Why Are You Here?

Welcome to the Wench's World--the A2 Beer Wench to be exact. If you've stumbled upon me, cool. What follows may or may not be directly related to the craft brewing business but it sure will be fun and many times profane as the circumstances warrant! Enjoy (or not) at your own risk!
Want MORE? check: www.brewingpassion.com

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fifty Shades of Bud

The following statement serves as your CAVEAT EMPTOR moment:
I will be using examples of recent, wildly successful book projects and macro beers to make some points during this column. I am not dissing them, or you if you enjoy them while drinking a Bud Lite. Withhold your vitriol. I’m just making a point about “professionalism.”

If you are a good and loyal Liz follower you know this already but: I’m a founder and part owner of a craft microbrewery in Michigan. The Great Lakes State is 5th in the nation in the number of licensed microbreweries. The competition is stiff, between the Big Boys (like Bells, Founders, New Holland) and "The Macros" as we in the biz call them—and they apparently call themselves in a very humorous and sneaky way recently.

The craft brewing business is, for the most part, populated with like-minded, friendly, non-competitive personality types. We are all in the same boat. Trying to bring beer with real taste, hand crafted in small(ish) batches to both the existing craft beer appreciators and to a new crowd—those for whom "Bud Lite Lime" is the limit of sublime when it comes to malt beverages.

It’s an uphill battle. The stats don't lie. The market is dominated by beers with names like Budweiser, Miller, Coors. Period. We don't bemoan it too much really, other than to occasionally go “full beer snob" on folks who say "gee what do you have in here that tastes like Bud?" Or to over react to an advertisement during a Major Event designed to get us to do exactly that. Did you see how they did that? Genius.

Craft beer is getting pretty sexy, though. More and more home brewers are fulfilling their dreams of making money selling their products. Some big names (New Belgium, Dog Fish Head, Stone, Brew Dog, Bells, and many -- oh really many -- others) have been at this for 20+ years and we all thank them mightily for their efforts. But the fact remains that the beers that taste the most like beer-flavored water are still wildly popular. Try this little field trip. Go to your local grocery and carefully observe the Beer Section. It is likely dominated by the Big Names You Know and Have Known Ever Since You Had Your First Old Milwaukee.

Of course, I also write books (duh). Along with many (many) others, I am fulfilling my dream of making a bit of money selling my books. I have over 20 of those suckers on my (jargon alert) “backlist”. Many readers are recommending my books to their friends. I am one in a zillion though. Kind of like in the beer biz. Shelves are overflowing with "genre books" and "beer."  How I managed to pick two of the most up-and-coming areas to focus my creative energy, I have no idea. But there you have it.

Hey, I know how hard it is to write. I am certain EL James worked really hard to take her fanfic concept to where it is today. She has a lot of experience and advantage in a lot of areas and used them all to further her product. It’s to be commended. I respect the heck out of the genius marketers at Budweiser, Coors and Heineken too. 

But I don’t drink their beer. And after a few pages of many of The Most Popular Novels Right Now I have to put down my e-reader, softly and carefully and go find something else to do. And now, of course, we are armpit deep in The Movie and the fans who’ve been pretending to love other books are back out, in force, making a lot of us feel a little, well, left in the dust and wondering why.

And now, finally, I get to the “advice” part of the monthly “advice column:”
If you are an author and are unhappy—oh hell, I’ll just say it—are flat out so jealous of all the attention being given to a book you may not have valued as much as the millions of women who did and continue to do, your best bet in public (And by “public” I mean of course “online.” Unless you are one of the lucky ones asked to be on a panel to give an “opinion” in which case you’d better drink a lot of craft beer before speaking) is to say absolutely nothing.

If you are asked a direct question: “Are you just dying to see the movie?” Answer with very little elaboration. A.k.a. “No,” and leave it at that. Because remember, dear Liz Acolytes, I am allowing YOU to learn from MY mistakes. I have made the grievous error of getting into a so-called debate with people so ga-ga over it they changed their online names to “50ShadesofTieMeUpAndStickMeInTheRedRoomChristian4Ever” or something similar. It is an instant “lose for Liz,” I assure you, and something that I’ve mulled over in my head way late into too many nights.

They are allowed their opinions. You are allowed yours. But you won’t win any points or new fans by expressing your opinion of their opinion of any book… or beer for that matter—you might as well try and convince them that YOUR view of “American Sniper” is the right one. Or that your choice of a triple hopped Belgian beats their aluminum can macro any day of the week.

