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Posts Tagged ‘denver’

Last night I launched a new project, Denver Off The Wagon.

I’ve realized that Denver has an amazing culture, specifically around alcohol, but there was no single place to focus on it, read about it, and be a part of it. I hope that this project can be that place.

From the first post:

We like booze.

Let’s just get that out there. This isn’t about getting drunk or blacking out. It’s about the means, not the end.

We like good booze.

No one writing for this site has ever technically been on the wagon. But, if we were to find ourselves atop a rolling platform pulled by horses or oxen, I imagine we’d all fall off. In splendid, dramatic fashion.

Read More

Go check it out. Let me know what you think,

 

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Update

A lot has been in motion the past few weeks. A lot of it is sort of hush-hush right now, but here’s a brief overview to get you through the holiday season.

Business Plan

We’re working with two recent MBA grads. They are awesome. One is all up in the marketing side of things, and the other knows finances like I know.. Well, I think he knows finances better than I know anything. With their help, we hope to start presenting to investors in the next month or two. Pretty exciting stuff.

Unnamed Bar

A bar which I shall not name has recently approached us, inquiring if we’d like to open in what is essentially their back room. It’s a ridiculously good location, with great people, and a lot of possibilities. This is just in the talks, and might not ever move past that, but it’s really fun to think about. Right now, the plan is to ignore it as a possibility in the planning process, and if it comes through, so much the better. Don’t try to guess what bar it is. I won’t tell you. Sorry.

Branding

We’re going to meet with Josh Mishell in the first week or two of the new year to discuss branding for Mad Haven. Josh used to do branding for Flying Dog. He loves beer, knows his stuff, and we love hanging out with him. Great combination. I’m excited to see what we can come up with, channeling the crazy in my head through the awesome in Josh’s to make sweet sweet branding.

Samples

Mad Haven is being enjoyed by people more and more. Between office mates, bartenders, and that random guy on the corner (two truths and a lie, can you pick out the lie?), the Rye Dry Stout and Heartburn (the chili beer) are making their way across the lips of Denver. Check it out, we’re even on Untappd!

Brewing

Right, brewing. That important little project. The past few batches haven’t gone so well, but I’m working on fixing all the things that went wrong. I think 4 years in a row of near-perfect results has caught up with me. Two batches in a row were infected – I’m pretty sure the latter was just infected by the former, and not a repeated process issue – and I had a stuck mash during a batch of Pam last week. It’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it, right? I plan to brew a lot more of the Rye Dry, and a few batches of the Scotch Ale, as we cannot keep enough in supply.

Publication

I might be starting a Denver-based publication soon. No details yet, but it’s something I think Denver needs, and will enjoy. You know, because I’m not busy enough yet.

The Real World

Beyond all this fun news, I have an actual full time job. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a Front End Developer for MapMyFitness.com. It’s going great. I love the people I work with, the work itself is challenging and pretty forward-thinking, and it’s a very fast-moving environment.

2011

That’s all for now. Please, keep reading, keep trying the beer, and keep giving your support, thoughts, opinions, and empty bottles. Have a great [insert your holiday of choice here] and an awesome New Year’s, and we’ll regroup in January.

And if you need a song to listen to, check out Your Humble Narrator by Two Cow Garage. It has nothing to do with this post at all, but it does have an awesome line: “The sun has a way of making us pay for our revelry-filled nights.”

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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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As I said we would, Kell and I have been pumping away at the business plan in hopes of having a rough draft out this weekend. Granted, I don’t think we will. But, we’re working on it pretty hard!

Everything is coming along pretty smoothly. Suppliers and other brewers alike are very generous with information. The City of Denver has been responding to questions about tax and property issues, incentives etc. All is well.

One thing that has sort of stopped us, while we get ready to gear up for the issue, is what size we want to be. Our two options are small or big. Granted, our version of “big” is still tiny in the world of brewing, but that’s besides the point. We’re looking at either a 1/2 bbl (bbl = barrel = 31 gallons = 2 kegs) system or a 3-5 bbl (either 3 or 5, that decision comes later) system.

Both systems have a lot of inherit risk. Just by opening a brewery, we are taking a massive risk. But, the beer is amazing. So, there’s that.

