Sunday, August 23, 2009

Action Needed! Michigan Liquor Control?s Price Freeze - Bad for Business

August 23rd, 2009

Friends of New Holland Brewing and Artisan Spirits,
We must bring to your attention a “ruling” that the Liquor Control has just quietly announced. They have frozen any price increases for an undetermined length of time. Their rationale (which we have heard directly from MLCC staff) is that given the current state of the economy any further increases could impact the amount of smuggling that might occur into Michigan.

New Holland discovered this ruling because we are currently in the process of registering our Dutchess Vodka, scheduled for release into state-wide distribution on October 1st. Dutchess has been registered with the state previously, but only for in-house transfers, never being assigned to the A.D.A. (Authorized Distribution Agent.) In other words, it has only been sold to consumers from our building, so its price does not cover the associated costs with selling it into the trade. Costs such as freight, inventory carrying costs, sales and marketing, reformulation, and packaging/labeling improvements all need to be accounted for. Preparing for distribution, we submitted a price revision to address this change, only to be denied, due to a previously unannounced price-freeze.

We believe their position is both flawed and short-sighted. It is unfair, bad for business and will cost the State jobs. There are a few important points we’d like to make in asking for your support on this issue.
1) State –controlled liquor distribution should not be allowed to arbitrarily freeze or fix pricing from independent producers.
2) Supplier’s pricing does not affect smuggling. The difference between the retail price-point for a given product in MI versus the same product in an outlying state is the State of Michigan’s profit margin and excise tax. If Michigan believes it needs to be more competitive versus other states, it should evaluate its markup, rather than manipulate distillers. In fact, most Michigan producers have very minimal out-state business, if any at all, so their price in Michigan would not have any impact on border markets or smuggling of lower priced goods into the state.
3) Economic troubles are not directly related to perceived higher prices. A successful product or product launch at a higher price point means higher margins for the state, and all businesses related to the sale; delivery agents and the retailers that successfully build these brands.
4) This ruling prevents the Michigan distribution launch of New Holland’s Dutchess Vodka. Without an exception to or elimination of this price freeze, New Holland cannot afford to sell their Dutchess Vodka into Michigan distribution. It was scheduled for an October release, as October-December is the strongest quarter for spirit sales, industry-wide. This ruling will limit consumer choice by keeping Dutchess and other premium products from Michigan retailers and consumers. It will remove potential profit from three-tiers of business as well as the State of Michigan. In fact, it forces us to replace those potential sales by considering distribution of Dutchess to other states where our margin is intact; contrary to the intention of limiting smuggling or supporting Michigan businesses.

The Commission has set a hearing date for Tuesday, August 25 in Lansing at 12:00pm. If you do not support arbitrary price-control on spirits, and if you support the launch of Dutchess vodka, we urge you to write the commission now and ask them to reconsider. Of course, we ask that you remain polite and professional in your request. Their contact information is: Chairwomen Nida Samona contact info: PH. (517) 322-1353 FAX (517) 322-5188

Thanks for your support.

New Holland Brewing Company & Artisan Spirits

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Isn't the internet cool?

Testing out a system that will get the blogging engine rolling again.
Still webweaving with 36-2
Webweaving with 36Squares.
Webweaving with 36Squares.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Seasonal Beers - from December's Food for Thought

Here begins a bountiful series on seasonal beers. I believe one of the most appealing aspects of our culture’s food and drink is seasonality. Our palates anticipate flavors based on the weather and harvest-ready foods. From spring’s greens, to summer’s corn and fruit, to the pumpkins, squash and pot roasts of fall and winter, our tastes change with the calendar.

Traditionally, beer flavors and styles varied by region and season due to climate and available ingredients. Crisp, clean beers that needed cold conditioning were made in winter and served in summer, the perfect time for a refreshing beer. Robust beers that fermented rapidly in warmer temperatures were made in late summer and served in fall or winter. Maibock, saison and Oktoberfest styles were born of this cycle, as were countless celebrations of local ingredients and seasonal diversity.

