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MicroBrewr 089: Make whiskey from high-quality craft beer with Seven Stills of SF

MicroBrewr 089: Make whiskey from high-quality craft beer

Over a few beers, Tim Obert’s friend from college, Clint, told him that whiskey is actually made from cheap beer. They got to thinking, why not make whiskey from high-quality craft beer? Thus was born Seven Stills of SF, in San Francisco, California.

“I wish I would’ve taken on investment sooner.” [Tweet This]

 

Whiskey is a distilled spirit made from the fermented mash of usually malted grain, like beer. At first Tim and Clint were homebrewing in the backyard of Clint’s parent’s home, and “distilling that out, not really with the intention of starting a company, but just to see what happens.”

“Distilling,” says Tim, “is a hundred times simpler than brewing.”

To make whiskey from beer, they increase the temperature of beer to evaporate ethanol. The gaseous ethanol is then cooled to condense it back into a liquid. Different temperatures and different points in the process evaporate different material and different quality flavor.

“After a while,” recalls Tim, “Clint and I ended up having 30 different whiskeys and they were totally unique and were all, in my opinion, outstanding.”

“Everything that I had researched said that the base beer doesn’t have an impact on the flavor of the whiskey, which we’ve realized is just completely untrue. We can distill something like a chocolate oatmeal stout for instance, versus and IPA and there is no way that you could not tell the difference,” Tim laughs. “They’re completely different whiskeys.”

RELATED: MicroBrewr 047: A forty-year career at the epicenter of craft beer

Clint contributed the money he had saved for grad school, Tim pitched in a portion of his life savings, and they started Seven Stills of SF. For 2 years, they had a contract brewery make the beer. Then they had a contract distillery use the craft beer to make whiskey.

Seven Stills of SF currently produces about 120 cases of whiskey per month. They’re trying to increase production by 8 times.

They will be able to do it, now that they have their own 15-BBL brewhouse with fermenters and bright tanks. And they recently bought the largest still in San Francisco, a 300-gallon pot still.

They also have an entirely other line of vodka and bitters. Whereas whiskey is made from various grains, vodka is made from corn. Most of their bitters are made from vodka.

“Just for consistency sake, it makes sense to keep the 2 separate,” says Tim. “That’s part of the reason we hired different designers to work on the [labels on the] bottles.”

With so much expansion and growth, Tim says one thing he wishes he would have done differently was taken on investors sooner.

RELATED: MicroBrewr 067: How to find investors for a brewery

“We’ve been trying to grow off of just what we put into the company organically for the last 2 years, and it’s just painfully slow.”

Getting investors urged Seven Stills of SF to:

  • Develop a business plan
  • Calculate budgets
  • Get organized
  • Get something bigger off the ground

Part of having investors is putting together an advisory board. A formal advisory board is a set of people to whom you can seek advice on the business. Tim recommends finding experts in different areas such as:

  • Banking
  • Design
  • Marketing
  • Social media

“I definitely wouldn’t recommend giving up too much equity right off the bat,” advises Tim, “but give them something, and incentive instead of just getting counsel from them.”

“Just kind of building a team you can go and ask questions about when you have something come up. Because, I mean, it’s kind of stupid to keep reinventing the wheel with all this stuff.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 15 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 2, 15-BBL fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 2, 15-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 3,120 BBL/year of beer. 4,836 gallons/year of whiskey.

Square footage: 4,400 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 2 years (opened August 2013).

Listener question:

From Jimmy Batte: What’s the best advice you have been given or have to give since operating a brewery?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Pallet jack.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Craft beer whiskey

Other resources:

You can reach Tim Obert and Seven Stills of SF at:

Sponsors:

Please support our sponsors.

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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MicroBrewr 088: A brewing pedigree from Kansas to Texas with BrainDead Brewing

MicroBrewr 088: A brewing pedigree from Kansas to Texas

Andrew Huerter comes from a family of brewers. His parents were founding members of the Kansas City Beer Meisters homebrew club and his dad won a blue ribbon for one of his beers. Now Drew is following in their footsteps. He worked at a handful of breweries and before helping put together BrainDead Brewing in Dallas, Texas.

“Find a way into an operating brewery.” [Tweet This]

 

Some of the audio was lost due to technical difficulties with the call. Here are notes from the audio podcast and the parts that got left out.

One of the biggest difficulties was the city permitting processes. The city was concerned about the explosive hazards of grain dust.

BrainDead Brewing was required to submit a certified engineer’s report verifying that the explosive hazard was below the threshold.

Just a few years ago in 2011, there were only 3 breweries in North Texas. Now there are 40, and just 2 independent brewpubs in Dallas-Fort Worth area, says Drew. Perhaps the city is experiencing growing pains from and industry that has grown a lot in a very short time.

RELATED: MicroBrewr 085: Starting a brewery is a full-time job

Drew emphasizes the important of details when budgeting for your startup brewery. His biggest mistake was missing a line item on the budget.

Although they had budgeted for the purchase of a glycol chiller, they forgot to include installation costs. That amounted to a $50,000 mistake.

On the other hand, the best idea was to start out with a focus on making ales. It’s a proven model, says Drew, but these days it’s done often. Drew says ales are easy drinking and really approachable, so BrainDead Brewing could sell a lot of them to establish themself in the market.