The 1/2 bbl system has a lot of merits. It’s inexpensive, comes pretty much ready to use in a nice little package, and doesn’t come with nearly as much initial risk. The idea with this system would be to ferment the batches in kegs or small plastic conical fermenters. All beer would be sold on premise, with maybe, just maybe an account or two. The labor to beer ratio would be ridiculously high, but the cost would be super low.

On premise sales are enormously profitable in relation to off premise sales. The revenue from a keg of pints sold in the brewery at normal costs is a few hundred percent more than selling a keg outright to an off premise account.

Of course, if the beer is as good as it is, and demand picks up like we think it will, the risk in this plan comes from the inability to grow. Growth is easy on a batch to batch premise. We buy another keg, we can brew another batch. But, for every new fermenter – aka keg – it’s another batch someone has to brew. It’s a linear growth that’s not sustainable in the long run.

The thought here is that it would be easier to get the investment for this lowered capital, prove our worth, spread the word, and then ask for more money and more equipment when we feel we need to. The downside of that is when we’re trying to save up money to grow to that next level, we won’t be able to satisfy demand. Customers get pissed. We go out of business. Or fall apart from being overworked.

The larger system, a 3 to 5 bbl system, loads a lot more of the financial risk up front. The initial investment is much more. Though, at 6-10 times the volume, the investment is not 6-10 times as much. At this level we can calm down a little on the brewing, focussing more on customer service and sales. There is more equipment required, like keg washers and fillers, for example. And we’ll need to go out and sell the beer to accounts like Falling Rock and Rackhouse Pub, rather than market to get people to come inside the brewery. So it’s just as much work, just allocated in a different way.

If we are able to secure the investment for this bigger system, the growth potential is much better. With any system, we have the ability to “double brew”, or brew more than one batch into a double-sized fermenter. This saves on yeast and time and tank resources. At the 1/2 bbl level, a double batch fills a 1 bbl tank. At the 5 bbl level, a double batch fills a 10 bbl tank. While the ratios are the same, 5 extra barrels of beer is a lot of extra beer.

Just writing this post is helping to push me toward the larger system. I think Kell said it best. It’s better to ask for a larger investment now, when we have the time, than to it is to spend an initial investment so we can ask for the same larger investment in a year or two.

So, assuming we can find a rich uncle or some other form of investor, it looks like we’re going “big”. From pico to nano!

What do you think?

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Stuff. Things.

I’m in the mood to ramble on about what’s in my head. So, if you’re not ready to peek into my brain…

You’ve been forewarned. Also, it’s Monday, and I had a bachelor party in Vail this weekend, plus the Super Bowl last night, so I don’t think I’m operating at 100%. Or even a passing grade.

Advised music for this post: Garden State Soundtrack.

Anyway, how’s it going?

Things are great here. Kell and I are moving this month. We’re leaving the house and moving to a condo closer to downtown. This is going to alter the brewing process considerably. It’s a smaller place, there’s no backyard (it’s a 3rd floor condo. There is an alley though…), and rent is about double what I’m paying now.

On the upside there, we have to learn to brew a lot more efficiently. Which is good. But ya, I have no idea where we’re going to store all the equipment just yet. It should be interesting.

Right now there’s one batch fermenting in the basement. I hope to bottle it before the move. I feel that moving boxes of beer is easier than moving carboys of beer. We bottled the stout recently, added coffee. Tasted good at the time. We shall see.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Breakfast and Brewing yet. I really enjoyed the first one we did, so I’ll figure it out. But for those excited about the prospect of bacon, eggs, and brewing, it’s not happening in February. Hopefully March.

The next few batches are all probably going to be dark beers. I honestly can’t find the desire to brew something light. Granted, it’s snowing today, so maybe that’s having an effect. But I just have this overwhelming desire to brew really dark, overpowered beers that rock your face off before you even pop the cap.

A solution to my lack of space and mind-blowing desire to brew dark beers is to open the brewery. So, I’m actually writing the business plan finally. Like, I have words. Written. And Excel files!

I’m also working on two other ideas. I don’t want to get into them too much on here just yet. They’re not revolutionary ideas, but they are good ideas, and I don’t want someone with money and no heart coming along and opening one of them in Denver, just because. Paranoia? Sure. Whatever. My ideas.

Unrelated. But I would totally make beer in this.

Anyway, one idea involves making beer. But it’s not the brewery. The other idea involves selling beer. But it’s not the brewery. Either one, or both, would hopefully be a faster startup with more immediate returns than the brewery, and would become supplementary income to float Mad Haven until it can hold itself up. You know, like the food part of a brew pub. But not food.

