Growing Your Brewery’s Brand

By: Lewis Barbera – Vice President, Sales

There are currently more than 7300 regional breweries, brewpubs and microbreweries in the United States. Even during difficult times, the popularity of the craft brewery continues to grow. For many home brewers and beer aficionados, the prospect of owning and operating their own brewery is a dream come true. It’s an opportunity to expand their personal recipes that they have refined over the years as a hobbyist and share them with a wider audience.

  Making your mark within the industry is not an easy task to accomplish. Perfecting your craft is an important start in staying relevant. But satisfying your regulars and marketing through word of mouth is just the beginning. It’s the additional, day-to-day business details that become so incredibly important. Maintaining your brand and ensuring that it reaches the widest audience possible will help you to stand out in a crowded market.  

Brand Identity

  One of the benefits of owning and operating your business is the freedom associated with developing its brand. From the name to the logo, this is an opportunity for you to work closely with your business partners to establish something catchy and unique, while also cutting through the clutter and staying top of mind with your customers. But once you’ve picked out your colors and have come up with a memorable catch phrase that highlights your craft, what’s next?

  In today’s market it’s not uncommon to promote your brand through a variety of related products. Whether that’s pint glasses and coasters, umbrellas, signage or an oversized Jenga set reserved for outdoor events, merchandising your business in creative and unique ways is critical. But there are numerous moving parts that inevitably get in the way. Working with your local Kinkos and your cousin (twice removed) to help with the graphical design will only get you so far.

  Properly sourcing your merchandise is an indispensable asset to your overall brand marketing initiatives. Working closely with a partner capable of assisting with the delivery of your products can make an immense difference in your day-to-day operation.

  Understanding the ins-and-outs of product sourcing often includes first-hand experience in knowing what works and what does not. These conversations can help steer you in the right direction, while also shielding you from potential missteps. Promoting your brand with a Point of Sale (POS) system capable of delivering the best return on investment (ROI) in a growing market will help you to realize even greater success.

Off-Premise Initiatives

  Traditionally, craft beer has primarily been sold on-premise. The experience of enjoying a freshly tapped beer while socializing at your local brewery is one of the reasons the craft beer industry has stayed consistently strong. When combined with ongoing marketing and merchandising efforts, off-premise sales has the strong potential to develop into an additional sales and distribution plan.

  Some beer aficionados might argue that traditional retail sales takes away from the uniqueness of the craft beer experience and no longer differentiates itself from large national brands. However, retailers are very much in tune with consumer preferences and will always be looking for opportunities to emulate the success of on-premise craft breweries through off-premise sales.

  It’s important for every craft brewery to take the steps necessary to continue promoting their name and their brand. As such, there are several opportunities worth considering for an off-premise strategy:

•   Stand Out in a Crowded Space: Whether you’re positioned within a local liquor store or the corner grocer, make sure your branding is prominently displayed and catches the eye of every customer. Proudly present your most popular beer or newest recipe on shelves, stackers and corrugated risers that clearly exhibit your branding. Make sure the colors are bold and vibrant, and that the wording can be read from across the aisle. Take pride in your craft and give it the attention it deserves.

•   Small Idea, Big Impact: Even the smallest idea can have the biggest impact when it comes to branding and product marketing. Sticky shelf talkers, ceiling danglers, window clings and floor placements. Make it so that no matter where the customer is looking, your brand is sure to grab their attention. And it’s not always about how big of an impression you make or how much real estate your branding utilizes. A strategically placed logo can help even the most undecisive beer drinkers make the right choice.

•   Your Fans are Your Biggest Advocates: Don’t overthink it. The practicality of the idea often becomes the biggest win for off-premise business. Let your fans do the “heavy lifting”. Selling a variety of tote, lunch coolers and brown paper bags, each with your branding clearly identified for everyone to see, is a great way to continue getting your name out there. Used at work, on vacation or attending any number of social events, your biggest fans will be promoting their favorite beer without ever saying a word.

•   The Signs Are Everywhere: Chalk-based A-frame menu boards. LED light boxes. Laser cut, digitally printed hardboard wood. What do all these different types of signage have in common? They’re the most classic form of beer advertising you can think of. People of all ages collect them and prominently display them in their homes, garages and on the walls of the businesses they own. They catch your eye, make a statement and get you thinking about one thing, and one thing only – BEER!

Product Management

  Having access to your own, business-specific e-commerce website is an opportunity to more effectively manage your growing list of products. When conveniently organized by category, a robust e-commerce solution is more likely to yield an increase in the number of merchandising orders placed. By providing your sales group, wholesalers and consumers 24/7 virtual access to your products, you’re removing yourself from the time-consuming difficulties and headaches of manual maintenance and upkeep.

  An effective e-commerce portal is not only a reliable source for managing your inventory in an organized fashion, it can also be seamlessly updated to accommodate for new products and inventive promotional efforts. Including pre-order windows and making them available to your distributors will help to better gauge the potential success of your latest product promotions before taking the plunge and jumping head first into a new initiative.

  Planning for the upcoming year’s promotions, brand launches and seasonal programs is an important function critical to the ongoing success of your business. Having access to online ordering is a great resource to take advantage of when working toward upcoming events. Providing your distributors access to your ecommerce site makes the process of managing and expanding your brand a seamless activity.

  However, maintaining your inventory and shipment data can often be challenging. Working from a comprehensive and reliable report – one that details the data needed to drive a successful program – saves time and increases productivity, allowing you to focus more on your craft. Accessing these reports, whenever needed, makes the process of future inventory planning and promotional efforts even easier and more sustainable.

Inventory Optimization

  Space is a commodity. You’ll never have enough and will always be needing more. When owning and operating your craft brewery, you’ll quickly realize that as more of your space is consumed by branded merchandise, less will be available for that essential, behind-the-scenes equipment – brewing systems, canning lines, tanks, fermenters and more. Working with a total fulfillment partner opens up the possibility of maintaining and safely storing your merchandise stock.

  At its core, inventory optimization and supply planning answers the question about how much merchandising inventory should be carried. Working with your fulfillment partner, you’ll be able to better understand the complexities of supply and demand and more accurately identify inventory targets. By maintaining appropriate levels of merchandising stock you’ll greatly reduce the chances of inventory obsolescence, thereby freeing up capital that can be applied elsewhere throughout your business.

  Fulfillment partners often include consignment opportunities, giving you the option to store your products offsite while still retaining ownership. As the products begin to ship, you’ll be able to track how much inventory sold and work closely with your fulfillment provider on the transactional details.

  When tied directly with your unique e-commerce platform you’ll have even greater flexibility and control over the number of products sold, understand when and how they have shipped and be able to effectively report – from week-to-week and month-to-month – for better management of your business’s overall expenses and profits.

  Pre-orders are also designed to increase profitability. Utilizing your fulfillment partner’s expertise in identifying products that are best suited to both order windows and the make-and-ship process, you’ll capitalize on an effective solution to the POS puzzle. This pre-order option provides greater overall flexibility when planning for upcoming events and seasonal placement.

Dedicated Support

  Whether it’s the account manager, sourcing, logistics or warehouse, the various touchpoints of a fulfillment team provide the support needed to effectively operate your business. Their focus is helping you maintain yours. In doing so, you’ll have greater opportunities to further pursue your passion.

  A committed support team should be analyzing your POS operations on a quarterly, bi-annual and annual basis, and provide feedback to assist with any changes that may be needed. Their long-standing relationships within the industry are designed to support your needs and ensure that your business realizes continued success.

  Your merchandising efforts are directly connected to establishing your brand and helping your business thrive in an increasingly competitive market. Aligning yourself with a reputable fulfillment program will assist you in meeting the goals you have established for your business. When done well, your brand will realize the greatest potential to reach more customers and leave lasting impressions.

Brewery Financial Statements 101:

How to use Financial Reports to Improve Results

By: Kary Shumway, CPA, CFO, Numbers Guy

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, improving 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.

  In this article, we’ll review the basic components of brewery financial statements and provide examples of what these reports should look like. We’ll also dig into the mysteries of the brewery chart of accounts – the building blocks of the financials – and provide tips to make sure your financial reporting is as good as it can be.

  We’ll close out with a list of best practices to follow so that your financial information is accurately reported. These best practices are summarized into a handy checklist of month end procedures to follow.

Brewery Financial Reports

  The numbers of your business are organized into reports called the financial statements: the income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows. Each statement provides useful information about a different part of your brewery business.    Below is a brief review of each report.

  Income statement (Profit & Loss Statement or P&L): The brewery income statement reports on sales, margins, operating expenses and shows whether the business had a profit or loss. This statement measures results over a period of time – the month, the quarter, or year to date, for example.

  It’s important to understand that the income statement measures transactions but does not measure cash flow. The income statement records sales when earned, and expenses when incurred, regardless of whether cash was received or paid out. 

  Balance sheet: The brewery balance sheet lists assets, liabilities and equity.  Assets are things you own, liabilities are things you owe, and equity is the difference between the two.  If assets are larger than liabilities, you have equity.  If liabilities are bigger, you have a deficit.

  While the income statement measures results over a period of time, the balance sheet measures numbers as of a specific point in time – at month end, quarter end or year end, for example. 