Craft brewers are leading a renaissance of seasonal beers. While most brewers don’t depend on the weather to determine their cellar temperature, craft brewers are inspired by the intoxicating call of flavor above all, resulting in palate-pleasing seasonal diversity.

It’s winter. Pick one word to typify the following: a crackling fire in a fireplace, a slow-cooked stew, a snowplow driver or a dog sled captain rushing cross-tundra to your rescue. The common characteristic? Heartiness. Fittingly, that’s also a characteristic worth embracing in winter beers.

Hearty Winter Beers

Winter styles typically showcase the complex, roasty flavors of malted barley. Described as “malty,” these beers showcase caramel, toffee, molasses, coffee and chocolate flavors. Other grains, such as wheat or rye, bring subtler nuance. Focused on a single note or on a poetic combination of several, these are comfort flavors that present well as the beer warms to cellar temperature. This is ideal in a season when we may not want ice-cold beer. Imagining beer in a coffee mug cupped in my gloved hands, I think of these flavors.

Brown Ale Expect rich malty tones that typically bring caramel and nuttiness forward. Medium body keeps this beer easily approachable, maybe a click past ambers.

Porter Porter brings darker flavors forward, typically a combination of subtle roastiness with hints of chocolate. Rarely aggressive, porter is a great start for learning to drink dark beer.

Oatmeal Stout Stout and porter are kissing cousins, and oatmeal stout blurs the line even more. Stout embodies the edgy, roasty character of dark malts. Adding oats lends creaminess and roundness, complementing the beer as cream does coffee.

Stout Stout may vary in intensity and style. Most craft brewers make a roasty, robust stout, slightly dry with a somewhat big character. This is a contrast to the smooth creaminess of “nitro-stout,” which is lighter and more similar to their common Irish ancestor.

Stronger Winter Styles

Some winter styles are a bit stronger than their warm-weather counterparts. Mainstream domestics hover around 4% alcohol by volume (abv) and most average craft beers are between 5 and 6 %. I’d describe beers between 7 and 12% as “strong.” Their warming character and bold flavors are well-suited to that red-faced moment just after doffing your coat, hat and scarf, but before acclimating to the comforting warmth of your local bar. These beers most often present malty flavors, since the sugar that fuels their fermentation is derived from copious amounts of barley, wheat or rye.

Barleywine and Old Ale There’s a thin line between barleywine and old ale. The reality? When you’re drinking them, you don’t care about the difference. Expect a showcase of caramel flavor. Delicious at any temperature, these brews are rich, somewhat sweet and very warming, typically over 9% abv.

Wheatwine Cousin to barleywine, wheatwine has a similar structure. Made from 50% or more wheat, it shares barleywine’s robust caramelization, but possesses a somewhat brighter body with inviting raisin/dried fruit character.

Imperial Stout: With 11% abv, Imperial Stout is “big beer,” a crazy uncle everyone loves, no matter how loud he gets. Big roast, lots of coffee and chocolate, even some balancing bitterness. Deliciously hearty, yet elegant, this is survival beer.

Quads and other Belgian styles: Belgian-influenced styles are quite popular in Beervana these days. Rich in character, these beers are usually known for their fermentation profile. Spicy or fruity, Belgians promise a lively, sometimes tart or tangy profile.

A final seasonal tradition is spiced beer. A common style for Christmas beer, its innovative variations bring new ingredients to the world of beer and go beyond Christmas. Call this the craft-brew version of the ultimate Scandinavian hybrid, Glogg.

Breweries all over West Michigan make delicious beers to fortify us through winter. Visit,, or for resources to find your next beer. Or strike up a conversation with your local retailer and ask what’s coming in this season.


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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back to Blogging & Michigan Beer

I'll save you the long-winded, oft-heard internet anthem of explaining why I haven't posted and how much I intend to keep up my blog in the future. Instead, I'll simply start writing.

