How Martin Finagles the Challenges of Stormcloud Being in a Seasonal Hot Spot

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the brewing community from across the US.
Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA Managers and others each weekend to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.

Amy Martin, Marketing Manager & Membership Coordinator, Stormcloud Brewing — Frankfort, Michigan

BREWER: What do you feel have been new challenges in your position that have helped push you and make you better at your job?
MARTIN: Having moved up to northern Michigan after living in a few bigger cities, one of the new challenges for me has been the seasonality of the area. We are located in a harbor town on Lake Michigan, surrounded by beautiful beaches, smaller inland lakes, plenty of hiking and cycling trails, fishing opportunities, and rivers to float in. The summer months find our sidewalks packed full of people, and every dining establishment has a wait to get in. We definitely do the majority of our business in the short summer months. When the kids go back to school and the tourists leave, things drastically slow down. As someone responsible for marketing, it is largely our department’s job to find creative ways to get folks in the door in the off season. Navigating this has helped me further develop my job skills and made me better at what I do — thinking creatively, acting strategically, and learning to analyze the good and bad attempts for improvement. I am very fortunate to work alongside an incredible special events coordinator who executes such awesome events that they are easy to market.

BREWER: Why did you enter the craft beer industry and what makes you love being a part of it and staying in it?
MARTIN: I originally entered the craft beer industry as a flagship server at Perrin Brewing Company in Grand Rapids. I did it because I was an avid homebrewer and loved craft beer. Through the beer education training they were doing for their employees at the time, my passion for craft beer grew exponentially. I love being in the industry for three reasons:

  • Because I view craft beer as art, something to be enjoyed not just for flavor but for the history, the recipe writing, the choices made in the brewing process, traditional styles, experimental styles, and if packaged — the packaging choices.
  • I truly believe there is a beer out there for everyone, and I love helping folks discover “their” beer. Whether that be exploring a style they’ve never had before, revisiting a variation of a style they’ve previously tried, exploring gluten-reduced options, or diving into the world of non-alcoholic beer, it is fun to take folks on that journey.
  • The craft beer community is full of incredible people. In every vein of the industry from bar back to sales rep and everything in between you’ll find folks who care about other people, are passionate about craft beverages, and generally want to make a positive difference in the world.

BREWER: What are some recent trends in brewing that you’ve tried or are excited about trying?
MARTIN: At Stormcloud we’ve definitely been enjoying exploring the world of thiols! It’s been so fun trying different thiolized yeast strains, playing with brewing processes, and using Phantasm to access a whole new world of flavors. I only occasionally get to brew on the professional level, but the last time I did we brewed a thiolized Cold IPA for the Northern Michigan International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, and it was quite a hit!

BREWER: What was your business’s greatest accomplishment during the past year, and what are your goals for your brewery this year?
MARTIN: The accomplishment we’ve been celebrating the most from the past year is being named the 2022 Brewery of the Year by the USA Beer Ratings. We are incredibly honored to be recognized for our hard work, quality beer, and unique twists we incorporate to make us distinct from other breweries. On a more personal note, we also won a Craft Beer Marketing Award for a 16-ounce can that I designed for our Coastal Brake Hibiscus Ale. I love all of the creative opportunities I’m afforded at this job, and to be nationally recognized for my work was a pretty darn good feeling. One thing we’ve been focusing on this year (and every year!) is making our beer the absolute best it can be. We are a Belgian-inspired brewery, so we especially focus on consistently improving our traditional Belgian-style brews. Aside from our 20-barrel system we have a one-barrel pilot system and use that to run experiments on everything from candi sugar to yeast, hops to water profile, and everything in between. I’m always so impressed with these different trials — our brewers definitely approach them like the scientific method, and take sensory very seriously.

BREWER: What are some changes in the industry that you’ve observed in the past few years, and how has your business adapted to stay competitive?
MARTIN: As I’m sure many of your readers know, other craft beverages (seltzers, canned cocktails, etc.) are subtracting from beer sales. We love and support our fellow craft beverage makers, especially in our local community, but it is still a challenge we have to acknowledge and address. In addition to beer, both our pub and taproom sell cider and wine, which helps bring in some guests who may not prefer beer. We’ve also had fun exploring new styles of beers and playing with newer flavors on the scene via thiols. One thing that I think is huge is training our employees to guide guests on their beer journey — listen to what they like from other beverages, and try to match them with one of our beers that might be a good fit for them. You’d be surprised at how many folks go from “I don’t like beer” to being a fervent fan of one of our mainstays. It’s just a matter of taking the time to get to know your customer’s palate.

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