If you want to know more on that, buy me a beer. I’ll talk your ear off for many hours. I just don’t feel like posting the plan here, at least not today.

Oh, I think I’m going to try to make cheese soon.

What else.. Life is good right now. Really good. It’s stout month at Mountain Sun / Vine Street, so I’ll be there a bunch this month, hopefully. Moving is never fun, but I’m excited for the new place. I’m looking for freelance work right now, since my rent is doubling. So, if you know anyone looking for an awesome guy to write awesome code, let me know. (I write PHP / JavaScript / MySQL / etc. pjhoberman.com is my site. It’s not awesome. Yet.)

That’s about it.

And beer. Well, I still love it.

End ramble.

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This is a press release from Great Divide about their party this Saturday. I helped one of the people there (Hilary) brew a batch for the party, so you should all go and drink it. Ask for A Night With Pamela Anderson…

Brewery Celebrates Milestone With Limited-Release Beer, Party

Denver, CO—Great Divide Brewing Company, one of America’s most acclaimed microbreweries, will celebrate fifteen years in business on June 6, marking the occasion with a limited-release oak-aged double IPA and a party at the brewery featuring live music, food and a number of special beers.
In 1994, Colorado’s craft beer scene scarcely existed, but Brian Dunn recognized Denver’s potential to be a great beer city. Combining his business background with his passion for beer, which was developed through his international travels and his experience as a homebrewer, he decided to start a brewery. He set up shop in an abandoned dairy-processing plant at the edge of downtown Denver and began brewing the beers that, over the past fifteen years, have carried Great Divide Brewing Company to its status as one of America’s most decorated microbreweries and helped transform Denver into an international destination for beer lovers.
“It’s been a fantastic ride,” says Dunn. “We started out with two beers, doing everything by hand, and we’ve just grown and grown and grown. Just in the past year, we’ve added a state-of-the-art new bottling line, quadrupled our (admittedly small) barrel-aging program, opened a patio for the Tap Room, and released seven new seasonal beers, with more to come. We’re all having a ton of fun doing it, and looking back at how far we’ve come in fifteen years, I can’t even imagine what the next fifteen will bring.”
To celebrate this milestone, Great Divide will release 15th Anniversary Wood Aged Double India Pale Ale. Based on the brewery’s most award-winning beer, Denver Pale Ale, this copper-hued treat is a celebration of everything Great Divide does best. Plenty of malty sweetness provides a backdrop for earthy, floral English and American hops, while French and American oak round off the edges and provide a touch of vanilla.
“We really think this beer sums up everything we’ve come to be known for over the past fifteen years,” says Dunn. “Like all of our beers, it will be assertive and flavorful but also balanced and drinkable, and it’s a combination of classic elements with more innovative touches.”
15th Anniversary, which is at 10.0% alcohol by volume and 90 International Bittering Units, will be available in 22-ounce bottles and on draft through August 1.
Great Divide will release 15th Anniversary Wood Aged Double India Pale Ale at its 15th anniversary party, which will be held at the brewery on June 6 from 2-7 p.m. In addition to their first taste of the new beer, partygoers will get to enjoy delicious food, live music by Denver bands Dressy Bessy, the Swayback, and Young Coyotes, and plenty of other Great Divide beers, including some well-aged versions of old favorites and a number of small batches brewed just for this event. All of this merriment will be included in the ticket price of $20, and Great Divide will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver and the Colorado Environmental Coalition.
“This party should be an equally great time for our devoted fans and anybody who just wants to spend a beautiful Denver afternoon with good music, good food and great beer,” says Dunn. “Come help us celebrate fifteen years and say cheers to many, many more.”
#######
15th Anniversary Double IPA

15th Anniversary Double IPA

Denver, CO—Great Divide Brewing Company, one of America’s most acclaimed microbreweries, will celebrate fifteen years in business on June 6, marking the occasion with a limited-release oak-aged double IPA and a party at the brewery featuring live music, food and a number of special beers.

In 1994, Colorado’s craft beer scene scarcely existed, but Brian Dunn recognized Denver’s potential to be a great beer city. Combining his business background with his passion for beer, which was developed through his international travels and his experience as a homebrewer, he decided to start a brewery. He set up shop in an abandoned dairy-processing plant at the edge of downtown Denver and began brewing the beers that, over the past fifteen years, have carried Great Divide Brewing Company to its status as one of America’s most decorated microbreweries and helped transform Denver into an international destination for beer lovers.

