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Quality, Quality, Quality Will

Lure Customers, Brewers Say

“The absolute best” is what local breweries must shoot for to achieve continued success, declares the Red Shed’s David Olson, right. With him are, from left, Ommegang’s Phil Leinhart, Hartwick College’s Aaron MacLeod and Council Rock’s Roger Davidson. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Drink beer from a glass “to produce its full aromatic potential,” MacLeod tells the audience at the Louis Jones Center.

COOPERSTOWN – Asked today for “key factors to success,” four panelists from the local brewing industry spoke as one:  Quality, quality, quality and quality.

Ommegang President Campbell keynoted.

“It all starts with quality,” said Roger Davidson, Council Rock Brewery founder.  “It is fun … (but) I try to do the best I can every single day for consistent quality.”

“If quality isn’t the top of mind, you shouldn’t be a brewer,” said Ommegang’s Phil Leinhart, who has been cited in international competition as the “best in the world” of brewmasters at mid-size operations.

Aaron MacLeod, director of Hartwick College’s Center for Craft Food & Beverage, expanded that to include “the value chain” — hops, barley, malt, all the products that go into beer making.

He described the three-legged stool of quality beer-making: ingredients, equipment and expertise.

And Red Shed’s David Olson took another angle: “It’s the quality of the community.  We need Cooperstown to be Cooperstown.  We need to develop the reputation as The Absolute Best.”

The three brewers and MacLeod were the wrap-up panel at today’s fifth annual Conference on Food & Farming at The Farmers’ Museum, which this year was built around the theme, “Hops & Brewing.”

Brewery Ommegang President Doug Campbell, who keynoted the afternoon’s programs on the topic, “Evolution of the Revolution,” provided the basis for the quality strategy the panelists’ outlined.

He said the craft-brewery sector is “showing all the traits of a mature industry” — after the boom of the past few years, growth slowing, more competition, and weaker competitors dropping out.

Olson, whose father-in-law, Jack Hasbrouck, convinced him and is wife to move here from Pittsburgh with two young sons, two dogs and a cat, underscored the challenges customer-service businesses face in the Internet age.

“You just can’t screw up,” he said.  “People aren’t going to drive up here for nothing.  If you can’t quickly recognized your shortfalls and act on them, good luck.”   One complaint online is a problem; two can be a serious blow.

Finally, beer-drinkers, here’s a tip:  Whether you buy beer in a bottle or can, be sure to pour it into a glass.  Only that, MacLeod said, will “produce its full aromatic potential.”


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