Exploring the Intersection of Beer and Whiskey

By: Becky Garrison

As James Saxon of London based Compass Box observes, historically, distilleries often grew out of breweries or operated alongside them with the union of beer and whisky rooted in process. “Until the 1950s and 1960s, many distilleries would even use yeast cultured and maintained within breweries to ferment their wort. We are starting to see more distilleries re-introduce brewers’ yeast for the flavor impact it can have.”

  Also, Saxon finds the role of the malt recipe or ‘mash bill’ for brewers to be fascinating. “I see the balancing of pale, crystal and chocolate malts to drive flavor and mouthfeel in beer as related to how we introduce different degrees of toasting and charring to the casks we use for whisky maturation.” In his estimation, both drinks benefit from the blender’s ethos. “When enjoyed together, you can experience the skillful layering of texture and flavor in new ways, discovering hidden qualities in the beer and surprising flavors in the whisky.”

  StormBreaker Brewing, a Portland, Oregon based brewpub known for offering whiskey beer pairings, launched Brewstillery in 2014 as a way of showcasing the range of beer and spirit pairings possible among Pacific Northwest brewers and distillers. Traditionally, this festival WAS held in February to commemorate the month when StormBreaker launched. This event featured 20 brewers and distillers paired together along live music and special food offerings with proceeds going to support the local charity Dollar for Portland. (While the festival was on hold due to Covid, StormBreaker hopes to launch the festival again in 2022.)

  When Sebastian Dejens, owner, Stone Barn Brandyworks in Portland, OR was invited to the first Brewstillery, he found this event represented a wonderful opportunity to pair up with some brewers for some creativity and discovery.  Three years into this festival, he told StormBreaker founders

Dan Malech and Rob Lutz that he would buy mash from them if they came up with a window of opportunity.

  For a few days the entire brewing capacity focused on producing roughly 150 gallons of beer. Dejens picked up this beer using a 275-gallon tote placed on the back of his truck that he filled from the tank.  Malech describes their brewing process for this particular beer. “We took our Red and bumped up the grain bill and the kettle hop additions for an intense hoppiness, complemented by a spicy dryness from the rye, but balanced nicely by malty caramel flavors. After fermentation we got hop crazy and dry hopped this beer with 3 lbs/bbl for an explosion of tropical fruit and a citrus nose.” Malech and Lutz named this beer “Good Not Great” (ABV: 8% IBU: 76) which went on to receive a gold medal in the 2020 World Beer Cup Awards in the Imperial Red Ale category.

  In 2020, Dejens released his first whiskey made from this beer. The name of this 92-proof whiskey Barnstormer is a mashup of the names Stone Barn and StormBreaker, with the whimsical label produced by StormBreaker’s label designer. This whiskey had a malty brown sugar sweetness with a nutty finish. Since this initial venture, Dejens continued to collaborate with StormBreaker each year on producing a barrel of whiskey using StormBreaker’s beer. In 2020, Dejens made two barrels as Stormbreaker had increased their barrel capacity. “There needs to be an element of space in the process. You’re making this for three to five years down the road, and you’re just hoping it’s all going to turn out,” Dejens reflected.

  Joshua M. Bernstein, a Brooklyn-based beer, spirits, food and travel journalist, parses the similarity between beer and whiskey from a production standpoint. “Beer and whiskey share a common starting point: grains are simmered to make a sugar-rich broth on which yeast feast, creating alcohol. Typically, a major difference is that distilleries are usually concerned with getting the most sugars (read: potential alcohol) from their grains, then letting the barrels contribute the lion’s share of flavor and aroma. Contrasting that, breweries use a full suite of grains, even darker-roasted ones that contribute fewer fermentable sugars. But now we’re seeing distilleries such as Westland Distilling in Seattle, WA take a craft brewer’s approach to grain selection, building big flavors with any and all grains before the distillates touch wood.”

Craft Brewers Turned

Single Malt Whiskey Distillers

  When Jason Parker, former head brewer with the Seattle based Pike Brewing Company, decided to co-found Copperworks Distilling with Micah Nutt, they knew they couldn’t compete with those established distilleries known for distilling spirits via traditional methods. Their process resulted in products with consistent flavor profiles that have been recognized by consumers for hundreds of years.

  So, they wondered what would happen if they were to distill high-quality beer. “We left the hops out of the beer to keep out the bitterness, and then distilled the beer into vodka, gin, and whiskey,” Parker noted.

  Positive customer feedback led Parker and Nutt to conclude they could produce quality spirits without following traditional distilling techniques. For example, brewers turned distillers such as Parker and Christian Krogstad, founder of House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon, use yeasts and grains that are utilized by many craft brewers but not found in spirits produced by traditional distillers.

  Also, Copperworks is one of the few distilleries that produces a sanitary fermentation—the way breweries do—by boiling their wash for an hour. This process drives off some of the water thereby concentrating the sugar content and sanitizes the wash. When fermented with brewer’s yeast, this produces clean fruity and floral flavors, rather than the sour flavors produced by traditional methods. “All brewers know that boiling their wash kills bacteria and wild yeasts and results in a beer that tastes better and lasts longer. But if you do this for a distilled spirit, it results in new flavors and aromas, unlike the tastes of traditional spirits.” In addition, they leave unfermented sugars in their fermenters, which when distilled and barreled, produces a sense of sweetness in their spirits that’s more commonly associated with craft beers.

Beer and Whiskey Pairings  

  In Parker’s estimation, hops can be so dominant in beer that one cannot discern the beer’s base malt flavor. Hence, his preference when pairing whiskey and beer is to drink a beer low enough in hops so that he can taste the malt. “If I’m lucky enough, I can drink the beer followed by the whiskey being made from this beer,” he states. In particular, Parker loves beer cocktails such as those made at the Seattle based Pike Brewing Company’s seafood restaurant Tankard & Tun which features cocktails made with Pike Brewing’s beer and Copperworks spirits. Beer can provide the sparkling effervescence in cocktails normally obtained via Prosecco or carbonated water along with some sweetness and spice (hops). Parker notes that these cocktails aren’t often on most cocktail menus as this isn’t a skill set practiced by most bartenders. “The challenge is to use a small enough amount of beer to turn it into an effervescent cocktail without having it become a boozy beer,” he opines.

  Saxon is always inclined to start with pale ales and IPAs for their whiskies. “Many of our products have a creamy character thanks to American oak maturation and this mellows the hoppy bite of the beer. Equally, the citrus and tropical flavors of these brews can pull out the subtle fruit notes concealed within the whiskies we use.” Among their favorite pairings included The Spice Tree with a brown ale from the Kernel Brewery, based – like us – in London that was malty, toffee-sweet and richly nutty all at once. So flavorsome and just deliciously pleasurable. “Definitely a boilermaker for the autumn,” Saxon mused. 

  Wanderback (Hood River, OR) chief whiskey maker, Phil Downer prefer their malt forward whiskey paired with a brown ale, porter, or stout. “The malted barley we use for our whiskey are similar to the malts used to make these beers, so they are an easy pairing.  I should generally pair a lighter beer like a pilsner or lager with a lighter whiskey, like a Crown Royal Rye or lighter bourbon.” A purist Downer prefers to sample beer and whiskey separately. “I like them usually on their own to appreciate all the fun things going on in each.”

Innovation Helps Modernize Brewing Equipment

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

At Beverage Master Magazine, we’re always looking to keep up with craft brewing trends, which more often than not relates to pieces of innovative equipment and new technologies. Certain types of new equipment are slowly but steadily being introduced to breweries, as are new technologies, tools, mechanisms and improvements to processes relied upon in the past.

  These things factor into how efficiently breweries can operate during challenging times and how memorable their beers are when they reach consumers. To learn more about the role of new equipment in the modern brewery setting, we looked into what’s being used in breweries lately and what industry leaders who work in this space are saying.

Types of Equipment & New Changes

  There are a few essential equipment types that breweries use today. Examples include the malt mill, mash tun, filtration system, heat exchanger and brite tank. Breweries also regularly use pumps, valves, kegs, hydrometers and equipment for dispensing and packaging.

  While experienced brewers are already familiar with all of these things, they might be interested in new equipment options and types of technology to potentially save time, money or labor. Certain machinery may preserve hops better, improve quality control or keep processes more consistent for a better result. Meanwhile, new technology might facilitate multi-purpose machines in a small space or accommodate a shift to using more cans as the business grows. As the industry continues to trend toward aluminum cans, canning equipment is in demand and being considered by brewers who have traditionally stuck to glass bottles.

Equipment and Technology Worth Learning About

  These days, there are fully automated, multi-vessel systems to serve breweries’ needs and specialized wort aeration and oxygenation equipment to

improve brewing processes. Developments have been made to pneumatic conveyors that remove spent grains and tank systems that save water and conserve energy by using compressed air instead of CO2 and have recyclable inner bags. Meanwhile, sustainable design and build practices have been gaining traction for environmental stewardship, future economic vitality and customers’ social enrichment.

  We’ve been following specific advancements, including BrewSavor’s kink-resistant hoses, Thielmann’s multi-purpose aseptic containers, and Twin Monkeys’ low-key and affordable automatic canning line. IntelligentX software compares supply chain and production constraints with beer drinkers’ preferences, and FliteBrite created a “smart flight” serving system to assist menu development at establishments serving craft beer.

  Other machinery and technology-related updates include fully automated, stainless steel crossflow filters for better beer filtration and automated brewing systems with touch screens and mobile technology graphics. These brewing systems are equipped with artificial intelligence features that give feedback on beer produced while integrating customer feedback with manufacturing data. Some professional brewers are not particularly interested in all these “bells and whistles” and believe they are not worth the money and extra staff training to do what they already do best. However, new breweries and current establishments undergoing transition may be curious to adopt a few practical, high-tech features to create a more automated, organized or modern operation.

  Even some seemingly simple pieces of equipment, such as kegs, have been updated to make them more suitable for the current brewing environment. Now you can find stainless steel barrels with automated control systems for better precision and slim diameter kegs to store beer in limited spaces.

  Justin Willenbrink, Blefa Kegs’ sales director for North America, told Beverage Master Magazine that while not much has changed over the years concerning stainless steel kegs, the innovation comes from the barrels’ safety and quality.

  “Each keg from Blefa comes with an integrated pressure relief valve to reduce the risk to producers and on-premise staff by creating a safe failure,” Willenbrink said. “Quality has been the cornerstone of our company for more than 100 years. Durability can only be guaranteed by high-quality material, reliable operating production equipment, highly qualified staff and high-precision manufacturing according to your specifications. These high-quality standards allow us to be the only manufacturer of stainless steel kegs in the world to offer a guarantee of 30 years – a promise to all our customers that they have purchased a reliable and extremely durable asset.”

  Blefa and American Keg partnered in early 2020 to serve the North American market with a domestic manufacturer. Since then, the companies have been working together to upgrade their equipment and support U.S. customer needs, ensuring that efficiency gains in production align with the quality standards of both companies.

  “As a world’s leader in stainless steel packaging, Blefa and American Keg can provide various sizes from 10 liters to 59.62 liters. The U.S. 1/2 bbl, slim 1/4 bbl and 1/6 bbl are the most popular for both on- and off-premise needs. All kegs from our stock are equipped with drop-in D-Type spears from Micro Matic,” Willenbrink said. 

Buy New, Used or Lease?

  When brewers think about updating their equipment, dollar signs often flash before their eyes as new equipment costs start adding up. However, there are options available for breweries on tight budgets, such as leasing new or buying used equipment still in great condition.

  Canning lines are among the most common systems that breweries debate about buying or leasing. Leasing involves entering into a legal agreement for a specified time and works somewhat like a loan. At the end of the lease period, the effectiveness of the equipment may be significantly diminished and therefore not an attractive purchase for another brewing operation. However, you may be able to purchase your current machine for a discounted price. As long as it is still in good working condition, this is an ideal option since staff would already be familiar with it, and you would not encounter any delay in production.

  Capital leases are common, especially when a brewery is only looking to update a single piece of equipment rather than start from scratch or do a total equipment overhaul. It may be beneficial to have a lawyer look over any lease agreement before signing to check the interest rates, accounting implications and terms of the lease in case of equipment malfunctions and who is responsible for repairs. Other considerations include any plans for expansion, durability and logistics of getting equipment into and out of the facility.

What’s Next for Brewing Equipment and Technology?

  There’s a lot to look forward to for brewers who keep an eye out for the next great invention. Many manufacturers and suppliers have a finger on the pulse of the industry and can anticipate the needs of brewers in the years ahead. These companies’ successes depend on how well they change and adapt to the shifts and evolutions of the industry, especially during pandemic times.

  When asked how brewing equipment can best adapt to the changing needs of the modern brewery, Willenbrink said stainless steel kegs are the most well-equipped for providing a quality product because they protect the beverage from harmful UV light and oxidation while ensuring that quality isn’t compromised. 

  “Not only is it the most profitable package, but it is also the most sustainable with stainless steel kegs being 100% recyclable,” he said. “When it comes to the packaging of beer, wine or soft drinks, kegs made of stainless steel offer the best protection. In their reliability, economic efficiency and sustainability, our kegs provide first-class results.”

Willenbrink’s advice to breweries looking at new equipment is to never compromise on quality and make investments in assets that offer maximum safety and reliability for your needs.

  “By choosing a quality supplier, you are making a decision to work with a company that has invested in automation and quality control systems that ensure the highest level of precision and process,” he said. “Comprehensive support from first contact through delivery and continuing with service capabilities from highly qualified technical staff ensure experience and commitment to each investment made.”

  With more automation, there should be greater consistency from one brewer to the next, something vital during staffing changes and high service industry turnover rates. Yet, these machines and technologies don’t remove brewers from their craft; they simply eliminate tedious processes so that beverage producers can have more time to be creative and take their passion for great beer to the next level.

Precision in Canning and Bottling Craft Beer

By: Cheryl Gray

The can or bottle of craft beer consumers select from store shelves is more than attractive packaging. The elements that go into fabricating, filling and sealing those containers can make the difference between a flat beer, leaking containers, or worse yet, a contaminated product.   

  To avoid these pitfalls, craft brewers turn to companies whose specialties are to help the brewing industry protect its most important asset—the beer it makes. There is expertise to address virtually every need that brewers, large and small, can rely upon to meet their production needs.

  American Canning is one of those experts. The company, headquartered in Austin, Texas, launched in 2013 making equipment, supplies and mobile canning services accessible to craft brewers regardless of their budgets. Clients navigate the company’s user-friendly e-commerce site to order as many or as few supplies as needed. Most items are shipped on the same day. Melody Meyer is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for American Canning.  

  “As a mobile canning company, supply distributor, and machine manufacturer, American Canning is uniquely positioned to help brewers understand and evaluate all facets of a value-driven canning operation. It specializes in the craft beverage space and is equipped to address customer needs from planning, to supply procurement and production execution.”   

  Meyer cautions that assessing a brewery’s packaging requirements involves more than just machinery. As canning needs and goals are addressed along with space, labor and financial considerations, Meyer says that there are two more essential questions for a brewery to keep in mind.   

  “What is the total volume and type of can-packaged product that needs to be canned? And how will it be packaged?”

  Meyer adds that once these questions are addressed, American Canning readies its clients for next steps in the ever-changing packaging environment of the craft brewing industry. 

  “Considerations must be made from all available options, including manual vs automatic, atmospheric vs counterpressure, in-line vs rotary, and intermittent vs continuous motion with regard to each’s capacity, quality, consistency, repeatability, ease-of-use. Small batch packaging of one beverage type for on-premise service may best be accomplished with a compact and cost-effective, countertop filler/seamer whereas larger-scale distribution of numerous products in multiple can styles would require a more robust, flexible, and higher speed counterpressure, rotary line.

    While I can’t speak for every manufacturer, American Canning is focused on engineering products with the highest quality process controls, at an approachable price point, for compact craft spaces, all while being incredibly easy-to-use with minimum operators and little to no product waste. It’s a tall task, but our two filler/seamer machines have already achieved these goals. We simply believe we can expand upon our foundation into a variety of machines with different speeds and filling capabilities, not to mention the ancillary machines that are needed to surround a filler seamer, such as infeed tables and can handle applicators.” 

  SKA Fabricating in Durango, Colorado is another manufacturer with its eye on the future packaging needs of craft breweries, providing its customers with a wide range of depalletizers, conveyors, and packaging line equipment. The company was founded in 2012 by craft brewer Matt Vincent, whose award-winning Ska Brewing is touted as the

largest in Durango. While Ska Fabricating was born out of necessity to address the brewing, packaging and distribution of Ska Brewing, its innovations help breweries around the globe. With more than 1,000 clients across the United States and abroad, Marketing Director Elise Mackay says that the company is well-positioned to handle virtually any packaging need. 

  “Ska Fabricating provides total packaging lines from beverage to non-beverage industries across the globe. They range from canned or bottled beer, cannabis, kombucha and coffee to aerosol or paint cans and spice jars. We are well-rounded and diverse enough to handle just about anything. Our systems can range from a 20’ x 20’ square at 20 containers a minute to a 60’ x 60’ square running 250CPM and above! We do everything we can to accommodate the space and speeds of a prospect’s needs.” 

  Mackay explains how the company has adapted to the changing demands of the craft brewing industry and how it works with clients to create the most cost-effective solutions. One major decision is whether to opt for automated or manual systems. 

  “Automation is key when it comes to running an economic line and has a number of upsides compared to manual systems. Our manual systems are available for half-height use which is ideal for a low-budget startup but requires more personnel. When the time is right, we have several solutions to help in the next steps of automation. 

  We are constantly striving to make our products better and have adapted over the years through various market changes and requests for specific additions. Anything from safety, line controls, and using our date coding system to hit the bottom of the can instead of the flange are being implemented.” 

  California-based XpressFill Systems LLC manufactures a wide range of can and bottle filling systems designed with ease of use and longevity as top priorities. The company, headquartered in San Luis Obispo, was founded in 2007 and serves multiple industries, including craft brewing. Technology is a primary focus. The company offers several models that capture volumetric, level fill and carbonated beverage technology.  Rod Silver, who spearheads Marketing and Sales for XpressFill Systems, describes features of some of the firm’s products, which he says are affordable, compact and easy to use. 

  “The volumetric filler controls the amount of fill with the use of a very precise timer. The filler is calibrated to your specifications and is capable of very accurate fills, regardless of inconsistencies that might exist in the bottle glass. …The level filler controls the amount of fill with the use of a level sensor. When the liquid reaches the sensor, the filler automatically stops the fill. The liquid level is set by adjusting the height of the shelf, which can be adjusted to approximately 1/16 increments. Both the volumetric (XF260/XF460) and the level filler (XF2100/XF4100) have a self-contained, self-priming pump that draws the liquid from any barrel or carboy. There is no reservoir, the liquid flows directly from the bulk container, through the filler into the bottle.” 

  Silver adds that XpressFill Systems offers a pair of fillers for bottling and/or canning carbonated beverages.  

  “The XF4500C is a counter pressure system capable of filling 200 12 oz cans per hour. The XF4500/XF2500 is a counter pressure filler for bottles. We also offer an open fill system, the XF2200 (2 spout) and XF4400 (4 spout) capable of filling 300 / 600 cans per hour. All systems have a pre-fill CO2 purge cycle. The counter pressure system requires a minimal air compressor to operate the pneumatic actuators. Open can fillers have a moveable shelf that is easily adjustable for various can sizes. The maximum can diameter is 4 inches. The counter pressure filler has a stopper that must fit snugly into the can or bottle opening to seal and pressurize the container. Our standard opening for cans is a 202-lid size but custom stoppers can be made.” 

  For craft breweries that opt for cans, seam protection is an important consideration. OneVision® Corporation, founded in 1994, shares its innovations with the craft brewing industry throughout North America and Europe. The Ohio-based company, located in suburban Columbus, offers can seam inspection equipment that helps breweries monitor double seam quality for their beer products. Regularly inspecting and tracking internal double seam dimensions helps to prevent leaking seams and beer from going flat. Marketing Manager Amy McKee describes the features of the company’s signature product. 

   “OneVision® has developed the SeamMate® Craft Beverage System that includes all the necessary equipment and software craft brewers need to properly inspect and track the quality of can double seams. We conveniently offer system bundles ranging in price and equipment dependent on a brewery’s canning operation. All system bundles can be upgraded as a brewery’s canning operation grows.   

  SeamMate® System software now includes a proprietary measurement that estimates double seam tightness by analyzing the double seam cross-section. This new measurement is especially effective at detecting too-tight seams on beverage cans. This measurement provides inspectors and quality managers with assurance that the visual cover hook inspection was accurate, or it can serve as an alternative to manual cover hook removal.” 

  Innovation is perpetual at OneVision®, says McKee, pointing to the latest feature available with the SeamMate® System. 

  “SeamMate® System includes the optional AutoAlertTM that automatically analyzes measured data and alerts users to potential double seam quality issues. This unique function helps predict and prevent seam leaks.”   

  Whether bottling or canning beer products, experts say craft breweries should plan for growth, which includes the decision on whether to go either automated or manual–or somewhere in between.  It comes down to when to invest for expansion.  XpressFill Systems’ Rod Silver explains it this way.    

  “The primary factors in evaluating the benefits of each are (the) cost of equipment, rate of production, cost of maintenance, cost of labor and equipment lifetime.”

Lots, Codes, and Life: Dating in the Beer Industry

By: Erik Myers

As the number of active breweries in the country exceeds 7000 and roars toward 8000, it’s more important than ever to consider one of the crucial facets of your packaged product: shelf life, and how to communicate it to your customer. It’s not just marketing; date lot coding and traceability is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. However, the exact method of recording date lot codes is ultimately up to each individual brewer, and there is a vast array of practices in the industry that can ensure that your customer knows how fresh your beer is, and that you’re in compliance with federal code at the same time. 

Why Is Date Coding Important?

  The easiest answer to this question is because you must. It’s the law. In the unfortunate situation that your brewery – or one of your suppliers – might have to recall product from the market, having date lot coding that is on every package, is easy to find, and easy to understand will allow your staff and every downstream partner, whether it’s a distributor or a retailer, to comply with the recall efficiently and ultimately save you headaches and money.

  It’s also a great tool that your sales force–or your distributor–can use to be sure that beer in the market is as fresh as possible, it can help with FIFO inventory control and create an accountability tool for you to use with all of your downstream partners.

  Finally, it’s an extra layer of transparency for your customer, as well as an educational tool, allowing you to provide them with the best–and freshest–possible product, and the best possible customer experience.

How to Code

  For better or worse, there is no standard way or best practice guide to follow for date coding your beer. From a practical, legal standpoint, as long as there is a code on your package that is traceable to a batch at your particular factory and you can track that batch back to its component ingredients, you’ve complied with FDA standards. However, esoteric or confusing coding can be a problem in the marketplace and lacks customer transparency.

  Many food and beverage manufacturers use a Julian Code to signify what date an item was manufactured or packaged. Julian Code is a system designed by the U.S. Military to easily date MREs and is easy to track and assign with simple programming tasks. It uses the last digit of the year in question followed by the day of the year.  (For example, a product dated with December 15, 2018 the Julian Code would be 8349.  December 15 is the 349th day of the year in non-leap-years.)  While this provides a standard format that is unique per day and easily traceable on a package and within a database, it is not easy for a customer to read and gain information from. An eager beer drinker looking for a fresh IPA would have no way of knowing what information was being presented to them and might end up looking elsewhere.

  However, a standard date might not be the easy go-to answer that it seems. A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Harvard University’s Food and Law Policy Clinic (The Dating Game, 2013, NRDC) notes that confusing date labeling leads to a tremendous amount of food waste in the United States as “open dates can come in a dizzying variety of forms, none of which are strictly defined or regulated on a federal level” and that “although most date labels are intended as indicators of freshness and quality, many consumers mistakenly believe they are indicators of safety.” Putting information on your package that isn’t well thought out may create more harm than good.

Finding the Right Date

  Back in 1996, Anheuser-Busch launched a marketing campaign in a bid to show that their beer was the freshest on the market and coined the term, “Born on date.” It has become a ubiquitous term in the beer industry, regardless of the fact that the date was dropped from all Budweiser labeling in 2015 in favor of a “Freshest before” date. Just because the biggest brewery in the land does it hardly makes it an industry standard, however. It’s not even standard across their entire company.

  Megan Lagesse of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s “The Higher End” craft division notes, “Some of [our] partners (Goose Island, [and] Wicked Weed) are doing dual date coding (brewed on and best by) but everyone isn’t because not all of our production equipment has the capability to dual date code,” she says. “So, we chose best by date coding [for] broader consistency, because everyone understands an expiration date but not everyone is educated enough to know IPAs should be drank as fresh as possible, but you can age wild beers and stouts.”

  Jeremy Danner, Ambassador Brewer of Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing, notes proudly that Boulevard prints, “both packaged on and best by dates on all cans, bottles, keg rings and exterior boxes. If you’re going to only print one,” he says, “it should be the packaged-on date, as thoughts vary when it comes to shelf life.”

