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In a day’s work, a brewer performs many tasks: weighing, pouring, recording, stirring, raking, lifting, fork-lifting, squatting, climbing, washing, mopping ….

But by far, the best task of all is tasting. Really. Drinking beer while on the clock is not only a perk of the job, but a necessary and important duty.

Ultimately, all beers are judged by their taste. That’s why brewers consult gauges, test strips and other objective tools to ensure their end product has the right chemical characteristics that will make it taste a certain way. But twenty-first century technology cannot alone earn brewers’ trust. It still comes down to the good ol’ fashioned human olfactory system to make what amount to crucial business decisions. Is this IPA too hoppy? Is there enough nutmeg in the pumpkin ale? Is this batch of the flagship lager consistent with all the previous ones? It’s the tongue that speaks the truth.

And it’s a myth that swallowing is prohibited when tasting beer. Brewers sip their product for the full effect. And from the primo, extra-fermented test batches, they get the flushed cheeks to prove it.

After all, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when you’re a taste maker.


Thanks to Dylan L’Abbe-Lindquist, Brian Fines and the great people at Cape Ann Brewing Company. Find them at:




Amit Ram reluctantly agreed to become a brewer. His friend had to talk him into it. Amit thought the idea of spending lots of time, energy and money to buy a home brewing kit was ill-advised: it was much cheaper and easier to just go buy a six-pack, he thought.

But he relented. And one batch, one competition, and one first-place prize later, Amit found himself on a plane leaving Tel-Aviv, headed to the United States where he’d find work as an apprentice at a brewery, eventually becoming a full-fledged brewer.

It’s the camaraderie that touched him, he said. To him, the brewing community is unique and is what makes him rise at dawn each morning, don his knee-high rubber boots and get wrist-deep in slimy spent yeast that looks like … well, see for yourself what it looks like.

For Amit, becoming a brewer required an impressive geographical and physical commitment. But he seems to sincerely love what he does for a living, so continues to do what it takes to be a taste maker.


Thanks to Amit Ram and the great people at Cape Ann Brewing Company. Find them at:



Beer is great. It’s thirst quenching, bubbly, warming, features complex tastes, and is just generally enjoyable to drink. Oh, and it also makes your brain release endorphins, which mute pain and turn up pleasure.

Of course, too much of it can kill you. But in moderation, it’s pretty awesome. In fact, behind soda and bottled water, it’s Americans’ third-favorite drink. We’re talking over 5.5 billion gallons of beer made by Americans, sold to Americans in 2011.

Beer’s popular and in high demand, so a growing number of amateur brewers are borrowing some start-up capital and opening their own breweries. They don’t have the automated network of tanks and hoses that the Anheuser-Busch’s of the world have and their product is less consistent because of it. And yet, craft brewers, as they call themselves, do brisk business. The proof is in the growth: as of the beginning of the year, craft brewers enjoyed two consecutive years of 15% increases in sales. This market encouraged the opening of 250 new breweries in 2011 alone.

It’s rewarding work being a taste maker.


Thanks to Brian Fines and the great people at Cape Ann Brewing Company. Find them at:



Like many other professionals, haunted house actors (who call themselves haunters) are constantly negotiating the balance between customer expectations and their own standards for their work. Haunters continuously make snap readings of haunted house guests’ body language, determining how much of a scare they are really willing to handle.

And the correct word is “willing,” not “able.” Often, haunters encounter skeptical guests who don’t want to play along. Other times, guests have allowed their fear to overcome their rational minds, turning their excitement into hysteria.

Just like in most other customer service jobs, the haunters’ catering to their guests’ expectations is exhausting and often frustrating. So while most haunters will tell you the job is intrinsically rewarding, they’ll also admit to taking pleasure in giving someone a healthy fright every now and then. After all, they are experts in scare tactics.

Thanks to the candid haunters and the great people at Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery Monster Museum in Salem. Find them at:



Halloween in Salem, Mass. is New England’s Mardi Gras. People dress up, party in the streets, and partake in crazy ritual behavior. While there’s no beads-for-peeps exchange in Salem, there is a seasonally unique quid pro quo: actors get paid to scare the bejeezus out of people, while their victims derive great pleasure out of the experience.

Normally it’s one-sided fun. But during the month of October, dozens of haunted house attractions around the region dust off their animatronic manikins, call in their best Freddy Kruger impersonators and rake in the dough. Enthusiastic guests stack up deep in lines, waiting to venture inside the labyrinthine house interiors and run screaming away from actors pretending to eat their brains.

The actors, however, call themselves “haunters.” They work in the “haunt industry.” To them scaring people is an artform. It takes dedication, skill, and ceaseless energy to induce the perfect adrenaline rush and ebullient nervous laughter from their guests. Above all else, it takes scare tactics.



When Aren Salmela gets behind the wheel of his steel-caged golf cart at his after school job at a local driving range, he is under siege: golf balls driven off the turf matts are often aimed at his rumbling cart. Like many other custodial jobs, Aren’s duties consist of picking up discarded items and cleaning up after customers. Yet, what other custodians are subject to patrons’ attempted physical assaults?