Listener question:

If you could ask one question to every brewer or brewery owner, what would you ask? Let me know.

Can’t-go-without tool:

1.5-hp single phase pump by CPE Systems Inc.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Pilsner

Other resources:

You can reach Drew Huerter and BrainDead Brewing at:

Sponsors:

Beer

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 087: Differentiate your brewpub with unique menu items with Nexus Brewery

MicroBrewr 087: Differentiate your brewpub with unique menu items

At 55 years old Ken Carson tried to get a job at a brewery, but nobody would hire him—even for volunteer. So with no brewing nor restaurant experience, he started Nexus Brewery in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I fell in love with the concept of beer and community.” [Tweet This]

 

Ken did have some business experience: he was president of a small bank. He joined the bank in their first year and helped it grow from $7 million in assets to $150 million and 5 branches.

When Ken saw an ad for making a batch of beer at the local Kelly’s Brew Pub, he went and tried it for fun. He never knew someone could make their own beer. And he got the bug.

While working for the bank, Ken often traveled for work and always toured breweries in every city he went. After touring about 150 breweries, he though he wanted to do something different. So he cashed in the stock he had saved for retirement and convinced his wife to let him start a brewery.

RELATED: 61 Brewers Speak Out: What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting A Brewery

“So I had a good background in business,” says Ken, “but absolutely no experience in either one of these 2 businesses that I was getting into.”

Ken says there are 2 things anyone needs to start a brewery:

  • You need to know the numbers
  • You need to have good customer service

During his time at the bank, he had required hundreds of businesses to write business plans. Now he was on the other end, needing to write a business plan for his brewery. He used the online tools provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“When you’re thinking customer service, it’s to produce the best beer you can,” explains Ken. “And we’re trying our best to produce the best food that we can.”

One thing the SBA materials asked was how Ken would differentiate his business from the competition. And food was one way that Nexus Brewery is differentiating themselves.

“I started seeing new breweries opening. I said, ‘This is going to be a problem if all the breweries get up here and I’m not different, I’m just like everybody else.’ So I picked a different food and made it unique.”

Nexus Brewery has what they call “New Mexican soul food,” a blend of foods from their African American heritage with local flavors of New Mexico.

They started out with 10 items on the menu, and kept adding more as customers made requests and suggestions.

Ken said it’s working out really well. “It’s distinguished us from all the other breweries in town.” It’s also helpful that they are serving a type of food that that is not normally associated with brewing industry.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 7 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 7-BBL fermenters; 2, 15-BBL fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 7 Grundies; 6, 15-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 650 BBL.

Square footage: 2,500 sq. ft. for the brewery.

Years in operation: 4.5 years (opened May 2011).

Listener question:

From Jeff Lennon: Why did you choose the brewpub or production brewery model? What factors led to that decision?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Victorinox Swiss Army Super Tinker Pocket Knife.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Scottish Ale

Other resources:

You can reach Ken Carson Jr. and Nexus Brewery at:

Sponsors:

Audible

Download a free audiobook.

Audible. Download a free audiobook. http://microbrewr.com/audible

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 086: The future of apple cider in America with Wandering Aengus Ciderworks

MicroBrewr 086: The future of apple cider in America

Nick Gunn and his wife were working for her family’s winery. They had the idea to start growing apples for cider. One of the cideries to whom they were selling apples decided to close down and they offered to sell the business to Nick and his wife who moved Wandering Aengus Ciderworks to Salem, Oregon.

“Cider is a really exciting proposition for a lot of investors.” [Tweet This]

 

Now they have two brands of cider.

Wandering Aengus is the traditional brand of cider. The Wandering Aengus brand has ciders that are more astringent, more bitter, and higher in alcohol content. “For the wine drinkers, it’s something that’s interesting,” says Nick.

Anthem Cider is a lighter style for people who aren’t used to ciders. These are less acidic and have lower alcohol content. This brand is marketed toward to craft beer consumers. “Beer drinkers,” says Nick, “are much more adventurous and willing to try just about anything that’s out there.”

They package Anthem ciders mostly in kegs for sale on draft. The goal is to get the word out for distribution in smaller packaging. “It’s a pretty basic model a lot of people have used,” says Nick.

“Anthem is a little more on the adventurous side,” Nick describes. “And that’s also a part of marketing to people who like craft beer.”

In addition to straight apple cider, Anthem also has pear, cherry and hopped ciders. They’re do some progressive forays like gin and whiskey barrel-aged ciders, as well as ciders fermented with bee pollen.

In contrast, “Wandering Aengus is super traditional,” Nick says, “It’s just those apples fermented without anything else added to them. And those apples are so rare we don’t really want to mess with them in the first place, they kind of speak for themselves.”

Finding good, traditional cider apples is difficult, but Nick is pushing the market.

“Most of the old heirloom apples have been ripped out in favor for Granny Smith and other dessert apples,” he says. “We’re trying to get people to plant some newer [apple trees]. We’re trying to bring back some of the older, better flavored varieties.”

Nick’s favorite apple ciders are blends of sharp apples, bittersweet apples, and aromatic apples.

