My best books of 2014.

My best books of 2014

If you want to succeed, you have to read. Two books stood out from my reading list this year. These 2 books helped me formulate my vision for the brewery that I want to make. I hope they’ll help you on your journey to starting a brewery.

These books definitely helped me articulate my vision. And if you can read it, you can believe it. It has been the basis for several posts on my personal blog.

Entrepreneurs are readers. I recently spoke with Danny Robinson, owner of Backshore Brewing Co. in Ocean City, Maryland.

“I don’t know of any successful business people that are not voracious readers,” says Danny.

Start With Why; How great leaders inspire everyone to take action by Simon Sinek

My parents are their own bosses. Each year they send themselves to Breakthrough Conference for goal setting, morale building, and such. I guess it’s pretty exciting because they always come back talking about it. My dad comes back talking about breaking boards. My mom brings back books from the speakers.

A few years ago they saw Simon Sinek speak and my mom emailed me a PDF of the advance copy of this book. It wasn’t until this year that I got around to reading it. And it came at the perfect time.

Although this book was published in 2009, I finally read it in April 2014. I was just coming off a bump in the road to developing my business plan. I was assessing my goals, my visions, and my purpose.

The book is all about getting to the inner reason of why a customer will buy a product.

“If you ask most businesses why their customers are their customers, most will tell you it’s because of superior quality, features, price or service,” he says. “In other words, most companies have no clue why their customers are their customers.”

He talks about different manipulations that companies use to makes sales: price, promotions, fear, aspirations, peer pressure, novelty.

“The danger of manipulations is that they work. And because they work, they have become the norm.”

But, according to Simon, “manipulations lead to transactions, not loyalty.”

So he provides an alternative. He explains how exceptional leaders motivate people by inspiring rather than manipulating.

He explains it in three components:

  1. Why
  2. How
  3. What

Most companies do it backward. They explain what they’re selling, the features, components, etc. They explain how it’s made. And finally, if they get around to it, they tell us why they did it.

But it should be the other way around. It all starts with why.

Simon gives examples, and one of my favorites is Apple’s marketing for their iPod.

There was another company that already had a portable MP3 player on the market nearly 2 years before Apple’s iPod. They had a longer history with digital sound and even with portable digital sound. But they advertised their product as a “5GB mp3 player.”

On the other hand, Apple’s main selling point was, “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Big deal if it’s a 5GB mp3 player, why do I need that.

To put 1,000 songs in my pocket, that’s why!

This system isn’t just for articulating your message to customers. Great leaders inspire their team, and their whole company, by always emphasizing why.

If you want to be a great leader. I highly recommend that you read, Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Above The Line; How the Golden Rule Rules the Bottom Line by Steve Satterwhite

This year, my parents brought back from the conference, another great book, Above the Line by Steve Satterwhite. It was published in 2013, I read it in September 2014.

This book is mostly Steve’s memoir of how he built his IT company from scratch to the best—and one of the most profitable.

Steve goes deep into the workings and the analysis of the IT processes for really large accounts. It was interesting to learn that all the major computer companies don’t handle their own support calls. You might think the IT person works for the company you called, but they’re actually contracted out.

It was also interesting to learn how Steve makes sure to hire the right people every time.

“Each person is a complex human being who comes with a set of strengths, a set of weaknesses and a lot of stuff in between,” he says. “The trick is to recognize someone’s strengths, then give them the tools to move from good to great, and then from great to Rock Star status.”

Steve says there are three disciplines that businesses can master. Most companies believe it’s too much to master all 3, they have to choose one and only one of the 3 disciplines:

  • Operational excellence
  • Product leadership
  • Customer intimacy

But Steve learned that “these three legs are inextricably linked together. You can’t actually have one without the other.”

This book is a great example of a big company doing the right thing. Echoing a lesson from Simon’s book, Steve talks about aligning your company with employees, with clients, and with customers who share your values.

“When our people show up to work with our customers, their culture is an extension of our culture,” Steve says. “How they treat our people is a direct reflection on us as leaders of the organization.”

Steve’s organization is committed to treating their employees well. They treat their employees well so their employees can treat their communities well.

Steve is so committed to this idea that he even gave his employees to a competitor.

He wrote of a time when a client bought a competing IT provider. Steve’s organization lost a lot of business and had to let employees go. Rather than leave the employees to fend for themselves, Steve’s organization called the competitor and recommended these employees for hire. The 2 companies had worked on many of the same jobs. They knew how to do each other’s work.

Although Steve’s company had invested in their employees training, skills, and knowledge, they were committed to treating their people well. When they could no longer afford to keep them employed, they found other employment for them.

This is doing business “above the line.”

“We try to do the right thing in every situation. Even when it hurts,” he says. “Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we make mistakes. But sometimes, we get it right. And despite all my failures and successes, through it all, trying to do the right thing for our people first is why I sleep well at night.”

I highly recommend this book as well.

Read everything you can get your hands on

These 2 books prove that you can strive to make a profitable company and still do what is right.

Craft breweries are known for being the types of businesses that conserve resources, pay employees a livable wage, and give back to the community. You don’t have to sacrifice profits in exchange for that.

When I talked with Danny Robinson he was really enthusiastic about reading for business people.

“Read everything you can get your hands on!” he advises.

If you want to see what books Danny and others are recommending for starting a brewery, check out the list of books recommended by guests of MicroBrewr Podcast.

What were the best books you read this year? What are you striving for in 2015? Let the rest of us know in the comments below.

Image showing Reading by Sebastien Wiertz on flickr (CC BY 2.0) was modified from its orignal state.


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Why I love Ecamm Call Recorder.

Why I love Ecamm Call Recorder

Ecamm recently released Call Recorder for FaceTime and I’m pretty excited. I use Call Recorder to record every episode of MicroBrewr Podcast. Normally I record the calls on Skype, but now they also have the software for FaceTime. This post explains how to use the software (Ecamm Call Recorder tutorial). And there’s a chance to win Call Recorder for FaceTime for FREE! So read all the way to end, to find out how to get your chance to win.


How you can use Ecamm Call Recorder

Call Recorder works with both video calls and audio calls.

Video calling is so much more personal than telephoning by just voice. I really like being able to see someone’s face while I’m talking to them.

When I was developing a business plan for my dream brewery, my partners and I had weekly video calls. Some of the partners were referred by my friend, I had never met them in-person. So seeing their face really helped build rapport.

Sometimes I use the FaceTime audio feature for voice-only calls. I don’t understand all the technical stuff, but there’s way better sound quality from digital calls via an online service like Skype or FaceTime, compared to standard calls by cell phone or even landline.

There are so many uses for recording digital calls. Call Recorder might be perfect if you:

  • Produce a podcast like MicroBrewr
  • Want to record an important business call
  • Or just want to save a special call with a loved one

How I use Ecamm Call Recorder

I use Call Recorder for Skype for every episode of MicroBrewr Podcast. I record all of the interviews through Skype because:

  • It doesn’t use minutes on my phone.
  • It has better sound quality than a cell phone call.
  • I can record it onto my computer.

I’ve done every episode that way, except for one when I talked with Mark Carpenter in-person at Anchor Brewing. For that one, I used Voice Memos on my iPhone. I’m searching for the perfect setup to record in the field, but I still record all the other episodes with Call Recorder for Skype. And now Call Recorder for FaceTime gives me more options.

Plus, I’m an Apple fan, so I’ll be looking for excuses to use FaceTime more often.

Here’s how Ecamm Call Recorder works

Here’s the only Ecamm Call Recorder tutorial you’ll ever need—it’s so simple. After you purchase and install the software, it’s automatically tacked onto Skype or FaceTime, sort of like a plugin. So anytime you open the calling software, Call Recorder also opens.

There’s a separate window with a record button. And that’s it. It’s so simple. I love it!

It goes like this

I can’t remember how I did it the first time. I think there were prompts. Anytime, though, you can go to the little “Call Recorder” window and click the “Settings” icon.


Inside “Call Recorder for FaceTime Settings,” check the box next to “Create Separate Audio Tracks.” This is especially important for podcasting so you can record your voice and your interviewee’s voice onto separate tracks. That will give you greater flexibility in post-production editing.

While you’re still in Settings, go to “Save Recordings To,” and pick where you want the calls saved.


I selected Desktop and it automatically created a new folder called, “Saved Calls.”


Anytime during a FaceTime call you can go down to the Call Recorder window and click the round Record/Stop button.


Record the call as long as you want. When you click stop, it automatically saves a .mov file into the “Saved Calls” folder (wherever you selected in Settings).

The filename identifies the contact you were talking with and the time of the call.


You can record FaceTime video calls or FaceTime audio calls. And now with Yosemite and iOS 8, you can even record calls through your iPhone, onto your computer. The person you’re talking to doesn’t need to have an Apple device!

I recorded just the audio call because that’s what I do for MicroBrewr Podcast.

This .mov is a QuickTime file. But Call Recorder comes with super easy software to convert it to AAC, AIFF or MP3.

Before we convert the file, lets split it into 2 tracks. The original file has both sides of the conversation, but we want to split it into 2 separate tracks, one with each side of the conversation. Call Recorder also comes with super easy software to do this too.

When you first download the software, it saves these extras into a folder called, “Movie Tools.”


For easy access, I moved the 2 applications that I use most onto my Dock:

  • Split Sides of Conversation
  • Convert To MP3

Click on the .mov file, drag it onto “Split Sides of the Conversation,” and let go.


Now you have 2 new .mov files in the same folder as the original. One track has your voice, the other track has the voice of the other caller.


Now let’s convert the file to a different format. I do podcasting, so MP3 is what I work with.

To convert the .mov files to .mp3s, just click on one file, drag it over “Convert to MP3,” and let go.


Do the same thing again for the other file. Now you also have 2 MP3s.

So now, for this one call, you have 5 files in the folder, “Saved Calls”:

  1. The original .mov with both sides of the conversation.
  2. A new .mov with your voice.
  3. A new .mov with your caller’s voice.
  4. An .mp3 with your voice.
  5. An .mp3 with your caller’s voice.


Move them to wherever you want to store them on your hard drive. It’s that easy!