Aren say’s he’s never even come close to being injured on his job and that he doesn’t sweat it when he takes a liner to the cage. But should his acceptance of driving range culture be taken for granted? Maybe aiming for the man pushing the picker is harmless target practice. Or maybe it’s unnecessary harassment of a guy just trying to do his job.

Either way, Aren’s cage is getting rattled.

Thanks to Aren, Matt, and the folks at Sun’N Air Golf Center in Danvers, Mass. Find them at:


I was listening to a back episode of WNYC/NPR’s Radiolab the other day and, as I often do when listening to the show, I learned something new. This time, it was the difference between a penitentiary and a prison.

It turns out, the difference between them is like the difference between squares and rectangles ­— all penitentiaries are prisons, but not all prisons are penitentiaries.

Prisons are big, barbed wire-encrusted depositories for criminals, and so are penitentiaries. But what the pens have that your average county jailhouse doesn’t is a system for the rehabilitation of its inmates.

To us, it seems like an obvious idea that wardens would encourage their inmates to evaluate their life choices, but as it turns out, it’s a relatively new practice in the Anglo-American history of bad guy punishment.

Back in the 1700s in England, there were no prisons as we would think of them today. The attitude towards criminal punishment was this: law breakers have proven themselves incapable of abiding by society’s rules, so we therefore need to remove them from society. This was most often accomplished by simply executing the offenders. However, if a criminal hadn’t committed one of the many crimes punishable by death, then they could look forward to another means of removal from society: banishment.

Petty criminals like thieves and debtors were simply shipped to one of the British Empire’s numerous colonies where the law-abiding population wouldn’t have to deal with them.

This penal system is how Australian Aborigines came to have non-marsupial neighbors. But before the Brits were sailing their crooks half way around the world, they were bringing them a much shorter distance, directly across the Atlantic to a scrappy bunch of colonies on the eastern shores of the world’s newest continent. Only three decades after John Smith and his pilgrim pals stepped onto Plymouth Rock, the English were shipping their blights on society to the new American colonies in bunches of 100 at a time.

However, not everyone in England thought the unsympathetic killing or banishing of lawbreakers was such a Christian thing to do. That’s why religiously-minded reformers advocated for change. They thought there was a better way than to continue holding prisoners in dingy, dank, dungeon-like holding cells prior to their criminal sentencing. And the reformers also envisioned a socially productive alternative to execution or banishment. They argued for redesigned jailhouses where both the buildings’ architecture and operation would encourage inmates to reflect on their wayward lives.

So around 1776 when England found its American colonies unwilling to accept any more shipments of prisoners, or tea for that matter, necessity forced the Royal Empire to entertain some of these new ideas on prisoner treatment.

In 1779, the British Parliament passed the Penitentiary Act. The goal was to create a national network of state-owned prisons right there in England. And they wouldn’t just be big jails; they would be penitentiaries: buildings designed to encourage their inmates to become penitent for the crimes they had committed.

They were to be spiritual rehabilitation centers, where inmates would be kept in solitary confinement for long periods of the day—perfect for soul-searching—and would also provide inmates with healthy doses of arduous physical labor—great for exhausting the will to sin right out of them!

Yet, the reformers’ successes were short-lived. Following the passing of the Penitentiary Act, only two penitentiaries were built. And when the Revolutionary War ended, England went right back to its practice of execution and prisoner “transportation” to its various colonies, including Australia.

Yet, the idea of jails being centers for religious rehab endured, and eventually the penitentiary craze hit the young American nation. The Quakers picked up the torch and helped lobby the Pennsylvania state legislature to build the Eastern State Penitentiary, the nation’s first foray into criminal rehabilitation. The ESP would combine extreme isolation with hard labor in hopes of inducing religious epiphany.

Instead, the prolonged lack of human contact combined with the copious amounts of blister-inducing drudgery ended up just making most of the inmates go insane.

But over time, the penitentiary model was tweaked, caught on, and has now become the backbone of the modern penal system.

An ironic endnote: The former favorite dumping ground for British criminals, the American colonies, are now home to the world’s largest incarcerated population, both per-capita and in gross total.


window to the world

Looking out into the professional media wilderness.

I’m a 22-year-old freelance video journalist. I graduated from Roger Williams University in May with a B.A. in communications.

In my young venture into the professional media wilderness, I’ve learned that “freelance” is often a euphemism for “currently unemployed.” In my case, it’s more like “underemployed.”

I work at a regional daily newspaper three nights a week doing page layout. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be getting both experience and paychecks while working at a daily paper so soon out of college. But while I really do enjoy adjusting kerning and rewriting headlines that have a surplus of syllables, I still have an unsatisfied hunger to tell my own stories.

And I’m determined to tell them. Recently, I did a short video narrative on the driver of the golf ball picker at a driving range. I talked to him about his feelings on golfers targeting their drives at his rumbling cart. I aim to do more videos on people with interesting jobs.

I’ll be posting my projects, musings, and sources of inspiration on this blog, which is the publishing arm of my online repository, If you like what you see here, please let me know. After all, the reason I fell in love with journalism is because it gives me license to talk and connect with strangers. Some parental advice I enjoy ignoring.