This past weekend, we enjoyed another great Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival. An embarrassment of riches, more than 50 breweries presented more than 300 different beers within 50-some different styles. More than 6,000 beer fans poured into Riverside Park to bask in the flavor provided by Michigan's crafty and creative breweries.

It's gotten to the point that this organized festival full of smiling, pretzel-clad beer drinkers looks like something that always was, a tradition that is a given like Oktoberfest. The fact is, slightly more than a decade ago, the fest didn't exist and even when it started, there simply wasn't enough breweries in the State to make it as diverse, exciting and rich with great beer as it is today.

More than a happy pat on the back of the Michigan Brewer's Guild, watching a sea of beer fans happily support a collection of independent, off the mainstream, small-batch brewers is an affirmation of my belief and confidence in quality.

As the larger brewers vandalize tradition, consolidating in ridiculous proportion, they cite cost-saving production efficiencies and can't-refuse share offers. Yesterday, a large restaurant chain filed for bankruptcy protection, pointing in this mornings headline to "Diners spending less", as if the nation is starving itself due to the economy, withering away in a Grapes of Wrath-style fast.

However, in spite of these hard economic times, we continue to feel the encouraging support of beer fans, championing the flavorful, often expensive beer-brands of the quirky craft brewers. We are not as efficient, fine-tuned, widely available or affordable as our large, market-savvy competitors. Yet somehow, our customers keep coming, growing in numbers, bringing their friends and drinking our beer. They come to our festival, our brewpubs, our taverns and they take our beer home from stores.

Apparently, everyone isn't in the dust-bowl fast that the National chain points to as their reason for financial trouble. Maybe, as people's pocket books get tighter, they don't stop eating and drinking altogether, they just value their choices more carefully. Perhaps as the dollar weakens, the decision of where to spend it gets based on quality over quantity.

I'm no economist or Wall Street analyst. I'm simply encouraged by our customer's choices. I'm part of a company, that's in a small but growing segment, craft brewing, within a very large industry. Craft brewers have a tendency to choose the decisions with the most creative benefit over the ones that may be the easiest path with the most widespread acceptance. Often, the reward is a difficult path, strewn with obstacles and criticism.

Lately, it appears our buying public has chosen to reward those decisions with support and encouragement, raising our beers up and letting us know that they do want interesting beers from remarkable breweries.

It also looks like it's a classic win-win situation. The smiling, beer-sipping customers basking in the summer sun looked genuinely happy with their choice. I have to say, their choices make a lot of us happy too, and they provide encouragement and momentum to countless brewers on the less-traveled path of craft brewing creative and diverse beers.

Cheers - we appreciate the support.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Road Brewer IPA - now on tap

I posted about our friend, Teri "Pink Boots" Fahrendorf, the Road Brewer in pink boots, visiting us earlier in July. Well, we invited her to design a beer for her visit, and that she did. "Road Brewer IPA" is now on tap at our pub in Holland. She brewed it in collaboration with our pub-brewer and distiller, Ben Fris. Billed as a "West Coast IPA" (we assume it's a tribute to Michigan's West Coast), it is a dry-hopped IPA with a huge "smack you in the face, piney aroma." The bitterness is balanced by a very nice malty sweetness and the beer finishes clean with a touch of grapefruit. Clocking in at 6.3% alcohol by volume and a calculated 65 IBU's, this beer is sure to take the edge of any road trip.

Be sure to visit Teri, and keep up with her travels at Road Brewer

Teri, mashing in with the infamous blue paddle.
Be sure to ask her about her theory on mash-hoes.

In Memoriam - Steve Harrison, VP of Sierra Nevada

There was some tragic news from California last week. Steve Harrison, a long-time beer industry veteran and stalwart of Sierra Nevada and craft-brewing, was first reported missing and later discovered dead. Full Story.

