GRAND RAPIDS — Forgive Joe Short and his colleagues from Bellaire-based Short’s Brewing Co. if they look a little tired.
They had a busy day on Wednesday. That’s when the Northern Michigan brewery released Psychedelic Cat Grass, its triple dry-hopped IPA, across its entire multi-state distribution footprint.
You might be asking: “So what? Breweries release beers every day of the week.” That’s true, but the distribution angle makes Psychedelic Cat Grass notable.
Typically when a beer is ready to consume, breweries will then package it, put it in a warehouse and later ship it off to their distributors, who then get that beer to store shelves, bars and restaurants. At best, the whole process takes a matter of days, although more frequently it’s measured in weeks.
But Short’s Brewing partner Scott Newman-Bale, who works closely with the company’s distributors, came up with the idea to “go crazy” with the latest release, said Short, who founded the brewery in 2004. The concept: Package the beer, get it to the distributors and out to consumers all within the span of 24 hours. They branded Psychedelic Cat Grass as the Without Delay IPA.
“We had freshness on our minds,” Short said over a large mug of jet-black coffee at HopCat in Grand Rapids yesterday afternoon. Once the team heard the brewery-to-belly-in-a-day concept, they quickly embraced it, he said, “mostly because we didn’t want someone else to beat us to it.”
With such an ambitious distribution concept, the company also wanted to push the boundaries on the packaging side as well, and Short said he leaned on art director Jesse Den Herder to come up with a fittingly psychedelic 3-D label. They included a set of 3-D glasses with every six-pack.
“We picked a date, brewed it and it culminated fast — and then we had to get the logistics figured out,” Short said.
The crew started packaging the beer a minute after midnight and wrapped up five and a half hours later, with trucks lined up outside the Elk Rapids production facility waiting to rush the beer to market in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Newman-Bale even arranged for an airplane to fly beer from the nearby Antrim County Airport to one of the brewery’s out-of-state distributors.
As well, the release was an effort that required buy-in on the part of Short’s distributors, who had to rearrange their schedules and route trucks to make the concept work.
“Their ambition and imagination have been a driving force in the Michigan craft beer market for years,” stated Tim Braun, the brand manager at Imperial Beverage, Short’s only Michigan distributor. “The ‘Without Delay IPA’ release will set a benchmark for the craft beer distribution industry, as we provide some of the freshest craft beer ever to Michigan’s Short’s supporters.”
Once packaging was completed yesterday, Short — who acknowledged he hadn’t slept at all since the day before — then headed to Grand Rapids with Den Herder and marketing associate Emily Sullivan for a tapping event at HopCat, for whom the brewery first made the beer. The company also held a special Black Light Afterglow Party at Stella’s complete with psychedelic tunes, glow-in-the-dark T-shirts, and black lights (naturally).
Despite the lack of sleep, Short said the whole project felt reinvigorating.
“We had been so focused on solving problems we created, and I really got excited about this project — I got excited about the beer again,” he said.