“You kind of want to blend in a little bit of sharp, a little bit of bitter, a little bit of aromatics,” Nick advises. “That’s a part of the art of cider making, is it’s a blending process. Because there’s not a lot of apples that just make a great cider straight up.”

Some of the high brix, high acidity apple varieties that they use are:

  • Golden Russet
  • Wickson Crab
  • Cox’s Orange Pippin
  • Newtown Pippin
  • Calville Blanc d’Hiver

“These heirloom sharps… is a really [high] sweetness level and acidity is off the charts,” comments Nick.

But these sharp apples don’t have a lot of tannins. Bittersweet apples contribute tannins to the cider.

Some of the bittersweet apples they use for tannins are:

  • Muscat de Bernay
  • Muscadet de Dieppe
  • Yarlington Mill
  • Dabinett
  • Herefordshire Redstreak

“Those apples taste like crap!” exclaims Nick. “They really are horrible, because they have so much bitterness.”

“I’m being evangelical about planting cider apples. That’s really the future of really high quality cider in America.”

While Nick is evangelizing about high-quality, hand-crafted, traditional ciders, a different style of cider is gaining momentum across the country. Large industrial companies are making cider with additives and diluted with water.

While the product sells well on a large scale, it is expanding the overall market and demand for cider. As the larger brands reach into previously untapped markets, they create new spaces for all cider products.

“Their cider is a lot cheaper,” says Nick. “We could never compete on price because we’re using 100% juice. But what we can do is offer a different product. And maybe that’s a graduating step for the consumer.”

RELATED: MicroBrewr 048: Package your beer cheap and easy with mobile canning

“The growth in some of these larger brands has just been astronomical because a lot of the place they’re putting cider there never even existed a cider in the first place.”

“Every single chain store, every 711, every place now has cider. Cider is on the lips of every one. It’s on TV now—it was never on TV before, like, 2 years ago.”

“Even if [cider] gets to 5 percent of the market, we will be gigantic,” Nick predicts. “Over in England, cider is around 20 percent of alcohol consumption. France is about 17 percent. So we have a long ways to go in America. We were just at 0.3 percent about 3 years ago and we’ve gotten to one percent now. So the climb now is just inevitable.”

There hasn’t been a lot of quality at quantity. And now that that is exists, distributors are staring to notice, buyers are noticing, the whole market place takes note.”

As overall demand for cider increases, and a wider variety of cider products becomes more popular, the cider companies are able make larger quantities at lower prices.

Nick’s strategy is to have meaningful impact in the markets where craft beer is already growing rapidly.

They are reaching to key cities such as:

  • Denver
  • Philadelphia
  • New York
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Portland

“You’re starting from ground zero, you can explode easily,” says Nick.

Yet, cider producers are finding that the industry needs to mature. Particularly, there is a need for more education in cider sales.

“Finding a distributor that understands cider is really difficult,” says Nick.

At the next CiderCON, the conference for the commercial cider industry to be held in February in Portland, Oregon, the United States Association of Cider Makers will unveil the first ever cider accreditation program. The multi-level program is designed to educate “distributors, servers and others who are interested in becoming trained experts on all things cider.”

As the cider market in America evolves, the industry adapts.

“It originally started out as sweet and fruity,” recalls Nick. “I like to call it ‘cheap and cheerful.’”

Now “cider varietals are being recognized, and the quality of cider they make.”

Nick foresees an increasing appreciation of drier ciders, and even higher quality cider apples. More cider will be made from heirloom sharps, cider will be fermented drier with higher alcohol content. There will be more barrel aged ciders, and ciders with more tannins. Ultimately terroir of cider will be recognized and appreciated.

Listener question:

From Daniel Frey: What accounting system do you use or do you recommend?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Cross-Flow filter, Pall Corporation.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

North American Heirloom Cider

Other resources:

You can reach Nick Gunn and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks at:

You can reach Anthem Cider at:

Sponsors:

Audible

Download a free audiobook.

Audible. Download a free audiobook. http://microbrewr.com/audible

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 085: Starting a brewery is a full-time job with Martin House Brewing Company

MicroBrewr 085: Starting a brewery is a full-time job

Cody Martin worked in civil engineering and environmental engineering. After touring some breweries and seeing that they use familiar equipment, he asked his wife if he could start a brewery. She found work in Texas and he started Martin House Brewing Company in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Starting a brewery is a full-time job.” [Tweet This]

 

After they moved back to Texas, Cody worked full-time for 15 months to start his brewery.

“If you want to be a brewery in planning for 3 or 4 years,” he offers, “then go ahead and keep your job.”

In that time, he worked on his business plan, found partners and investors, introduced himself to local breweries, and work 20-30 hours per week for free in a local brewery.

Once the business plan was complete, they had 6 months allotted to finding investors and securing funding, and they got it done in only 6 weeks. They talked to anyone and everyone they could find or with whom they could make connections.

In the end, the owners with “skin in the game” had contributed approximately $60 thousand. Investors pitched in significantly more than that, he says. Approximately half of the capital came from friends and family, and about half came from other investors whom they had never previously met.

They were able to cut costs by doing the majority of the work themselves. “We literally built everything in this place ourself,” Cody remarks.

It helps that Cody is an engineer. They also called on old friends who gave them discount prices on skilled work.

Additionally, Cody says it very important to partner with people who compliment, rather than duplicate your own knowledge and skills.

