Seit er mit 15 seine Leidenschaft für Bier entdeckte, hat Gustavo mehr als 1.400 (leere) Bierflaschen gesammelt. Seine Kollektion hat ihn aus seiner Heimatstadt Sao Paolo in Brasilien nach Deutschland begleitet und wurde seitdem ordentlich aufgestockt.
Während unseres Interviews sehe ich überall dort, wo andere Menschen Bücher aufbewahren, in Gustavos Wohnung Flaschen stehen. Zu jeder Flasche kann Gustavo eine Story erzählen: die Geschichte der Marke und des Inhabers, Einordnung in die Biergeschichte sowie Besonderheiten des Geschmacks.
Gustavo Blazek ist wahrlich jemand, der sein Hobby zum Beruf gemacht hat. Mit seiner Firma Beer Embassy organisiert er unterhaltsame Beer-Tastings: Entertainment-Abende, wo je nach Rahmen und Wunsch des Auftraggebers mehrere Biersorten verköstigt werden. Dazu gibt es die spannenden Geschichten und Kommentare vom Bierkenner Gustavo.
Es ist 15 Uhr, als wir mit unserem Interview starten und für ein Bierchen noch zu früh… Sein Deutsch ist gut, aber er antwortet auf meine Fragen lieber auf Englisch.
Als Erstes will ich von ihm wissen, warum er vor einigen Jahren ausgerechnet nach Deutschland kam. Etwa wegen des Bieres?..
Gustavo: I came here to study, at first. I already had feelings towards Germany, let’s put it like this. My grandparents were born in Austria and I hold an Austrian passport, besides my Brazilian one. I know that doesn’t directly relate to Germany, but I had elements of the Germanic culture while growing up. My brother lived for one year in Munich. I have visited him there and liked the city. That influenced me to choose Germany to do my studies abroad. And then I decided to stay, although the climate in Brazil is better, I thought I would have better chances professionally here than in Brazil.
Luba: Wie bist Du in Karlsruhe gelandet, wo Du jetzt wohnst?
Gustavo: Got a job at the KIT, Karlsruhe Institute for Technology. I worked there for 2 years, always with temporary contracts. After some time I wanted to go into the corporate world and try my luck there. I decided to not renew my contract at KIT but stayed in Karlsruhe while searching for a new job.
Luba: Du wolltest eigentlich als Ingenieur in die Industrie… Aber heute sprechen wir über Dein Projekt Beer Embassy. Wie ist die Idee dazu entstanden und gewachsen?
Gustavo: The whole thing started with me having a wheat beer for the first time. When my brother came back from Munich he brought me an „Erdinger“. It was the beginning of 2000 and at that time we didn’t have anything close to that in Brazil. I liked the beer, but couldn’t speak any German at that time, so I decided to keep the bottle to remember the name. One day, I found a „Franziskaner“ in the supermarket. As I read “Weissbier“, in my ignorance I thought: “Oh, that’s the same!” and bought it. When I compared it to the previous one I realised it was not the same, it was as good as, or even better! So I kept that bottle too. Because of those two beers, I decided to taste all the different beers I could find and started collecting the bottles. Today I keep 1,400 bottles from different beers from all around the world. When I moved to Munich I had around 400. In one year, I doubled my collection…
The moment when I realised I can charge money for my knowledge about beer
My passion for beer grew steadily from there… Until one day I was out with some friends and we were all studying a beer menu with some 50 beers in it. My friends were looking at that menu to order the same old. I tried to convince them to try new stuff. The conversation followed like this: They:”I don’t know if I will like it, I’d rather order what I know already.” Me: “Just tell me what you like, and I’ll choose your beer!” They would tell me what kind of flavor they like and I would suggest them beers they never tasted before. And they loved it. That’s when one of them looked at me and said: “You should charge for that!”. And I thought to myself: Yes! Yes, I should!
This evening was the beginning of my project. I started the Beer Embassy running a few tests with friends. I promoted a few tastings, charging only the costs of the beer. The experience I had writing my blog about beer gave me enough stories to tell during the tastings to entertain my guests. I was never a sommelier, I don’t write or talk about “notes of banana” or something like this. I wanted to bring more culture to beer, tell stories about different beers: about the brand, about the style, how it got its name, about the people behind it.
Luba: Wie kam Dein erster zahlender Kunde?