“It’s been a fantastic ride,” says Dunn. “We started out with two beers, doing everything by hand, and we’ve just grown and grown and grown. Just in the past year, we’ve added a state-of-the-art new bottling line, quadrupled our (admittedly small) barrel-aging program, opened a patio for the Tap Room, and released seven new seasonal beers, with more to come. We’re all having a ton of fun doing it, and looking back at how far we’ve come in fifteen years, I can’t even imagine what the next fifteen will bring.”

To celebrate this milestone, Great Divide will release 15th Anniversary Wood Aged Double India Pale Ale. Based on the brewery’s most award-winning beer, Denver Pale Ale, this copper-hued treat is a celebration of everything Great Divide does best. Plenty of malty sweetness provides a backdrop for earthy, floral English and American hops, while French and American oak round off the edges and provide a touch of vanilla.

“We really think this beer sums up everything we’ve come to be known for over the past fifteen years,” says Dunn. “Like all of our beers, it will be assertive and flavorful but also balanced and drinkable, and it’s a combination of classic elements with more innovative touches.”

15th Anniversary, which is at 10.0% alcohol by volume and 90 International Bittering Units, will be available in 22-ounce bottles and on draft through August 1.

Great Divide will release 15th Anniversary Wood Aged Double India Pale Ale at its 15th anniversary party, which will be held at the brewery on June 6 from 2-7 p.m. In addition to their first taste of the new beer, partygoers will get to enjoy delicious food, live music by Denver bands Dressy Bessy, the Swayback, and Young Coyotes, and plenty of other Great Divide beers, including some well-aged versions of old favorites and a number of small batches brewed just for this event. All of this merriment will be included in the ticket price of $20, and Great Divide will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver and the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

“This party should be an equally great time for our devoted fans and anybody who just wants to spend a beautiful Denver afternoon with good music, good food and great beer,” says Dunn. “Come help us celebrate fifteen years and say cheers to many, many more.”

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I love Denver

I love Denver

It’s been too long! I hope none of you have become bored at work, anxiously refreshing my blog, waiting for the newest post. There are other sites out there..

Anyway, let’s talk about location. Since my last Real Estate post, I’ve learned quite a bit. Last week, I had dinner with a good friend from college who is now a real estate agent (buy a house from Elizabeth S. at The Workman Group right now). We caught up and talked about the brewery, her new house, zoning, college stories, etc. She is really excited about helping me find a house to live in and brew out of, and I’m really excited to have such a great friend and agent helping me with my dreams. Pretty sweet deal, all around. Elizabeth gave me some great contacts for lenders, and some other ideas to get the ball rolling. I’m trying to get her on Twitter. More on this later.

I’m about to copy and paste a few long emails between myself and the TTB. Scroll to the very end for a summary if you don’t feel like reading my email. (Or just click here for the summary)

Around the same time, I emailed the TTB (Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau – former ATF) about brewing in a residential location. My email to them:

Hello!

I was hoping to speak with someone about the laws and regulations behind brewery locations, specifically about operating a brewery out of a garage in Denver, Colorado. Can you point me in the right direction for who I should speak with? Thanks!

PJ

To my surprise, I got a response within three days. And I believe I sent that on a Friday! Here was their response. It’s a bit long, so if you’re only interested in reading my words, just read the first paragraph:

PJ,

The Federal laws prohibit a brewery in a “dwelling house” (home) and putting a brewery in a garage is a very gray area.  We may or may not approve it depending on the circumstances.  You first need to run your plan by the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division in Lakewood, Colorado and your local zoning authorities.  If they will approve your brewery then you need to submit a diagram of the brewery and the property (showing where the brewery is located on the property and its relation to your house.)  Also, show distances, especially the distance from the garage (brewery) to the house.  Please fax the information to me.  Also, let me know the decision from your state and local authorities about your plans.   Just for  your records, here is our general reply on obtaining a Federal brewer’s notice:

In order to produce beer, you first need to obtain a federal brewer’s notice.  You don’t need to obtain a federal wholesaler basic permit if you only sell the beer your produce.  If you sell beer you did not produce, then you would need to get a federal wholesaler basic permit.  Let me give you our general reply on obtaining a federal brewer’s notice:

Before you can begin brewery operations, you will have to first complete the necessary forms including a brewer’s notice and bond.  There will be a link at the end of this email to access the forms/information in order to apply for a Federal brewer’s notice.  There is no cost for the brewer’s notice, and we try to process applications within 60 days of the date we receive them.