  Statement of cash flows: This financial report measures the flow of cash coming into and going out of the brewery business.  It tells you where cash came from (collections on sales, for example) and where cash went (payments to vendors, for example).  The income statement measures transactions, not cash. The statement of cash flows shows picks up where the income statement leaves off and records the flow of money through the business.

Brewery Income Statement (P&L) Examples

  Now that we’ve covered the basic financial reports, let’s look at examples of what brewery income statements should look like.

  We’ll begin with a summarized version of the P&L.  Shorter reports are easier to read and allow you to see important information quickly.  The summary report includes sub-totals for each major P&L category: sales, margins, operating expenses and profit or loss.

  The simple P&L shows the summarized results for a period of time (Year to Date, in this example) and presents each category as a percentage of sales. P&Ls don’t need to be five or ten pages long to be good. In fact, shorter is better. Shorter is easier to read and makes it more likely that you actually will read the report. Start with a summary P&L like this one, then expand the report by adding more details. Here’s an example:

  This P&L shows sales, cost of sales, and margins by package type. This type of presentation makes it easy to see the margin percentage by package type (kegs, cans or bottles) which is useful in analyzing portfolio profitability.

  An alternative to this P&L is to present the information by line of business. This might include sales through the taproom, self-distribution and wholesale distribution. Regardless of which method you use, it’s helpful to mirror the sales categories within the cost of sales and margins categories. For example, have a separate account for taproom sales, taproom cost of sales, and taproom margins.

  Financial literacy is the ability to read and understand the numbers of your brewery business so that you can improve financial results. The income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flows are reports that summarize those numbers. Each report gives you different information about the business, and each is important to review on a regular basis.

Brewery Chart of Accounts

  Accountants use the term Chart of Accounts to describe the listing of all the things you want to track and report on in your business. These include all of the assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses. The purpose of this listing is to provide organization and structure for your financial reporting. The Chart of Accounts serves as the building blocks of your financial statements.

  The level of detail in your chart of accounts listing will depend on how much information you want to see on your financial reports. For example, you may have three different sales accounts, as shown earlier: Sales-Kegs, Sales-Cans, and Sales-Bottles.  Each captures the sales specific to a type of package.

  Alternatively, you may have any number of different sales accounts to show sales by market and package type. For example, Sales Self-Distribution Kegs, Sales Self-Distribution Cans, Sales Self-Distribution Kegs, etc.

  Be purposeful about the level of detail in your chart of accounts. More detail may be preferable, however this will take more time for your bookkeeper to record the transactions into the proper accounts. Start with the kind of reporting you need to see in your financial statements and build the chart of accounts accordingly.

  For an example of a full brewery chart of accounts, visit www.craftbreweryfinance.com and enter chart of accounts in the search box.

Brewery Financial Month-end Process

  We’ve covered the basics of how to read the financial statements and understand the chart of accounts. Next, we’ll review a month-end process you can use to make sure your numbers are complete and accurate. A process is defined as a series of steps, followed in order, that will lead to the right outcome. In this case, the right outcome is accurate numbers in the financial reports.

  The month-end process should be clearly written and used as a document to train your bookkeeping staff. An accounting manager should periodically audit the work of staff to ensure that the process is being followed. 

  The process can be presented in the form of a checklist, indicating what task to do, when to do it, and who is responsible for completion.  Below is an example of a month-end financial checklist:

  The process checklist should contain all the necessary steps to close the books for the month in order to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information. For example, all payroll journal entries should be made on the 1st day of the new month and all bank statements should be reconciled by the 5th business day of the month.

  To create your month-end process checklist, have your bookkeeper write down all the actions they take to close the month. Compile this list of actions and assign due dates and a responsible person. Each month when it’s time to close the books, use the checklist as a guide to make sure each step is done and completed on time.

  The best way to make sure you have good financial information is to follow a good process consistently. To download a full month-end process checklist, visit www.craftbreweryfinance.com and enter month-end process in the search box.

Wrap Up + Action Items

  Financial literacy is the ability to read and understand your financial statements so that you can improve results in your brewery business. Improved results may be sales growth, margin increases or positive cash flow. You define the result you want to achieve and use your financial literacy to make it happen.

  Use the summary income statement templates presented here or create your own so that you can monitor financial outcomes. Review your chart of accounts and compare to the template at www.craftbreweryfinance.com to identify any needed changes.

  In today’s uncertain business environment, financial literacy is a competitive advantage. Use this advantage to drive increased financial performance in your brewery business today.

    Kary Shumway is a Certified Public Accountant and has been working as a CFO in the beer business for the past 15 plus years. He creates financial training courses for beer wholesaler owners so that you can build a more profitable business.

For more information please visitwww.craftbreweryfinance.com.

The Evolution of Craft Beer

By: Erik Lars Myers

When the “craft beer revolution” began, there was a purpose. The craft beer industry was built by people who had been to the promised land and seen the light. That promised land was usually somewhere in Europe, and the light was not all that light. It was a revelatory moment in which a drinker found themselves confronted with beers that were not the light, bland, American-style macro lager they knew at home, but rather beers that were dark, moody, and hoppy. They were beers bursting with flavor and individuality, something that those American beers lacked. Those people returned from their promised land as evangelists, priests of a new order built to spread the gospel of those beers to a new, insulated, naïve market. Craft beer was born.

  The roots of what we learned to see as normal craft beer offerings came through the lens of one book. It is so ubiquitous in the craft beer industry that some older beer veterans have referred to it as “the Bible”. The reverence with which Charlie Papazian’s book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing has been treated, as well as Papazian himself, who recently retired from the Brewers Association, makes it easy to draw a direct line from that book to the development of the modern beer industry.

  Ignore, for a moment, that many professional brewers still brew with the dated knowledge presented in that book: knowledge that still makes great homebrew but is fairly basic for a professional brewery. The recipes presented in the book in the 1970s are the harbingers of the industry’s path to maturation some 15 to 20 years later.

  By the 1990s, in the first big boom of the craft brewing industry, every brewery in the country worth its salt was putting out the same simple lineup: Golden Ales, Brown Ales, Pale Ales, IPAs, and Porters or Stouts. All the flavors of beer. Breweries with extra tank space might have thrown in the occasional lager, but since money and space were often limited, lagers sometimes fell by the wayside. Invention and innovation in the brewing industry leapt directly from Charlie’s books. He published what was probably the first pumpkin beer recipe. He let us know that honey was a great addition to brown ales, that fruit belonged in dark beers, and that historic styles that no longer existed were cool.

  At the same time, the beer industry itself was working as hard as it possibly could to lower the barrier of entry to open a brewery. As startup brewers were treated like royalty by eager homebrewers, those brewing pioneers began to release books regaling fans with the tales of opening a brewery and all of their mistakes, so that you – the eager reader – would not be doomed to repeat them. It seemed like writing a business book was a prerequisite for owning a nationally-distributed brewery for a decade or so. Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head), Jim Koch (Sam Adams), Tony Magee (Lagunitas), Steve Hindy (Brooklyn), Tom Schlafly (Schlafly), and James Watt (Brew Dog) among others have all written books about starting their breweries that, to some degree or other – mostly blatantly – encourage the reader to believe the idea that starting a brewery is an achievable task, even if you don’t know what you’re doing.

  The Brewers’ Association itself followed suit by releasing a book plainly titled “Starting Your Own Brewery”. The first edition was a loosely tied together collection of academic articles and essays that acted as a dry review of boilers and floor sealants of the 1990s, but the second edition was transformed into an easy manual to start a brewery by Dick Cantwell (Elysian, Magnolia). The Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology even went so far as to hold a “How to Start a Brewery” course using that book as a rough textbook. The course did not teach people to make beer or run a business. It taught people how to start a brewery.

  And so, the barrier to entry became the notion that “It’s just so crazy it might work” and the finances to afford the most minimal amount of equipment. Buoyed by an industry (and industry association) that boasted double digit growth numbers for 20+ years, banks were eager to throw loans at anybody who could write a passionate business plan.

  But when those breweries started, they were different than the earlier ones. They were not built by the originators and inventors, the people that had traveled abroad and found new ideas to bring home. They were started by their fans. They were started by eager homebrewers who wanted to do the same thing their heroes did, and when they started breweries, they started homebreweries instead.

  Over the past decade and more, homebrew took a natural step from Charlie Papazian’s creative recipe starts into the concept of Extreme Brewing. You can thank Beer Advocate for it. Though their tame definition, “A beer that pushes the boundaries of brewing” is an easy definition to apply to even, say, the latest trends of non-alcoholic beers and low-cal IPAs, their intent was made clear in their preference for high alcohol offerings and rare, outlandish ingredients that was showcased on their website, and at Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Fest.

  In breweries at the time, these extreme beers were fairly uncommon. Dogfish Head’s brewers stood out among their peers as the people who were most likely to throw lobster in the boil kettle, or have their entire staff chew corn to make a traditional chicha, but in homebrew it was an easy step. Ingredients that are off-limits to commercial brewers due to cost, scale, or regulatory reasons pose no impediment to a homebrewer.

  The only thing stopping any homebrewer from making a beer out of 10 lbs of Snickers bars is the cost of 10 lbs of Snickers bars.