While I was not close with Steve, I enjoyed meeting him and learning from his contributions to a few Craft Brewer's Conferences in the past. I find myself saddened and uncomfortable with this loss to our community. First off, my condolences and wishes for strength and peace go out to his family and friends.

I feel a kinship with Steve, as I've held a similar post (VP of Sales) for two different breweries over the last 13 years or so. I hope he was aware that many in the industry looked up to his work and his company with respect and admiration. Sierra Nevada, under Steve's leadership, was an early force in the craft brewing scene. What I have always appreciated, was their patience to do it their way, at their pace, according to their ethos. There are many breweries that have grown faster than them, with flashier stories and more exciting marketing. No brewery has led such a steady, controlled, march into national distribution, while maintaining their presence in core-beer accounts with a solid flagship brand and a conservative-to-non-existent, media budget.

They've demonstrated a quiet confidence and genuine sincerity in their approach to the market. Their stability is one of the reasons people can have confidence in craft beer today. While Sierra Nevada Pale Ale may not get talked about in hushed tones any more, or revered as the most intriguing beer someones had this week; it was a pioneering beer that taught our beer-drinking public that hops are ok, and pale ales should not be feared. Since then, it has taught brewers that consistency is important, and after you teach someone that a flavor profile is enjoyable, you better be able to deliver the same profile in every bottle, no matter what size brewery you are or how fast you're growing. The consistency they deliver(ed) in beer, in message and in service is a benchmark that our industry owes a good deal of its existence to. It is also a benchmark that we should all strive to meet.

I hope Steve was aware of his impact on our proud industry. I'll remember him as a leader and offer my thanks and respect to his family, friends and colleagues.

Rest in peace.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Food Dance

Food Dance Cafe, a Kalamazoo classic, is celebrating August as "Beer Month." That's all the excuse I need to give them a little plug and wax poetic about a terrific group of foodies that make eating in and around Kalamazoo a bountiful experience.

Food Dance is a restaurant that celebrates local ingredients. They can tell you about the farmer that raised your greens, poultry or beef. They've recently moved into a new space, only a few blocks from their original, but world's away in terms of space, concept and potential. Besides probably tripling their dining room space, they've elevated their bar & dinner game, something that has been blossoming nicely from their early roots of breakfast and lunch in the Haymarket building.

On top of all that, they've added a market! Now you can take Food Dance home with you. Imagine having the same expertise that runs a leading fine-dining restaurant contributing to the food in your fridge. I don't have to imagine it, I have experienced it. Gourmet olive oils, delicious cheeses, Michigan wine, Michigan BEER, it's all there in a quaint, efficient space.

I was finishing up hanging our art-show tonight (Art in Fermented Form) before tomorrow nights beer & cheese tasting. I didn't feel like cooking anything complicated, and didn't feel like carryout ~ the solution? Nieman's Ranch pulled pork, expertly slow cooked in Short's Pilsner, sold cold. Fresh asian slaw, Zingerman's onion rolls and an intriguing jar of bbq sauce from Benton Harbor, MI. (I'll be back with the name later). We also got a loaf of Journeyman Seedy-salt bread, but that was for our loaf a week-habit, not tonight's dinner.

Ok, I get home, drop the pork in a large skillet, pour a little New Holland Lucid in for flavorful steam and to keep it moist, and cover it. After it warmed up, I put just a little sauce in to mix it up. Next up, ~Bun, meet pork...topped with more sauce, covered with slaw...then the bun crown. That next to salad of mixed greens and fresh corn. Get down! That was a REALLY good pork sandwich in about 15 minutes.

I could go on about their dining room menu, beer list, wine list, service, management and local contributions, but tonight I was moved by what a nice meal was made on an impulse buy on the way out of their market.

Tomorrow, I'll be there hosting a guided beer and cheese tasting and our framed label-art will be hanging for a month. Do yourself a favor and check out their new place, you deserve it.

I'll be back sometime to share my recipe for grilled halloumi cheese from their cheese-case. Another awesome treat.