Brewery Open Book Management

2 men analyzing data

By: Kary Shumway

In normal times, it’s a challenge to manage brewery operations, and stay on top of the finances. There’s a lot to juggle, and never enough time to get it all done. In these abnormal times, these tasks become even more difficult.

  However, one way to manage your brewery business differently, and more effectively, is with open book management. Open book management (OBM) is a system in which employees are provided with financial information so that they can make better business decisions.

  The idea is that employees are more motivated, engaged, and productive when they are treated as business partners (who commonly have access to financial data) instead of employees. In these uncertain times, more information can provide employees with more certainty to make better decisions.

  Open Book Management has four basic elements:

•    Train employees in financial literacy so they can read and understand financial statements.

•    Empower employees to use financial information when making business decisions.

•    Trust employees as business partners with proprietary company information

•    Reward employees fairly for the brewery’s success

Train employees in Financial Literacy

  Financial literacy is the ability to read and understand the numbers of your brewery business so that you can improve financial results. Improving financial results may include growing sales, strengthening gross margins, or increasing cash flow. In today’s uncertain times, financial literacy is more important than ever.

  The numbers of your brewery business are reported on the financial statements – the income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows. Each of these reports provides vital financial information to understand what’s going on in your business

  The financial statements are the scoreboard for your brewery and the numbers show whether you are winning or losing. The financials show you where you are in relation to your goals and how much harder you must push to hit the targets.

Open book management requires that you train employees in financial literacy so that they can know the score, and help the brewery win the financial game.

Empower Employees to Make Decisions

  In most organizations there is a decision-making hierarchy. Owners or managers make the decisions, and employees carry out the directives. With open book management, everyone is responsible for making decisions and has the authority to do so.

  If a problem needs to be fixed, employees are empowered to fix it. If an opportunity needs to be seized upon, employees are obliged to act. There is no waiting around for a manager to make these decisions. The move lies squarely on the shoulders of employees.

  With open book management, employees use their understanding of the numbers – financial literacy – to inform their decisions. For example, suppose a brewery uses a mobile canning company to package beer. The packaging manager understands the costs associated with this service and can make an informed decision about whether the purchase of canning line would benefit the company financially. The packaging manager understands how to build a return on investment calculation and is empowered to make a purchase recommendation based on the numbers.

Trust Employees with Proprietary Financial Information

  Open book management centers around trust. Do you trust your employees with sensitive financial information? What if confidential information is shared with competitors? What if it’s leaked out on social media? Sharing information requires trust.

  OBM requires that we trust employees to handle sensitive information with professionalism and confidentiality. The best way to earn the trust of employees is to be trustworthy yourself. Be transparent, share the information that will help them do their job better, or have a better understanding of the business. When you call upon the highest level of thinking from your employees, you get the highest level of results.

Reward Employees for Brewery Success

  In an open book management system, employees are asked to learn new things in addition to their core job. Brewers are asked to understand the costs that go into making the beer. Brewery salespeople are asked to understand product margins for each brand in the portfolio. Taproom staff are asked to learn the average order per customer, for example. Everyone in the organization needs to learn something new to make the open book management system work properly.

  The goal of open book management is to create a culture of business owners. OBM teaches employees to think of themselves as businesspeople instead of workers. To make this real, businesspeople need a stake in the outcome – a reward for brewery success. As such, part of what they earn should be tied to company financial performance.

  A stake in the outcome gives employees a vested interest in improving financial results. The brewer learns about the costs that go into making the beer so that she can find ways to be more efficient. The salesperson learns about product margins so that he understands the importance of proper pricing. The taproom server learns about the average order per customer to find ways to increase customer sales.

  Learning about the financial aspects of the business that are within the employee’s area of control moves the brewery towards the goal of improving overall financial results. And towards the reward of having employee businesspeople share in the success.

Wrap Up and Action Items

  Open book management is a system where financial information is shared with employees so that they can make better decisions. Better decisions lead to better financial outcomes, and better financial outcomes lead to a stronger brewery business for everyone.

  OBM requires that you train, empower, trust and reward employees. Train employees in financial literacy so they understand the finances of the business. Empower employees to make decisions and encourage them to do so. Trust employees with sensitive information and reward them when brewery financial success is achieved.

  In these uncertain times, open book management provides a way to manage your business more effectively and to reward your employees for a job well done.

  I’d like to offer your readers a $50 discount off of the Craft Brewery Financial Training annual subscription. Visit Use the discount code beveragemaster at checkout to claim savings.

A Trend No Longer, Zero-Proof Spirits Rise to Any Occasion

3 alcoholic bottles

By: Tracey L. Kelley

Crafting with spirits is an art that provides endless possibilities for the maker and mixologist alike. But the growing demand for spirit alternatives also demonstrates there are even greater opportunities to present flavor complexity and style.

  Whether through herbal tonics such as those found at Dr. Andrew Weil’s True Food Kitchens throughout the U.S.; spirits “for those partaking” and non-spirits “for the whole family” at Vena’s Fizz House in Portland, Maine; special juice and botanical potions at Shine Restaurant in Boulder, Colorado; or booze-free craft cocktails at the Modernist in San Antonio, Texas; producers of zero-proof options seek to expand the marketplace to allow consumers a bounty of choice.

  “There’s a knee-jerk reaction in some people when they hear about spirit alternatives. I get it — I love spirits too! I promise we’re not here for your guns,” Marcus Sakey, founding partner of Ritual Zero Proof in Chicago, told Beverage Master Magazine. “Our products aren’t meant to replace liquor. It’s a complement, a way to enjoy when you’re driving, dieting, training, making a baby, looking for balance or just have [stuff] to do tomorrow. The need goes way beyond the sober-curious. It’s like almond milk or the Impossible Burger — 90% of purchasers aren’t vegetarian or vegan. People want options, ways to mark a moment without the alcohol or calories.” Ritual produces high-rated gin, tequila and whiskey alternatives.

Tapping Into What Consumers Want

  As Sakey points out, there are numerous reasons why someone might choose not to have alcohol on a particular day, but frequently don’t have alternatives when going out with friends or wanting something to accompany dinner. So while movements such as Dry January or Sober October might have planted the initial seeds for alcohol-free selections, abstinence isn’t the only reason for their popularity.

  “We’ve received great support and encouragement from the sober-curious movement since day one, but we’re seeing the trends becoming habits amongst the 75% of drinkers who switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks,” said Mark Livings, co-founder and CEO of Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits, a London-based company with production facilities there as well as Melbourne, Australia and Montreal, Canada.

  “Over time, people are reducing consumption, so for a venue to retain patronage, it’s important to have a quality range available when a drinker inevitably looks for a non-alcoholic option.” Lyre’s extensive award-winning non-alcoholic spirit line includes American Malt, Dry London Spirit, Italian Orange, Dark Cane, Apéritif Rosso, Coffee Originale, White Cane, Amaretti, Italian Spritz, Orange Sec, Spiced Cane and Absinthe.

  Formerly the bar director of chef David Chang’s famous Momofuku Restaurant Group and mixologist for the speakeasy PDT in New York City, John deBary, creator and CEO of Proteau, wanted to solve another problem for customers. “Drinks that didn’t rely on alcohol were always a challenge. Drinkers tended to think of overly sweet and simple ‘mocktails,’ and finding zero-proof drinks that paired well with food was almost impossible.” Also the author of the cocktail book Drink What You Want, deBary crafted Ludlow Red and Rivington Spritz as ready-to-drink, zero-proof botanical options.

  “From a technical standpoint, zero-proof drinks are a fun challenge to a bartender because alcohol, since it’s a solvent, is a great base for flavors. Plus, we have access to thousands of uniquely-flavored products: gin, whiskey, liqueurs, fortified wines – to name a few,” he said. “These challenges are what led me to create Proteau as a way to test my abilities as a bartender/mixologist, and to find a way to create delicious beverages that everyone — not just alcohol drinkers — could enjoy.”

Intent Focuses on Taste and Versatility

  “A well-made cocktail is about taste and mood as much as it’s about alcohol, maybe more so. I wanted to introduce some balance to my bar cart; to be able to enjoy evening cocktails and a morning workout,” Sakey said. “Echoing the taste, smell and mouthfeel of spirits was incredibly difficult. Distillation turned out to be a rabbit hole — the cost was impractical, but more than that, it wasn’t possible to get the flavors right while still keeping it truly non-alcoholic.”

  Sakey said Ritual’s solution was to treat the process like cooking, building upward and layering tastes with quality ingredients such as all-natural botanicals. “The trickiest part was trying to replicate the kick of spirits. Over 500 iterations, we crafted a complex blend of ‘mouth-punch’ botanical elements — some spice, some cooling, some tingle, a few exciting additions I’ll keep under my hat — that work together to trick your taste buds,” he said.

  “Throughout the process, we worked closely with some of Chicago’s best mixologists and chefs. After more than a year of development, one of them said, ‘You know, in a cocktail, I’m not sure most people would be able to tell the difference.’ That was when I knew we had it,” Sakey said. In 2020, the industry-standard Beverage Testing Institute gave all of Ritual’s products three top honors and ranked its Tequila Alternative as the highest-rated non-alcoholic spirit in the world. It also has plans to roll out another spirit alternative in early 2021.