It’s an ugly thing, this professional angst. But we all fall prey to it. We are Artists and whether we admit it or not, we are competitive. But the bottom line is YOU own your destiny and YOUR time is better spent off the social nets entirely for the next few weeks so as not to get caught up in something that could bite you in the butt. Go and write a new book. I can tell you that so far, February 2015 has been The Most Prolific for Liz, at least in terms of words cranked (25k on one project, 40k on another PLUS over 50 agents queried. Yes, I have a lot of energy to channel).

File it under the "oh it's just Budweiser" compartment in your brain. The one that reminds you that professional jealousy is unattractive and nets you nothing but gnawed fingernails and people who avoid you—and you are in the business of being noticed NOT avoided.

Keep writing. Keep blogging. Keep talking to readers. And keep drinking craft beer!


Floor Time Links:

Check the rest of the original Jack & Sara trilogy and the whole best selling series here:

Liz Crowe bio
Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction hybrid/subgenre, “Romance. Worth the Risk." which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). 
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ain't Nothin' But a Marketing Thaing--OR Relax. It's Not About You.

Oh my Wenchie Minions, have you MISSED ME?

Don't bother, I know you have.....

Been a busy little bee, writing up a storm, trying not to bite through my tongue when certain movie releases keep getting mentioned in conjunction with the phrase: "Hey, don't you try and write that stuff too? I can't wait to see it!" PLUS working on reviving a career that, it turns out, I never should have left!

All the while, as I pound my keyboard, bite my tongue and plan my triumphant return to Ann Arbor Real Estate.....what happens? We all start talking about BUDWEISER again?!

To wit: During this year's Hand-Egg Bowl Of Super-Duper there were the usual suspects paying the usual eleventy-hundred zillion American dollars for a shot at 30-seconds worth of a viewer's time between slurping down chili and going to the bathroom.

 Every year we "ooh and aaaaaahhhh" over the Hot Guy puppy and horsie ad from said Big Brewery That Shall Remain Nameless For Now. 

We got to do that again.

And of COURSE we got our very first naughty peek-a-roonie at how that virgin and her billionaire get up to the nasty in the elevator. Which I am certain got a few dudes with chili stains on their shirts luckier than they thought they would get on Super Bowl Sunday. 

But I will tell you that That Ad---the one the craft beer universe has lost its collective mind over-- Amused me to no end.

You see, fair and lovely Wench Acolyte, as we all know, I'm "just" the marketing, the sales, the face, the leg, the whatever you want to call it, I guess. I only represent(ed) the brewer. But as that person, who has had some decade plus of experience in that very area, I say, it was flipping genius.

To my mind, this is an advertisement chock full of truthiness. Whatever is "between the lines" is put there by the beholder, IMHO---extreme emphasis on the "M" and the bit about "this is my blog."

Let's take a quick look, shall we? Feel free to take notes:

1. It's made with barley. And "hops" are a lovely a green color and smell nice when you break them apart in your hand.
2. It's "Macro" and they own that shit, like a boss, I mean, why not?
 3 It's not a beer to "ponder" or "dissect" or even "compare" (God forbid because it would lose, and they know it)
4. It's been around since 1876 and, one can only surmise, been "aged" in "beechwood" since then (anyone who's taken their tour can pipe up here).
5.  People who like to "drink beer" ..... drink their beer. (duh. Specious and circular, but true. If you don't like to "drink beer" you don't drink their beer. You don't drink ANY beer).
6. It's brewed "The Hard Way." Now, again, I'm sure some folks who brew and don't sell will argue with me but last I checked (and tried myself) "beer brewing" is a hard process. Wenchling Numero Dos herself worked alongside Pat the Brewer at Blue Tractor just last week and will attest--"It's heavy lifting, a lot of chemistry and a whole hell of a lot of clean up." Again, I'm not reading between their lines here, but perhaps that's the "Don Draper" in me.
7.  "Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale." Ok, thanks guys! We will! Cool! Budweiser says we're "A-OK!"
8. They will keep brewing "golden suds." Why, yes, Budweiser beer IS yellow and is DOES have suds.
9. It's "famous." It's served in brown bottles and (hold onto your knickers here) it's Very Popular. Still.
10. And we are all talking about it and them, still.

If you wanna be insulted by a beer commercial, try this one:

or my personal favorite (no big surprise here, eh kids?)

Bottom line here for This Wench? I thought it was sheer genius but even as I watched, laughed and applauded their deep-pocketed marketing genius (remember....these guys brought us Hot Guy, Puppy & Horsie) I thought it might go pear shaped on them. It did, for a bit. But contrary to some opinions, mine is less "for this to work I have to oblivious" and more "for this to work I have to give a crap about beer other than the yellow, fizzy kind." And I think the sooner we all accept that the "yellow, fizzy beer crowd" will always walk among us as supposed equals, the more we can relax and actually laugh at this advertisement. 

