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MicroBrewr 082: Gluten free beer for a large market with Bard's Tale Beer Company.

MicroBrewr 082: Gluten free beer for a large market

Brian Kovalchuck has a background in finance and marketing and came to beer late in his career. After he helped with the turnaround of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Brian became CEO of the gluten free Bard’s Tale Beer Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“I wish I had been in the beer business a long time. It’s a great business to be in.” [Tweet This]

 

In the U.S. there are approximately 2 million people with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the intestine from eating gluten. There are approximately another 6 times that number of people who are gluten-intolerant or voluntarily exclude gluten from their diet.

“Gluten is a protein found in most common grains,” explains Brian, “wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats gets thrown into that because of cross-contamination.”

The founders or Bard’s Tale Beer Company experimented for 2 years before they settled on a recipe and a method. Their secret is malted sorghum. Sorghum is a grain that does not have gluten. It is commonly used to make gluten-free beers, but it is not commonly malted like other grains used in brewing.

Bard’s is the only brewery that uses malted sorghum to brew gluten free beer. Brian won’t say whether Bard’s malts their own sorghum or has it made for them, but he did say it’s their own.

Bard’s uses a contract brewer to make “Bard’s Gold,” currently their only product.

Brian’s advice for finding a contract brewer is use a brewer that:

  • Has a good reputation
  • Makes high-quality products
  • Has a lab that can ensure consistency
  • Is happy to work with you
  • Has the capacity to grow with you

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

Craft Artisan Ales

Noble Brewer

If you’re using a contract brewer to make gluten-free beer, you’ll need to take special care to ensure there is no cross-contamination from the other beers brewed at the facility. Bard’s beer is always the first batch brewed after the brewery is cleaned. They test at several points along the process to ensure there is no gluten in the beer.

“The gluten free market around your brewery is too small to support a brewery,” says Brian. “There’s just not enough gluten-intolerant people to support a stand-alone gluten free brewery in one location.”

So Bard’s model depends on very wide distribution. And working with distributors can be tricky.

“The way the laws are written,” says Brian, “once a distributor gets a beer brand, it’s very difficult to get that beer brand back from the distributor. So if you make a mistake, it’s really hard to fix that problem.”

Brian’s tips for picking a distributor:

  • Talk to contacts you already know.
  • Differentiate yourself from the others.
  • Work with the distributor to drive the business.
  • Find a distributor that is eager to work with you.
  • Coordinate marketing across all 3 tiers.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 500-BBL batches.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks:

Size and quantity of bright tanks:

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production:

Square footage:

Years in operation: 9 years (opened 2006).

Listener question:

From Melissa Bess Reed: How do I make quality gluten-free beer that always has the same delicious flavor profile that I can count on?

Can’t-go-without tool:

The Brewmaster.

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 Brian Kovalchuck and Bard’s Tale Beer Company at:

Sponsors:

Beer

Support MicroBrewr

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

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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:

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 065: Finding the right small business insurance for a brewery with Moores Insurance Management.

MicroBrewr 065: Finding the right small business insurance for a brewery

Moores Insurance Management, in St Paul, Minnesota is an independent insurance agency. They’re not an insurance company; instead they act as an advocate for small businesses, to assess risk and help pick the best insurance plan for your situation.

Jack Moores has been working in the industry for 5 years. He’s the risk advisor for the agency that his father heads. They specialize in finding the right insurance for craft breweries.

Insurance categories that a brewery likely needs:

  • Property insurance – For the building and the brewing equipment.
  • General liability – For third-party claims against your brewery such as “slips, trips, and falls” or other “allegations of negligence.”
  • Workers compensation – If an employee becomes injured or ill while working on the job.
  • Liquor liability – For claims concerning “over-served patrons.” Also covers your defense costs, which could come in handy in the event of frivolous lawsuits.

So how much will insurance cost for your brewery? Plan on budgeting about $5,000 to $10,000 annually for all insurance needs.

Keep in mind that cost of premiums can vary widely based many factors including:

  • Location
  • Property value
  • Amount of equipment
  • Square footage of the building
  • Projected revenue
  • Percent of beer sold on-site
  • Amount and type of live music

Additionally, businesses are rated based on “loss experience” and judged against other businesses in the same industry. Basically, if you have more claims than other breweries, you rates can go up. This is especially important in terms of workers compensation insurance.

“Haste leads to accidents…” says Jack. “Safety and prevention of claims really pays off because workers compensation constitutes close to half of a brewery’s total insurance program.”

Craft breweries experience twice as many claims for workers compensation than their macro brewery counterparts. And many of the risks present in the brewing environment are unique to the industry.

“The brewing business is a unique enough exposure that it warrants specialized coverages,” explains Jack. “A standard commercial insurance policy slapped onto a brewery is really going to leave some pretty significant gaps [in coverage.]”

Other insurance coverage that a brewery should consider:

  • Product recall
  • Employment practices
  • Beer spillage
  • Tank leakage
  • Refrigeration coverage

“The cost isn’t necessarily more, it’s just coverages that are tailored toward breweries,” explains jack

The main thing is to be proactive in managing your risk. Don’t think of insurance as a chore that just needs to be done, so find the least expensive plan.

“You have a product that you love, it’s dream job. I really don’t think it makes sense to jeopardize all of that just to save a few dollars on insurance.”

“Haste leads to accidents… Safety and prevention of claims really pays off.” [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:

Sour beer

Other resources:

You can reach Jack Moores and Moores Insurance Management 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