Took a minute to internalize some of the feedback we are getting in regards to the Secret Barrel Society Memberships. Hopefully, I can address our perspective on how we structured the benefits, as well as touch on most of bigger concerns out there.
First and foremost, we are not trying to offer anything we did not feel would have value for our customers. We have the honest desire to make this membership as valuable for you as what it will help us create. I believe one main point lost, and one we could have done a better job communicating, is this membership is different than other currently offered program by any other brewery, is because it is exactly that, different.
In this day and age, and in the spirit of crowd funded endeavors, which sincerely desire to return to their donators the ability to be a bigger part of something, we utilized this model when drafting the membership details. It is giving our small Sour Program the potential means to grow, which will in kind provide a more direct value to the customer than what was previously offered. This concept should not be entirely foreign or negatively perceived, unless the person buying in and the business itself does not mutually benefit. We never set out, rubbing greedy hands together, to cheat or take advantage of anyone in this endeavor. I will not attempt to sell you anything in this response, only clean up the air the best I can.
To address some of the main concerns out there:
- Even though we have been brewing sour ales since 2006, the program is still very small and relatively in its infancy. 2013 is the first year we have focused 100% on brewing sours in downtown Bloomington since the inaugural batches touched oak. We positively have enough beer selected from 2008 to 2010 to make the 4000 bottle commitment if the SBS fills up for 2014, as well as newly developing beer well on its way to appropriate flavor profile.
- We have already bottled one collaboration beer that is slated for exclusive pickup by members, as well as another in the works utilizing locally harvested grapes that we expect to be ready next summer.
- Everyone ultimately gains. SBS members will get first in line access to every release next year, the quicker the program grows the faster we can create better and less expensive future benefits and more exclusive releases. Upland will be able to build a 1350 sq. ft. cellar to double sour fermentation and cellar capacity, because every dollar generated by the program goes directly into the brewery. And non-members will eventually gain access to more widely available and distributed releases in years to come. Actually maybe I lose out, because I’ll be working a ton more to make more beer, but I digress.
- We never claimed to be Clarence Darrow on legal issues, but there was enough concern with Indiana Code to not pre-sell or discount beer as part of our initial discussions in designing the program. This isn’t a reactionary excuse; it was posted proudly on the SBS membership details, but we should have left the issue absent to begin with. However, this is entirely unrelated to the fact we are asking for folks to help us build our brewery, with returned privileges of value in exchange.
- We openly admit we are not perfect, but strive every day to deliver to customers the best quality beer possible at all times. Since the Sour Program began, we have destroyed one bottling run of Persimmon, one bottling run of Dantalion failed to carbonate, and the 2013 Persimmon run is also of unacceptable carbonation levels to release. This really is not that much beer, and I’m glad we never sold it. For every person waiting on a Persimmon redemption, they will be honored in our next release for any style of choice, or redemptions can be held for our expected Persimmon release next spring. We will email everyone awaiting redemption this update, and apologize for not providing an explanation sooner. We also have gained a greater understanding of why these quality fails occurred this year, and have not replicated them since implementing new practices.
On a final note, I know I didn’t see in the mirror this morning a faceless, greedy, shark jumping, potential kidnap victim. Brewing sour ales means a lot to me personally, and my commitment to do what I find to be an honest, traditional and local way to make beer is only rivaled by my passion to make sure our supporters get the best sour beer and customer service we can provide. I personally invite anyone who has questions about the Sour Program to drop by the brewery in downtown Bloomington and I’ll show you around. I think most folks would get the impression Upland is not a soulless corporate entity, within the confines of a modest brewing environment with happy, honest and dedicated fellow employees to boot (an in boots).
We are looking forward to your feedback, and highly appreciate your past and future support in our endeavors. I’m all ears on how we can make this membership work better for all of our customers, and I thank you for patiently reading our side of the story. I hope I have encapsulated better what we are attempting to achieve with the SBS and the Sour Program in general.