The End of the Beginning… Kind of

First 5 months of training… check. Three locations, 10 flights, 9 sporting events, 6 states, 5 rental cars, 3 cell phones, a couple of nights of karaoke and 1 turkey dinner later… I am back in Connecticut to celebrate the Holidays.

Atlanta

Our field commercial training started in Atlanta on the 15th of November and it started with a bang going to the Georgia State Communication Meeting, where all the wholesalers in the state of Georgia came into Atlanta.  We discussed our plans for 2011 and answered any questions that the independent wholesalers had for us. As soon as the meeting was over, we were on a plane to Tampa, Florida (which was awesome because it was 85 degrees there) to hold the Florida State Communication Meeting with all the Florida wholesalers. This meeting was held at the A-B wholesaler in Tampa, Pepin Distributing, this place is a palace. Here are some pictures from it.

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I wouldn’t mind working in Tampa with Mr. Pepin and his team. After Florida, it was back to Atlanta to ride with some district managers and key account managers. We were also able to go to Wal-Mart University (a class that we teach for the distributors to show them how to sell to Wal-Mart’s and their store managers) down in Columbus, Georgia (not Columbus, Ohio). We were able to see what the execution on premise at a NBA basketball game takes when we went to the Atlanta Hawks v. Boston Celtics game and I was able to see my first NBA game (with a little bit of luck my last as well).

Hawks v. Celtics

After a couple of weeks in the Region 3 Sales Office (Southeast Region – GA, AL, MS, FL) we were able to take a few days off and go home for Thanksgiving. That was my first time back in CT since we started in July and it was great to see family and friends, especially my mom and brother (big ABI supporters).

After Thanksgiving was over it was off to our WOD (Wholesale Operations Division… the wholesalers that ABI owns) training. Since there is no WOD in Atlanta, Riley, Nancy and I were able to experience two of the craziest beer markets in the country, New York City and Metro New Jersey (Jersey City & Newark). We worked at the branch distributors that ABI owns in each area. We were able to live in Manhattan (I like to say we were living in Harlem but everyone would correct me and say that we lived in the Upper East Side… ok maybe Spanish Harlem) for the last month or so while working in these two places.

NYC Branch

We had some great bosses there in Ed, Bobby and Dennis; they made sure we were busy all the time. Looking back on all the different areas of the distributor that we touched, it is crazy to think that we were able to do it in such a small amount of time. We were able to go around with sales reps on their daily routes calling on their accounts, from a deli/Bodega rep, chain pharmacy/grocery rep, and an on-premise/bar rep. Seeing the different channels which beer is sold through in NYC and how the pricing, customer base and products differ so much between the channels. Seeing how one store uses their beer sales as a loss leader to get traffic into their stores, while others markup their beer sometimes to around 100%, where a store on 3rd Ave could have 18 packs for $22.99 and two avenues over on 1st Ave could have the same 18 packs for $12.99.

One of the coolest parts about being in NYC was being able to go over to NJ for three days and seeing how different the markets are even though they are less than 3 miles apart, with Bud light being the largest selling beer in NYC while Bud Ice 24oz cans are the highest volume SKU in Metro NJ. Also in NJ, we were able to go see the bars in Hoboken, NJ which is the home of some bake shop called Carla or Carlos’s Bakery that Nancy wanted to go see, some TV show is filmed there or something, who knows. All I know is that they made Eli Manning’s birthday cake and their cookies aren’t even that good.

Bake Shop

We also were able to see a WEA (Wholesaler Equity Agreement – making sure the wholesaler is playing by our rules) assessment & business review at the NJ WOD. It was funny to hear them go through every account one by one seeing what new import brands could be placed in them, turns out Stella Artois doesn’t sell well in accounts that have bullet proof glass between the customer and cashier (even though the software we paid for told us that it should be there).

Back in NY, we were able to do even more than see many days in the lives of ABI sales reps. We were able to sit in on a sales meeting where the people from Monster came in to talk to our sales reps about their incentives and priorities for their brands were going into the new year. We were able to work a night in the operations department and pick orders and load trucks for deliveries for the next day (took me back to my days at TFI slinging boxes, instead of bags of flour it was now kegs of beer and a lot lets SKUs). We were also able to go around with a delivery truck one day delivering to bars down on the lower east side (a few that we were able to frequent, frequently), which was wild seeing how tough it is to take two/three kegs at a time down 15 stairs on a hand truck and also seeing at how many kegs some bars get delivered in a week (we delivered 28 kegs to one bar, a day after they received 25 the day before — some thirsty people in Manhattan).

