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MicroBrewr 091: Let them do the job you hired them to do

Michael Altman was in the industry for years when he bought a brewpub. Now he’s been operating Iron Springs Pub & Brewery in Fairfax, California for 12 years. Before they opened he had to have back surgery and totally reinvent his role for the brewpub.

“You really need to live, breathe and be the beer.” [Tweet This]

 

“The first 6 months we owned that pub, every single day I called my wife and said we’re selling this place, I can’t stand this, this is ridiculous,” recounts Michael. “Thank God for my wife who was my rock.”

He went through 3 back surgeries. “It was hard for me to hang up my mash paddle,” says Michael. He still does some brewing, but mostly leaves the hard work to others.

Hiring employees and letting them do the work you hire them to do has been essential to Iron Springs’ growth. They are on pace to produce approximately 2,000 BBLs of beer this year, which is an increase of 20 percent since last year. They have 16 taps for 10 draft beers, one cask, and 4 handcrafted sodas.

Iron Springs Pub & Brewery now has 50 staff, 4 are in the brewery. To hire more staff Michael recommends:

  1. Figure out what needs to be done
  2. Figure out who you are going to hire for each task
  3. Hire people who can do the job
  4. Let them do the job you hired them to do

It sounds simple, but it’s important to follow through and let others take your load off.

Something else that has been very helpful for Iron Springs is the give back Tuesday. Every Tuesday they give 10% of profits to a local non-profit organization that focuses on education or the environment. Iron Springs has donated $160,000 in the last 6 years. “We love and we really believe in it, and that really translates to the community,” says Michael. “They really believe in it and they want to come out and support it. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Michael says certainly, “There’s no way in the world that I would started a brewery in today’s market.” There is too much competition, he says, compared to when he started. Although he does say, “A brewpub will work in neighborhood,” you have to have good branding.

You have to figure out why people are coming to your place, and really focus on your story. The 3 keys are:

  • Good ambiance
  • Good service
  • Good food and beer

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 10 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 9, 10-BBL fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 10, 10-BBL serving tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 1,820 BBL.

Square footage: 5,000 sq. ft. in the entire pub, 1,100 sq. ft. in the brewery.

Years in operation: 12 years (opened October 2004).

Listener question:

From Awhile Pandey: When can you tell whether you are known as a brewery pub with exciting beer that people like, or you have become known more as a restaurant with beer just as a side thing? Is there any research on what kind of food formats and themes go well with a microbrewery pub layout?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Rubber boots, Bosch.

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 Michael Altman and Iron Springs Pub & Brewery at:

Sponsors:

Beer Exam School, free study notes and flashcards for the Cicerone Certified Beer Server exam.

Support MicroBrewr

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

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 090: State of the podcast.

MicroBrewr 090: State of the podcast

TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome to MicroBrewr podcast. Where we talk about everything craft beer related, but especially for if want to start your own microbrewery or take your existing brewery to the next level.

As usual, I’m Nathan Pierce, the host of MicroBrewr Podcast.

So I just want to give you a short update today. This is going to be kind of a “state of the podcast” address to let you know some recent developments in my life that could potentially affect the future of MicroBrewr.

So I just want to be transparent and honest and let you know what to expect.

This is going to be just a short review of the past year for MicroBrewr and also an update of my plans to start a brewery, because some people ask about that. Myself wanting to start a brewery, has sort of become the premise of a lot of MicroBrewr, so I’ll talk briefly about that.

MicroBrewr in 2015

Before we get to that, let’s sort of recap the last year of MicroBrewr. I want to use this time and sort of step back to reflect and see what sorts of lessons we have gotten from the last year of learning how to start a brewery.

At the end of 2014, on New Year’s Even we had a similar episode, the year in review episode. It was a good time to reflect and project on the future at the time of MicroBrewr. That was episode 43 of the podcast, I had done 30 episodes since taking over for MicroBrewr founder Joe Shelerud. Now this is episode 90, so we’ve done 47 episodes since then.

