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Putting my plans on hold

Bookmark, not a closed book.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but the story within is my excuse.

I’ll get into the details in a second, but here’s the meat of it: Mad Haven is on hold for the time being. I don’t have a set timeline to pick it back up, but I do plan to open it one day. That day is just not today.

Here’s the story:

I’ve been dragging my feet for a while now. It took me a long time to realize that I was holding the project back, and then a long time to figure out why. Basically, I have entrepreneurial ADD. Or, in different words, I have commitment issues. The thought of going after all the funding Mad Haven needs is exciting; the thought of spending all that money and being locked in to one idea for the foreseeable future is terrifying.

Right now, I’ve got a full time job, I run Denver off the Wagon, do freelance web development, and lead a somewhat-too-active social life. I don’t believe I currently hold the focus I would need to run the brewery, only a brewery, and nothing but a brewery. Shit, I don’t feel confient I could keep a dog healthy right now. Or a plant.

So that’s the gist of it. I’ll come back to this. I’ve put a bookmark in this book. Dog-eared the page. I want to very, very badly open a brewery. I just don’t think I’m ready yet.

“But PJ!” you might exclaim. “Whatever will you do instead?”

Well, dear reader, I’m glad you asked.

I’m going to focus my energy into Denver off the Wagon. The site has incredible momentum right now, and an absolutely amazing crew behind it. If you live in Denver and haven’t hung out with the contributors for the Wagon, do yourself a favor and find them, and then drink with them. They impress me every single day with their words, stories, experiences, and ideas. The site would be nothing without them.

To this point, we really didn’t have any goals or benchmarks for the site, but I’d say it’s doing well against any metric one might throw at it. The site started in February, and it has already won 5280′s Best Blog and the Westword’s Best Booze Blog. Our cadre of booze-laden writers has grown from 12 to over 30. We’ve got events. We’ve got t-shirts.

Shit, we’ve got a lawyer.

And this is 10 months of drinking and writing and drinking.

Next year, I’m going to push the site, the contributors, and the idea a lot further. It’s going to be big, and it’s going to be awesome.

Beyond that, I’m going to keep homebrewing – thought it’s honestly been a while since I’ve brewed – and keep making crazy recipes that taste awesome and make you go “hmmm.”

I’m going to do all that I can to help my friend Nick Nunns and his brewery TRVE be a massive success. I hope that I can learn from him and his venture, and that that will fulfill my need to start a brewery for the time being.

I’m also going to continue working full time, and continue doing freelance, and continue coming up with too many new ideas. And one or two of them will hopefully stick, and I’ll make billions of dollars, and buy you all a beer.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Please please please continue asking me questions, and I’ll provide answers where I’m able. I’ll post back here when I decide I’ve got the laser focus I need, rather than the shotgun focus I have. If you ever want to grab a beer and talk about brewing, raptors (they scare the shit out of me), or any other topics, or you need a website, an editor, or just want to see my beard, feel free to email me at pj [dot] hoberman [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks for reading, and cheers.

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Some great stories start with “I’ve totally got this”. Stories of epic disasters and drunken failures.

On that note, I’ve got some news from the Personnel department. Kell and I had a big chat last week, and decided that opening a business together was a bad idea. Mostly, if Mad Haven ever were to get off the ground with both of us at the helm, our friendship would not survive. We figured it was a good idea to have that sort of chat before any actual money was involved in the brewery. So, I’m taking the reins solo, and Kell will be my first customer. And an advisor. And maybe an investor. And still my friend and roommate.

He, and a bunch of other people, will still be involved. I like to ask smarter people than I for help all the time. Targeted crowd-sourcing, if you will. So Kell, Jason Lundberg (financial wizard extraordinaire), Jess Hunter (marketing [better word than guru goes here]), Bess Dougherty (gets that whole “distribution tier” thing really well) and a boat load of other people will be helping, but it’s my ship now.

In other news, no new news on any front. To cross metaphors, I’ve got some irons in the fire that I’m waiting on before I make my next move on sailing the ship. More on that toward the end of next week, hopefully.

Anyway, I’ve got this.

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Caligula. Craziest bastard pictured in the post.

We’re a little bit insane. Who isn’t, right?

Maybe we’re a little bit madder than most. Moving right along.