“You need to make sure you have the team with the full talents of running a business,” Cody advises, “not just 3 brewers.”

Financially, it has worked well.

“We have zero debt,” says Cody, “so we were able to break even on that pretty quick. A few months in, we started paying ourselves a salary. And then our first full year of production, we were able to pay our investors back a little.”

Cody even had the opportunity to make a collaboration brew with one of his all-time favorite bands, Toadies.

In summary, Cody’s advice for starting a brewery:

  • Quit your job.
  • Have the support of your family.
  • Assemble a team with diverse skills.
  • Don’t buy a glycol chiller from China.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 30 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 30-BBL; 2, 60-BBL fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 1, 30-BBL; 1 60-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 6,000-BBL capacity. About 2,800 BBL last year.

Square footage: 9,000 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 2.5 years (opened March 2013).

Listener question:

From Sean McKeown: Do you still have the same passion for beer after doing it as a job, at a commercial level?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Zip ties, duct tape, and Milwaukee 48-22-1901 Fastback Flip Open Utility Knife.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beer

Other resources:

You can reach Cody Martine and Martin House Brewing Company at:

Sponsors:

Beer

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 083: Market branding for a cider company with Common Cider Company.

MicroBrewr 083: Market branding for a cider company

Fran Toves’ son challenged her to enter cider into the homebrew competition. After her 3 entries made it to the top 10, she figured it time to take the product to market and started Common Cider Company in Drytown, California.

“There is no need to start a cider company with a million dollars.” [Tweet This]

 

Cider is not brewed the way beer is made, but similar fermentation tanks and bright tanks are used for making cider as making beer. After the initial attention at the homebrew competition, Common Cider Company started with a 400-gallon (13-BBL) test batch that got picked up by a distributor. They grew to 30,000-gallon (1,000-BBL) batches within a couple years.

Whereas a cidery or a cider house presses the fruit themselves to make juice, a cider company buys the juice pre-squeezed. A cider usually has a base of apple juice, but it can start with other fruits. A perry is made from pear juice.

“Cider as a base,” says Fran, “is a great platform to be able to introduce new flavors.”

Fran’s background in product development for the organic food industry is helping her with Common Cider Company. She emphasizes the importance of branding.

Fran says a small company can easily spend $50,000 to $100,000 on high-quality branding design for all promotional materials. With such a significant investment, it is very important to consider your message and what your company is about. If you want to take more time to learn about your customers and find your voice in the market place, just get simple logo at first. Then budget up to $100,000 for a re-branding.

That’s the route Fran planned for Common Cider Company. “I wanted to spend some time with our customers an just spend some time in the marketplace,” she says. “before investing in the brand.”

Sample Cider Packaging

Common Cider Company packaging cans Common Cider Company packaging cans 4-pack Common Cider Company packaging bottle Common Cider Company packaging bottle

They’re keeping a logo element from the original design scheme and hiring a branding firm to re-design their message. The results have been spectacular and you can expect to see more on store shelves soon!

Fran also has tips for the today’s listener question about budgeting and profit projections:

  • Decide where you are and where you want to be.
  • Put a budget for every core area including, branding, legal fees, sales staff, materials, and all other details.
  • Decide what you can spend on each category of your budget.
  • Use checklists so you don’t miss details.

“Your suppliers will give you pretty good information as far as what your cost of juice is and your yeast and any other adjuncts that you want to add to your product,” Fran suggests. “And that goes from your raw material to your packaging.”

As for projecting profits, Fran always advises starting with small batches. She suggests 500-gallon batches or 1,000-gallon batches at the most. Any larger, and you’ll have too much money tied up in product and it will take too long to sell.

After you sell a few batches to earn some money and build demand, then you start doing larger batches.

“It’s important to start small,” Fran advises. “Just like any business, you’ve gotta kind of walk before you can run.”

Listener question:

From Texas Rüegg: Where  do you find real accurate numbers to estimate cost of operation? I keep building spreadsheets with hundreds of calculations, but at best they are just guesses. I want to be conservative with my numbers and be sure that even the worst case will actually make money. So where do you find real data?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Pump.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Dry ciders

Other resources:

You can reach Fran Toves and Common Cider Company at:

Sponsors:

Audible

Download a free audiobook.

Audible. Download a free audiobook. http://microbrewr.com/audible

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 081: An R&D laboratory for craft beer with Labrewatory.

MicroBrewr 081: An R&D laboratory for craft beer

The guys at Portland Kettle Works had the idea to start a nanobrewery. They needed one of their employees to run it, so Chris Sears stepped up and took charge of Labrewatory in Portland, Oregon.

“If Portland is anywhere close to being saturated, the rest of the U.S. has a long way to go.” [Tweet This]

 

Labrewatory won’t be just a nanobrewery. It will be part R&D and showroom for Portland Kettle Works, part collaboration brew lab, pilot brewhouse for hire, a brewing classroom, and who knows what else they’ll think of.

Chris hopes Labrewatory will be a “craft beer geek haven” and a “hub for creative new beer.” He’s been working on the project since the beginning. Now that it’s almost open to the public, he has some lessons to share.

