There are any number of ways to spend a Friday night. But you don’t often get to spend a Friday meeting the people behind the new breweries in your neighborhood. As part of the events for the vote for Beer City USA, the leaders of 4 of the new breweries coming into Kalamazoo gave the community some of their time with an informal meet and greet as well as a QnA panel.
Opening as well as running a brewery is a time consuming endeavor. This was a great opportunity to hear about some of the trials and tribulations they have had coming into the community. The personalities of each are as varied as the brews they will be bringing to town.
The process involved with the paper work and licensing for opening a brewery is a pain that they all have to face (and something anyone opening a brewery will face). But there are other problems that pop up that like to slip in to throw a monkey wrench in well thought out plans.
Mark Rupert had quite a bit to say about the sprinkler system in the old Strut building, the home of Rupert’s Brews. For Greg Hanor (Gonzo’s Bigg Dogg Brewery) there were issues with location, forcing them to change from their first choice to their current location. But these are only some of the challenges you can run into when opening a brewery.
But they all come together and celebrate the community that has rallied around them. Tim Suprise mentioned that when he first built Arcadia Ales he had looked to build in Kalamazoo 16 years ago. But the city leadership at that time wasn’t ready for another brewery. The atmosphere has changed and now the city and those in it are much more welcoming for the brewing community. Now he has an opportunity to build his new main brewery right here in downtown Kalamazoo.
When asked about how each of these new breweries could differentiate itself, bring something unique to the market, Brian Steele shared great insight. Though beer is made of simple ingredients through essentially the same methods, each beer is unique as no two brewers are the same. Each brewery present has their own strengths that they bring to the table. What is more important is the spirit of collaboration that they bring. Though they are each other’s competitors, they are also working within the community to each build up and help the community grow.
You see that is what is important in all this. Sure once a year we have a vote, a call to action for our communities to come together. This is a chance to rally for something greater than itself. Beer though a great and beautiful thing is still only just a beverage. It is the community you live in and how it welcomes new business and new people and new ideas, that is what makes a beer city.
Though the voting is now over, the winner will not be announced till Monday. The spirit that has been pulling the community together and will continue to build over the next year and beyond, that is what being Beer City USA is all about.
Time for a pint…