It seems like a lot when the steps are written out like this, but it’s not. Do it once and you got it. Do it twice and it comes naturally. And if you do this a lot, say for a weekly podcast about starting a brewery, it really helps to have those other aps in the dock.

Now I have a question for you: What will you use Call Recorder for FaceTime for?

Win Call Recorder for FREE!

The folks at Ecamm are so cool, they agreed to give us one free copy of Call Recorder for FaceTime. It normally sells for $29.95, but you can get it for FREE!

Click on this link and check out Call Recorder for FaceTime.

Or click on this link and check out Call Recorder for Skype.

Then, in the comments section below, tell me how you will use Call Recorder. Is it for work? For personal use? Who will you call? Where will you call from? Where is the person you’re calling?

Paint a picture and give me a good (short) story. I’ll pick one winner on January 8, 2015. And Ecamm will give you Call Recorder for FaceTime FOR FREE.

UPDATE: P.S. They’re running a special for Christmas: Buy both versions (for Skype and FaceTime) and save $15! I don’t know how long the special will last. If you can’t wait until the results of the this contest, click either one of the links above, scroll to the bottom, and check out the combo deal.

UPDATE: The contest winner was selected. Yay! Check out the comments below to see the entries and the winner. Thanks to everyone who entered, it makes this more fun.


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How side streaming your brewery wastewater can save you money, guest post by John Mercer, Brewery Wastewater Design.

How side streaming your brewery wastewater can save you money

For every gallon of beer made, it takes 7 gallons of water. Hopefully you thought about your brewery wastewater management before you built your brewery. Even if you’ve been producing beer for years, there are things you can do to reduce your load on the municipal wastewater treatment facility and potentially reduce your sewage bill.

John Mercer has more than 15 years of wastewater experience in breweries and laboratories. His company, Brewery Wastewater Design in Montrose, Colorado, specializes in designing wastewater systems for breweries of all sizes.

John was our guest on MicroBrewr Podcast episode 033. He taught us all about wastewater treatment for a craft brewery. I was fascinated by the concept of side-streaming to possibly cut costs from the sewage treatment plant. So I asked John to write a blog about it.

Check out more free resources about brewery wastewater management on the Brewery Wastewater Design website.

How side streaming your brewery wastewater can save you money

What is side stream?

Side-streaming is collecting high strength, concentrated wastes at the source—before it hits the floor, and setting it aside for disposal. Sources of this high-strength wastewater include fermenter bottoms, spent yeast, returned beer in kegs, fermenter blow off, beer in hoses or pipes at the beginning or end of a packaging run; but the primary source is the brewhouse.

Lauter tun rinsings, hop back rinsings, kettle residues, and trub. All of this material is very high in BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) and TSS (total suspended solids) and are easy targets to separate if you need or want to lower the BOD and TSS of your brewery’s wastewater. BOD can’t just be filtered from your wastewater.

How to collect side stream at a brewery

My favorite method for collecting this side-stream material is via an equipment drain. Very similar to a floor drain, but there is no drain. Instead a pipe extends up through the floor about 6 inches. This prevents other material from entering the pipe. Specific high-strength materials are piped or hosed into the equipment drain. Everything else enters the normal floor-drain system.

If you’re following along, you will notice that this requires a separate set of drain lines under your slab. One set for floor drains, another set for side-stream drains. If you are building a new brewery or tearing up the slab in an existing building this is definitely the way to go.

Luckily you don’t need many of these side-stream equipment drains:

  • 1 in the brewhouse area
  • 1 to 2 in the cellar area
  • 1 to 2 in the packaging areas.

You can still side stream if you can’t or don’t want to tear up your slab, it just gets a little trickier.

You will have to go overhead or along the walls with the piping, so you will need to pump the material. Lots of pumps. Double diaphragm pumps work fine, make sure it can handle solids and if it’s in the brewhouse, make sure it can handle high temperatures.

Now you need something to pump out of. An old 55-gallon drum with the top cut off works, but it will deform. Better is a ‘portable floor drain’ made of stainless steel that can be wheeled around. Something short with casters on it, so it can go under a whirlpool or lauter tun.

What to do with the side stream from your brewery

However you do it, collect this material and put it in a tank (outdoors, in back, it’ll stink), and spread it on pastures as fertilizer—or even feed it to animals. You could have one big tank or you could use old chemical totes (IBCs); doesn’t need to be fancy. It can go on the fields as is, solids and high temperature are OK.

If feeding it to animals, make sure you are not responsible for any misuse of this product by the hauler/farmer; it can cause bloat and drunkenness. Generally the fertilizer content of this material is lower than the cost of hauling, so you may have to pay for hauling. But if you have a fertilizer company nearby, they might pay you for it.

Of course, spent grain should be your first side stream. You might even decide to add your trub and spent yeast in here. Spent grain does have value as feed. At a minimum you can give it away in exchange for the farmer promptly hauling it away. Maybe you can get some free beef out of the deal. Larger breweries should be able to sell their spent grain.

The value of spent grain increases as moisture content decreases; 80% moisture is a great target.

How side streaming can help save you money

After side streaming, the remaining portion of your wastewater can be referred to as low-strength wastewater. This will be cleaning and CIP water in your cellar and brewhouse, as well as any packaging line wastewater, boiler blow-down, cooling tower blow-down, and general wash-down waters. The BOD of this low-strength wastewater is still high-strength compared to typical municipal wastewater, so side streaming doesn’t solve all of your problems, but it does help. BOD & TSS are what most municipalities look at then applying surcharges. Sanitary wastewater (toilets, sinks, kitchen) should not be included in the low-strength waste stream and should be piped directly to the sanitary sewer.

The best option for disposal of the low-strength wastewater is almost always to have someone else treat your wastewater for you—especially if they do it for free. Doing what you can to make the people at your municipality happy to treat your wastewater for you is a great deal.

Always ‘play nice’ with the regulators

My best piece of advice for any brewer may be to ‘play nice’ with the regulatory authorities you have to deal with. They may give you rules, laws, and limits to abide by, as well as charge fees—and you might not agree with them all. But smile, be courteous and professional, and try to see things from their perspective. Do not get into an adversarial relationship. They have lawyers on retainer and they probably know their laws better than you do.

All of this doesn’t mean don’t try to negotiate—just be professional. They can treat your wastewater cheaper than you can, plus they already have the rate-payer-funded equipment and staff. Just hope they have capacity.


Image showing Fulton Officials Discuss Improvements to Wastewater Treatment Plant by KOMUnews on flickr (CC BY 2.0) was modified from its orignal state.

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Selling more beer through your local craft beer store.

Selling more beer through your local craft beer store

Selling more is always a goal. You put hard work into the craft, you want more people to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Before you think of selling your beer at retail, before you even package your beer, there are some things that will help you sell more of your beer at retail.

Tiffany Adamowski and her husband have been operating 99 Bottles beer store, in Federal Way, Washington for the past 7 years. Tiffany was our guest on MicroBrewr podcast episode 029. She taught us how to sell more beer through your local craft beer store. She had so many great tips that I asked her to write a couple of blogs posts to go into more detail.

In her last post, Tiffany told us some tips to build relationships with your local craft beer store. In this post she helps us understand the deep, complex reasons that one beer will be a hit seller.

Selling more beer through your local craft beer store

Consumer buying habits are driven by economics, psychology, and behavior. When making a purchase decision at a specialty beer store, the customer’s decision to buy is usually based on:

  • “I like the label.”
  • “It’s in my price range.”
  • “It came recommended.”

And the repeat decision to buy is based on:

  • “It tastes good.”

Product labeling: Personality sells

Beers with catchy, fun, and unique brands are easiest to sell on a customer’s first visit. Beer brands that sell well repeatedly over time, on a customer’s return visits, those that deliver on the promise of who and what they say they are—they’re consistent and familiar.

Think of the biggest craft breweries and what they’re known for:

  • Stone Brewing Company: Beer with attitude, not for wussies.
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Company: Whole cone hops; sustainability.
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales: Off-centered, unique beers.

What’s your beer’s story? …its flavor? …its style? Does its name and packaging reflect this?

Sample beer labels

beer labels Baranof Island Brewing Company beer labels Crux Fermentation Project beer labels Telegraph Brewing Company beer labels Propolis Brewing beer labels Klamath Basin Brewing Company beer labels Alesmith Brewing Company

Note, when giving your beer a name, it’s a good idea to do a trademark search on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) website to avoid any possible trademark infringements and costly rebrands.

Branding creates an identity. Does each of your beers have a unique personality deserving of a name, or are they simply named: “Blonde, IPA, Pale Ale, and Stout”? Do all the labels look exactly the same, or are there personality differences? Is there one strong theme that pulls all your labels together… or does the label on each beer look so different that your brand is disjointed and confusing?

What’s your angle? How did the beer come to be? Provide fun trivia and stories to those representing your beer to consumers. Equip the people who represent your brand—share information at in-store tastings, through your brewery’s website and social media platforms, sales sheets, and shelf talkers.

With a good story, a retailer can sell a lot of beer.

Product pricing: Keep it affordable

Price your beer to keep your brewery operations in the black, but don’t price so high as to slow it down at the retail location. If you’re starting out and not sure what to charge, check out the retail prices of competing beer brands and ask local independent retailers for information on typical wholesale pricing.

Product recommendations: Trustworthy sources

The opinion of another person, who may or may not have the drinker’s preferences in mind, can have a HUGE influence on the purchase decision.

The influence of the retailer

The small independent craft beer retailer has this advantage: Trust.

Like the TV series “Cheers,” your local beer store gets to know its regulars. The retailer points their regulars to beers they believe will be appreciated.

And for new customers, the local craft beer store aims to get the drinker into a beer they’ll like, so they’ll return—and tell their friends about the experience.

This is quite different from mega liquor chains who focus on upselling certain brands. The independent specialty craft beer store is better equipped to showcase any and all breweries’ offerings to their customers.

The influence of lists

Third-party lists and recommendations also have an impact. Every week people walk into the beer store with lists of “top beers”—not realizing that most on the list are “beer whales.” (Like whales in the ocean, everyone talks about these limited-release beers, few see them.) Most of the general beer-seeking public don’t understand the concept of annual release, brewed once, draft only, and regionally available.