Gustavo: The first clients were friends, people whom I knew and who were excited about the idea. I had one friend, a former work colleague, who booked a tasting for his birthday party and this was my first big event with 40 people. Usually I do smaller groups to keep it private, 10 to 15 people maximum. It goes mostly through spreading the word.
First paying client
I got my first client through a conversation in a pub. I was there with a Spanish friend and we were talking about how direct Germans are and how small talk doesn’t happen so often here. All of a sudden, a German woman poked me asking: “Do you like chocolate ice cream?” With no introduction, no small talk, directly in my face. I stumbled: “Who doesn’t?” She said: “I don’t! But this dessert I got, has some. Do you want it?” She gave me her ice cream and I told to my friend: “Now I am going to show you how to do small talk.” I turned to the woman and said: “My mum told me never to take candy from strangers. So we are not strangers anymore I need to know your name.” She laughed, introduced herself and we started a conversation. I told her: “You were so kind to me to give me your ice cream I’d like to repay by helping you with the beer menu. If you are in doubt of what to order, I can give you a little consulting.” She went on about how she loves beer and asked me how come I knew so much about it. I gave her my business card and after 1 month or so, she contacted me to book an event for her boyfriend’s birthday.
Luba: Wenn Du jetzt diesen ganzen Zeitraum betrachtest, von dem Moment an, wo Du zum ersten Mal mit dem Gedanken gespielt hast, Dein Projekt zu starten bis jetzt: da, wo Du jetzt stehst. Was hättest Du damals anders gemacht?
Start before you are ready
Gustavo: I would have started earlier. After my contract at KIT was over, I was trying to find a position as an engineer for 8 months, until I finally pulled myself together and went forward with the company. Until then I had this strange idea: it is either one or the other. I either start to work as an engineer (after all, I studied my whole life for that!) OR I start my own project. I never even flirted with the idea of doing both. I should have!
Luba: Welchen Rat würdest Du selbst anderen Migranten geben, die mit dem Gedanken spielen, ihr eigenes Projekt zu starten?
Let yourself be helped
Gustavo: There are several things…
- Let yourself be helped. When I started, one of the first steps that I took was to go to IHK and take the course they have about what kind of company is best for your business, how you should write your business plan, how to get a bank loan…Their consulting service is very good.
- Also, get support from the international community and ask for advice.
- Talk to people who already have started a company, learn from their mistakes. It is easier to learn from other people’s mistakes, because you won’t live long enough to commit all the possible mistakes by yourself.
Luba: Du sprichst sehr gut Englisch. Wie war das mit der deutschen Sprache?
Gustavo: It is a fact that I have to be ready to hold my events in German. Being able to use German fluently and use the jargons and the proper words for your specific area is important to sound professional when selling your services. I find that the German community as a whole accepts English speakers very well, though.
Luba: Stell Dir vor, wir sind in einer Zeitmaschine 10 Jahre in die Zukunft gesprungen. Wo siehst Du dich und dein Business?
Gustavo: My business will look a lot different than it looks right now. I am working towards doing more small events and also I am constantly thinking about new models with which I can work. Every day that passes, every event I promote and every request and feedback I get helps me view new possibilities, new models which I could try and use…
What I can definitely see for the future: I see myself having a fully developed webpage by the end of this year. A consolidated client base and big Facebook community in the next 5 years.
One of the things I am planning to do also in the next 5 years is to get a “Beer Ambassador” certification. I have found out that people in Germany love papers! Although I can show them all the 1,400 bottles of different beers I have tasted, and tell them all about the flavour, style, facts and stories behind each one of the beers I present… Although I have many years of experience doing this and can safely say: “I learnt it all by myself. I know what I am doing here, trust me…”, German people would still come to me and ask if I did a course on that, if I am certified.
[Ich muss lachen, weil das stimmt und so deutsch ist]. So I do intend to get this certification, to appease my German public. Maybe in 10 years from now I could be working together with the guys who issue this certificate. Then I’d not only have the certificate, I’d be helping issue them, helping spread the message of culture through beer. This is the Beer Embassy’s motto, after all: culture through beer!
Kleiner Tipp zum Schluss: Wenn du Interesse an einem Beer Embassy Event hast, bekommst du mit dem Code IE0916 bei Buchung bis Ende Februar 2017 10% Rabatt!