  For years, the Brewers’ Association had a mantra based on fear: Quality is the most important thing. The fear was that a potential customer would try craft beer for the first time and it would be terrible and they would never try any craft beer ever again. The idea that a macro American lager drinker would walk into a craft brewery, drink a sub-par IPA, and then give up forever is a myth. Instead, that drinker tried beer again, maybe not that day, but at some point. Everybody drinks craft beer now, macro American lager drinkers.

  For years, craft breweries were not at the mercy of their customer’s tastes, they defined them. Now, the educational period is over.

  When thousands of homebreweries started throughout the country, they brought their recipes with them and taught millions of craft beer fans to love what they made: chock full of lactose, breakfast cereal, candy bars, fruit, and all kinds of sugars. More and more brewers experimented with more and more ways to get hops into beer, because they had been trained by those giant hopheads of yesteryear, and they found the gold mine in New England IPAs.

  Today, our most successful small breweries flourish on a small variation of hazy IPAs, fruited sours, and dessert stouts. Our most successful large breweries cling to the waning popularity of their flagships in a broken distribution system.

  Now, most craft beer fans value alcohol, adjuncts, and adjectives over quality and classic styles.

  And they should. We taught them to.  The only way back to classics is forward through education and inspiration of a whole new set of craft beer fans.

Erik Lars Myers is an author, brewer, and lover of beer. He currently works as the Director of Brewing Operations at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC where he strives toward innovation every day while supporting the Southern Beer Economy by using brewing ingredients sourced and grown across the American South.

Pike Brewing Company: Celebrating 30 Years as a Craft Beer Pioneer

By: Becky Garrison

Why is Seattle-based Pike Brewing Company still standing 30 years after its 1989 founding when a growing number of craft breweries in the Pacific Northwest are either shuttering their doors or being bought out by global conglomerates?

  According to Pike’s co-founder and co-chair of its board, Charles Finkel, “There’s an unbelieva-ble amount of competition out there with a challenging business climate, but we’ve done our best to have a sustainable business model. We work really hard and have a good team of people.”

  Following his lifelong passion for imported beers, Finkel founded Merchant du Vin in 1978, so he could introduce consumers to craft beers from England, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, France and Norway, as well as several small American breweries. Jason Parker, co-founder of Copper-works Distilling and Pike’s first brewer, points to the difficulties in convincing Americans to give craft beer a chance. “Back then, nobody knew how to drink a quality beer, so Charles had to edu-cate each person bottle by bottle.”

  Finkel would enter a restaurant and ask to see their beer menu. Inevitably, the waiter would re-spond, “We don’t have a beer menu, but I can tell you what we have.” The waiter would recite names of commercial beers like Budweiser, Coors Light, and Rainer. Then Finkel would reply, “Oh, just bring me some jug wine.” When they noted they don’t serve that type of wine here, he would respond, “Yes, but you serve that type of beer.” Following this exchange, he would set out some imported beers and encourage them to up their beer game.

  In assessing the Seattle beer culture circa 1980, Christian Krogstad, Seattle native and founder of House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon, recalls being smitten by the unusual styles and packaging of Merchant du Vin’s imported beers. In Krogstad’s estimation, “More people than you can imagine were influenced by the beers they imported. I credit them more than any mi-crobrewery or homebrewing writer with creating the spark that led to the explosion in American craft brewing.” In the spirit of other like-minded folks, Krogstad tried his hand at home brewing, and he discovered his vocation in this process.

The Founding of Pike Place Brewery

  In the late 1980s, Finkel took his experience influencing some of the finest breweries on the way that they brewed, packaged and marketed their beer, and founded his own brewery. “I felt if I could sell beer from Bavaria, Yorkshire or Belgium at a price level that was the highest in histo-ry, I could do at least as good, if not better, here in Seattle.”

  On October 17, 1989, the Pike Place Brewery announced its grand opening courtesy of the World’s Shortest Non-Motorized Uphill Parade. John Farias of Liberty Malt Supply led the pa-rade pushing a two-wheeled silver hand truck filled with a keg of Pike Pale Ale. Following Fari-as were the Finkels, Franz and Angela Inselkammer from Bavaria’s Ayinger Brewery, and Jason Parker, along with local media and about a hundred beer aficionados. Also included in the parade were dogs, a cat, a walking geoduck from the Sheraton Hotel, a llama from the Herb Farm and an oyster. After a two-block uphill walk, the menagerie arrived at Cutter’s Bay House, where Franz Inselkammer tapped and poured the inaugural pint of Pike Pale Ale.

  Finkel chose the brewery’s location on Western Avenue due to its uphill location so he could in-stall a gravity-flow steam-powered system. At the time, the brewery’s equipment was state-of-the-art with a four-barrel copper kettle custom made by Seattle’s Alaska Copper and Brass Com-pany.

  When Dick Cantwell, currently the Head of Brewing Operations for Magnolia Beer Company in San Francisco, was hired in 1991 after Parker went back to college, the craft brewing scene was in its infancy. About 200 U.S. breweries were in existence, with Pike being the third in the great-er Seattle area. Cantwell recollects, “By today’s standards, most people made mediocre beer, but the scene was exciting, and we all became lifelong friends.”

  In addition to brewing their perennial best-selling Pike Pale Ale along with a porter and Pike XXXXX Stout, Pike also has the distinction of making one of the first IPAs in the United States. By developing relationships with companies such as Skagit Valley Malting and area grain farm-ers, Finkel sourced local products to create flavorful beers.

  Finkel worked in conjunction with his wife Rose Ann, co-founder and co-chair of the board. Parker sums up their creative, collaborative relationship. “Charles is the artistic force while Rose Ann is the business financier. When he wants to bring a vision to life, Charles needs a team who can come behind him and help him figure out how to do that.” Finkel’s artistic touch can also be found on Pike’s iconic beer logos. The art is distinctly “Charles Finkel” in its design, colors and Victorian-style lettering.

Opening of Pike Pub

  In 1996, they moved to a larger 30-barrel brewery located at the site of a former winery on First Avenue. Rose Ann’s experience of owning a cooking store played a seminal role in their mission to combine craft beer with local, sustainable food. Also, they changed their name to the Pike Brewing Company due to their proximity to Pike Place Market.

  Concurrently, they launched Pike Pub as a destination place that offers a curated experience visi-tors cannot experience elsewhere. For example, the pub houses the Microbrewery Museum, a collection of Finkel’s personal artifacts that document 9,000 years of brewing history. “My goal was to encourage people through our decorations to view beer as cultural items instead of a mass-marketed highly advertised commodity,” Finkel tells Beverage Master Magazine.

  Then after realizing that the brewery and pub could not stand on its own without the support of parent company Merchant Du Vin, the Finkels sold the brewery and pub to Merchant Du Vin the following year. Drew Gillespie, Pike’s current president, began as a line cook in 1998 during this period, which he describes as the Dark Ages. “There wasn’t a lot of investment or passion within the company.”

  After realizing they were missing their brewery and the maturation of the industry, the Finkels purchased Pike back in 2006. Gillespie describes this purchase as “a rebirth that really picked up the heart and soul that the Finkels bring to their work.” Upon their return, the Finkels further built up their community connections, ethical business practices and sustainability focus.

  Among their numerous community projects include a long-standing commitment to Planned Parenthood, where Charles Finkel served on their board before founding Merchant du Vin. They brew a specialty beer titled Morning After Pale as a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, which they offer during their annual Women in Beer event. Also, their annual event, Chocofest, sup-ports Long Live the Kings, an environmental group dedicated to preserving local salmon.

Moving Towards the Future

  Currently, Pike has five owners, who are all members of the board: the Finkels, Gillespie, VP and Controller Patti Baker and Executive Chef Gary Marx. “We call this selling in versus selling out,” Gillespie says. “You have to have people on site who are really focused on how to make it successful and willing to put their life into it.”

  Pike further expanding its brewing capacity in 2017 by launching Tankard & Tun. This intimate seafood restaurant located on the second floor above the pub enabled them to serve dishes like oysters on the half shell that are hard to serve in a hectic pub environment.

  They also introduced cocktails, which Parker says is a relatively new development in brewpubs. “There was a time, if you were a brewery and you had cocktails, you were seen as not committed to being a brewery. You must think your beer is not good enough to be able to stand on its own. But that’s sort of like saying we’re not going to serve wine either because no wine can be better than our beer. Well, that’s wrong.” 

  Presently, Pike partners with local distilleries, including Woodenville Whiskey, Dry Fly Distil-ling and Copperworks Distilling for their barrel-aged program, which they look to expand in 2020. They also plan on making more sour beers to meet the customer demand for more extreme types of beers.

  Despite these innovations, Pike’s prime focus remains its consistency. “We like being slow-moving. We don’t feel we need to expand and get giant. We just want to have a nice solid base, two restaurants and a beer distribution network in the Pacific Northwest,” says Gillespie.

  To this end, they’ve made in-roads in Hawaii and Alaska and want to establish a presence in Or-egon. In 2018, Pike went global by launching a collaboration in Japan with hopes to expand the Pike concept to China through a Chinese partner.

  “If we could maximize the capacity of the brewery, we will be helping the local community and being a good employer,” says Gillespie. “That’s a recipe for success for our little mini-empire.”

Beyond the Mask: Rebuilding after COVID-19

By: Tracey L. Kelley

  At press time, details about the future economic impact of the pandemic are in constant fluctuation. However, most forecasters are certain greater challenges loom large. 

  It’s not for a lack of effort. There were many expedient pivots in the craft beverage industry, from the much-lauded manufacturing of hand sanitizer and flipping stale beer into whiskey to crafting subscription boxes and extending off-premise sales.

So, now what? We asked business consultants to provide their perspectives, and they eagerly offered frank but encouraging relaunch and repositioning action steps we hope spark ideas. Our experts include:

  Jacob Halls, partner, and Rick Laxague, partner, Craft Beverage Consultants in Columbia, Missouri. Halls advises in areas of business strategy, compliance and marketing and distribution. Laxague provides plans for distribution, operations and sales and marketing. Laxague said, “Our experts have a combined 150 years in the alcoholic beverage industry, with deep knowledge in everything from sales and distribution, production and regulatory compliance to marketing, package design, event planning, IT, (social) media, hospitality and even values-based executive coaching.”

  Scott Schiller, managing director of Thoroughbred Spirits Group, which specializes in helping new and established spirit companies. Schiller said, “Since 2009, our Chicago-based company has helped launch more than 30 distilleries, designed over 50 spirits brands and facilitated three exits.”

  Beverage Master Magazine (BM): Right now, there’s still considerable uncertainty in the beer, cider and spirits industries. Is this a time to wait and see what happens, or an opportunity to take proactive steps?   

  Jacob Halls (JH): Be proactive—successful companies see their environment and adapt to it. Waiting to see what happens to you takes you out of an element of control of the direction of your company. See the changes in the hospitality climate and take note of how they’re not going to be going back to how they were anytime soon and adapt accordingly.

Consider:

1.  Were your on-premise sales 80% of your business? Find a way to team up with your prime on-premise accounts to set up partnered order pairs if the state allows curbside/delivery alcohol sales. For example, if you have 200 kegs, sell them directly from the taproom.

2.  Slow down production in the areas where your sales drastically diminished, and shift to areas that have picked up. 

3.  Are you currently doing curbside sales at your taproom to supplement that revenue generation? Have you created a gift card program? Have you developed an online sales system and where legal, delivery/distribution program for your products and merchandise? Have you explored every option of new streams of sales? How have you maintained connection with your customer base?

Adapt—or Get Ready to Sell Your Equipment

  Rick Laxague (RL): Be proactive now! If you’re not analyzing your business right now and what the new normal looks like for your brand post-COVID, chances are you won’t recover from this.

Scott Schiller (SS): The spirits business is recession resilient, not recession-proof. I’m not an economist, but at the time of writing this, I don’t foresee the economy recovering quickly. As such, there’s no better time for the well-prepared—whether existing or those in the wings to enter the industry.

  I take no pride in writing this, but there are many distilleries, and companies in general, at risk before COVID. Unfortunately, COVID is forcing their hand. The knowledgeable, well-financed, nimble and diversified—such as those with a healthy combination of on- and off-premise ratios and affordable price points—have the potential to flourish. For the distiller in planning, there’s likely to be less competition and a healthy offering of used equipment.

  BM: In your estimation, how much of a shift do you think the pandemic and its aftermath will make in the industry?

  JH: I don’t want to sound grim, but the taprooms, bars and restaurants will take the largest hit, which passes to the alcohol producers for a decrease in on-premises sales.  Walking around or dancing shoulder-to-shoulder in a club for three hours isn’t going to be viewed as normal for a while. If an establishment’s happy hour was its primary earnings time-of-day, and it could seat 200 people with the average space between seats being two feet, how many people concerned about this will want to sit that close to someone? 

  As businesses adapt, seating space becomes less per square foot. In order to earn the same dollars-per-hour, something has to change in the pricing or the amount of staff—both of which can drastically change customer flow and demographic of the restaurant. Service may go down with fewer staff, causing a less-positive experience and fewer return visits. 

  If the prices have to go up in order to maintain the same level of staffing, then some customers may now be priced out of the establishment, as they’re financially affected by the pandemic as well. 

  The brands of alcohol purchased by the establishment may also change: a package by the smaller craft producer that’s normally $45 per case or $200 per keg may be passed over for a cheaper $23 case and $60 keg in order for the establishment to maintain its customer service level of staffing and pricing. 

  Something will have to give. Bars, restaurants, wineries, breweries, cideries, meaderies and distilleries will suffer and, in many cases, cease doing enough business to survive their existing debt loads.

  RL: It’s obvious that all segments of the industry have seen growth from new entries—that is, companies and brands opening in the past eight or more years. Some of these segments have triple-digit growth. This caused the glass for the consumer to be overflowing with overloads in brand, flavor, style and marketing. There’s no loyalty to a brand in the new 21–28 age range due to the influx of offerings. To stop the glass from overflowing, you have the following options:

1.  Get a bigger glass.

2.  More space in retail stores, as the stores aren’t getting any bigger. B: More stores, but with the cost of real estate and larger corporate retail stores the “A locations” are gone and a “C location” won’t deliver a ROI.

3.  Turn off the faucet. Stop the “overflow abundance.” The thinning of the crowd needed to happen, but it’s unfortunate that a worldwide pandemic life scare is what it took. Think of Mother Nature and our farmers who produce ingredients to make these beverages. They burn off their fields after harvest to create new healthy growth for the coming year.

  SS: The mid-size and larger distillers will benefit from this pandemic. Part of what has hindered their typical growth patterns is the number of new entrants and the plethora of local distillers who often gain favor.

  The second tier puts an incredible focus on companies that provide their quickest pathway to recovery/profitability, which will likely cause some brands to have even less attention. I believe some brands will be delisted before that dance plays out.

  Once we reach the third tier, the on-trade will rely on brands that provide value and support. Off-trade is doing very well, but I don’t foresee these profits being poured into unsupported/unknown craft brands, as consumer confidence isn’t likely to be there to warrant the investment to carry them.

  BM: In what ways is a relaunch plan essential now, and how can a producer formulate one? What might it entail?

  JH: I tend to have three or more plans for almost every situation—you can never be too ready, but you can always be underprepared.  One may ask how to prepare as a producer. In order to plan, know your business history:

•    Where have you struggled before?

•    Where were you suffering most recently?

•    How agile is your marketing team to communicate your company’s changes, and in a tone that maintains a positive message? 

•    How agile is your production team in shifting from kegs to package? 

•    How able is your operations team to facilitate the changes that need done: ordering disposable growlers, cans, contactless delivery material, etc.

•    How able are you as the proprietor to manage the economic responsibilities needed to maintain changes in your company?

•    Are you able to make hard decisions as needed?

•    Laying off or furloughing a long-time employee is incredibly hard to do. Do you have a support system yourself for this?

  Account for everything that has happened and can happen. 

  RL: What is the saying: “You have one chance to make a good impression?” Well, now you have a second chance! Look at your original business plan and model and select all the positives—then write a new one. You can remove things you did wrong and implement those you thought of after the fact. You know more now, but not everything. So source out what you don’t know, a.k.a, “phone an expert.”

  SS: No matter how this pandemic is influencing your business, it’s vital to create a strategic plan with several pathways and outcomes, for there is only one who is all-knowing in this unknown, and that is neither you nor me.

  With plans in place, financial models need to be built to ascertain how much time you have, and along with an awareness of critical decisions and time periods. Assigning weights to the various outcomes also allows you to make a calculated risk assessment on what should even be attempted.

  BM: What top three action items do you recommend to producers right now?

JH:

1.  Don’t produce just to produce unless you need to burn through raw materials already purchased. If you can, barrel-age or delay the release dates to maintain the production/release rate to sales rates.

2.  Take a cold look at your finances. The hardest part of that is being honest with yourself. Don’t let ego make the decisions.

3.  Be as proactive in your community as possible. If you can, develop a T-shirt that’s available online or curbside with 100% of the proceeds going to support your furloughed taproom staff or a local community cause. Work with your distributors in other communities outside your own to be supportive there as well. Be part of the community, even if you’re not local—keep your face seen in a positive way.

RL:

1.   Evaluate finances. What can you afford to do, and what can you afford not to do, have or upgrade?

2.   Branding. What can you improve upon from a brand perspective—as in, how to reach the consumer and engage with them? Get them to stop scrolling, and “like” (buy) your brand. I think virtual happy hours will be a popular thing moving forward for friends and families apart.

3.   Distribution. Improve your relationship with the distributor network. This also means having adequate sales-brand representation to work with your distribution network to secure those placements.

SS:

1.  Center yourself and get extra clear on your definition of success.

2.  Develop a rock-solid strategic plan and financial model.

3.  Get your team informed and aligned, from front-line workers to investors. Prepare them mentally and emotionally for what’s at hand. Ensure that you have the right warriors, and that you have the leadership and wisdom to see them through.

  BM: In what ways can producers work within their communities and develop new marketing strategies to rebuild their businesses?

  JH:  As mentioned above, team up with distributors, businesses that supported your brand well, and charities and causes that are positively helping communities during this pandemic. 

  RL: Thank the community for the support during this crisis. If you have a loyalty program, use an email marketing platform to send a direct thank you letter to the zip codes where members reside. Make it a bounce back: “Thanks for the support, bring this letter in for a ½ off item,” or a similar promotion.

  SS: Every business is in this together, and every business is going to need help. Distilleries and other craft producers have always been important members of communities, from supporting other local businesses such as farms and utility companies; to offering dependable and well-paid jobs from production to sales to executives; and of course, providing extensive tax revenue for their municipalities and states.