Face it, fellow crafties, this commercial experiment was not necessarily directed at YOU. It was directed at the person you will never, ever, in this or any lifetime, convince that your choice of an Imperial Black Belgian-influenced Almond Cream Ale (12% / 97 IBUs) will be anything they want to pay for. It makes "them" and "those who make their beer of preference" feel justified in their choices. 

It takes all kinds!

Vive la différence!

 Je Sui Charlie, Even.....

At least we aren't in the INSURANCE business...sheesh...talk about a DOWNER during our annual festival of over-hyped, over-paid dudes in tights....?

So no, I'm not insulted. I'm amused. Seriously, this is the company that brought us THESE:

And no, I'm not going to see the 50 Shades movie, shut the hell up I'm busy writing books (again)!


p.s. If you are inclined to voice an opinion below using a "comment" please feel free but note that I'm not insulting you by merely stating a "marketing opinion." 

p.p.s If you think my "marketing opinion" is "stupid," well, take a number. 

p.p.p.s. Remember what everyone always says about the "craft beer crowd:" We are fun, funny, welcoming, many times bearded, and not caught up in the "competition."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Here's A Tip--OR How NOT to Vacation in Orlando

December 28, 2014

Dear Karma Fairy,

I thought this might be a pretty good time to share some thoughts with you about the Year 2014.

No, no, don’t worry. I’m not gonna drag up a bunch of crap that I’ve already pounded like the proverbial dead horse. God knows everyone is sick of hearing me whinge about getting fired from a company I put on the map.

No, no, I’m moving on from that thanks and will get to just how I'm doing that in a moment.

What I’d like to bone-pick with you is just how this year has closed out vis-√†-vis a particular rental company in Orlando, Florida.

You see, back in late September my family decided to go in with another one to share a house during our daughters’ important National League soccer tournament at the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. So, like a good, trusting, consumer of rental homes in a town lousy with said products I got online long about early October and located a company that had decent reviews online and, after a LOT of what I guess you could call harassment “eager and earnest sales phone calls” once I made the first email inquiry I decided to use this company to book our 2-family vacation dream home.

I spoke with a salesperson for the better part of an hour and a half, poring over the somewhat thin inventory. You see, KF, this IS “the busiest week of the busiest season in Disney-Town,” or so I was told, repeatedly. But finally, we settled on their “deal” whereby I reserve a “house that will sleep 12 from Dec. 27-Jan. 4” on October 4, 2014. I paid a deposit, then the balance at the end of November. I did not hear a peep from this company all the way up until Monday, December 22. That was the day I decided to call and see if I could get the address. Here is how that conversation went:

“Oh, we will send you the exact address and lock box code on Dec. 24, no worries.”

“Ok, great,” I says, relieved. “So we are all set still, right?”

“Hang on and just let me confirm it for you.” (clicking noises) “Um, I need to put you on hold a moment. Thanks.”

No less than 30 (closer to 35 minutes later) I was told that the house I had rented for 2 families to use was “no longer available, due to circumstances beyond their control. Sorry.”

Yeah. So, let’s just review that a second. See, the soccer girls’ team HAD a very nice hotel (The Hyatt Grand Cypress) for a VERY excellent rate ($135  a night plus parking). I HAD a reservation that I CANCELLED once I paid the balance on the house because, you see, I believed that the company I paid would uphold their end of the contract.

I went a tad ballistic. I have not had a superior set of weeks leading up to this moment and had actually thought "well, at least there is the Florida vacation" about that time they put me on hold AGAIN and I had to hang up and call back using a different number so I wouldn't go straight to HOLD again....I kid you not.

Not only did they not honor anything resembling our contract, or notify me (I made the call, remember?) they honestly assumed that simply “refunding my money” would suffice. So I spent the better part of 2 and a half days before Christmas (after a fairly traumatic birthday week but that’ll be in the Liz Memoir never fear) frantically attempting to procure lodging because you see, we HAD to be in Orlando for soccer—never mind the other family’s dilemma and the fact that I had planned this for MONTHS (see above: doing my due diligence in OCTOBER as a consumer).

Now, I get it that shit happens. Really. I do. But we were treated to such unbelievably horrific service by this “company” I felt that lodging a formal complaint with you, Karma Fairy Who Has Not Looked Upon Me With Much Favor For the Past 12 Months. Because the person who was trying to “fix it “ for us, managed to find us 2 homes, (separate homes) she honestly expected us to thank her for “negotiating down” to DOUBLE what I was supposed to be paying for 1 house to house both families … oh and she could only manage it for 12/31-1/3. I (see previously arranged dates above which do imply tickets to theme parks for the other wenchlings as Christmas gifts). Which of course translates to booking hotel rooms in this town that is at its busiest week of the busiest season (so help me if I hear that again I will put my fist through a wall).