  Livings’ interest in zero-proof options evolved from his personal wellness journey, combined with an awareness of how friends’ and colleagues’ deliberate drinking choices. “They all expressed a common problem: they missed the drinks they knew and loved, and they weren’t impressed with the available alternatives.”

  With a long career in the beverage industry, he had the resources to pull together a team of bar staff, liquor marketers and liquor salespeople. “We figured that if anyone was going to change the way the world drinks, it should be a group of people who have plenty of drinking experience and would never compromise on taste. The big breakthrough was the ‘ah-ha’ that you didn’t have to take the alcohol out of a spirit product to produce a non-alcoholic spirit.”

  The single most important challenge, Livings said, was to provide true non-alcoholic versions of each classic spirit. “The flavor, aroma and appearance of each Lyre’s variant had to meet our high standards and basic test of, ‘Does it feel like I’m having a drink with booze in it?’” he said. “Over two years were invested in breaking apart flavors of the classics. It was very important that each was as close as physically possible to the classic spirits we are paying homage to. We don’t distill our products, as it’s not required when you craft the flavors using essences, extracts and distillates on a non-alcoholic base.”

  Proteau isn’t distilled either, as deBary chooses instead to blend a proprietary mix of botanical extractions with clarified fruit and artisanal vinegar for a low-sugar beverage. “For me, the eureka moment was when I sampled test batches with friends and colleagues, and they didn’t believe there wasn’t alcohol in the recipes. This is when it really dawned on me that the sensation of drinking a complex, intellectually-engaging drink wasn’t reliant on alcohol, and if we could disentangle that, we could open up a whole new world for people.”

Crafting a Solid Future

  Data points to a consistent rise for hand-crafted or small-batch zero-proof spirits, even if on-premises sales are skewed by 2020 pandemic repercussions. Future Market Insights in London indicate key demographics for spirit alternatives — considered part of the functional beverage market — includes 18 to 24 and 25 to 39, with product growth projections of nearly 3% each year for the next five as individuals seek “a multi-sensory drinking experience.” So innovation in the bottle must extend into well-positioned partnerships for marketing and promotion, and our makers know this all too well.

  “Again, people want options. This isn’t just me saying it — sales data bears it out,” Sakey said. “Across 90 days, we have a reorder rate of greater than 40% from major players like Binny’s Beverage Depot, Total Wine & More and ABC Fine Wines. If you extend the period to 120 days, it jumps to 70%. Better still, because Ritual Zero Proof is an ‘and’ product, it leads to higher sales, while serving a set of customers that liquor retailers often couldn’t otherwise capture.”

  Sakey and his team rely on integrated efforts to attract attention. “We’re cocktail aficionados, both leaded and unleaded, and so we love to work closely with mixologists. Some of our favorite Ritual recipes, like The Green Go-Go, have been created by artists like Carley Gaskin [of Hospitality 201 in Chicago], who was selected as The World’s Most Imaginative Bartender in 2018,” Sakey said. “But one challenge we often find is that retailers aren’t sure how to place spirit alternatives. We work closely with them, sharing best practices and providing POS materials. By showcasing a set, including components and mixers to create no- and low-ABV beverages, our partners see notably higher cart rings. It’s a win all around.”

  Livings said the company produces much faster now due to experience and “what the ‘rules’ are of non-alcoholic flavor architecture.” This enables the brand to span the world, broadcasting “an unparalleled range of drinks that you can make with Lyre’s. We have over 20 brand ambassadors, all classically-trained bartenders, so their expertise is the perfect base to help educate and collaborate with other bar staff and mixologists,” he said. “We’ve also worked closely with influencers, bloggers and passionate supporters.”

  In keeping with virtual outreach as venues’ occupancy ebbs and flows, Livings said the company offers one-on-one mixology classes through video chat programs. “When you purchase Lyre’s via our e-commerce site, we set up a private, 15-minute class with one of our brand ambassadors to demonstrate how to make delicious non-alcoholic cocktails at home,” he said. “It’s a unique offering, and we love the opportunity it gives us to meet our Lyre’s drinkers.”

  The primary message deBary reinforces with customers is “they don’t need to lift a finger to enjoy Proteau as intended.” But he trusts what his colleagues can do to provide a unique drinking experience. “Bartenders are naturally creative and experimental people, and we’ve been really happy with how they’ve used Proteau in their recipes and will continue to support that.”

  He also understands the unique value of providing people with a range of selections to fit their desires. “When I was bar director for Momofuku, and we would expand the non-alcoholic drink options at one of our restaurants, we noticed an overall increase in beverage sales,” he said. “The expanded options didn’t cannibalize from any other category and showed us, in real numbers, that we were reaching people who had previously been left out of the conversation. Accessibility is the core of hospitality, and it’s not just the right thing to do; it’s also great for business.”

Raising Capital for Craft Spirits Through Crowdfunding

By: Becky Garrison

Since its founding in 2013, Seattle-based Copperworks Distilling Company developed an award-winning portfolio of spirits with accolades such as the 2018 Best Distillery of the Year award from the American Distillery Institute. Yet, according to Jason Parker, Co-Founder and Presi-dent, they found themselves at a crossroads in growing their distillery last year. Even though they had more than 260 barrels of whiskey aging in inventory, the current demand for their American Single Malt whiskey exceeded their supply of mature whiskey.

  “The only way to win sales in the whiskey market is to have whiskey to sell,” Parker told Beverage Master Magazine. “If we are only growing through cash flow generated by vodka, gin and a little bit of whiskey sales, we won’t have the whiskey to compete in the market against those businesses who received capital investments to produce whiskey. In essence, we must produce whiskey faster than our current cash flow will allow.” 

  Rather than resort to traditional ways of generating capital, they wanted to explore a way to ex-pand their business that would get their friends, family, customers and other supporters involved as brand ambassadors. “We wanted to give them an opportunity to own a little piece of the work and be with us as we grow,” said Parker. 

Choosing Equity Crowdfunding

  Copperworks decided to raise money via equity crowdfunding through the WeFunder website. In Copperworks’ estimation, this approach enables individuals to become part-owners of a privately held company by trading capital for equity shares. This method of generating capital became available in 2016 with the passage of a new law called “Regulation Crowdfunding.” This shift made it legal for anyone to invest small amounts of money in startups.

  Copperworks chose equity crowdfunding over more established crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indigogo or GoFundMe because, with equity crowdfunding, a company issues equi-ty, such as shares of company stock, to participating investors. A company like Copperworks may also choose to offer perks, but the major incentive is the opportunity to become shareholders in the company.

  In comparison, traditional crowdfunding is more rewardsbased, whereby those who contribute to the campaign receive a perk, such as a discount or an advance copy of the product, but they have no equity in the company. Furthermore, a traditional crowdfunding campaign often offers their products at a discount to generate interest. Should the campaign take off, companies can find themselves unable to meet market demand at this low price point.

  According to Parker, a key advantage of equity crowdfunding is the company’s opportunity to utilize its investors as brand ambassadors. While this component of Copperworks’ strategy has been put on hold due to COVID-19, they are currently in the process of building a brand ambas-sador kit for their investors. In this kit, investors will be given the details of how to approach a restaurant, bar, grocery store or liquor store on behalf of Copperworks.

Challenges of Using Equity Crowdfunding

  Parker acknowledges the need for a distillery to ascertain if equity crowdfunding is the right ap-proach. For example, this approach to raising funds may not work for a business that has only been around for a year or less and has yet to build up a loyal following. “Equity fundraising is a good thing when you’re mature enough for the company to attract the appropriate investors for the valuation,” he said.

  From a company’s point of view, equity crowdfunding requires more upfront costs and financial discipline. The company’s records need to be reviewed professionally, an expensive process that took Copperworks three months to complete. In addition, WeFunder takes 7% of the funds raised, unlike a bank loan where one receives the entire amount upfront and then pays interest over time. Depending on the terms of a loan, a company may pay more in interest through a traditional loan. However, for those companies needing the full amount upfront, a bank loan may be their best option.

  Also, with equity crowdfunding, Copperworks had to be totally transparent with their financials, a process that included having this information readily available for public viewing. For Parker, this transparency fits in with their business model. “We believe transparency is one of the things missing in businesses today, so we want to model that behavior.” In the issue of transparency, they chose to share with their investors why they needed to raise money and how they intended to use these funds.

Promoting and Implementing the Equity Fundraising Campaign

  Copperworks promoted their campaign through their mailing list of 12,000 individuals. In addi-tion, they reached out to the 3,600 folks who liked their Facebook page because they had a high rate of customer engagement on this platform. They were also featured for five weeks in the American Distilling Institute newsletter. Their campaign, which ran from the end of February to April 2020, netted a total of 409 investors and $776,480 in funds.

  Parker admits to the challenges of raising funds right as COVID-19 began impacting the econo-my starting in mid-February. “It’s not very easy to ask people to spend money on a company when they may not have a job, their life savings may be losing 30% of its value, and they don’t know who around them is even going to be alive in a few months.”

  However, he said that since Copperworks had been around for a long time, many people emerged who really liked the company and their products and were looking to support something they cared about. 

  Regardless of the amount of their investment, each investor receives an annual report along with an invitation to every quarterly meeting. For those who invested $1,000, they get 10% off all Copperworks goods for life. Other perks were offered to those investing at higher increments, such as an offer to pick a single cask whiskey, a free event rental or an invitation to be on the board of directors.

  As per the SEC regulations, Copperworks disclosed to their investors the risks associated with capital works. While some of the risks noted are associated with investing in any company, others are specific to the distilled spirits market or Copperworks in particular. For example, the cur-rent distilled spirits market growth could slow or stop in the future. Along those lines, due to the threetier distribution system in the alcohol industry mandated by U.S. law, Copperworks is reli-ant on distribution companies. The distribution system has experienced consolidation in recent years, and should this consolidation continue, distilleries may face difficulty in expanding the distribution of their products.

Outcome of Equity Fundraising Campaign

  Copperworks successfully raised enough money to continue production during the COVID-19 shutdown and produce whiskey at their all-time maximum rate. All employees kept full-time hours, even though the tasting room was (and remains) closed. Therefore, the distillery could de-vote some of its resources to producing hand sanitizer, a product badly needed at the start of the pandemic. 

  Even better than simply raising money, which a bank loan could have accomplished, Copper-works was able to fully engage the support of their loyal fans. Customer engagement through social media, email and quarterly calls increased the opportunity for Copperworks to share their story and their customers to become brand ambassadors. New customer acquisition, which is much more difficult while the Copperworks tasting room is closed, increased through word-of-mouth, and online sales increased due to these outreach efforts.

  As Copperworks looks to expand their production area and event space, they have solicited their new investors’ network to help them find even more opportunities to grow their business. Copperworks is truly building an army of brand ambassadors and getting new talent and ideas through the use of regulation crowdfunding.

Raised Grain Brewery’s Infamous Beer Names and New Taproom

snack bar with beer cans

The Boelter Wire is an episodic podcast that focuses on conversations with industry experts and established partners, and is designed to help listeners evolve their business, stay competitive and pursue their passions. Recorded earlier in 2020, Lance Taylor, field sales manager with Boelter’s Beverage Division, speaks with Nick Reistad, co-owner of Raised Grain Brewing Company in Waukesha, Wisconsin to discuss some of the brewery’s more infamous beer naming conventions and their new taproom.

An Origin Story

  Lance Taylor (LT): This is a great opportunity to dive into the brewing industry, which is one of the major industries that we serve, and what better brewery to work with than the one just down the road from us. So, thank you. How did you guys start? If you don’t mind sharing the origin story?

  Nick Reistad (NR): Raised Grain started probably in the back of my mind when I was a professional cyclist in a past life. I got to travel around the world racing bicycles, doing races over in Europe. I was on the national team for three years. That was based out of a tiny house in a small village in Belgium, and the only thing to do at the end of the day was to head down to the square and have a nice Belgium beer.

  That was in 2005 or 2006. Then I raced stateside for a year as well. And that was right when the craft scene was just starting to take off. I started to notice that there were other really delicious, very different beers that were all over the U.S. I would travel out to California or somewhere in the Northeast and try all of these different beers from breweries that, in some cases, had been around for a long time and other cases were just starting up and getting things figured out.

  Then, in 2009, I ended up having a career change when I was 27. I got into advertising and I guess the excitement that I had become accustomed to wasn’t really there, even though I really like advertising and marketing. So, I started thinking, what am I going to do with my life, and wrote a business plan for a brewery because it seemed like it would be fun to do and it entertained me. And what I really liked about beer is that it’s something that brings people together. I started working on a business plan and connected with a neighbor of mine from when I was growing up and he knew two guys that are still doctors to this day, but they’re also brewers. So, he brought us together on September 19th, 2014.

  (LT):  That’s definitely a unique story. Do any breweries in particular inspire you?

  (NR):  It’s hard to say. I think they each have their own little impact. I mean, you’re drinking west coast IPAs when you’re out in California. And I spent the better portion of the beginning of the year out in California. That’s where the races were. That’s where the scene was.

  (LT):  And that lends itself to a lot of the styles that you guys brew now. I’m curious, when you first sat down with the doctors and you guys were having some of those beers, are any of those the flagships of today still, like the Naked Threesome or Paradocs Red?

  (NR):  Naked Threesome didn’t come around until later and I don’t think that style had even been invented yet in 2014, the hazy IPA, maybe it had. But, Paradocs Red was one that we were drinking that night and they named it after themselves, a pair of doctors. Scott and Jimmy started brewing, I think it was about five years before I came along. They started brewing together and Paradocs was the, I think it was the third beer that they brewed together, and it was the first all-grain recipe that they brewed on the system that was in Scott’s basement.

   And then fast forward a couple of years, that won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. And we’ve just been in growth mode ever since we opened our doors in 2015. I think it was 2016 we won that, and we were building out a food truck. I was heading off to an Octoberfest then. So, we had about five minutes to high five each other and celebrate and then it was back to work.

  (LT):  People take pride in their city’s brewery quite a bit, especially when people come into town.

  (NR): Yeah, when we first opened up, just this tiny little brewery out in the burbs outside of Milwaukee, we had so many people come in and say, thank you for choosing Waukesha. We want to have something like this out here and your beer is awesome and you guys are nice people, so thank you so much.

The Intricacies of Naming Your Beer

  (LT):  When I go to a bar, it’s fun ordering a Naked Threesome and it always raises an eyebrow, that’s for sure. I’m talking about some of the naming conventions, how did you come up with some of them? What’s that like with your team? When somebody comes up with it, do you let the brewer come up with the name? Is it more on your end with the marketing side?

  (NR): Throwing a lot out there that have either been taken already, which is most likely the case, and then something that conveys the experience that you want the customer to have when they’re drinking that beer.

  Naked Threesome is a little bit of a unique story because that one came out of a series we were doing when we wanted to play around with a single hops. We started a series off that we brewed three single hop beers and then we wanted to combine those three hops at the end into the culmination of the series. We started calling it the Naked Hop series, a really clean malt beer, showcasing the hops that we were using. 

  And then, we’re kind of a ready, fire, aim type group, or at least we were in the beginning, when we rolled out the series. We didn’t really think what the final beer was going to be. I wasn’t really coming up with any good ideas. And our bar manager at the time came up with a name and said, what if we called it the Naked Threesome?

  We both looked at each other and said, well, we’ll need to check with our wives on that one. And they laughed and said, sure, do whatever you want to.

We ran that series for a couple of years and then we brewed the series or the beer that it is now. It was a huge hit. People loved it. They couldn’t get enough of it and we couldn’t brew it fast enough. So, we ended up killing the series that it evolved out of and just kept the Naked Threesome as it is today.

A Social Experience

  (LT):  What are some of the ways that you bring people into the tap room? What kind of activities or events do you host?

  (NR):  We designed the space so that we can host any number of events, whether it’s just a Friday night and we’re busy and we want to make a comfortable environment for the people. We specifically sized our beer hall so you can set up bags, sets of cornhole, whatever you want to call it, so that you have enough length to have an official court. When we got the plans back from our architect, we had her elongate the room a little bit so we could fit in bags.

  It’s everything from corporate events to birthday parties, all sorts of events that are coming in to use the space we have. But, then we wanted to create different experiences within the tap room. So, if you come in and you want more of a traditional dining opportunity, we have that. If you want super casual at the bar, we’ve got that. And then we’re sitting in the brewer’s lounge right now.

  (LT):  It’s like a speakeasy.

  (NR):  It’s very casual. You can sit back and have some private conversations with your friends or coworkers and just feel really comfortable. So, whatever you want. You could come in on different nights and have different experiences all within the same tap room. And that was something that we wanted to create because it isn’t a relatively new building. And when we first walked in, it was just wide open. So, we didn’t want to have people walk into a warehouse and feel like there’s just gusting wind. That was something we wanted to avoid. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job of breaking up the space and making a cool spot for people to come and hang out.


  (LT):  One thing that Boelter talks about is the concept of premiumization. What steps do you take to make sure your customers have a premium experience and is that something that crosses your mind?

  (NR):  I would say it’s the only thing that crosses our mind. We have expensive-to-produce beers, so you have to charge what you need to charge to make it work on the backend, on the production side. But, then outside of the beer, you’ve got to have a premium experience when you come in.

  We have an awesome staff behind the bar. A lot of our bartenders are just really well educated on beer and they work here because they want to work here and they have fun working here. So, that really shines through when a customer walks in, they have an awesome experience because the person on the other side of the bar wants to tell them about the beer that they’re drinking and wants to make sure that they’re just having an awesome time.

  I think that really helps beyond the physical side of things because we just have awesome people shining through and every time you come in you’re going to have that interaction that elevates what you’re doing, and it provides a fun time.

  (LT):  Just knowing from my experience and being able to label some of the glassware that we’ve been able to do for you guys, obviously you have very specific glassware chosen, which on my end, being a glass geek, it makes a huge difference. If you’re drinking out of a stemmed glass and it’s a higher ABV, then you’re sitting in this brewers’ lounge, you can swirl it around and really enjoy it. I would say that absolutely adds to it as well.

  (NR):  We’re just excited to be in craft beer when it’s growing and it’s fun and exciting for not only us but for our customers as well. It’s a cool time and it’s been a cool project to work on and we’re looking forward to five more years, and five beyond that.

  You can catch up on all of the episodes and be notified when new podcasts are available by subscribing to The Boelter Wire at, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Continuously Improving Your Incentive Program

beer leaning to a bar graph

By: Nichole Gunn, Vice President of Marketing & Creative Services, Incentive Solutions

The first years after launching an incentive program are an exciting time for craft beer producers: supply chain trading partners, drawn by the excitement of new promotions and an improved channel partner experience, are more responsive, more motivated and more likely to recommend the brand’s products to restaurants and retailers. During this time, craft beer producers often experience a period of rapid sales growth or improvement in other KPIs the program was designed to target, such as improved partner data profiles or increased referral business. The incentive program’s ROI grows exponentially.

  However, often after 12-30 months, growth begins to stagnate and the ROI curve starts to flatten. If left unaddressed once an incentive program’s novelty starts wearing off and supply chain trading partners become habituated to the program’s value proposition, the incentive program’s ROI may start to decline, leaving craft beer producers scrambling to find ways to replicate the program’s success.

  The good news is that by planning ahead, craft beer producers can anticipate this drop off in interest level and continuously improve their incentive program in order to sustain a competitive advantage in their channel.

Keeping Incentive Programs Fresh

(and Profitable!)

  In order to stay relevant, a channel incentive program has to be able to evolve with the interests of its participants, scale its value proposition over time and respond rapidly to the tactics of the competition. Below are several factors that craft beer producers can focus on in order to continue to drive ROI once program growth begins to stagnate:

•  Evolving incentive program technology.

•  Incorporating elements of gamification.

•  Adding new, richer reward-earning opportunities.

•  Personalizing brand interactions to build loyalty.

•  Re-launching the program with updated features and branding.

  Ideally¬, these are all elements that craft beer producers will consider from the inception of the program, with plans for program expansion at certain intervals. However, these factors can also be incorporated to bring new life to existing programs.

Evolving Incentive Program Technology

  Today, incentive programs are a technology platform, and craft beer producers should be as mindful in selecting incentive program technology as they are in selecting any B2B software platform. From an administrative standpoint, this means choosing an incentive platform that integrates with existing CRMs and other business software and provides streamlined admin tools and generates detailed reports on engagement and ROI.

  However, perhaps more importantly, craft beer producers should focus on selecting incentive software that is fully supported and will be continuously updated to improve the user experience for their supply chain trading partners. More and more, B2B customers expect a seamless B2C-style user experience. Partners will be less likely to engage with a rewards program that uses stale, outdated software, no matter how exciting the reward offering.

  Additionally, agility is key. Craft beer producers should look for incentive software that allows them to quickly go to market, adapt to the tactics of the competition and launch new promotions. These factors will offer an edge when it comes to maintaining engagement throughout the lifetime of their program.

Incorporating Elements of Gamification

  Gamification is the use of game-like elements – such as points-scoring, interactive leaderboards and other competitive components – to increase engagement with a web-based application, such as an incentive program. Gamification is a powerful tool that supply chain trading partners already seek out in their day-to-day lives, from collecting likes on their Facebook page to scoring achievements on Peloton bikes.

  When interest in the program begins to stagnate several years after launch, adding gamification features can give the program new life. Interactive trivia, spin-to-wins, badges and achievements, personalized leaderboards and limited-time point bonuses make the program more compelling and can give a sustainable boost to the program’s effectiveness over time. Additionally, by not relying strictly on reward value to drive engagement, craft beer producers can help lower program costs to increase their ROI.

Adding New, Richer

Reward-Earning Opportunities

  As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons an incentive program can lose its effectiveness overtime is that participants become habituated to the program’s value proposition. Top performing supply chain trading partners may have already redeemed for their most coveted rewards and find themselves with more points than they know what to do with. The competition may have launched their own reward program with comparable, or even more compelling, rewards.

  It’s up to craft beer producers to constantly up the ante with their program’s value proposition. For instance, launching a points-based merchandise reward program alongside an existing debit or gift card program will offer new value for participants. Elevate a points-based program by offering top performers a concierge service to redeem for custom rewards – using their points to buy a new truck, renovate their home or pay for their child’s college tuition will personalize the reward experience and boost the program’s value proposition in a way the competition will struggle to match.

  Additionally, incentive travel promotions can be added onto any program type, giving craft beer producers an opportunity to connect with their supply chain trading partners on a deeply personal level. Given recent restrictions, the demand for incentive travel is projected to be particularly high once it is deemed safer.

  If minimizing rewards cost is a concern, try setting higher qualification thresholds for these more exclusive reward opportunities. Doing so can also help tap into supply chain trading partners’ competitive drive, keeping them more engaged as they compete for a limited number of higher tier rewards.

Personalizing Brand Interactions

to Build Loyalty

  In their early stages, incentive programs are typically geared toward growth. However, if well designed, the program will be able to convert that initial interest and motivation into brand loyalty over time. Loyalty is about more than rewards; rewards appeal to self-interest while loyalty is rooted in creating mutual interest. Craft beer producers can create this loyalty by using their incentive program to provide a highly personalized experience and to help their channel partners become more effective salespeople.

  This personalization should extend through every phase of the incentive program, from designing program communication to be relevant to each segment of their channel partners to basing reward selection on participant lifestyle and interests. Craft beer producer can use engagement metrics from their incentive program to identify which of their supply chain trading partners have a high level of buy-in and which of their partners might need a little more help. They can provide enablement to their partners by providing online courses and certifications and using their incentive program as a platform to educate partners on their brand and product lines, equipping them to more effectively sell their products.

  By using personalization and focusing on partner experience, craft beer producers can build loyalty with their supply chain trading partners in ways that make extrinsic rewards less important. This makes trading partners drastically less likely to lose interest in the program.

Re-Launching the Program with Updated Features and Branding

  Finally, when the growth of an incentive program begins to stagnate, it might be a sign that it’s time to re-launch the program. A program re-launch gives craft beer producers the opportunity to step back and figure out what their prior program did effectively, as well as what they can do better. During this time, craft beer producers should also explore other pain points they would like their new program to target.

  A pause between programs can help build anticipation, as supply chain trading partners realize the value proposition of the previous program that they had begun to take for granted. Once the new program launches, with updated branding and new features, supply chain trading partners will enthusiastically re-enroll and craft beer producers will experience a renewed period of growth. Better yet, by using the knowledge gained from the previous program, craft beer producers can make their re-launched program even more effective than the first.

Planning Ahead for Program Management

  Additionally, craft beer producers can enlist the help of incentive companies to design and manage their programs. Just like crafting an excellent brew requires years of experience, so too does managing an effective incentive program. Working alongside an incentive company with a proven track record can help craft beer producers avoid potential pitfalls and take advantage of decades of experience in managing successful programs.

  Whether a craft beer producer is looking to launch their first program or improve a program that is currently underperforming, the initial investment of partnering with an incentive company can pay dividends down the road.

  Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing and Creative Services at Incentive Solutions (, an Atlanta-based incentive company that specializes in helping B2B companies improve their channel sales, build customer loyalty, and motivate their employees. Nichole Gunn can be reached at

Start-ups Take a Bite at Trying to Make it in the Hard Cider Industry

customers chatting inside a bar
Photo Credit: Capital Cider House

By: Cheryl Gray

Hard cider start-ups are not for the faint of heart. Those in the business have as much appreciation for determination and due diligence as they do for the fruit and fermentation that give a “bite” to this popular beverage.

  Just ask Jared Fackrell, whose Capitol Cider House in the Petworth area of Washington, D.C., offers more than 150 different craft hard ciders, created both in-house and from other Mid-Atlantic producers. The wide selection emphasizes gluten-free products with modern flavors, excluding any chemicals or preservatives.

  Fackrell’s advice to hard cider start-ups is to do your homework, starting with selecting the best property for the business model you are shaping. “Visit as many properties as you can! That said, you really need to understand your business model. Are you more retail or manufacturing focused? Who’s your target customer? Where do they live or congregate?”

  As for equipment needs and space requirements, Fackrell said that it all depends on the kind of hard cider being crafted and how it will be packaged. He also recommends looking at similar concepts and getting advice from already established businesses that may offer insight on immediate equipment needs versus those that are not as critical.

  “Broadly speaking, the cider industry has done an excellent job ascribing to the ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ mantra, so definitely reach out to other cideries if you need some help,” he said. 

  When it comes to acquiring space, Fackrell told Beverage Master Magazine bigger can sometimes be better. “Space requirements really depend on the use, but non-load-restricted floors, high ceilings, a loading dock, etc., are always helpful. And, if your budget allows, try to secure more space than you need as growth can come quickly and unexpectedly.”

  However, for some hard cider start-ups, the greater challenge is getting the proper zoning permits to operate, sometimes in the most unlikely spots. InCider, Inc., located in West Bend, Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee, makes Hass & Stock Cider inside a 420-square foot home garage.  Owner Daniel Hass sought permits earlier this year to begin the hard cider start-up in his available space. With help from his mother and step-father, a carpenter by trade, he transformed the garage space into a mini-production house.

  InCider already had its federal operations permit and was on track to receive its state permit, contingent upon West Bend city officials approving a conditional use permit for Hass to operate out of his garage. The arrangement ruled out a storefront because that would have been disruptive to the neighborhood.

  “We are lucky that we are in West Bend. The zoning department was extremely helpful and very informed, so we did things correctly through them,” said Hass. “We also have a very open and thoughtful zoning board willing to give us a shot. I have heard stories of other areas not being so open to new ideas.”

  In his proposal, Hass told West Bend city planners that InCider would use three small-scale fermenters to make its cider, with each of those fermenters producing a 14-gallon batch of hard cider. The turnaround time for each batch is roughly two to three weeks. To gain further support from both the city and his neighbors, Hass promised a virtually no-noise operation as well as no distracting outdoor signage.

  Equipment choices, he explained, had to be affordable, long-lasting and functional. “We are still a small scale operation, as we operate in a 20- by 21-foot space. So we needed equipment that works well in our available space,” said Hass. “We use a lot of techniques and equipment we used when just making cider for ourselves. The [FastFerment] fermenters are an upgrade from the five-gallon buckets popular in homemade cider, but we still use Cornelius kegs to create flavors and carbonate. We had to purchase Sanke kegs to transfer the finished product into, as that is what is used in the industry. Most of our equipment is used from other industries – mostly beer makers.”

  Hass said he was introduced to the idea of cider making through his friend and now business partner, Trevor Stock. After taking some classes and entering some contests, the latter of which produced some medal-winning results, Hass, Stock and Hass’s sister, Tiffany Downey, became the three-person team to launch the company. The InCider business plan calls for it to operate as a wholesale business with no sales directly to consumers. Accordingly, its customer base includes bars, restaurants and other outlets serving its different varieties of hard cider on tap and in bottles.

When it comes to selecting fruit for hard cider, relationships are key. Hass’ company relies upon nearby orchards and is working to build long-term partnerships. For Fackrell and Capitol Cider House, having a wide variety of nearby fruit is an advantage.

  “We work with more than a dozen orchards within 200 miles of the Capitol Building,” said Fackrell. “The best thing to do is visit orchards, talk to the growers about your needs and repeatedly order to develop grower-making partnerships. All cider is made like wine, but the approach can vary quite drastically, so whether you make cider exclusively with apples or with apples and adjuncts (non-apple components such as other fruits, spices, etc.) will determine who is on your supplier list.”


  Whether it is a small batch, tap room-focused operation or a large scale package cidery, the unexpected can happen. The year 2020 has presented its own set of challenges, none more debilitating to this niche industry than COVID-19.

  A case in point is the planned grand opening of Pomona Cider Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, headquartered in a former 2,100 square-foot film production house on the city’s east side. Co-owner Tom Gabert said that the cidery, slated to feature a tasting room with on-tap hard cider produced in-house, decided to put things on hold rather than compromise their customer service options. 

  “COVID affected our original opening date because when we open, we don’t want to limit ourselves to what we can provide to our customers. We have discussed the pick-up window sales and whatnot, but part of what is going to make this place so great is the experience and the atmosphere of it,” Gabert said.

  For Capitol Cider House, which also has a tasting room, operating during COVID-19 became a matter of quickly re-thinking where and how to get its hard cider into the marketplace. Options included farmers’ markets along with pick-up and delivery. Partnering with some 100 retailers also helped.

  “We pivoted toward retail channels less impacted by on-premise restrictions and invested heavily in wholesale by putting our cider in 12-ounce cans,” Fackrell told Beverage Master Magazine.

  For Daniel Hass and InCider, Inc., starting in his home garage may have shielded his business from COVID-19 restrictions. “We got that conditional use permit on March 3rd of this year, then on March 17th, all the coronavirus shutdowns started. Had we been anywhere else but the garage, we would have been out of business before we started.”

  Many hard cider start-ups turn to organizations to help them navigate the unknown. The American Cider Association is one channel at the national level whose membership ranges from newcomers to more established cider makers. The non-profit organization promotes education, advocacy and membership designed to strengthen the cider industry. One of its current marketing tools is a campaign known as “Pick Cider,” intending to capture more market shares for cider and promote it as the go-to beverage for food-focused holiday events.

  The ACA also offers individuals the chance to become credentialed experts through a Certified Cider Professional program, the first-of-its-kind accreditation service for food and alcohol professionals. CiderCon, an annual conference about to enter its 11th year, will be a virtual online event held during the week of February 3-5, 2021.

  Local and regional organizations sharing common interests can be just as helpful. For example, Hass and his partners turned to the Badger State Winery Co-op, which also distributes Hass & Stock Cider products. Hass said that speaking directly with state and local administrations with oversight authority is a good idea, as is communicating directly with vendors and others with the ability to get hard cider products directly to consumers.

  “The more people you know in this industry, the better. The first vendor to give us a try was Three Cellars in Menomonee Falls, run by Gino Gaglianello. He led us to other cider makers and our graphic artist, Branden Bakken,” said Hass.

  Most experts in the hard cider industry agree that experience is the best teacher. Fackrell, who opened his doors in 2018, wants to pass on what he has learned that nothing short of being in the thick of things could have taught him. 

  “Be prepared for your business environment to not only change rapidly but also to stand ready and adapt these constant changes that normally lie outside of your orbit/control.”

Promising New Equipment & Technology for the Brewing Industry

staff posing in front of a brewing  machine
Photo Courtesy of BrewBilt

By: Alyssa l. Ochs

Breweries have been around for thousands of years, and while some aspects of the brewing process remain the same, a lot is changing in the modern brewing industry. Craft beer producers have been asking for more from the machinery they use, and innovative companies have answered that demand with some exciting new technology.

  Whether your brewery is brand-new or has been around for many years, it’s worth learning about the new mechanisms, tools, technology and improvements that are being made to brewing equipment right now.

Brewer Demand Driving Innovation

  From automated bottling to bourbon-barrel aging methods and distilled hop oil, there have been many brewing industry innovations over the years. Yet modern brewers are still asking for more changes in the equipment and technology they use to suit their brewing styles and customer preferences better.

  Bob Haggerty, head brewer for Steel Bender Brewyard in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico, told Beverage Master Magazine, “While loads of improvements have been, and continue to be, made to increase the convenience and connectivity of today’s equipment, I think that the focus on fewer bells and whistles and more quality is what I look for.

  “I’m not interested that my mash tun can send me email updates and would rather have mash screens that effectively filter wort,” Haggerty said. “I am not saying that I think we should move backward and eschew technology in all forms, only that shiny gadgets don’t impress me on their own.”

Concerning brewery equipment that holds great potential for the future, Haggerty said that he has been intrigued by the idea of real-time, continuous monitoring of product in fermenters and brite tanks for data, such as gravity, pH and dissolved oxygen.

“Though I have been approached with a gadget that does this already, it came with a hefty price tag and was coupled with a pricy subscription service,” Haggerty said. “I’d be more interested in something that was lower in cost and could be installed on every tank without the obligatory online aspect or subscription model.”

  Basically, when it comes to equipment, the Steel Bender brewing team prefers the focus to be on function, not Facebook.

  Torrey Lattin, the co-owner and head brewer for Hopping Gnome Brewing Company in Wichita, Kansas, has found that the most crucial brewing equipment is basic supplies that are in high demand, such as access to aluminum cans right now.

  “There have been several shortages during the pandemic, and it has been difficult to find enough cans with most breweries increasing their to-go options,” Lattin said. “We know of a few companies that we regularly purchase from, but we’re wondering if there are more options out there and if we can discuss this more with others in the industry.”

  In terms of machinery, the most in-demand pieces of equipment are generally the ones that save brewers time during the brewing process.

  “We recently purchased a keg washer, and it is probably my favorite piece of equipment for the time and work it saves,” said Lattin. “I highly recommend it for anyone utilizing a lot of kegs.”

Recent Advancements in  Brewery Equipment

  In general, there has been a lot more automation in the various steps of the brewing process to replace manual oversight and guidance. Brewery-focused companies have created cryogenic products for hop preservation and used advanced laboratory science to effectively can beer and measure dissolved oxygen.

  Meanwhile, depalletizers help improve quality control for canning and require just one operator on the line. Some breweries use a mash filter press that is a specialized plate and frame filter to recover extract, improve wort production and be more efficient.

  A recent development involves two holes on cans’ standard ends to improve airflow and let consumers get a smoother pour with less foam. There’s also technology for cans that transform them into their own cup to eliminate the need for glassware and reduce waste. Brewery equipment is also enabling breweries to create packaging with an airtight seal that re-closes the tab after opening so you can save part of a beer for later.

  Another trend worth noting is investing in machines that can produce both beer and spirits so that beverage companies can have crossover brewery and distillery operations. A barrel-aging system makes it easy to combine these two methods of beverage production.

  Cavitation involves a rotating impeller that generates low pressures at its fast-moving tips. This process increases the rate that starch passes from pulverized malted barley into the wart and eliminates the need for milling malted barley in advance.

  Other equipment upgrades and innovations that breweries may be interested to learn about include multi-purpose aseptic container brewing vessels, kink-resistant brewery hoses, beer-serving tanks to use in taprooms as an alternative to kegs and scalable wastewater treatment.

  With regard to significant brewery equipment updates in recent years, Jef Lewis, the president of BrewBilt Manufacturing, told Beverage Master Magazine that the drop dosing tank has become very popular among breweries lately. Based in Grass Valley, California, BrewBilt is a handcrafted brewery equipment company that has been working on several exciting new pieces of equipment.

“Hopping techniques have changed since the old days, and there’s a lot of dry hopping going on in the fermentation process,” Lewis said. “The hop dosing tank allows brewers to fill it with whatever they want to add to the fermentation. You would then purge the tank of any air and begin recirculating with a pump.”

  Lewis said that, lately, his company also includes whirlpool recirculation heat exchanges.

