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Brief brewpub update

I know that I haven’t been posting much on my brewpub dream recently, but the dream still holds strong. Right now I am settle and unsettled. My wife is currently finishing up her PhD and after she finishes it, we don’t know where exactly we are going to be living. We both intend on living on the east coast, but that still leaves a lot of options and we could head west if a job presents itself.

While I’ve kind of stopped looking at a specific area, I’ve been doing a fair amount of research on the numbers. In particular I’ve been looking at the size of brewhouse needed, the costs associated with said brewhouse, and the size needed for a brewpub. I’ve heard a few estimates that for every seat that a brewpub has, you should assume that it will consume 5-10 barrels of beer per year. So depending on where we end up, I may need a large brewhouse, or a slightly smaller one. From what I have read it is safe to assume that in a non-craft-beer-friendly area, that 5 barrels per seat is a good estimate. On the east coast, I would go on the higher end of the range as the area is well versed with craft brew. I have a number of other facts and figures to share, but currently I’m writing this on my Kindle Fire, which is not an idea blogging platform. Thanks for the questions and emails that I get asking for updates.

Brewpub update

I haven’t posted about my dream to own a brewpub in some time. There is no real reason for this other than the fact that there hasn’t been any real progress on it. I have been doing a lot of reading into the restaurant and brewing business recently. I feel that I increase my chance for success the best if I can arm myself with knowledge. At some point my knowledge needs to transition into action and I hope that it will soon.

At the current spot in my life I know that I am going to secure for the next few years in terms of location, but after that I really have no idea. My wife is finishing up her PhD and when she does that, we will likely be moving. I do not want get deep into the planning process until we are settled in an area for a long period of time. I would love to go full in to my dream right now, but it just isn’t in the cards at the current time. I have responsibilities to my family that come first. My ideas on what exactly I want to do and how I think I want to do it have progressed significantly since I last talked about my brewpub, but that is a post for another time. I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still working towards my goal and that the dream is still alive.

March Brewness Round 4 Results

Sorry for this delayed post, I was out of town on business and I didn’t have as much free time as I thought I would. Anyway, round 4 was a great round of voting and had the largest number of votes yet. We are down to four breweries: Brooklyn Brewery, Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and Abita Brewing Company.

The voting for the final two opens tomorrow, so make sure you check back.

More thoughts on the brewpub

While I haven’t posted about in some time, the gears are still turning as far as my brewpub is concerned. If you haven’t read about it yet check out the link on the top right of the site or the image over to the right hand side there. Anyway I have been reading a lot of business things. Some related to beer, most not. And after months of reading about and studying business type things, what did I find? Well I need to do a lot more studying and that I am not going to have all of the answers.

In all honesty, opening a business is a big risk. A calculated one, but really who knows how it is going to turn out. Sometimes have a solid product and the smartest people are not enough. A lot of successful businesses have a lot of luck on their side. I don’t want to take anything away from a successful business becasue sometimes smart people or a great product is enough, but luck does play a role in everything in life to some extent. I’m sure by now you are getting an idea in your head that some post college kid is getting the idea that life is tough, not fair, and full of disappointments. You would actually be dead wrong, I love this stuff. Maybe it is the eternal optimist in me, but I get all jazzed by a new idea or possibility. The threat of failure is a moot point becasue as long as some good comes of it, there is no failing at anything.

I was recently reading an article about Five Guys Burgers and Fries. If you have never been to one, you are missing out. Fantastic food, especially the fries, and not a bad price. There were a couple of things that struck me in the article.

Three days before we opened, I was still working as a trader in stocks and bonds and was in a hotel for a meeting in Pittsburgh. I found a book in the nightstand, next to the Bible, about JW Marriott — he had an A&W stand that he converted and built into the Hot Shoppes chain. He said, Anyone can make money in the food business as long as you have a good product, reasonable price, and a clean place. That made sense to me.

We figure our best salesman is our customer. Treat that person right, he’ll walk out the door and sell for you. From the beginning, I wanted people to know that we put all our money into the food. That’s why the décor is so simple — red and white tiles. We don’t spend our money on décor. Or on guys in chicken suits. But we’ll go overboard on food.

The whole food aspect of the brewpub is something that I kind of sort of know about, but really don’t have a lot of experience in. Not only am I going to have to find someone who knows that they are doing, but also someone that I can bring into the business who has the same goals as I do. But the formula of good food + reasonable prices + clean place = success does seem pretty simple. In the brewpub world I would love to keep the food prices on par with any sit-down restaurant and make sure that the food is solid. As solid if not more solid than the beers.