As we work on branding and defining ourselves, our company, and our beer, we think about lots of stuff and go through many different exercises. Write down 25 words that define you. Look at 6-pack carriers. “Market research”.

Last night we met with Josh again, and he had a great idea: write down a list of people from history who were crazy. What made them crazy? Why do we remember them? Were they just nuts, or clinically nuts? (Note: “nuts” is not a clinical term.)

While were exploring the history books, I thought I’d ask you, dear follower. Who are some of the craziest bastards from history? What made them so crazy? Why do you remember them?

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That’s really what it comes down to. Why the hell doesn’t Mad Haven exist yet?

I’ve got a bunch of excuses, but pretty much it boils down (pun intended) to laziness and fear. Two things that I’m kicking to the curb.

Laziness. As much as I’m not built to sit behind a desk and work a scheduled life, it’s easy.. Or not easy, but stable. Consistent. Steady. It’s not that I’m afraid of working 18 hour days, shoveling mash out in the morning and then slinging the craft across town all night. It’s that it’s easier to sit on the couch or go out with friends than plan all that needs planning.

This is a terrible excuse, and I’m done with it.

Fear. It turns out, brewing is quite the endeavor. From the myriad of mistakes that can happen from the time the grain is crushed to the time the beer is packaged, so the plethora of other mishaps waiting just around the corner of every step, it’s a scary undertaking. The investment is pretty serious, at least for someone in my point in life. I’d like my rate beer rating to be the same as the fail rate in the industry (hint: somewhere in the 90% range). And when the time comes, I’ll leave the security of a salary and benefits for the adventure of a start-up.

(To those I work with, don’t worry, there are many months, if not years, before this will become a reality)

But enough whining, enough excuses, and enough babbling. There are risks in everything. The reward, the benefit, the adventure, and the beer outweigh all the little things that pop up.

I just went on a search for fun quotes about taking a risk. And this one came up. And I like it.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. – André Gide

So here’s a promise. It’s not to any of you reading this, though I hope you’ll help hold me to it. It’s a promise to myself.

I’m going to see the easier way, and choose to ignore it. I’m going to see the risks, and find ways to avoid them or mitigate them to an acceptable level. I’m going to keep moving forward. I’m not going to stall any more. I’m not going to sit idly by and dream. I’m going to open a brewery. I’m going to open Mad Haven.

Let’s get to work.

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And hopefully soon a Craft Brewer. Keep reading for that part.

Last week a friend of mine, Stephen Johnson of New Brew Thursday, released an awesome video entitled I Am A Craft Beer Drinker. It’s a short video focussing on people who go out of their way to drink the best. People who like to think about what they drink. I’m proud to say I know a half-dozen people in the video. Check it out!

This is based on a video played during Greg Koch of Stone’s keynote presentation at last year’s Craft Brewer’s Conference, entitled I Am A Craft Brewer:

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Well, we haven’t been completely on the brewing schedule, but, here’s what I plan to have for GABF:

  • Black something. I have no idea what style or ingredients or whatever are in it. Roulette beer! Bet on black!
  • Pam, the “natural” blonde
  • Bitch Creek ESB clone
  • Scotch Ale w/ oak chips
  • IPA
  • Rye Dry Stout w/ Carraway seeds
  • Maybe even more of the blonde. I’ve been drinking a lot of it..

Not too shabby.

I’ve been meeting a bunch of awesome beer geeks, future beer geeks, other awesome people, and it’s been wonderful. I love having beer on hand to share. Makes the world go round.

In other news, I just wrote a big article on my other blog about other things around town during GABF. For those coming to town, or contemplating it, I hope it’s a good resource. I’m copying and pasting it. Enjoy!

When in Rome, err, Denver

According to the GABF countdown clock at Falling Rock, there’s about 22 days until the start of the Great American Beer Festival. Could be a little more or a little less. Counting is hard.

The festival is sold out, but there are always tickets for sale on Craigslist and other such sites. But whether you got tickets or not, Denver has a lot of beer to offer outside the hallowed – scratch that – beer-drenched hall that is the Festival. Why, just within a few miles of the Convention Center, there are more than a dozen beer-centric establishments.

