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Q&A with TCYP Morning Meetup Speaker Joe Short of Short’s Brewing Company

The Traverse City Young Professionals (TCYP) is excited to welcome Joe Short, founder of Short’s Brewing Company (SBC), as its April Morning Meetup guest speaker on April 4 at 8 a.m. ET. During the Morning Meetup, Short will share lessons learned from starting a brewery from the ground up, what challenges and opportunities he’s faced along the way and how he continues to keep Short’s relevant in the competitive and growing craft beer market.

In anticipation of the Morning Meetup, we sat down with Short to discuss his background and career, the inspiration behind his brews and how he continues to take SBC to new heights.

Tell us about your background and what drew you to professional brewing.

Short: When I was 14, I was told by some old guys that whatever I decided to do for a career should be something I enjoyed. After high school, I went to Western Michigan University to pursue a degree in industrial arts education (aka woodshop teacher). While there, I was introduced to craft beer. Not being old enough to buy it or looking old enough to pass with a fake ID, I went the do-it-yourself route and taught myself how to make beer. Through that process, I fell in love with it. Being so distracted with homebrewing, I lost focus on my studies and left school after my junior year to pursue a career in craft brewing. The rest is history.

What sparked the concept of Short’s, and how did you turn your idea into a reality?

Short: While working my way through the Michigan brewing scene, I came to a crossroads and asked myself, ‘Do I go work for another brewery and work my way up, or should I start my own while I’m young and have everything to gain and nothing to lose?’ I chose the latter because I also wanted to prioritize where I wanted to live in addition to what I loved to do. That coined, ‘Love where you live, and love what you do.’

How have you grown Short’s over the years, and what were some of the growing pains you had to overcome?

Short: Timing was prime for the craft beer industry. Michigan consumers were loving our stuff. Capital, human resources (building teams) and expensive mistakes are all part of the growing pain highlights.

How do you ensure Short’s stays competitive as more and more breweries pop up in Northern Michigan and beyond?

Short: We continue to work backward from the consumer experience. We make sure our quality is consistent, we hire the best talent, we’re obsessed with process improvement and perfection and we work tirelessly to make sure our products of passion and consumer experiences are second to none.

Let’s talk beer! What is your favorite beer you’ve ever created, and what was the inspiration behind it?

Short: Huma Lupa Licious is the beer I wanted to make and drink, and it was the beer that built SBC. We’re also inventive and explorative craftspeople. We make all kinds of beers that are technical masterpieces like Bloody Beer (reverse-engineered Bloody Mary as a beer), Nicie (a wheat beer spiced with lemon and orange zest, fresh ground black pepper and coriander), Spruce Pils (imperial pilsner with freshly picked blue spruce tips) and the list goes on.

How do you think Short’s beer is connected to the local area?

Short: We’re a family-owned and operated business. Part of our business model is to ‘craft community and brew a world.’ We believe in building and operating a good business but also investing in shaping the community in which we want to live and work in.

How do you decide on new beers to brew, and what style is the most fun to brew?

Short: Lots of ways. Some are consumer/market determined, and some (most) come from being inspired. It can be any coworker at Short’s with an idea. Not all make it to the brewhouse, but the brewhouse is always churning out new stuff. I still have a lot of ideas I bring to the pub brewery for testing, and a lot is based on what sounds good to me!

Short’s has an impressive presence on social media and other media outlets. What drives your marketing efforts?  

Short: A lot of the concepts come naturally and coupled with the talent of our marketing and content creation teams, produce really fun results. We like to make the efforts fun, memorable and informative.

What advice would you give to someone who wants a successful career in professional brewing? 

Short: If you’re passionate, have the ability to inspire people with your products and ethos, create and maintain a quality operation with great culture and talented teams and have a tenacious and ambitious spirit with obsessive attention to detail and a ridiculous amount of hard work (and a little luck), you might have a shot!

Interested in learning more? Join us at TCYP’s April Morning Meetup held on April 4 at 8 a.m. at Traverse Connect in Downtown Traverse City.