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Brewpub benefits

Ever since make my initial post on my brewery or brewpub last week I been bouncing ideas around in my head like crazy. I have a bunch of them written down, even the ones that I know are unrealistic or totally unobtainable. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing everything in my head down lately. It might stem from a product design class that I had in college where we were encouraged to embrace the crazy. During that class we read a bunch of books about the product design process and how ideas develop over time. Like the first computer mouse was made from a butter tray and a deodorant ball. Sounds crazy, but it did wonders to improve the functionality of a computer and today how many of us could operate without a mouse?

So with that said, I have a notebook that is getting ideas jotted down in it whenever an idea pops into my head. The more I think about a brewery or brewpub the more I lean towards a brewpub. While I have no experience in the restaurant business, I have worked in a kitchen off and on for eight or so years. Does that really mean anything, probably not but I have an understanding of what it takes to run a kitchen efficiently and cost effectively. Going the brewpub route gives me a few more options. First there is an added benefit of having an additional source of income in the food sector. While profit margins are usually around the 3-5% range on food, it is additional income that a brewery only would not have.

The second benefit is that a bottling line and some of the other “finishing” products that are needed in a brewery are not needed for a brewpub. Basically you need your brewing, fermenting, and serving equipment and it is ready to go. The cost of  brewpub sized brewery equipment is also slightly less since the volume of beer made is so much less. Another benefit is that you have a built in tasting panel on premises. Each customer can provide valuable information that might not be possible with a production brewery since most all of the product’s tasting is done off site. You also do not have to worry about distribution. The final benefit that I see is that you have a much better chance of developing loyal customer who keep coming back. Having access to the brewer and seeing where the beer is made can be huge selling points. There is also more opportunity to market directly to repeat customers and build brand loyalty.

I guess this would be following the Dogfish Head model since they essentially started as a brewpub and used it to finance the main brewery. Growing up in the Philadelphia area and going to college roughly around the same area also allowed me to see what successful brewpubs can look like and get an idea of how to differentiate my perspective brewpub. There are multiple brewpubs and even brewpub chains in the area. Iron Hill Brewery appears to be the most successful as they have multiple locations (eight to be exact) and have built a strong membership of mug club members and repeat guests. There is room in that particular market for more brewpubs and ones that fit a different mold than IHB.

Granted, I am still in Texas so the Philadelphia market is kind of off limits for right now. Lubbock, Texas, where I am sadly, currently at, has a huge potential for a quality brewpub as the only one in town focuses on food and not beer. Too bad I hate it here and cannot wait to leave this summer. Where was I, O that’s right, the brewpub idea. I think I want to pursue developing a brewpub more than a production brewery right now. The next question is location, equipment, how big, and a billion and one other things that need to be sorted out. Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any other benefits to going the brewpub route or reasons why a production brewery would be better. I’ll post about the disadvantages sometime later this week or next.

My brewery/brewpub

If you have been reading this blog for any period of time you should know that want to start a brewery or brewpub with my good buddy Pete. It has been something that has consumed my mind for longer than any single idea/dream ever has. The only thing that has been in my head on a more constant basis is my wife (awwwe). And according to Stuff White People Like “most white people want to open a microbrewery at some point.  One that uses organic hops.” I don’t know about the organic hops part, but the first part of that statement is true for me.

I have been reading The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery since I got it back in early January. While a book does not give you everything you need, it surely has helped me in thinking about what I need to do to make this dream a reality. I also read Brewing Up a Business and Beer School which have also been very useful. I think I could handle the beer part and even create a “culture” for my business, but connecting all of the dots seems like a task.

The other thing that you need to look at is the numbers. According to the Brewers Association figures, for every brewpub that closes 1.3 opens. Not exactly encouraging figures, but I’m guess a lot of that is do to the harshness of the restaurant business as a restaurant with a brewery on premises closes at one tenth the rate of a restaurant without one. Promising! Microbreweries have a much better outlook. For each one that closes 3.7 have opened on average for the past 3 years. I kind of want to go the route of Dogfish Head and start with a brewpub and get all of the kinks worked out and have a reliable product and steady cash flow to support opening a full scale brewery.

I am also encouraged by guys like Monday Night Brewery who were a group of friends who loved beer and decided to start a brewery with a unique style. Their blog is fairly hilarious as well and they also drop lots of great information on starting a brewery and the like. One of my favorite breweries back home is Victory, which I can actually purchase in Lubbock (score). They have grown by leaps and bounds and they started as two college roommates who loved beer. Much like Pete and myself I might add.

My brewery or brewpub is still very much a pipe dream at this point, but I think I am going to start posting about my thoughts and ideas on it here and get some feedback. Even if I don’t get feedback it will give me a place to put down all of my ideas and allow me to develop my dream a bit more. Also writing it down helps it become more real in a sense.