Hence, what excites me most are realistic lists—beers recommended by local beer bloggers, beers that are readily available in our State. But such lists are few. Getting your year-round beers in the hands of local bloggers, news sources and publications who can make “top lists” or “beer picks” lists is most helpful to the average consumer.

The influence of media

Radio, TV, magazines, and podcasts also have an affect on people seeking out your beers. In 2011, the Smithsonian wrote an article on Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch; due to longevity of posts on the Web, people are still coming in seeking out that beer, while referencing the article.

It tastes good: Quality is oh-so important!

I can’t overemphasize quality. If a craft beer tastes bad, a craft beer newbie is likely to say, “That style is nasty,” even though it may have simply been an off batch, product gone bad, or ingredients used in a way that aren’t to their personal preference.

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of small breweries express their goal of getting their product on the shelves of a major retailer, such as a grocery store or mega liquor chain. This is where I get out my soapbox and say to a new brewery, “Be careful.” Distributors sometimes push products into a big-box store for the sale, allowing product to expire on the shelves. I really feel this does craft beer an injustice—if someone’s first experience with a craft beer is a beer that tastes off… well, that’s just bad business.

If signing on with a distributor, make sure they’re properly storing your beer and are having their sales representatives relay this information. If your beer requires refrigeration, be sure to communicate this—but also realize that may limit the amount of beer the shop may purchase. (Big floor displays are at room temperature.)

When brewing flagship beers that are packaged in bottles/cans, don’t continually tweak recipes. Save those experimental batches for the brewpub or accounts who can adequately represent them. People who fall in love with your beer are expecting a consistent flavor. Handcraft is easy to explain, but extreme changes in flavor aren’t… they can lose you followers.

If you realize a beer didn’t hold up as long as expected, have foamers, or unintentionally soured beers, be humble, confident, and have the balls to do recalls. It’s not just your name on the line, but the name of the retailer who is representing your brand.

Helpful links

Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (to make sure your desired brand name isn’t already owned by someone else).

The Beer Archaeologist by Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian Magazine, August 2011.

Every Good Brewery Has a Creation Story, The Beer Spectacles, January 6, 2014.

What’s wrong with beer marketing? -> A beer duet – @SommBeer & @HopsCanary, SommBeer – Beer Blog, July 24, 2014.

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Building relationships with your local craft beer store, guest post by Tiffany Adamowski, 99 Bottles beer store.

Building relationships with your local craft beer store

Congratulations! You’re working toward selling your packaged beer at retail. You have been making great beer for a while. Things are going great at your taproom. Your customers are starting to ask where they can buy your beer. Here are some tips to help you as you reach out to local beer stores.

Tiffany Adamowski and her husband have been operating 99 Bottles beer store, in Federal Way, Washington for the past 7 years. Tiffany was our guest on MicroBrewr podcast episode 029. She taught us how to sell more beer through your local craft beer store. She had so many great tips that I asked her to write a couple of blogs posts to go into more detail.

In this post Tiffany help us understand how to build relationships with your local craft beer store. In the next post she’ll dig deeper into selling more beer through your local craft beer store.

Building relationships with your local craft beer store

So, I hear you’re starting a brewery or becoming a brewery representative, and want to know how to sell product to your local craft beer store. I’ll offer a bit of advice, from the perspective of a craft beer retailer.

Initiating the relationship

Start by introducing yourself and your product. A good way to do this is to get the contact information of the person who makes the buying decisions for the craft beer store. If you’re new to sales, the cold call can be uncomfortable… but it doesn’t need to be. Your goal should be to keep it brief and on-topic:

Hello, my name is … I represent brewery name. We have beers available for your shop, in (format: kegs, bottles, cans). Here is our sales sheet, samples, and my contact information. Our beers will be available through (distributor name, self distributed). Is there a good day/time that I can follow-up?

If you offer to follow up on a specific day/time, keep that appointment. Understand that the shopkeeper at small craft beer shops often wear many hats.

Be aware of other demands on the retailer while you’re there. Realize that they need to focus first on their customers—both in person, and on phone, while you’re making your visit.

Avoid dropping in during “busy times” to pitch your product. For a specialty craft beer store this is often drive-time. Beer bars that serve food may have blackout times during lunch, happy hour, and dinner. If in doubt, call ahead and schedule a time.

Contacting by email? If the email isn’t available on the shop’s website or you’ve not received an answer to a cold email, call the business and ask for the name and email of the person who does the ordering.

The sales sheet

A successful sales sheet should answer the key questions the retailer and their customers will ask about the beer:

  • Brewery name, location, web and social media addresses.
  • Beer name, flavor description, alcohol by volume (ABV), international bitterness unit (IBU), original gravity (OG)—if available, wholesale price, availability (year-round, seasonality, one-off, etc.).
  • Distributor name—if the brewery is self distributing, the sales person’s name and contact information, order due-by days, delivery days.
  • For larger retailers, include the product SKUs.
  • Niceties include product images, a list of point-of-sale merchandise available, MSRP, and the background story to the beer and/or brewery.

Sample sales sheets

 sales-sheets_7-seas sales-sheets_alaskan sales-sheets_moonlight-mead sales-sheets_northwest

Invoicing and delivery, if self-distributing

Establish certain days for delivery. Find out what times are best for each retail establishment. A beer bar that serves food may be too busy to accept deliveries during meal hours (lunch/dinner). Often times bottle shops have more versatility in delivery times, but be sure to learn which times are best—they may also have black-out times for delivery due to increased customer flow.

Deliver what you promised; don’t pull cases off one account’s order to give to another. If you’re going to have to short a retailer what they’ve ordered due to limited supply and high demand, communicate this in advance. Don’t rely on your delivery person to relay the news.

Beer is a controlled substance and your State’s Alcohol Control Board requires you to take payment cash on delivery (COD). Thus, have a means to safely store and transport checks and/or cash with you.

  • Shoving a check into your back pocket? Double think that. Calling the retailer later because you misplaced the check simply shows a lack of professionalism, and can cost them and/or you bank stop-payment fees.
  • Delivery person math challenged? Get them a calculator. Cases can be damaged in transit, keg shells may need to be returned, or you may have extra cases available. Have a price sheet on hand. Be prepard to adjust invoices on-the-spot.

Maintaining the relationship

Keep track of your customer’s information, and make sure that if you’re relying on a business partner or employee to make sales calls that this data is retained at the company level. Thus, if your brewery’s ownership changes or that salesperson leaves the brewery, you’re not left rebuilding relationships from scratch.

A simple Excel spreadsheet can work, or consider using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

Useful information to have on hand about your customers include:

  • Chief decision maker/buyer: first and last name, phone number (business and cell*), email address, preferred contact method (in person, phone, text, email), days/times available (so you’re not always calling/stopping in on their day off).
  • Names of other staff at the location who are able to assist: Managers, receiving clerk, and/or staff who may have impact on the purchasing decision.
  • Preferred delivery days/times, delivery access (front, back, side door?).
  • The date and time you called on them, what was discussed, items promised (POS, allocations of limited/rare beer, etc.)—and when those promises were fulfilled.
  • How the account is presenting and representing your brand.
  • Initiatives you’ve taken to drive sales at the establishment—and their success rate.
  • Niceties and conversation starters that come up in your conversations with them, such as their favorite beers and/or styles, styles that sell well at that specialty beer business, birthdates, anniversaries, kids names, etc. Jot down anything that can help you better present and become more trusted, familiar, and friendly (but avoid being creepy or stalkerish).

*If given a cell number, don’t give it to people looking to buy your beer in that city. Give the main business number of the retail establishment.

Helpful links

The Best Way To Manage Customer Relationships by Kern Lewis, Forbes, February 13, 2009.

New Belgium boosts customer relations and sales with Microsoft Dynamics by Sean Dudley, OnWindows, March 5, 2014.

Why is there a need for CRM solutions in the Beverage Alcohol Marketplace? by Tade Pulse.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software by OrchestratedBEER™ Business Management Software for breweries.


Image showing Handshake by Aidan Jones on flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) was modified from its orignal state.

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Meet your new host: Nathan Pierce.

Meet your new host for the MicroBrewr podcast

MicroBrewr podcast has a new host, Nathan Pierce. You might remember me from episode 005, where we talked about my plans to start a brewery close to my home, near Monterey, California. I’ve hit some speed bumps in that process, so it’s becoming more of a longer term goal. More on that later.

When Joe Shelerud announced on episode 012 that it would be the last episode, I was shocked. I was driving in my car when I heard him say it. I immediately paused the podcast and gave Joe a call. Read more

Top Four Tips For Using Social Media To Promote Your Brewery

Social Media and The Conversion of a Non-Believer

Over the last few years, I’ve talked about deleting my Facebook account.  People would get mad at me since they’d send me a Facebook message and I wouldn’t get back to them for three months because I wouldn’t ever check my notifications.   After I found my beautiful wife after college, Facebook just didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose for me anymore and I lost interest.  I got my first personal Twitter account around a year ago and had tweeted a total of 4 times.  Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat were things that my sister or wife would try to explain to me what they were and what purpose they served.  To sum it up, I was a non-believer of social media and didn’t really get the point.

As I was in the process of starting up MicroBrewr, I created a token Twitter and Facebook account just because I thought that having those pages would make the site look more “professional”.  I wasn’t planning on putting much effort into those pages because I didn’t think I’d get that much return for all the time that was required.  When I finally launched the site, I had a couple of Facebook likes and maybe a handful of followers on Twitter.  Then, something crazy happened that instantly turned me into a believer in social media.

Some Shares of the MicroBrewr Article on Twitter

Some Shares of the MicroBrewr Article on Twitter

When I launched MicroBrewr, I was hoping for maybe a couple of hundred people to visit within the first week.  After all, MicroBrewr was a brand new site out there that no one had ever heard of. I figured that I should send out a post to the few followers that I had about the articles that I was including in the launch.  The morning of the launch, I sent out a tweet and Facebook post on one of articles which was called 61 Brewers Speak Out: What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Brewery.  Suddenly, my phone started buzzing with a number of people who had shared the link.  This post took off and lead to hundreds of tweets and over 3000 page likes on Facebook.  The sharing took on a life of its own and led to 25,125 unique visitors within the first week of having the site launched.

RELATED: My #1 tool for growing an email list

With most craft breweries, advertising budgets are tight (if they even exist) and social media gives you a great way to create loyal fans for free.  As we discussed in the post How Small Craft Brewers Continue to Dominate the Corporate Giants, one of the key drivers of the craft beer movement is people wanting to buy local and know who is brewing their beer.  Social media gives you an easy connection to build those lasting relationships which translates into loyal fans.  If you’re running a brewery or are thinking of starting one, there’s no doubt that time is also tight so here’s some quick tips on how to get the most return out of your precious time.

Top Four Tips When Using Social Media For Your Brewery

You Can’t Do It All – One thing that kept getting me stuck is that I was overwhelmed by the number of social media sites that were out there.  I figured that if I was going to do one, I had to do them all.  After some soul searching I decided that I needed to focus on just a couple and do them well.  Since this arena is constantly changing, I’m continually looking for changes in demographics and trends to see which ones will give the best response (here’s a great update of 2013 social media demographics).  For breweries, Facebook and Twitter are still key but there are a couple of others that seem to be emerging.  Instagram has potential since users have very high levels of engagement and is very skewed towards younger users that are very supportive of the craft beer industry (as long as they are drinking age).  The other one that I believe is key is Untappd since I don’t know how you could get a much more targeted audience than that.  The key is to pick a few social media platforms to focus on and do them well.

No One Likes Someone Who Talks About Themselves All the Time – While you should be sending out reminders of the next brewery event or new beer you’re releasing, these should not be the only thing that you’re sending.  With the bombardment of content that our society gets especially now with social media, people are very reluctant at being sold to.  While talking about that happy hour special is great, make sure you’re also actually connecting with people rather than trying to just sell to them.  Once people get to know you through social media, when you do send out those posts promoting your new small batch beer, people will be much more willing to listen.  Gary Vaynerchuk wrote a great book about this called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook which I’d highly recommend checking out if you get a chance.

Each Social Network Has Its Own Rules That You Don’t Want To Break  If you started out like me and didn’t use social media much before, it takes a bit to learn the “rules” of each platform.  People communicate differently on each platform and if you don’t take the time to learn the right way to share, prepare to be ignored.  Some examples that I see every day are people who automatically share copy their Twitter posts to Facebook.  If I see you talking about “@someone” on Facebook like you’d reference a person in Twitter, I know that you automatically updated your Facebook page and I immediately lose that personal connection with you.  If you’re new to a social network, Gary V’s book that I referenced above is a great way to get you quickly up to speed.

Honestly Ask Yourself If You’d Share What You’re About To Post if It Came Across Your Feed – Social media can have amazing returns if you put out content worth sharing.  The beauty of social media is that if you send out good content, the sharing can take on a life of its own and reach so many more people that you could have yourself.  Think of how you scan through your feed on Facebook or Twitter and how little time you spend looking at each individual post.  If you’re like me, you’ll probably scroll though quite a few posts before stopping to take a closer look at a picture or headline that catches your eye.  Taking the extra few minutes to make that content stand out can really make a difference on the engagement and ultimately new fans that you get for your brewery.

Since time and money is tight, I’ve put together an e-book with six free social media tools that you can use to build your presence online and get your beer into the hands of more people.  As my thanks for visiting MicroBrewr, simply click the button below and I’ll send you the e-book free to your email.


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The 12 Questions You Need To Ask to Plan Your Brewery

After I got a number of questions around how to get information about the money side of starting a brewery and doing the financial section of a business plan, I hope that this step-by-step guide can help out the aspiring brewer.  Truth be told, you can use the same process for a number of different businesses but in this guide, we’ll focus on the beer side of things.

While you can do all of the financial planning in the world, the quickest way to get the information you need to start a brewery is finding someone else who’s already gone through the process themselves.  As seen in our post “61 Brewers Speak Out: What I Wish I Would Have Known Before Starting a Brewery”, these guys and gals who are now running their own breweries are a wealth of information.  When you’re in the phase of looking for investments in business, showing that you’ve done your homework and having real life examples of start-up costs, sales and operating expenses will help to give you a leg up and add credibility to your financial section.

So How Do I Find A Brewer To Talk To and Will They Actually Help Me?

In the craft beer industry, we are very lucky to have a supportive community of brewers, many of whom are happy to share their experiences.  Odds are, they just went through the same process you’re about to embark on and they got help from others.  Like everything else in life, it feels great to many brewers to give back to the community that got them started.  That being said, just randomly sending them an email asking for detailed financial information probably isn’t going to get too many responses.  Here’s my advice to getting the best chance of finding people who are willing to help you out:

First, do a search in your local area of breweries that match the type of brewery that you’d like to start.  If you want to start a distribution brewery based out of an old industrial building, find other distribution breweries like that in your surrounding area.  If you want to start a brew pub in a strip mall, see if you can find ones like it.  While it would be great to find other breweries that are just like the one you’d like to start, you also have to be flexible if the number of breweries in your area is limited.  Since some people might not want to share their information with you if you’re planning on opening a new brewery across the street, take a look at other breweries in the surrounding areas that you can take a weekend road trip to visit.  Once you’ve found a few that seem to fit the bill of what you’re looking to start, you can usually find their contact information on their website.


Now here’s the trick.  Anyone starting a brewery is going to be super busy with all aspects of running their new business.  If you simply send them a long email asking for a bunch of info, your odds of getting a response back are very slim.  If you help out the brewery you’re looking to get info from and can demonstrate that you’re serious, you are going to have much better chance of them wanting to help you back.  Finding time to take a brewery tour or buying a couple of growlers for your friends will set the tone.  Tweet or share on Facebook different events that their brewery is having or how much you love the beer from their brewery (make sure to tag them so they can see it).  Volunteer to help them out with an upcoming event or say you’ll come in at bar close to help them clean up the place.  Anything that you can do to create a personal connection with the brewery owner and show that you’re serious will really help you out in the long run.  After you’ve established that personal connection, then you can contact them to see if they can take 15 minutes of their time to walk through the 12 key questions listed below.  I highly recommend doing this face to face or at least by phone since typing up an email takes longer for the brewery owner (and they are very busy!).

Now You’ve Got Your Connections, Here Are the 12 Key Questions to Ask

In this section, I’ll list out the 12 key questions that you need to ask another brewery owner to get a good idea about the financials of their brewery, and ultimately find out how much does it cost to start a brewery. Going along with the 12 questions, I’ve created a free Excel spreadsheet that you can use to put in the answers to all of these questions (the link is at the bottom of this post).  I know that Excel can be a little intimidating so I’ve done all of the calculations for you.  All you’ll need to do is enter in the numbers, select a couple of drop down boxes and you’re good to go.

  1. What was your original brewing capacity in barrels or gallons per batch? In the spreadsheet I’ve attached, I’ll do all the tough work for you to convert these values.
  2. How many batches of beer do you make in a typical month or year?
  3. How much money did it cost you to start the brewery? Make sure to get all of the costs included in the process to get the doors open for the brewery.
  4. What is the typical price you are able to sell the kegs and cans for?  You’ll just want to get an average of how much the brewery gets for each of the kegs it sells.  If the brewery sells beer in the tap room, count this as “selling” a keg (really you’re selling it to yourself) and incorporate this into the average price you get by selling a keg.  If the brewery sells cans or bottles to distributors, you’ll want to get the price that the brewery gets from the distributor.  This can get a little tricky so if you have any troubles with this, let me know and I’ll help you out on it.
  5. How many kegs do you sell and how many bottles or cans?  You can either get this as a percent of total sales (% of keg sales versus % of bottles/cans sales) or actual sales of bottles and kegs over a typical month or year.
  6. What’s the typical cost of brewing ingredients?  You can get this in the average cost of ingredients per batch, the average ingredient costs per month or the cost per year.
  7. How much does it typically cost to bottle your beer (including packaging, labeling, etc.)?  In this, you’ll want to include the cost of buying the bottles, labeling, packaging and any shipping to get it to the distributor.
  8. What is your typical rent or mortgage payment?  You can get this either as the payments per month or per year.
  9. How much do you do you have to pay per month or per year for salaries and benefits for brewers, bartenders, servers, etc?  You’ll want to get the average labor costs per month or per year and I would include any benefit payments since this will give you a better picture of the full costs of employing everyone.
  10. How much are utilities typically per month or per year?  I know this can vary throughout the year but you’ll want to get an estimation of a typical month’s utilities costs including water, sewer, heat, cooling, electricity and any other usual costs.
  11. How much do you have to pay for taxes on each beer that you sell?  This one can get a little tricky but you’ll want to find out how much the brewery has to pay on taxes for a keg that it sells and how much for each bottle (you can also get taxes per each 6-pack or case of beer).
  12. Are there any other costs or expenses that I should know about?

And that’s it!  In 12 questions, you can get all of the key information that you need to know to be able to get a good perspective of their business (and your prospective brewery).  Now all you need to do is go into the spreadsheet that I have linked at the bottom of the post and put in the numbers into the boxes that I have highlighted.

To start off, this template should work well if you’re looking at starting up a distribution brewery.  You can still get a lot of good information if you’re looking at starting up a brewpub but the costs and sales of the food can complicate the matter a bit.  If you’d like me to create a second version for brewpubs, let me know and I can incorporate these items and expand on this guide.  If you get this information and need some help figuring out what all the rest of the numbers mean, feel free to send me an email with the spreadsheet and I’ll help you out.

Disclaimer:  I have to put this in to protect myself and my family against a few bad apples.  This template was put together to give an approximation of the financials of a brewery while in the research state of a business plan.  While I will do all I can to make sure the information and calculations are correct, it is the responsibility of the user to verify these values and MicroBrewr is not liable for any use or decisions made from this template.

Download the MicroBrewr Brewery Financial Planning Excel Worksheet

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Branding and Transforming Your Beer into Art

Branding and Transforming Your Beer Into Art

Logo above designed by DeRouen & Co. 

