Archive for July, 2011

State of the Industry

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Interesting, if brief article on the state of the Local Homebrew Shop. 16% growth in any industry, especially at this time is amazing!

Results Indicate Growth, Increased Diversity

Boulder, CO • July 20, 2011—For the second consecutive year, the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) conducted a survey of homebrew supply shops. The 2011 survey, conducted in the spring, saw a dramatic increase in respondents—67 percent increase over 2010’s survey. Across the board, the results indicate that homebrewing is growing consistently, leading to a more diverse demographic of homebrewers and new shops catering to local enthusiasts. Continue Reading…

Hop Candy?

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Yum!

Yeah, I know, kind of a weird idea, but hear me out: This stuff rocks! It’s sweet with unbelievable hop flavor! I tried a few different varieties at NHC, but I can only find the Cascade flavor on the interwebs. I tried to locate the company’s website, but they don’t seem to have one, which is really weird in this day and age, but who am I to judge? Northern Brewer has it, although at the time of this writing it seems to be out of stock. QUIT EATING ALL OF IT, NB EMPLOYEES!! It’s seriously good stuff. $5 may seem a bit much for some folks, but it’s basically hop crack. You’d pay $5 for hop crack, trust me! Or if you prefer, think of it as the Jolly Rancher for hopheads. Whatever makes you happy.

So You Want To Start a Homebrew Club…

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Homebrew Get togetherFor some years I’ve complained about not having a local homebrew club in my area. I’m situated between the Worts of Wisdom (WoW), about 30 minutes away and DOZE in Concord, about an hour away. Both are great clubs, but the commute is just not conducive to being an active member in either. I thought of starting a club here in Half Moon Bay, but never felt I had the time to commit to doing so properly. As it stands, there now happens to be a club here called the Coastside Homebrew Club, which is a great! But how do you make a club successful? How do you gain and keep members? How do you handle money, websites, competitions, events and Facebook pages… you see where this is going.

One of my final sessions at the NHC was “Homebrew Club Organization” which featured presidents and officers from several clubs around the US. A lot of time was spent around information on how to organize your club into a 501(c) social organization, which gives you a non-profit status and makes life far easier when your club reaches a certain size. But what about clubs that one day only hope to have a problem like that? What about a club just getting off the ground? There were still good information to be had. I’ll break it down into the following categories

Gaining Members The whole thing is a bit pointless if it’s just you and your buddy who likes to drink your beer sitting around a card table doing “tastings”. You need people to enter competitions, make enough beer to pour at events and to wear that bitchin T-shirt you spent 6 hours on Photoshop designing. Not that I’ve ever done that. *cough*.

A great way to gain membership is to hold your meetings at the local brew pub or homebrew shop, if such permissions can be granted from the owners. You want to avoid holding session at a members house as new members are more reticent to go to a private home than to a public place. You can advertise on homebrew forums, in the local paper (if you can spare some $), or just put up flyers in local beer joints (get permission!), there’s always several people who would love to find out about your hobby.

Keeping ’em coming back Good job, you now have 10 active members and 5 or so who show up from time to time. That’s a great start. Now what do you do to keep them interested so you can enter lots of competitions and make a run for that Club of the Year award at the NHC? Have different members present topics they’re interested in. Homebrewers are always looking to find out new tips and tricks, so get them researching the thing their interested in for the next meeting. If they don’t like presenting to the group, then find a member who does and have them present the research. Vary your topics. It doesn’t always have to be a talk on “Yeast Autolysis – a Detailed Discussion”. NO! It can be about the new bit of brew software or gadget, the plan for surviving Boonville this year, whatever! But try to source the topics from your members so they stay engaged and contributing.

It’s not always about the beer I mean let’s face it, it usually is, but break it up a little bit. Club camping trip (with homebrew competition!). Club movie night! Whatever, just make it social. This encourages the often non-brewing significant others to be involved and supportive of the club. For things that are about the beer, schedule a brewery tour in your area, or hit a beer festival.

