Q&A with Joe Short: New Beer Releases, COVID-19, Upgrades

Joe Short, founder of Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire, fills us in on the Northern Michigan beer scene and what’s coming up next for Short’s, including new releases from sister company Superfluid Supply Co. and brands like Starcut Ciders and Beaches Hard Seltzer.

How would you describe the current state of the craft brewing industry in Northern Michigan?

The current state of Michigan beer is robust! There is great camaraderie among the state’s breweries, small and large alike. I do feel we are reaching the saturation point for sure. I would say that’s more so for packaging microbreweries than it is for brewpubs. Every town needs a brewpub or two … or three …

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the beer industry since you first started brewing?

Some of the biggest changes I’ve noticed in the industry since I have started would be the commitment to elevating quality, consumer education and rapid growth triggering expensive capital improvements. We’re also seeing a huge migration from bottles to cans, and a variety of formats from 16 ounce- and 19.2 ounce-cans to 12-, 15- and 24-pack offerings!

How has COVID-19 impacted operations?

COVID has really put pressure on the packaging side of production and limited how we do hospitality. It’s also taken a huge toll on our mental health and overall spirit—especially our co-workers in hospitality working the Pub and Pull Barn (our taproom in Elk Rapids). Draft production has been reduced due to bars and restaurants closing or with limited capacity. That has shifted the bulk of our production to cans and bottles. Honestly, we’re having a difficult time keeping up. So much so, that we’ve had to eliminate a handful of specialty products we were hoping to have in the line-up this past year just to keep the flagships like Local’s Light, Soft Parade Huma Lupa Licious and Bellaire Brown flowing!

I’m being consistently reminded that our team at Short’s is the best around. We’re always moving and adapting our processes and operations. COVID has just brought it to a whole new level. I’m always so impressed with our team. They make me so proud and confident that we can overcome any challenge. We continue to remain focused on being eternally optimistic and fighting the good fight. The biggest takeaway is not knowing if we’ll need to make changes. It’s knowing that when the time comes, we will be ready to change, modify, expand or contract any component of our operation and to do it as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

What initially drew you to brewing professionally and opening your own brewery?

I was drawn to brewing on so many levels. First and foremost is the infinite creativity that recipe development offers. The flavor universe is vast and immense! I also love creating experiences through our products of passion with the consumer. Interacting with consumers with education and storytelling really can elevate those experiences!

What advice would you give brewers interested in making that kind of career move?

Quality, Consistency, Value and Love. You gotta love it.

How would you describe Short’s guiding mission/vision?

Love where you live and love what you do is essential. When you have these two things in life, you bring passion and enthusiasm to the world around you and that makes for a fun place to work!

We believe in “Crafting Community and Brewing a World”—making the world a better place through the product of our efforts. We support nonprofits like Paddle Antrim, Glacial Hills, TART Trails, Title Track, Community Foundation and so much more!

We believe in working hard to make our business strong. When our business is strong, we can work outside of our business to make our community strong.

What’s next for Short’s, Superfluid Supply Co. and your other brands?

We’ve got a few things brewing! Starcut Ciders are really doing well. We’re the largest hard cider producer in Michigan, and Pulsar, our dry cider, has turned into one of our company’s best-selling products.

Beaches Hard Seltzer is taking off with our cocktail-inspired variety packs. Our team is so great at creating flavor-forward products that are low-cal and low-carb, and we’re excited to bring that full-flavored approach to hard seltzer in a way that no one else really has.

We’re so excited to bring some of Arcadia Brewing Company’s most popular legacy products back to market through Superfluid Supply Co. [Arcadia Brewing Company ceased operations in 2019.] We have quite the line-up planned for 2021, including Porter Rico (ale brewed with coconut) and Loch Down Scotch Ale.

We’re also working on some capital improvements to our facilities, such as upgrades to the pub in Bellaire, a year-round taproom in Elk Rapids—The Pull Barn, and a new building and equipment for the production facility, including a new kettle and a new packaging line.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

Be a kind and selfless human. Wear your mask (cover your nose!). Say please and thank you. Protect Planet Earth. Vote!

Find this article and many others in the January 2021 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine; or subscribe to get Traverse delivered to your door all year round.

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