In hindsight, Chris feels they could have spent less time on architecture and design. But he cautions that the plans entail not only what facilities you will have in the building, but also where in the building they will be located. He recommends that you check with the permit inspectors early on and go over your plans with a “fine-toothed comb” to make sure everything follows the codes.

They don’t have to advertise this new nanobrewery too much. They’re raising interest by word-of-mouth and social media. Collaboration beers with other breweries will also be key to their advertising and marketing plan.

Chris iterates a sentiment shared throughout the craft beer industry: community, not competition.

“Collaborations,” he says, “are the definition of community involvement.”

RELATED: MicroBrewr 078: Around the world and back with the craft beer industry

Before doing this project, Chris had been homebrewing for about 5 years. For any homebrewer wanting to go pro, he recommends just starting.

“Just go out there and do it!” he exclaims.

“There’s a lot of money out there. Go out and find that money,” says Chris. “The biggest hurdle right now is finding money. I think it’s just either they are scared to ask or they don’t know the avenues to go and find it. There are definitely investors out there.”

About the potential of a “bubble” or a decreasing demand in craft beer, Chris says: “Portland definitely shows the industry that a neighborhood can support a brewery. Are you going to be the next Sam Adams? Probably not. But are you going to be able to support your family and support employees? Definitely, definitely. So as far as a bubble goes, I don’t see really one in sight.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 3.5 BBL, but we can do 4 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: A mix of 7-BBL and 3.5-BBL fermenters. Capacity for up to 12 fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: We will be mostly kegging after conditioning, so around 4.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: Approx. 1,000 BBL.

Square footage: Approx. 5,000 sq. ft. including brewery, tap room, and mezzanine.

Years in operation: Comnig soon (opening October 2015).

Listener question:

From Old Louisville Brew: If the bubble does exist, where and when will it hit? For example, shelf space, tap space, customer saturation, etc.

Can’t-go-without tool:

Pump on a cart, with variable frequency drive (VFD).

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beer

Other resources:

You can reach Chris Sears and Labrewatory at:

Sponsors:

InMotion Hosting

“Fast, reliable, affordable, web hosting.”

advert-inmotion-hosting_250x250

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 079: The importance of budgeting for working capital with Lakewood Brewing Co.

MicroBrewr 079: The importance of budgeting for working capital

Wim Bens was born in Belgium and moved to Texas when he was 7 years old. He applied to American Brewers Guild just to have the option. Now, 3 years after opening Lakewood Brewing Co. in Garland, Texas he can barely keep up with demand.

“If you start doubting what you’re doing, then you shouldn’t be doing it.” [Tweet This]

 

Wim’s original business plan called for 3 employees, adding about 1 employee per year, for every 1,000 barrels produced. They had planned to expand production to 7,000 barrels in year 7.

Two years later after opening, they had 13 employees and had started looking for a larger venue.

Today, just 3 years after opening, Lakewood Brewing Co. has a staff of 22. They produced 7,500 barrels last year, are on track to produce 10,000 barrels this year. They are projecting next year’s production at 15,000 – 20,000.

RELATED: MicroBrewr 077: The importance of writing your goals.

Wim says you must have:

  • Good culture
  • Good people
  • Investment
  • Ability to invest at the right time
  • Make smart investments in your business
  • Good beer
  • Consistently good beer

“And I think if all those things come together, especially in a market like Dallas-Fort Worth that had a local beer drought, then you have a good recipe for success,” advises Wim.

On convincing family, friends, and fools to invest in your brewery:

  • It’s very important to believe in yourself.
  • It’s very important to believe in what you’re doing.
  • Hire people who are smarter than you.

“If you start doubting what you’re doing,” says Wim, “then you shouldn’t be doing it.”

“A lot of people think when they open a small brewery, “I’m going to be the brewer.’ Ok, well who’s going to do payroll? And who’s going to do HR? And who’s going to be ordering supplies? And who’s going to be doing facility maintenance? And who’s going to be doing all your advertising? And who’s going to be doing distribution?

“There are so many things that have to happen in a brewery to be successful that you have to be able to delegate that and hire people who are experts in those fields.”

Wim reminds us to budget for working capital. His advice is to double your budget—and then add 20%.

“Working capital is not talked about enough,” says Wim. “You have to have enough money to pay your employees, to order your raw materials in large amounts so that you get a quantity discount so that you can eventually turn that into a more profitable margin. You have to have a lot of working capital until you start seeing the money come back.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 30 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 30-180, 1,440 BBL total fermentation vessel capacity.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 180, 90, 80, 60, 40.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 2014: 7,500 BBL.

Square footage: 30,000 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 3 (opened August 2012).

Listener question:

From Peter Stillmank: How much beer do you need to produce each year to break even?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Rubber mallet.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beers

Other resources:

You can reach Wim Bens and Lakewood Brewing Co. at:

Sponsors:

Beer

Support MicroBrewr

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MicroBrewr 076: Carrying the torch of authentic beer styles with Bull City Burger And Brewery.

MicroBrewr 076: Carrying the torch of authentic beer styles

After a microbiology degree and studies at the world’s premier culinary college, Seth Gross was working at a restaurant and hanging out at the nearby Goose Island Brewpub. Pretty soon they offered him a job. Today Seth owns his own brewpub, Bull City Burger and Brewery in Durham, North Carolina.

