- Mike Riedel
I'm not a small business owner, but I have a basic understanding of how the American business model is implemented and how it operates. It's simple, really: You generate revenue by selling a product at a set rate that is calculated from the cost of making said product. You then take a percentage of those profits and invest them back into the operation, and thus the business wheel revolves. As it turns out, there are others out there who are selling the same or similar products to the very same people that you are vying for. How your business model performs against your competitors dictates its success.
By now you're asking, "Why am I getting a shitty vocation lesson in City Weekly's beer column?" It's important to note that model because a new one is taking place in our local craft-beer industry and it's going against the grain of how traditional businesses and their competitors interact.
To get a better idea of the glitch, you have to understand that living in Utah presents its own special set of challenges for those choosing to make a living in the state's alcohol-manufacturing industry. Beer, in particular, is faced with an even more aggressive set of obstacles, often being relegated to the lowest rung on the alcohol ladder by our lawmakers. For a brewery to get ahead in Utah, it needs more than just good beer. It needs a good community—one that's willing to unite to the point where deciding to sell a competitor's beer is becoming more the norm than the exception.
Case in point: RoHa Brewing Project. Months after going online, two of the brewery's tap handles became available to their local competitors. This week, it features beers from Hoppers Grill & Brewing and Desert Edge Brewery. Chris Haas, RoHa head brewer and co-owner, is the main proponent of sharing his valued tap space. "Why not have guest taps?" Haas asks. "As the beer community grows, it helps all of us. It's about the greater good." Haas has been part of the Beehive's brewing scene for more than 15 years, tracing his origins to Desert Edge where he served as head brewer. He has a unique perspective and understands the small-brewery mentality. "We are trying to promote other small breweries like ourselves," he says, adding, "The better other small breweries do, the better we all do." That philosophy comes from a place of familiarity. Local breweries all operate within a pretty unique set of restrictions that no other brewery in any other state could easily wrap their head around.
Across town, the guys at A. Fisher Brewing Co.—another one of Salt Lake City's brand-spankin' new breweries—are embracing this same novel ideology. After debuting with an explosive opening earlier this year, it was clear their 12-plus tap handles would be more than enough to keep their customers happy. Still, they chose to offer their rivals' beer in house.
"We're not the only ones making good beer out there," Tim Dwyer says. Dwyer co-owns the brewery alongside a ragtag team that includes former City Weekly writer Colby Frazier. "There's a lot of complementary stuff that enhances the beer that we offer, while providing the customers with options that we may not currently have," he continues.
There's a good dose of warm and fuzzies in our market when it comes to breweries banding together. What better time than Utah Beer Festival weekend to bring it up? The trend is noble and helpful to the beer drinker, sure, but sometimes there is a much more practical reason for selling beer from other breweries—which is to keep the market competitive and cohesive. Consider this a good omen as Utah enters its new, exciting craft-beer renaissance. As always, cheers!