The Craft Kind: Red Lion couple finds success through flight paddles, beer soap

By Sarah Chain

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For Adam Miller, craft beer is a lifestyle. Introduced to the industry by friends, the Red Lion resident and multimedia designer now has a passion for sharing the love.

"People are kind of like ambassadors for the craft beer industry," Miller, 28, said. "That's how all the really good stuff gets shared."

But as Miller began exploring the industry sampling beer flights, attending festivals and talking with other enthusiasts he found an opening in the market. Seeking the kind of product he and his girlfriend, Annie Berkheimer, would want to use themselves, Miller decided to design and print his own craft beer-themed T-shirts.

"I've always been into small sub-cultures," Miller said. "Wearing that T-shirt out, people would see it and know immediately what you're into."
Earlier this year, The Craft Kind was born: a lifestyle brand created for folks who love craft beer. The T-shirts got put on hold, though, after customers caught wind of the shop's other offering, originally created just as a promotional product: handcrafted wooden flight paddles that hold four 9-ounce snifters for sampling different craft brews.

When Miller put the first paddles on The Craft Kind's Etsy shop at $59.99 each, they quickly sold out and more orders started flowing in. The larger glasses, stable boxes and handles on both sides of the paddle make for a better experience for drinkers, Miller said.

"They did so well it was like, 'Oh, OK, maybe we'll focus on the paddles for a little bit and see what happens,'" Miller said. "I never had any intention of becoming a woodworker."

In four months, The Craft Kind sold 30 paddles, a labor of love that Miller tackles evenings and weekends on top of his full-time job with Lancaster-based Nxtbook Media. Each paddle takes three to four hours to complete, including the time spent packaging the product to ship 15 of the paddles sold have gone to a recently opened craft beer establishment called The Growler in Oxford, Miss.

Now, he's looking toward a partnership with a Reading-based craftsman who will work from an updated prototype to create the paddles moving forward.

Miller has enough to keep himself busy: In addition to the T-shirts that got sidelined by the success of the flight paddles, The Craft Kind also sells craft beer soap, homemade from hops he and Berkheimer grow in their backyard.

"We found a lot of people who are into craft beer have beards," Miller said. "So the soap works for whatever you want to use it for, but a lot of the oils we're putting into it are focused on promoting healthy and well-conditioned and well-hydrated beards."

Berkheimer, long an advocate of buying products that she knows are made with pure ingredients, tinkered with the recipe to get the formula and scent where they both wanted it to be.

"Ultimately it's very cool for people, it's cool to me, for people to be able to grab soap that is made locally with local hops and to know that everything that is inside of that soap from an ingredient standpoint is serving a purpose," Miller said.

As their following expands, Miller plans to focus on beer festivals and events in the region from York to Gettysburg, where The Craft Kind can set up as a vendor and sell its wares to craft beer enthusiasts locally. He also plans to reach out to York County bars, taprooms and restaurants for larger orders.

"I think craft beer is a rapidly, rapidly expanding market and I think there's just so many people who are pumped about it," Miller said. "There's this whole other world of beer that you don't even know is out there."