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!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lagers Vs. Ales: A Question of Volume

We all know the drill. What makes a fairly simple combination of water, malt and hops INTO a specific style of beer is the yeast used and the temperature at which that yeast is encouraged to do its thing. Easy, right? It's a matter of how you like your beer to taste, feel, and finish. No biggie.

The fact is most beer produced by our Happy Not-So-Little Family of Craft Microbreweries are ales. There are several reasons for this but the main one being that ales can go from "grain to glass" quickly and efficiently, without a ton of needed cold storage or extra time. It is not that they are "easier" to make. However they are, simply put, faster to create and get in front of drinkers.

We are in a time of rapid (some would say meteoric) growth in the craft beer biz. Craft micro and nano breweries are appearing on every street corner, especially in our Great Lakes State.  Count me among the many who saw an opportunity for investment in a fun thing. I don't begrudge anyone looking at this Oh So Glamourous biz and wanting to jump in, bank account first.  Truly.

However, I want to clear up something that is a tad misleading with regard to (the original statement) Lagers Vs. Ales: A question of volume.

Here at the Wolverine State Brewing Company we are a lager-centric brewery. That is to say, we have not had an ale on tap on our tap room in nearly 2 months and that ale was only there until we got our collective brewer's heads around its counterpart. When we took on this seemingly odd mantle, that of leading a Lager Revolution in craft beer, we got a lot of folks who scratched their heads, rolled their eyes and gave us six months to live.

We are now well into our 3rd year as a commercial brewery with Tap Room (we contract brewed a single beer: Wolverine Premium Lager 3 years before that) and have just undergone an expansion that nearly doubled the Tap Room capacity, and added a private rental hall. In the brewery, just today as a matter of fact we took delivery on 3 new 30-barrel fermentation vessels and a 30-barrel bright tank which will bring our total capacity to just at 2500 barrels.

We have hit and surpassed our sales goals, on both sides of the house (retail and wholesale). We went from 120 to 450-800-1200 barrels over the course of 5 years (on average) in sales.  That's a lot. "But Wench," you claim, clutching your forbidden shaker pint glass to your chest. "I heard about a brewery that opened up and sold 4000, or 6000 barrels in their early years. What is your problem?'

Our problem, dear and loyal fans and followers, is not that. It is our business model. We chose to make lagers exclusively and bought into the whole, expensive, infrastructure intensive, lengthy process from the get go.

It takes longer to make lagers. Those lager yeasts are just slow critters and they like it nice and cold to do their busy work. PLUS they get really cranky if you make it too warm, too early, or don't warm them up at the right moment, then cool them down again.  Frankly, they're high maintenance sons of b*tches. But we love them. We want to push the craft beer boundaries with lagers.

 We do have our Premium Lager still the "beer that pays the light bill" as a totally dialed in, spot on, diacytal free delicious product. But we also have (in bottles and draft) along with Premium a rich Vienna style amber and a roasty, Munich-style dark.  On tap we have our (soon to be bottled) Gulo gulo---the India Pale Lager and we experiment with every damn thing in between from bourbon barrel aging, to winter lagers, to smoky lagers, and stout lagers. In the summer we'll bust out with Verano, our Mexican lager, Chrysalis--a Belgian wheat lager and by next fall our Oktoberfest (a Maerzen) will be back on tap along with another go at some Big Lagers, like the Gulo Cubed and 40 Ounces of Freedom Imperial Pils.

Bottom line is: once Oliver the brewer got past his first "you want me to do WHAT with lagers?" moment, he was all in, and his team are gangbusters, leading this revolution.

But the timing required and the capacity constraints we had meant we were limited. If we took this gorgeous facility and made ONLY ales, we would have sold over 2000 barrels in our first year.  And now that we're near to maxxing out this facility with our shiny new tanks we COULD be cranking out 6000 barrels of ales per year.

BUT....we aren't.

I'll be sending out more specific and scholarly sounding press releases about this phenomenon that the brewers sometimes take a break and go all: "hey, you know what? if we made ales in here..." until Wench shoots one of them and evil eye and they shut up and carry on babying the yeasts and cranking out amazing, unique and delicious lagers!

Keep up with our line up: www.wolverinebeer.com "The lagers" tab.

And stay tuned for the BARISTA (brown lager made with coffee from RoosRoast) and the REVILO, our India Red Lager coming our in February.

You've been enjoying photos of our latest additions. Here we are ... expanding....and making lagers!


No comments: