Thursday, September 27, 2007

Writing Mission Statements

Mission and vision statements are an important part of any business, especially in the first few years of a new business. What is the purpose of this business? Who does the business serve? What expectations are there for the future of this business? If there aren't clear answers to these questions, it is unclear what steps to take to produce a successful result.

I'm sitting here at The Bruery in a dim office, looking at a few hundred ants on a nearby table. I made the mistake of leaving a wrapper on the table yesterday, and a civilization is now able to eat because of me. I kill a few just for the fun of it (where did I put my lighter?), and I'm frustrated. Don't take it out on ants, Pat. On the desk behind me, there are a dozen sheets of notepaper, with scribbles and barely legible writing about goals and purposes. I'm trying to come up with a one sentence mission statement that says it all. I don't want to include any semi-colons or too many commas. I want it to be short, sweet, and say everything that I want the brewery to be with some specificity. Impossible? I think so.

It's an odd time to be coming up with this. The Bruery consists of me and a bunch of equipment that is non-functional. There are lots of ideas, of course. I'm trying to get construction started so I can get on with my life and start making beer. When I'm trying to come up with a mission statement, I'm thinking of a bustling brewery with many bright workers, thousands of loyal customers, and a clear sense of what The Bruery is. At this moment, nothing is clear, not even my eyeglasses. I can't remember the last time I cleaned those.

My Dad and I meet on a weekly basis. He is my advisor and business coach, and has a great deal of knowledge on how to run a company and come up with goals and strategies. He gave me the assignment of coming up with a single sentence that describes why I'm doing what I'm doing. There are so many reasons-- I hate the law (not the law itself, just advising others on it), I love making beer, drinking beer, and being in the company of people who share a similar interest in beer. I want to be in a craft-related business-- making something for the enjoyment of others. Sure, I want to make money too, but that's not why I chose to be in the beer business. I want to share beer with others, and I want The Bruery to have an impact on the beer industry as a whole. I'd like to be the cause for many to experience a new side of beer-- a paradigm shift that makes someone realize that beer is so much more complex, interesting, and enjoyable than what they had previously believed.

The best thing I can come up with is pretty vague, but I think it makes more sense when I explain the different parts:

"The mission of The Bruery is to enjoy crafting unique beer for the enjoyment of our supporters."

To address each part of the mission statement-- "To enjoy crafting...": I want to get out of bed every morning and be excited to run The Bruery. Whether it's making beer, selling beer, or managing the business, I'm doing it because I enjoy it. If I don't enjoy it, then I'll need to find out why and correct it. I think making money is addressed in this section of the vision statement, as I probably won't be enjoying what I'm doing unless I'm able to make a living doing it. Likewise, I want those who work at The Bruery to get the same enjoyment out of being here as well. If they aren't enjoying it, I want to know, especially if it increases the enjoyment for everyone else.

"...unique beer...": Our beers should stand out from others on the shelf and give us a sense of pride that we're doing things our own way.

"... for the enjoyment of our supporters.": The word "enjoyment" is quite vague, but we want people to like our beer. We want people to have the beer in an atmosphere of enjoyment, and I think most craft beers are had with this in mind. Whether the person having the beer is experiencing this beer for the first time and is being exposed to a world of new flavors, or this beer is an old standby, we want that person to find value in our beer and not be disappointed by it. Thus, we'll have very high standards of quality. If I don't like it, I won't expect anyone else to either. Our beer may not be compatible with everyone's tastes, but it will be a priority to make sure those who enjoy complexity in their beer are enjoying our beer. Developing a relationship with those who enjoy our beer, or our "supporters", is important to me. I think having a connection to the customer is one of the things that will make it enjoyable for myself and for future workers of The Bruery.

What do you think of this as a mission statement? What am I missing?

Hop and Malt Prices

If you check out other beer blogs, you've probably heard that hops are in short supply in this 2007 harvest, and prices are going through the roof. I'm trying to contract out some hops for this next year, and most places don't believe they have enough supply to enter into those contracts this late in the game. Even if they could sell me the hops I want, prices are about double of 2006 harvest prices. So what the hell am I going to do?

I'm in the process of securing all the hops I'll need for the year by getting my hands on what's left over from the 2006 harvest. I've been able to get Czech Saaz, Styrian Goldings, US Sterling, German Magnum, US Warrior, and US Summit. I have 440 lbs. of hops in inventory, and I'll be buying more in an attempt to hold me over until the 2008 harvest. All of these are vaccum sealed and have been cold stored (and are now stored at 10 below), so they should be very fresh. Most of my hop usage is for bittering, so I'm somewhat fortunate to be focusing on Belgian-style beers, seeing that most are in the 15 - 35 IBU range and tend not to have too much in the way of aroma hops. I'm a big fan of IPA's and Double IPA's, so I hope this shortage and price hike doesn't affect those styles too much.

As for malt prices, they are expected to climb 50 - 100%. There isn't much I can do about that, but I haven't heard of any talk of not being able to secure malt without a contract. I'll be looking into this more. It doesn't help that I don't have a silo-- bulk storage of grain is out of the question for me right now.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Plans Approved by City

Finally, we're ready to start construction! Plans were approved this morning by the City of Placentia, and my general contractor just needs to pull the permit, and I need to pay a hefty fee. Seems easy enough, right? The only thing holding me back is that my contractor isn't returning my phone calls. The City is closed tomorrow, so the permit will have to be pulled on Monday.

Regardless, I'm trying to reflect on the accomplishment that my plans were approved, and things can finally move along. I think celebrating all of the small achievements along the way is important in keeping sane, and as a reminder about what I'm trying to do. I'm not in the business of building breweries; I'm in the business of brewing beer. I now know how to start a brewery, and I hope I'll remember how to brew when it comes time!

