Lessons from Year One

Bauhaus Brew Labs23lydia

Matt Schwandt (left) and Lydia Haines during the construction of Bauhaus Brew Labs in early 2014 // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Bauhaus Brew Labs
Opened July 18, 2014
Lydia Haines, vice president/director of operations

Looking back: “We may have thought we were prepared for the level of work involved, but we weren’t. Opening a brewery is challenging on every level. You are physically exhausted, the financial pressure is immense, and you’re constantly feeling like any mistake could cost you everything. Is that too honest of an answer?”

The challenge: “I know there were a few months there where [President and Head Brewer] Matt [Schwandt] felt like the whole world was resting on his shoulders. I’d hand him the brew schedule, which was intense from day one, as we were desperately trying to keep up with demand, and he would just look at me and say, ‘I need to sleep at some point!’ It is really nice to finally have a fully staffed brewery.”

More than just beer: “Our goal has always been to bring something completely new to the craft beer conversation, and I think we have achieved it in spades. Our beer styles—which at their core are about reimagining traditional styles for the modern craft beer drinker—were not yet represented anywhere in the Minnesota craft beer scene. Our manner of engaging the craft beer drinker and bringing them into the fold, making them laugh, and encouraging them to come together and high-five a random stranger was also nowhere to be found. We really spent time establishing our family, essentially our brand, on all levels in our first year, and we genuinely had an awesome time doing it. Mostly.”

Future goals: “The challenge as we grow is to make sure that each new employee/family member that we bring on has an unrelenting commitment to quality and consistency. We’re also really working on streamlining our three business lines (taproom retail, production, and sales/distribution) in order to better keep up with demand and grow at a sustainable pace. We still have a lot of growing to do, but we want to be ahead of the game more than feeling like we’re behind the 8-ball.”

Urban Growler

Jill Pavlak, left, and Deb Loch are co-founders of Urban Growler Brewing Company // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Urban Growler Brewing Co.
Opened July 30, 2014
Jill Pavlak, co-founder

Ups and downs: “The first year was hard, but we were expecting that. It wasn’t nearly as hard as getting open! All the work that goes into getting open is fantastic training for your first year of actually being open. The hours are long and the work is hard, but way less painful when you can actually see people in your taproom enjoying your beer.”

Learning curve: “We still do something new every day that we’ve never done before. The volume of things you need to do is mind-boggling. It’s not just making beer: it’s regulatory, insurance, legal, financial, suppliers, customers, distribution, staff, human resources, equipment—everything is new the first year. No benchmarks.”

Team effort: “We assembled a great team: our taproom staff and managers, brewers and assistant brewers, our chef and cooks, sales and distribution. We don’t necessarily hire people with experience. We hire people that are passionate about craft beer and customer service. We have a med student, a botanist, a software engineer, a photographer, high school teachers, a lab tech, a Delta Airlines employee—you get the picture.”

Future goals: “We’d like to improve on our reach via distribution. We are currently in 40 bars and restaurants. In order to up that number, we need to expand. We also need to become more efficient at setting up and tearing down at beer fests. How does that tent fit back into that little bag? Impossible!”

FairState-1

Fair State Brewing Cooperative head brewer Niko Tonks // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Fair State Brewing Cooperative
Opened September 6, 2015
Niko Tonks, head brewer

The challenge: “It was a ton of work, which we fully expected. We did manage to pull off some of our longer-term goals, [like] packaging beer for sale in liquor stores and getting some sour stuff on the market, faster than we initially hoped. So in that sense, it was a total piece of cake. Ha.”

Learning curve: “When you’re in the process of opening a brewery, you tend to have ideas about what sort of beers you might make. In our case, lots and lots of ideas. The whole trope of ‘we brew what we like to drink’ is all well and good, but it turns out you need focus, too. It took us a few months to really figure out what was important to us and what wasn’t.”

Looking back: “I think if we could hang our hat on something we managed in this last year, it would be figuring out the kettle souring process. The ‘Lactobac’ series started as a bit of a gamble, just seeing if we could pull it off, and it’s developed into a staple for us. The process has smoothed out to the point that we’re on the verge of debuting a year-round sour in bottles.”

Future goals: “We have a number of beer-related goals for year two. First thing, you’ll start seeing our barrel-aged sour beers come out, albeit slowly. We’ve been putting beer into barrels whenever possible since last Thanksgiving and some of it is getting close to being ready. We’re also going to expand our barrel program, and start packaging bottle-conditioned 750ml bottles for sale at the brewery and around town. I’m also hoping to start using more locally produced ingredients, both traditional and not, in the coming year. As a co-op, we’re also continually trying to be better members of our community and to be mindful of and responsive to our member-ownership.”

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