We started off the year with episodes of MicroBrewr Podcast organized sort of in series. We had series on:

Among these series we had other interviews about

So we’ve learned a ton of great info. Lots of things just never would have occurred to me.

The sense of community in the craft beer industry is really prolific and prevalent. Community really is exemplified the most when the business is organized as a cooperative. There a few ways that can happen, like a consumer co-op or a worker owned co-op, but either way, it’s all about people working together to help everyone out. Costs as well as profits are spread out more evenly, everyone contributes and everyone has a sense of ownership and pride. So it really brings out the best work, the best product quality, and the most benefits for a larger number of people.

Anyway, it was really cool to see how much the co-op movement is growing within craft beer. Just through the course of this past year, there are a lot more co-op breweries starting all over the country.

Another thing I have learned is that cider is really cool! We started the gluten-free series with Bard’s Tale Beer Company, but then we went into cider and talked with Common Cider Company, 101 Cider House and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. Some of the stats we heard about the growth of cider, even just that cider was way more popular than beer in the U.S. before Prohibition, is pretty cool. The growth alone, from a business standpoint, makes you gotta look. But something that stands out the most for me is how cider is sort of closer to a natural product, kind of the way wine is viewed in that regard, but cider attracts the cool, open-minded, experimental people of the craft beer world. So it’s like the best of both things. And that’s really attractive to me. The gluten-free aspect is a bonus because some people in my life are allergic to gluten. I can eat gluten, but it’s kind of a bummer to think they can’t enjoy most beers that I could have.

Anyway, we’ve learned so much this year. It’s so rewarding to receive emails from literally around the world telling me how much you have learned from the podcast and the blog, telling me your cool stories of starting your own brewery, or just thanking me for doing this.

I do put in a lot of time on MicroBrewr. Maybe someone else could do it more efficiently, I didn’t realize when I took this on that I was getting into the whole blogging world. Wow, what an eye-opening experience that has been.

There’s a whole segment of the population with online journals or full-on internet media outlets. Some people do it for fun on the side, some people make an ok living at it by itself. Believe it or not, some people are bringing in very lucrative incomes from blogging and podcasts and such. I am not one of those people.

With as many hours as I put in, MicroBrewr does make some money. It’s a little bit more than the expenses of just keeping it online.

MicroBrewr in 2016

So, this is where I’m going with that, I did get a job. It is not a job in the craft beer industry. It is a full-time job. I will be paid a good wage and I won’t descend into oblivion of despair.

I signed an offer letter with the City of San Francisco. I’ll be doing grants work, similar to what I was doing at my last job, where I worked for 7 years, so that’s where I’m most skilled in the workforce. And it feels really good to be gainfully employed again, and especially putting my skills to work, even though I haven’t yet started working. Hopefully by the time you hear this, I’ll be filling out the paperwork, going through orientation and all that stuff. I’m eager to do my best work and give them all I can to make the City of San Francisco an even better place. It’s a 3-year position and who knows, maybe continue after that.

I’m excited—and a little intimidated—to be moving to San Francisco. I’ve never lived in a big city before. It’s fun there. It’s diverse. It’s exciting. There are a lot of breweries, and cideries, and even a few distilleries. Not to mention the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge and lots of bike lanes all these exciting things.

So please wish me luck, wish me well. I don’t know exactly when or if ever I’ll be able to start a brewery. Maybe if I don’t get to continue on with the City after 3 years, I’ll get to open a cidery then. Or maybe I’ll keep working for the City of San Francisco and open a brewery on my spare time like Marta Jankowska from ChuckAlek Independent Brewers. In the meantime, I have to give my employer my best work and this is my priority.

So this means, I’m seriously wondering how I’ll be able to keep MicroBrewr going.

The whole point of MicroBrewr was to learn how to start a brewery. And I learned some things.

If 2014 was the year of the nanobrewery for me, 2015 was the year of cider for me.

Before I started doing MicroBrewr Podcast, talking to brewers, brewery owners, and other experts from the craft beer industry every week, I was not open to a nanobrewery as a business model. I just thought it wasn’t profitable. But now I’ve talked to enough people who are making profits, that now I see it can be a good way to get off the ground, maybe just keep being a neighborhood brewery thing, but hopefully a stepping stone to larger things.

I also wasn’t open to cider. I thought it was too small of a niche, kind of a novelty, and just not that interesting. Now I see that the segment is growing explosively, and compared to other countries the U.S. has a ton of growth potential. Even just looking at where the U.S. was before prohibition, it looks like the U.S. cider market is not something to ignore. And people are doing some interesting things with cider, being really creative with it, bringing back some really neat recipes and fruits that almost disappeared and even doing brand new stuff that has never been done before with cider.

So if I have to stop producing new content on MicroBrewr, I hope I’ve learned enough to start a brewery—after 90 episodes I hope I’ve learned enough! At some point I have to stop learning and start doing. Hopefully there’s enough content to help you open the brewery of your dreams—maybe sooner than I. I hear from people who just found the podcast and they’re burning through an episode every day. They don’t have to wait a week for a new episode to come out like me and you who have caught up through the current ones.

Ok so where were we?

MicroBrewr in the future

I want to keep doing MicroBrewr, I really do. I don’t want to let you down. It’s a lot of fun. If the episodes don’t come out on time, every Tuesday as they have been going, well, you know why. Work is my priority going forward.

Maybe I can try and find some help to take some of the tasks and make it easier to keep going. I don’t know, it’s a whole new world for me. I’m going back to work full-time for the first time in 2 1/2 years. And I’m moving to the big city and all of that. it’s going to be a huge adjustment in lots of ways.

I just looked back at that year in review episode, from New Year’s Eve last year, and I saw that I was looking for jobs all over, preferably a job in craft beer, but even a job in anything. And now I’ve got that. So we’re moving forward.

We’ll see what the future holds. Start your breweries, send me emails, I will live vicariously through you! We will drink good beer! Life will be good!

 

Image showing San Francisco. by Kathryn, on flickr (CC BY 2.0) was modified from its original state.

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.

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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:

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 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:

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 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 057: Create new revenue streams for your brewpub, with Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co.

MicroBrewr 057: Create new revenue streams for your brewpub

Jamie Baertsch did an internship with Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co., in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, and she stuck around until they started paying her. Today she’s the brewmaster, winning awards for her beer, and planning the expansion to a production facility.

Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co. is the brewing part of Moosejaw Pizza brewpub, which experiences 50% of their sales just in the summer months. During that time the brewing capacity is maxed out, but in the rest of the year it’s much slower. To keep busy and to make up for lost revenues in the slow times of the year, Wisconsin Dells Brewing how found creative ways to find income.

Besides a variety of beers, Wisconsin Dells also makes a line of hand-crafted soda beverages. Additionally, they put their beer into cans and bottles for off-site distribution.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 15 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 15-BBL fermenters; 1, 30-BBL fermenter.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 2, 30-BBL bright tanks for beer; 9, 15-BBL bright tanks for beer; 4, 16-BBL bright tanks for soda; 2, 2-BBL bright tanks for soda.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 1,405.70 BBL.

Square footage: 200 sq. ft. brewhouse, 2 walk-in coolers, 3 large warehouses, 2 forklifts, one truck, 2 pallet jacks.

Years in operation: 13 years (opened May 2002).

“I spent 12 years learning how to brew. And now packaging is a whole new thing.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From 76Johnyb: Where do you get inspiration for your unique brews?

Book recommendation:

  • Phone book.

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

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Red IPA

Other resources:

You can reach Jamie Baertsch and Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co. at:

Sponsors:

“Compare free quotes from top suppliers within 48 hours.”

Kinnek "Compare free quotes from top suppliers within 48 hours." http://www.kinnek.com/microbrewr

Support MicroBrewr

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

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MicroBrewr 049: Planning California’s first cooperative brewpub, with San Jose Co-op Brewpub.