My wife, parents, college roomates, and anyone else who has lived with me might find the next statement shocking, but I really do care about have a clean place when it comes to food. My former co-works or managers at the retirement home I worked at for half a decade could attest that I like things being clean and am not afraid at getting dirty to make the place clean.

The customer really is the biggest advocate. I plan on making sure every customer is satisfied with the product that we gave them. That product is much more than just the food and beer. It is everything from the building, service, and meeting their needs. Without those basics I do not feel that any business can succeed. The article also talked about quality control. I have been to dozens of brewpubs in my life and when I think back on them I think in terms of the quality of their beer, food and service. I’ve gone to more than a few that lacked in all areas. I want to make sure that my brewpub puts out quality everything. We don’t have to put out an awarding winning beer or dish every time but we cannot afford to have any clunkers in there. A quality product builds a following and stands for something.

There was a whole lot I had on my mind and I got just a tiny drop of it out there. I told you all on the original post that this series is serving as more of a creative outlet than anything. Sorry that it is so sporadic, I just haven’t had a chance to empty out the idea bucket in awhile. The idea of what I want the brewpub to be and not be is developing into something more distinct. I wouldn’t call it a philosophy or anything yet, but I do believe there is a right way and wrong way of going about things and I want to ensure that we do it right. Thanks for reading, any comments, questions, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Mug Club

As I continue to read more and gather information about brewpubs, the question of a mug club has come up. There are a million other things I am focusing on as well, but beer is always a fun side-part of the brewpub (the food part and the whole restaurant is the big piece of the cake). I have been to dozens of brewpubs in my short time of being of age and craft beer loving. In that time, I have never joined a mug club. What is a mug club exactly? Well it is a “fellowship” that you join from a local brewpub that entitles you to special beers, discounts, and other exciting offers that are not available to non mug club members.

From my personal experience as well as from my research there are a lot of options offered with mug clubs. The first option is a paid yearly memberships which gets you your own personal glass/mug, discounts on food/drink and access to special beers that are only made in limited quantities. The second is a paid membership, but no personal glass, but rather a communal (but larger) glass and the same benefits as the first option. The last one is a totally free mug club that mainly gives you discounts on everything.

The brewpub that I would call “home” is Bube’s Brewery (pronounced Boobies 🙂 ) in Mt. Joy, Pa. I would visit that brewpub every Wednesday so that I could drink a beer or two and also talk with the assistant brewer Rick. It was a blast for anyone interested in beer to talk with the brewer and also discuss beer and how they made their beer and all of the other beer related geekiness that goes along with that. Bube’s also had a Mug Club, which I never joined (I’m going to pull the poor college student excuse). Their Mug Club was $65 and got you a large glass that had your name and member number etched on it. At the end of each year you were able to take your glass home and a new style of custom glass would be put in place.

The glasses are larger than your typical pint but you pay the same price and you were also entitled to a discount on food. Additionally that also had a few special events throughout the year that only Mug Club members could be a part of. One of my friends/mentors joined the club and he has been very happy since joining and with the benefits of being a member. Bube’s also has limited edition beers that are only served in very limited quantities and available to Mug Club members and whatever is left is open to non-members at the regular or elevated price.

In my brewpub I want to have a Mug Club and offer it at a price. First off it is an additional source of income and hopefully guarantees repeat business. I would also want to offer special glasses. I don’t like the “universal mug club” glass where anyone in the Mug Club has a special glass, but it isn’t theirs. If I am willing to charge people to take part in a membership, then they should be able to get a piece of ownership over it. I don’t know about replacing the glasses each year as Bube’s does. I’m sure there are people who love that, but there are significantly increased costs with that along with the worry of making sure everyone get’s their glass when the new ones come out. I would like to keep one set glass, and each member has their own.

There is then the added concern of storing all of the glasses and the best way to go about it. I have only seen two versions of storing glasses; shelves and hanging them. I am a fan of hanging the glasses and plan on putting that into my brewpub. It allows a lot of glasses to be stored without taking up any additional space. They also look pretty neat when you come into a brewpub for the first time and see tons of numbered or named glasses/mugs hanging from over the bar.

The last question comes down to the cost. As I said, Bube’s Mug Club members pay $65 a year to enjoy the privilege of being a member. I have seen prices all the way from $10 and upwards of $100. I guess the main part of the pricing comes into the type of customers you are getting and how many members you have. The more members, the more they drink, the less they are playing per ounce, so I would assume the more you need to charge. To be honest pricing for a Mug Club and how to track everything isn’t within the scope of things that I am looking at right now. I think the most important parts are the following facts; paid membership, custom/personal glass, same type of glass for everyone year after year, and the discounts/special offerings members get. Let me know if you have heard of anything different or what you are looking for in a brewpub.