In My Life, I've Loved Them All

Be an Advocate for Craft Beer in Texas

It has come to my attention that many of the Craft Beer Bars in Houston, including The Petrol Station, Flying Saucer, Hay Merchant, and Mongoose versus Cobra are removing some wonderful craft beers from their menus… for the time being.

These local establishments are now boycotting the distributor Silver Eagle (“The Budweiser Distributor”). This means that Craft Beers like Saint Arnold, Karbach, Sierra, Firestone, and 8th wonder will not be available (see post by The Petrol Station).

Oktoberfest - Houston Craft BeerOriginally, my family was so happy when Saint Arnold started contracting with Silver Eagle for distribution. It meant we could purchase or favorite Houston Craft Beer at the local grocery store…they were going there to drop of Budweiser anyway, now Saint Arnold was on the truck too!   This eliminated our 30-60 min trip to a liquor store closer to Houston proper for our craft beer.

According to The Petrol Station, ABI (Budweiser) raised their keg deposits to Silver Eagle to $70 because kegs shells were going missing from large accounts (stadiums, kegs sold to individuals from retailers). So in the last 5 years, Silver Eagle has raised their keg deposits from $25 to $60 ($70 by September). Now small Craft Beer businesses are bearing the weight of mistakes made by the Macro Businesses. Hence the boycott.

It is about more than just beer drinkers wanting beer. Replace “beer” with any other commodity (like coffee?  Or widgets?).

It’s about Big Businesses dominating the marketplace and crippling small businesses.


The Beer industry in Texas is already a complex legislative issue.  Owning a Microbrewery, Craft Brewery, or BrewPub is a lot more of a challenge here than other states… possibly any other state!

Here is an incredibly interesting read from the State’s Comptroller’s Office.

Know the facts and become and Advocate for Craft Beer in Texas!

For decades in Texas, by law, a business could only be a brewer, distributor, or retailer of beer (1 of 3 tiers). What does this mean? If you are AT A CRAFT BREWERY, you cannot buy any beer to take home. The beer must go to a distributor, then a retailer, then your home.

Legislation to change this is constantly blocked in Texas courts by, guess who, lobbyists for beverage giants like Budweiser.

There have been recent changes to let “BrewPubs” (hybrid retail drinking/dining business like FreeTail Brewing) self-distribute. This means they can sell 10,000 barrels per year directly to a retailer without using a distributor (like Silver Eagle).

However, they must sell their beer to distributors and buy it back to sell it at remote, unlicensed locations, such as fairs and other public events.

Craft Breweries without “pubs” (aka Production or packaging breweries) can now sell up to 5,000 barrels a year directly to consumers, but for on-premises consumption. Sorry folks, no growlers to take home.

There are businesses, like Whole Foods or The Petrol Station, that will fill a growler of Craft Beer for you. As long as a distributor brings it to them.

Did you know neither brewpubs nor production breweries in Texas can sell their distribution rights. Texas is the ONLY state with this restriction in law.

And a Bill has been introduced to DECREASE the amount of Beer a microbrewery (defined as a brewery that does not exceed 125,000 barrels) could self-distribute from 40,000 barrels to 5,000 barrels.

For the Brewery that sells 18,000 barrels a year, this will hurt.  For reference, Budweiser sells about 16 million a year. Side Note: Anheuser-Busch used to sell 50 million a year (back in 1998).

There is this convoluted, archaic, 3 tier system in Texas that needs to adjust to the current market landscape. A place where mainstream beers and craft beers can be served side by side in peace.  *Sigh* Don’t they realize there are enough beer drinkers to go around?


Before Prohibition, every small town had their own local brewery, usually next door to the town bakery (since they used virtually the same ingredients). Beers had regional differences in taste.  The Craft Beer Industry is trying to keep the uniqueness and diversity alive.

I don’t just “like beer” or “drink beer.”
I’m an enthusiast.
I’m an advocate.
I’m concerned for the wellbeing of the microbrewery, craft breweries, and independent retailers that keep the Industry unique. Small businesses provide differentiation and competition in the marketplace. Competition is good. And there is more to [beer] life than Bud Lite.

CHEERS!



BONUS 


The historical significance of beer is quite fascinating. If you are looking for an interesting documentary, I highly recommend How Beer Saved The World. It’s on Netflix, it’s not too long, and it’s educational… so add it to your queue today!  The oldest written recipe: Beer.  Louis Pasteur developed the pasteurization process for…. Beer! (you thought it was milk didn’t you?). Why did the Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock?   They ran out of beer (100% true).  So, essentially the World as we know it would be completely different if it weren’t for Beer!


Do you have a Craft Beer you think I should try?  I particularly like Reds and Browns (more malty, less hoppy)...

 

Etsy pulled a Facebook


ETSY pulled a Facebook and made a significant change that wasn’t needed, without warning, and has left many shop owners confused and upset.

