A discussion about craft beer so never fear you HAVE come to the right place.
But, I'm gonna open a can 'o worms here people so gird your loins.
A little birdie has sent me on a mission to find out truth to some rumors about some large "craft brands" eyeballing our humble Great Beer State. All through the summer there have been random sightings of one of the more iconic lager brands known to both beer snobs and regular Joe's alike. "Yuengling" is a name synonymous with success in lager brewing. We all know it. I personally seek it out when I'm on the east coast and usually haul a bunch of it back over state lines, avoiding the po-po in ways worthy of Smoky and the Bandit.
But...do we NEED it in Michigan? I took a gander at some of the chat boxes or whatever the hell they are where people are yammering to "bring Yuengling to Michigan" and it just gets my back up. We have excellent craft here in this state. Everything from clean, crisp lagers by the staff at your's truly's brewery to amazing and complex Belgians by our pals at Jolly Pumpkin and every single option in between including Bloody Marys and Key Lime Pies.
Sheesh, seriously people, bootleg that stuff like the rest of us and ORDER A DAMN MICHIGAN BEER.
All right, all right, calm your jets. I know my lagers are not available for very wide distribution YET. But I'm bringing 'em to Grand Rapids after the Winter Beer Fest thanks to my buddies at Kent Beverage.
Let's use another example for my dismay-slash-outrage.
New Belgium, easily the yardstick by which we should all measure ourselves on successful startup/managed growth/savvy marketing/sleek design/green production. They are awesome and in no way is this meant to disparage what Kim and Jeff have accomplished.
But it's been brought to my direct attention in a rather alarming fashion that they are looking to enter Michigan with a huge splash, and very soon, like within months. They are bringing their tried-and-true marketing, deep pockets and media savvy right into our back yards. Yes, they bring good malt beverage products. But I repeat: do we NOT have enough really really great products made here already?
Yeah, yeah, I get all the "more craft beer in Michigan means more craft beer drinkers in Michigan" arguments. I understand that both Yuengling and New Belgium are incredibly savvy and look to our humble mitten, and rub their collective hands together with glee--we have a HUGE craft beer base of drinkers. Gigantic. Folks like Larry Bell, Mike and Dave, Brett and Fred, Joe and many others of us have worked damn hard to make our state educated about beer, making us a Big Fat Prime Target for said savvy crafters looking to expand.
I posed the question to my brewers, realizing their tendencies towards "now calm down Wench" (which is good, in most cases). They both paused and looked at me a minute as if I were nuts to even doubt the brilliance of such a scheme. But then as they talked it through with me we did get to a mutual agreement that while "bringing more craft beer to Michigan is good," "diluting the Michigan craft beer presence in Michigan is bad."
From my perspective, to bring it down to a level of minutia you can likely do without but it's my blog so tough shit: If any of my carefully trained, precious distributor partners land either of these accounts, what exactly does that mean for MY presence on store shelves? These guys are in the business of making money as are we all. I would not blame any of them for pulling out all the stops to land either of these uber-plumb companies in their beer book.
But you get where I'm going with this rant, right? Those are MY flipping distributor sales men. Keep your arses in Pennsylvania, Colorado, East Coast and West Coast and leave Michigan craft beers for the Michigan craft beer drinkers.
Do not misconstrue this now people and get all hissy over me getting uppity about my teensy, hard-won slice of the market share. This is a business. Just like it is for the folks at Yuengling and New Belgium and any other craft brewery thinking of Major Expansion. I admire their thinking on this. But I'm having a moment whereby I would like to jump up and down, stamp my feet and say "No."
So I did.