MicroBrewr 049: Planning California’s first cooperative brewpub

You’ve decided that your brewery is going to be a cooperative. Now you need to find others who will share the burden and resources. You can work together to start your own brewery. That’s what Christian Borglum and others are doing with San Jose Co-op Brewpub in San Jose, California.

San Jose Co-op Brewpub is still being planned. So it’s not certain what the future establishment will look like. A dedicated group of people are volunteering their time and pooling resources toward their shared dream: to own and operate a brewpub.

Other podcasts about breweries as co-ops:

MicroBrewr 046: Start your brewery as a worker-owned co-op

MicroBrewr 047: Proof of concept for a brewpub co-op

Christian is currently on the volunteer board. He gives us insight to the progress.

  • It will be a democratically run business.
  • The members will own a part of the company and have voting rights to elect the board of directors.
  • Membership lasts a lifetime.

San Jose Co-op Brewpub is currently doing a membership drive. They’re trying to double their membership from 300 to 600, by April 2015. Now is your opportunity to own a part of California’s first co-op brewpub.

“You drink the beer, you should own the bar.”

Check out their website to learn more.

“Principle advantage of doing this as a cooperative is you have a lot more people to draw from.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

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

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 Christian Borglum and San Jose Co-op Brewpub at:

Sponsors:

“Compare free quotes from top suppliers within 48 hours.”

Kinnek "Compare free quotes from top suppliers within 48 hours." http://www.kinnek.com/microbrewr

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MicroBrewr 047: Proof of concept for a brewpub co-op, with Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery.

MicroBrewr 047: Proof of concept for a brewpub co-op

If you’re thinking of starting a brewpub, the cooperative business model might be the way to go. Chris Hamje has been at Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery, in Austin, Texas, since shortly after they opened. He explains how the cooperative model plays out for their operation.

Jessica Brook Deahl, an accomplished and self-proclaimed "Beer Artist" at her opening show with head brewer Chris Hamje of Black Star Co-op.

Jessica Brook Deahl, an accomplished and self-proclaimed “Beer Artist” at her opening show with head brewer Chris Hamje of Black Star Co-op.

“There’s a lot of precedence for a worker-owned factory model,” explains Chris. “When you look at beer, this is a very high-tech fabrication plant. The model works very well, the precedence is there historically, for this exact operational process. When you take the people who are moving parts of this factory, giving the most creative input in what the product is like, you suddenly have something really special. And that works really well in the craft beer movement.”

There are many ways to organize a brewery co-op. Black Star has 2 member bases.

There are about 3,000 “patrons” worldwide, who pay $150 for a lifetime membership, and gain the right to elect a 9-seat board of directors.

The “workers assembly” has great autonomy as they follow the board policies on a day-to-day basis. Employees must work at the co-op for one year before going before an election to gain a place on the workers assembly. The workers assembly has one meeting each month, and votes on day-to-day operations.

Other podcasts about breweries as co-ops:

MicroBrewr 046: Start your brewery as a worker-owned co-op

MicroBrewr 049: Planning California’s first cooperative brewpub

Chris is currently preparing to start a production, package brewery, 4th Tap Brewing Co-op, in Austin that will also be a co-op. He has lots of advice, including:

  • Look at how your state’s laws treat a co-op.
  • Choose a location with high visibility.
  • Take a class in organic chemistry.
  • Hire an extra staff member.

Last week we talked with Sustainable Economies Law Center to get an overview of the cooperative business model and how it might apply to a brewery. Next week we’ll hear from San Jose Co-op Brew Pub about their plans to start California’s first co-op brewery.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 10 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 10-BBL.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 5, 10-BBL.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: A little over 700 BBL.

Square footage: Around 900 sq. ft., including a mezzanine.

Years in operation: 4 years (opened 2010).

“Always have that little bit of fear that drives you to learn more.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Zack Chance: Where do you recommend buying ingredients on the West Coast? How do estimate the number of customers in a year?