While we all hope that our beer is good enough to sell itself, there’s a ton of great beer out there.  If no one every tries your beer for the first time, no one will know how great it is.  This is where branding, labeling and packaging can have a huge impact on making your beer stand out from the rest.

For someone who is not familiar with your brewery, picture your new potential fan standing in the craft beer aisle of the liquor store scanning for a beer to try.  Say there’s 250 different types of beer in the aisle and the person spends three minutes looking around.  This gives 3/4 of a second to spend looking at each beer assuming they look at every beer for the same amount of time.  Realistically, the person is going to have a few beers that catch their eye and they’ll spend most of their time checking those out in more detail.  So if you put your beer next to 250 others, does it have that eye catching ability to make people stop and spend more than a second looking at it?


When I was looking for examples of great beer labels to feature, I stumbled across the “Oh Beautiful Beer” blog by Harvey Shepard.  In the blog, Harvey has put together an amazing collection of bottle, can, 6-pack and brewery logo designs that inspire creativity.  He has discovered art in beer form and really shows what an eye-catching design looks like.  Harvey also does graphic design so if you need some outside help to transform your beer or brewery logo into art, you can can get in contact with him at   I wanted to pick his brain about what really makes up a good design and how much of an impact it has to the small brewer.

Some Q&A on What Really Makes a Great Beer Design

What is a common theme that you see in the “beautiful beer” that you put up on your site?

It’s hard to generalize, but some of the most effective beer labels are clean and clear. I think a lot of labels fall flat because they are too complicated. A beer label is a fairly small medium to work with. A lineup of labels with complex illustrations or a lot of small detail can appear muddy on the shelf.

What’s your favorite logo or beer design that you’ve found and why did you like it so much?

I hate to play favorites, but I am completely in love with McGarrah Jessee’s work for Shiner. It is a perfect example of a brand creating an image. The photos, copy and design elements all have the look and feel of a working class beer from a century-old brewery in a tiny Texas town. Their print ads are unique, clever and further drive home their brand with slogans like “Made in Shiner by people made in Shiner,” and “Not new. Not improved.”

As far as consistency goes, their packaging is a bit looser than most, but it works. Each six pack is immediately identifiable and every new release looks fresh and exciting, rather than formulaic.

When you’re looking to develop a logo or beer bottle design for a brewing client, what questions do you usually ask them to get a feel for what to design for them?  Said another way, if a brewer was trying to figure out how to design their own label, how do they go figuring out the identity of their brewery and how to portray that in their branding?

I’m always a fan of the story. I want to hear about how the company came to be and where the brand name came from. It doesn’t work for everyone, but there are some fine examples of brewers successfully using imagery from their professional or personal history.


Check out some of Harvey’s work.

The bicycle in the New Belgium logo roots in founder Jeff Lebesch’s vacation spent biking to various Belgian breweries. The homebrewer returned to Colorado inspired and created the recipe for Fat Tire Amber Ale and eventually a brewery.

When Pretty Things founders Dann and Martha Paquette were first dating, Dann was drawn to a framed piece of embroidery Martha’s grandmother made. He immediately decided that the white tree on a red shield would become the logo for their future brewery.

Every client is different but some questions to consider are: What story do you have to tell? What sets your company apart from your competition? What feeling or message do you want your branding to convey to those who view it?

What aspects do you think are important when considering overall branding for a small brewery?  

Visual consistency across the brand is certainly important. Whether it’s a beer bottle, print ad or coaster, each piece helps reinforce the overall identity. But it’s also very important that you know that your brand is much more than just the visual elements. It’s every way you interact with your audience. It’s every tweet you send and every conversation your staff has with a customer.

How much do you consider tailoring your branding to the potential demographics of the customers (if at all)?

Knowing your target audience is certainly an important part of the design process. If you want to sell your product, you need to know who is going to buy it and how to reach them.

How big of an influence do you think that branding has on overall beer sales?  

For better or worse, packaging plays an important role in products we buy and beer is no exception. With more than 15,000 breweries worldwide, each needs to separate themselves from the crowd in any and every way possible. Design is a very effective means to do just that. More often than not, a beer label is the first way a consumer interacts with the brand.

There are plenty of stores with enormous amounts of shelf space dedicated to beer. If I’m staring at seemingly thousands of beers on a shelf, I’m not likely to pick up a beer I’ve never tried unless the packaging piques my interest. Of course, I’m not going to continue buying that beer unless I’m happy with the contents, but the packaging gets the foot in the door. The brand with the unprofessional design is going to stay on the shelf, no matter how good the product might be.

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Next week, I’ll be putting out a step-by-step guide on how to work through the financials for your brewery’s business plan.  To get updates on when this and other content comes out, make sure to connect with me by clicking the button below.  As my thank you for joining the community, I’ll send you the 6 Free Social Media Tools To Get People Talking About Your Beer e-book for free.


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How Small Craft Brewers Continue to Dominate the Corporate Giants

It’s a beautiful thing that we’ve been seeing over the last few years.  More and more craft breweries are opening their doors throughout America (and actually a number of other countries) providing thirsty customers with a number of new choices.  While total US beer sales are about flat, the craft brewing industry continues to see double digit growth in total volume and sales dollars.  From the Brewers Association, in 2012 the craft beer industry grew by 15% in total volume and 17% in retail sales dollars.  While experiencing all this expansion, the craft beer market still only represents 6.6% of total beer sales in the US leaving much more room for growth.  To fuel all this new demand, microbreweries and brewpubs have been popping up all over the place.  In 2011, there were a total of 1970 craft breweries which has increased to 2483 as of June 2013.  While updated data isn’t yet available for all of 2013 from the Brewers Association, the industry doesn’t appear to be slowing down yet.  This all begs the question, how are a bunch of small breweries stealing market share from the corporate giants that have dominated the beer market for years and have all the connections, funding and advertising that we don’t?

Key Drivers of the Craft Beer Movement

There are a number of factors that are causing the explosion in the craft beer industry that we will cover and probably even more that we won’t touch on.  Here are a few of the major drivers that are currently fueling the craft beer movement:

Home Brewing a Whisky Barrel Stout

Home brewing is a gateway into craft beer:  Home brewing continues to grow and this community is going to be one of the most enthusiastic supporters of your microbrewery or brewpub.  They are educated in what quality beer is and are some of the leaders in the pack in helping to promote your brewery.  Their friends look to them for what breweries make “good” beer.  Home brewing forums are insanely popular and getting this pack on your side is vital to the success of your brewery.  Owners like Seth from Bull City Brewery realize this and try to give back to the community of home brewers by holding home brewing competitions and classes to help educate home brewers to make better beer (see the article with Seth on creative ways to promote your brewery).

Expanding education and tastes for craft beer:  We owe this to some of the trailblazers in the industry who helped to educate the public and slowly get the population used to drinking beers that were different than the bland types offered by the consolidated beer industry.  As craft beer becomes more main stream, customers are continuing to demand a greater variety of beers and willingness to experiment with new types of brews.  Those breweries that do a better job of educating people on the different styles of craft beer will put themselves ahead of the pack.  For the craft beer industry to continue to grow, we either have to keep robbing market share from the big breweries or bring “non-beer drinkers” into the mix.  Tours are a great place for this but so is educating new customers at the bar or at the table of your brewpub.  Take every chance you can to give the history of the beer, how it’s brewed, where the ingredients are from and everything else in between.  The better that you can educate those not as familiar with craft beer, the more loyal customers you’ll have for your brewery.

Greater consideration to what’s in your food and drink:  In recent years, the country has seen an increased focus on our diets and where our food comes from.  One only has to look at the rise of healthier food stores like Whole Foods or organic food producers like Annie’s.  People are generally moving away from more processed foods from the big competitors to smaller, more natural diets.  Since people increasingly want to know where their food and drink come from, make sure that you’re telling that story.  What area of the country did your hops come from? What specialty grains or other ingredients make up the beer?  Could you bring out examples of the malted barley used to let your fans feel, taste and smell what makes up their beer?  By involving your customers with the ingredients that make up the beer, it builds a connection with that person and helps put you ahead of the big breweries.  In the coming weeks, we’ll have a podcast with Sarah from Adelbert’s Brewery in Austin, TX talking about the power of teaching about your beer.  One quote I loved from Sarah was “People come into our brewery tour liking our beer but once they get to hear our story, they leave loving our beer.”

Increased movement of buying from the local community:  Tying into the last point, communities are coming together to support their local businesses.  They like knowing where the products they buy are coming from and like knowing the story behind the beer.  To really hit on this point, your community needs to see the people behind the beer.  People don’t like supporting brands or corporations, they like supporting people.  Hiding in the back room all day brewing does not help your potential customers make that connection.  In our podcast with Mayday Brewery, Ozzy talked about the importance of putting yourself out there and being the face of your brewery.  Tell your story and how you got into brewing.  Social media and new apps like UnTappd allow you to expand your reach and share your story.  Make people feel like they know you even if they’ve only met you through social media.

It’s More Than Just About the Beer…

One thing to notice about the list above is that there’s so much more to the craft beer movement than just the beer.  If you really want to succeed, you can’t just count of brewing a quality beer and hope that the “beer sells itself”.  On the other side of the fence, if you are not brewing quality beer and just got into the brewing industry to try to make some money by riding the trend, you will fail.  The 90’s saw a rapid period of expansion in the craft brewing scene that fizzled out by the end of the decade.  One of the most common reasons cited is that many breweries popped up that just didn’t put out good beer.  Those breweries are long gone and I hope we learn from the mistakes of the past.  We’ll just say that quality is a given and if you’re having issues with quality, you’re getting the help you need to get there.

The breweries who can build personal connections with their community and home brewers, educate people new to the craft beer industry, show the local side of their beer and share the ingredients that make it up will be those that really make themselves stand out from the crowd.  While the craft brewing industry continues to accelerate, this cannot continue forever.  Now is the time to set your brewery apart and build that loyal fan base that will support you when the industry slows down.

As we go forward, I’ll have other articles and podcasts building on these key driving forces and how you can hit on them through different parts of the business.  Next week, I’ll be covering the power of branding with Harvey Shepard from Oh Beautiful Beer.  I’ll also be launching our second podcast with Eugene from Alamo Beer Company where we’ll be talking about his unique way of building his brand around one flagship beer.  To be the first one to know when we launch new content, make sure to sign up for the mailing list below.  Thank you so much for reading and see you next time!

