Wednesday started off with a bang with the Premium Beer Tour heading to four breweries in Michigan. The route included Jolly Pumpkin at their production facility, Dark Horse, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, and Founders. Unfortunately for the group our organizers were slightly new to the game. The instructions said no beer would be available on the bus. That really wasn’t true. They had Jolly Pumpkin beer available for tasting for $5, but were so slow and miserly serving the group that no one felt they got their money’s worth out of that part of the experience until later in the trip. On the way to Jolly Pumpkin they had not mapped the route and we ran into a RR overpass which was too high for our bus to go under so we ended up being guided around by a local in Dexter, MI. We should have known that was a sign of things to come.
At Jolly Pumpkin we toured the production facility for both JP and the other side, North Peak. Both were interesting, but even more interesting was listening to Ron Jeffries speak after the tour. I remember meeting Ron in Orlando, Florida 9 or 10 years ago and they were making 180 bbl per year and now they should approach 6000 bbl in 2014. The only downside to JP was they do not currently have a tasting room at their current location.
After we left JP our next stop was Dark Horse in Marshall, MI. I opted to skip the tour since it was an extra $10 and included a souvenir glass (something I do not need) and beers in their VIP area which I did not care to try. Our hosts on the tour had neglected to think about what time the group would eat lunch so we were half-starved by the time we hit Dark Horse. One in our group decided to call in an order so a small contingent only had to wait about two minutes for our food to be ready. I had a couple of beers there with lunch. The place appeared cobbled together by someone with no desire to meet any particular building code. I’m actually not sure how it passes inspections. The cool factor was the number of mugs on the ceiling which must number in the 5,000 range. Sorry for the blurry photo, it was difficult to find something to focus on.
After DH we went to Bell’s in Kalamazoo, MI and I guess I was expecting more. It appeared no one knew we were coming and so we were not treated any different from anyone else off the street. The least our guides could have done was give them a heads up about our group and setup an ordering scheme. Due to our RR sidetrack they cut off our visit at Bell’s and no one even had time to finish a second beer.
Last but not least was Founder’s in Grand Rapids, MI. Once again our tour guides had done nothing to prepare for our groups arrival. We were put on the street and told there it is go on in and have some beer or food. This was probably the worst organized tour ever and was really just a bus ride to four locations. I mentioned a few things to our hosts about the tour and making it better and they copped out saying it was the fault of the AHA and what they wanted them to do. No, it’s your fault. Have the price include everything. Only have breweries and tap rooms on the list which you have a relationship and have set up a semi-private event for the attendees so they feel somewhat special. Charge only a single all-inclusive price. It’s a simple formula. I could have devised this tour in an afternoon on the back of a napkin. Make it something special for your guests. Nice try guys, but no cigar. The people on the tour were what made this worthwhile, I just cannot suggest your tour based on my experience. It was fun, but not because of anything the organizers planned, rather because of the people on the tour. Before I do another tour such as this I’ll be sure to check what is included and know what is planned I could have had a better tour with a rental car and a DD and it probably would have come out to be the same amount when all was said and done!
The conference begins today with the final round judging of the AHA NHC!