Styles that don’t agree with me

10-20-01Look a that, my first rhyming blog title. Anyway, I was thinking the other day about beers that I really just do not enjoy. No matter how good they are, I just can’t seem to like them. I think I got the idea while reading Pennsylvania Breweries 3rd Edition by Lew Bryson during my break at work. Lew seems to really enjoy a quality Pilsner and often recommends them while doing his write-up about a brewery.

My problem is that I really don’t like Pilsners at all. Maybe it was from my early college days when the American Light Lager ruled my drinking choices. That type of light, watery, sometimes hoped beer just isn’t for me. I’ve had plenty of well regarded Pilsners, and I can get the flavor differences and all of that, I just don’t like it that much. Stoudt’s Pils is probably my favorite of the style that I have sampled, but I would much rather have any host of other beers in front of me.

For my wife she can’t stand too many IBUs. Well let me correct that, she can’t stand anything that doesn’t have a malt backbone to support the IBUs. In particular she is always wary of IPAs because so few actually offer a good balance. A hoppy stout or porter will also leave her wanting something different. I’m also not really a Labmic guy. I’ve have three of them in my short beer experience, but the sourness just doesn’t do anything for me. If I had a homebrew that turned out like that, I would be very disappointed. I am not one for Warheads or any of that candy stuff that is super sour either, so that might be partly to blame.

Will I steer away from styles I generally know that I don’t enjoy. The answer I want to is no, that I will try any new beer, just to try it. The real answer is that I probably would steer a bit away from styles I don’t really like. That is why there are not many Pilsner reviews on here or American Light Lagers. I don’t enjoy them so I refuse to spend money on them. At a brewpub, I am a bit more willing to try things I don’t like becasue I always get a sampler. And if I don’t care for a particular beer, I only have to drink 4-5 ounces of it. Is anyone else like me in avoiding beer styles they don’t care for or are you one to try anything even if you know you will not like it.

Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head

09-19-01I’ve been really interested in learning everything about Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head for the past few weeks. Part of it stems from wanting to brew a pumpkin ale and the other is that I’m reading Brewing Up a Business right now. I’m really enjoying both aspects of my interest right now if you cared to know.

I’ve been reading a lot of interviews, question and answer sessions,  and also watching Youtube items about Dogfish and Sam. The most interesting thing to me is their approach to beer and how I would love to do something similar. Maybe not make the types of beer they do, but more on how they approach the business and brewing. Dogfish Head started as a brewpub and then grew into a production brewery. They still use their brewpub to do test batches and brew something new every 2 weeks. I think it is great that a company that is as established as Dogfish Head is willing to keep innovating and testing out new things.

The brewpub to production brewery approach is something that I would love to do myself one day. Granted this is far off if it ever did happen but it is a blast to think about. I find myself researching brewpubs, financing, and all types of statistics to help fuel my dream. What does this all mean now, well, nothing. I’m going to keep homebrewing and coming up with beers that I enjoy but I want to gain as much knowledge as I can before I ever seriously flirt with the business.

Below are a few clips about Dogfish Head and Sam Calagione. The first two are from his rap group (yup a rap group) that raps about beer. The second on in particular is from their Boston Light Beer Party where they dump crapy light beers into Boston Harbor. The last clip is over an hour long and Sam is talking to Google staff about his business and their approach. It was very informative and a really fun watch. [Edit: The videos just took up too much space on the main page, just click the read more link to see them] (more…)

Lubbock, TX Triple J Sampler Beer Review

Two weeks ago I was in Lubbock, Texas doing some job hunting during my spring break. Naturally one of the first things I did was look for a brewpub to visit. I found the Triple J Chophouse and Brew Company. You can check out their site here. Triple J is a nice place; it has some good food (a bit overpriced) and looked to have some promising beer.

09-03-19-01For a seemlingly upscale place, the table covers were brown paper. Kind of werid but I liked it. Anyway, onto the beer. I ordered the sampler which came with four of the breweries five beers, my server gave me a taste of the other one as well. From right to left you have the stout, cream ale, rye ale, raider red, and the smaller sample was of their IPA.

The cool thing was that they served their beers in little mason jars. The stout was pretty good; nice, roasty, and well balanced. I enjoyed it but it was nothing super special. A very good example of the style. The cream ale wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t very creamy with no head and a real lack of flavor. The rye ale was a nice treat. I love rye beers with their suttle flavors and this one was a bit different. The rye was really allowed to shine and it got better the more I drank. The Raider Red (Lubbock is home of the Texas Tech Red Raiders) was my least favorite of all of the beers. The website claims it is malty and balanced with hops, but I think it was way over hopped. There was a bit of nice malt upfront but it faded quickly with the hops. The final beer was the IPA small sample. As with the Raider Red it was over hopped, but it fits with the style. My problem was that it went too far with the hops. I like an IPA that has a little something else to offer, this did not. There was not a strong malt backbone to help balance the hops at all. Some may love it, I did not.

If you are in Lubbock for any reason (please don’t) then check out the Triple J. It’s not my favorite brewpub but it offers tons of different beers thoughout the year.