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

So remember that first time when you said, “I think I want to start a brewery”!  After all of those experiences of getting the brewery up and running, if you could travel back in time and tell yourself some advice, what would it be?  At MicroBrewer, we wanted to know and thought that you might too so we asked craft brewery owners the following question:

What do you wish you had known before starting your brewery?

The responses were awesome and really reflected how amazing the craft brewery community is!  After reading through all of the responses, we started to see some major trends so we’ve put the responses into major categories.  At MicroBrewr, we’ll be focusing more on each of the topics below in future blog posts and podcasts so if you haven’t yet, make sure to sign up for our mailing list in the box below!


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Plan For Expansions From the Start

What’s one of the most common responses that we got?  People loving their beer too much!  Planning for expansions from the start is key… especially with how quickly the craft beer industry is growing!

Derek from 192 Brewing

I am still amazed at how fast we are growing, so I think that if I had seriously known how fast the growth was going to take place, I might have spent a little more time researching “next steps” in the growth process. I assumed I would be able to grow at a slow comfortable pace, but there is too much demand to let pass by, so the hours are much longer than expected to try our best to keep up with the next immediate needs of the business, and that tends to be the only focus for about 6 months out of the year. It can be a constant rat race to get the projects done just in time for them to be already behind production needs upon completion. This also causes a lot of stress on the team, even for those that also see the potential for the constant growth. A larger brewing system is a next step that looms over our heads at the moment, and will require a change of location for that operation.

Lynn from Great Storm Brewing

I wish we’d known how much our wonderful customers would love our beer; we should have started with a bigger system!  We’re small, we only have a one barrel now and are working on getting a 10 barrel system in the next year or two.

Hear Great Storm Brewing on MicroBrewr Podcast 054.

Myles from Borderlands Brewing

People are thirsty!  We started with a 3 barrel brewhouse, and that barely made enough beer to keep our tap room stocked.  And the tap room was only open two days a week.  We recently upgraded to a 20 barrel system, and we’re already planning the next expansion!

Hear Borderlands Brewing on MicroBrewr Podcast 030.

Brett from Dust Bowl Brewing Company

I would have built a larger infrastructure at the outset. We’ve expanded the operation and reached capacity production three times since we started brewing in 2009.  We’ve now maximized what we can fit in the footprint of our current building. We are in the process of relocating to a new location. Our new site will, of course, have room to grow, so at least we’ve learned!

Hear Dust Bowl Brewing Company on MicroBrewr Podcast 027.

Mark from Missouri Breaks Brewing

I think the single biggest thing was that I thought too small. Our kettles are 220 gallons so we do 5 barrels at a time…but we started with a 40 gallon kettle.   Yes, 40 gallons, then went to 55 and then to 220….

We actually drank out of beer opening day and had to close for 2 weeks!  A lot of this is that we just threw “a few bucks” together and started brewing.  I am the local doc in town so I have another job!  I taught my daughter how to brew and she is great at it.  I guess I should have thought if I am going to do this, just make the investment and do it.  We are still growing and have the next step soon.

Barry from Pug Ryan’s

When we began the brewery addition to our steakhouse in 1997, we never imagined that our 15 bbl brew house with four 15 bbl  fermentors and four 15 bbl brite tanks could possibly ever max out. I wish I had known more about the culture surrounding the Craft Beer industry and how much Craft Beer was about to explode. I also wish I had more insight into the physical plant size needed to manage growth opportunities. This perhaps would have helped dictate the size of our brewery from the beginning and aided in the  timing and scope of the expansion we completed two years ago.

Peter from Miami Brewing Co

I wish I had planned better for the size of it all. You think you plan it right and have enough space and capacity for all that you’re going to need, but once you start you realize you need more.

The Owners from Birdsong Brewing Company

We wish we knew about the small stuff before starting a brewery! Things we didn’t realize we should know, like how to pour concrete, would have been so helpful during the initial construction process and as we’ve continued to expand. One big element we didn’t really foresee throughout the years has been how successful our tap room is since we’ve opened. Charlotte’s beer scene has grown dramatically over the last few years, so we probably would have made our tap room more spacious. Our consideration of our growing customer base was underestimated; people like us a lot more than we ever realized!

Hear Birdsong Brewing Company on MicroBrewr Podcast 017.

Patty from Pecan Street Brewing

We underestimated the capacity of the brewing system we would need and also underestimated the amount of cooling space and space in general for the brewing area.   So, I guess you can say that we wish we had planned and built a larger brewing capacity and more cold storage.

Hear Pecan Street Brewing on MicroBrewr Podcast 023.

Tom from Yards Brewing Company

I wish I had had a better sense of what the craft beer industry would become when I first started. Back then, I don’t think anyone expected it to be what it is today. Now Yards has the ability to grow and adapt with the industry as it continues to progress, but at the time I may have made some different decisions, had I had a better picture of the potential for innovation and success down the line.

Hear Yards Brewing Company on MicroBrewr Podcast 015.

Brian from BAD Brewing Company

I guess the main thing that I wish I knew getting into the brewing industry would have been the demand.  When we started over a year ago, we were operating a very small 1/2 bbl system and actually ran out of beer after just a month. Since then we have upgraded to a bigger system to meet the demand, which is still tough due to the growing popularity in craft beer.  So it would have been nice to know in advance that we would be selling as much beer as we do.  Not a bad problem, but problematic.

Eugene from Alamo Beer Co

This is a good question… however I changed it and asked folks at the 30 breweries I toured before starting on my own:  “If you had it to do over again, what would you have done differently?” Wow… the things you can learn from others who have been there and done that.  Our brewery is fully planned on paper to reach our goal of 40,000BBL/Yr production.  Each tank location, warehousing, cooler, etc is all down on paper and pre-planned.  There are a lot of dashed lines on our plan that represents the future.

Hear Alamo Beer Co on MicroBrewr Podcast 002.

Costs to Running a Brewery and Time Required Will Be More Than You Plan On

You know that budget you planned on and the amount of time that you think you’ll have to put into the brewery?  Well, you might want to increase those numbers a bit… maybe a lot!

Devin from 7venth Sun Brewing

Before we got started we did a lot of research on what to anticipate from seasoned veterans in the industry.  All of them said that we should plan for everything to take twice as long and cost three times as much.  We approached our plan with this in mind and they were certainly right.  We planned for it to take twice as long and cost three times as much and it still took twice as long as that. We ended up completing our buildout and our small expansion just in the nick of time and we consider ourselves very lucky to be where we are.

Hear 7venth Sun Brewing on MicroBrewr Podcast 021.

Scott from Adelbert’s Brewery

Overall, I have been fairly lucky because I did a lot research and worked with a brewery consultant before opening, which helped prepare me for a lot. The things that I wish I knew about ahead are construction costs and time commitments. They are always a lot more than what you expect. Take your worst case estimate of them and double it then you might be close.

Hear Adelbert’s Brewery on MicroBrewr Podcast 003.

Adrian from Eastern Shore Brewing

I wish I would have known… so many things.  My biggest pieces of advice are:  1) Take you budget and double it. Contractors will always find things that you and they missed in the plans and walk throughs.  2) Take your time line and triple it. Govt shutdowns, licensing, regulations, zoning….these are all done on other peoples schedules.

Mark from Atwater Brewery

I wish that I would have known the complexity of the 3 tier distribution system better prior to deciding what beers to launch, along with a better understanding of the chain network.  We purchased an existing brewery so we would have liked to have known the amount of additional money it was going to take to get the equipment into top shape.  Like any business it is the unknowns that are most difficult in the beginning and that is why sufficient working capital is essential.

Carolyn from Flossmoor Station Brewing Company

Our desire in opening a brewpub was to provide a warm and friendly community pub environment that brewed exceptional beer.  Having no prior brewery experience we had no idea the set up would be so complicated or that the financial commitment so big!

Ted from Brewers Union Local 180

I wish I had known more about the particular property that I was going to install the pub and brewery in. A better and more careful inspection would have given me a better idea of the cost of the build-out.

Hear Brewers Union Local 180 on MicroBrewer Podcast 024.

Tony from Pagosa Brewery

EVERYTHING!  More specifically… How quickly labor costs can rise. To achieve our proper level of service, high-quality food & award-winning beer, labor has become more expensive than anticipated.

Ken from Nexus Brewery

First thing I thought about was “I wish I would have been aware of all the challenges we were up against in redoing an old warehouse. Our architect and contractor continuously ran into obstacles that delayed construction an increased costs”.

I also wish that I would have known exactly how consumers would react to being the new kid in town on the beer scene. The beer geeks were nice and rolled through at the beginning. The interesting thing was there was a big demand for the menu which we did not know would take off like it did. We transformed from a brewery tap room with some good food to a full blown restaurant. Not complaining but my business plan was blown out of the water within 12 months.

Nick from Opposition Brewing Company

As a nano operation, it is critical for us to keep costs and overhead as low as possible while pouring every bit of revenue back into the business. To do any less would result in a lack in ability to grow the business and lead to ultimate failure. That said, while I fully acknowledged this fact prior to opening, I didn’t have a true realization as to what this would mean for me and my partners. We have been working 12 hour days, 7 days a week, for little to no pay for the past year and a half. Don’t get me wrong, it’s paying off and we’re on track to expand into a 7bbl system in the next 12 months, and the work has been vastly rewarding – we love coming to work every day – but it’s been a hard road. But you know what they say… nothing worth doing is ever easy!!

Hear Opposition Brewing Company on MicroBrewr Podcast 016.

Mike from Revolution Brewing

I wish I’d known the high cost of licenses, taxes, fees, bonds, insurance… nothing to do with brewing and everything to do with brewing business.  Also, the reality of the cleaning chemicals… The awesome reality of cleaning chemicals…

Cathy from Philipsburg Brewing Company

We wish some one would of told us how many hours it takes to get a brewery up and running and how complex the whole business is.

Hear Philipsburg Brewing Company on MicroBrewr Podcast 020.

