I changed my name and I’m an introvert.
Let’s first start off at the beginning of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider. Yes, redundant, but I like it. Who is the infamous Reverend Nat (aka Nat West), and is he really a Reverend? The answer is no; he lives his life one apple at a time. Few people know Nat’s eccentric background. As someone who attends every Cider and Beer event I can, I observe Nat in his interactions with customers, fans, suppliers, other brewery and cider owners…you name it. As arguably one of the most gregarious people I know, Nat is pretty quiet. No joke. According to him: “I play the part…I love it…but it’s a role”. Talk about method acting to a T. He fooled me, and heck, he’d probably pass a Turing test, but we’ll get to that later…
Nat Papovich’s other life consisted of learning, teaching, and writing books about Cold Fusion, an advanced computer language. He even cowrote a book titled “Fusebox; Developing ColdFusion Applications” – pretty neat stuff! You can even read about it here.
Given this information, it does not surprise me anymore that he is an introvert. I know three other computer programmers here in Portland who 1) now own bars or breweries, and 2) claim to be introverts. I see a pattern here.
So, how do I fit in the picture? And, how did I meet this enigmatic individual????
Nat meets Ninja aka David Nijhawan, aka, me.
Four score and seven years ago…no…seriously, when I relocated to Portland from Indiana, Nat was one of the few (and first) people who actually agreed to meet with me. A legend in the cider industry, Alan Shapiro, also met with me, and he offered to make an intro for me in such a way that Nat would not kick me out of his taproom. It worked. Nat graciously accepted my call (I work a regular job and I help cider and beer companies), and he spent a good hour or so with me helping me get plugged into the city, the industry, and he also gave me free cider. I can’t really complain about that…:) Over the past year and a half, we’ve developed a good friendship, and I can always count on Nat to help me meet people, and vice versa. In large part, I owe a lot of my professional success here in Portland to Nat. Enough said. Oddly enough, at the time of this writing, he said that the only reason he talked to me was because of Alan, and that he probably would have kicked me out of his taproom…go figure. He really must be a loner…
So, for me, the next natural question is this: for someone who ostensibly is this computer geek, how, and why did he get started, and how is it that he can do so many facets of the business well?
Recipe Development and Communication – Diametrically Opposed Skills, yet one in the same.
“David, I’m a beer brewer who happens to make cider…I love craft beer”
According to Nat, weekly potluck parties at his home with his neighbors birthed this crazy idea of hard cider. On the side, Nat brewed beer, but a neighbor had a large apple tree, and according to him, “an apple just wants and needs to become cider…” According to him, the world NEEDS cider. The world NEEDS to see an apple in its true purpose and light…according to him, this is his gift to the world. Now, to some,that sounds more like a frontman for a religious cult versus some sort of computer jockey with no personality. But to me, it seems like someone who exudes true passion in what he does. Seriously, though, think about it…there’s a true ring to that mantra. Only someone who truly believes in her or his idea would say something like that…and that impressed me.
I understand the notion that a great recipe developer could also be a computer nerd. I definitely see the parallel between the two things: both require an analytical mind and the ability to have a vision up front. But what about someone who is that AND a master of branding something so simple, yet so engaging that it’s made it’s way to Japan and all over the United States in such a short time. In short, Nat is a master of a lot of things. He’s just humble about it. I asked him directly about this, and his response was “I’m fair at a lot of things, but no one is better than me at either of those things.” I’m a football guy, and to me, that’s like saying a strong safety (i.e. Troy Polamalu) could do a free safety’s (Ed Reed) job and vice versa. It’s rare. Again, this is what impresses me so much. He’s been able to do these seemingly opposing skills effectively by following his true passion, yet surrounding himself with others who can fill in the gaps. People like this often get cast as visionaries in their respective industries, and Nat presents no exception to this rule…
Beer, Cider, and The Singularity
A realization of who sat in front of me brought me to the next part of the interview. What’s next? Specifically, I inquired about cider and beer brewed by artificial intelligence. For once, I felt smart. Nat exhibited absolutely no clue what I spoke of. I explained to him that a London brewery just completed brewing four separate beers completely done with artificial intelligence. If you don’t believe, me, you can read more here and here. This question started a 45 minute philosophical debate which is another blog for another time. After walking him through what this London brewery did, we both agreed that the singularity point isn’t here yet, but that God only knows (no pun intended) what will really happen. I posit that we will reach it as Ray Kurzweil suggests in his book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. In other words, I do believe at some point, the brewer becomes obsolete and the new Gods of Beer shall reign. In Nat’s view, we will traipse along that fine line indefinitely, but never cross that threshold. We’ll see what happens…
Regardless if or when we get to that point, we do have to accept that Northwest Cider transcends borders, and whether or not it will be Mr. Roboto or Nat pouring my next cider, the immediate future excites me…
Portland and Beyond – Japan? New Zealand?
As background, I work, professionally, with companies that import and export, and in particular, companies that import and export to Japan, Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia. As we closed the night, we talked frankly about these markets and what they mean to Portland, and the Pacific Northwest in general. He went back to his original statement that “an apple just wants and needs to become cider…” To be sure, I did ask if the apple was there really to have Eve tempt Adam, to which he declined to comment:) Nat again, with a huge grin of delight, exalted “The world NEEDS cider. The world NEEDS to taste the apples from here. The world NEEDS this”. I truly believe it too. Cider continues to explode in Japan and now New Zealand and Australia. It continues to blow up here, but the reality is this: Nat is leading the pack in exporting cider and breweries are doing just the same. To Nat, that is a huge next step in the industry that runs conterminous with continued expansion across the United States. Be on the lookout for cider tours coming to Portland from Japan. Be on the lookout for the same from New Zealand and Australia. The world is our oyster. In sum, this is an exciting time for Nat, for Nat’s Hard Cider, and for the industry as a whole.
In closing, I hope this shed light on the enigmatic character of Reverend Nat. He truly is a gentleman and a scholar, and this interview was one of my favorites.