So before we got sidetracked with last week's sob story about how busy we've been, one of the things that was planned on being discussed was a situation that developed with our good buddy & dedicated GrassHopper Brian L. and a review he published through his BeerApostle website. Long story short: Ranger Creek Brewery & Distillery out of Texas has a pretty cool concept going: big beers pushed out in small batches; appropriately labeled the "Small Batch" series. What got us thinking (a bunch, actually) was that in this instance (Small Batch #3), a wild yeast got into the beer - an English Barleywine that was bottle conditioned with yeast after bottling. Brian sat on this sucker for a whole year before getting into his review and ultimately had to dump it as it was pretty infected with wild bugs.
We got going (as you can see in the comments section) about how our approach to brewing & selling said brews is along a pseudo-perfectionist continuum and how we embody the missions of the big boys like Dogfish, New Belgium, Stone, and others that don't release beers unless they meet a certain standard they set. The famous story is one about Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione and him dumping a very large batch of his 120 Minute ale, because it didn't ferment to the brewery's standards. That, my dear readers, is a lot of money that went right down the drain. Don't get us wrong - Sam tried everything in his and his brew team's power to save that puppy, but to no avail. He could've made a decent portion of it back by pushing it out as a mistake - and the beer nerds would've gladly paid hand over fist - but he didn't. That's how much he valued his reputation, the brand that is Dogfish Head Brewing. What got us going is not necessarily what happened in Ranger Creek's situation, but more about the bigger picture: What if we screw up?
Fun Fact: We're gonna screw up. It's going to happen. It's not a matter of if, but when. It happens to every brewery eventually. How we screw up and how badly we screw up will depend, but we're prepared for it when it does happen. You can take measures to ensure certain standards in your brewery - but undoubtedly, life happens...literally - we're dealin' with micro-organisms on the daily, folks. How do you handle the inevitable screw-up when it rears its ugly, wild and/or infected head?
As it turns out, Ranger Creek got in touch with Brian and it gave him the opportunity to post a follow-up article about the situation. In our opinion, they handled it perfectly. What got us going originally was that it seemed like Ranger Creek had this happen several times on releases of their Small Batch series, but chose to sell them anyways. I looked and wasn't able to identify if they addressed the issue. They've had good beers and even good receptions of the same Small Batch release as Brian's, but no press release, no nothing (there might be something out there, I just wasn't able to locate it). It got us thinking: what do we owe our patrons if something like this happens in GrassLands? What standard do I as a consumer hold to the major players like Cigar City Brewing? Bells Brewery? Stone?
Through the power of social networking, Ranger Creek addressed the issue Brian publicized. We're happy they did. It says a TON about a business that's willing to a) acknowledge they screwed up, b) discuss what steps they've taken (or will take) to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future, and c) what they're going to do for you the customer. That's one of the major reasons I'm so excited about having Vice President Scott Hall on board with us. His experience and approach to the eventual screw up is akin to the above situation with Ranger Creek. As we get into launch and operation mode, we want to continue our interactivity with you - through our ups & downs - as that's been extremely important to us since the very beginning.
So when we think about the term "Quality Control" - it goes beyond just the standards we hold to our beer. It's the standards we hold to ourselves and our approach to this business - to the industry. We're going to do our absolute best - utilizing every resource at our fingertips - to ensure that we don't screw up...and if we do, it's not a major muck-up. How we respond is perhaps just as important. What we can ensure to you, dear reader, is that we'll always, ALWAYS, make it right should said screw-up happen. Saying you know you're gonna screw up sounds weird...like we're admitting a mistake before it even happens...but if folks like Brian can get an infected batch from Ranger Creek, if I can get an infected batch from Bells Brewery, or if some wild yeast can get into a large release of Cigar City's Guava Grove means anything to us, it's that the "screw-up" is inevitable.
So now you know that much more about our approach to the ambiguous term of Quality Control. Here's an interesting tidbit: Next week's article will be a revisit to our sour brewing program! Timely, eh? :D
With that, we wish you the best of weekends, dear readers, because you most definitely deserve it! Have a great one and we'll catch you on the flip side!
P.S. Quick quiz question: How many times did we manage to use the term "screw-up" in today's article?