Pursuing the palate


A David & Goliath beer story

Beer drinkers in Indiana are not exactly upscale. Hoosiers rank in the bottom 20 percent of better beer sales nationally. While 18 percent of national beer drinkers opt for beer with character, only 7.6 percent of Indiana’s market share is for craft and specialty beer. The flip side is that 91.4 percent of Hoosiers opt for popping the big three, whose brews never were intended to excite the palate.

So why did World Class Beverages of Indianapolis garner the premier award as 2007 Craft Beer Distributor from the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Brewers Association? And why did Anheuser-Busch brewer George Reisch pitch a new A-B lineup at a brewmaster’s dinner attended mainly by sales people associated with Zink Distributing, who represents A-B’s considerable presence? Read on.

World Class fulfills a growing niche

Jim Schembre, manager of World Class Beverages, is still happily processing why an Indiana-based company could stand out from amongst 2,700 beer wholesalers and gain the confidence of 1,250 craft brewers. Sixteen finalists for the award were announced in September 2007 in Las Vegas at the Distributors Conference. The winner was announced Oct. 13 at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Speaking by phone from his office on Waldemere Road, Schembre described the road to elation. “These two organizations usually don’t get along too well, so they’re trying to build a unity,” he explained. “Initiating the award was a first step.”

Along with meeting specific criteria, including “beer education, Web site attention and creative promotions as it relates to craft,” letters of support were considered.

“World Class got lots of letters. From our point of view this is big; 40,000 people attended, including 1,200 brewers. It’s the biggest American beer tasting event. The award validated that we are on the right path. We can look at where we have been — five years ago craft and special beers were at 4.3 percent in Indiana. We’re now at 7.6 percent.

“We feel we can get more aggressive about promoting awareness and social consciousness. Handcrafted beers are meant to be drunk with quality food. The emphasis is on quality, not quantity. Good food, good times and good beer or wine go together. Proper glassware, food pairing and beer all radiate to a good social experience,” Schembre stated, adding, “We are distinctly consumer oriented. We have the only consumer oriented Web page in the country.”

Schembre underscores the importance of educating both their sales team and the public so they all can understand and appreciate taste profiles and style, adding that World Class’ mission is “to make people beer passionate.

“They have to know how you brew it, the ingredients and the taste profile. Our sales team’s enthusiasm about handcrafted beers is contagious.”

Being philanthropic and a good neighbor are equally essential to World Class Beverages. See a related Oct. 10, 2007, story, “Beer Philanthropy,” at http://nuvo.net/articles/beer_philanthropy/. For more info on World Class Beverages, log on to www.worldclassbeverages.com.

Anheuser-Busch follows the market


“Beer is the servant of food.” George Reisch is talking about his favorite subject during a telephone interview from his St. Louis corporate Brewing Staff Brewmaster office at Anheuser-Busch.

“Beer is a beverage of moderation that is very social. It’s woven through thousands of years of our collective social fabric paired with food. It could be served at every meal because families understood the ingredients and the process. They knew small beer with low alcohol content is drawn from the last cups of a brew while large beer is drawn from the first cups so they served accordingly.

“When you’re born into a German brewing family a lot of traditions, visuals and aromas stay with you. Beer opens the taste of food when both are paired perfectly.”

Never drink beer out of a bottle. Pour into a glass appropriate to its style — down the middle and only one-third full. Look at it, sniff, sip, taste, sniff again, drink while eating and replenish in thirds.

Franz [Frank] Sales Reisch, George Reisch’s great-great grandfather, immigrated to Kentucky in 1832 from Baden on the Rhine River. In 1849 he moved to Springfield, Ill., and opened a brewery that operated until 1966.

In 1852, A-B also started as a family brewery with a “path to greatness” strategy that, starting in 1876, manifested in making Budweiser “the first national beer.”

When the family brewery closed, Reisch’s father worked for Pabst in Milwaukee. Reisch learned home brewing from his father.

While a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, Reisch wrote a “brash letter” to the then head brewer at Anheuser-Busch. Reisch stated he intended to become a brewer and to work for A-B “when I get old. You have to be old to brew at Anheuser-Busch, right?”

Four years later, Reisch heard back from A-B — his letter was kept on file. In 1979, with a bachelor of science in food chemistry degree, Reisch started in the management-training program. Many promotions later he’s back in St. Louis.

“I enjoy working with and teaching our trainees. Experience is long-term memory. There’s a big difference between memorization and memory.”

Reisch explains that the current demand for beers with more character makes “the time right for big brewers to brew them. We have the capacity to supply the volume.”