  Distillers switched gears during world wars, and are doing so now during the pandemic. This is an amazing time to be a leading light in the community and an essential economic engine in a town’s rebirth. We often say “support local.” This is a two-way street and right now, distillers can lead.

  BM: Finally, “no revenue” is an obvious answer to the question, “Should I close?” But in the current over-expanded market, what other answers might a producer consider?

  JH: SKU reduction. If you have a brand that’s working and some that are lagging, but they’re being produced to fill out the portfolio to make your brand more attractive to distributors, grocery, C-store sets or franchise restaurant chain mandates—cut them! Focus on what’s working and do it well.

  RL: Be humble. It’s more admirable to ask for help than to never build a new door to walk through. Also consider:

1.   What’s your quality of life? Health, stress levels, missing kids’ activities because you must run the business and so on. This pandemic has brought families together. More meals in groups, board game conversation and outdoor life vs. a face in a phone all the time.

2.   Are you staying true to the mantra, integrity and goal of why you opened the business? Some people will say no—they’re just trying to keep up.

  SS: This pandemic will hopefully be the toughest business challenge you’ll ever face in your lifetime. As such, it presents an excellent opportunity to confirm your commitment to your business:

1.   Is it your life’s calling/purpose?

2.   Do you have the energy and resources to start back from where you were in the early years?

3.   What will your personal and financial well-being look like if it takes two years to get to where you were at the end of 2019?

  If you have the fortitude and the wisdom, you can work through this. And the field will likely be even greener if you can make it through the next 730 days.

BEER FINANCE: Covid-19 Cash Tactics & Strategies

 By: Kary Shumway, Founder of Craft Brewery Finance

  The Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc with our emotional and financial well-being. Now, more than ever, cash flow planning is a survival skill.  In this article, we’ll review tactics and strategies to keep more cash in your business during this crisis. And I’ll share the cash flow templates that I use to monitor cash flow in our brewery.

  We’ll also cover how to build a new financial plan for the coming weeks and months to make sure you are properly tracking revenue, expenses and cash flow. This crisis will end, but the brewery financial skills you learn today will benefit you and your business forever. Use them to survive now and thrive into the future.

Short-Term Planning: Survival Mode

  First things first, let’s focus on cash.  Financial survival requires cash on hand, access to capital, and a tool to project near-term cash flows. Start with how much cash you have on hand, and list potential sources of additional capital.

  Next, calculate expected cash flows for the upcoming week. List out expected collections from accounts receivable, and payments to employees, vendors and the bank. Use a simple tool like this to summarize the numbers.

  This cash flow tool will show you cash on hand, and upcoming flows of money in and out of the business. It’s a tracker you can update quickly and regularly to keep a close eye on short-term cash flow.

  Next, dig in a little deeper on accounts receivable (A/R). These are your uncollected payments from customers and must be monitored closely during this crisis. Use the detailed A/R aging report to monitor any overdue customer invoices. Accounts receivable represents future incoming cash flow and is critical to the financial survival of your brewery.  Communicate with any overdue customers, work out new terms if you must, and keep the cash flowing in.

  Likewise, review the details of your accounts payable (A/P). These are your unpaid invoices to vendors and suppliers. Identify those invoices that must be paid on time, and which can be pushed off. Communicate with key vendors and ask whether they will accept extended terms. For example, if a vendor offers 30-day credit terms, they may be willing to extend to 60 or 90 days. The goal is to slow down the outflow of cash, while maintaining a good relationship with key vendors. Monitor your accounts payable, communicate with vendors, and keep more cash on hand.

Change Your Cash Process

  One important skill to learn during this financial crisis is how to aggressively manage cash flow. Specifically, learn where cash leaves the brewery and how you can adjust quickly to keep more cash in your bank account.  Cash on hand means you’re in business. Running out of cash means big trouble.  To aggressively manage cash flow, I use a three-step process that looks like this:

1.   Find out how and where money leaves your business.

2.   Insert yourself into the money-out process.

3.   Review past spending … and adjust.

Step 1:  Find out how and where money leaves your business

  To start, make a list of the ways that money flows out of your brewery. The usual cash outflows are:

•    Accounts payable

•    Payroll

•    Manual checks

•    Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

•    Automated Clearing House (ACH)

  Pay special attention to the last two bullet points. These are deductions directly from your bank account and may go unnoticed in a time when you’re trying to turn off cash outflows.

  Which of these cash outflows apply to your business? Take your list and move on to the next step.

Step 2:  Insert yourself into the money-out process

  Put yourself directly in-between your money and the expense to be paid. In other words, sign every check that goes out through accounts payable, review every manual check before it is mailed, look over the payroll report before it is processed, and get a listing of all the EFT or ACH payments that have been processed through your bank account.

  This is the only way to slow or stop cash from flowing out of your business. You need to be directly involved, and directly in-between your money and the expense to be paid.

Step 3:  Review past spending

  One of my favorite financial reports, in good times and bad, is the general ledger (G/L). It records every transaction that flows through your business. The G/L can serve as a road map to reduce the outflows of cash in an emergency.

  Print a copy of your detailed general ledger for the past 12 months and review all the expenses. As you look over the figures, ask questions: What cash outflows are recurring? What can be shut off immediately? What upcoming payments can be delayed or deferred?

  The general ledger isn’t just for the bookkeeper, it’s a tool for brewery owners and managers to identify and shut off cash outflows.

Use these cash flow tactics

  In addition to the 3-step process, there are several specific steps you can take right now to improve cash flows during this crisis. These include communication with your beer wholesaler, bank, insurance company, key vendors, and landlord. The primary goal of this communication: Build a plan so that you don’t run out of cash.

  Market changes are happening daily, and this requires regular communication with your wholesaler partners. Ask what they are seeing for sales trends. This will help inform expected sales volume as well as production and packaging plans. Ask your wholesaler what they need, and how you can help. Your wholesaler is your biggest customer, and biggest source of cash flow. Stay close, be supportive and responsive to their needs to keep the cash coming in.

  If you have business debt, you have monthly payments of principal and interest due to the bank. In this crisis, your lender may have the ability to reduce your monthly payments to interest-only. This can be a significant cash flow savings.

  Take for example, a brewery with monthly debt payments of $10,000 per month. The loan payment schedule shows the $10,000 payment represents $8,000 of principal and $2,000 of interest. Therefore, reducing the payments to interest-only will save $8,000 per month in cash flow.

  If you have business interruption insurance, reach out to your insurance company to determine coverage. While this type of insurance usually excludes pandemics (go figure) it is still worthwhile to understand how the claim process works. Legislative rules are changing every day, and it’s possible that insurance companies will be required to cover losses. Learn about your coverage, file a claim, and you’ll be ready if the rules change.

  Your key vendors may be open to extending payment terms to 60 days, 90 days or longer. Some larger vendors may reach out to you and negotiate new terms. Other vendors you have to ask. The takeaway is to be pro-active, communicate with your vendor partners and negotiate new terms that you both can live with. Any credit extension you can get will improve short term cash flow.

  This same approach can be used with your landlord. If you have a lease, you have monthly rent that needs to be paid on time. Your landlord may be open to a rent deferral in exchange for extending the back end of the lease. For example, no rent for the next two months, in exchange for the lease end date to be extended two months. As with the other ideas in this section, this might not work. But if it does, it will help short term cash flow. 

Re-forecast Your Financials

  The cash flow tool shared earlier is useful for a quick look at short-term cash flows. The financial re-forecast tool that we will cover next provides a longer-term look at expected results.

  Thanks to the financial crisis, your original forecast for this year is no longer relevant. However, it can still be used as a starting point for the financial re-forecast. Adjust the numbers up or down depending on changes to the business, new information that arrives daily, and trends in the market.

  To start this process, take the annual plan and spread it out over the 12-months of the year. The financial re-forecast model that I use looks like this:

  On the left side of the model, summarize sales, margins and operating expenses. Across the top of sheet, list out each month in the year and whether the information is based on actual or forecasted numbers. For example, if you have January, February and March financials completed, input those actual results in the sheet. For the remainder of the months in the year, mark these as forecasted numbers.

  The financial re-forecast tool is intended to be a one-page plan that is quick and easy to update on a regular basis with new information as it becomes available.  Use this tool to combine all the information you are gathering from wholesaler partners, key vendors, and changes to legislation (such as the excise tax deferral). 

Wrap Up + Action Items

  Cash flow planning is a financial survival skill and is needed now more than ever. While we don’t know when this crisis will end or what business will look like when it does, we do know how to aggressively manage cash to keep our business going as long as possible.

  Use the cash flow template presented here to keep a close eye on cash balances, access to capital and expected money flows into and out of your brewery. Take an active role in managing this most important asset.

  Use the financial re-forecast model to build a simple, one-page plan. Keep the numbers high-level to start – sales, margins, and operating expenses.  Update the plan on a regular basis as changes happen. And changes are happening every day.

  The brewery financial skills you learn today will benefit your business forever. Build your skills to survive now and thrive into the future.

  Kary Shumway is the founder of Craft Brewery Finance, an online resource for beer industry professionals. He has worked in the beer industry for more than 20 years as a certified public accountant and a chief financial officer for a beer distributor. He currently serves as CFO for Wormtown Brewery in Worcester, Massachusetts.