“I have people who will bleed for what we do. And I don’t know how I got so lucky.” [Tweet This]

 

“The day we opened, the line was out the door and around the corner,” says Seth. The restaurant ran out of food on the first day. “It was a disaster.”

Seth’s ideas for promoting the brewpub before it opened:

  • Work with other newly opened, local businesses
  • Hold a scavenger hunt for really good discounts.
  • Raise awareness and hype on Facebook

RELATED: Do Your Fans Love You Enough To Get a Tattoo of Your Brewery? Creative Ways To Promote Your Brewery For Free!

In the brewery, “the most important thing is cleanliness. You can have the best ingredients in the world, but if you’re not clean, the beer is just not going to be good,” says Seth. “But you can have average ingredients, and if your brewery is squeaky clean, you can have a very good product at the end.”

On of Seth’s proudest moments is when Julia Herz, from the Brewers Association visited his brewery and said, “This doesn’t smell like a brewery.”

“We work really hard keeping those drains clean and all of that.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 7 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 7-BBL fermenters; 1, 15-BBL fermenter.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 5, 7-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 600 BBL.

Square footage: 300 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 4.5 years (opened March 2011).

Listener question:

From Malin Norman: Why don’t you experiment more?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Mash hoe, custom stainless steel.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Session beer

Other resources:

You can reach Seth Gross and Bull City Burger & Brewery at:

Sponsors:

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MicroBrewr 075: Recruit the right people for the right job with Aviator Brewing.

MicroBrewr 075: Recruit the right people for the right job

Mark Doble opened Aviator Brewing Company, Fuquay Varina, North Carolina, in November 2008. In less than 7 years he has started a brewery, a trucking company, a restaurant, two bars, and soon a new brewery with a distillery. All of these business are still operating.

“Not having to work at a corporate job anymore, that’s one of my favorite things about the brewery.” [Tweet This]

 

With over 100 employees total, Mark says hiring the wrong person is one of the biggest mistakes he has made in the past. He recommends spending time to recruit the right person for the right job.

“Sometimes we get the wrong people in the wrong job,” says Mark, “and that ends up costing us in the long term.”

Hear another brewer’s perspective on this: MicroBrewr 037: A forty-year career at the epicenter of craft beer, MicroBrewr, November 25, 2014.

Mark’s tips for hiring the right person:

  • Get people to talk about themselves.
  • Get to know them and their work ethic, to decide whether the job is a good fit for them.
  • If you have an employee in the wrong position, move her right away to a better-suited position.

Click the player above to listen to the full interview podcast for more tips and advice.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 30-BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 10, 100-BBL and 3, 60-BBL fermenters. 2, 30-BBL foeders.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 2, 100-BBL brite tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: Brewed 10,000 BBL last year. Probably will brew 14,000 BBL this year.

Square footage: 23,000 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 6.5 years (opened November 2008).

Listener question:

From Adam Shay: When did you know that starting a real brewery, as a business was the right move? Do you wish you would’ve done it sooner/later?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Keg cleaner, Premier Stainless.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beer

Other resources:

You can reach Mark Doble and Aviator Brewing at:

Sponsors:

Audible

Download a free audiobook.

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Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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MicroBrewr 073: Contract brewing: quality product with low barrier to entry with Craft Artisan Ales.

MicroBrewr 073: Contract brewing: quality product with low barrier to entry

David Olsen dives into things all the way. He decided that he wanted to homebrew, so he read about 15 books and took some short classes at UC Davis. Within 6 months he was winning awards at homebrewing competitions. He started Craft Artisan Ales, in Pacific Grove, California, with contract brewing because it was an easier barrier to entry.

“Even to get like a 7-BBL system going, you’re going to need at least a half-million dollars,” estimates David. “Then you have the labor, the insurance, the overhead, the space, the lease, all those other factors that go into it.

“So to be able to go to a facility that can take your recipes and create a quality end product [in exchange] for part of the margin, is definitely an appealing way to get into the craft beer industry.”

Other contract breweries—or breweries that got their start as a contract brewery—on MicroBrewr Podcast:

Alamo Beer Company

HenHouse Brewing

21st Amendment Brewery

Backshore Brewing Co.

Two Birds Brewing

David has some recommendations to nail down your beer styles and recipes:

  • Spend a lot of time working on one single beer, then develop other recipes from there.
  • Take some brewing classes, even weekend classes or 2-week classes.
  • Be super careful about sanitation and temperature control.

You’ll need to have accounts confirmed to buy your beer when it’s ready from the brewer. Here’s what David did:

  • He pushed the local angle in his products by using local names and themes.
  • Friends who owned restaurants agreed to carry his beer on tap.
  • The owner of the homebrew store helped make other connections.
  • He put samples in a cooler pack and walked into stores to talk to the manager.
  • He provided a sample, sales sheet, and business card everywhere he went.

Contract brewing is a much easier way to enter the craft beer market. The cost is a tiny fraction of what it costs to open your brewery. The time that you would have spent brewing can be spent marketing, delivering product, nurturing relationships, and all the other things required when you own your own brewery.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 25-BBL contract facility.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 25-, 50-, and 100-BBL tanks available.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: Same.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: Capacity is 15-20K BBL for the contract facility. Last year Craft Artisan Ales produced about 1,000 BBL.

