11 Months In Business

I thought I’d attempt to write a new blog entry, seeing as how it’s been a few months since I’ve written anything of substance on here. Our anniversary is coming up and this is a good opportunity to think back to where we were only 11 months ago. We sold our first case of beer to Hollingshead’s Deli on April 28th, 2008, so I’ve decided to roll over our anniversary date to the month of May. Close enough, right? Last night Tyler, Rachel, Jonas, Jay and I sampled all of the barrels of our anniversary beer, picking out the most exceptional barrels for the single barrel versions of Papier. I couldn’t help but feel a little sentimental that we were tasting our fifth batch of beer brewed last April, when things were vastly different than they are today.

In the beginning, I wondered how we were going to sell 15 bbl (465 gallons) of beer, the smallest volume we typically produce of any single batch. Tyler and I were the only people working here, and we brewed the beer, sold the beer, and I attempted to run a business. Within a few weeks of our first releases sitting on store shelves, we received complaints of over carbonation. Luckily, we were a new brewery, and people drank the beer anyway and understood we didn’t really know what we were doing at this point. I bought back beer from places that weren’t selling it well. I’m still sitting on 30 cases of grossly over carbonated Black Orchard and waiting for a great idea on what to do with it. A not so great idea was bobbling for apples in Black Orchard, which we attempted on Halloween.

In June, Stone Brewing Co. started distributing our beer in Southern California, which is one of those events that made my life a lot easier and gave us the opportunity to grow quickly. Steve, Greg and Arlan recognized we are making great beer and I recognized I cannot do everything and do it well. I could now see it was possible to sell 15 BBL batches of beer.

In September, we opened our tasting room, which has wildly exceeded my expectations. I expected the tasting room to be a place where we’d get the occasional visitor wanting to check out our brewery. It has become a North Orange County attraction, and we recently hired Stef, Tasting Room Manager, and James, to run the tasting room.

Our beers were distributed exclusively in Southern California until November, when I decided to branch out to other states. Stone was doing a great job for us in Southern California, but we had extra capacity and I felt it was important to build ourselves in other markets. Over the past 6 months, we’ve partnered with the best distributors in states that have an exceptional beer culture. We’re now in Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Northern California, and will soon be in Arizona and New Jersey.

The Bruery family continues to grow. My wife Rachel joined us full time in September, and Jonas joined the team in December to help brew and handle our expanding distribution. Bryan joined in January to spread the word of our beers in Southern California. Jay will shortly join us full time as assistant brewer as our production needs increase. Ben, who once helped us brew, is now working with us as our marketing director. My brother Chris is working in Portland, Oregon to build our account base there.

We’re currently undergoing a major expansion, bringing our fermentation capacity from 75 BBL to 210 BBL. The work is almost complete and we’re prepared to fill the new fermenters in the next two weeks. The fermenters couldn’t have come at a better time– we’re almost out of beer and struggling to keep up with demand. In the next few months, we’ll also be adding a faster bottling line.

In another 11 months, I wonder where we’ll be. I honestly have no idea. Maybe we’ll have maxed out our fermentation capacity and trying to fit more fermenters in our now cramped space. Perhaps we’ll be constructing a new brewery. Whatever the future brings, we know it’ll be shaped by our hard work and high expectations. Thanks for supporting us!

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