At this point, every step seems like a victory, even the tiny ones that are actually forward. So, today, we are ordering our first delivery of yeast and scheduling our first brews. They won't take place for a number of days, but at least we are starting to look at a PRODUCTION schedule instead of a construction unschedule or a license wait or something else that just doesn't feel as good.
Do I wish I was looking forward to a beer later today from our brewery, of course. Am I looking forward to having someone else's great beer later today, yes, absolutely.
And speaking of a beer later today, it's great to be getting back into production at the same time there is a giant surge of breweries opening in the region and interest in beer is at an all-time high. I get asked by non-industry folks regularly whether I am bothered by all the competition or whether there are too many new breweries. The answer is an emphatic and absolute "No!" I think the brewery industry has been unusually supportive of other breweries all along. I suppose if you work in some industries where every sale by your competition is a lost sale to you and that is your only focus, then you can get bogged down in thinking that defeating your competition is the only goal.
For a variety of reasons, the craft brewing industry hasn't operated like that and I hope it never will. I think maybe it's because we have spent years battling so many outside forces, like bad distributors or the brewing behemoths who wanted to squash our nascent efforts. I remember very clearly standing at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in 1999 and looking over the floor from a mezzanine area. At that time, Budweiser produced just a touch over 50% of ALL beer consumed in the United States. It struck me that as I looked over the hundreds of brewery booths, that every single one of them on the floor and every single one of us in the industry not on the floor and even the other big guys like Coors and Miller, that all together we were still were not selling as much beer as Budweiser. It was a bit baffling to me, particularly since I think they were in their burping-frog-advertising phase, but I think that uphill struggle from day one has forged friendships among the folks in the industry.
Craft brewing is now not just working for market share overall against those gigantic brands, but also gigantic brands masquerading as craft beer (Blue Moon & Shocktop - I'm looking at you . . .). The numbers don't lie, however, and we are making progress. And for a good reason - our beer tastes better, it's better for our local economies, it's more environmentally friendly, we can offer more variations seasonally and, most importantly, our beer tastes better. Yeah, it warranted mentioning twice.
Anyway, our journey continues. I'm thankful for our own opportunities and I'm glad so many others are getting the chance to make their own beers and follow their own dreams. I want every single regional brewery to succeed by having our region embrace us and ask for local products at the bars and restaurants we all frequent. Cheers!