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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:

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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 059: How to get the most out of a beer festival, with SuperFly Fabulous Events.

MicroBrewr 059: How to get the most out of a beer festival

Beer festivals are an important part of a startup brewery’s marketing plan. Stephanie Carson and SuperFly Fabulous Events in Asheville, North Carolina put on 11 beer festivals every year.

I asked her, how much do beer festivals play a part in a startup brewery’s existing marketing plan?

“I think it’s everything,” says Stephanie. “A startup brewery is not going to have the marketing budget, they’re not going to have the advertising budget, they might not even have a contact at a good distributor.”

“So I think attending a festival is really important.”

When you’re getting ready to attend a festival as a brewery, you’ll need to make sure you have several items. Some events will provide these, so always check beforehand to make sure you know what you’ll need to bring.

Stephanie says to make sure you have these items:

  • Creative looking tap handles
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) canisters
  • Ice
  • Jockey box
  • Tent/awning
  • Items to sell
  • Something to entice the customers back to your brewery

The beer festival is a key part of getting your product out to the public. People attending the beer festival are your core customers: They love craft beer, and they seek out new beers.

There are some things that you can do to best leverage your presence at the festival. Make a good impression, initiate contacts, and turn those into long-term customers.

This is what Stephanie recommends to get the most out of a beer festival:

  • Help promote the event.
  • Be organized and on time.
  • Give a creative take-home item, so the attendees will remember you.
  • Bring a unique beer that is not available elsewhere.

“With so many craft breweries opening up, you can’t just have your old standards.” [Tweet This]

Listener question:

From Conrad B.: Why do you do what you do?

Book recommendation:

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

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Dark beers

Other resources:

You can reach Stephanie Carson and SuperFly Fabulous Events at:

Sponsors:

InMotion Hosting

“Fast, reliable, affordable, web hosting.”

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Support MicroBrewr

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

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher