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.

No no, I’ve got this

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.

Alternating Proprietorship

Heavy liftingA few weeks ago, my friend Nick Nunns returned from the Craft Brewers Conference (which I’m going to next year, dammit!), and proceeded to rock my world. In a good way.

Nick told me about the idea of an Alternating Proprietorship, or an AltProp. It’s not a new idea. I’ve probably mentioned it in some post on here, or in the comments somewhere. I’ve almost always just brushed it aside. I think this was mostly due to not seeing the difference between contract brewing and an altprop. My biggest difficulty with the idea of a contract option was that I wouldn’t be brewing. I didn’t want to just give a recipe and instructors to another brewery and say “Here, make me beer.” And that idea just sort of stuck.

So when Nick got back and we talked about AltProps, that idea got rocked out of its place. Basically, and Alternating Proprietorship is an agreement with an existing brewery in which we go in and rent out excess capacity on their system. While we’re brewing, we technically own the equipment. It’s our own license and our own beer. It’s much more complicated than that, and the agreement can be a lot of different things, but that’s the basic idea.

Anda, one of the owners of Funkwerks in Fort Collins, and the author of LegalLibations.com and LegalBrewing.com, wrote an article about this idea in January: http://www.legallibations.com/2010/05/alternating-what.html. Check it out, it helps to clarify this whole thing.

The TTB defines an alternating proprietorship:

An “alternating proprietorship” is a term used to describe an arrangement in which two or more people take turns using the physical premises of a brewery.

Generally, the proprietor of an existing brewery, the “host brewery,” agrees to rent space and equipment to a new “tenant brewer.”  Alternating brewery proprietorships allow existing breweries to use excess capacity and give new entrants to the beer business an opportunity to begin on a small scale, without investing in premises and equipment.


This idea could get us started much, much sooner, for much, much less money. If we work out an arrangement with a new brewery in town, where we buy a few tanks, rent out the time and space, and start making beer, we can be on tap this year. Depending on the arrangement, we could hopefully work something out where we buy 2 fermenting tanks, use the space for 6-12 months (or however short / long it takes), and then “leave” the tanks there, as payback. Or maybe we open at the same size, and take the tanks with us. Or maybe a brewery just doesn’t have the need for some of their tanks, and it’s a pure rental agreement.

I started talking to a few of the newer breweries in town about this. It’s a win-win situation for a brewery with excess capacity. Our presence lowers their liability, since we’re paying them for their time. And for us, it lets us start today, rather than tomorrow.

Part of the TTB’s rules on this scenario is that the business plan must include not only the altprop, but the exit into a full brewery. This is a temporary situation, where we can make sure the market likes our beer, make sure we know what the hell we’re doing, get a few accounts up and running, and have something solid (well, liquid) to show investors.

This is the current plan. We’re exploring our options and writing down the numbers. I’d love to know what you think of it!

Mad History

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?

Yeast Starters

I did my first yeast starter last week.

Yes, I’ve been brewing for 5 years. No, I’ve never done a yeast starter.

I asked some friends, and ended up with a sweet resource on Billy’s site (this is the dude who runs the Homebrew Academy, which you should check out).

I went to the homebrew shop, bought my ingredients, and made a yeast starter. I was all nervous at first.. How do I do this? What’s the next step. And then I realized it’s just like brewing, but faster. Like, 30 minutes all said and done.

So this past weekend I made another one. And I bought a 2L erlenmeyer flask. And let me tell you, the batch I brewed yesterday was fermenting pretty vigorously this morning. Way more so than my batches usually are after only a few hours.

Moral of the story, I’m learning more about yeast, and it’s fun. That is all.


Denver Off The Wagon

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,


Branding Field Trip

Over the past two weeks we’ve had a lot of meetings. Great meetings. At different places. Beer places!

We’ve now met three times with Josh Mishell about branding, and have found a potential illustrator too. With their help, we’ll be able to put our vision into something creative, artistic, pleasing to the eye, and bad-ass-awesomsaucery-ness.

Last night, we took a field trip to Argonaut Liquors. We spent an hour or so walking the beer aisle, talking about anything and everything beer and branding. We looked at the macros and talked about what they’re doing, why it works, and why it isn’t for us. We talked about every single 6-pack holder, can, bottle cap, and additional marketing materials. Most importantly, we talked about what we liked, what we didn’t like, and what we wanted to do with our brand.

We came to the conclusion that we like simple, clean, yet a little bit weird. We like to stand out, quietly. We like to be loud, without yelling.

Pretty much, we want to get our personalities and the personality of our beer into a design.

I thought I’d share a few things we liked more than everything else. We’re not always very good at saying why it is we like certain elements, but we hope Josh can help us distill our thoughts into a creative brief. Here are some things we liked, and why:


It’s simple. The brewery name is huge. The font is cool. It’s just a black background.

Boulevard Tank 7

We couldn’t quite put a finer on it, but Boulevard’s 4-pack carriers are awesome. Maybe a little too much pastel in color.

Left Hand Mixer

Most mixers are cluttered, with information about every beer inside. This is just the logo. The massive and simple logo.

Left Hand Fade To Black

Meanwhile they go with something that is pretty crazy, noisy, but at the same time they maintain simplicity. And that logo just sits there, all simple and nice looking.

Fort Collins Brewing

We really like FCB’s logo. The scratched look is very cool. The font on both the logo and the other copy is different and great looking as well.

Great Divide

As with almost every other thing about Great Divide, their branding stands out as some of the best in the industry. Simplicity, big fonts, basic colors. I’m also a really big fan of the knock-out characters they have for each product.

New Belgium

The new branding is similar, yet pretty distinct and different from the older branding. The step away from the classic and well-known blue and red is a bit of a surprise, but I do like the utter simplicity of the illustrations on the new stuff. However, that simplicity is at the cost of the story that each illustration on the older branding represents.

There’s obviously more awesome branding out there, and as we come across it, we’ll judge it as well. Next up, we need to look at tap handles and see what we like and dislike. One of my favorite of all time is Magic Hat’s wrought iron handles. Check this one out!

One thing that was really interesting, and I want to do more of, was watching people buy beer. Their choices, their thought process – at least what was visible – their reactions to three guys talking about every little aspect of every beer… It was fascinating.

What do you think of our choices? Anything you’ve seen that you think fits our likes so far?