Before I get into what those are, I want to impress upon you that Denver does in fact have more to offer than just great beer. We have whiskey too!

This town is wonderful, and I implore you to explore it, should you find the time and the sobriety. Our local Yelpers are fantastic, so trust that site if you need a quick lookup. Grab a reindeer  or wild boar hot dog, see a show or a show or a showgrab a book, or maybe even take a hike. And if you like dive bars – and I love dive bars – we have a few of those too.

But, in the end, you’re here for the beer. So let’s get to that.

I made a map on Google maps of about 15 beer places within 2-3 miles of the Convention Center. There are hundreds, if not thousands of them within 100 miles of downtown, so I decided to stick to walk-able and bike-ride-able from downtown. If you want a more complete map of the region, check outbeermapping.com. Oh, and speaking of bicycles, we have an awesome bike rental program too.

In no particular order, here are the establishments I’ve pinned on the map. If you know of another I should add, please let me know. Click on the map for addresses, directions, etc.

Falling Rock
75 taps, 120 bottles, events every day, this is generally a good place to be. Full writeup.

Great Divide
It’s no secret I love this place. I think I mention them in every single article I write. Do yourself a favor and go there.

Euclid Hall
Brand new spot in town, tons of awesome beer and food. My friend Ryan is pimping out their tap list.

Mellow Mushroom
New location right downtown. 36 beers on tap, from the cold yellow fizzy to the crazy Belgians nom noms.

Strange Brewing
They just got started a few months ago and are rocking out. Go try their brews and support new micros.

Star Bar
Old dive turned into new dive with craft beer and liquors. You didn’t have a good time if you didn’t stop here.

Breckenridge Brewpub
One of the biggest production breweries around here, and right next to Coors Field to boot!

Cheeky Monk
Tons of Belgian awesomeness on tap and in bottles, plus great food. Try the mussels! Full writeup.

Vine Street Pub
Part of the Mountain Sun family, this place is one of the coolest spots in Denver. Great beer and guest taps too.

Thin Man
Funky little bar with a coffee shop attached. Right next to Vine Street.

Rackhouse Pub
I go here a bit too often. Amazing beer, liquor, food, and people. Full writeup.

Colt & Gray
I told the bartender I liked scotch, whiskey, and new things, and he made me a pre-prohibition style Old Fashioned. Amazing.

Wynkoop
Started by our current mayor in 1988 and still rocking right downtown.

Uptown Brothers Brewing
Yet another new beer place in Denver. Tons of good stuff now, brewing their own soon.

Pints Pub
Largest single malt scotch collection in.. America? At least this side of the Mississippi. They brew there as well. Full writeup.

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Send me a note this way and win a free beer!

I started writing this blog for a few reasons. One was to inform friends and family about what ‘s happening with the brewery. One was to test the water with some ideas. And one was just that I like to talk and write.

Through this blog, and other online devices like Twitter, I’ve met a lot of awesome people, who are passionate about their own thing, my thing, some thing. It’s been pretty sweet.

On Monday I received two messages, one through email, one through Twitter, and it was an awesome day because of it. First, the Twitter.

One of my favorite sites, which I check out every day, is thisisindexed.com. I even used one of the site’s images on a post a while back.

Well, Jessica, the author and illustrator of that site, sent me a message on Monday asking if we could collaborate on some labels for Mad Haven. We talked last night, and she’s going to draw up some ideas and we’ll see where it goes from there. It was definitely cool and flattering to have someone like that come to me about the brewery!

Then I got an email from a guy named Andrew:

Hello PJ,

I just wanted to let you know that I stumbled across your blog today and read every post. As someone who is pretty much in the same situation as you, it is awesome to read you are really taking the steps to make your dreams a reality. I’ve dreamed of starting a brewery for a long time now but I haven’t really taken it seriously. It wasn’t until recently I realized I hate my job and the only way I’ll be really happy is by doing something I’m really passionate about. It’s really inspiring to read a fellow 25 year old has the drive and the passion to make this happen.

So I just wanted to tell you you have helped inspire me to continue to pursue my dreams and keep brewing my 5 gallon batches in my tiny NYC apartment. I will continue to read your blog and hopefully someday we can meet at the GABF and have a couple of Mad Haven beers.