  That shelf life–the basis of rationale behind a best by date–can be difficult, if not impossible, for a small brewery to determine. While larger breweries have the benefit of tasting panels, labs, and a vast number of data points, many small breweries get by with a microscope and a handful of jack-of-all-trade production team members. In small breweries, with limited, sometimes unique, production batches, shelf life is often the product of an educated guess, rather than a robust statistically significant tasting panel. Even pressure from a distributor can affect what date goes onto a package and in many cases a brewer will resort to relying on a packaged-on date and using phrases like, “Do not age” or “Best when its fresh” in lieu of a best by date.

  Doing so, however, relies on the customer to be educated about your product, and that might not always be as easy as it sounds. Pete Ternes of Chicago’s Middle Brow beer notes, “90% of consumers don’t know what it means for a particular beer to have been packaged on a particular date.” While there are many craft beer fans who are incredibly well-educated and can ascertain which beer styles can handle age and which can’t, most beer-drinkers don’t know the implications of a beer’s brewed or packaged-on date.

  Complicating the issue is lack of consistent temperature control once product leaves the brewery. A brewery may post a shelf life of 45 days for an IPA, but not the conditions under which that shelf life has been ascertained or should be maintained. A beer with a shelf life of 45 days at 38F has a shelf life of only 11 days at room temperature.

No Easy Answers

  Unfortunately, until an industry standard or federal regulation is put into place, there is no easy answer about how to best approach lot and date coding. Ultimately, it is up to you to choose the method that you think will both comply with the FDA and provide information to your customers. Regardless of what format you do choose, providing context and information to your customers–whether that customer is the distributor, the retailer, or the end consumer–as to how you arrived at the decision of what lot and date coding method you’ve chosen is the best path and can double as an excellent marketing and education tool for your brewery.

How Breweries Give Back

Scenes at the 2017 Colorado Brewer’s Festival in downtown Fort Collins Saturday June 24, 2017.

By: Calvin Obbaatt

Long has been the notion that breweries are about making and selling beers, thus profits; but pause a minute, think of that one picture in your gallery or on your social media account holding a beer, buddies around you, genuine smiles captured so perfect, and tell me you believe a thing about the notion.

  Breweries aren’t simply a major aspect of a region’s culture and identity. The community has always been at the heart of the craft beer movement. Breweries are part of the fabric of their towns, serving as meeting places where people may enjoy a drink and a chat. Many small brewers have discovered methods to make a real influence on their communities beyond just manufacturing and selling beer – through philanthropic donations, sustainability initiatives, community fundraisers and partnering with small local startups. Breweries are also a significant hub for the entertainment and leisure industry, nurturing talent and growth by collaborating with local artists and musicians.

Community Fundraisers

  From time to time, a brewery will create a beer that allows customers to drink while supporting a good cause. Whether through sales of a limited-edition brew or a yearly series of charity beers, breweries often organize community fundraisers that raise money for specified purposes. The fundraisers attract more customers to the brewery and help beer lovers connect to their communities.

Collaboration with Local Startups

  They say no brewery is an island, and we couldn’t agree more. Since time immemorial, breweries have supported local businesses by providing a market for local farm produce used in brewing. Breweries collaborate with the local culinary industry, allowing restaurants, food trucks and other startups to sell their local delicacies during events hosted by the breweries.

Philanthropic Donations

  Financial aid has been one of the most straightforward ways through which breweries give back to their communities. We have been privileged to get to hear about some of the most generous brewery owners that, apart from quenching the thirst of beer lovers, have gone an extra step to make the world a better place through their philanthropic missions.

  Save the World Brewing Company’s story might be worth narrating even in a staunchly “non-alcoholic” church. Under Dave Rathkamp’s leadership, the Texas-based brewery dedicates 100% of its profits to philanthropic causes, supporting numerous organizations including Feed My Starving Children, Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity. Save the World Brewing Company is the first local brewery in the United States to be entirely charitable, with all earnings going to charity.

  Langford, British Columbia-based V2V Black Hops Brewing is among some breweries in Canada that have taken a huge step towards helping challenged groups. The brewery donates a chunk of its income to assisting veterans in settling into the community. Inspired by its veteran founder, the brewery also makes direct donations to fund veteran PTSD therapy programs.

Sustainability Initiatives

  Pollution has hit record highs in the 21st century, and brewers are doing their part to alleviate some of the impacts. Sustainability is a priority in the brewery industry, and several players have been keen to make the world cleaner, better and more ecologically friendly. Many brewers have discovered that reducing their environmental effect may be accomplished in methods other than raising awareness or making donations.

  Many breweries across the world are undergoing significant transformations that aid in curbing environmental pollution. New Belgium Brewery is an excellent example of the rapid transition in the brewing industry to embrace sustainable production. The Colorado-based brewing company has intensified its efforts towards sustainability with active recycling measures dating back as earlier as 2017. The brewery reuses wasted grain, sorts recyclable waste to keep it out of landfills, and composts organic waste. The brewery currently generates enough revenue from the sale of cans, bottles and packaging to recycling factories to cover the wages of four employees.

  Beau’s, an Ontario-based brewery, considers the impact of carbon emissions and the need to track carbon footprints. Inorganic food is currently one of the most significant contributors to emissions, and that is why consuming organic products is at the brewery’s heart. Beau’s Local Organic is Canada’s first beer certified as both organic and carbon neutral. The beer is brewed on renewable energy and uses pure Ontario hops and 100% Quebec malts. Consumers selecting Beau’s Local Organic can rest assured that they are helping combat climate change and lowering their carbon footprint.

Nurturing Art & Music Talents

Through Social Events

  Social events are a place to go and have a good laugh and create memories, but they can also nurture talent. Think of the local jazz band, standup comedian, designer and other talents in your community. It might be surprising that some of them realized their abilities at the local craft brewery. Some found they could sing during that particular karaoke night; another discovered he is good at comedy when he got up during open mic; one came out in an outstanding outfit she made herself that no one could take their eyes off. In one way or another, the brewery has opened numerous opportunities to talented people.

Beer Collaborations

  Beer collaborations bring breweries from different areas together for the common good. The movement has seen these enterprises play an integral role in alleviating social problems. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, breweries continue working together to make one-of-a-kind, limited-edition beers. Some brewers are now collaborating to have a more considerable effect, pairing up to create a beer that helps local charities.

  Aurochs Brewing Company in Emsworth, Pennsylvania and Richbarn Roasters is one such collaboration dedicating a portion of its income to good causes in the community. The renowned coffee maker and brewery teamed up to make the Boondock Sláinte Irish Breakfast Stout to fund good causes in the community. Twelve percent of sales of the brew, made from a blend of American oak chips, custom Brazilian coffee brew, vanilla, millet and buckwheat, goes to a program offering free coffee to homeless shelters so they may utilize their finances for other causes.

  In 2020, as racial abuse and police brutality aimed at people of color reached soaring heights, Weathered Souls Brewing led a nationwide beer partnership to raise awareness about the injustices that people of color experience in the U.S. The brewers inspired others in the industry to each create a version of the “Black is Beautiful” stout and contribute all the profits to organizations that advocate for police reforms or inclusion and equality. The movement surpassed everyone’s anticipation, seeing more than 1,000 breweries, both large and small, from all 50 states and more than 20 countries join the collaboration. This resulted in significant contributions to local, national and worldwide organizations as well as public acknowledgment and commitment to racial justice from thousands of brewers.

  There is an irrefutable trend in the brewing industry that breweries have gone beyond simply serving their beers to serving communities in other ways. Not all breweries achieve this in the same way, however. Some are actively involved in providing relaxing ambiances, promoting local talents through events, collaborating with local startups and advancing the local culture. Others choose the philanthropic route, working alone or in collaboration to make a difference. But, it doesn’t have to be through charitable donations alone to establish that breweries are giving back. Prioritizing sustainability, racial justice, equality and diversity within the brewery walls can have just as positive an impact. The great players above prove that sustainable and profitable businesses that promote good in society can thrive.

Legal Implications of Playing Music at Your Brewery

By: Tarah K. Remy, Dinsmore & Shohl, L.L.P.

Visiting a brewery is meant to be an experience, and customer engagement plays a large role in creating a great one. As the owner, you know your brews are unparalleled, and your goal is not only to share them, but to keep customers coming back. One way to do this is to establish an inviting atmosphere. In most cases, that involves music.

  Music and beer go way back. In 1800 B.C.E., the Sumerians composed the “Hymn to Ninkasi,” which served as not only a song of praise to their goddess of beer, but also as an ancient recipe for brewing.  So, it is safe to say when a customer walks into your brewery, they’ll expect to hear music playing over the loud speakers, or even to see a live band. However, there are serious intellectual property considerations every brewery must take into account when choosing music to create that perfect experience.

What the Copyright Act Protects

  As a general matter, the Copyright Act lays out the basic rights of a copyright owner. Among other things, it protects a songwriter’s and their publishers’ (the copyright holder) musical composition or written work, also known as a musical work. When a musical work is performed or broadcasted in a public space, the copyright holder is entitled to receive a performance royalty, which is the money paid to the copyright holder in exchange for the right to publicly perform their musical work.

Why Your Brewery Needs a Performance License to Play Music

  Copyright is a form of property, and once music is written down or recorded, it is copyrighted. The copyright holder is the owner of that copyright and is granted a performance right to the copyrighted materials. If you want to publicly perform a musical work, you need to pay a performance royalty to the copyright holder. The performance license acts as written permission to play a copyright holder’s musical work in a public space.

  Doing so without a performance license, (without legal permission) places your brewery at risk for litigation. Though the Copyright Act limits the award for copyright infringement to between $750 to $30,000, it is within the court’s discretion to award between $200 to $150,000, not including attorney’s fees and costs. Whether the court can increase or decrease the award depends on whether you knew you were violating copyright law. No matter the circumstance, if you violate copyright law, you will be required to pay, and the gamble of just how much is not worth the risk. Acquiring a license removes the guesswork and allows you to maintain control over your brewery’s finances.

When You Need to Consider Acquiring a Performance License

  You will need a performance license or permission from a copyright holder under at least the scenarios below:

1.  The musical work is played in your brewery using Spotify, Amazon music, Pandora, Apple Music, or any other streaming service. Though you are covered bunder your personal subscription to play music for yourself or in very small spaces, once you plug your device into a loud speaker to be played in a large space where a substantial number of people are present, this triggers the performance license requirement.

2.  The musical work is played in your brewery using CDs, records, or anything similar. Buying the CD or record does not count as obtaining a performance license. Once you decide to play your favorite CD or record inside your brewery to be heard by a substantial number of people, in most cases, you must obtain a performance license.

3.  A live band is hired to play covers of music originally written by a third party in your brewery. In this case, the venue, not the cover band, is required to acquire the performance license.. If you hire a band to play in your brewery and they plan to play covers, make sure your brewery has a performance license covering the songs on the band’s set list before hiring. Keep in mind, however, this generally does not apply if the band is playing music it has composed or is playing music in the public domain.

How to Obtain a Performance License

  Contact a Performance Rights Organization (PRO):  You can obtain a performance license through a Performance Rights Organization such as BMI , ASCAP, and SESAC. These entities function as middle men between the copyright holder and the entity acquiring the performance license. Given the rate at which music is played and experienced around the world, it is virtually impossible for copyright holders to keep track of performing rights. Acting as facilitators, PROs acquire rights from these copyright holders and grant a performance license covering their entire music set to businesses and requesting parties. So not only do PROs simplify the process for copyright holders to receive their performance royalties, but business owners no longer need to contact individual copyright holders to acquire performance licenses.

  Each PRO covers specific musical works by various copyright holders. By obtaining a performance license through just one PRO, you are limited to that PRO’s specific list of music. Be sure to review each list covered by each PRO to determine whether you need a license from one or all. You can also consider acquiring a blanket license that covers all three of the main PROs (BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC) to reduce the chance of potential copyright infringement claims from these organizations. A blanket license is convenient, as it likely covers a large list of music, which in turn reduces the need to carefully review a cover band’s set list and further gives you the freedom to stream music without a second thought.

  Sign Up for a Streaming Service Business Account:  Some streaming services, like Spotify and Pandora, offer business accounts. Simply by signing up and paying a subscription fee, business accounts provide access to fully licensed songs. Via their business platforms, these streaming services have obtained performance licenses from PROs on your behalf, and in most cases, they have performance licenses from more than one PRO, which broadens your music list options.

How much a Performance License will Cost

  The cost of obtaining a performance license through a PRO may vary depending on various factors, including how many breweries you have, the square footage of your brewery, your brewery’s customer capacity, how often music is played, whether the music is recorded or live, and more. The costs start at $500 and increase from there. Streaming service business account costs can be found directly on their websites, where they periodically provide discounts. At the end of the day, though obtaining a performance license may seem pricey or a low priority, the costs of arguing a copyright infringement claim are significantly higher. Budgeting in the cost of a performance license will save your brewery money in the long run.  Here is a link to help you learn more. https://www.bmi.com/digital_licensing/more-information/business_using_music_bmi_and_performing_rights

  Finally, keep in mind the Copyright Act covers exceptions to the performance license requirement, meaning it’s possible your brewery may not require a performance license. So before you sign up or register for anything, we always recommend reaching out to an attorney to review the performance license agreements and your circumstances. Additionally, if you are not sure whether your business meets the requirements, or whether your business might be exempt from the performance license requirement, for peace of mind, reach out to your attorney or the Dinsmore Beer, Wine and Spirits team. We are here to help!

Craft Malt with a Conscience

By: Erik Lars Myers

Sebastian Wolfrum, the German-born owner of Durham, North Carolina’s Epiphany Malt, wants to do the right thing.

  Wolfrum’s epiphany came in 2012, while he and his wife attended a meeting for local farmers about how they could get involved with North Carolina’s burgeoning craft beer industry. The problem, however, was that at the time, there were very few options for farmers to sell the crops they might grow. North Carolina’s one malt house at the time, Asheville’s Riverbend Malting, was still nascent and small. Wolfrum, drawing on his background in brewing and malting education at Ayinger Brewing near his hometown of Munich, and his experience at Natty Greene’s Brewing Company in Greensboro, North Carolina, started Epiphany Craft Malt in 2015.

  Epiphany has a lot of disadvantages to cope with, like any other small manufacturer, primarily driven by scale. They are tiny compared to national and international malt providers like Rahr, Briess or Weyermann, and they lack the economy of scale that allows them to produce high-quality malt at competitive prices. It is a trade-off that brewers must be willing to make when using a local maltster. You will pay more for the product—in some cases a lot more—but that money goes to support the local economy, and you are potentially buying a product with more of a local “terroir” or “maltoire.” In some cases, like Epiphany, it means supporting even more than just a local economy.

  Wolfrum says that evening out the environmental impact of the business is considerably more difficult at a small scale. Large maltsters have the personnel and resources to dedicate toward reducing a carbon footprint, but a three-person operation like his must find another way.

  Enter Indigo Agriculture, a company that provides farmers financial incentives to practice regenerative agriculture—a method of farming that improves soil health, builds ecosystem biodiversity and closes the “carbon cycle.” Wolfrum was first made aware of regenerative agriculture in his Ayinger days while working on their Regional Impact Study back in 2002.

  He describes farming as having essentially three modes:  The first he considers “the old way,” what he deems “exploitative.” In short, it involves farming a piece of land until all of the available nutrients are gone and extracted, then moving on to a new plot and beginning again.

  The second he deems “contemporary” or “conventional.” It is farming land and using additives or practices that maintain soil health, allowing the farmer to continue using the same plot each year without degeneration. Those practices may involve crop rotation or artificial soil additives to maintain soil health and keep it at the base level that the farmer needs. It might also take the form of supplemental fertilizers and nitrogen additives that take energy—and thus carbon—to produce and disseminate.

  The third is regenerative, an ethos that encourages building and improving soil health, increasing water retention and biodiversity and significantly reducing carbon emissions during farming and cleansing the atmosphere of CO2. Regenerative practices include implementing crop rotation and cover crops, no-till farming, reducing fertilizer and pesticide use and increasing soil biodiversity through compost additions and well-managed livestock grazing practices—ideally, many of those tactics working together in concert.

  It’s not really reinventing the farming wheel. These practices have been around for decades or longer, but using them together is the goal. Unfortunately, a commercial farmer doesn’t always have the financial incentive to invest in natural soil additions, plant a non-harvested cover crop in a field that could generate income or take the short-term risk of not using pesticides.

