Why Are You Here Anyway?

Welcome to the Wench's World--the A2 Beer Wench to be exact. I once owned a brewery. Also once learned a lesson from that! If you've stumbled upon me, cool. What follows may or may not be directly related to real estate, the publishing biz, craft beer, Ann Arbor, or sports, but it sure will be fun and many times profane as the circumstances warrant! Enjoy (or not) at your own risk!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Over 70k Post--OR Wench Starts a Fight

Or maybe just a discussion.

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.
Carry On


Paul said...

My two cents: If Michigan is to be titled "the Great Beer State" then it has to be willing to allow for other beers into the marketplace. I recently moved from Michigan to Chicago and thought it was nice that there was more selection, but no matter how much I try from other places, I still go back to beer from Michigan.

The fact of the matter is, that Michigan beer is great and customers will stay loyal because the product is so good. I'm not a marketing guru like some, but if I have a beer I like more, then I'll drink it more. It just so happens that I like beer from Michigan.

I think you're fretting too much and while it will be nice to have new beers to try, the standby's will always be there and we'll always be happy to drink them.

TeacherPatti said...

I'm inclined to agree with Paul. Personally, I buy very little beer in bottles. It never tastes the same as on draft (or draught, as our English friends say!). Also, I try to avoid drinking at home, lest I develop a bad habit! So personally, I will keep going to brewpubs for a) the beer and b) the atmosphere. The social aspects of craft beer are what matter to me and I'm not going to get that with a bottle of New Belgium....
PS: I love the mug with the sad face.

Anonymous said...

From a consumer standpoint, more choice is generally better.

I'm assuming that you are not planning to expand Wolverine State beyond Michigan?

Liz said...

all good points kids. I don't ever intend to go beyond "regional" for distribution as I'm a true believer in getting the freshest beer possible to the market without jumping into markets I can't support.

and yeah, I'm a fretter....so sue me!
thanks for weighing in!

Davee said...

Great thoughts. I admit, living in Texas, most beer drinkers are popping Budweiser, or other nationally syndicated, so to speak, brand. But I lived in Colorado long enough to develop an appreciation for Tommyknockers, Dam beer, and other local microbrews. And it keeps it special, when I visit my beloved state of Colorado to visit those places and enjoy the beer on e again, because it never gets old that way. Just my nickle....

BeerJon said...

Having worked on each side of the beer business (wholesaler, brewery, consultancy, on-premise, etc) I have to say I disagree with your thoughts.
1) Yuengling is not craft beer. If you look to other states in which they have launched recently (or over the past 10 years) the brand tends to take market share from larger macro brands, to the point where AB-InBev raised a HUGE stink to their wholesalers upon Yuengling looking to enter the Ohio market. The thought was to either bid for the brand, in order to bury it, or let a competitive house hold it and fight tooth and nail against it.
This brand is certainly not a threat to MI beer, or craft as a whole, and will, instead, prove to be a gateway to craft, having more flavor than mass "domestics" as well as its mid-line super-premium pricing, similar to Leinenkugel.
2) New Belgium coming will also do nothing but good for Michigan beer. First and foremost, NB has a strict draft quality policy that disallows bars from carrying their draft product unless a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule is adopted...and we all know many bars need to clean their lines more often (some just need to clean them at all!)
Also, because of this brand's high-profile and noteriety, I fully believe that it will also bring more drinkers into the craft beer arena. Blue Moon drinkers will begin to try Mothership Wit (or whatever wheat beer they brew nowadays) and Killians drinkers will begin to drink Fat Tire, etc etc etc. This will be trickle-down eceonomics for the beer industry here in Michigan.
As far as taking shelf space? I doubt it. I believe it will encourage retailers on- and off-premise to expand their display and serving capabilities as the available product mix continues to grow.
In fact, I encourage New Belgium to (again) take a closer look at MI for an additional brewing facility. (I believe they are still looking.) Not only will that better bring Michigan to mind for the national media (beer-related and otherwise) but it will also create a huge number of jobs.
If nothing else, it's an interesting topic for debate.

Liz said...

GREAT commentary and perspective BeerJon! thanks for weighing in. My "brewery owner" mind clashes with my "marketing savvy" mind on this one and I'm torn.
thanks again for stopping by.