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Thoughts on beer stores

I was recently watching a special on CNBC about Costco. I have no business watching CNBC as my money is not tied to the stock market and the only thing of value that I own is a car, but I’m really interested in business for some reason. CNBC does a great job of finding successful businesses and showing the story of how they became successful. I eat this stuff up as someone who wants to open their own brewpub one day. Usually I like seeing how a unique, but good idea can become a great success story, but still have major hurtles to overcome. Call it the American Spirit, but I dig it.

While watching the Costco special they had a 10-15 minute section about wine sold at Costco. Apparently Costco offers around 200 different types of wine at their stores while local liquor stores generally stock 2-3 times that amount. Wine is a big part of their profit margin and makes up about a tenth of their business. The reasoning behind carrying a smaller selection is to not overwhelm the consumer and help them find a solution quickly. It also helps the consumer discover new brands and styles more easily. It’s an interesting take on business that Costco also applies to all of their departments.

It really made me think about the local beer store that I visit. They have an outstanding selection of beer with 400 or so “normal” beers and a rotating seasonal selection of about 50. Some would call me lucky (and believe me I’m lucky), but when I think about it through the Costco lens it doesn’t make sense. How many IPAs does a beer store need to offer to keep people happy? IPAs are particularly bothersome because with more selection comes an increased chance of beer sitting for longer. IPAs lose a lot if they sit unrefrigerated for too long.

As a craft beer nerd I love going into my store and finding new beers to try, but someone new into craft beer may actually be turned off by the intense selection. Now my store is really good about asking if you need help, but I don’t know if that applies everywhere. Surprisingly the demographics of Costco and craft beer drinkers is interchangeable. So that leads to the question is less selection of craft beer a good or bad thing?

Personally, I want more selection as I love having more choice. I think that most craft beer people would agree with me as well. Would you rather have a smaller selection, say 200 different beers, with the promise that they are fresher and better rotated?

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.

Dogfish Head Brewpub visit

As an end of summer trip my wife and I agreed to meet some of my friends for a day at the beach at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewis, Delaware. We decided to head down to the beach a little early so that we could stop by the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to grab some quality food and brews before beaching it up for the day.

We arrived right around 12:30 and somehow found a spot in their parking lot. We decided to eat on the deck because the temperature was in the low eighties and there was a slight breeze. There wasn’t anyone on the deck for the most part either, which is always a plus in my book. To begin with I ordered a Limb and Life, which was delicious. Limb and Life is made from the second runnings of the Life and Limb ale, a collaboration of Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Limb and Life was very refreshing and fully flavored. It had all of the right notes and body to be a dangerously drinkable beer.

Once our drinks came we ordered lunch. My wife went with the “healthy” option and ordered a turkey sandwich of some kind. I went with the indulgence burger, pictured below. Needless to say it was delicious and I am craving another one already.

We also ordered a custom sampler since Smalls, my wife, couldn’t decide on just one beer. I don’t blame her at all for that. Our choices are pictured below.

  • Black and Red: I never had this one before and I don’t think I’m going to get it again. The beer is “dry hopped” with mint leaves. I thought it had a very medicinal taste and it was the only beer of the day that we didn’t finish
  • Chateau Jiahu: I dig this beer, but my wife digs it more. It has a bubble gum like sweetness and Smalls says it tastes just like candy.
  • Midas Touch: Another beer that both my wife and I dig. The grape flavor goes really well with this beer.
  • My Antonia: It was hoppier than my wife expected but I really like this Imperial Pilsner.
  • 90 Minute IPA: We went on a Monday and they run the beer though the Randall on Mondays. 90 minute was as good as always but I didn’t think that the Randall added a ton to the flavor

After we kicked the sampler we ordered desert. Smalls decided on the Warm Brownie Raison DEtre Sunday. The ice cream is partly made with Raison DEtre. I didn’t care for the ice cream all that much but the brownies were wonderful.

To finish it all up I had a Shelter Pale Ale before meeting my friends. I really like the brewpub in Rehoboth. It is much nicer towards the end of the summer around noon, since the crowds haven’t really hit yet. The outside seating was a big plus. We were under the cover of burlap and hop vines and the table centerpieces were DFH growlers with rope lights inside. I thought the prices were pretty reasonable and I am looking forward to heading back. One final note, Dogfish has the coolest coasters anywhere around.

There are some more pictures if you hit the more button after this sentence. (more…)

Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

As I have said several times we recently moved from Texas back to the east coast. When we got to Texas, a year ago, I started reading Brewing Up a Business by Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head. About two weeks after I got into the book I lost it. I thought I lost it at work and the lost and found was empty so I counted the book in the MIA column. When we were moving I pulled out the dresser, and my book showed up. Awesome.

I just finished the book up this week and I thought I would share my review with you. First off, let me say that I really liked the book. The book tells the tale of how Sam started his brewery from brewpub, to the wonderful “power house” that it is now. I am interested in starting my own brewpub, so I found several parts of the book particularly interesting.

Another thing to know about this book, it isn’t really about beer. I love Dogfish Head as much as the next guy, but this book is more business oriented, which the title should tell you. Sam tells you about this business, why he did things the way he did, problems that they encountered, about the personality of the company, about about being an effective leader.

My favorite two parts of this entire book were when Sam talked about the creation of the moto for Dogfish Head and the leadership aspect of owning a business. Dogfish Head does what it does because they have a focused mission; Off-centered beers for off-centered people. They know that they are not hitting all of the market, and that is OK. Sam takes responsibility for mistakes that were made and offers solutions for business owners so that they do not do the same.

There are parts of the book that gets repetitive, but they are in there for a reason. Sam is showing how important that aspect is to his business. The most important thing to take away from this book is that Sam believes in his idea. As an entrepreneur you need to be willing to take risks and believe in what you are doing 100%. Sam shows that he did and still does in this book. It is an interesting read if you are thinking about starting you own company or want to see how a unique craft brewing came to being.