The Wench is gearing up for Thanksgiving. After careful consideration, she’s got a few things she’s thankful for — all exclusively beer related, of course. It’s never too early to get into the Thanksgiving spirit, so here’s the Wench’s Thanksgiving confession:
10. Water, malt, hops and yeast.
9. People who have figured out that beer has flavor and seek it out wherever they go. This number is ever growing. Just ask the Brewer’s Association, which recently announced that while overall U.S. beer sales were down an estimated 1 percent by volume in 2010, Craft brewer dollar sales were up 15 percent in the first half of 2011. Craft brewers currently provide an estimated 100,000 jobs in the U.S. and 1,753 breweries operated for some of all of 2010, the highest total since the late-1800s.
8. Whoever figured out that hops were a great way to preserve the ale headed to Her Majesty’s troops in India. If this is a myth, please allow me to continue to believe in it. I need my urban legends.
7. The new trend to put craft beer in cans. We have similar plans but are willing to let others with deeper pockets than mine one work out the kinks.
6. All my friends and family (you knew this was coming) who’ve slogged this road with me for the last year as we tested the waters of the craft lager business in our corner of Michigan and found it FINE. I get nearly daily requests — from raw rookies to savvy business people — wanting to know “how to do it.” If I knew that kids, I would already be a zillionaire. What I will tell you is this: Believe in your product, find a niche and fill it, and learn how to use social networks after you hire the best brewer you can afford.
5. The inherent, seemingly inexplicable, yet undeniable sense of camaraderie in this industry. I’ve said it a lot. I seriously doubt that there are many other businesses that are more sharing or helpful with newbies, and with each other. I feel utterly supported not only by the incredible organization of the Michigan Brewer’s Guild, but also by my fellow in the brewing biz itself. I can pick up the phone and dial any number of people to assist me/us with anything from the new keg tagging law thing (that I am still sorting out), when I’m fresh out of stainless steel in 1/6 barrel formats, or when we want to do something silly, like tap a huge pumpkin full of beer on Halloween weekend. These are people doing the same thing we do: making and selling craft beer, i.e. they are my competition. But that’s just not how we view it. And I am grateful and hope to do the same for others (and them) someday.
4. That I can still fit into my Beer Wench costume. That makes me grateful for Bikram yoga. But only after the 90 minutes of hot room torture is done each day.
3. The fact that the macros are cannibalizing each other and making some sort of freakish “human centipede” style massive, and ultimately unsustainable behemoth of a BEER COMPANY. Within its belly you will find glimmers of quality. But you gotta dig through a lot of semi-digested dreck to get to it. In the proverbial meantime, craft brewing and established brewers will continue to innovate, expand and grow, bringing even more beer drinkers into the fold.
2. The pioneers. Those that went before and paved the way—but I want to thank personally a couple of Michiganders: the amazing team of Matt and Rene Greff from Arbor Brewing/Corner Brewery who have done more for the craft brewing scene in Ann Arbor and in Michigan at large than just about anyone. And Larry Bell. He has created a juggernaut of a brewing company with core values that stick and brews that you can find nearly from coast to coast. Cheers to you!
1a. My colleagues: Matt , Trevor, Jim and Earl. Thanks for bringing me to this dance boys. May our steins runneth over.
b. My brewers: Oliver and Karl. Thanks for your patience — the educational opportunities you never let pass us by unacknowledged.
c. My staff: Travis, Dan, Tanya, Allen. Thanks for listening, learning and making the Tap Room the hottest damn beer bar around.
d. Mr. Wench. For all the rest.