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Betsy Riley: The Ultimate Music Fan.

March 5, 2014

BetsyRileyOnlineAs part of our partnership with Philly Beer Scene magazine, we’re documenting Philly’s relationships between music and beer. For the most recent issue of Philly Beer Scene, G.W. Miller III caught up with Betsy Riley, the Philly field sales rep for Great Lakes Brewing. When she’s not driving around the city slinging beer, she’s most likely at a show.

Betsy Riley was living the dream.

The Ohio native and long-time music lover was a bartender at World Café Live, the West Philadelphia venue housed in the same building as radio station WXPN. For three years, she worked mostly day shifts, which meant she was around when all the big acts would arrive at the venue to unload their gear and set up for shows. She often held the door open for them and assisted them with whatever they needed. Then she’d listen to soundchecks and serve the band members drinks.

“I got really spoiled there,” she says.

Some days, bands would visit the radio station and she’d duck over to watch them perform private studio sessions. And on Fridays, she attended the Free At Noon shows. She met the guys from Alt-J and chatted up Father John Misty. She was starstruck when she met Jim James, the frontman from My Morning Jacket.

“I couldn’t express my love for him though,” she says. “I had to be more modest.”

Then one day, everything changed. Sort of.

A man came for a lunch meeting and ordered a round of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald porters.

“You know, this is the most award-winning American porter,” she recalls responding, proud of the beer that was brewed in her hometown of Cleveland.

Turns out it was Mark Weinmann, the area sales manager for Great Lakes. He was impressed. Riley and Weinmann talked and within weeks, Riley was promoting the brand part-time at events around the region.

For six months, she worked days at World Cafe, surrounded by music, and nights with Great Lakes, pushing her hometown craft brew.

Last year, Great Lakes offered her a full time job as the Philadelphia field sales representative.

“What am I going to do?” she remembers wondering. “I loved my job.”

In the end, she took the position. Now, she drives around southeastern Pennsylvania with a car full of Great Lakes beers and promotional materials, singing along with her music between stops at bars, restaurants and wholesalers.

When she’s not hawking beer, she’s at shows, listening to local and national acts.

“She comes out to every show with a smile on her face, in true excitement and admiration for the local talent this city has,” says Marley McNamara, who manages local acts The Districts, Ali Wadsworth and Levee Drivers.

Riley is the ultimate music fan, appreciative of talent, hitting several shows every week – if not more.

“I feel like she is everywhere, all the time,” says Ron Gallo, the frontman of the band Toy Soldiers, who also has a solo album dropping this spring. “She’ll hit up multiple shows in a night, coordinating who is playing when and where, and will literally be sure to make it to ALL OF THEM.”

Most of the local music venues serve beer, so when she goes to a show at Union Transfer or Milkboy, for example, she brings marketing material and talks to bar managers.

“It’s a really fine line between work and play,” Riley says with a laugh.

Now she’s living another dream.

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