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 Hamje and Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery at:

Sponsors:

San Jose Co-op Brewpub

“Be co-owner in California’s first co-op brewpub.”

San Jose Co-op Brewpub "Be a co-cowner in California's first co-op brewpub." http://sjcoopbrewpub.com/microbrewr/

Support MicroBrewr

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

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MicroBrewr043: BONUS Happy New Year.

MicroBrewr 043: BONUS Happy New Year

TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome to MicroBrewr podcast. We talk about everything craft beer related, with a focus for people looking at starting their own microbrewery or wanting to take their existing brewery to the next level.

As usual, I’m Nathan Pierce, the host of MicroBrewr Podcast.

This is going to be just a short review of the past year for MicroBrewr and also an update of my plans to start a brewery, because some people ask about that. Myself wanting to start a brewery, has sort of become the premise of a lot of MicroBrewr, so I’ll talk briefly about that.

MicroBrewr in 2014

Wow, MicroBrewr! What a cool thing. I guess, if you’re listening to this, you agree with me what a cool thing MicroBrewr is, and especially MicroBrewr Podcast.

How often do we get to go behind the scenes in any business? To talk with successful business owners and find out their worst mistakes, their biggest successes, and get advice for doing it better than they did. And we do this every week not just for any business, but for craft breweries!

When I first heard this podcast probably in episode 2 or 3, when Joe Shelerud was doing it, I was neck deep in developing my business plan. The episodes were still just every other week and I couldn’t get enough of them.

Even after Joe interviewed me on episode 5, I was still listening every week, taking notes, getting light-bulb moments, and learning things that I hadn’t thought of, ways to fix my business plan or make it better. It was such a great resource to me at the time.

Then when it was going to end forever, I called up Joe and asked him if I could continue the website and podcast. I just felt that it was a great resource for myself, so I didn’t want it to end.

And I was thinking of others who must be using it too. I’ve heard that more than one brewery per day has opened this year. That’s a lot of people who need this very information.

And we’ve talked with large breweries like:

We’ve also talked with the tiniest places like:

I happened to be cruising past Medford on a road trip this summer, so I called Opposition, totally last minute, and they let me come in on their day off. They were closed for business but they were there doing other work, and they gave my girlfriend and I tour of their little nanobrewery. They even gave me growler, my very first growler, believe it or not. And it’s pretty cool, too. I like their logo, and the growler is printed with silver, glitter ink. So it’s pretty neat.

And then we talked with:

The blog has some pretty informative posts from some of those guests.

And there’s other info on the blog. I’ve been trying to add some other resources to the website, too.

MicroBrewr is going to be at it’s best as a resource for you to find information on starting your brewery, or improving your brewery.

I mean there are tons of books about operating a brewery. (Many of them are on the MicroBrewr book list. hehe) You can find this information anywhere, and some of it can be dense.

I’m trying to make this approachable to people just like me. Maybe we don’t know what we’re doing, but we do have a dream.

It’s not unrealistic. I’ve talked to people who didn’t know what they were doing—they didn’t have business experience—but they had a dream. They had passion and desire, and they opened their own brewery. Usually it’s starting small, but they’re doing what they love. They have the reward of working for themselves and doing what they know deep inside that they should be doing. And they’re making profits, they’re paying the bills, they’re still in business.

Planning a brewery in 2014

Maybe I’m crazy, but I’d rather work 60 hours or more at my own brewery, than 40 hours for someone else.

I want to create something new. I want to help other people. I want to inspire others to be great.

And craft beer is so exciting. This is such a neat industry. Who knows how it will be in the future, when there is actually competition and there are so many breweries that everybody, even the little guys, have to compete with each other. But for now, it’s an industry that helps each other. All the breweries are raising each other up. They’re loaning ingredients to their friends across town, or even loaning staff! Or they’re just sharing their knowledge—like on this podcast.

So this is where I want to be.

I’m still learning how to start a brewery, and MicroBrewr has become a huge part of that.