  Wolfrum was put in touch with Indigo Agriculture through Dogfish Head Brewery in Rehoboth, Delaware. A chance meeting at the Brewers’ Association Craft Brewers Conference had him talking with the lead brewer at Dogfish Head’s small-batch/brewpub facility, and they found their interests aligned. Together, they worked on a project released in September 2020, Dogfish Head’s “Re-Gen-Ale, the first traceably sourced beer to address climate change.” With the help of Indigo Agriculture’s grain marketplace, Dogfish Head purchased raw regeneratively farmed wheat, hops from several local farms on the East Coat and barley from Epiphany. In doing so, they created a traceably sourced beer with a small carbon footprint. Dogfish Head also committed to purchasing carbon credits to offset the production of brewing the beer.

  When Wolfrum learned about Indigo’s regenerative programs, he immediately got in touch with his local growers. In 2020, three of Epiphany’s farm sources began working with Indigo Agriculture, farming regeneratively to provide a carbon-neutral, or even carbon negative, source of barley for Epiphany’s malting operation. It hasn’t been a difficult sell. “Talking to these farmers, no matter where they are—in eastern North Carolina or Virginia—you don’t need to explain it to them. They live it. They know that it’s not going to get easier to grow anything without some work,” he says.

  Other farms they work with provide heirloom corn and rice as well. So far, it’s a small sliver of Epiphany’s output—in 2021, the entire crop of regeneratively farmed malt is spoken for by just two of his customers—but his plans do not end there.

  Wolfrum has started to build financial incentives for farmers into his own business plan, paying more per pound of grain to incentivize his farmers to add at least one regenerative practice into their operation. As Epiphany grows, he plans to create a contract with each grower that requires them to add regenerative farming practices into their operation but also ensures that they’re compensated for doing so. “We will pay for it,” he says, “We’re going to pay a little bit more because we expect you to do the right thing.”

  He hopes that he can also convince brewery and distillery partners to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint in freight and their day-to-day operations as well.

  According to Epiphany’s Three-Year Resilience Plan, in 2020, “each pound of malt produced by Epiphany produced 0.93 lbs of CO2,” so the company bought carbon credits to offset all 421 metric tons of CO2 produced, officially making Epiphany Craft Malt a carbon-neutral craft maltster.

  Epiphany’s virtuous cycle doesn’t end at carbon credits, however. In 2020, they started working with two farmers who grow heirloom and ancient grains—both corn and rice. Wolfrum recognizes, however, that some of these grains have complicated pasts.

  The origin of the heirloom corn that Epiphany sources can be traced back to Native American tribes of Virginia, and the heirloom rice was first brought to the Americas and flourished as part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. “If we want to help create beers that incorporate these grains,” Wolfrum says, “we have to turn our attention toward understanding the injustice at their roots.”

  Because of that, Epiphany donates a portion of the sales of each of these grains to appropriate organizations. For the corn, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, which helps to increase the representation of Native Americans in STEM. For the rice, Epiphany donates to a local charity, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

  “At the moment, it’s really small scale, and we’re not a very big player,” Wolfrum says. “Could I use those couple thousand dollars we spend on [incentives, carbon credits, and donations] for something else? Sure. But you have to start somewhere. That’s my perspective. It’s not perfect, but it’s the right thing to do.”

  Learn more about Epiphany Malting, the grain and malt they offer and read their Three-Year Resilience Plan at www.epiphanymalt.com

  Learn more about Indigo Agriculture and its grain marketplace at www.indigoag.com

  Erik Lars Myers is an entrepreneur, author, professional brewer, and lover of beer. He currently works as an independent consultant in the brewing industry in Durham, NC where he strives toward innovation in fermentation through a wide variety of projects.

An Ingredient For Success: Adding a Business Coach to Your Craft Beverage Company

By: Chris Mulvaney, President, CMDS Marketing Agency

So, you think you have it all. A great product, niche location, rockstar staff … ultimate success will no doubt come knocking at your door to order one of your specials. Right?

Well, maybe.

  Hard truth. When it comes to craft beverage marketing and branding, making those delicious bevvies is only half the battle. Many craft beverage companies that failed also had a great product, perfect location, and an awesome staff. So … why did they fail?

  For one, planning. Part of a craft beverage business is, well, the business. And while that part may not taste quite as good, it’s still a huge part of running and scaling your company so that it thrives for years to come.

  Planning your craft beverage business takes into consideration some very important components. Branding is one of them. If you don’t have solid branding, then you’ll have a tough time standing out in today’s crowded craft drink market.

While there was a time that breweries and distilleries could succeed without strong branding, much has changed. Today, statistics show that a new brewery opens up almost every day. That means crazy competition, and as a result, you really need strict branding and positioning in order to stand out. Without that, even the best product can get lost in the mix and drown into a drain of obscurity.

The What, The How, and The Why

  Simon Sinek familiarized the concept of the “What,” the “How,” the “Why” in his book, “Start with Why.” The concept is about having three layers to your brand story.

  The “what” explains what your business is in simple terms (“My business offers locally produced cider”).  The “how” is how you do it (“we use on-site fermentation and locally-sourced apples”).

Unfortunately, while most craft beverage companies may be able to explain the “what” and the “how”, they tend to lag in the “why”. And the “why” is usually the most interesting part of the story because that is where the emotion comes in (“my partner and I both have celiac and were not able to enjoy a traditional brewery experience, so we wanted to offer a delicious beer alternative for gluten-sensitive customers and those who want something a bit different”).  The “Why” is key because it draws people in and creates a deep emotional connection, which is more compelling.

Your brand is the perception of your company by your customers. It is the heart of your message and it’s how your customers will portray you on social media. The emotional connection with your customers is what drives the purchase. It is your “why”.

  This is where it also gets tricky. You can’t forget about the product. Above all else, your customer has to like the taste of what you sell, so quality is also vital.

  Therefore, branding involves defining key concepts, creating emotional attachment, and differentiating yourself from your competition, all while keeping a great product offering. It can be a challenge to balance it just right, and that’s where a business coach comes in.

  Typically, business coaches are experienced entrepreneurs and business owners who then decide to use their talents for building and growing a business to help other business owners reach their goals.

  They can provide far more valuable and personalized advice than any found online. They are essential to success – and are used by most humans across the board in other areas, yet the same principle often fails to apply to a business’ growth.

Take sports or music. If an athlete wants to improve their skills, the best thing they can do is join a team with a great coach. Likewise, a musician will hire a teacher to help them reach rock star  heights.

  Essentially, having a business coach is like having a trusted coach or teacher, and they can prove essential to your brand’s ultimate success.

Why Every Craft Beverage Businesses Should Enlist a Business Coach

  In simple terms, business coaching is a process used to take a business from where it is now to where the business owner wants it to be.

If a business owner has tough questions or runs into problems along the way, their coach will be able to help them navigate their issues in the most effective way possible.

Getting Started

  A good business coach will ask you to list your core values and help you figure out what will make you stand out from your competition. Your customers have to understand your brand and concept to immerse themselves in the experience. You will also be asked how you would like to grow in a manner consistent with your brand.

  The hiring process should include a discovery period between yourself and the potential business coach to make sure you are both aligned and should include the following:

1.   Answer detailed focus questions so your business coach gains insight of what you want to accomplish.

2.   Review their coaching/consulting package thoroughly, so you’ll have a good idea of features, benefits, time alloted and pricing.

3.   Schedule a 20-30 minute discovery call to talk through the project and determine if you are a good fit to work together.

  A Business Coach should also address focus questions. These can include the following:

•    What do you need help with? Be as specific as possible about the problem you need to solve or opportunity you want to tackle.

•    What is the ideal outcome or result you want to achieve? What does it look like?

•    How urgent is this project? How important is it to tackle this (1 to 10)?

•    What’s your timeframe for this project/goal: 1) ASAP, 2) within the next few months, 3) sometime this year?

  In addition to evaluating strengths and weaknesses, it’s also important to define business goals. For some people, the goal is the freedom to do what they want. For others, it’s financial security. When setting goals, make sure they are specific, optimistic (but realistic), and offer both short- and long-term plans so you can evaluate your progress. 

  Throughout this entire process, business coaches serve as an invaluable source of personalized information and advice, providing business owners with specific industry navigation tools and assisting in setting attainable goals.

  Coaching Packages will reflect just how much time and assistance your business will need and a coach will work with you regarding budget and timelines.

A good business coach understands that exponential success does not happen overnight. That is where their coaching and development services come into play. A great thing about a business coach is that you can hire one at any stage and scenario of your business, whether you are just starting out, your business is struggling and you need a way to revive it, or you are an established name looking to take it to the next level. There will always be a need for a business coach to provide you with considerable entrepreneurial insights, expertise and innovative business ideas at any level. The benefits of having one cannot be overstated.