  “These are specially designed heat exchangers that cool the wort down from boil temperature to 167 to 170 degrees in about 10 minutes,” he said. “This allows the brewer to do hop aroma additions without getting any bitterness from the hop.”

Rusty Riley, founder and president of Oronoko Iron Works in Baroda, Michigan, told Beverage Master Magazine the most significant shift he has seen in the last 10 years has been toward a greater degree of automation in every corner of the brewery, better-equipped laboratories, and better data collection and utilization. Oronoko Iron Works is a custom-fabrication, CNC plasma cutting and machining company with a foundation in the brewing and distilling industry.

  “From grain handling to the brewhouse and on to fermentation, people have begun to utilize automation and data analysis to develop more consistent processes, which, in turn, leads to a more consistent product,” Riley said. “As consumers become more health-conscious, more breweries will move into producing non-alcoholic products that still satisfy a beer drinker’s palate. I anticipate some innovation in that sector in the coming years.”

New Brewery Equipment to Consider

  One example of a new piece of equipment from BrewBilt is this company’s Wort Oxygenator that allows breweries to eliminate the need for an oxygen tank to oxygenate their wort on the way from the heat exchanger to the fermenter. This is an important piece of equipment because sanitary oxygen is the most expensive and dangerous type of gas used by breweries.

  “What we offer is a safe alternative that eliminates the recurring cost of getting a tank filled,” said Lewis. “All that is needed is a small air compressor to deliver air to a specialized filter, and what comes out is sanitary oxygen. Then it goes through a flowmeter that allows the brewer to select and monitor how much oxygen is added to the wort through a venturi.”

  Another popular piece of BrewBilt equipment is its Mobil Flow Meter. It is a magnetic, digital sanitary flow meter that can be connected to anything in the brewery through a tri-clamp.

  “Plug any 120-volt extension cord to the unit, and you’re on your way,” Lewis said. “It includes a reset button to set it back to zero when you’re done, and it’s packaged in a small, sturdy stainless-steel frame with a handle to keep it safe from the rigors of the brewery environment.”

  Other BrewBilt equipment currently on-trend with breweries are the CIP Cart that uses electric or steam heat for cleaning brewery tanks and the three- and six-head manual and automated keg washers. 

  Oronoko Iron Works launched in 2014 with a mission to build a better roll mill for brewers. It is still the company’s top product.

  “The biggest factor in consistency is repeatability, and our mills are easy to adjust and get the same setting over and over again,” Riley said. “Since day one, we’ve strived to make our mills more user-friendly and bomb-proof. We’ve created additional particle reduction solutions like hammer mills, comminutors and other types of crushers and grinders, as well as ancillary products, like bulk bag stands, bins and bag-dump stations.

  “Along the way, we discovered that our customers also have a need for automated knife gates and other automation, so we’ve begun focusing on those areas too,” Riley said. “We’ve tried to become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for our customers so we can grow as they grow.”

Conclusions and Advice About New Brewery Equipment

  Although not all equipment innovations add significant value to the brewing process, certain strategic pieces can make life much easier. For both new breweries and well-established ones, it is a smart idea to stay up-to-date on recent equipment trends and learn about forward-thinking companies that are helping brewing processes become more efficient.

  Lewis of Brewbilt recommends that breweries don’t underestimate themselves and buy too small of a brewhouse. “There are golden ratios for brewhouse tanks, like boil kettles, mash tuns and lauter tuns that greatly increase your brewhouse efficiency,” he said. “Don’t buy the wrong shape tanks!”

  Lewis also said breweries should make sure the dead space under their lauter tun’s false bottom is minimal, to get a larger hot liquor tank than you think you need and to invest in lab equipment.

  “New technology is important and exciting, but don’t overlook ROI of the technology you’re investing in and examine how it might impact the growth trajectory of your business,” said Riley of Oronoko Iron Works.

  Riley also encourages breweries to ask themselves whether investing a few more dollars now will see them through to the next phase of growth. “Look out one, two, five or 10 years and try to envision what will improve your bottom line and help you achieve those goals over that time frame.”

Mobile Canning Offers Packaging Experience & Expertise Without the Pricey Hangover

staff in a canning facility

By: Gerald Dlubala

The canned and ready-to-drink beverage markets have shown to be the current lifeblood for many craft producers. More mobile canners are adapting to their needs, helping them get their product to market without the expense of purchasing a canning line. But what is mobile canning all about? What should you look for in a mobile canning service? What should you expect when a mobile canning service comes through your door? And how do you choose?

Invest In Your Product

  “Mobile canning is an investment, and like any investment, when you decide to jump into it, it’s best to go with experience and expertise,” said John Culp, owner of Beer Dudes Mobile Canning. “Canning lines are costly. They can run you $150,000, and if a brewer or distiller is only using their canning line on a minimal basis, they are wasting way too much of both their product and their overall resources. We believe that the cutoff, or magic production number, for actually benefitting from owning a canning line is right around the 2,000 cases a month mark. If you’re seeing this kind of production on a year-round basis, then you might look into taking ownership of a canning line. Otherwise, it’s better to put your resources and capital into buying more tanks and increasing capacity. Do more of what you do best, and we’ll get it canned for you.”

  Beer Dudes Mobile Canning is a full-service mobile canning company offering expertise and experience in on-site canning of carbonated and non-carbonated products, including beer, wine, spirits, sports drinks, energy drinks and seltzers. They currently offer two complete Wild Goose canning lines with SKA Fab depalletizers and a third line in the works. The canning lines are contained and transported in box trucks or trailers equipped with ramps or rail gates that eliminate the need for a brewery or distillery to have a loading dock.

  “As a mobile canner, we’ve got a history of filling over 10 million cans, so we have the experience and expertise. We do it daily, consistently metering key elements like dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide while monitoring and performing can seaming inspections and adhering to regular maintenance of our quality machinery with parts on hand to repair them if needed,” said Culp. “There really is no difference in our service when canning different types of beverages. We use the same canning lines but with different parts. Part of the benefit of partnering with Beer Dudes Mobile Canning service is that we have a lot of money and expertise tied up in the unique parts, changeover equipment and specialized tools necessary for different canning services and needed changeovers. Our employees can react quickly and confidently to any situation that arises while the average craft brewer or distiller likely wouldn’t have the resources to do so. We have everything at hand ready to use, including premium printers.”

  Culp told Beverage Master Magazine that the canning systems are assembled on-site, usually taking about an hour. The client should provide two 110v GFCI power sources for the depalletizing, canning and seaming equipment, and possibly an air source if needed with at least 90psi and 15cfm. They do have helper compressors available or can bring a complete system when necessary, and that would require a 230v 15- or 20-amp service.

  “Give us a 10- by 26-foot space to operate in, and we’re in business,” said Culp. “Our employees depalletize and feed the cans while the client company supplies the necessary personnel (usually 2 or 3 workers) to handle the product post-filling. They can expect an average rate of 40 to 44 cases per minute stacked on 80 to 100 case pallets.”

  Beer Dudes charges a daily rate based on an eight-hour workday and consists of a one-hour setup and sanitization, six-hours of run time, and then another final hour of cleanup and breakdown. Pricing is a tier-based cost system, with lower rates as the amount of product to can rises.

  “As part of our service, we can provide anything that relates to the distributor, vendor or marketing function,” said Culp. “Our resources run the gamut and feature anything related that the producer would need, including the cans and ends, sleeves, the ability to do white labeling, etc. We have the expertise and ability to can from brite tank or keg and offer nitro dosing for nitro brews or wine filling.”

  Culp said that Beer Dudes always tries to help out the brewers that call in with an emergency, but it can be challenging because of many factors, including the can shortages that have affected the industry. While they have the necessary cans for their recurring customers, it can sometimes take six to eight weeks to source cans for a new customer.

  “The best way to combat that situation is for beverage producers to consistently plan ahead,” said Culp. “We generally look for lead times of four weeks, but those lead times are inherently dependent on the specific customer’s needs. We always recommend that a brewer or distiller adhere to a canning schedule and then regularly get on our calendar so that they always have a set appointment.

  Another issue is getting the client’s artwork ahead of time. We can offer guidance and consult, but the initial artwork requires Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade approval. It’s also helpful if the brewer adheres to our recommendations regarding temperature and carbonation levels for their products. By following these recommendations, we can immediately limit the amount of waste and product loss and get to canning faster.

  “The bottom line is we’re in the business of supporting craft beverage producers,” said Culp. “We help them remain effective and competitive while getting their product out to market. A trend under current market conditions is for some craft brewers and distillers to operate within a smaller footprint, so we will soon offer a smaller canning unit that will be able to roll right through their standard front door. Other producers may have the resources and capability to produce a great product, but they don’t have the equipment or knowledge as to how to get those products packaged and ready for market. Beer Dudes is, like most mobile canning businesses, a regionally based operation, but will soon be adding the title of regional co-packer to their business as well.”

  Beer Dudes already holds all the licensing needed to be considered a manufacturing winery, distillery and brewery. Customers will soon be able to manufacture their beverage and then can it right at their co-packing facility in Denton, Texas. With the exception of transporting craft beer because of Texas law, they can transport a client’s beverages to their facility to be canned, or buy larger quantities of product, like wine, from a larger producer for the purpose of packaging and selling it in smaller quantities or lots under different labels.

