Jeff Mease worked in his parents’ grocery store when he was a kid. “I had grown up in a family business,” he recounts. “By the time I was legal, I didn’t have any fear of business.” Indeed, when Jeff was just 19 years old, he started a pizza business that is still Bloomington’s favorite pizza delivery service.
Twelve years later, Jeff started Bloomington Brewing Co., in Bloomington, Indiana. It was the 4th brewery in Indiana and the laws were not conducive to brewpubs.
If your state has archaic brewery laws, Jeff has some advice for brewery law reform:
- Talk to state legislators for your area.
- Study brewery legislation from other states.
- Recruit the help of the Brewers Association or the brewers’ alliance in your state.
- Educate your legislators about how brewery law reform will help the economy and the community.
Ever since they helped change brewery laws in Indiana, Bloomington Brewing Co. has been going strong. Five years ago, they expanded operations beyond the brewpub into a production facility. Last year, they started packaging into 22-ounce bottles.
Jeff spent a lot of time researching and studying the numbers for packaging their beer into bottles. He learned, “If we go into a 12-ounce package, we’re going to have to make 4 times as much beer just to be in the same place [financially] that we are now.”
“Smaller package means high volume, if you’re going to survive,” says Jeff. “Brewers never ever wish they’d had a smaller system.”
“A lot of people get so busy with the work that they don’t bother to really look at the numbers,” says Jeff. “It seems like, ‘How could you not make money putting this beer into a bottle?’ But you know what? You can, I promise,” cautions Jeff.
With 20 years of experience with the brewpub, plus more years with other businesses, Jeff has a lot of wisdom to draw. Luckily, he is generous with his knowledge.
“Nobody should be impatient to jump into this business right now. It’s already late to the party, I’d say. So if you’re going to come into this business now and be successful at it, you sure gotta know what you’re doing,” Jeff advises. “So don’t rush into it.”
“A lot of times people who are considering getting into business are afraid to talk to people who are already in that business. Because there’s all sorts of fears that they’ll steal your idea, or they just won’t tell you anything, or they’ll look at you as competition, but I’ve found… that the people who are successful in an industry are more than happy to help counsel people. Go out and ask the questions.”
“You’re only going to be successful if you don’t make the stupid mistakes. And it’s easy to make the stupid mistakes no matter how smart you are.”
Other tips from Jeff:
- Start as large as you can.
- Be as state-of-the-art as you can.
- Invest in training your brewers.
- Choose the right yeast.
Kettle size: 15-BBL and 20-BBL.
Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 2, 15-BBL and 4, 40-BBL fermenters.
Size and quantity of bright tanks: 1, 15-BBL and 2, 40-BBL bright tanks.
Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 1,850 BBL.
Square footage: 700 sq. ft. in a 120-seat brewpub, 3,000 sq. ft production facility for draft and 22-oz glass bottles.
Years in operation: 21 years (opened 1994).
“I had grown up in a family business. I didn’t have any fear of business.” [Tweet This]
From MyMateMike on Twitter: How long before the brewery became profitable and paid off the loan, other setup costs and debts?
- The New Restaurant Entrepreneur: An Inside Look at Restaurant Deal-Making and Other Tales from the Culinary Trenches by Kep Sweeney.
- Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers (Brewing Elements) by John Palmer and Colin Kaminski.
- Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse (Brewing Elements) by John Mallett.
- For The Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops (Brewing Elements) by Stan Hieronymus.
- Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation (Brewing Elements) by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff.
Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.
An upcoming beer style:
- MicroBrewr 059: How to get the most out of a beer festival, MicroBrewr, April 7, 2015.
- Sound Brewing Systems, Inc., Olympia, Washington.
- Siebel Institute of Technology, educational programs in professional brewing.
- Craft Brewers Conference, Brewers Association.
You can reach Jeff Mease and Bloomington Brewing Co. at:
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