking about it. And maybe the next time it'll mean more or you'll act more, but it's not a source of something to get down upon. It's a source of something to celebrate. Because that hope is there. And eventually, with enough reminders or thinking about it enough, it becomes a way of thinking or a way of being and then you've attained it. It just kind of happens. It's happening. It's already happening (laughs). Right now!
ACT: Do you have any closing remarks?
PA: Thanks for doing this. No, this was great. It fills my heart. It's awesome!