All alcoholic beverages must also conform to the labeling regulations of the United States.  If you have labeling questions, please contact our Advertising, Labeling & Formulation Division at 1-866-927-2533 or by e-mail at:  alfd@ttb.gov.  Their web site is:  http://www.ttb.gov/labeling/index.shtml.  For information on filing your labels online, click on “Labeling” on the left side of our homepage.

The regulations governing the labeling and distribution of alcoholic beverages can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Alcohol, Tobacco Products and Firearms, Title 27 on our web site at: www.ttb.gov.  When you pull up our home page, click on “Code of Federal Regulations” under “Laws & Regulations.”  Part 25 discusses beer and Part 7 discusses labeling and advertising of malt beverages.  Anyone who manufactures malt beverages must file TTB Form 5630.5(d), Alcohol Dealer Registration, before commencing operations.  The payment associated with Special Occupational Tax has been repealed for manufacturers, importers/wholesalers and retailers of beverage alcoholic products, but record keeping and registration requirements remain.

You should also contact each State for information relative to its licensing requirements. To find out more about individual state laws, on our web site at: www.ttb.gov click on “National Revenue Center” on the left side of our homepage, then “State Alcohol Beverage Control Boards” under “Resources.”  This will give you the Alcoholic Beverage Commission locations for each state.  You must be in compliance with them, your local zoning authority and the federal government before commencing operations.

For information on federal excise tax rates, on our home page www.ttb.gov scroll down to “Information by Topic,” then on the “Taxes” line, click on “Tax and Fee Rate.”

Also, please submit a legible photocopy of the Driver’s License or official State ID card of the primary contact person who will be interviewed by phone by TTB regarding the application.  This ID must be of one of the officers listed on your application.

You also need to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Bioterrorism Act. For information on this, go to their website at www.fda.gov and click on “Food”, then “Facility Registration” which is under “FDA Industry Systems.” You should also click on “Bioterrorism” located at the very bottom of our homepage at www.ttb.gov.

Here is a link to the forms/information in order to apply for a Federal brewer’s notice:  http://www.ttb.gov/beer/brewery_brewpub_packet.shtml.  Thank you.

Bob

If you skipped most of that, it’s ok. A lot of the information I already knew. I didn’t know the Bioterrorism part. Good to know. The uplifting part (I’m generally a cynic but a total optimist with this stuff) was that brewing in a garage is a very gray area. That means it’s possible! It’s not 100% illegal, it’s just not always approved. So, yay! I’ve met with an agent at the office in Lakewood, and while it was a few months ago, I thought he had said the TTB has to inspect first, and then they’ll approve. So at this point, my main concern is that I’d buy a house, order the equipment, set everything up, and then get denied. That would be an expensive setback. Game ender, really. I emailed Bob back:

Hi Bob,

Thank you so much for the quick and informative response! I really appreciate you taking the time to look at my issue. I had made contact with the Lakewood office a while ago, but will do so again now that I’m further along with my plans. Do you have any tips or examples of similar situations that were approved? I don’t own a house currently, and plan to buy one for this purpose.. I’d hate to buy a house, get the brewery set up, get it inspected, and then get denied. That wouldn’t be much fun at all. :) Thanks!

PJ

And yes, I put a smiley face in an email to a government official. It’s about beer, c’mon! Anyway, within 12 hours I had a response. Obviously the TTB isn’t part of the efforts to stave off Bacon Lung, or Swine Flu, or whatever it’s called.

PJ,

The Federal laws/regulations don’t allow operating a brewery in a home, but a garage is a very gray area.  If the garage is attached to the home, then it will, in all probability, not be approved.  If it is a detached garage, then we may allow it depending on the circumstances.  I would not want to see you buy a house for the purpose of operating a brewery and we deny you a brewer’s notice at the Federal level.  What you may want to do is submit a diagram to us showing the exact layout of the brewery, a diagram of the entire property showing where the garage (brewery) is in relation to your house, the distance from the brewery (garage) to the house, and documentation from the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division and local zoning authorities approving your brewery plan.  If they won’t allow you to operate a  brewery according to the plans you submitted to them, then we won’t allow you to either.  If you decide to submit this information to us before you send us a formal brewer’s notice, please fax the requested information to [a fax number]. We can then review it and make a decision.  Thank you.