Hold an event Oh how I dream of putting on the Half Moon Bay Beer Festival! This town is a festival-based economy, so it would so fit right in, but perhaps we should start smaller. Hold homebrew competition with some of the other clubs in your area. Get some buzz going and have a open tasting for the public of the winning brews. Just a small thing, but it’s another good way of getting people interested.

Handle your people well it’s a homebrew club, not your private little empire. Give others a chance to serve as an officer, or run an event. Make a series of rules to govern the meetings as they get larger like, “if you bitch about something someone did, YOU get to do it next time”. Makes it more fun and spreads the work around. Don’t let grumpy members or the know-it-all’s ruin it.

Structure your meetings Yes we all want to taste homebrew until the cows come home, but there’s a point to this – become better brewers! Have a social for 30 or 40 minutes before the meeting, but then get down to business and discuss something. People actually want to get better at this hobby.

Stay safe don’t let members get crocked at the meeting and drive home. If one of your frequent visitors turns out to be the town drunk, quietly but firmly make it clear that this isn’t the club for them. If you’re holding an event, make sure you have the permits and insurance sorted out. Nothing bums out a good time like getting raided by the SWAT team.

Being involved with a homebrew club is an excellent way to up your brewing game, make friends and try more interesting beers! And you may just learn something in the process! Happy brewing!

Going Pro

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Anchor Brewing

Anchor Brewing in San Francisco

Many a homebrewer has the dream to go pro. Several have tried and a few have succeeded. What does it take? The Going Pro panel at the NHC was an interesting talk. It featured 4 pro brewers all of whom had opened their breweries within the last 5 years, Cyrena Nouzille (Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie), Jeremy Raub (Eagle Rock Brewery), Mike Hess (Hess Brewing), Patrick Rue (The Bruery). The talk was structured as a Q&A session, but a few themes came out as the critical success factors in making it as a pro brewer.

The Business Plan We all know brewing is supposed to be about doing whatever you want whenever you want, right? Not if you want to actually make it as a pro brewer. In the end, you are a small business owner and a small business needs at least two items to be successful:

  1. A product people want
  2. Capital

Sadly, not in that order. So unless you have $500K – $1.5M burning a hole in your pocket, you have a bit of capital raising to do. The only way anyone but your crazy rich ant Gertrude is going to hand over that kind of dough is a reasonably thought out business plan. Now I won’t go into how to write one, however Jeremy from Eagle Rock was kind enough to go into it in detail.

To know your local bureaucrat, is to love them Gaining your TTB license and ABC approval is no cakewalk, but these days it’s not that bad. Getting your local municipality to allow you to open a godless brewhouse in their upstanding city is quite another. planing commissions, zoning ordinances, those grumpy people who protest everything – these are obstacles that few know how to navigate. But there’s always one or two folks, perhaps on the planing commission or a clerk at city hall who know it front to back. Work to find them. Bring in some bottles of your pilot batch. See if anyone is a homebrewer. This will make your life radically easier.

Consistency of product If you’re brews aren’t consistent, neither will be your customers. It’s critical to get your process down and understand that it will change radically when you scale up to your new 50 barrel brew system. You’ll need to spend time honing the process and eliminating variables to get your product consistent batch after batch

There’s many more little things too like branding, location, distribution channels, etc. but the session kept coming back again and again to the topics above. And it makes sense really. Business is business and each has its own little quirks. Brewing is no different, but in this economy, it’s probably a bit easier to get the ball rolling when you start thinking about the tax revenue such business generate. But every single panelist said the same thing, “be careful what you wish for, you may get it”.

So You Didn’t Make the NHC…

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Once again, the BTV boys do it better than I ever could! AND there’s a cameo of the Half Moon Brewer with the Baltic Python at 9:02! Enjoy! I sure did!

Brewing TV – Episode 39: NHC 2011 from Brewing TV on Vimeo.