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Getting big

I “like” New Belgium Brewing on Facebook. Today I was browsing my wall and saw a picture that they posted today of some new (enormous) tanks that they are installing. I’m a weirdo and I like to read the comments to try and get a pulse of what people are thinking. New Belgium beer is not distributed in PA or most of the east coast so there is a strong desire by those who have had it before to get it shipped where they cannot get it now.

I ran across the post below. The names and faces have been blacked out to protect the innocent.

I don’t get it. What’s the problem with a microbrewery getting big? Is it the fear that they will become what we have come to hate? Is it a fear that what was once special, is not so anymore? I would argue that the bigger a microbrewery gets the better for everyone. The have greater power on the distributes (stupid three tier system) and bring craft brewing closer to the general public.

Isn’t the goal of any business to grow? I think we have become so used to finding these little breweries and claiming that we found them, they are special, they are ours. In New Belgium’s case, Fat Tire used to be something that was a rare gem. Something special. In the places that New Belgium distributes, I would say that Fat Tire is a standard beer. Very good, but not the “something special” that it used to be. As our tastes evolve and new styles are brewed, the beers that founded the breweries we love don’t hold the water they used to. Admit it, if you saw someone holding a Fat Tire or a BrewDog End of the World, which beer would you get more excited about? My example is a bit exaggerated, but it does hold water.

I think most craft beer drinkers are looking to find solid beer, but also something new and different. Does getting big take away from the specialness that we hold so dear?

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.

Lancaster Brewing Company Sampler Beer Review

This isn’t so much of a beer review as it is a sampler review. I recently celebrated my birthday and decided that the best way to do that was to sample some microbrew from a local place. I live in Lancaster, PA so I went to Lancaster Brewing Company. They have some great beers, and package 4 of them (Milk Stout, Strawberry Wheat, Amish Four Grain, Hop Hog). They also package a few seasonals, but at their brewpub in Lancaster City they have a lot more to choose from.

Looking at the image on the left, there are 13 sampler glasses! That’s the most I’ve ever had from a microbrewery sampler plate. They were all 5 oz. glasses and it only costs $15. Not a bad deal at all.

There were actually only 12 beers on tap, but they then decided to make a black and tan type drink by combining the Milk Stout and the Strawberry Wheat into something they called a Chocolate Covered Strawberry. I like the Milk Stout by itself, not so much on the Strawberry Wheat, but when combined, both brews go to a new level. I’ll be reviewing a bit more of their brews in the near future. I mainly wanted to comment on the quality of the beers (with the exception of the Oktoberfest, when it is January and the Oktoberfest is still around, it’s not good) and how great they made my birthday. (more…)