Large vs Smaller Businesses

  In many cases, the challenges and goals of small businesses may differ from those of large businesses.

  For example, a start-up brewery in a more localized setting, looking to attract more local customers, will have an entirely different set of goals and strategies than a large establishment that caters to multiple locations and ships on a large scale.

With that said, most business coaches will be experienced in working with small or large businesses since a big part of their job  is to learn as much as they can about each company and owner that they are working with, and developing a strategy that is uniquely suited to the specifics of each situation.

In other words, a high-quality business coach will likely be able to help you regardless of budget, company size or how large you want it to grow.

The Last Gulp

  The most important rule of self-evaluation and goal-setting is honesty. Going into business with your eyes wide open about your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes, and your ultimate goals lets you confront the decisions you’ll face with greater confidence and a greater chance of success.

  Look at the coaching experience through honest eyes and know that the purpose of a business coach is to make the life of the business owner less stressful and their business more successful, which in amongst itself is something to raise a glass to.

  If you need help on where to start, Chris Mulvaney has been providing Business Coaching Services to business owners and fellow entrepreneurs for over 15 years. His marketing agency, CMDS, can be a great compliment to these services. Feel free to reach out for a consultation and you will be put in the right direction by someone who can take your business to the next level of craft beverage success.

Best Practices: Beer Wholesaler Agreements

By: Kary Shumway, Craft Brewery Financial Training

The wholesaler agreement can be a point of contention between breweries and wholesalers. Before any beer is delivered, the agreement must be reviewed, negotiated, and signed.

  The challenge with many agreements is that both parties want the terms to be in their favor. Breweries want options to get out of the agreement, and freedom to move their brand if the business relationship isn’t working.

  Wholesalers want the brewery to be committed to them indefinitely. From the wholesaler perspective, they invest millions or tens of millions, in infrastructure and want to be sure that brands stay on the trucks to pay for all the investment.

  Both parties want the advantage, but at a minimum, neither party wants to get taken advantage of in the agreement.

  With so much emphasis on the wholesaler agreement, what steps are you taking to ensure you get the best arrangement possible?

  Below are five steps you can take to improve your agreements, and contractual relationships.

Five Steps to a Better Agreement

1.   Seek first to understand (Basic agreement structure and terms)

2.   Know your state laws

3.   Do your research, ask questions, determine the wholesaler options

4.   Play a game you can win (Develop your own standard agreement)

5.   Self-Distribute (Enter into an agreement with yourself)

  Since we’re talking legal contracts, here is the important disclaimer: I’m not an attorney, and this is not legal advice. The guidance here should be used for informational purposes only.

Basic Agreement Structure and Terms

  As any business textbook will tell you, the primary purpose of agreement law is to enforce an agreement between parties. In this case, the parties are the wholesaler and craft brewery. For there to be an agreement, an agreement must exist, and the parties must have freely intended to be legally obligated. A breach occurs when one party breaks a big promise in the agreement.

  The requirements of a legally binding agreement are: 1) offer, 2) acceptance, 3) consideration, 4) obligations by parties, 5) competency and capacity, and 6) a written document.

  In other words, a wholesaler offers to distribute the beer of a craft brewery, and the brewery accepts. The brewery agrees to brew beer and sell it to the wholesaler. The wholesaler agrees to pay for it. The brewery is obligated to make a saleable product, and the wholesaler is obligated to sell it.

  Both brewery and wholesaler state they are competent and have the capacity to fulfill these obligations. All this is then wrapped up in a written agreement.

  The wholesaler agreement contains a variety of clauses and terms that you should understand: Trademarks, Terms of Sale, Assignment, Transfer, Ownership Changes, and Termination to name a few. A typical wholesaler agreement can be 20 pages in length and contain a dozen or more different clauses. It’s a lot to understand, but very important to do so.

  To begin, read over the agreements that you already have in place. Highlight any items that you don’t understand and start asking questions. What you don’t know can hurt you in a contract situation.

Know Your State Laws

  Thanks to the 21st amendment, we have 50 different sets of laws related to alcohol distribution. Many of those laws are difficult to understand and a giant bore to read. Get a lawyer and get a commonsense interpretation of what your state laws are. Specifically, know your rights and obligations.

  The Brewer’s Association does a nice job in summarizing the various state laws. However, the summary only scratches the surface of what you’ll need to know about the rules of engagement. Know the rules, use them to your advantage, and build them into an agreement that works best for your brewery.

  Agreements and State Laws: Agreements and state laws are often intertwined. There may be sections of the wholesaler agreement that refer to the applicable state laws. For example, ‘wholesaler or supplier may terminate this agreement in accordance with applicable state laws.’ An understanding of the state laws in combination with a working knowledge of agreement rules will give you a leg up when negotiating your wholesaler agreement.

  Lastly, there is a common assumption that the agreement really doesn’t matter that much because the state law will over-ride the agreement anyway. For instance, in a case where an agreement says one thing and the state law says another, the state law wins.

  I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve hired lawyers to deal with this issue. What I’ve found is that the question doesn’t have a clear answer. Bottom line – the agreement still matters.

Do Your Research

  When opening up new sales territories do your homework to find the best wholesaler partner. Talk to other craft breweries, talk to retail accounts (on and off premise), and of course meet with prospective wholesalers. Do your research to find your best match. There’s no point in learning about agreements and state laws if you wind up with a lousy partner.

  Many of the larger craft breweries hire consultants to conduct market research in advance of opening a new territory. The consultants talk to retailers, learn the nuances of the market, and find out who the best wholesaler is. Then they gather information and report back to the brewery with a recommendation.

  Key Questions to Ask Your Wholesaler:  You may not have the resources to hire a consultant, but you can do some leg work yourself. Below are sample questions to ask wholesalers during the research phase:

•    How do you assess opportunities for my brands at retail?

•    What is a recent example of a brand launch success?

•    What are the demographics and tourism of the market?

•    What is the pricing landscape?

•    What did you do for craft beer week?

•    Tell me about your draft line cleaning process and personnel. If line cleaning is not allowed by state law, ask what they do to ensure lines are cleaned (surveys, education) and to determine if they are cleaned (logs, vendor, and frequency of service)

  Invest the time upfront and do you research on your wholesaler options. An agreement helps define a partnership. It’s up to you to find the best wholesaler to partner with.

Play a Game You Can Win

  A wise friend once told me: “always write the agreement.” In other words, if there is an option, don’t let the other side present you with the agreement. Do it yourself.

  Writing the agreement ensures you have control over what gets included or excluded. It allows you to shape the language and create an agreement that works best for your brewery. Have your lawyer develop your own standard agreement. Talk with them about what’s important to include and what isn’t. Use your working knowledge of agreement law and state laws to shape an agreement that works.

  Use Your Leverage: When you meet with a wholesaler, simply present the document as a matter of fact: “This is our standard agreement.” They may negotiate certain points, or counter with their own standard agreement, but they might just sign what you give them.

  Many craft breweries have their own agreement these days, even the smaller guys. Craft breweries have leverage with wholesalers. If you have a brand that multiple wholesalers would like to have, they will make concessions on the terms of the agreement to ensure they get your brand.

  Recognize and understand where you have leverage and use it to your advantage. Develop your own standard agreement, include the terms you want, and insist that it is used to govern the wholesaler relationship.

Self-Distribute: Enter into an Agreement with Yourself

  Another option related to wholesaler agreements is to avoid them altogether and self-distribute your own beer. State laws will dictate whether you can do this, and what the guidelines are.

  There are many advantages of distributing your own beer: you keep the gross profit that normally goes to the wholesaler, you control where and how the brands are presented at retail, and you ensure the brands get 100% focus and attention. Despite best efforts, a wholesaler with hundreds of brands can’t possibly present your beer during every sales call. But you can.

  There are many challenges with self-distribution: increased capital costs for trucks and warehouse space, more people needed to sell and deliver the beer, and a new business model that you need to learn. Nothing wrong with learning, but it can be expensive.

  The fundamental question to ask is whether self-distribution can be profitable. To answer the question, check out the short guide on creating a financial pro forma for self-distribution. This will walk you through the steps of putting together your sales projections, expected margins, operating costs, and capital investments needed.

  Research your state distribution laws, do the financial analysis, and determine if self-distribution is the right move for your brewery.

