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.


Anonymous Cammy said...

Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
--Benjamin Franklin

2:05 PM  

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