Choose Knowledge And Experience

  Before Sean Kingston started WilCraft Can, a provider of mobile canning solutions for the brewing and distilling industries, he amassed 13 years of chemical and aerosol engineering experience at SC Johnson. He fully understands the process of maintaining quality regarding the liquid filling of pressurized products. He and his like-minded team bring that critical engineering mentality and knowledge to WilCraft Can.

  “Look, canning lines aren’t cheap, so a craft brewer needs to ask themselves a few questions and then answer honestly,” said Kingston, owner and Chief Operating Officer of WilCraft Can. “Are you consistently canning at least 1000 cases a week? Can you afford the valuable floor space you’ll be giving up to a permanent canning line? Can you afford the training and retraining of employees to stay up to date and remain efficient with the canning line and potential maintenance issues? What tasks aren’t getting done because your employees are busy canning your product.”

  “As a brewer or distiller, your first and foremost task is to produce the best product you can,” said Kingston. “If you’re ready to expand, then use any available extra resources to expand production rather than jump into the packaging business. Do more of what you do best, and we’ll use our expertise to complement that with our seamless process to can and package your product to your specifications, even down to specific carbonations levels. We can suggest temperature levels, but your beer is your beer, and we’ll adjust our equipment to keep it that way.”

  WilCraft Can willingly works with any contact and supplier you prefer. Still, their experienced team comes prepared with all of the quality contacts needed for filling and packaging your product, including the availability of quality aluminum cans.

  “All we really need to know is the size of can you need and two to three weeks advance notice of the artwork you want on your cans, and we can do the rest,” said Kingston. “The producer supplies one or two people along with a three-phase power supply, compressed air and a CO2 supply and space for us to set up. We use premier Codi Counter Pressure Fillers, SKA Fab depalletizers and pressure-sensitive labelers to produce a fresh, consistent and customer appreciated canned product, all essential qualities for a craft beverage producer.”

  Kingston believes that by using a mobile canning business, beverage producers can see how their business is doing regarding base profitability and best-selling products. They can then make adjustments and decisions to grow their business better.

  “Packaging and canning expertise is even more critical in today’s market conditions,” said Kingston. “Craft producers should always look for credentialed quality and exceptional customer service in a mobile canner. It can be easy for mobile canners to get grouped into the inexperienced market category, but we at WilCraft Can have years of packaging and canning experience behind us. That experience allows us to fill a critical need in the craft beverage market by offering a well-informed and knowledgeable mobile canning business. We understand the entire process, start to finish. If a canner doesn’t ask you what the final gravity of your product is or make accommodations for variances in cans and can manufacturers that affect target fill weight, you may want to look elsewhere.”

  “Additionally, quality customer service is always crucial,” said Kingston. “Delivering on a promise is critical, and we do what we say we’re going to do. We respond to emergencies as best as we can, and our record of nearly 400 runs without a miss is something we are extremely proud of. On that same note, brewers can help themselves out by thinking ahead and planning at least four weeks in advance. They know that they’re going to have to can their product, so plan ahead and guarantee the time and necessary resources.”

  Kingston told Beverage Master Magazine that he believes that the specific guidelines and benchmarks for manufacturing set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology will eventually be coming to mobile canning.

  “WilCraft Can is already prepared for that move. We have them implemented and adhere to them daily, including critical documentation practices. The saying goes that if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen, so continuous documenting of specific practices is mandatory.”

  WilCraft Can stays focused on the canning process with an eye on supply and keeping adequate inventory. They pride themselves on reacting to the marketplace with confidence in having an adequate supply of materials to meet their customer’s needs. They also have a growth plan of supplying cans at minimums far below current market demands that they will directly print on, eliminating the need to use sleeves or labels.

West Avenue Cider House Pushes the Limits of Apple Cider

bucket of bottled beer

By: Alyssa Andres

Over the past decade, the cider industry in Canada has taken off, with over 150 cideries across the country and 55 in the province of Ontario. The cidery that continues to stand out amongst the crowd is West Avenue Cider House. Since establishing in 2012, West Avenue has drawn massive attention from cider lovers and connoisseurs alike, winning awards nationally and internationally for their line of ciders. The Ontario cidery not only uses traditional, slow fermentation methods and an array of Heritage apples to create their unique brand of apple cider, but owner and head cidermaker, Chris Haworth, also experiments with alternative techniques and approaches to cidermaking, creating never before seen products that are changing the way people think about apple cider.

  Haworth started his career as a chef in the U.K., working in some of London’s best restaurants, including Quo Vadis, owned by three Michelin star chef, Marco Pierre White. Haworth made the move to Canada in 2005 with his wife, Amy Robson, and that is when he started to take an interest in fermentation, brewing beer at home as a part-time hobby. As the couple got settled in Canada, Haworth noticed there were a lot of apples in Ontario, but not a lot of apple cider. It was in 2008 that he decided to leave the kitchen and make the shift into full-time cidermaking.

  Haworth takes a very traditional approach to cidermaking. All of his cider is made by traditional methods using slow fermentation. He only ferments when there are apples on the trees because he is focused on quality ingredients and authentic flavors. While many cideries can take only three weeks to get from ferment to shelf, West Avenue cider takes six months to go through the same process. Haworth believes this is what sets his cider apart. The cool ferments lend his ciders more complex aromatics and distinct flavors that are native to Ontario and cannot be reproduced anywhere else. He adds yeast from previous batches of cider to his new ferments to encourage this unique West Avenue flavor.

  Haworth’s first release, the West Avenue Heritage Dry, is a 6.5% alcohol by volume, traditional cider made from 100% Heritage apples. The cider took home “Best Cider in Ontario” at the 2014 Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention Hard Cider Competition and a silver at the 2014 Great Lakes and International Cider and Perry Competition. It continues to win awards each year, as does the cidery itself. West Avenue has taken home “Best Cidery in Ontario” four years in a row at the Golden Tap Awards.

  After mastering the art of the dry apple cider, Haworth started to experiment with blends, releasing West Avenue Cherriosity Cider in 2015 – a mix of Heritage apples and Montmorency cherries from Niagara. Cherriosity took home a silver at the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention that year and won Best in Show at the 2015 Royal Winter Fair. The two ciders – Heritage Dry and Cherriosity – are mainstays at West Avenue Cider House and can be found in liquor stores across Ontario. 

  After experiencing such success with his first two releases, in 2015, Haworth decided to move his growing business to Freelton, Ontario, just north of Hamilton, purchasing a 75-acre piece of land and starting his own organic apple orchard. Since then, Haworth has become what he calls an “apple collector,”  planting over 6,000 apple trees and over 110 different varietals of Heritage apples on his property, with more on the way. Some of these species of apples are 200 to 300 years old and are extremely uncommon.

  Right now, Haworth’s trees are still young, but he says the quality of the fruit is increasing from year-to-year and the true characteristics of the apples are starting to come through. He ultimately wants to capture the unique terroir of his orchard and figure out which varietals thrive in Ontario and where, in the orchard, they produce the highest quality fruit. He is also learning about the different flavor profiles of his extensive varietals of apples. Some of the apples are so high in natural sugars that they can reach 35% ABV when fermented on their own. Others are extremely high in acidity.

  In the long run, Haworth wants to determine the perfect blend of apples to make the ultimate apple cider. He has started planting several other native Ontario fruits, herbs, edible flowers and shrubs on his property to use in his ciders. He currently has 10 varieties of pears and other unexpected additions like sea buckthorn, black locust, elderberry and sumac, just to name a few. He says it’s like he’s trying to create his own cookbook of sorts with a multitude of cider recipes and concoctions that he has developed over the years.

  He is able to focus more on his experimental ciders since opening a tasting room on the property in 2017. The tasting room has a growler program that Haworth says has really taken off. Guests can come and fill their growlers with the latest on-tap offerings, and Haworth doesn’t have to worry about the cost of bottling. Currently, West Avenue is producing half a million pints a year. Haworth estimates the production is 50/50 experimental versus traditional flagship ciders he sells to restaurants and retailers. He has taken full advantage of this opportunity to experiment and has an extensive number of offerings in the tasting room in various styles and flavor profiles.

  Haworth is continuously searching for new approaches to create a remarkable cider. Just as a chef continues to learn different kitchen techniques, Haworth continues his education in cidermaking. Once he masters one method, he moves on to learn another. He has also begun to study winemaking and is now experimenting with using traditional winemaking techniques on his cider. As a chef, he says it started with the idea of not leaving any waste and using all of his raw materials. When he saw wineries throwing out their pressed grape skins, he decided to take them and add them to a vat of fermenting apple juice. The result was a beautiful rosé-colored cider, with bright fruit and mild tannins that won a silver medal that year in an American competition. A lightbulb went off in his head.

  From there, Haworth started buying grape juice from local producers and creating wine-cider hybrids. Rhineapple, one of the tasting room’s current offerings, is a blend of 35% Niagara Riesling grapes and 65% Northern Spry and Snow apples. This 9.2% ABV traditional method sparkling wine-cider hybrid is bright and floral with pear and honey notes. The apples and grapes are fermented together in bottle using an in-house strain of yeast. Haworth also experiments with wild yeast that is naturally occurring on the skins of the apples. He uses it to produce ancestral style ciders. One of his latest ciders, Pommerage, uses a Meritage blend of grapes fermented in oak before being combined with apple cider. At 11% ABV, this unique hybrid is a perfect substitute for wine and pairs excellently with food.

