Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

In the wake of the government shut down sweeping MillerCoors products from the shelves and threatening to shut down bars across the state, more depressing news out of Stillwater:

Lift Bridge Brewing Suspends 6-Pack Bottle Sales

Lift Bridge Fans and Supporters, we have been hit with a bottled beer shortage which will cause us to be out of our bottled beer for a few months. The reason for the suspension of shipments is due to our supplier, Cold Spring Brewing Co who has not been able to produce beer for us. They have decided to prioritize other brands ahead of ours. It certainly is their decision on what to brew and when, however we were caught with extremely short notice.

The lamps are going out all across Minnesota. We shall not see them (or me) lit again in our lifetime.

We'll, that's probably not true. The rusty gears of government regulation will be cranked up again in Minnesota at some point and the mass market beer will flow like wine. But you have to empathize with the helplessness these businesses must feel. When it's the government erecting ridiculous, impassable barriers to doing your work, you've got no recourse. You've just got to sit there and suffer until they deign to address your problem.

On the other hand, when it's a problem introduced by the marketplace itself, you've got options. And smart, agile businesses will find a way to overcome them. For example, Lift Bridge:

In response to this situation we are working to purchase and install bottling capabilities at our brewery in Stillwater, MN. We currently produce 100% of our draft beer in Stillwater and have capacity to keep up with our draft account. Today, we are receiving additional fermenters, increasing our capacity by 66%. This will allow us react quicker and not be dependent on a single supplier.

While MillerCoors and bars around the state wait and wonder when the state government will let them get back to business, LiftBridge has the power to plan and avoid similar problems in the future:

This plan will take several months to complete, but we will have bottles back on shelves later in 2011. It is unfortunate for our distributor partners, bottle retail customers and our loyal customers but we will be back soon and better than ever.

Contrast that with the option available to MillerCoors:

"Right now we are exploring all options that are available to us," said spokesman Julian Green. "We are currently in discussions and hoping that we can get a resolution with the state, with the agency that enforces the sale ... of alcohol.”

Good luck with that. But to quote Rudy Guiliani, who said about candidate Barack Obama's economic plans, hope is not a strategy.