Square footage: 80,000 sq. ft. at the contract facility.

Years in operation: 18 months (opened February 2014).

“I don’t have an exit plan because I want it to be a career. All I have are expansion plans.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From The Beer Sommelier: What is your exit plan?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beers

Other resources:

You can reach David Olsen and Craft Artisan Ales at:

Sponsors:

Beer

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 072: Batch 4,000 and brewery law reform in Minnesota with Fitger's Brewhouse Brewery & Grille.

MicroBrewr 072: Batch 4,000 and brewery law reform in Minnesota

Dave Hoops has been brewing for decades. He brought what he learned in California to Minnesota and helped change the brewery laws there. Now his West Coast style beers have been working well for Fitger’s Brewhouse Brewery & Grille, in Duluth Minnesota.

Minnesota does not allow breweries to self-distribute to outside accounts. So Fitger’s has “tied houses,” restaurant/bars that are “tied” to their brewery. That is, their production brewery makes beer for the restaurants that they also own.

If they wanted to package beer for outside distribution, state law would require them to sell the restaurants and just be a package brewery.

To make matters trickier, each brewery under this scenario must have a restaurant (a “production brewpub”), which can make no more than 3,500 BBL per year. So if they were already maxed out at 3,500 BBL per year and they wanted to add another restaurant, the new one would have to be another production brewpub with the limits on annual capacity.

“The only reason that these laws haven’t been challenged,” says Dave, “is because nobody has gotten to this level yet. I’m sure they’ll change it when it happens.”

It’s peculiar because Duluth is right on the border with Wisconsin, which as less stringent laws. So they move their company just 5 miles to the south, they would be allowed to sell their beer to a wider audience.

Still, Dave says the Minnesota brewery market is expanding rapidly. The state recently passed a law that allows productions breweries to have a tap to serve food and their own beer.

Dave was on the board of the state brewers guild and, like Jeff Mease from Bloomington Brewing Co., he helped change laws to make it easier for breweries—like the ability to sell growlers.

“I’m a veteran now, I’m a little more patient,” says Dave. “It’s in [the state’s] best interest to help us sell more beer. So eventually they come around.”

Dave’s advice for reforming brewery laws in your state:

  • Visit your state capital and find the legislators who are sympathetic to your cause.
  • Find enough legislators for a caucus.
  • Be persistent, be positive, and talk to a lot of people.
  • Research to show the stats and facts of how breweries can help the economy and the community.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 10 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 10-BBL fermenters; 12, 15-BBL fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 20 tanks, most 15-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: Annual capacity is 3,200 BBLs. Last year’s production was 3,000 BBL.

Square footage: 3,600 sq. ft. over two floors.

Years in operation: 20 years (opened 1995).

“I feel really lucky to be a part of this artisan trade that’s been around for centuries.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Lisa Boban: Can you make something other than beer?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Session IPA

Other resources:

You can reach Dave Hoops and Fitgers Brewhouse Brewery & Grille at:

Dave’s social media:

Sponsors:

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Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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MicroBrewr 071: Four years from brewing school to brewmaster with Capital Brewery.

MicroBrewr 071: Four years from brewing school to brewmaster

Ashley Kinart began homebrewing to learn about the brew process so she could better answer customer questions at the craft beer bar where she worked. She eventually realized that it really interested her, so she enrolled in the World Brewing Academy at Siebel Institute of Technology. Four years later she became the brewmaster at Capital Brewery, in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Although Ashley is happy about her “quick rise to the top,” she says she would have liked to get more experience in every part of the brewery operations.

“I definitely would have liked to spend a little more time in cellaring, a little more time in packaging,” says Ashley, “to just have that full-scale overall understanding on every single little level.”

Prior to brewing school, Ashley attained a bachelor’s degree in biology. She says the science helped her better understand the material from brewing school.

“My science background definitely gets me a little excited about the small things like the microscopic happenings that are going on behind every step of the brewing process.”

Other suggestions from Ashley:

  • Start volunteering to get experience at a commercial brewery.
  • Do the best you can and work as hard as you can.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions of other people in the industry.

Most of all, actively seek knowledge.

“Being called a brewmaster was something that I not only didn’t see myself as, but also I don’t ever see myself knowing everything there is to know about brewing, which is why it really interests me.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 35 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 30 tanks ranging from 32-BBL to 161-BBL. Six are dedicated to lagering/aging.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: Three tanks ranging from 100-BBL to 129-BBL.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: About 30,000.

Square footage:

Years in operation: 29 years.

“How much of your brewing knowledge are you actively seeking?” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Harold Giménez: What are your favorite beers? Who are your brewing influences?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Lagers

Other resources:

  • World Brewing Academy, Siebel Institute of Technology (Chicago, U.S.A.) and Doemens Academy (Munich, Germany)
  • Females Enjoying Microbrews.
  • Pink Boots Society to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry through education.
  • Brew Masters, Discovery Channel.

You can reach Ashley Kinart and Capital Brewery at:

Ashley’s social media:

Sponsors:

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Download a free audiobook.

Audible. Download a free audiobook. http://microbrewr.com/audible

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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MicroBrewr 070: Brewery law reform and scaling up in Indiana with Bloomington Brewing Co.