Lots of kegs at the Pour House

One thing that is different in NY that is only present in one other place in the U.S. (I believe, don’t quote me on it) is the fourth tier system where they have liquor licenses that are for both wholesale and retail (PA is the only other place). We all went around with these “Home Distributor” reps for a day and I was able to see what had to be one of our largest retail accounts in the country (they do $60 Million in revenue a year… and they only accept one form of payment… Straight Cash Homie!), Flair Beverage. I was able to go out to lunch with the sales rep I was with Isidro and the owner of Flair, Mr. Paul Gagliardi (nice guy). We talked business and he had a lot to teach me being that he has been in the business for something like 30 years.

Inside Flair Beverage

Another fun day that I had been the day that I went around with the sales supervisor for the South Bronx, Tony. After we were done collecting some overdue A/R from a deli/Bodega, a man on the other side of the street asked me what I was doing in the hood? And the sales guys I was with told him that I was doing research. That was the funniest encounter I had on the mean streets.

The most tiresome day I had in NY was my day working with one of the “pack-out” guys, Raffy, going around to chain stores (mostly pharmacy’s and grocery store) stocking the shelves and putting away deliveries. It is wild how much we service these chain stores. From what I gather, the only other companies besides beer companies that service the stores they sell to are Coke, Pepsi and Frito Lay.

One of best-selling beers in NYC is Stella Artois and we put a lot of money behind it there. While we were there we went out one day/into the night going to a number of bars teaching the bar tenders how to do the Stella 9 step pouring ritual, making sure they were using the correct glassware. It was fun seeing the push back from mostly Irish stubborn bartenders. We were also able to go to the movie premiere for “All Good Things” a movie with Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling, because we were sponsoring the after party with Stella (we didn’t fit in too well with all the posh movie people and it was weird seeing Kirsten Dunst naked on the movie screen knowing she was 6 rows behind us).

Stella Ad in NY

The last thing I did in New York was going on a buyer call with the head chain rep at the distributor and the region AB sales manager, at a grocery store chain that is mainly in NYC, Gristedes. This was cool considering we did the whole sales call with three buyers for Gristedes while the owner was in the room the whole time messing around on his computer. Apparently Mr. John Catsimatidis is kind of a big deal since only 615 people in the world have more cash than him.

After our time in New York was over, I was able to go back to CT for Christmas and see the family and I was also able to go to Pittsburgh for New Years and visit my girl friend and all of my college teammates. After making it through New Year’s Eve, we were able to make it to the Winter Classic on the 1st of the year to watch the Caps beat the Pens 3-1.

C-A-P-S Caps Caps Caps

Now vacation is over and it is back to the grind in Atlanta. Check out the photo gallery for more NYC pictures. Talk to you soon Chuckleheads.

Cheers,

SL I

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Supply Wrap Up

As the saying goes “Time flies when your making Beer”. This was true for me and the 9 weeks in Atlanta/Cartersville, GA. I learned more about how to make and package beer than I thought I would ever know (even how to taste beer). Thanks to Rob Haas and his team in Cartersville who did an awesome job teaching and hosting Nancy, Riley  and I.

The three of us were able to learn everything from how to brew beer, to how to create steam in the powerhouse that cooks the beer. One of the highlights for me was working on a project that was given to my by my packaging managers, surrounding the glue that we put on certain packages. I was able to run tests and follow some of the test beer all the way to the wholesalers in Fletcher, NC and Greenville, SC. I was able to meet some of the owners of the wholesalers and get an in-depth look into their operations.

My visit to Greenville, SC

In the end, on my last day in Cartersville I presented to the Senior Management Team of the Brewery. I showed them the results of the tests that I ran and gave them my opinion on what should be done to correct the problems we were having. When I read my emails the next day (from Saint Louis) I found out that they implemented my recommendations and it is planned to save Cartersville $30,000.00 annually.

Another thing that happened on our last day at the Brewery (which I think was even cooler than them using my idea) was, we made the World Series Champion Aluminum Budweiser bottles.

World Champ Bottles that we made in Cartersville

 I thought it was pretty cool that I helped make the Budweiser that Tim Lincecum celebrated with in the locker room after he won the World Series. (We also made Rangers bottles but I can’t show you what they looked like as that could end my career).

Some other highlights of my first stint in Georgia included the last weekend when Nancy was able to get our Assistant Brewmaster Sean, Logistics Manager Rich, her and I out on TPC Sugarloaf to whack it around a little. (Below) It was pretty cool to play a course that Tiger Woods has the record low score at (I did not come too close to it, couple more rounds and I will be there).

L to R... Rich, Nancy, Sean, Sweet Lou

Since Veterans Day just passed, I would like to thank my friends and family in the Armed Forces (Kevin Dewey & Eric Olsson) with this Budweiser tribute below…

Budweiser Family of Beers for the Veterans

All said, I had a great time working in Cartersville, helping make the Great American Lager for all to enjoy (I dare you to try to enjoy more of it than I do). Next up is off to St. Louis to meet the Board of Directors (my blogs are a little out-of-order, but you are smart enough to figure it out) and start our Sales & Marketing training. Congrats to Joe Pa on #400 and Thanks again to the staff at Cartersville (my roots at ABI are forever in GA). Talk to you soon Chuckleheads.