Bob

This is what I’ve understood from my email conversation with the government:

  • The TTB is very responsive! I’m actually excited to have such a fast responding and personal branch of the government to work with. If I must pay taxes and follow rules, at least I can get a person on the phone.
  • My plans to start a small garage-sized brewery in Denver is possible, at least in the government’s eye.
  • The government doesn’t want me to buy a house if I don’t have to.
  • I need to talk to someone about zoning in and around Denver.
  • I need to talk to someone about brewing in and around Denver.
  • The brewer’s license, zoning requirements, and federal licensing need to all happen concurrently, and hopefully before I buy a house.

My next big step, and pretty much the step that must happen before anything else: Speak with someone in the zoning office. Preferably someone who likes beer. Anyone know someone like that?

For anyone in the same place as me – i.e. opening a brewery, in a garage, etc. – let me know if you want more details on the legal stuff. I have some more detailed information that isn’t on here yet.

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I don’t have much to write about right now, but I feel like writing something. Things are progressing in a very steady and positive direction. I keep meeting people who are awesome, helpful, and excited about this venture. The occasional bubble-burster is out there – and I really appreciate their feedback, as it keeps me grounded and makes me think – but they are far and few between those who are excited to help out, be a part of this, or just drink our beer when we sell that first bottle. Everyone asks what the brewery is called. I. Still. Don’t. Know. But I think we’re almost there. MHBC might take the cake.

So why the post? Well, I’m brewing right now. I’ve got two buckets mashing (the cooler STILL isn’t ready..). I just tasted a kit brew we did a few weeks ago, and even that tastes delicious. Not up to the usual standards, but still better than a lot of beers I see at bars and stores. We bottled the Rye Dry Stout yesterday – thanks Phill for your help – and it’s SO tasty and SO dark. I’m just overly excited about everything brewery-related right now.

Yes, I love beer. This is obvious. Anyone who’s known me for a while knows that pretty darn well. I also love sharing. Sharing knowledge, sharing stories, sharing my home, sharing a good time. Doesn’t matter. Sharing is caring or something. Anyway, those people who have seen me drink my share of beers through college know that I love hosting, guiding, leading, creating, and overall just making sure those around me are having a good time, sometimes at the expense of my own enjoyment. The more I talk about this brewery, the more I realize that that’s what this brewery is. It’s the epitome of what this paragraph has stated. It’s beer. It’s good beer. It’s knowledge both learned and given. It’s events, gatherings, and stories, all rolled in to a bottle of tasty fermented sugars. I think my excitement today, as I sit on my back porch in the Denver sun, typing away as the starches convert to sugars in what will most likely become a staple recipe in the brewery, is one more step in a very long journey towards these dreams, goals, aspirations, and life.

So ya, this post has no real relevance to the business behind opening a brewery. But I thought I’d share my passion with those who follow this blog. I hope to pour a pint for many of you in the very near future. Here’s to good beer.

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And how does that make you feel?

And how does that make you feel?

Have a seat. Let’s talk.

It’s been a great few days. Someone said that excitement and passion over a goal makes that goal happen faster (I think my mom said that last night). Well, I’m excited, and I’m passionate, and things are happening.

This is going to be a big post. I’ll start with the small stuff and grow from there. Side note: Anyone going to Beer Wars in Denver on Thursday? Andrew (you’ll find out who that is at the end) and I are going, and hopefully Kell will make it up as well. Let me know, we’ll grab a brew.

National Homebrew Competition

Beer judge. Better job than tan-line inspector.

Beer judge. Better job than tan-line inspector.

The NHC is under way! (http://www.beertown.org/events/nhc/) We brewed our IPA specifically for this competition. Timed it out, cleaned the bottles, made sure the caps were clean, and… rushed it. Ended up bottling it at 1.032 or so, meaning we bottled it with a lot of sugar still in the wort. What that means is rather than all the CO2 – yeast’s byproduct when converting sugar -> alcohol – escaping through the air lock, it was forced into solution in the closed container that is a beer bottle. What’s that mean? Something like this.

Ya.. it explodes unless you open it ridiculously slowly, and pour it into a few glasses to let the foam settle. We decided it wasn’t worth the almost 2 hour round trip drive to submit a beer that would drench the judges.

