Art of the CraftArt of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

One of the great things about craft brewing and craft beer, besides the tasting, is the people I get to meet and whose stories I get to share.

I have, not surprisingly, gotten to know people who brew and serve craft beer. Some of them are brewers at established breweries and others brew at home. Medical researchers, Episcopal priests, even singers and songwriters. We have talked in tasting rooms and restaurants, online, and even places where they serve coffee. We have talked almost everywhere people go to but craft beer.

This month was a first for me. I spent some time talking with Shibli Haddad at his service station.

Shibli was born in Burbank, California and his father built a gas station on the corner of Arroyo and Del Mar in Pasadena, California in the 1970s. Since Shibli’s father died in 1998, several members of his family have taken on responsibility for running the station. Even now, Shibli’s mother is his landlady.

Though it might sounds like gasoline is in his blood, Shibli did not set out to become an oil and gas magnate. I could relate to his story. He has gone to school several times, intent on studying a variety of subjects. Originally intending to learn computer programming and web design, he found that was not what he had hoped it would be. His family wanted him to pursue a profession, and he began studying to become a dentist. Again, it was not what drew him toward the future. He began working in a business management practice and decided to study accounting.

I told him accounting was the first course I ever dropped in my life.

For Shibli, life always draws him to something new. He says he gets focused and moves on to explore.

Learning about managing a business and finance sparked his interest in the daily, hands-on experience of running a business. Just over a year ago he took on the operation of the station.

Shibli stands out not because he is the greatest gas station operator ever, but because he is also passionate about craft beer.

His station is a portal into the world of craft brewing.

Shibli discovered craft beer about two or three years ago. He had given up on what we would call industrial beers and drank more hard liquor. Someone suggested he might try what they called craft beer and he was pleasantly surprised by the taste.

Shibli’s family is important to him and his story. His sister was working a bar and she encouraged him to expand his horizons and try more craft beers. Shibli discovered a new world full of names like Stone and Lost Abbey, Ballast Point and Lagunitas.

Shibli’s exploration continues, and is reflected in how he operated his business.

As he took over the operations of the station he decided to be as craft beer-friendly as possible. He contacted a distributor and chose 25 craft beers to sell at the station, trying new brews along the way.

With between 100 and 200 craft beers for sale Shibli’s station does not necessarily have the largest possible selection, but it is, by his standards, the best.

Shibli has a local artist create a chalk mural in the store to highlight new beers and breweries. He also has separate sections for craft beer and industrial beer, and you can pick your own craft beer six pack.

Ironically, the beer which sparked his interest in craft beer is in the section between the industrial and the craft beers.

Shibli began his exploration of craft beer and breweries intentionally. He set out to learn and understand, and he worked hard. We agree, though, one of the best things that can happen is when work becomes play. Our analytical approach strengthens our intuition, and we can rely on it.

One of his latest discoveries is beer from Garage Project, which brews in a former gas station in New Zealand. One of their brews is a mango hefeweizen. He also has some hard to find beer, including Rogue’s Sriracha stout.

Even though Shibli’s station is within walking distance to the Stone Store in Pasadena and he is a frequent customer, if he could drink anything it would be a Lost Abbey Madonna & Child. It might be accompanied by any Black Sabbath music recorded on vinyl.

Shibli reminded me craft beer is like music. People need to try different beers at each brewery, in the same way you might prefer songs by different bands.

Craft brewing is not Shibli’s only passion, and not the only one reflected in his station. He also loves classic cars and schedules regular car shows in the parking spaces he has available. The next one should be coming up this month, so stop in for some gas, pick up some craft beer, and ask about the next show.

You can find more photos on Instagram at @arroyoshell.

Mention you read the Art of the Craft in DaBelly Magazine this month and ask for a discount . . .

Greg Richardson is a leadership and organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney, executive, and university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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