Cheers,

SL I

Procrastination

Piers Steel defines procrastination as willingly deferring something even though you expect the delay to make you worse off. (Who is Piers Steel? I have no clue but it sounded good).

So it has been a while since my last blog and as I was reading an article on Procrastination  I decided to stop procrastinating myself and put out another episode of Happy Hour. (here is a quick version of the above article – From One Blogger to Another)

I would like to think that I have been busy with work and learning everything there is to know about a Brewery (which I have been doing), but I have also been having a good time doing other things as well.

See I do work... This is the cube that I set up for myself.

 Last week the two other GMTs in Atlanta with me (Riley & Nancy) and I were taken out by the Assistant Brewmasters from our Brewery to go on an “Ambassador” excursion. What this meant was that we went to a local watering hole (Taco Mac) and tried to be brand ambassadors to the people there by talking to them about our beers, buying them free beers and asking them why they drink the things they do. Overall we got some nice responses from a couple of tables of younger drinkers who said that they did not usually drink brands like Budweiser, but we more than happy to take the free samples we bought them.

This is a view from my cube onto the Can lines

Last week the three of us also received Sensory Training. This is the training of our senses to be able to pick up differences in taste, smell, looks, touch and even sound of beer (sound and touch you ask? Sound would be the sound of you opening a can… the release of CO2 showing that the beer isn’t flat, and touch being the “mouth-feel” of the beer). It was a learning experience trying to identify different aromas such as clove, cinnamon, wintergreen, acetone, mint, etc. It is a lot harder than it sounds. We also tasted the fresh beer attributes in beer such as malty, hoppy, estery, bitter and yeasty, as well as what a punished beer tastes like (punished being oxidized).

This is our Senior Management Team's open area office

This sensory training has helped us well in that we go to the Taste Panel almost every day that we can (Riley is there now). Taste Panel is everyday @ 3pm where the Brewmaster, his Assistants, and other Brewing Managers go to the top floor of the Brewery here where there is a special room call none other than…. The Taste Room. Every Brewery has one, and the Brewing guys here were nice enough to extend the invitation to the three of us to come to Taste Panel when ever and fine tune our taste senses. Last week on Wednesday we did the weekly taste where we tasted Budweiser from all 12 U.S. breweries and rated and ranked them. What happens is you have 12 glasses in front of you and a computer and you have to smell/taste/look at each Bud and write your thoughts on the computer. Then rate (all of our beers must be of our quality standards or we will not sell it) and rank each beer/brewery. Unknowingly Nancy and I both choose Cartersville as the best Budweiser. So basically in the end, I can drink at work most any day I want and then I have to sit around and discuss the beers after (I know I don’t wish this horror on anyone else). Some people say that it might get old “HAVING” to drink everyday, and to them I ask, does it get old for the Yankees to win World Championships?

Here is a line-up from a Taste Panel. Tasting the beers made in the last 24 hours.

One last thing that we have done since my last blog was to go with the Brewmasters to a Beer Pairing dinner that our local wholesaler put together for a radio station who gave it away as a prize to their listeners. The three of us sat among the 25 people at the restaurant and talked beer for a few hours, passing along the knowledge that we have gained over the past 3 months. It was my third or fourth Beer Pairing and the pairing that I still like the best is Shock Top (a Belgium Whit/Wheat Beer) and sweet & spicy calamari.

I know you are probably thinking to yourself, Stephen do you ever stop working and have time to yourself? And the answer to that is … nope, I work 24/7 (whatever you do, don’t just do Nothing). HA! It is more like somehow I found someone to pay me for doing the things that I love to do anyways, so why would I ever stop doing it?

That is all I have for now. Talk to you soon Chuckleheads.

Cheers,

SLI

November Rain

I know it’s not November, but it sure did rain this weekend (and it is a great song with one of my favorite music videos to go along with it ). Video below.

One highlight of the past week was getting to meet a BOP (Director of Brewery Operations) from Russia (Peter) who was here in Cartersville to spend some time with the people here and take back some practices to implement in his breweries in Russia. One interesting thing he did tell us was that 40% of the beers drank in Russia are out of PET (type of plastic) bottles (I assume bottles, hadn’t thought about that till now).

Then, after a week of grinding it out on the packaging lines, Friday rolled around and my bosses told me I did such a great job they gave me the next two days off and said “Come back Monday ready to work, Bub”. Thanks CVB (Cartersville Brewery).