MicroBrewr 070: Brewery law reform and scaling up in Indiana

Jeff Mease worked in his parents’ grocery store when he was a kid. “I had grown up in a family business,” he recounts. “By the time I was legal, I didn’t have any fear of business.” Indeed, when Jeff was just 19 years old, he started a pizza business that is still Bloomington’s favorite pizza delivery service.

Twelve years later, Jeff started Bloomington Brewing Co., in Bloomington, Indiana. It was the 4th brewery in Indiana and the laws were not conducive to brewpubs.

If your state has archaic brewery laws, Jeff has some advice for brewery law reform:

  • Talk to state legislators for your area.
  • Study brewery legislation from other states.
  • Recruit the help of the Brewers Association or the brewers’ alliance in your state.
  • Educate your legislators about how brewery law reform will help the economy and the community.

Ever since they helped change brewery laws in Indiana, Bloomington Brewing Co. has been going strong. Five years ago, they expanded operations beyond the brewpub into a production facility. Last year, they started packaging into 22-ounce bottles.

Jeff spent a lot of time researching and studying the numbers for packaging their beer into bottles. He learned, “If we go into a 12-ounce package, we’re going to have to make 4 times as much beer just to be in the same place [financially] that we are now.”

“Smaller package means high volume, if you’re going to survive,” says Jeff. “Brewers never ever wish they’d had a smaller system.”

“A lot of people get so busy with the work that they don’t bother to really look at the numbers,” says Jeff. “It seems like, ‘How could you not make money putting this beer into a bottle?’ But you know what? You can, I promise,” cautions Jeff.

With 20 years of experience with the brewpub, plus more years with other businesses, Jeff has a lot of wisdom to draw. Luckily, he is generous with his knowledge.

“Nobody should be impatient to jump into this business right now. It’s already late to the party, I’d say. So if you’re going to come into this business now and be successful at it, you sure as shit gotta know what you’re doing,” Jeff advises. “So don’t rush into it.”

“A lot of times people who are considering getting into business are afraid to talk to people who are already in that business. Because there’s all sorts of fears that they’ll steal your idea, or they just won’t tell you anything, or they’ll look at you as competition, but I’ve found… that the people who are successful in an industry are more than happy to help counsel people. Go out and ask the questions.”

“You’re only going to be successful if you don’t make the stupid mistakes. And it’s easy to make the stupid mistakes no matter how smart you are.”

Other tips from Jeff:

  • Start as large as you can.
  • Be as state-of-the-art as you can.
  • Invest in training your brewers.
  • Choose the right yeast.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 15-BBL and 20-BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 2, 15-BBL and 4, 40-BBL fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 1, 15-BBL and 2, 40-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 1,850 BBL.

Square footage: 700 sq. ft. in a 120-seat brewpub, 3,000 sq. ft production facility for draft and 22-oz glass bottles.

Years in operation: 21 years (opened 1994).

“I had grown up in a family business. I didn’t have any fear of business.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From MyMateMike on Twitter: How long before the brewery became profitable and paid off the loan, other setup costs and debts?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sweeter beers

Other resources:

You can reach Jeff Mease and Bloomington Brewing Co. at:

Sponsors:

Beer

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 069: Arrrgh! What to do when yer job gets boring with Pensacola Bay Brewery.

MicroBrewr 069: Arrrgh! What to do when yer job gets boring

Mark Robertson got bored of his job, so he opened a brewery. Pensacola Bay Brewery, in Pensacola Bay, Florida follows their local heritage with a fun pirate motif. But they’re not all scurvy. After 5 years, Pensacola Bay Brewery is going strong, expanding operations, and willing to share what they’ve learned.

Mark hesitates to disclose how much money they spent to start their brewery. “I will not divulge numbers,” he says, “for the simple reason that you can’t do it for what we did it at, today.”

Nonetheless, he estimates that it would cost $1.5 million to $2 million to start a brewery like theirs. This includes 6 months of working capital. “You can’t get anywhere without [working capital].”

He prefers to let another company distribute Pensacola Bay’s product. “They have a sales force, they have a refer warehouse, they’ve got distribution networks. Those things I couldn’t afford.”

“You’d have to add another half million onto the cost of the brewery,” says Mark, “in order to come up with refer trucks and drivers and a sales force.”

To gain visibility for new customers Mark says:

  • Go to beer festivals
  • Do tap takeovers
  • Give out a lot of freebees
  • Send the brew staff to the events, not sales people

“You gotta go out and work the market,” Mark advises. “You gotta go out and visit.”

Mark homebrewed even before he learned it was illegal in his state. To other homebrewers wanting to follow his path, Mark recommends investing in yourself:

  • Enroll in courses
  • Attend seminars
  • Read books
  • Ask commercial brewers to criticize your beer

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 15 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 5, 30-BBL fermenters, 2, 15-BBL fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 2, 30-BBL bright tanks, 3, 15-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: Brewed 2,800 BBL last year.

Square footage: 3,500 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 5 years (opened October 2010).

“If I had a new brewery, I would avoid packaging as much as I can.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Alan Gorney: How long did it take before your brewery became profitable?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beers

Other resources:

You can reach Mark Robertson and Pensacola Bay Brewery at:

Sponsors:

InMotion Hosting

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Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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