Brian from Bard’s Tale Beer Company

Bard’s Tale Beer Company is a gluten-free brewer that chose to utilize a contract brewer rather than build our own brewery.  Our objective was nationwide distribution of a specialty beer.   As such our capacity needs would increase rapidly over a relatively short period of time as we added distribution.  There is excess brewing capacity so we felt we could partner with a premier brewer to produce our beer and devote our human resources and capital to sales and marketing instead of a brewery.

Looking back, we could have raised more capital.  We don’t control the brewery so our flexibility is somewhat limited in terms of pilot brews, etc.  And finally, the brewing business is very competitive for wholesale distribution and retail shelf space.  You cannot rest.

Mark from Aviator Brewing Company

Get plenty of credit cards, prepare for no sleep, drink more beer than you thought humanly possible.

Hear Aviator Brewing Company on MicroBrewr Podcast 075.

Permitting and Other Legal Issues Are Complicated And Take Time

One of the unfortunate realities with our beautiful industry is that it is highly regulated which can cause multiple road blocks through the process.

Seth from Bull City Burger and Brewery

Even with two other operating breweries in my city prior to my opening, many of the city inspectors, officials, etc. had no idea or understanding of what a brewery was or how it operated and that created some resistance and hurdles requiring explanation on my part to teach our inspectors how we operate. Some people assumed the worst or had preconceived notions.

Finding local professionals to assist with installation.  It’s not like most of the local HVAC/Plumbers/Electricians have done tons of these and it’s a cinch. Again, I had to educate myself in some areas in order to tell them what they had to do to meet code or to make something functional in a brewery.

Hear Bull City Burger & Brewery on MicroBrewr Podcast 076.

3 Stars Brewery

I would say that before opening the brewery, it would have been beneficial to have a better understanding of the lengthy drawn out process of permitting for construction and a more accurate understanding on the timeline for build out would have been useful. These were two items that having further clarity on would have helped ease the process a bit.

Ozzy from Mayday Brewery

How to handle effluent. I knew that effluent would be a big deal, but I didn’t know (and still don’t know) all that I need to know about treating waste water before we send it to the sewer. Another huge thing would be determining yeast health after harvesting and before repitching.

Hear Mayday Brewery on MicroBrewr Podcast 001.

Rich from Bridge and Tunnel Brewery

In terms of other brick walls that I’ve hit, I wish I had known how convoluted the zoning regulations in New York City are when it comes to breweries. I’m not saying that it would have halted my efforts to get up and running, but it’s been the cause of a fair amount of wheel spinning in trying to get out of the 150 square foot space that I currently am brewing in. On a physical basis – I wish that I had better welding skills. If I was able to weld stainless, I’d probably be half way to a bigger system by now.

Ryan from Gunpowder Falls Brewing

Before starting the brewery, it would have been great to know everything that is regulated by the many state and federal government entities. A couple of million dollars would have been nice too!

Jennifer from No Label Brewing Company

We wish we would have known at the beginning that starting a brewery is a waiting game. You’re waiting on permits, etc. that’s out of your control. It’s hard to let go and just wait.  We all have learned how to be patient so maybe it wasn’t all that bad. Starting a brewery takes TIME if you want to do things right. We are now in our 3rd year of brewing and have come to understand how everything works.

We also wish we knew how much money it really takes to start a brewery. Things break, a batch doesn’t turn out right, etc. These extra costs need to be planned as much as possible going into starting a brewery. There will always be surprises when running a brewery. It’s important to roll with the punches.

Douglas from Societe Brewing

The one thing I wish I had known before was “how truly difficult the licensing process is”.

Stephen from Arkose Brewery

We wish we had known how long the approval process took for getting a brewery permit.  We would have started the paperwork process much earlier.

Robert from Reads Landing Brewing Company

I wish I had known how difficult it would be to deal with the federal and state governments regarding regulation of brewers permit application process.  It wasn’t so much the paperwork, it is dealing with representatives from both.  The fed and state both lost my applications and paperwork, pushing my approvals back at least 4 months.  My state permits were also held up during the great state government shutdown of 2012.

Opening A Brewery is More than Just Brewing Beer… Get Ready For Administrative Work!

Think that opening a brewery means that you can just brew all day?  There’s a lot of administrative work that goes into running a brewery!

Landon from Bitter Esters Brewhouse

I wish I would have known how to properly interview employees and know how many employees I would need to keep our facility in operation.  I am getting really good at it now but after tons of turnover we have a great staff.  We are a mostly seasonal town in Custer and I have to hire many people every single year and its really quite hard to do.

Todd from Boulder Dam Brewing Co. 

If I had known how much administrative work I would be doing, I would have built a bigger office inside the brewpub!

Hear Boulder Dam Brewing Co. on MicroBrewr Podcast 034.

Josh From Huske Hardware Brewing Company

I wish I knew how to brew beer!  LOL.  I am a recently retired Veteran and have been around the world more than a few times.  I consider myself a True Beer Geek/Connoisseur……but it would also be nice to actually brew what we make.  I enjoy the hands on aspect of our business in working with people, but I lack the technical skills so I have simply hired folks smarter than me in their respective trades.  This has worked well – Jack of many trades – master of none…

Michael from Iron Springs Pub and Brewery

Honestly, I had so many years of experience behind me I really knew exactly what I was getting myself into.  I think the biggest thing I wish I knew, was how well my back was going to hold up-which is not great.  Soon after we opened the pub I went through a series of back surgeries which forced me to focus my energies else where in the business, and less on the physical part, which is the brewing part.  So I had to sort of re-invent my roll at the pub.  At the end of the day, it all worked out for the best.  Also, because we came from out of state I guess I would have to say, I wish we had known more of a network base out here.  We had a little, but it took awhile to establish ourselves with all our contractors, purveyors, and employees.

Heather from Selin’s Grove Brewing

I wish we knew more about personnel & restaurant management. Also I wish we put in better quality flooring & drain materials in the brewery from the start.

Nigel from Horsefly Brewing

I wish I knew how much taxes take away from the ability to re-invest in my business. All the government regulations and paperwork are a hindrance as well.

Hear Horsefly Brewing on MicroBrewr Podcast 018.

Running Brewpub is Opening a Restaurant that Sells Beer That Was Brewed There

Thinking of opening a brewpub?  Realize that you’re really opening a restaurant that also brews its own beer on site so doing a lot of research on restaurant management is key.

John from Adirondack Brewery

I wish I paid mote attention when I was in High School! I was more concerned with how cute my lab partner was.  Also opening a Brew Pub at the same time made me wish I knew more about the workings of a busy restaurant. I thought I was opening a Brew Pub, when I was really opening a Restaurant that sold beer that was brewed there.

Jim from Island Hoppin Brewery

I wish I had known just how much more was involved in running a microbrewery than simply making beer.  Writing about it is very nostalgic because I don’t write a journal and it is forcing me to look back on a timespan that has been one of the best times of my life.   The brewery has been a massive step for me in learning how to be a better business owner and person in general. Because, I guess, another answer to your question would be that ” I could never foresee that the brewery would become my whole life”

Jack from Fort George Brewery

Okay, I guess getting advice and listening to advice are two different things. I was told by many folks that being a brewer and running a brewpub are two entirely different occupations. It took me a couple of years to realize that I couldn’t brew, cook, wash dishes, wait tables and open/close the pub while I was running the pub. It is good to stay involved and know what is going on and do the work that nobody else likes to do, but you have to make time to meet and greet customers, schmooze city officials and keep the books in order as well.

Kevin from Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery

I own a brewpub and we are basically restaurants.  What I wish I had know before starting would be how to manage a restaurant better!


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Talk To Other Brewers in Your Area and Do Your Research

Like no other industry, members of the craft brewing community are so generous to share their advice on how to success (like in this post!).  Talk to everyone you can and be ready to take notes!

Greg from Sleeping Lady Brewing Co

The biggest thing to understand in any brewery is that something is always about to go wrong. However, I know that when I began brewing, I didn’t truly understand how gracious the brewing industry can be. Many brewers are in direct competition with each other yet we tend to drink (and appreciate) the beers that our friends are making. Brewers tend to help each other out with things like advice, ingredients, and man power. It’s like no other industry I’ve ever seen. I feel fortunate to be where I am and I love our industry.

Grant from 3 Sheeps Brewing

Brewing as a manufacturing process is relatively easy.  Then comes bottling.  You now have multiple machines with multiple moving parts, some pretty tech-heavy computers (depending on how quickly you are trying to bottle and how low you want your oxygen levels), heavy demands on air, CO2, and electricity, and a good chance that things are going to break or wear out.  To consistently run a bottling line takes skill, and unless a person has this experience, there will be a learning curve involved.  It took us longer to get our bottling line running than I anticipated.  We have learned a lot since that first run.  I believe we now are very capable of making sure that our bottling line continues to run and puts out very high quality product.  If I could have picked up some of these skills before though, it may have been a much easier journey to get to this point.

Hear 3 Sheeps Brewing on MicroBrewr Podcast 004.

Nate From Justice Brewing

The one thing I wish I had known more than anything else was utilizing more efficient means of water heating and putting in much larger electrical capacity. We’re only a small scale nano right now, but we could’ve saved a lot of space and time by going with tankless water heaters over a gas fired hot liquor tank. Didn’t know about them until it was too late.  Second, I wish I had known how volatile some suppliers are and that prices fluctuate a ton. We’ve gone through 3 different bottle suppliers due to skyrocketing prices through some, we finally found a good consistent supply at a decent price. It’s really hard for us small guys that only use about a pallet of bottles a month.

Ken from Rust Belt Brewing

Simple answer, how distribution works and ways to motivate your distributor to move your product.

Scott from Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co

I had been running 8 restaurants before I opened my brewery, so I was expecting most of the “issues” that maybe a 1st time owner wouldn’t expect.  I’m not a brewer, I hired one, so I even knew what to expect out of that relationship.

I’d say the most important thing would be to know the equipment manufacturer that you buy from – make sure you trust them and that they do good work.  We bought equipment for our brewery in Indiana from a vendor in California.  There were problems with installation and follow up on issues when equipment broke down that someone a little closer may have helped more.   It is just good to do a lot of research and not try to “save money” on the expense that is driving your business success.

