It began on a rainy tipsy (possibly drunken) day in early December. Bar hoppin’ with the love of my life. We were talking about what to do with life, specifically after he retired. It’s a conversation we had had many times on different trips we had taken, places we had visited, or just because I would point out that he CAN NOT sit still. In his profession retirement comes at an earlier than average age. And when you’ve been at the grind in the same profession for 26 years now, you dream of the day you can just relax. But relax isn’t in his nature. This was my point. I would ask, “what are you gonna do with your free time?” He would reply with “absolutely nothing.” I would laugh and he would think he was serious. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized I was right. So on this tipsy day, the reply was “I’ll just brew beer.” My response, that’s it. We’re opening a brewery. The more we talked about it, (and the more we drank) the more it was real instead of a pipe dream. That very day we decided to dive in and research.
I am a technically single mom, but supported by this wonderful man that indulges me and my crazy. I have worked in so many different areas that I have called myself a Job Gypsy for years. I am interested in so many different things that I have never been able to commit to what I wanted to do when I grew up. I have worked in hospitality/restaurant, sales, corporate, management…and jobs that aren’t even worth mentioning. The thing is I have always loved people and being in the service industry. Management is just my THING. So having all of the experience in lots of different related areas, and my Better Half’s ability to brew some damn good beer = let’s open a Brewery!
About 3,156 hours later: That’s about the amount of research and time we have put into this “little” adventure. It has not been even a little bit easy and quite honestly not fun. It’s an effing roller-coaster of so many ridiculous emotions. And it’s physically draining too. I am an over-thinker over-planner by nature. I research pretty much as a hobby. I THOUGHT I had prepared myself enough to at least have an idea of what I was getting into. Last spring, I shut down my small espresso catering business that I owned, gave up that income and everything I had been building, and jumped in. I couldn’t balance being a business owner, albeit part time, with running two teenish boys around with all their madness, being a partner to my BF, running the womanly/motherly house duties, and also putting full time hours into building a brewery. That loss of little income has been hard but sacrifice for the long term goal is the goal. We can see the end in sight but damn all of those hang ups that keep messing with my emotions.
Podcasts: That is where I started. I think I have logged over 200 hours of listening to interviews with brewery owners all over the country. My thinking was how better to know than to take the info directly from people that have done it?!? Listening to what they’ve done that has worked, what hasn’t worked and find a happy median. Tony Magee’s and Sam Calagione’s book were also included. We also hit the pavement and went around locally to all different models of breweries and introduced ourselves, asked questions and listened to their stories. I LOVE the craft beer community and how helpful everyone is! I feel like there that information that I have gained is invaluable.
The one common statement that I heard was “Take the amount of money you expect it will cost and DOUBLE IT, take the amount of time you think it will take and DOUBLE IT.” So I set out on a mission make that not be true in my situation. Ha! Funny huh? You start out with the dream of the GIGANTIC shiny equipment, and a huge beautifully designed taproom….but then I realized that’s not going to work for me that way. You see, my BF is in a profession that DOES NOT allow him to own or even contribute to a business that holds an ABC license. At least until he is retired. Ironic in a way, being that the whole point was to set us up for when he retires. The law does not even allow him to be married to someone holding that ABC license, or the license holder will no longer be able to hold the license. So be married or have a brewery….or have a brewery and be married many years down the line. He doesn’t plan on retiring for years to come. It is close but also far away at the same time. Anywho, we put our plans to marry on hold. That’s how important this is to us. It’s just a piece of paper anyway ;)
All of that officially and legally makes me a woman owned and operated Brewery, which as far as I can tell is not all that common. I am not all feminist, however I do think it’s pretty badass.
Sooo backing up. Those plans of gigantic beautiful brewery madness have scaled back. Aaaaand downsized. Getting into a business venture for oh, $300K or $500k or a cool Mil? That isn’t in the cards for this technically single job gypsy mom. After all of those talks with all of those breweries starting Nano with a Neighborhood Model is what fits best for my vision. What that means is TEENY TINY equipment focusing on the taproom. I care so much more about creating a fun, calm, comfortable place to visit than I do competing for shelf space and tap handles all over the place. I completely admire those breweries that went in balls out with crazy loans, buying buildings and the most impressive equipment. I want that too, but I want to grow to that place organically with the love and support of my customers. I know it will happen even if I don’t know when it will happen. But that is what works for me. I have a passion for the business and the community and my inspiration for WHY this brewery and FOR my family. So my equipment is tiny, but it is mighty. If that causes some of those people to shit talk or doubt, than What Ev. I know for a FACT the way I am entering into this is what’s best for me and has been done by many more breweries around the country than you could even imagine. We (meaning me, my BF, people we hire to help us in a pinch) will brew super small batch brews. I’m talking tiny. 1-3 BBL’s at a time. That is 2-6 kegs. That is small. We will also contract brew and partner/tenant brew to supplement demand. I am fully aware that there is a stigma for hiring someone to brew your beer, or to brew on another brewery’s equipment. Again, What Ev. It’s more common than you think, and it is YOUR BEER. Your recipe that you are paying for labor, or your labor on rented equipment. Not any different than hiring a head brewer in my eyes. When you are on a mission of madness you do whatever you need to do to make it work the best way it can work. Whew. I am sure we can’t keep up on that small of a system for long. That’s really not a bad problem to have. We will immediately start building up the capacity we can brew. There is method to the madness. It’s not just about not wanting to kick down the small fortune up front. It is also about have a pretty solid idea of what size system that small fortune will be invested in. It is a common complaint of sorts from a lot of different brewers that I have talked to. “I wish I would’ve went bigger, not I have to add more.” Or even “I went in a little more than I really needed to. Some of my beer goes bad before I can sell it cuz the batch size is a little too much.” Or even “I have $XXX hundreds of thousands in loans, and I haven’t paid myself a dime in 3, 5, 7 years.” Just to be clear, being paid is the least important thing to me. Being a job gypsy and a stay at home mom to part time mom over my whole adult life I have never been a big spender. However, to put in all of that stress and time and work, I don’t want to sign up do that for years and years only to be in mass debt. Just not for me. Instead, I’ll go into a little debt with the expectation that I can grow to a paycheck just to have extra fun. I live comfortably, my kids and Love are happy and that’s what really matters. That is my beginning in a nutshell.
Check back in for the purpose behind Thin Line, and an update on where we stand with progress. I would just keep on typing, but quite honestly my fingers and brain are tired. :)