So I took my time on Sunday to go to the TOUR Championship PGA golf tournament in East lake, GA (east of Atlanta about 30 min from my bed). I went with Nancy (one of the other GMTs in Georgia) to the tournament and it rained on us the whole day. I had a great time though because 65% of the people left when it started raining. We followed Paul Casey around for a bit, Watch Bubba Watson crush a few drives, saw Phil wacked it around in the mulch for a while, and had front row seats to see Jim Furyk hit an amazing bunker shot on 18 to save par and win the tournament and the Fed Ex Cup (easy $10 Million).We stood in the bleachers behind the trophy ceremony seeing if we could get on the tube (I did start a USA chant since the Ryder Cup is next weekend, but there were only about 10 people in the stand at that point, I know if Mills and Slim were there we could have made it on TV).

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Other than that I watched the Redskins lose to the Rams on my computer, the second home win in two years for the Rams (I spoke with my mentor James, a season ticket holder, and he said they are having a parade in St. Louis for the win yesterday). Today I am learning about the APL bottle labeler (how the nice looking, plastic like labels on Bud Light, Bud Select and Bud Light Lime) and the old paper labelers. On the schedule for the rest of the week is the same thing I do every week… Try to take over the world!

They don’t make cartoons like they used to… This one was a classic though.

Talk to you soon Chuckleheads.

Cheers,

SL I

Working in Cartersville, GA

This past week was a busy one. The week started with me training with a front line manager (Courtney) on the Can Lines, for Monday and Tuesday. The position title of the front line manager is Group Manager. The Can Line GM is responsible for all three can lines and between 7-10 Operators and Mechanics. On Tuesday afternoon I was able to receive some Labor Relations training with the all-knowing Paige. Because all of the Breweries in the U.S. are unionized it was very important to understand the processes in place to deal with certain situations that arise. Here in Cartersville, we are the newest of the 12 Breweries and the Operators were hand-picked by the company when it opened in 1993, probably one of the reasons why this Brewery is one of the highest performing in the company.

Special Bottle we ran this past week... This one's for you Riley

Tuesday night I was able to drive into the city and help out with some recruiting of the GMT class of 2011 @ Georgia Tech. It was cool to see all the interest in the program with over 40 students at the information session. On Wednesday, as a company we celebrated Be(er) Responsibility Day. This was a day where employees who are not normally in the Trade (at retail accounts) are able to ride along with wholesaler salesmen and see what is like for a day in their life. I was able to go around with Sean from Eagle Rock Distribution. We were able to stock shelves at a Wal-Mart, hand out 2010 Drivers Licenses guides to all the accounts so that they can properly check IDs and we were also turning a lot of cans and bottles to be front facing. At the end of the day all of the members of the Cartersville Brewery that were out for their ride a longs, met up at a local restaurant/pub for lunch. The owners of the wholesaler choose this place (The City Cellar) because it was a place that we have been struggling to get more taps and beers in. The owner seemed extremely excited to add more ABI products after we brought close to 40 people into his pub.

That was all the excitement for the week and when the week ended my boss Josh took me out for a couple of drinks with his friends and  Saturday my peer mentor from the Brewery (lot of mentors, which is a good thing) took me to Atlanta for dinner and showed me Atlantic Station. I rounded out the weekend with an 84 (only one birdie) on Sunday at Cobblestone Golf Course before I came in to work the midnight shift @ 11pm Sunday. I was able to win a six-pack of Shock Top at the VPO (our name for Lean Manufacturing/TQM/Six Sigma) Conclave… Its always nice when you work at a company where they compensate you for a job well done in Beer. Talk to you soon Chuckleheads.

Cheers,

SL I

My Winnings

Alma Mater

Tomorrow (Friday 9/17/10) at 11:35 am est, Penn State will announce a Historic Gift announcement. It will include a huge donation to the soon to be NCAA Ice Hockey program at PSU, somewhere between the amount of 50 to 100 million. The decision will be streamed live on the Big Ten Network website.

In light of this great news I thought I would share with you the most prolific goal in Penn State Hockey History. Enjoy… I think it is the best on the third view.

Now I can’t take all the credit… I have to thank Steve Yzerman for the celebration inspiration and my first grade teacher Mrs. Silva for teaching me how to read. Talk to you soon chuckleheads.

Cheers,

SL I

Big Time Weekend

I don’t know if you know this… but this weekend Penn State (my alma mater) is playing @ Alabama the #1 ranked team in the country (I am talking College Football). Since I am going to the game tomorrow in Tuscaloosa with four of my old college teammates, I decided to share two YouTube videos will Y’all (Ha I live in the south now). Here they are:

And one to get you ready for the game @ 7pm est on Saturday September 11th.

Before I end this I do want to say thank you to all the troops serving our country, including one of my best friends Dewey who is in the Navy EOD (he will hopefully be joining us at the PSU game tomorrow) and my cousin Eric who is a Marine helicopter pilot. Thank you all. 

Talk to you soon chuckleheads.

Cheers,

SL I