High Falls, NY

10:58 PM

It was an early morning at the house. It was moving day. The Memphis Harrison’s had 5:30 and 6 AM flights. This meant 4 AM wake up calls. Ouch. But we did what we needed to do. I didn’t have to drive, so all I needed to do was open my eyes, give some hugs, and say goodbye. I don’t know how Season did it. She took the two girls back to Memphis by herself with a 5 hour layover in Atlanta. But she called and said she was back.

After they left I went back to bed and got ready for my day. I had a 10 AM interview with the COO of High Falls Brewing Company. They have been in Rochester for over 100 years. They make Genny Light, Genesee prodcuts, Honey Brown, Michael Shea’s and a few others. I was excited to go to the brewery and learn about the process.

I got there on time and didn’t even get lost. The beginning of our time was me talking about me and what I was doing. He asked me quite a few questions and I guess I did a pretty good job of answering. His path took him to some major companies including Xerox and Ailing and Cory. He and the CEO decided to take over the brewery in 2000 rather than watch it shut down. So many jobs have been lost in Rochester over the past 10 years. It was cool to see them do their best to keep them here.

I learned the beer industry is controlled by the big 3. The rest of the pie is fought over by the regionals who have to decide if they are going to stay regional or go national. Yuengling is an example of one who is going after it. Marketing plays a big part in the beer game.

We talked for about an hour and then came the awesome part. I got to see how beer is made. He walked me all over the plant. I think the facility is 27 acres. We saw most of it. I saw where the barley and the corn come together and where they are strained out. The vats are huge, one had 31,000 gallons worth (I think). He showed me how it goes from one tank to another and all of the piping.

We then went to the bottling area. You should have seen all of the cans and bottles flying around there. It was a huge, well oiled machine. Bottles cleaned here. Then moved here where they are filled. Then they are sealed. Then off to the pasteurizer. Then to the case maker. Then to the pallet maker and finally to the trucks. The precision and detail was incredible. If one piece faltered, the whole place could come to a halt. What was made there goes to 41 states.

It made me think differently about how one bottle of beer can make a difference. For those of us in Rochester, the difference between ordering a Genny Light or a Labbatt Blue Light could be about 375 jobs in town. I’m going to rethink my ordering choices.

I’d love to see High Falls go where Yuengling has. It’s out there and taking share. I’m not sure what the remedy is. If it is marketing or new product or old product. I am an idea guy and will think about it. For now I’ll sip a drink and think about the process of how it got to my refrigerator. Pretty awesome.