The world wide web has been abuzz lately with discussion of the million-dollar reward offered by Olympia Beer for the safe capture of a Bigfoot. Many of the details have been laid out through their press release and the contest’s website. Having read the company’s official statement, I felt the need to inquire a bit further and find out just what the deal was with a beer company offering big bucks for a breathing Bigfoot. Is it all just a ploy to sell more beer, or are their deeper, genuine motives at work? I chatted by phone with Brand Manager Andy Gurjian this week to dig deeper into the story.
To start the ball rolling, I had to ask the obvious. What is it exactly that makes a beer company show some interest in Bigfoot?
Generally speaking, Olympia Beer and Bigfoot share the same back yard [in the Pacific Northwest]; Bigfoot is such a part of our long heritage with so many sightings over the years. Our biggest goal is trying to show just how relevant it is… Bigfoot gets people talking, and searching for it is a fun, interesting thing for people to do.
Did anything instigate the contest?
Well, we know that Bigfoot certainly gets attention. It’s been here so long, right, with all the sightings… this is one way to keep the interest [in Bigfoot] up and keep it relevant.
I’m sure you heard about the Dr. Melba Ketchum story. Was it just really good luck that your challenge came out at the same time?
(laughs) Pure coincidence… I get alerts on Bigfoot news stories, and when we were setting up the site, that story came up and I thought, ‘Oh, man, what timing!’
By now, many people have read the fine print on what you might consider as evidence. Aside from the usual blurry pictures, is there anything people shouldn’t even bother sending you?
Well,… we’re interested to see what people have if they think it’s relevant. To us, [Bigfoot proof] is not a footprint. [That’s not substantial enough] …and doesn’t ‘talk’ to anyone. But we’d like to see a hair sample, feces… the more [evidence], the better.
So what if two people show up on your doorstep with two bodies? Who gets the cash?
Really… good… question. I’d have to say the first—whoever was the first to bring [the evidence] forward.
When I asked Gurjian if they’ve received any angry calls from cryptozoologists, he said the overall response has been “great.” Olympia Beer has been working with The Falcon Project—an attempt to use aerial surveillance in the Northwest to locate Bigfoot. With the guidance of Jeff Meldrum, they spent a lot of time trying to get all the details of the challenge just right and making sure they weren’t “stepping on any toes.” He did, however, state that they have already received several submissions at their office. One of these items is what you might expect: a photograph which may or may not show something like Bigfoot, but they can’t quite make out anything for sure. (As more evidence starts to filter in, we’ll be checking back to find out what sort of weird things cross their desks.)
It might be easy to think that Bigfoot is just a marketing gimmick for Olympia and not something they actually feel any connection with, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While not a native Washingtonian, Gurjian hails from Florida: “…home of the Swamp Ape.” An English Literature major transplanted to the concrete jungle of California, Andy never had his own Bigfoot encounter, but there were lots of rumors and talk:
People would say, ‘there are lots of woods, lots of swamps [here in Florida].’ It’s always been an interest of mine. You would hear about things out there… people hearing noises…
The rest of the folks at Olympia Beer share the enthusiasm, and that’s what brought the whole Bigfoot contest into being. The company has been around since 1896 and Washington State has been a hotbed of Bigfoot sightings for at least that long. It’s hard to ignore Bigfoot’s influence over everyone in Washington and Oregon. And you’re never far from some Sasquatch statue, a hairy representation of an ape-like creature on some product or merchandise, or a local with a wild story of their own personal encounter with the creature.
So, what’s the whole purpose behind the contest? What does Olympia Beer hope to achieve?
To tell people about our beer! It’s a great way to tell people. Olympia used to be a lot bigger than we are… I mean, look at the beer world now. [Even though we’ve been owned by Pabst Brewing Company since 1983], we’re always in touch with our heritage; there’s something special about it.
But that’s not all; it’s not just about selling a few brews. Olympia Beer has giveaways of adventure packages, tents, backpacks, and other outdoor gear. There’s a deeper motive at work here: exploration.
You’re not going to find Bigfoot sitting on your couch. We want to encourage people to go outside and have fun. You have to get out there… people like someone who has an interesting story to tell.
We couldn’t agree more.
For more information on Olympia Beer, visit their brand spanking new site www.olympia-beer.com. To learn about the contest and pin your own Bigfoot sighting on their interactive map, stop by www.olympiabigfoot.com where you can register for the $1 million challenge and learn how to submit your own evidence.