Wrap Up

  The wholesaler agreement is important, and it’s important that you get it right. Understand the agreement terms and know the state laws. Do your research on the market and the wholesaler options. Create your own standard agreement and use your brand leverage to get the wholesaler to sign it. Lastly, explore whether a self-distribution option makes sense for your craft brewery.

  It’s up to you to find a great wholesaler partner. It’s up to you to ensure you have a good agreement that governs the relationship. Use the steps outlined here, talk to other craft breweries, and consult your attorney. A good wholesaler agreement is within your power to achieve. Now, go and get it.

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Lawson’s Finest Liquids: A Hophead’s Nirvana

By: Nan McCreary

In the small town of Waitsfield, Vermont, an iconic brewery looms large among visitors. It is Lawson’s Finest Liquids, producer of world-class IPAs and unique maple beers and, according to many, a benchmark for hoppy beers among the nation’s beer drinkers.

  “I’m a hophead,” owner Sean Lawson, along with his wife, Karen, told Beverage Master Magazine. “I’m a fan of hops in a big way.” This love of flavorful beers has been a driving force in Lawson’s life since he first started making homebrew as a college student at the University of Vermont. “In the beginning, I was making five gallons at a time,” Lawson said. “My friends loved it. I couldn’t make it fast enough.” 

  After graduation from college with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a master’s degree in forestry, Lawson pursued a career as a scientist and outdoor educator but continued to hone his brewing skills. The art and the craft of making beer were in his genes.

  Finally, in 2008, with increasing demand for beer from his friends, Lawson and his wife, Karen, got a beer license and built a 280-square-foot nano-brewery in a shed next to their house. Lawson brewed his beer one barrel at a time, producing 31 gallons—or 10 cases of beer—all while keeping his day job. 

  “I worried that if I turned my hobby into a full-time job, it would end up being a drag, but the opposite happened,” he said. “It really sparked my passion. I loved coming up with new recipes, and I really enjoyed the whole process from start to finish. I would walk into the brewhouse and make things up as I went. I had a lot of ingredients, so I would look at what I had and say, ‘Umm, what do I want to brew today?’”

  As Lawson’s passion grew, so did his customer base. “From day one, we didn’t have enough beer to go around,” Lawson said. At the time, he was making a few maple-infused beers —this was Vermont, after all—but the core of his business was IPAs, which were flying off the shelves. In mid-2008, Lawson decided to quit his day job and make his “hobby” a full-time vocation. He expanded the brewery to a seven-barrel system, which he thought was a big leap but, in fact, still wasn’t enough to keep up with demand. 

  “The beer kept going away faster than I could make it,” Lawson told Beverage Master Magazine. “I could only do two batches a week because it was a small building, and I’d stuffed in as much equipment as I could.” 

  In the meantime, the accolades kept coming and coming and coming. In 2010, Lawson’s Finest Liquids became the smallest brewery ever to capture an award at the World Beer Cup, winning the Bronze medal with their Maple Tripple Ale in the specialty beer category, followed in 2012 by a Silver medal win and another Silver medal in 2016.  Lawson’s beers were also a big hit at the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston, the largest beer festival on the East Coast.

  “People were impressed with the quality and flavor of the beer,” Lawson said. “Skiers and tourists would come to Vermont, buy the beer and take it home and share with friends. ‘You gotta try this beer,’ they’d say.  There was a lot of ‘word of mouth’ success for our products.”

  All along, Lawson’s goal was to “produce beer of the highest quality with outstanding freshness.” Lawson strongly felt that to retain that freshness, the beer needed to be kept cold during the entire journey from the brewery to the customer.

  “When I started in 2008, it was a challenge to get the local distributor to keep it cool in the warehouse,” Lawson said. “But once the brand caught on, I made it a prerequisite: keep it cold in the warehouse, on the truck and while on display at the retailer.”

  Lawson’s persistence paid off. His “home run” beer was Double Sunshine, a double IPA packed with juicy, lush fruit character and herbal aromas with an 8% ABV. With the increased capacity of the seven-barrel brewery, this beer—and other specialty Lawson’s Finest Liquids—created a sensation in Vermont and throughout the Northeast, such a sensation that demand continued to get further ahead of supply. Clearly, Lawson needed to produce more beer. “I read about a brewery in Stratford, Connecticut—Two Roads Brewing Company—that offered contract services, so I decided to consider this option as a way to expand without investing in more equipment or employees,” he said. 

  From the beginning, Lawson was very particular about his requirements. His reputation was on the line, and he was adamant that this beer meet his and his fan’s expectations. “The first thing I wanted to know was if the chemistry of their water would meet my standards for making quality mash,” Lawson said. “As it turned out, the water they used for brewing was nearly identical to what we used in Vermont.”

  Lawson also wanted to differentiate this beer from what he brewed in Vermont, so he created Sip of Sunshine, inspired by Double Sunshine but lighter in color and easier on the palate, and still at 8% ABV. Expecting some trial and error in creating a new brew, everyone was surprised—and delighted—that the first two batches were hugely successful. They hadn’t even packaged the beer yet, so they sold it on draft. “It took off from day one,” Lawson said.

  Over the next three years, inspired by the continuing popularity of his beers, Lawson increased production at Two Roads, with its 100-barrel capacity, while making specialty beer at his brewery at home. He also began expanding his footprint with distribution in Vermont and Connecticut and eventually to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Sales skyrocketed, and, ultimately, the Lawsons were able to realize the culmination of their original business plan: To build a large production facility of their own and have a taproom where they could welcome the public. In 2018, that “dream” became a reality when the Lawsons opened their 40-barrel facility and timber-framed taproom in Waitsfield, located in the heart of Vermont’s Mad River Valley. The taproom is open year-round and features 10 to 12 beers on tap, as well as a food program with an emphasis on local fare. Lawson’s Finest boasts 41 full-time and 17 part-time employees. That’s a far cry from the mom-and-pop operation that began in an outbuilding on their property.

  Today, after a 20-plus year journey, Lawson’s Finest Liquids is recognized as one of the best breweries in the Northeast, especially among hopheads. The brewery produces dozens of beers, some year-round and others as special releases. Year-round beers include the flagship Sip of Sunshine; the Super Session series, brewed with the same malt base and specialty malts but each brewed with a different single-hop variety; and Little Sip, a cousin to Sip of Sunshine but with 6% ABV. Sip of Sunshine and the rotating Super Session series are brewed at Two Roads, and the rest at the Waitsfield Brewery. Lawson keeps one barrel in his brewhouse for experimenting with new flavors. If he likes the beer, he will create small-batch productions on his original seven-barrel brewery. “We’re always looking for new flavors,” he said.  “That’s where we have our fun. These are specialty beers that are only available in the taproom.”

  While Lawson’s Finest Liquids has enjoyed phenomenal success, Sean and Karen have not forgotten one of the core values that inspired their journey—to give back to the local community and communities where they do business. “Even when we were very small, we’d give a portion of our proceeds to non-profit organizations here in the Mad River Valley or Central Vermont,” said Lawson. 

  Today, this mission is organized under their Social Impact Program. The SIP includes six initiatives that support healthy communities, food and economic securities, natural resource protection and sustainable recreation in the Green Mountains. One of these initiatives is a “no-tipping” policy that offers a living wage and generous benefits to all employees. In lieu of tips in the taproom, Lawson’s Finest Liquids invites guests to donate to the Sunshine Fund, the heart of SIP. 

  “It has been wildly successful, way beyond our dreams,” Lawson said. “In the first year, we raised over $380,000. Even with COVID, donations continued with our drive-thru retail store. From October 2018 to present, we have raised over $575,000 just through the Sunshine Fund.”

  In 2020, the Lawsons received the Outstanding Vermont Business award in recognition of the brewery’s employment growth, success in the marketplace, company expansion and community involvement. The award is sponsored by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Vermont Business Magazine.

  As Lawson looks to the future, he said the plan is to “grow the business to thrive and not to sell.”  They hope to accomplish this by optimizing capacity and continuing the use of Two Roads to produce their flagship beers and Waitsfield for specialty releases. While they continue to increase points of distribution within the Northeast, there are no new market expansions planned in the near term. In the meantime, Lawson remains modest in his attitude toward his achievements.

  “A lot of people make great beer,” he told Beverage Master Magazine. “Why have I been successful compared to others? Maybe a sprinkle of magic.” That, and creating a nirvana for hopheads.

For more information on Lawson’s Finest Liquids, visit their website at www.lawsonsfinest.com