Honestly, Microbrewr has come to take a lot of time. I’ve been investing a ton of time into this. It’s not just recording an interview. It’s many tasks that, collectively, take a lot of time:

  • Learning how to use WordPress
  • Learning how to use Garage Band
  • Getting better at Photoshop
  • Editing sound
  • Typing show notes
  • Scheduling interviews and social media
  • And more!

So I’ve been neglecting the actual grunt-work of really trying to start an actual, brick-and-mortar business—a brewery. Yet this is, in fact, moving forward on my plans to start a brewery.

I’m updating my resume with the skills and knowledge that I’m picking up through this. When I go get money from the bank or investors, they’ll want to see that I’m knowledgeable, that I’m competent and qualified to make it work and to pay them back.

I’m making connections. I now know 50 or so people who are inside the industry, already doing what I want to do. When it comes time to find mentors, I have a big pool of people to draw from.

Even one person reached out to me about partnering on an actual brewery. We met in person, we talked a couple hours, hopefully we’ll meet again. Who knows where it’s going to go, but it gave me hope that this is still possible. If nothing comes from that, maybe somebody else will find me from MicroBrewr.

People can have a conversation with me every week—myself and the guests of the podcast. So they’ll have a pretty good idea what I’m all about, and they can check my blog nathanpierce.me and learn more about my vision of the brewery that I want to start. Who knows what can happen.

But not enough is happening.

I know the MicroBrewr audience, the “MicroBrewrs,” feel a connection with me. I know how it is, I listen to podcasts, too. I mean, I feel like Pat Flynn is my best friend because I listen to his podcast every week and he helps me so much, but I’ve never met him.

So I’m going to be honest. If you listening to this show, you probably know I go deep. So here’s the deal. You all know I quit my job last year. My savings is running low and my part-time job isn’t cutting it anymore.

I gotta find a real job.

I really want to get a job at a craft brewery. It’s getting kid of dire, so I’m applying everywhere—and there have been some jobs outside the craft beer industry that looked like they could really resonate with me—but I’m really hoping for a job at a craft brewery.

Hopefully in the San Francisco Bay Area because it’s not too far from where I’m living now and it’s not too far from my family. My girlfriend lives in the East Bay and I other friends in the Bay Area.

Then I’ll have some actual, real-world experience under my belt. I can learn what it really takes, day-to-day, to operate a brewery. Experience is crucial.

Man, in a dream world, the brewery who hires me would recognize the intrinsic marketing value that comes with hiring a guy who produces a weekly podcast about craft breweries. They’ll give me time to continue MicroBrewr and I’ll be able to talk about things that happen at the brewery for all of us to learn from.

That would be amazing!

Maybe I’m just dreaming. I don’t know. If you own a brewery in the Bay Area, give me a call, let’s see what we can do.

But realistically, I already have several episodes of MicroBrewr Podcast recorded.

I was thinking ahead to the coming year and I kinda got zealous about the podcast schedule. It’s going to be a little bit different moving forward. There will be sort of themes. There will be series of episodes, a few episodes in a row, all on the same topic.

We’ll see how it goes. Send me message and let me know how that works for you.

Anyway, I’ve recorded several so far. So if I get a job right away and it ends up being just too much to keep this going, at least I have several episodes already recorded. That takes a lot of the work and time off my hands for at least the next few months.

And I think the next few months of MicroBrewr Podcast are going to be pretty cool. I’m excited about the next few months of episodes.

Here’s to 2015

Anyway, I just wanted to give you that recap, and that update. It’s a year-end bonus episode of MicroBrewr Podcast.

This is scheduled to publish on New Year’s Eve, but you might not even be listening to this until 2015. But if you listen to this in time…

I wish you a happy and safe time celebrating in the New Year. Here’s to 2015 and here’s to us, our plans, our dreams, our aspirations.

Keep on dreaming!

Image showing Happy new year! by Nic McPhee on flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) was modified from its original state.

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MicroBrewr 038: Learn the classics and stay true to your genre, with Gordon Biersch Brewing Company.

