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Why the hell would you open a brewery?

May 30, 2012 5 comments

Quick note: This week’s entry is a guest post from Chris Creech at Fortnight Brewing in Raleigh/Durham. Chris and his team are a great group of people and blazing a path toward opening the newest brewery in the area. They’re focused on English inspired beers and are constantly out in the community working toward their goal of bettering the local beer culture.

Meet the team

(L to R) Mo Mercado, David Wilkinson, Stuart Arnold, and Chris Creech

Why the hell would you open a brewery?

-Chris Creech

I have heard that question, often phrased a little less bluntly, a lot over the past few months.  And to be honest, it was a while before I really sat down and thought about the actual answer to the question.

At first, I just said, “Well, I’ve been brewing beer for a while – I enjoy it and I think the beer is pretty good, and I’ve been given a great opportunity, so we’re going for it.”

While that is all true, it doesn’t really answer the core of the question.  Why are so many people quitting their good day jobs to open a small business to produce beer – a highly regulated product with razor-slim profit margins?

Passion.

The craft beer industry is an industry of passion.  There are so many great people involved in the production, distribution, selling and promotion of craft beer, and they all have one thing in common – passion.  It’s a passion for a unique product, a passion for the fellowship and community that beer promotes, and a passion for sharing their passion with others.

Sure, there are some super-stars in the beer industry, from Jim Koch (Boston Beer Company/Sam Adams) to Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Brewery), but for the most part, you don’t brew beer for fame or fortune.  Most of us will spend long hours brewing beer, and then spend our nights and weekends selling and promoting our beer at bars, restaurants, festivals and events.  And what’s the pay-off?  It’s not often a huge paycheck, but it comes back to that passion.

Not only are the people involved with the supply-side of beer passionate about it – the beer consumers are also passionate, and it is their passion that drives us.

As the interest in craft beer grows, more and more folks are becoming craft and local beer enthusiasts.  And when you can hand someone a beer, or see them ordering your beer at a bar or restaurant, and see, hear and feel their reaction to your creation, it is a fantastic moment.  To then see these people become passionate about your product, becoming ambassadors for what you’re doing, gives you great pride and sense of accomplishment.  That is the pay-off, and that passion is why we are opening a brewery.

So, if you are as passionate as I am about craft and local beer, then I would encourage you all to continue to drink local, support your local breweries, and keep an eye out for some great new breweries coming to NC in the near future, including Fortnight Brewing Company.

Why don’t small breweries get a lawyer?

April 20, 2012 2 comments

I just responded to an email about breweries and lawyers. Trying to develop a niche practice in serving the craft beer industry is tough and I thought about why that is. I believe craft beer (whether brewing, distributing, or serving) people often don’t consult an attorney because either

  1. “I can handle all this stuff myself. If I ever need to trademark something, then I’ll get a lawyer.” OR
  2. “All lawyers do is make things more complicated and cost money. Why should I pay for them to get in my way.” OR
  3. “I think I need some help here, but I can’t afford one, so I guess I’ll go it alone anyway.”

I’ve been working with the NC Brewers Guild to try and educate brewers and the support industries (who are also largely small or Mom & Pop shops) about how attorneys can actually make things easier and protect you from future issues.

I also spend a good deal of time counseling people on the concept that an attorney – a good attorney – is one that will work with you on your business. Someone that’s interested in seeing your business grow and helping to manage your risks before they become problems. I can only speak for myself, but I want to help you make things less complicated. Make things easier now *and* in the future. I really feel that’s a critical role for a lawyer.

Thinking that you “can handle” all the aspects of your business by yourself is just silly. You may know more about your body than anyone else, but that doesn’t mean that you should perform your own gall bladder surgery. The same applies with brewing equipment, accounting, and legal issues. If you don’t have special training or expertise in the area, get some help.

Also, thinking that you can’t afford an attorney is also not right. If you’re concerned about that, talk about it with your attorney. More than likely, they’ll work with you to come up with a plan that fits your needs and budget. No one wants to see you or your company struggle because of a legal issue or not get help when you need it.

What have been your experiences with this? If you’re a brewer/brewery/bar why don’t you get a lawyer involved?

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