This weekend I received an email from our division’s coordinator, asking where the beer was. I explained, and she said she could add a special note saying “Open Slowly”, and meet her in Denver to drop off the brew. So I’m going to meet her tomorrow or Thursday, and submit the beer! I doubt we’ll win, but at least we’ll be in it still! It’s called “First Round Draft”. Good times.

Homebrew Shop

I couldnt find a picture of the shop... So here is my favorite grain: Dark Munich Malt

I couldn't find a picture of the shop... So here is my favorite grain: Dark Munich Malt

I mentioned this earlier, but I’ll recap anyway. Saturday, Dave and I went to Beer At Home in Englewood to pick up supplies for the Blonde Ale. We brought the new volcanic IPA with us, as well as a bomber (22 oz.) bottle of our previous batch. They. Loved. It. I can’t really say more than that. They were stunned at how tasty the beers were. Asked us all sorts of questions. Asked for more. They’ve always been respectful of us as customers, especially customers who appear to have some idea what we’re doing. But their attitude definitely shifted quite a bit. It was a really really good feeling, and one of the best receptions of the beer I’ve had to this point.

Speaking of the Blonde Ale, it ended up weighing in at 1.072 with 3-3.5 gallons. It’s gonna be a big bodied blonde.

Daniels College of Business

This is a fun one. Sunday, while brewing, I emailed a professor at the University of Denver’s (DU aka my college’s rivals) Daniels College of Business. I told him how I have these great ideas and drive to start a business, but no formal MBA-style business training. I asked if they ever lent students to small businesses to help with certain tasks, for class credit or whatever. I expected to hear back in 2-3 weeks, if at all. Three hours. Three hours, and I had an email back. He told me that they in fact have an entire program for just this scenario, and forwarded me on to the contact for that program. The next morning, this guy emailed me the application and some details.

The rules are simple. Four MBA students form a team, with the business owner / business contact joining occasionally, and help a new or growing business with three aspects of the business. An example would be the business plan, marketing plan, and sustainability plan. So, pretty much, I can get help in part of the planning that I’m not 100% confident in. Sold!

Twitter, the ultimate networking tool?

Its the Fail Whale!

It's the Fail Whale! (use twitter, it'll make sense)

I’ve been tweeting a lot. I’ve made some great connections with other like-minded individuals, in many different parts of the craft beer world. I helped out with some code at BeerNews.org, made some contacts in various industries, have some advice coming from experts in everything from branding to real estate, and am generally just spreading the word about the brewery. I micro-blogged the entire brewing process on Sunday, which you can see on my twitter page (http://twitter.com/hookedonwinter) and twitpic photo stream (http://twitpic.com/photos/hookedonwinter). This probably sounds like geek gibberish to a lot of you. That’s fine. Ask or explore or ignore it, you’ll learn about it eventually.

Mike

New Belgiums first system is behind the lady with the pretty gloves.

New Belgium's first system is behind the lady with the pretty gloves.

When I posted last week about looking for an engineer, my buddy Phill sent a note to some friends. Mike responded, and wants to help out. Mike is currently an engineering student who enjoys beer and long walks on the beach. Well, beer at least. Anyway, he’s going to help us figure out if designing and fabricating our own equipment will be cheaper than buying it used from various sources. I’m excited to work with him on this project.

[EDIT] Mike is no longer a student. The test he’s studying for is for work, not for school. Ooops! Also, he prefers long walks up steep rocks, though sunset walks along the surf are also appealing.

Andrew

Through another slightly random connection – Facebook message from a friend, Dan, from my high school years, who’s friend’s brother, Andrew, started a brewery in Brooklyn and now lives in Denver – I had the pleasure of meeting with Andrew last night at Great Divide. Andrew has a lot of experience with what I’m trying to do. He started a brewery from the ground up, worked on everything from cleaning the tanks to closing the sale, generally in the same day. We have a lot of talking and meeting and whatnot to do, but I’m very hopeful that our goals and Andrew’s goals are aligned. He’s interested in doing it all again, from the ground up, and I’m interested in having someone with that knowledge and experience be around all the time. Potentially a great partnership in the works. We’ll take it slow and make sure everything is in order, but keep an eye out for more about this.

That’s about it so far this week. It’s only Tuesday, so we’ll see what else is in store. Thanks for reading! Leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions, or just want your name to appear in the comments.

