Week 1: The Business Of Beer
The group came together on a cold, blustery night. Almost everyone was on time, in fact. The event began with a brief welcome, and the introduction of Jeff Ganger, founder of BrewLogger. Jeff brought in a box of his books to share with the class, and explained the reason he created them. Jeff had a hard time organizing his brewing notes, so he laid the book out in a methodical, easy to follow fashion and engineered the book to match.
Jim McCabe was on next, and took the class through the history of Milwaukee Brewing Company. But not the history you hear in the tour. Jim talked about the inspiration for The Ale House, the decision to buy a 15BBL system and he explained the reasons why it still remains so clean and shiny. He told the story of Pull Chain Pale Ale and the mustachioed characters on the original label. He explained the history of The Flaming Damsel and other original Ale House beers. Then, he talked about the move to 2nd Street and the re-branding that came with it, while noting that you should think twice before putting your face on the end of a six-pack holder. After explaining the business risks and difficulties, and leading to why the collected group SHOULDN’T start a brewery, he also extolled the virtues of running, and building, his own business.
Henry Schwartz of Mobcraft offered a counterpoint to Jim’s story. Mobcraft is the product of several bright minds that saw an opportunity to make beer for the people, to make beer that people specifically requested, centered around the current crowdsourcing trend. He told the story of contract brewing with House of Brews, an incident with some hot peppers, and even the tale of the durian beer. Then he told of the move to Milwaukee and the big decisions related to that move. And not only does he have to worry about beer, he has to worry about human resources!
After a brief session explaining the Value Proposition worksheet provided by UpScalability, we took some feedback from the class. Who wants to open a brewpub / tasting room? Or a production brewery? Who wants to serve food, and who doesn’t? Do you want to distribute yourself, or hand your beer to a distributor? Will you build a brewery, or contract brew for a time? Jim and Henry each had a side to the story, and each answer elicited rapid scribbling and note taking.
Once the class was over, some participants had to run, but some stayed to talk to Henry, and some spent time chatting with Jim. It seems everyone learned a lot and are now better prepared to brew or not to brew.