  Craft Brewery Finance publishes a weekly beer industry finance newsletter, offers online training courses on topics such as cash flow planning, financial forecasting, and brewery metrics. During this crisis, Craft Brewery Finance is offering a Free 60-Day Subscription. Visit www.CraftBreweryFinance.com for details.  

SUPPORTING “TRADE” DURING COVID-19

By: Ryan Malkin

  Does the rulebook go out the window during a pandemic? As the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) and states weigh in via guidance and industry advisories, the resounding answer is no. Still, brands seek to support bartenders with, by and large, pure intentions. That is, brands have money and bartenders may not. Bartenders and brands establish important and long-term relationships over the course of, in some cases, decades. If your friend needed a meal, you’d certainly oblige. However, when the funds are coming from an upper tier (manufacturer, supplier, wholesaler) member’s pockets, we must consider whether and how funds can go towards trade. As a threshold matter, we should consider whether the bartender is employed or unemployed. If a bartender is unemployed, arguably that person is no longer considered a retailer within the meaning of the rules. If that’s the case, the rules with regards to how a brand may engage with that person may also go out the window.

  By way of very brief background, it is unlawful to induce a retailer (an on-premise or off-premise licensee) to purchase your brand to the exclusion in whole or in part of another brand’s products. In particular, the federal and most state rules note that, subject to exceptions, “the act by an industry member of furnishing, giving, renting, lending, or selling any equipment, fixtures, signs, supplies, money, services, or other things of value to a retailer constitutes a means to induce within the meaning of the Act.” In short: unless there is an exception, you may consider the giving of any “thing of value” to be impermissible.

  That means, but for exceptions, it is impermissible to acquire or hold any interest in a retail license, pay or credit a retailer for advertising, guarantee a loan to a retailer, require a retailer to purchase a certain amount of products, or provide any items that are not allowed under an exception. Those of us in the alcohol beverage industry may not realize it, but we largely play in the world of exceptions. The exceptions are where you find it permissible to offer point-of-sale materials, conduct tastings/samplings, provide displays, offer educational seminars to retailers, and stock/rotate your products.

  Federally and in many, though not all, states the providing of the “thing of value” must also lead to exclusion. Exclusion is when the practice “puts the retailer’s independence at risk.” To determine that, the TTB will look at the practice and consider, among other things, whether it required an obligation on the part of the retailer to purchase or promote the brand, and whether it resulted in discrimination among retailers. That means the brand did not offer the same thing to all retailers in the area on the same terms without business reasons for the difference in treatment.

  Now that we’re on the same page with regards to the rules, we want to consider whether the person we want to assist is employed by a retailer or unemployed. If the person is employed by retailer (remember that means on-premise or off-premise), the brand will be more limited in how it may engage with that person. In short, follow the pre COVID-19 rules. TTB’s recent guidance on this topic specifically states that “the furnishing of business meals or entertainment to a trade buyer is an inducement under the Act” if the inducement results in the full or partial exclusion of products sold by that brand in the course of interstate or foreign commerce. In other words, according to TTB, “the furnishing of business meals or entertainment to a trade buyer is not by itself a violation of the Act.” In fact, providing retailer entertainment is quite common and many states have specific regulations that permit the practice.

  Typical states rules will require that the brand’s representative be present, that the entertainment be reasonable, and not conditioned on the purchase or agreement to purchase any of the brand’s products. Retailer entertainment rules are how you often see brand’s take bartenders and liquor store owners to ballgames, concerts and dinner.

  Given the social distancing rules, it is impractical and unsafe to get together with working trade. Instead of going to dinner and discussing business, it may be worth considering whether a brand feels comfortable doing so online via, say, Zoom or FaceTime. The brand can send drinks and a meal to the bartender. When the food and drinks arrive, the brand and the bartender can hop online and eat together. The brand representative would be as present as one can reasonably during this time. Of course, the brand should analyze this against the rules in the applicable state(s) and with its own attorney.

  However, if the bartender is no longer employed, one should now consider him or her as just a regular consumer, albeit with above average mixology skills. Now the brand may feel comfortable entering into an agreement with the person to be a brand consultant to perform any number of services. For instance, to create how-to cocktail videos or conduct virtual tastings. The brand would then pay that person whatever the two agree as reasonable. The brand should consider putting an agreement in place with that out-of-work bartender. The agreement should include basic provisions, perhaps paying particular attention to intellectual property (we own it, you’re using it with our permission and we own what you create) and representations around the unemployed bartender’s status. This compliance section should require the person being hired to acknowledge that he or she does not have any direct, or indirect, ownership in any retailer, and, at minimum, that the fee being paid is not conditioned on or being used to induce any retailer to purchase the brand’s products to the exclusion of any competitive products.

  Now that you have a solution for supporting both employed, though perhaps struggling, bartenders and those out-of-work, go out there and keep your brand alive and relevant during these unprecedented times.  Be careful out there.

  Ryan Malkin is principal attorney at Malkin Law P.A., a law firm serving the alcohol beverage industry. Nothing in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as specific legal advice.

For more information contact Ryan Malkin at…

Malkin Law, P.A.

260 95th Street, Suite 206

Miami Beach, FL 33154

Office: (305) 763-8539

Mobile: (646) 345-8639

Email: ryan@malkin.law

Website: www.malkinlawfirm.com

Brewery Start-Up Tips for a Successful Launch

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

  In the United States, there are currently over 7,000 breweries, but that isn’t stopping entrepreneurs from opening even more in cities, small towns and rural areas. Fortunately, craft beer lovers are plentiful across the country, loyal to their favorite brands and curious to try new brews.

  When making plans to open a new brewery, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

Initial Considerations

  Many things go into starting a brewery, even before searching for a physical location. You’ll need to choose a business structure for your brewery to operate within, such as an LLC with an operating agreement, which is often preferable to a brewery corporation because it’s quicker, easier and more affordable. You may choose to hire an attorney to handle these matters for you or give it a try yourself with online legal resources for a DIY approach. Insurance is also an important consideration to protect the business with liability, property and casualty coverage.

  When it comes to the legalities of opening a brewery, things can get complicated quickly. Permits and licenses must be filed at the local, county, state and federal levels. Depending on where you live, regulations, licenses and permits vary, so be careful to do thorough research to eliminate surprises in this regard. Be aware of when to file permits as well. Filing permits in the wrong order can lead to delays or stymy plans altogether. State liquor licensing and a federal brewing permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau can take several months to process, so file those as soon as possible.

  You must also consider if you want a simple taproom or if you will include food in the business model. Those choosing to include food will face more permitting and costs for equipment and location modifications. The overall cost of opening a brewery is often between $250,000 and $2.5 million, and much of that money goes towards equipment.

Physical Location

  The location you choose makes a huge difference in the type of customers you will attract and how your brand will grow in the future. At this stage of development, there is also the need to weigh the pros and cons of opening up on a busy street with lots of foot traffic versus opening in a more isolated industrial park with space to grow and more affordable rental prices.

  Remember that you’ll need to secure the proper zoning for your new brewery and meet all the necessary legal requirements in your jurisdiction. Zoning laws matter because you want to create a favorable community gathering space that’s welcome with local neighbors.

  While searching for a storefront, you must have at least enough funds for the first month’s rent and the security deposit for the lease. Also, consider any construction that will be needed to outfit the building for brewery purposes. For example, you will need a sturdy floor in your physical space that can withstand the beer-making process. Also, take into consideration the plumbing and electrical capacity of the building and start getting quotes from local contractors for any work that needs doing before opening.

  Space requirements for your location may be based on equipment needed, but consider whether it’s in your best interest to secure a location with space to accommodate future fermentation tanks and storage needs.

Brewing Equipment

  Equipment is, by far, one of the biggest financial hits for a new start-up brewery. Equipment costs can range from $100,000 or less for a very small-capacity brewery, to over $1 million for a brewery that uses a new 30-barrel system.

  The brewing equipment you need will primarily be based on the number, category and style of beer you plan to make. There are significant differences between a brewery that will only brew a couple of types of beer compared to one that is looking to launch eight to ten styles right away. Unless you have ample support staff and financial resources, most new breweries find it in their best interests to start small and build up their offerings and services over time.

  The list of equipment needed for a brewery can be very overwhelming at first, but do your best to take it one step at a time. Some of the equipment to start thinking about and budgeting for early-on are kettles, kegs, boilers, bottling and canning lines, conveyors, cooling systems, storage tanks, fermentation tanks, filters, labeling machines, piping and tubing, refrigeration equipment, cleaning equipment, waste treatment systems and tap handles.

  Now is also the time to learn about the differences in piping, tubing and brew pump equipment so you can make informed decisions about buying peristaltic, diaphragm or centrifugal pumps. Fermentation tanks and temperature gauges will be needed for beer storage. Meanwhile, immersion wort chillers and counter-flow chillers are essential for cooling systems, and brewing kettles and boilers are necessary for heating processes.

  Andrew Ferguson, sales manager for Codi Manufacturing, told Beverage Master Magazine that packaging is more important than ever in today’s rapidly evolving beverage market.

  “Codi manufactures complete canning systems that scale to meet the demands of our growing customers,” Ferguson said. “Codi’s counter-pressure filler allows for a high temp caustic CIP and over four CO2 vols, giving you the ability to package seltzers or other beverages.”

  Ferguson said that a common mistake among brand-new breweries in the start-up phase is buying on price and speed instead of function and quality. He recommends always finding others who own the equipment you are looking at and asking for their advice.

  “You can have the best hops, malts, yeast, water, recipe and brewer, but a bad packaging machine will ruin all your hard work,” he said.  He also recommends buying spare parts to decrease your equipment’s downtime and avoiding machinery made with aluminum and cheap plastic materials so you can CIP with caustic at 180-degrees Fahrenheit.

“Form solid relationships with suppliers and stay in touch to get the latest updates and functionality out of the equipment you purchase.”

Ergonomics

  Stocking up on all the necessary equipment is often the first goal of a start-up brewery. According to Ron Mack, the regional sales manager for Bishamon Industries Corporation, one of the most common mistakes that new breweries make is being “laser-focused on production equipment and often forgetting to consider ergonomics that increase worker safety and productivity.”

  Based in Ontario, California, Bishamon Industries Corporation specializes in quality, innovative, ergonomic products that enhance worker safety and productivity. The company offers a wide array of ergonomic assist lift equipment, including the EZ Loader Automatic Pallet Positioner, that are useful for craft breweries that hand-palletize cases of beer.

  “This product keeps the top of the pallet load at waist height, eliminating worker bending, which can lead to back injuries,” Mack said. “The EZ Loader also features an integral rotator ring like a lazy Susan that enables near-side loading and eliminates reaching, stretching and having to walk around the pallet to load or unload. For breweries that do not have access to a fork truck for loading or unloading, we offer products that are pallet jack accessible, like our Lift Pilot and EZ Off Lifter.”

  Bishamon products can significantly help reduce the risk of worker injuries related to lifting, bending, reaching and stretching while loading or unloading cases.

  “Another great benefit is that the EZ Loader also significantly increases productivity, as pallet loading and unloading can be accomplished in much less time with much less effort,” Mack said.

  Mack said breweries should “think about how to make the work environment, especially in the packaging area where the heaviest lifting is done, more ergonomic and efficient for the employees.” From ergonomics to scheduling and operations, making your employees’ needs a priority from the very beginning is a positive way to launch any type of new business.

Other Early-Stage Planning

  Once you’ve gotten a handle on these aspects of opening up a new brewery, think about the customer experience and how your staff will work onsite starting on opening day. An efficient, friendly front-of-house staff can make all the difference for a brewery’s reputation, particularly in areas with a lot of competition. Start picking out and ordering glassware and growlers that reflect the brand image you want to create. Keeping the brewery hygienic and sanitary is essential to its long-term success, so make a list of cleaning products you’ll need and narrow down your list of suppliers. Before you get too entrenched in your operations processes, invest in a POS system to track inventory, outline your staff management system and begin thinking of ideas for a loyalty reward system to entice new customers.

  Building a clear brand identity early-on to help you stay focused, and establishing a robust online presence as early as possible can spread the word about your new brewery.

  Also, consider your relationships with vendors. Ferguson from Codi told Beverage Master Magazine new breweries would be wise to support family-owned suppliers who are invested in the industry.

  “Private equity held manufacturers are lowering quality to meet your price point and are not concerned about your long term needs,” he said.

  Starting a new brewery is rarely easy, but it’s often worth it if craft beer is your passion, and you have a great business plan and support team behind you. As you prepare for your initial launch, remember some things can wait. Focus less on merchandising, loyalty programs or decorating for every event and allow the business to grow a little at a time. Once you’re established with a good reputation, those things will come naturally and pay off quickly.

Keys to Creating Effective Incentives for the Craft Beer Distribution Channel

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

  When it comes to improving your go-to-market strategy, incentives can be a powerful tool that craft beer producers can use to motivate distributors and wholesalers to sell their product. Incentive programs help craft beer producers build mindshare with distributors and wholesalers, differentiate their product, provide enablement to indirect sales reps and collect important data throughout their channel.

  However, it is important to be mindful of your marketing spend and to focus on designing your program to generate a meaningful ROI. Keep in mind that an incentive program is about more than just rewards. 

Keys to Creating an Effective  Incentive Program

  While the specifics of incentive program design will be as varied and unique as the craft beer producers who use them, below are several overarching principles that can be utilized to create effective incentives for supply chain trading partners:

1.  Choose a specific, measurable goal for your program.

2.  Analyze your audience and your competitive situation.

3.  Offer rewards that are relevant to your target audience.

4.  Structure promotions to target KPIs (key performance indicators) that bring you closer to your goal.

5.  Consistently market your program to stay top of mind of with your indirect sales reps.

6.  Use digital platforms to drive your program and measure results.

  By following these six steps, craft beer producers can establish effective incentive programs that give them a sustainable competitive advantage in their channel and allow them to focus more of their attention on where it belongs – crafting great beer that their customers will love!

Choosing a Specific, Measurable Goal

  In order to achieve a meaningful ROI, it’s important to begin with the end in mind. Why do you want to launch an incentive program? What do you hope this program will accomplish? How will you measure success? The more specific you are when answering these questions, the more informed you will be when making decisions to empower your goals.

  Possible program goals craft beer producers use incentive programs to accomplish include:

•    Generating brand awareness;

•    Increasing sales for a specific product or region;

•    Driving incremental growth among supply chain trading partners;

•    Gathering data to improve partner profiles;

•    Capturing market share and gaining access to new verticals; and

•    Building loyalty with wholesale and distributor sales reps.

  While an effective channel incentive program can accomplish all of these things, it’s best to start small and narrow your focus to just one or two goals. Doing so will help you sell other members of your organization on the idea of launching an incentive program and will allow you to more effectively measure the results. Plus, you can always scale your program to accomplish additional goals once you know it’s working.

Analyzing Your Audience and Your Competitive Situation

  When building an incentive program, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the wholesale and distributor sales reps you’re attempting to motivate. What do you know about their lifestyle? What are the things that excite them? What information can you provide to make selling your products easier for them? The more you understand about your target audience, the better equipped you will be to create incentives that inspire them and align your goals with theirs. 

  In the competitive craft beer channel, each of these reps is responsible for selling multiple products from dozens of brands. The battle for mindshare is fierce. Chances are, some of your competitors are already running an incentive program or using other channel marketing promotions. It’s up to you to take a look at what your competitors are doing and to create an incentive program that is more engaging and compelling than theirs.

Offering Relevant Rewards to Your Target Audience

  According to the COLLOQUY Loyalty Census, the average American household is enrolled in more than 18 loyalty programs. Of those, they actively participate in fewer than half. In order for your incentive program to accomplish its goals, you have to stand out from the competition by offering rewards that enhance your value proposition and feel necessary to your participants.

  The more closely you can match your incentive rewards to the lifestyle and interests of your participants, the more effective your program will be. However, it’s important to choose rewards that align with varying levels of performance, while fitting into your overall budget. Luckily, there are plenty of options!

  For SPIFFs, rebates or programs with a wide range of participants, debit card and gift card rewards provide flexibility, convenience and wide appeal. Online merchandise rewards are more personalized and scalable, ranging from easily-earned “point burner” items like movie tickets for part-time customers, to exclusive, high-end merchandise and custom reward fulfillment for higher-performing supply chain partners. Group incentive travel is memorable and emotionally impactful, perfect for building loyalty with your top wholesale and distributor sales reps. Although incentive travel events are currently on hold for the foreseeable future, demand for travel rewards will be extremely high when the shutdown ends. This will not last forever, and there will be compelling bargains to be had as resorts and hotels at top destinations endeavor to resume business.

  Additionally, you can use a mix of rewards and tier them for different levels of performance or segments of your channel. For instance, it might make sense to offer an online points program for individual sales reps, while running an incentive travel promotion for the brand managers at the distributor level.

Structuring Promotions to Target Strategic KPIs

Incentives work by modifying the behaviors of your wholesale and distributor sales reps. Each step these reps take that bring you closer to your goal is also known as a KPI (key performance indicator). KPIs can be measured to predict or prove program success. For instance, the more participants that enroll in your program, the more likely they are to sell your product. Enrollment bonuses are a common incentive promotion, but you can also reward points bonuses for KPIs such as:

•    Attending tradeshows or taking online certification courses;

•    Participating in product-related trivia and quizzes;

•    Providing referrals;

•    Filling out surveys or updating their contact information; or

•    Making a first-time sale of a specific product.

  However, priorities change! For craft beer distributors, it’s important to have the ability to set multiple promotions and change reward parameters to target strategic initiatives, capitalize on analytics and respond to the tactics of the competition.

Marketing Your Program to Stay Top of Mind

  Once you have outlined your strategy and structure, the next step is to spread the word. Incentive programs create an easily communicated value proposition, but it’s necessary to consistently reach out and engage with your wholesale and distributor sales reps over a variety of channels.

  From program launch to reward redemption, you should be communicating with your supply chain trading partners across email, SMS, web platforms, direct mailers, flyers and phone calls. Get them excited about participating in your program, educate them on your brand, inform them about new promotions and remind them about the rewards they have the opportunity to earn. Your incentive program provides the chance to personalize your communication with your indirect sales reps in a way that may be otherwise difficult to achieve in the craft beer distribution channel. Additionally, you can use analytics to spot opportunities for growth or which accounts you should reengage and create targeted marketing campaigns for those accounts.