Having run and ETSY shop for over 3 years, I have seen a lot of “improvements.” Most have been quite helpful. But today I find myself miffed/borderline angry. <center>

<a href=”//www.etsy.com/shop/InMyLife?ref=offsite_badges&utm_source=sellers&utm_medium=badges&utm_campaign=en_isell_1”><img width=”200” height=”200” src=”//img0.etsystatic.com/site-assets/badges/en/en_isell_1.png”></a></center>



Without notice, ETSY took away all of the feedback and appreciation photos I’ve left for my customers. Shop owners can no longer review customers. And customers can only review shops by rating their purchase & writing a comment/explanation. A simple click of “positive/neutral/negative” is no longer an option.

Anyone who has every tried to have someone fill out a survey knows it is basically like pulling teeth. Yes, we want people to rate their experiences, but it is such a small % of people that are actually willing to take the time to do so. The more you ask/require of them, the LESS they want to participate.

For the first time in at least a year, I went to the ETSY Forums to talk with other sellers. I wanted to make sure that I was not the only person who was confused and disgruntled.  MANY sellers have brought up another huge point… a lot of power is shifting solely to the CUSTOMER, leaving shop owners with out a way to reciprocate and essentially out to dry.   When ETSY was new, they made a point of saying we are independent sellers who “control our own business” and Etsy “does not have the say so over our business.”  This most recent “update” has made a lot of sellers feel like they are losing the control and power they should have as a small business owner.

Sellers are threatening to shut their doors.  I am not going to go that far.  Yet.  But the longer I am on ETSY, the more I see it changing into something I don’t think it was originally intended to be.  When I started, YOU (the craftsman) were the sole owner of your (single) shop.  You sold YOUR handmade items.  It was a very personal thing.  ETSY is a lot more popular now… the demand is up… so the supply is going up, as in a lot more mass produced type items as opposed to “one of a kind” items.  Shops can be run by groups of people.  Maybe shoppers do not care that they aren’t dealing directly with the designer/creator/crafter.  But I’d like to think the shoppers are paying a premium for “handmade” because of that personal touch they wouldn’t get by shopping at conventional retail outlets.

I’ve been told I’m “too nostalgic” and that progress is necessary for business to succeed.  I can accept change, and I can also move on, if need be.  The changes to ETSY feedback did at least make me wake up and take notice to what is going on with the site.  I just hope that, as ETSY continues to grow and grow, the small independent crafters do not get left behind.

 

If you are interested in learning more about ETSYs latest Product Announcement, here is the blog post that went out after the changes to feedback already went into affect.

Using Social Media As Resource, Not a Distraction

How do you judge the stressfulness of a website? A standard in the online advertising industry is to view how much “traffic” a website receives. This is how many unique computer users are choosing to view a website, and how many are choosing to return. The goal for website owners, from individual bloggers to multinational corporations, is to steer as much traffic as possible in their direction.

The mere existence of a website is not enough. Just as the most beautiful song ever written would have no meaning if no one heard it, a perfectly constructed website would be meaningless if no one chose to look at it. Just like a fine work of art, a website needs to be seen; it needs an audience. Unlike a Picasso in a museum, websites are not a static work of art. They are dynamic. Growing, adjusting, and adapting to keep viewers captivated, websites depend on traffic to stay alive.

$1.99 Website Hosting- Go Daddy Proud Sponsor of Danica PatrickAfter working in internet ad trafficking for a large media corporation, I know first hand how difficult it can be (and how hard a company has to work) to drive traffic in their direction. It’s serious business. Traffic numbers are the tangibles pieces of data businesses count on to prove their popularity. Thus, lots of traffic can be a powerful bargaining chip when trying to sell ad space for their site. Programmers and writers are working constantly to create new (hopefully original) content to entice viewers and keep their viewers coming back.

This is why I think the large social media outlets (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter etc.) are so lucky. Ok, it’s not luck, they are just so smart, dare I say genius. Why? Because they have figured out a way to keep traffic up while maintaining up-to-the-SECOND current content; content that is provided for free by people like you. Yes, they are letting you keep track of your friends and share your photos for free, but is it a fair trade off? Not only are you updating the content for them and helping maintain a high traffic flow, but also you ARE the traffic… that tangible number they are using to get companies to advertise on their sites. You are clicking on the ads on the website you are maintaining. It is all a bit convoluted.

I hold no ill feelings towards Facebook or MySpace. They are great websites that help me keep in contact with all of the friends and colleagues I have met over the years, the people who have made an impact on my life in one way or another. I’m on Twitter pretty much to satisfy the curious marketer in me. I’ve found it’s an excellent tool for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get the word about their shops and personal blogs.