MicroBrewr 038: Learn the classics and stay true to your genre

Dan Gordon enjoyed beer from the young age of 15 years. In high school, he lived next door to 2 brewers when he studied in Austria. Then in post-grad, he studied Brewing Engineering and Beverage Technology in Germany. Back home in Palo Alto, he partnered with restaurateur, Dean Biersch, to open a brewpub in Palo Alto, California, which later became Gordon Biersch Brewing Company in San Jose, California.

Gordon Biersch went on to open brewpubs throughout the U.S. and abroad. They had to divest, but remain connected. Meanwhile Gordon Biersch Brewing Company was the 49th largest craft brewery in the nation based on 2013 numbers. Their beers won 4 medals in the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.

Dan and Gordon Biersch were part of the famed craft beer class of 1988. He has a wealth of insight. Here are some of his suggestions:

  • Get industrial experience from a legitimate brewer
  • Invest in quality equipment
  • Stay true to your genre
  • Start bottling sooner rather than later
  • Hold your breath and wait a little bit

“[Homebrewing] is a foundation and building block for making beer popular these days.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Trina Christensen: What is the most rewarding thing about brewing? Are you tired of cleaning yet?

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 Brian Kelly and Elevation 66 Brewing Company at:

You might also like:

MicroBrewr 035: Staying creative and innovative with partner brewing, with 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco, California.

Support MicroBrewr

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

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MicroBrewr 036: How to write a business plan for a gastropub brewery, with Elevation 66 Brewing Company.

MicroBrewr 036: How to write a business plan for a gastropub brewery

Brian Kelly opened Elevation 66 Brewing Company 3 years ago in El Cerrito, California. It was his first business and they paid off their major investor ahead of schedule, just 2 and-a-half years after opening.

Initially, they wanted to have a mill and limit the food offerings to paninis and salads. About halfway into the design process they decided to rework it and plan for a full kitchen. It was more expensive to build, but it was worth it.

“That has turned out to be one of the better ideas for this place,” says Brian. “Our food has really taken off. Without our kitchen, I don’t know if this place would be nearly as successful. Salads and paninis is nothing like the food we put out right now.”

And the food at Elevation 66 is great. They were recognized as having the best artisanal pub food in the East Bay.

Brian’s advice to someone just starting is:

  • Understanding the laws is crucial
  • Be as professional as possible at all times
  • Hire help

Elevation 66 is still new, but their 7-BBL system can hardly produce enough beer just for their in-house sales. (Elevation 66 doesn’t package any beer for distribution.) They are starting to plan for expansion and have begun developing the brewery business plans for different possibilities.

So I asked Brian how to write a brewery business plan. He said start looking into the red tape.

“These permits that you have to get and all this red tape that you have to go through can be a long and arduous process. You really want to have a solid plan of attack on how you’re going to do all these things.”

Brian’s top 3 resources for writing a brewery business plan:

“Honestly,” says Brian, “I just went online and read other people’s business plans.

He also suggests overestimating costs and underestimating revenues.

“That’s the whole purpose of a business plan to me. It’s like, let’s be realistic. What’s the worst case scenario? If that does happen, can we still make this work? If you can, and you do better than that, then it’s golden.”

“If you have a feeling that this is going to succeed, don’t doubt that.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From Hayden Little: How much trouble did you have coming up with a name? What was the inspiration for the name?

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 Brian Kelly and Elevation 66 Brewing Company at:

Support MicroBrewr

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

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 035: Staying creative and innovative with partner brewing, with 21st Amendment Brewery.

MicroBrewr 035: Staying creative and innovative with partner brewing

21st Amendment Brewery opened their brewpub in 2000. In 2006 they started canning beer. After a long search, 21st Amendment started “partner brewing” with Cold Spring Brewing in Minnesota in 2008. The relationship has benefitted both companies very well.

Shaun O’Sullivan moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1990s and got a job at the storied Triple Rock Brewery. He met Nico Freccia who was writing for Celebrator magazine. But when they later met again in brewing classes at University of California, Davis, they decided to become partners on their own brewery.