If construction starts next week, I'm aiming to start brewing in late October / early November. If that's correct, then I'd be on track to sell bottles / kegs in early December. I haven't been right on guessing when things would get done previously, so I probably shouldn't be putting dates out there, but I will anyway. I'm really looking forward to brewing a winter seasonal, so I pray this timeline pans out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Plans Approved by Health Department

While I'm at it (3 posts for the day)-- on Tuesday, The Bruery's plans were approved by the OC Environmental Health Agency. This is great news, as now I'm able to move on to the next step. The plans were submitted to the City of Placentia on Wednesday (I needed Health Dept. clearance first), and I'm hoping to get some good news this afternoon. I also submitted my plans to the OC Fire Authority on Wednesday, and will check with the South Coast Air Quality Management District today to see what I need to do for them. The OCFA was very expensive, so I'm hoping the AQMD is easier on me.


Last Sunday I met up with Mark Graham and Loren Miraglia at Mark's beautiful house in San Clemente to brew a 10 gallon batch of the Batch No. 01 Competition winner, Levud's. This is a Golden Strong Belgian Ale that is remarkably simple in ingredients, but overwhelmingly complex in flavor. I had a lot of fun watching these guys brew. They are so laid back and yet still finished brewing the batch in around 3 hours-- remarkable! I can't do that even when I'm paying full attention to what I'm doing. To their credit, they had everything ready to go. The grain was crushed, the strike water was to temp., and the beers were cold (but not too cold).

Loren and Mark will be helping me brew this batch commercially. 34 bbl of this will be brewed, so it will technically be Batch No. 01 and No. 02, but we'll consider it all one batch since it'll be fermenting in the same fermenter. 30 bbl will go into stainless, and 4 bbl will be fermenting in oak. I'm doing two batches of it because I feel this beer will sell very well, so I want to make enough to meet demand, and because I have no idea what the efficiency on my system will be. If the first batch extracts way too many or way too few fermentables, I have a second chance to brew it and average out the first batch to where we want. You only get to brew Batch No. 01 once, so I want it to be as close to the original as possible.

Thanks Mark and Loren, can't wait to brew this with you guys!

Scoresheets Finally Returned

Sorry to all those who entered the Batch No. 01 Competition, I've been very slow at getting your scoresheets back to you. I finally got them out yesterday, so many of you should find them in your mail boxes today. Congrats again to the winners!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Beautiful, Sexy New Stainless

I know I'm not alone here-- I get tingly inside by the sight of shiny, new stainless steel. I used to watch Home Improvement on ABC every once in awhile when I was a kid, and I never understood Tim Allen's character going "Arrrgh Arrrgh Arrrgh" like a pirate when he played with a new power tool on his show. Now I get it. Forget the hookers, bring me to the nearest stainless fabrication plant.

On Friday, Sept. 7th, I received a new 30 bbl fermenter, and a 30 bbl brite tank. I ordered these from Rob Soltys of Premier Stainless, who has these manufactured in China. There's a lot of debate about Chinese stainless brewing equipment, and I've seen a lot of Chinese stainless brewing equipment coming out of several different plants, and I feel very good about the quality of these fermenters. There are quite a few well known brewers in San Diego using these also without any issue.

My neighbors at Label Specialties and Factory Merchandising helped me unload the beasts. Thanks guys! The fermenter was too long for one forklift, so we had to use two forklifts and a few dicey maneuvers. Luckily, we got them off the truck without incident. It's all starting to feel real.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Beer Associations

Hi Everyone, Rachel here.

As I was laying in bed last night at 2am, unable to sleep, I was thinking about the concept of beer associations. It seemed very interesting to me at the time, but I am not sure if it was one of those moments of faux clarity, like when you have drunk too much. OK- focus Rachel. Here's my claim- people associate beer with experiences, events, etc. Therefore their attitude/ opinion of that beer, is (somewhat) dependent on these experiences. My logical reasoning is a little rusty, so please bear with me.

Here's some examples I can think of. Note- as you will see, they have nothing to do with the actual beer characteristics, although I definitely do appreciate those as well. Its the memories, emotions, that these beers invoke in me, that make them meaningful and special.

  • Coastal Fog- those crazy keg parties from college, namely senior year when everyone had developed somewhat sophisticated enough tastes, or thought it was passe to continue buying the kegs of natty light among the freshman with fake ids. These were the Jack Johnson days. These parties were somewhat nostalgic, but always fun, and this beer will always remind me of them. New Belgium's Fat Tire falls into this category as well- because all our college friends from Colorado always ranted and raved about this beer, and it was a true celebration when they began to distribute in No Cal.

  • Deschutes Black Butte Porter- this beer will always remind me of Sunriver, Oregon. Sunriver's one of my in-laws favorite vacation spots, which we have been going to for years. This beer reminds me of sitting at the porch, watching the golf course, or having dinner at the local restaurant. I am in vacation mode whenever I drink it. Deschutes was also my first official brewery tour.

  • Duvel- This beer reminds me of Thanksgiving. We had it this past year, in addition to Pat's own Saison, which was used to brine the turkeys. (Ah, beer as a food ingredient- we definitely have to save that for another discussion)

Hopefully you guys can get the picture of what I am talking about now. I feel that this is an important thing to consider in the creation of The Bruery. Our customer's experience of the beer is very important to us- and is taken into account in our bottle selection, tasting room, beer names, basically everything.

But enough about me, I want to know what YOUR beer associations are. Why don't you include your own in the comments section of this post. I know you're out there...come on, it won't hurt, I promise!!!