What gets me is the people who spend hours of their valuable time without being adequately compensated. The people writing lengthy Facebook “notes” and the ones trying to recruit everybody and their brother to grow imaginary corn. There are so many free/low cost options where you can develop and maintain your own blog, and then use social media as a means to drive traffic to you. Your time is valuable, and so are your thoughts. You should be compensated for both. Find your own space on the web, and put some ads on it. Like the one below. Click on it if you like.


You’re gonna go far kid…

I’m rolling my eyes… serisouly, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING MR. PHELPS?!

Advertising Age: Kellogg to Drop Olympian Phelps

We originally built the relationship with Michael, as well as the other Olympic athletes, to support our association with the U.S. Olympic team,” a Kellogg spokeswoman said in a statement. “Michael’s most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg. His contract expires at the end of February and we have made a decision not to extend his contract.”

Uncle Scrooge McDuckThis is not about what/if he was smoking… images speak volumes, especially in the advertising world. Michael, Michael, Michael… yes you are an amazing athlete, but the Olympics are over and in the off time it’s the freakin SPONSORSHIPS that are going to pay you way through life FOREVER. You’re too young to be messing that all up! You got to maintain a certain image with you sign on to represent a company that caters to kids, geesh. They paying for an athlete image, not a rock star.

I remember discussing a similar situation back in 2002ish… a successful athlete with a cheesy grin named Mr Kobe Bryant was a star in advertising… then the bad press started and companies had no choice but to drop him like a bad habbit.

First no Wheaties box, now no Corn Flakes. But don’t worry Michael, you’ll get by I’m sure. Speedo and Omega dont seem to mind…

Idea: Michael Phelps could build a big Money Bin like Uncle Scrooge… then he could swim through the money! :D

A Great Find: Titos Handmade Vodka

World’s smoothest vodka is from Texas… правда?
http://www.titos-vodka.com/

Bats in Austin, TexasI was I was watching the Food Network this morning, and Giada DeLaurentiis was touring/eating her way around Austin Texas. It was amusing to see her fascination with Chicken Fried Steak and real BBQ that doesn’t have sauce on it. She also enjoyed a “Batini” while watching the Mexican Freetail Bats fly into the night from underneath the Congress Street Bridge. This award winning Martini is made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, a brand my father immediately recognized. He knew it was distilled locally and was incredibly smooth.

Tito's Handmade VodkaWith a little research, we found out that Tito’s Vodka is quite famous, considering this modest distillery has only been open 10 years, and is found deep in the heart of Texas. Tito’s is actually the 1st legal distillery in the state of Texas! This little fact was a key contributor to their marketing success… the American dream of a simple mortgage banker/geologist turning a hobby into a world class potent potable is excellent news fodder, and Titos has enjoyed lots of great PR from major Networks like CNN, on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX. The WALL STREET JOURNAL, NIGHTCLUB-BAR and FORTUNE give this handmade vodka reviews like “so luxuriously smooth”, “can go head to head with any of the world’s greats and not break a sweat”, and “a vodka of world class proportions”. The BUZZ turns into word-of-mouth advertising, which is free yet priceless. The combination of a lot marketing expenditure/good reputation/quality product/simple packaging/no import tax helps Tito keep their Vodka prices low and affordable.

Watch the CNBC video here

Wikipedia: Tito’s Handmade Vodka is a vodka produced in Austin, Texas, created by Bert Butler “Tito” Beveridge. Distilled six times, Tito’s Vodka is made from yellow corn, instead of the more common wheat or potatoes, resulting in a mildly sweet aftertaste.

Commercial production began in 1997 when Beveridge formed Fifth Generation Inc., becoming the first (and only) legal distillery in Texas and producing just 1,000 cases that year.

Despite a lack of commercial advertising, Tito’s Handmade Vodka has gained market share thanks to some prestigious awards, affordable pricing, and word of mouth advertising. Currently, it is distributed coast-to-coast across North America and Canada with production now nearing a half-million cases. Sales and distribution boomed in 2001 after Tito’s Handmade Vodka unanimously won the Double Gold Medal for vodka at the World Spirit’s Competition in San Francisco, beating out 71 other high-priced vodkas. Also that year, it received a four-star ranking from Spirit Journal, the only vodka to do so.

Despite the growing distribution, Tito’s Vodka employs fewer than 10 people and is still handmade in small batches.

Ask for TITO’S the next time you visit a bar/liquor store! It’s available in 40 states so far (not yet international). Cheers!

Batini with Titos VodkaOh, and here is the recipe for the Batini, courtesy of the Four Seasons in Austin:

2 ounces vodka (recommended: Tito’s Handmade Vodka)
1/2 ounce blue curacao
10 fresh blackberries
Splash simple syrup
Splash grapefruit juice
Splash Champagne
Blackberry and bat-shaped mint, for garnish

Add vodka, blue curacao, blackberries, simple syrup and grapefruit juice to a martini shaker and shake vigorously until the drink turns a deep purple. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with a splash of champagne. Garnish with a blackberry and a bat-shaped mint.

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