Needless to say, once our credit card company confirmed that NO REFUND HAD BEEN ISSUED For the original charge, we have taken steps (thanks to companies like Chase who do offer real customer service) to make sure that money gets back to us. And here I sit, at a perfectly nice hotel, staring down the barrel of double and a half the cost of getting rooms at the last minute, plus all the restaurant costs I had planned (in October, remember?) to defray by eating via shopping at a grocery for a few meals for all 5 of the Crowe family members. Oh and that team hotel with the great rate? Yeah. Full.

I’m going to be reporting this company to the Better Business Bureau and to the local television ombudsman/pain the the ass because Discount Vacation Rentals Online RUINED my vacation at the end of a year that honestly, I deserved a break. But that bit is between us, isn’t it, KF (wink,wink,nudge,nudge).

Here is their twitter feed: https://twitter.com/discountvc

Feel free to weigh in. In the meantime, NEVER USE THEM AND MAKE SURE YOU TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO NEVER USE THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE THE OPPOSITE OF RELIABLE OR CUSTOMER ORIENTED. And I’m pretty fucking easy to please, customer-service wise. Give me what I paid for and don’t say to me 4 days before I’m to receive my product “Nope, don’t got it no more. Good luck to ya!”

Ever Yours,
P.s.  That whole “sorry but we’re fresh out of mini vans and SUVs, here’s car for your family of 5” thing I’ll over look IF and only IF you help Soccer Wenchling kick ASS at this tourney.

P.p.s. Oh, and killer sales for my new self published series The Love Brothers starting Jan. 5 would help too.

P.p.p.s. I'll be checking in with you come March when I'm back to using my Marketing Powers for the good of homeowners and home buyers in the Ann Arbor Area. Yep... she's (gonna be) baaaaaaaaack and better than ever!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

A BeerWench Gives Thanks: 2014 Version

In lieu of the many (and I do mean many) posts I've written on "days of giving thanks" this year I am limiting myself to a Top 5 List.

So I bring you, the Top Five Things Liz, Your Favorite Ann Arbor Beer Wench is THANKFUL FOR right now...The Friday After Turkey Day, the Year That Was 2014.

I'm thankful to have such supportive and very real friends amongst my former Realtor colleagues (including all you title types). Because honestly, when I think back on the madness that gripped me long about 2008, both of the beer AND the book sort, these are the folks who encouraged me either with their time reading my dreadful early renditions of the Jack & Sara saga OR (even more amazing, really) when they would indeed purchase the beer I foisted on them and even would book (repeatedly) events at the bar I begged them to visit.  Hats off to you crazy, busy, successful, driven Total Inspirations especially THIS YEAR when not only did the whole thing go ka-blooey on me I also sold my house and bought a new one plus had to find a temporary Crowe's nest which they also helped me procure!

I'm grateful for all the new readers who've discovered their love for the style of novel I write--one part sexy romance, many parts angsty reality, with a few bits of humor tossed in to really make things balanced! One reader at a time is a "real thing," and this year I've been blessed to make that happen.    

I give thanks for a new team of professional who are helping me bring my first self published series The Love Brothers, to life. Thanks to my photographer, model, narrator for audio books and cover artist/trailer producer the trailer for the series was featured on USA Today a few weeks ago. I'm really enjoying applying all the mistakes I've made in my publishing journey so far to the new project, continuing to make them of course, but building up not only my super thick author skin but also my cache of knowledge of The Business of Writing and Publishing Books.

I  am beyond grateful for some folks who did a lot of propping up for me this year, including the new Women in Craft Beverages group: Fermenta Michigan. And especially a few in particular who took the extra step of talking me down off various ledges of despair and irrational yet perhaps justified urges toward immature online activity.  In particular I wish to thank Angie Williams, Matt & Ginny Sherrow, Tarek and Rachel Kanan, Matt & Rene Greff, David Bardallis, Annette May & Mike Bardallis, Stacey Roth, Mattie O'Brien, Patti Smith, Fred Bueltmann for proving to me that while it may be tempting to take all those 1000 plus images I have in my online photo albums from the last few year and flushing them into the virtual toilet, there is no erasing the fact that I did those things and made some great friends along the way.


I am thankful for not having to drag my entire family out on Friday morning the day after Thanksgiving to decorate a bar!  

P.S. I had some yummy IPA in North Carolina last week....Hoppyum from Foothills Brewing. Totally and completely addictive with its bright, American hops bite combined with a strong malty backbone.