Good luck man. Cheers.
-Andrew

How cool is that? It made me really happy to see someone else get the brewing bug, just like that. We’ve been emailing back and forth, and it looks like Andrew is in the same boat a lot of my friends are in: mid-20s, out of college, working the 9-5, ready to do their own thing instead.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share those. Good times indeed!

Oh, and Kell and I are plugging away at the business plan. More on that later.

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Slowing Down A Little

Yet again, I’ve been bad about keeping up with posts. My apologies to the 67 of you who check this site every day for enthralling information about Mad Haven.

I’ve done a lot of research, and met some very helpful people along the way. A lot of what I’ve learned has shown me that I have a lot to learn. Right now, I’m focussing on learning more about the beer industry and business in general, and more about every aspect of brewing. So the business planning has slowed down as I learn what I need to know to make this work. Hence the lack of posts.

Some things that have been happening:

  • The wedding beer service went splendidly. We went through 3 5-gallon kegs of my beer, plus a 5-gallon of Great Divide’s Samurai, in about 90 minutes. Even though the beer was unfiltered (the IPA had some nice hop and yeast floaties going on), and generally a little too foamy, people loved it. I had to go buy another 5-gallon keg, this time Great Divide’s Titan IPA, because we were out of beer. It was super super neat hearing total strangers talk about my beer, not realizing the bearded gentleman at the keg (me…) crafted their beverage by hand. It also helped that the wedding was for two Colorado College alums. My alma matter as well. People there know how to enjoy a good beer.
  • At the wedding, I made some great contacts. One person approached me about getting Mad Haven into CC alum events. That would be awesome.
  • On the other side of all this, I’m going to start writing a weekly blog post for RateBeer.com. More on this as I learn more.
  • I’m also going to start writing more on here about things I learn about brewing, as I learn them. I’d really like to learn more about yeast, and I’ll try to explain my findings. I’ve got a few new books and whatnot to help me on that journey.
  • And of course, I’m still brewing often. If you’re in Denver and want to join in a batch, please let me know.

Lastly, as always, if you have any questions about the beer industry at all, or want me to look into something specifically, leave me a note. If I can’t answer it, I’m sure I know someone who can.

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My Library

What my desk at home generally looks like

What my desk at home generally looks like

I like to read. I also like to buy books. I actually just bought a book on woodworking, so I could learn how to build a bookshelf to hold more books. That being said, I have a few brewing books. Some have left my house, destined for the shelves of others. A few of my basic brewing books are no longer here, as friends getting into brewing needed them more than I did. So here is a partial list of what I’ve got on my shelves. (If you click the images, they’ll take you to Amazon. I get a little kickback if you buy from that link.) The first few are brewing books, then some equipment stuff, followed by some brewing business books. There are of course magazines and websites. I subscribe to Brew Your Own, Zymurgy, and Beer Advocate. I also regularly check out byo.com, probrewer.com, beeradvocate.com, and the recipes on beertools.com. There are many more websites, one off calculators, random articles, blogs, etc. Check out the sidebar for some, or go to the google.

Designing Great Beers

Once you’ve moved past the basic “How do I brew” books, this is the Bible. It is written like a text book, which in this case is a good thing. There is very detailed information on every little step of the brewing process, from choosing your malt to water calculations. Definitely a go to book.

Extreme Brewing

I bought this one because it had some clone recipes of some breweries I really like, such as Dogfish Head, Avery, Allagash, and Russian River. They are mainly partial mash recipes, but they’re pretty cool. There are some interesting recipes, like a Chamomile Honey Wheat, Blood Orange Hefeweizen, etc. And some information on what it means to brew “extreme”. It’s a fun book for sure.

The Brew Master’s Bible

I honestly haven’t read too much of this one. My roommate bought it when he was starting to get into brewing. I think it’s supposed to be a pretty good getting-started style of book, but I haven’t had time to peruse it too thoroughly.

The Home Brewer’s Answer Book

This is a great resource book. Every once in a while, something weird happens. This book either has the answer, or enough of a base of an answer to let you ask a better question. It’s got “Oh no something went wrong” answers, as well as “Why the heck do they do things this way” answers. And a few things in between.

Brew Ware

Great “How to” book on making your own equipment. It has detailed instructions on making everything from a mash tun to a wort chiller, a full brewing system to a grain mill. Definitely a good purchase.

