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Sunday, 26 October 2014 22:00

Startup markets new line of ‘Michigan born’ beers aimed at male demographic

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Lucky Girl Brewing Co. — based in Auburn Hills with an administrative office in Grand Junction in West Michigan — launched a new line of beer this month in Michigan with distributor Imperial Beverage. The company works with Susquehanna Brewing Co. in Pittston, Pa. to brew the beer, which it describes as “Michigan born, American brewed.” President and Owner Jeff Wescott said the company may consider producing beer in Michigan, but noted “it’s not a today thing, but a tomorrow thing.” Lucky Girl Brewing Co. — based in Auburn Hills with an administrative office in Grand Junction in West Michigan — launched a new line of beer this month in Michigan with distributor Imperial Beverage. The company works with Susquehanna Brewing Co. in Pittston, Pa. to brew the beer, which it describes as “Michigan born, American brewed.” President and Owner Jeff Wescott said the company may consider producing beer in Michigan, but noted “it’s not a today thing, but a tomorrow thing.” COURTESY PHOTO

Earlier this month, the first six-packs of Lucky Girl Brewing Co.’s signature products started rolling out to Meijer stores and other retailers across Michigan.

On its labels and cartons that are adorned with classic images of so-called “pinup girls,” the company describes its “classy & sassy” beers as “Michigan born. American brewed.”

President and Owner Jeff Wescott said Lucky Girl’s marketing message is very clear: The outfit is a Michigan-based company with an administrative office in Grand Junction, just east of South Haven in West Michigan’s Van Buren County, and its headquarters based in Auburn Hills in metro Detroit.

Its beers are also brewed in America, just not in Michigan.

“We are producing all our beers in in Pittston, Pennsylvania,” Wescott told MiBiz.

Specifically, Lucky Girl Brewing works with Susquehanna Brewing Co. — “one of the oldest brewers in the U.S.” — to produce and package all of its beers, he said.

Wescott said he wouldn’t describe Susquehanna as a “contract brewer” for Lucky Girl, preferring to call it a “relationship” in which both companies are incentivized to build the brand. In launching its product line,

Lucky Girl worked closely with the Pennsylvania-based company and Bob Klinetob, the former head brewmaster at Lionshead Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., “who helps us coordinate and craft the product,” Wescott said.

While Susquehanna is focused on the brewing operations and distribution to some eastern U.S. markets, Lucky Girl is focused mostly on the Midwest to start, with some mid-Atlantic distribution coming online in the short term, Wescott said. The company worked with Kalamazoo-based Imperial Beverage Co. for Michigan distribution.

When asked whether the company would ever look to brew beer in Michigan, Wescott didn’t rule out the prospect, but said, “It’s not a today thing, but a tomorrow thing.”

Lucky Girl’s marketing message that plays up its Michigan connection likely “touches a nerve with a lot of people” in the state’s growing craft brewing industry, said Scott Graham, the executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild.

While Graham doesn’t disparage the company from trying to make and market its beer, he said instances like the Lucky Girl Brewing example are causing the Guild to look closely at the craft brewing landscape in the state.

“I don’t see their website as misleading or false, but the subtlety is likely lost on most people,” Graham said of Lucky Girl using out-of-state brewing operations.

The Michigan Brewers Guild bylaws require members to hold a Michigan license as a brewery, microbrewery or brewpub. As such, Lucky Girl would not qualify to be a member, according to the latest Michigan Department Of Licensing And Regulatory Affairs data.

To date, some of the Guild’s members have used contract brewers in Michigan or even from out of state on occasion, particularly for certain types of packaging or during times of growth when their in-house production was unable to keep up, Graham said. But those companies have maintained some production in the state or have held licenses that would allow them to produce in the state, he said.

“It’s not been a big issue for us,” he said of Michigan companies using contract breweries. “They’re from our brewing community and we’ve known these people, so the question for us focused on, ‘Let’s see how the beer tastes.’”

But the use of the state’s name in marketing beer made out of state could be something the Guild would consider taking a stance on in the future, Graham said.

“It’s fair to ask the questions, but I think it’s a little harsh to be pointing the finger at (Lucky Girl),” he said. “I don’t knock a company that is building a brand.”
Wescott from Lucky Girl said the connection with Susquehanna Brewing Co. gives the startup company access to immediate brewing capacity.

“From a quality standpoint, we’re certainly on par with our craft competitors,” he said, touting Susquehanna’s long history of brewing. “From a production standpoint, we work with a state-of-the-art craft brewery that has a quarter million cases of capacity. We can be a big player.”

Lucky Girl plans to roll out a black lager, an IPA, a pale ale and golden lager in October or November and will follow that up with a number of seasonal products, including a chocolate dopplebock in December, a rye IPA and a wheat stout in January, a lemon shandy product toward summer and an Oktoberfest beer next fall, Wescott said.

The company launched in Michigan with its Haunted Pumpkin Ale, “and it’s rocking,” Wescott said. That beer’s label says it is “brewed and bottled by Lucky Girl Brewing Company, Pittston, Pa.”

“We’re definitely a craft beer,” Wescott said. “We’ve made the decision that we’re a drinkable craft beer, a sessionable product. We firmly believe that craft beer is swinging back that way. So we’re not overly craft (with higher alcohol content), but we’re still craft.”

Beyond the quality selling point, Lucky Girl is banking on its “appealing and stylish” branding that features pinup girls that harken back to “the euphoric time when American sentiment was at its highest,” Wescott said.

“The eye-popping packaging plays to the craft beer drinker in the male demographic,” he said, noting the company is working to develop a social marketing plan. “From a marketing standpoint, we feel our brand is certainly popular and will be embraced by the public. We want to get people interested in not only the beer, but the brand and beyond.”

Read 15473 times Last modified on Sunday, 26 October 2014 21:23

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