You know what make’s a great team? A common focus. The Cheboygan brewing team has one common goal and that’s to make great beer. They also work to make their customers feel welcome.
So ……I had been doing that twitter thing with the brewery for weeks and was surprised at the personal touch they seemed to convey through a social media tool that can otherwise be rather dry for company accounts. In fact, my first tweet in their direction resulted in a customized response right back to me. “Whoa I have a live one here” I thought. I was planning a trip to their town the week before so I decided to take the plunge and ask if I could interview their team (also walk around take pictures and slow down productivity for an afternoon). They responded with open arms, just like we expect from our friends in any Northern Michigan town.
I drove my family to Cheboygan played on the beach and went to bed at a decent hour. I woke up in my cabin on that sunny summer that morning and jumped right to my feet in ready anticipation of my brewery meeting (granted I had slept in as I was on vacation). As I walked into the brewery Alicia was there to meet me. She was busy making more popcorn as they had run out already by 11am.
Meet the face and voice of Cheybogan Brewing – Alicia: Tap Room Leader & Events Coordinator
Alicia has been with Cheboygan Brewing since since the grand opening memorial weekend February 2011. With a quick smile and passion for craft beer, she is already pulling in customers beyond their regional base. Turns out she was the one that had personalized my Twitter experience – cool.
Sommbeer: When did you get into craft beer?
Alicia: I tried two hearted in college and didn’t like it at first, tried it again and loved it. Now I’m thinking about becoming a Cicerone (specialized training and certification required to become a beer expert similar to a wine sommelier – big stuff).
Sommbeer: How does the brewpub crowd differ from the bar crowd?
Alicia: They are both good. The brewpub has a wide range of people, from those that walk in asking for something light like a “Miller Lite”. Then there are experienced beer people that walk in from a “brew tour”.
Sommbeer: What kind of obstacles and challenges do you have here (at Cheboygan Brewing)?
Alicia: We have a hard time keeping up with demand, we keep running out of beer. As soon as Mike makes a batch of the Blood Orange Honey beer, it seems like it’s already sold out. We’re always running out of popcorn too, wish I had purchased a larger one. (Sommbeer Note- I’m no fan, but my daughters say the popcorn is fantastic.)
Sommbeer: Before I came here, I realized the family cabin had an artifact from the original Cheboygan Brewery.
Alicia: <looking at picture on my phone> Hey that’s cool. We had a guy bring in a bottle from the original brewery that he bought at a garage sale. The original bottling plant is still intact and is currently the location of “John’s Transmission.” It’s been auto shop since before I can remember, but before that (and after it was for beer bottling) there was a time when they bottled soda pop. An old timer was here in the tap room some time ago, and shared a story that his father used to work there.
Mike the Brewmaster
Mike is a machine. He never stopped during working during the interview. Devoted to making beer he is an integral component to the Cheboygan Brewing team.
Sommbeer: Mike, what’s your background and what brought you here?
Mike: I was a firefighter. I enjoyed being both a firefighter and paramedic and then got into home brewing as a method to relieve stress. I joined a home brewers club in Petoskey (?). From there I became interested in a local brewery – Bear River Brewing. I contacted their brew master who showed me their methods and became hooked. I wanted to see how the big boys did it … and learned that I loved it.
I made my “IPA Firehouse” in honor of the firefighter team that I used to belong to.
SommBeer: The demand for the Blood Orange seems intense, do you think it could ever become your flagship beer (to replace Lighthouse Amber)?
Mike: Light House Amber will always be the flagship beer. We’ve recognized that there is seasonal demand. Some of our new beer introductions (and the brewing schedules that they are on) are intended to smooth out demand. We need this to level out demand with the resources and staff.
We can’t make enough of the Blood Orange Honey beer.
My favorite spice is cinnamon, and I was trying to think of what I could do to make a beer with it. We are coming out with an Imperial Heffewiezen Cinnamon it is expected to have a 7-8% abv. I wanted it to taste like cinnamon but not taste too “hot”. (Editor’s note: cinnamon is my favorite spice too, I might wait in line for this one).
We’re also coming out with a Blueberry Cream ale.
Beer brewing requires craftsmen. For example with the cinnamon thought, how can I make a beer with it.
Sommbeer: You lost sleep on it, and thought about it till you came up with this beer I bet.
Mike: I thought, we need a stronger beer and cinnamon is my favorite spice!
Sommbeer: Is there any big competition or threat from the big brewers?
– Mike’s response here showed how Michigan breweries are actually working together to help the craft beer industry grow.
Mike: Michigan has some great brewers making some innovative stuff like Joe Short. The Michigan Brewers Association is also helping. Helping us to make some fun stuff.
SommBeer: The last segment of my conversation made a big impact on me. I’ve been to a lot of breweries but Mike was the first brewmaster that I interviewed. His comments were insightful and will be used as guidance for my next brewery visits.
Mike: When you walk into a brewer you walk into someone’s personality. I credit the Michigan Brewers Guild and guys like Joe Shorts with pioneering what we have in Michigan right now. I think of the beers presented to customers as colors. You want to offer a wide variety of colors to your customers.
SommBeer: Mike really pumped me up about the craft beer industry, I’m convinced now that American consumers have seen the light and can’t go back to the bland tasteless stuff we used to drink.
Mike: It’s the Starbucks Syndrome. Who would have thought years ago that we would buy a $7 cup of coffee ?
Sommbeer: I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Cheboygan Brewing. The passion for craft beer here is contagious and their appetite for risk is really paying off. If you come to visit, be sure to grab a bag of free popcorn and rock on those rocking chairs upstairs.
Update from Alicia:
Blueberry Cream Ale should be on tap by the beginning of next week, and the Imperial Cinnamon Hefeweizen will be available by November 15th of this year.
#craftbeer #beer #cheboygan #sommbeer