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2005 - American Beer Week

Sent: Friday, August 26, 2005 11:40 AM
Subject: Re: American Beer Week

Since the idea of American Beer Month is being revisited in order to determine if another format, such as American Beer Week, would be more successful, I'd like to add my 2 cents:

In my opinion, the timing of anything is crucial. As it currently exists in July, American Beer Month (or week) does not work for our brewpubs. That is the busiest time of year for us, and none of our brewpubs or brewers has time to promote American Beer Month/ Week in July, so we do nothing. We would really like to participate and promote American Beer M/W, but unless you can magically create extra time in July, American Beer M/W will continue to be a non-event for us. (Everyone is already working overtime then.)

The solution, in my opinion, is to promote American Beer during the month/week that currently has the lowest consumption of beer nationwide. My recommendation would be February: The period of time between January 2nd and March 17th (St. Patrick's Day) is currently beer no-man's-land. In this time period there are few or no beer festivals, production is down so we are looking for work to give our part-time brewers more hours, we don't have 22 taps at the local baseball park to supply for 3 months, all our retail accounts are ordering less, and there are no GABF beers that need to be brewed.

Wow! A great opportunity to use the extra time to creatively call attention to our all-American beers, brewed with all-American ingredients! I'd like to point out an idea that the wine industry uses; one that we can borrow: On the west coast, most people who visit wineries learn that all wineries offer non-stop tours and open houses on two weekends every single year. See: http://www.yamhillvalley.org/thanksgiving08.php.

Many wine lovers plan winery-hopping vacations around these weekends. They are the 3-day weekend of Memorial Day, and the Fri-Sat-Sun of Thanksgiving weekend. Wine lovers know they can visit any winery during these weekends, and they will get a free tour. There will also be special wines available to taste by the glass, and people can buy a flight of tastes of these more expensive wines. Also, they will probably be able to meet the Head Winemaker. Many wine lovers return home with bottles (or cases) of wine in tow.

What can the brewing industry offer to the beer lover that is similar to this? Taking advantage of a well-timed American Beer Month/Week comes to mind.

I propose that American Beer Month/Week be moved to February. (Or put it up to a vote: January, February or March.) I propose that every member of the Brewers Association (better yet, every brewery in the nation) sign on to give tours during that month. If the program remains AmBeer Month, then all breweries would promise to give tours non-stop during certain hours (say, 11:00am - 5:00pm) on each Saturday and Sunday during that month. If the program becomes AmBeer Week, then all breweries would promise to give tours non-stop during certain agreed-upon hours every single day of AmBeer Week.

If only some breweries sign on at first, no problem: Determine the standardized month/week and hours and promote those. Then post a list of all the participating breweries on the American Beer Month website. Make it a searchable database, searchable by state, city, and brewery name.

The key to a successful event will be getting people in the doors, even non-beer drinkers. Help people to understand the tradition, history, and craft of beer and brewing. When I learned how wine was made, I drank better wine. When I learned how beer was made, I not only drank better beer, I wanted to become a brewer!

Give out cups of free soda so people bring their kids. (Today's kids are tomorrow's beer drinkers.) Encourage school groups and girl and boy scout troops to visit breweries on buses for tours. When I was a girl, I remember two behind-the-scenes tours my girl scout troop took: One was to a McDonald's, and one was to Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee. Which one do you think fascinated me more?

Get the big breweries involved. They have to be a part of this too. We want every single beer lover to make a pilgrimage to a brewery during American Beer M/W, not just the beer geeks. Do the big breweries want to see more woman drinking their beer? Bring in the girl scout troops for tours. The girls will be 21 in another decade. (It worked for me.)

Maybe by encouraging people to learn how beer is made, we can cure some of the ignorance that might be driving the anti-alcohol league. (I heard that when Triple Rock Brewing Co. in Berkeley first set up shop in 1986, a health/food inspector came by and wanted to know, "Which tank is the one where you store the pure alcohol? You know, the alcohol that the brewery uses to dose it's beer with.")

Education is definitely the key to success here. Even a hard-core anti-alcohol proponent might be curious about how beer is made. Maybe that person would lighten-up their hatred of all-things-alcohol, maybe not, but it would be a greater connection than what we've got now.

Therefore, I challenge other brewers to weigh in on this discussion. Do you promote American Beer Month now? Yes or no, how do you think it could be improved? It's a great idea. It should be promoted. Steelhead Brewing Company just cannot do so in American Beer Month's present format. If you come up with a format that we can use and promote, we'll run with it.


2009 Update:

American Beer Month was moved to mid-May. Now called American Craft Beer Week, the 2009 dates will be May 11-17. Visit http://beertown.org/events/acbw/index.html to learn of special events near you.

More importantly, the Oregon Brewers Guild figured this idea out on their own, and held their first annual Zwickelmania on February 14, 2009. All Oregon breweries staged open houses from 1-4pm that day! See http://oregonbeer.org/zwickelmania/ for info.

Road Trip Blog: www.roadbrewer.com
Women in Beer & Brewing: www.pinkbootssociety.org