The May Session is hosted by allbrews from the San Francisco Bay area. And here is the topic…..
“Like sandlot baseball players or schoolyard basketball junkies, many amateur brewers, including some beer-brewing bloggers, harbor a secret dream: They aspire to some day “go pro.” They compare their beer with commercial brews poured in their local pubs and convince themselves that they’ve got the brewing chops it takes to play in the Bigs. Some of them even make it, fueling the dream that flutters in the hearts of many other home brewers yearning to see their beer bottles on the shelves at City Beer or their kegs poured from the taps at Toronado.
Creating a commercial brewery consists of much more than making great beer, of course. It requires meticulous planning, careful study and a whole different set of skills from brewing beer. And even then, the best plan can still be torpedoed by unexpected obstacles. Making beer is the easy part, building a successful business is hard.
In this Session, I’d like to invite comments and observations from bloggers and others who have first-hand knowledge of the complexities and pitfalls of starting a commercial brewery. What were the prescient decisions that saved the day or the errors of omission or commission that caused an otherwise promising enterprise to careen tragically off the rails?”
Full Disclosure: I have ZERO, NONE, experience with starting a commercial brewery. That being said, I have noticed what separates the successful from the less so.
Of course sucess can be attributed to many factors. A flagship beer that flies off the shelves. Location: both the physical building and the proximity to willing customers. Great branding and marketing. Loud and obnoxious marketing. The beer quality can (and does) vary from great to better than Bud.
But failure, from my safe perch of blogging, primarily comes from being disconnected from your customers. And a brewery has many customers. Their distributor, bar owners, beer drinkers to name the three biggest.
A brewery casually disregards any of them at their own peril. A perfect example of this disconnection is on the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter.
Breweries have been especially drawn to this method for raising funding for equipment, ingredients and other big ticket items. And it provides a case study in how to create and maintain and engage a fan base. All items that I believe are very important to long term success.
Fully funded Kickstarters share fully engaged creators/brewers who do the following:
1. Set a reachable goal
Some projects have set dollar amounts that even a casual / occasional backer can see won’t be reached. It is much better to start small and reach “stretch” goals. Otherwise your backers will lose interest when they see that the percentage towards the goal is inching forward and not running.
2. Do events
Even if you do not have beer to sell, get out and either support the bars that will hopefully be buying your beers. Hand out bumper stickers or pass out questionnaires. If nothing else, spread the word about the brewery.
3. Meet the press
Talk to your local newspaper, the big newspaper in town and then hit up any and all beer bloggers in the area. Give interviews at any opportunity. Post progress on the social media sites that work best for you.
4. Explain your beers
Make sure that your pre-conceived line-up of beers is thoroughly explained on your Kickstarter page and your website and blog and Facebook because in the end it is about the beer.
Then drink a lot of coffee and soda because you will be on the ground running for the duration. Which is great practice for the actual brewery too!