  Haworth is also experimenting with the use of a variety of barrels – from wine to tequila to rum. Genevieve is an apple cider aged in gin barrels and blended with ginger, peach, lavender and lactose. The barrels add depth and complexity to ciders rarely found in the industry. It is obvious when visiting the West Avenue tasting room that there is a chef at hand.

  Haworth is even making “ice cider,” made in the same way as ice wine – by pressing frozen apples, so the sugars are incredibly concentrated. Northern Lights is an ice cider aged for five years in cognac barrels, producing a syrupy sweet cider with an incredible body and notes of caramel, pecan and orange zest.

  Firecracker is a dessert-style cider made using a totally different technique – a maple syrup evaporator. Instead of freezing the apples to concentrate the sugars, Haworth wanted to try using the same method as maple syrup, essentially cooking the apples over a Maplewood fire to evaporate the water. The result is a thick and viscous 8.5% ABV cider with maple, nut and smoke notes. It’s perfect for sipping around a campfire.

  It’s hard to fathom what is next for Chef Haworth. Each year, he continues to hone his cidermaking skills and try new and innovative methods. He says, ultimately, for him, the obsession is to be able to create the “perfect cider.” Just as a winemaker seeks the perfect blend of grapes, he believes there is the perfect blend of apples. He says that in five years, he should be at the point where he has figured out that perfect blend, whether it be a blend of three different apples or ten. That is something cider lovers should look forward to.

COVID-19 Continues to Impact Canadian Craft Beer Industry

staff in face mask

By: Briana Doyle

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape the craft beer landscape in Canada. Unlike in the spring, when businesses closed from coast-to-coast, what breweries are experiencing to-day is very different depending on where they are in Canada.

  Breweries in the Maritime provinces — Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador — are almost back to business as usual, thanks to the Atlantic Bubble. Strict mask-wearing and sanitation rules, along with aggressive contact tracing, have left this part of Canada with some of the lowest rates of COVID-19 in the world.

  Like Australia and New Zealand, the remote Maritime region has benefited from its isolation. This region has almost completely eliminated cases of COVID-19 thanks to strict travel re-strictions that require anyone entering the region — including fellow Canadians — to self-quarantine for 14 days. The only other Canadian region with a similar requirement is the Northwest Territories, which also has a low number of cases.

  Even here, however, festivals and events have been canceled, restaurant and pub seating ca-pacities are reduced and gathering limits have been imposed to reduce the risk of super-spreading events that could lead to a resurgence of COVID-19.

  In Quebec, by contrast, breweries and brewpubs, like bars and restaurants, were forced to close again this fall as partial lockdowns were reimposed to quell the spread of COVID-19. When this column was written, it appeared that other provinces, including Ontario, British Co-lumbia and Alberta, were heading in the same direction.

  For breweries in Canada’s COVID-19 hot spots, the playing field is far from even. Each prov-ince has responded differently to the pandemic. In Ontario, for example, home delivery has emerged as an important sales channel for craft breweries. Taprooms that were focused on servicing their local community are now launching full-fledged e-commerce websites and ship-ping beer anywhere the rules allow.

  The province has relaxed certain rules around alcohol delivery, which has opened up new op-portunities for brewpubs to sell beer from other breweries — something the craft beer industry has been lobbying for over many years. Dominion City in Ottawa, for example, is now offering a “Friends of the Dominion” variety pack featuring a handpicked selection of Ontario beers. The package comes with a bag of chips — the token “food” item to meet the restaurant license re-quirements.

  In areas hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic, many breweries are struggling to stay afloat. To offer some of these producers a little lift, Canadian brewery supplier, Hops Connect, created a pandemic beer called Isolation Nation, a light and refreshing ale with notes of man-darin, lemon and tea. The company provided the hops and malt required to produce it, at no cost, to 45 breweries from coast-to-coast to help them make a little extra cash. The beer is made from Canadian-grown malt and locally produced Sasquatch hops.

  The first brewery to launch its version of Isolation Nation was the New Maritime Beer Company in Miramichi, New Brunswick. The brewery opened in 2020 and brewed its inaugural batch of beer just two days before the first pandemic shutdowns in March. Co-founder Adam Lordon told CBC News that it was hard to think of worse timing for the shutdown. “It was pretty much at the beginning and the worst possible timing. The startup phase is certainly challenging enough and can be stressful enough in the best of times,” he said. To pay it forward, the brew-ery is donating a portion of profits from the sale of this beer to the local food bank.

  New Maritime Beer Company is still in business, for now at least, but many other Canadian craft breweries are closing operations or seriously considering it. After six years in business, Ontario’s Abe Erb Brewing announced in October that it would shut all four of its locations in Waterloo, Kitchener, Ayr Village and Guelph.

  In Alberta, Mill Street Brewery announced in late October that it would close its Calgary brew-pub due to COVID-19. Mill Street’s other brewpubs in Toronto, Ottawa and St. John’s will re-main open.

  In British Columbia, Central City Brewers + Distillers also closed one of its Red Racer Tap-houses in downtown Vancouver after five years.

  In April, a survey of craft breweries conducted by the Canadian Craft Brewers Association found that 44% reported a year-over-year drop in revenue of 50% or more when the pandemic hit in March. 

  Most breweries who responded to the survey reported having cash reserves for only three months or less. Although the federal government has introduced financial support programs for businesses, many craft breweries did not meet the requirements for financial aid. Establish-ments in business for less than a year did not qualify for many programs, for example, while other programs specifically excluded alcohol-based enterprises. 

  With restaurants and bars closed in many parts of the country, more Canadians are eating and drinking at home these days. A poll released in June by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found that one in five Canadians who drink alcohol and have been staying home more since the pandemic drink more often than before the onset of the pandemic. About 20% said they have a drink every day.

  “It is reassuring to see that for the majority of Canadians, alcohol use has either decreased or remained stable since the onset of COVID-19,” said Dr. Catherine Paradis, senior research and policy analyst at CCSA. “However, from a gender perspective, there is concern. On average, female consumers of alcohol are reporting 2.4 alcoholic drinks per occasion — which is above the low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines — and about 12% are reporting they consume alcohol in excess when they drink. By doing so, women are putting themselves at risk for short- and long-term negative health consequences.”

  As awareness grows of the negative health impacts of alcohol, a growing number of millennial beer-lovers are now looking for low- and no-alcohol beer alternatives. Between 2013 and 2018, nonalcoholic beer sales increased more than 50%, and over the past year, the category has grown 12% in total volume.

  In a press release announcing the launch of alcohol-free Budweiser Zero in Canada this fall, the company noted that consumer data reveals the 19-to-34-year-old age group, including mil-lennials and older members of Generation Z, led all demographic groups in consumption vol-ume of nonalcoholic beer.

  These “sober-curious” consumers aren’t necessarily teetotallers but are seeking responsible alternatives when they do not wish to drink booze, whether for health reasons or because they don’t want to drink and drive.

  According to Budweiser’s research, 64% of no- and low-alcohol beer is consumed by those in the 19-to-34 bracket. Women most often choose nonalcoholic beer as an alternative to sugary drinks, and men see it as suitable for a variety of social occasions.

  It isn’t just big breweries that have noticed this consumer trend. This fall, Beau’s Brewing in Ontario joined a growing number of breweries offering lower-alcohol options for customers, with the introduction of Lug Tread 2.5% — a lighter version of its flagship brew.

  Beau’s designed the layered ale to mimic the taste of the company’s most popular beer, Lug Tread, with a blend of barley malts and wheat delivering fresh grain flavor and a satisfying mouthfeel. The brew has mild herbal and orchard fruit notes and a clean finish. 

  “This is no watered down, bland ‘lite’ beer,” company co-founder Steve Beauchesne told Na-tion Valley News. “We’ve put time and care into developing this recipe, and we’re super happy with the results. This is a low alcohol beer that actually tastes like craft beer.”

  The beer is available in single 473mL cans at provincial liquor stores and the brewery, and will also be in the brewery’s six-pack winter sampler.

  In the spring, Toronto-based Rorschach Brewing also launched a nonalcoholic offshoot, Free Spirit Brewing, which debuted with the 0%, low-calorie Adventure IPA. The beer is available in cans and on tap at the brewery.

  Microbrasserie Le BockAle, based in Drummondville, Quebec, has gone even farther. The company has made a name for itself producing nonalcoholic craft beer, which it distributes throughout Quebec and Ontario. In June, the company also launched an e-commerce website offering free shipping across Canada. Le BockAle offers three core beer varieties, Découverte IPA, Berliner Sonne Berliner Weisse and Trou Noir Stout, as well as occasional limited-edition releases.

  Likewise, Toronto-based Partake Brewing has developed a line of five low-calorie, nonalcohol-ic craft beers that have proven popular in Canada: a red, IPA, blonde, pale ale and stout. Now the company is getting set to expand into the U.S. In September, Partake announced that it raised $4 million of Series A capital in a funding round led by San Francisco-based CircleUp Growth Partners.

  The new funds will accelerate the company’s growth, specifically in the U.S. market, by allowing the brand to secure key hires, grow its distribution and retail network and build consumer brand awareness. This growth will support Partake Brewing’s expanding coverage with retailers such as Total Wine & More and Whole Foods Market.