Ben from Atlas Brewing Company

One thing that would have done me a lot of good if I had known it before I started brewing at Atlas is that most new breweries take some time to dial in their recipes. I experienced a lot of stress worrying about minor imperfections in our procedures early on. Since then, I’ve observed many newer breweries start up, and it seems pretty much universal that brewers take a few batches to figure out the ins and outs of any new brewing system.

Chris from Holy City Brewing

I had a few years to plan and think about how I wanted to open HCB. I went to school, got a job with a brewery, and tried to prepare myself for what I wanted to do. There are things that I have learned along the way, but the advice I normally give to people when they say they are trying to open a brewery is either get a job somewhere or hire a brewer. While its a fun job, it’s also a business and jumping from a hobby to something professional takes some planning and time.

A better understanding of our market would have been nice. We underestimated the amount of kegs off the bat, and had to come up with a lot more money quickly to keep up with demand.  Other than that, I feel like working in a brewery prepared me for what to expect when it comes to the amount of time and manual labor that is involved.

Jeremy from Shmaltz Brewing Company

When I started Shmaltz Brewing 17 years ago, I asked as many people as I could find a ton of questions – over and over! And I still didn’t do nearly enough research about the beer business. Even as a contract brewer for so many years, just wrapping my brain around the distribution and sales and marketing side of the biz took many years – and I’m still learning! I tell all the new brewery folks to take a long deep breath and ask even more questions and take even more time than you’d ever think necessary so you’ll be as prepared as possible for the wild ride ahead. And then go sell beer – every day – over and over. And have a ball – Welcome to the show!

Tom from Ambacht Brewing

One of my favorite quotes (I have quite a few favorites, one for every occasion!): Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  I came into the brewery business by the back door: I was looking for work and not having much success, so I volunteered to help the brewer at a microbrewery down the street. A few months later, the owner sold the building, land, & business (this was the height of the real estate boom). The new owners did not want the equipment, being a synagog and all. So I bought the equipment from them and then spent a year looking for a location. Then started making some beer, dumping some beer. Eventually figured out what was wrong (can you say sanitation?).  Now we make super-clean beer that we bottle condition with honey and has a 2-year shelf life!  So here I am five years later, hoping to pay myself something this year.


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The Journey Is Half of The Reward of Starting the Brewery

And now, some inspiration!  You’ll never know everything and after awhile you’ve just got to take the plunge.  After all, what would be better than telling your friends you brew beer for a living.  Go for it!

Tim from Arcadia Brewing Company

I wish I knew just how much fun and rewarding becoming a Craft Brewer would be, and I would’ve left that perfectly good paying job about 5 years earlier.

Jeff from Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery

I believe that if you’re truly into your idea and work relentlessly at it, you’ll get what you need to know when you need to know it.

Hear Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery on MicroBrewr Podcast 047.

David from Abita Brewing Co

Well that is a dangerous game to play.  If you changed anything, would we be where we are today?  I will take what we have now and know I have learned valuable lessons on this path.

Andy from Blackrocks Brewery

Can’t think of anything of the top of our heads.  The stuff you don’t know becomes part of the journey.  It’s better to roll with it, realize you don’t know everything, learn, and enjoy the ride.

Mike from Founders Brewing Co

Don’t build you brewery around market trends.  Instead, listen to your inner passion.

Danny from CAUTION: Brewing Company

I honestly wouldn’t have changed a thing. I think being a brewery that have thrown caution to the wind, we’ve done many things that we did successfully because we didn’t know any better. The only things we knew going in was the existence of an amazing community brewers, killer beers, and support from our local communities. I believe that was all that we needed to get going and keep us going.

Erich from Studio Brew

When the excitement becomes a desire which turns into passion; brewing a craft beer for the first time is pure nirvana.  Hold your glass up and look into it. If you see the future then you will understand the opportunity you just created.  No one told me this, I experienced it myself.  I have had so many people express their thoughts along the way.

Many told me what I needed to do only one told me what NOT to do which was the best insight.  “Never believe you can build a brewery with just a good beer.”  For what it is worth, I have people come up and talk with me about their dream of starting a brewery.  Sadly I rarely hear them use the words “business and/or profit”.

Hear Studio Brew on MicroBrewr Podcast 025.

Samantha from Steven’s Point Brewery

We wish we’d known A LOT of things before starting our brewery, but everything that has happened over the last 157 years has ultimately led us to where we are today.

We wish we would have known: How many houses would build up around our original Brewery. We should have bought the whole block!!!  That prohibition was coming!!  That IPAs would become SO POPULAR!  About Hard Cider!  How many craft breweries would eventually exist.   How devastating the upcoming wars would be.  How well our brewery would stand the test of time.  That Point Special would be our #1 seller for 157 years.

So What Do You Think?

So was there any advice that really stuck with you?  Did I miss anything?  I’d love to hear what your comment on the question: What do you wish you had known before starting your brewery?  If you’re thinking of starting a brewery, what’s the main questions that are on your mind?

These comments will help shape the future posts and podcasts that I’ll be putting on MicroBrewr in the future.  After all, I love to give back to this amazing community as much as I can!  So go grab a local brew and lets keep pushing the craft beer movement forward!

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

As of the time of this publishing, there are over 2700 different craft breweries in operation and another 1700 in planning.  With all of these craft breweries out there, how do you make your brewery stand out?  Even if your beer is freaking awesome, there’s a lot of other freaking awesome beers out there too.  So I guess then you’re just going to have to advertise more than the next microbrewery to get the word out.  Oh wait, you don’t have $250 million to spend on Super Bowl ads like Anheuser-Busch has over the last 10 years?   If you’re like most craft breweries, you probably are under-capitalized (meaning you don’t have a lot of cash laying around) and don’t have much of a budget at all for advertising.  Alright, we’re going to have to get a little creative at how to promote your brewery!

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Bull City Brewery and Loads of Creative Ideas To Promote Your Brewery

Like most of the articles and podcasts for the site, I want to feature amazing breweries who are doing great things for the craft beer industry.  While looking for people who are using creative ways to promote their brewery, I stumbled across Bull City Burgers and Brewery.  After seeing all that they were doing, I knew that I had to get in contact with the owner of the brewery, Seth.  They are doing too many great things on promoting their brewery to list here but I want to cover a few that I thought were unique and why they are so effective.

The Tattoo PromiseBeccaD.Tattoo.IMG_1605

This one blew me away. Seth set up an offer called the “Tattoo Promise” where if you get a tattoo of one of three selected Bull City logos, you get 26% off of your food orders for life (laws in NC don’t allow them to apply this to their beer).  What could be a better testament to your brewery than someone branding themselves for life with your logo?  To date, they have had six different fans get the tattoo and for some of the people, this was actually their first tattoo.  I’m guessing that once they got the tattoo, they made sure to tell their friends about it which is free advertising for the brewery.  Bull City has the wall of fame of people who have bravely branded themselves with the tattoo which is posted on their website.  From a potential customer’s perspective,  seeing the wall of fame shows that this place must really be great for fans to do that.  For the small cost of giving the discount on food, I think this could be an excellent idea to promote your brewery (if your fans truly love you enough to actually get the tattoo).  And really, if your fans are this passionate about you, they probably deserve a discount anyways!

Home Brewing Competition

Every fall, Seth hosts a home brewing competition at the brewery.  About 50 people bring in their home brewed beer which the staff at Bull City judges.  The winner of the competition actually gets their beer brewed full scale at Bull City.  This is another genius way to promote your brewery because you are developing a relationship with home brewers who are already craft beer enthusiasts.  In business terms, these are the “early adopters” who will promote your brewery to all their friends who don’t know as much about craft beer.  For the home brewer who wins, what could be cooler than seeing your beer available at the tap for all of your friends?  Seth is also very big on giving back to the great craft brewing community.  Seth uses this competition to help the home brewers improve their beers and take their brews to the next level.

Listen to: Bull City Burger And Brewery on MicroBrewr Podcast 076

The Golden Bull Treasure Hunt

Every spring, Seth hides 5 golden bulls throughout Durham and for each one that is found, the person gets a free burger, fries and soft drink every week for a year.  Think of it like a modern day version of Willy Wonka.  Every day, new clues are posted on where to find the golden bulls.  One thing that I loved about this promotion is the thought that Seth put into where the clues would lead people hunting for the bull.  Seth leads bull hunters to other locally owned shops and restaurants in the community to increase their exposure .  The bull hunt has really taken off and Seth has actually had Duke professors email him that most of their class is gone out hunting for the bull.  Like the rest of their promotions, the costs of giving away a free burger every week is really small for all of the word-of-mouth promotion that they get from the event.

The Beer 1001 Course and Brewery Tourdsc_0768

I’m going to be putting together a full article on this topic in the future because I believe it is so important.  We’re still waiting for the updated 2013 data but in 2012, craft beer sales were 6.6% of the total US beer market by volume.  Even with all of this growth, there’s still a huge market share out there and the other 93.4% of beer drinkers (and non-beer drinkers) are where the new growth is going to come from.  Educating the non-craft beer drinkers on the amazingness of a more robust beer is the way that we can continue to get more people transitioned over.  Seth offers a Beer 1001 course which is typically about 50% people that are new to craft beer.  Seth provides enough technical information to keep home brewers in the course happy while also introducing those fresh into the craft beer world.  Seth also makes sure to give the history of each type of beer on his tour and build a personal connection with those people on the tour.  Remember that people may really like your beer but they become loyal fans from the people and the message behind the beer.

There are a number of other great things that they’ve got going on and I encourage you to check out the Bull City Burgers and Brewery website for more information.  Also, if you’re in North Carolina, make sure to stop by and support Seth since he is the type of person who really makes this industry great.

We’re All in This Together

Like all of the great things that Seth is doing to bring more people into the craft beer world, the continued growth of the industry is up to everyone in this amazing movement.  While we don’t have huge advertising budgets we do have extremely creative people to get the word out.  I’d love to know the creative ways that you have used to help promote brewery and introduce people to craft beer!  You can use the comments section below to share your story or feel free to contact me personally here.

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