Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Without Meaningful Customer Service, You Ain't Got Dinky-Doo

And I don't care how great your product is.

But first, cue "Time To Say Goodbye" by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman.  Yesterday, bright and early, I took the first ferry boat off of Mackinac Island...thus bringing to an end my time in Michigan. 

In what may be construed only as an "adult educational field trip", Brent and I decided to drive home to Iowa by way of a few Michigan breweries.  We learned that in addition to liking the Weissbier/Hefeweizen style of beer, we also tried and liked Brown and Tripel Belgian-styles of ale, too.  So, hurrah for learning.

And here's something else.  I don't care how great your product is, if your customer service is shoddy, I won't buy it.  And I probably won't leave a great tip either.  And I'll probably leave a negative review on TripAdvisor while I'm at it.  Power of the small consumer here, people.

Anyway.  Michigan has this reputation for being one of the best beer states in the US.  I guess when the auto industry tanked, Michiganders felt they needed another good avenue for profit.  And that's good news for the rest of us because they are indeed setting the bar (harharharharhar) high.  Let's discuss craft beer of that state right now.  Along with customer service.  You'll begin to notice a pattern here soon.

Note: There are so many breweries in the state of Michigan, so we limited ourselves to the ones relatively close to the drive back to Iowa (by way of Chicago).  And even then, there were dozens...so, we kept to the city of Grand Rapids and Holland.  And even then, we barely scratched the surface of all there is available to drink in southwest Michigan.


The Mitten Brewing Company (www.mittenbrewing.com) was the first stop on the brew tour.  The theme is vintage baseball, which appealed to Brent straight away.  Also, funny note - he wore his beloved Kansas City Royals sweartshirt in Detroit Tiger country, a dangerous move considering the two are locked in a division race.  A gang beating of my husband seemed imminent, and my only hope was that I would have an empty beer bottle as a weapon nearby.

It was only noon-thirty, and not terribly busy.  There were only about six beers to choose from and a cider, so we did a tasting flight of all of them.  Fortunately, Brent and I were able to agree on liking the Triple Crown Brown and the Mitten Pale Ale...unfortunately, everything else on the list was a stout or an IPA, which ruled Brent out as a fan.  I enjoyed just about every beer, with the exception of the very hoppy Rye IPA...because frankly, I am just not there yet.

But, check this out.  Not only does this place do a BEER flight...they also do a pizza flight!  Most excellent.


Service: Excellent.  The bartender was attentive, but one of the waiters was even moreso when he found we were coming from Mackinac Island.  Then, he had all kinds of questions for me about the work.  He also fielded my beer questions rather well, and even introduced us to one of the beer makers. 

$$$ Spent: About $40.


Next up on the agenda was Brewery Vivant (www.breweryvivant.com).  A chapel-turned-brewery, the beer menu finds inspiration in its Belgian and French roots.  I already am a fan of the Belgian-style dark Undertaker Ale here (and then the Agent á Deux blew my mind), but Brent and I fell in love (together!) with the Tripel and Blandford Maple Amber (Belgian-inspired).  I really, really appreciated the unique, creative beers available here.

Service: Another plus.  Our bartender, TJ, was goofy, yet knowledgeable.  We felt welcome and like we were somewhere where a good time could be easily had.

$$$ Spent: $60 (on beer in cans and a t-shirt).


The last two stops were Founders Brewery (www.foundersbrewing.com) and New Holland Brewery (www.newhollandbrew.com), both quite well-known and distributed around the state of Michigan.  In some ways, both these places suffer from "too big for their britches" syndrome...they've become so popular and big, they can no longer see the trees in the forest. 

At Founders, things got off to a clever start as the bartender who greeted us informed us she "might not be able to serve us" because of my husband's Royals sweatshirt.  Then, we all laughed gaily.

We told her we were interested in a tasting flight, and the bartend gave us a list of available on tap.  Just a list of the names of the brews...and some were easy...I mean, All-Day IPA and Porter is pretty easy to discern.  But, Mosaic Promise?  Not so much.  So, my husband asks the bartender if she's got some kind of description (Style of beer?  Alcohol content? Anything?) and she says in a giggly kind of voice, "No, that's why you're supposed to ask me questions? Hee hee."  Hahaha indeed.  Shut up.

And when she wasn't entertaining our questions, she was tending to the men who stepped up to the bar ("Hi, guys, you want some beeers?"  Uh, what do you think?).  The bar itself was big, and there were near to seven or eight bartenders there, and most of them never gave us the time of day.  They always seemed to be preoccupied with helping someone else, or looking like they were helping someone else.  And I just detest that crap.

$$$ Spent: $12 on the tasting alone.  (Okay.  I did buy the Porter...only because I know I can't get that anywhere else.)

But, by far, New Holland was the most disappointing stop of the whole day.  The one beer I completely love here (the Oak-Aged Hatter) was unavailable, although the White Hatter (Belgian-style white pale ale) was quite a lovely surprise.  Brent also found a soulmate in the Amber Sundog.  Things were going rather well after our bartender served us our flight.  But, for some inexplicable reason, she stopped noticing and talking to us.  Oh, she was there, but she made no further inquiries about our beer preferences.  We actually ended up asking another guy some questions, and found him pretty personable.  The longer I watched, the more I noticed that our bartend (female) was quite interested in serving a group of young-thirty-something guy down the way from us.  And, then a friend of hers must have bellied up to the bar, because she then became very interested in discussing her lovelife with him.  I mean, how could we compete with that?  As old, farty, near 40somethings?  We have nothing on those guys.

$$$ Spent: $12 for the tasting alone.


You'll definitely notice that we spent more $$$ at places where we felt loved.  And the places, we didn't?  We paid the minimum and got the hell out of there.

Take note.

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