Brewing up a Business

This is my personal brewery business bible. If you want some warm fuzzy feelings about starting a brewery, read this book a few times. Sam is the poster boy of our industry, and this book is his “How to start with nothing and be awesome” book. It has lots of blank pages at the back for note taking. Most of mine are filled up now.

Starting Your Own Brewery

This is the Brewers Association’s guide. It’s got all the goods. Floor construction, marketing plans, stories from those who have been there, and a sample business plan. Sadly, there are a huge number of proofreading errors, which can get distracting. But overall, it’s a good book. I’m almost finished with it. There are some essays by some pretty heavy hitters, like Ray Daniels, John Hickenlooper (founder of Wynkoop and current mayor of Denver), and Sam Calagione, to name a few.

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Help Me Help You (Please dont sue me Mr. Cruise)

Help Me Help You (Please don't sue me Mr. Cruise)

Alternate titles:

  • How I got my first brewery job.
  • Where do I fit in?
  • Too many cooks in the kitchen make Mad Haven sell more beer.

I like to ask people what they think. I feel that the best way to be heard is to listen. I feel that by having open ears, eyes, and mind, you can truly learn what someone wants, and either give them that or fully understand how to explain your idea. This is one reason why I’m always asking for your ideas, advice, opinions, and votes. I also like to network. Not the Chamber of Commerce “Hello my name is” style of networking, where you hand out your business cards to everyone in the room and try to gauge how they can help you. I like the kind of networking where I get to know someone, become friends, and keep in touch. And hey, if it so happens that another friend can be of assistance to this new friend? Sweet. Connection made. You two go have fun.

What I’ve been learning with my non-stop talk about the brewery is that while everyone has their own aspirations, problems, whatever, a lot of people really like beer, and want to be involved somehow. It’s pretty awesome when I get a Facebook note from someone saying “Hey, we haven’t talked in 12 years, but my brother’s dog’s vet’s uncle’s best friend is an accountant who wants to work for you for beer”. Ok that hasn’t happened yet, but I’m waiting… Seriously though, the contacts, connections, and assistance that has been flowing from all corners of space and time has been amazing. Hopefully they’ll all be knocking on my door still when I start asking for money. Just kidding. Nah, I’m not kidding.

So here it is. How you can help:

  • If you have an idea about the brewery, beer, business, Denver, marketing, whatever, tell me!
  • If you give me an idea, don’t be offended if I don’t use it.
  • If I use your idea, give yourself a pat on the back, come have a drink with me, don’t ask to own half the company.
  • When I ask for advice, be honest. I can take the criticism, and in fact need to be knocked down a few pegs more often than not. Don’t blow rainbows up my.. just be honest.
  • When I ask for something specific, like, a lawyer, tell me everything you’ve ever learned about working with lawyers. Or give me  your friend’s number who does estate law. I bet she knows someone good, and I’ll help make the connection.
  • Spread the word. Talk about me. Talk about the brewery. The idea. The name. Talk about beer. Drink a beer. Buy me a beer! Try one of my beers. Just keep the conversation going. That helps more than you think.

That’s all nice and vague. When it comes time to open, I will need help. I’ll need help getting stickers out, inviting people to the opening day, building stuff, brewing, bottling, distributing, and a million other things. Seriously. If you want to help me make beer, come help. I won’t have any money to pay employees for quite a while, but I’d love to share some beer. You have no idea how much fun it is to give a beer you made to someone else. You seriously have to try it. It’s intoxicating. (No pun intended)

In the meantime, there are certain roles that I could use some help with. (There are certain roles with which I could use help – that’s for you, Erika)
Again, money will be tighter than tight for a while, so the people I’m looking for  need to be passionate about what they do, passionate about small business, passionate about beer, and comfortable taking little money and a lot of beer. Certain roles include financial, legal, engineering, construction / contracting, marketing (all of it: Ads, PR, Strategy, etc.), design (logos, branding, etc.), and a few thousand other things. If you or someone you know wants to help with these roles, leave a comment or shoot me an email, tweet, whatever. Business Plan guidance would also be very, very, very much appreciated.

Oh, and buy the beer. Drink Mad Haven.

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