Using Digital Platforms to Drive Your Program

  Finally, you have to consider the user experience of engaging with your platform, as well as the administrative functions you need to successfully manage your program. Today’s incentive programs, like most business platforms, are software-driven. Gone are the days of analog catalogs, manual processes and investing in channel marketing strategies that don’t produce measurable results.

  When exploring potential incentive program providers, craft beer producers should ask themselves questions such as:

•    Does this incentive program software integrate with my CRM and other existing platforms?

•    How will this program software help me capture the data and analytics I need to improve my channel marketing?

•    How will this program software improve my ability to communicate with my supply chain trading partners?

•    Will my reward program website present an engaging and accessible user-experience that is a strong reflection of my brand?

•    What other features, such as gamification and sales enablement tools, does this platform include to keep participants engaged and to help them succeed?

  Luckily, these are areas where the incentive industry has made exciting strides over the last decade or so. As data, analytics, automation and providing digitally connected channel partner experiences continue to become increasingly important, incentive companies have shifted their focus from just providing reward fulfillment to offering complete channel sales and marketing solutions.

  This focus on technology has made launching and managing an incentive program less time intensive. In a 2019 survey, Incentive Solutions found that 70 percent of our clients, including several notable craft beer producers, spend less than two hours a week managing their incentive program. Additionally, some incentive companies provide the option to take full responsibility for program management to free up your resources for other priorities.

  After all, chances are you didn’t get into the craft beer industry to manage channel partners and set parameters for sales promotions. You got into it because you are passionate about brewing great beer!  

  Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing and Creative Services at Incentive Solutions (www.incentivesolutions.com), 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 ngunn@incentivesolutions.com.

Nitrogen-Infused Beers: Just the Right Amount and Voila!

Photo Courtesy of Chart (www.chartindustries.com)

By: Cheryl Gray

  Some aficionados of nitro-infused beers liken the sensory experience to downing a rich, creamy concoction from a dessert menu. The head of a beer created from nitrogen dosing ranks right up there with whipped cream atop a hot fudge sundae. For the consumer, the reincarnation of this draft beer experience in a single-serve can—and how that beer feels on the palate—is everything.  

  James Cain knows first-hand the difference that nitro-infused beer products can make for a craft brewery. Cain co-founded Vault Brewing Company in Yardley, Pennsylvania, in 2012. His aesthetic description of a nitro-infused beer rivals any marketing campaign. 

  “There’s nothing like watching the mesmerizing and physics-defying downward cascade of nitrogen bubbles in a properly nitrogenated and properly poured nitro beer. We are visual creatures—we drink first with our eyes—and the intrinsic beauty of nitrogen as it performs its brief dance down the sides of our glass is a special moment and sets the stage for a great tasting product to follow.”

  Experts say that smoother, palate-pleasing attribute is the result of the smaller bubbles produced when infusing beer with nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide gas, which produces larger bubbles. For the craft beer maker, liquid nitrogen (LN2) plays a host of multiple roles in the industry, not the least of which is the consistency of product that cryogenic nitrogen systems can produce. 

  In addition to attracting customers who enjoy the draft beer experience of a nitrogen-infused product, LN2 also helps to protect product shelf life. Nitrogen replaces the oxygen in the headspace of the beer container. While oxygen is important to brewing beer, it only takes a small amount inside a can or bottle to ruin the finished product, destroying taste and cutting shelf life. By contrast, nitrogen extends shelf life, leading to a potential increase in sales since breweries can widen distribution and create a larger footprint in the marketplace.

  Reduced shipping costs is another benefit to nitrogen-dosed beer. Infusing nitrogen pressurizes the can, and, as a result, it is lighter, sturdier and easier to store and ship because all of the oxygen is removed.

  Vacuum Barrier Corporation is one company helping its craft brewery clients achieve both product protection and popularity. The cryogenic engineering firm, located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, has been in business since 1958 and has a national and global presence, providing local support for its customers worldwide. VBC supplies custom-crafted cryogenic piping and machinery for its clients using nitrogen in multiple applications, including those for craft breweries.

  VBC has partnered with both large and craft breweries for more than 30 years with the aim, it says, of improving existing beverages, while at the same time, creating new beverage products.  Dana Muse is VBC’s International Technical Sales Engineer. 

  “Currently, VBC provides Nitrodoser liquid nitrogen dosing equipment to be used for three different applications: reducing oxygen levels to preserve quality and increase shelf life; pressurizing non-carb or low-carb beverages to provide strength; and stability to the package and nitrogenating beers for a smooth, creamy head,” he says. “If using an automated filler, the Nitrodoser liquid nitrogen dosing system would be installed either before the filler or between the filler and the seamer.” For smaller craft breweries or microbreweries that need a different option, the Nitrodoser can be mounted on either a can test bench or pilot line and operated by hand.    

  In its gaseous state, nitrogen is inert, colorless, odorless, non-corrosive, non-flammable and tasteless. It can also cause suffocation. That is why monitoring oxygen levels in an environment using nitrogen is essential, especially in a confined workspace. As is the case with nearly any combination of chemicals and technology, there is inherent value in knowing what safety measures to take. Introducing a cryogenic system using nitrogen into a brewery operation is no different, says Muse. 

  “The number one concern when integrating a cryogenic system is always safety, and the first risk people tend to associate with liquid nitrogen is cold burns and frostbite. Because all of our equipment is fully vacuum insulated, the outer surfaces of VBC equipment is always at room temperature, even while the internal liquid nitrogen is at minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Wearing the proper protective equipment will help prevent any injuries that might be caused by direct contact with liquid nitrogen. Additional risks include over-pressurization of trapped liquid nitrogen, oxygen displacement from expanding nitrogen gas and embrittlement of non-cryogenic materials.” 

  On the West Coast is Chart Industries, located near San Francisco, California, with operations across the United States and a global presence that includes Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America. The company, with a 150-year history, is involved in virtually every industry sector of cryogenics application.   

  Juancho Tabangay is a chemical engineer with more than 25 years of experience in his field. As Director of Sales for Chart Industries’ Global LN2 Dosing, Tabangay says that the company has been working with craft breweries wanting to tap into the nitrogen-infused beer market for the past several years. He counts some 320 of Chart Industries’ LN2 dosing systems spread across North America and beyond.

  “We’ve had conversations with our customers about the difference a dose of LN2 can make to the shelf life of their products. As an example, one of our customers shared that they get an average of a two-month shelf life but, with a dose of LN2, they see that extending to six months.  Those four months can make a difference for the craft beer producers. Of course, the results vary from application to application, but the feedback from our customers proves the investment in dosers pays off quickly.”

  The CryoDoser FleX® Craft Custom LN2 Dosing System is among the company’s products and popular within the craft beer industry. Just recently launched, Vault Brewing Company’s Cain says that the product’s versatility is designed to fit the requirements of the craft breweries.

  This doser works in the same manner as Chart’s other models. It functions by delivering a small but precise amount of liquid nitrogen into a container as part of a packaging process. The doser is connected to a liquid nitrogen tank and uses one or more sensors to detect the can, bottle, or container and dose the liquid nitrogen. It has a removable arm that allows for extensions or custom dual-heads for dual-lane canning lines. It has an introductory price but can grow with the brewery as they expand. “

  This year, Cain joined Chart Industries as a liquid nitrogen dosing specialist. From what his brewery experienced, Cain sees the use of nitrogen in craft brewing as the new lifeblood for breweries and other beverage makers eager to grow. 

  “We first explored the use of liquid nitrogen technology in 2015 with the launch of the world’s first widget-less nitro beer in a can. We worked with Chart Industries in order to develop the process and have since taken the technology worldwide. Nitro beers, nitro coffee, nitro RTDs, and other nitrogen-infused products target a specific customer who is looking for something unique and may expose your brand to new markets. If a brewery is packaging a lightly carbonated beer, seltzer, tea or other product, dosing with liquid nitrogen can add rigidity to the can wall and allow the brewery or distributor to stack the cans higher, saving floor space.

  “Breweries can experiment with creating new still products such as cocktails-in-cans, hard water, or hard teas and use liquid nitrogen dosing to leverage the same filling and packaging equipment. The LN2 will expand into gas and pressurize the container, making it possible to package an uncarbonated product,” says Cain.

  Tabangay tells Beverage Master Magazine that the success of nitrogen-infused beer comes down to the basics, which he describes as the “three P’s”— preservation, pressurization and perfect pour. 

  “Craft beer brewers like to tell a story with their beer using the taste and elaborate labeling. The behind-the-scenes story is about getting the best possible product for the lowest production cost.  Discerning consumers expect a perfect pour from cans just as they’d get from a keg at a pub. They want a nice cascade with fine bubbles.”

  When asked about whether there is a downside to using nitrogen in craft brewing, Tabangay sums it up this way. “There are only pros, no cons. Not that we’re biased, but the only way to help achieve preservation, pressurization and perfect pour is through the use of nitrogen.”

  In the end, for craft brewers, it is all about pleasing the consumer, but doing so in a way that increases sales and keeps costs down.  Craft brewers are learning how to use nitrogen in developing product lines that appeal to buyers who want that “perfect pour.”