21st Amendment gallery

21st Amendment logo
Brew Free or Die IPA Hell or High Watermelon

21st Amendment doubled production from 2011 to 2012. Based on 2013 numbers, 21st Amendment was the 50th largest craft brewery in the nation.

And they’re coming home. Their new, hundred thousand-square-foot brewery in San Leandro, California will soon begin production.

Operations will continue in Minnesota. The partnership has been helpful to both companies. Each has learned from the other and each has grown significantly through the partnership.

“We call it partner brewing,” says Shaun. “We don’t like using the word ‘contract.’ We do have people out there. We have a lot of samples that are sent back and forth. It’s a huge amount of information that goes back and forth.”

“We don’t try to hide behind what we’re doing or what we’re not doing.”

With nearly 15 years of experience, Nicco has suggestions for a brewer wanting to start a brewpub:

  • Raise more money.
  • Consider your floor plan carefully.
  • Find someone with business sense.
  • Don’t stress out; be proud of what you did.

“There is a concern that there’s a bubble that’s going to burst, which I think is crap.” [Tweet This]

 

P.S. I found who said, “You can’t improve the beer, you can only keep it the same or hurt it. So your goal is to keep it the same when you’re putting it into packaging.” It was Rich Weber, in episode 019. I think it got cut out in post-production, but it was documented in episode 021.

SPECIAL BONUS:

Win a FREE T-shirt from 21st Amendment Brewery

Answer the following question in the comments section below:

What was the first beer from 21st Amendment Brewery that was sold on a Virgin America flight?

Two winners will be selected at random in 3 weeks (December 2, 2014). I’ll get in touch with you. Then Shaun will mail the T-shirt in your size.

Be sure to connect with 21st Amendment Brewery and thank Shaun for being on the show and for giving us 2 free T-shirts.

UPDATE: The winers have been selected! See below for more deets.

Listener question:

From Derrick Hamrick: What is the suggested process in hiring a brewer?

Book recommendation:

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

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Saison

Other resources:

You can reach Shaun O’Sullivan and 21st Amendment Brewery at:

Shaun’s social media:

Support MicroBrewr

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

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MicroBrewr 034: Guerrilla marketing in the outdoor activity mecca of Southern Nevada, with Boulder Dam Brewing Co.

MicroBrewr 034: Guerrilla marketing in the outdoor activity mecca of Southern Nevada

Boulder City, Nevada is between Las Vegas and Hoover Dam. The city was formed to temporarily house workers during the dam’s construction in the 1930s. After the dam was complete, residents incorporated and formed a city. In 2007, Todd Cook opened Boulder Dam Brewing Co.

Today Boulder Dam Brewing provides craft beer in a wide variety of styles. Todd grew up a “military brat” who moved around a lot. In college, a friend had a constant supply of European beers. The offerings from Boulder Dam Brewing reflects this vast geographic influence.

Boulder Dam Brewing also participates heavily in fundraising efforts for disaster preparedness and veterans care.

Although Todd previously ran an advertising business with offices in 2 states, he says business experience isn’t necessary to opening a brewpub. The only restaurant experience he had was working at McDonald’s when he was 16. Instead, Todd learned from Running a Restaurant for Dummies and Guerilla Marketing.

Not too bad for coming up on Boulder Dam Brewing Co.’s “8th annibrewsary” in February 2015.

Some of Todd’s advice in this episode:

  • It all depends on how bad you want it.
  • Learn from your mistakes and get back on the saddle.
  • Running a business requires a lot of time in the office.
  • Get in front of your customers and talk to them to see what they like.

“I do for a living what I used to pay for.” [Tweet This]

 

Listener question:

From l.seber: What are the best classes to take to prepare for opening a brewpub?

Book recommendation:

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

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Session Dark Beer

Other resources:

You can reach Todd Cook and Boulder Dam Brewing Co. at:

Support MicroBrewr

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

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