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Ive heard its easy to get money for real estate.. Right?

I've heard it's easy to get money for real estate.. Right?

The location of the brewery is a rather important topic that I’ve sort of skimmed over until today. Where we brew is directly related to how much we brew, and vice versa. Brewing in my garage means we can’t have a 30bbl system. Aiming for a 30bbl system means we can’t use my garage. Causation goes both ways there.

The net revenue from brewing is very much related to the size of the batch as well. A bigger batch costs less per beer, and since the beer sells for the same price, a bigger batch is more revenue per beer, and more revenue overall. But, systems of that size, and locations to house those systems, cost a lot more money. A lot more money than we have right now.

I see five main options for possible locations of this brewery: a big property in an ideal location, a small property in an ideal location, and big property in a non-ideal location, and small property in an non-ideal location, and my garage. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each. Please feel free to tell me that I’m completely off base here, and offer your perfect solution in its place.

Flying Dog's old location

Flying Dog's old location

Big Property, Ideal Location

I have one property in mind here: Flying Dog’s old space. It’s huge. Around 34,000 square feet. It’s equipped. Most of their brewing equipment is still there. It obviously works well. Flying Dog is pretty successful. It’s in an amazing location. 24th and Blake is a home run away from Coors Field. Blake Street Tavern is next door. And… it’s expensive. $10/SF NNN. That means about $12-15 a square foot (depending on utilities). Do some math, and that’s between $34,000 and $42,500. A month. Just for rent. In list form:

Pros

  • Great location
  • Proven location
  • Huge – easy to expand
  • Equipment already there

Cons

  • Ridiculously, prohibitively expensive for a startup

Small Property, Ideal Location

I don’t have any properties in mind for this idea. But essentially, find a really small industrial mixed-use property downtown. Brew beer in it. Serve some in house. The main problems I see are 1) it’s still going to be super expensive, especially when we don’t have secured revenue and 2) expansion becomes a problem, especially with that much money sunk into rent. I feel like if we go with a location that we hope cannot house us for very long, we shouldn’t sink all our profits into it.

Pros

  • Great location

Cons

  • Prohibitively expensive
  • No room to grow

Big Property, Non-Ideal Location

A warehouse somewhere far from downtown, such as Broomfield or Englewood, is a much cheaper option. We’d still have the tasting / tap room, but chances are no one would be coming to say hi. The size allows growth in that location, while the cost allows us to hold on to a little bit more of the profits than the downtown version.

Pros

  • Cheaper than downtown, though still not cheap
  • Room to grow

Cons

  • Idea of a tap room or storefront is useless out in the boonies
  • Still expensive

Location, Location, Location!

Location, Location, Location!

Small Property, Non-Ideal Location

Based on our current conversations about size and starting up smaller, this is becoming one of the top two options. A small (3,000 – 8,000 square foot) property somewhere in a cheaper, industrial area, would suit our needs pretty well. It’s still overhead, which is inevitable at some point, but not $40k a month.

Pros

  • Good size for how we want to start
  • Potentially inexpensive enough to allow for profits

Cons

  • No room for growth
  • No store-front / people coming to say hi

That's our garage, on the right. Brewery?

That's our garage, on the right. Brewery?

My Garage

This is quickly becoming the ideal location, at least for getting started. Of course this location requires my landlord’s approval (I don’t own my house.. oops), so pending that, this option might get crossed off. Until then though… Low overhead, light commute, decent size, decent (not ideal, but not bad) location. Some problems include the fact that it’s a residence. Waste is sort of an issue for a brewery of any size, and our neighbors may not be too pleased with commercial beer production in their backyard.

Pros

  • Cheap. My rent is cheap right now as it is
  • No commute
  • Close to potential accounts

Cons

  • Small – no room for growth
  • Waste issues
  • Residential neighborhood issues
  • Delivery issues – trucks can’t drop pallets off in a back alley

The first option, the big ol’ warehouse downtown, is the goal. Eventually, I want the brewery to succeed, and to show enough growth and growth potential to afford such a location. But I don’t think that’s this year, or next. I do see some growth happening in the first few years, and moving is never cheap, so the first location, even if we’re there for 5 years, needs to be affordable above all else. If my landlord and the law say that my garage is ok, I think we’ll go with Option #1. A small warehouse somewhere on South Santa Fe or something would be the next best option. After that? Well, we’ll have to see what happens.

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