Sunday, September 28, 2008

No Accountability!

I'm done with weekly accountability updates. The whole purpose of them was to keep me on track, which they aren't doing. This weblog is becoming tedious, and people who try to use it as a business resource will have a lot of useless crap to wade through from late June to late September. Setting frequent goals and reflecting on my progress is important, but the boredom of it shouldn't be yours to bear.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Da Beers

I mentioned in my last post that I made all of my beer recipes for a year. We're probably going to start with eight taps, which will prevent individual batches from being served for too long. We'll likely have four year-round, two seasonal and two rotating beers on tap at any given time. Behold, the preliminary beer list!

House Ale - the signature session beer of RePublic!
Belgian Blond
Pale Ale - we'll name it Heartattack and Bine if Tom Waits doesn't sue us.
Chocolate Porter

Ordinary Bitter
Summer Pils

Scottish Heavy - the name is misleading; it's a session beer.
Belgian Pumpkin - a Squashed Stereotype, if you will.

Grapefruit Lager - a light lager spiced with grapefruit zest.
Wildflower Belgian Pale - a restrained Belgian ale brewed with wildflower honey.
Cardamom Coffee Stout - thanks, Kevin, for the Arabic coffee idea.
Maple Biere de Garde - a farmhouse ale with unrefined Maple syrup.
Old Ale - a blend of fresh beer and stock ale that's been inoculated with Brettanomyces and aged in wine barrels.
Grand Cru, aka the Raspberry Belgianwine.
Imperial Black Lager - aged for a year before serving. Will I get dork points for naming it Gestahl's?

I'd love to brew a doppelbock, but mostly because I want to name it Lowest Common Denominator. I can't really see a doppelbock working as a pub beer, but don't rule it out.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Time that I spent updating the business plan this week: about six hours.

My deviation started on Monday, when I spent way too much time preparing cost estimates for another commercial brewer. It makes me happy that he thinks my work is thorough enough to apply to his real-world situation, but I should have gotten it done over the weekend.

I did rewrite some of the business plan on Tuesday. That afternoon, I met with an interested homebrewer to give him the lowdown on the project. He raised a lot of issues that'll be better to address now than later. The biggest is that our startup cost is going to be a turn-off to potential investors. That's what I get for thinking "I'll ask for enough to buy all new equipment, then buy as much used gear as I can and return the difference." To an investor, a 1.5-to-1 ratio of annual sales to initial capital may be acceptable but a 1-to-1 ratio may not. I'd been feeling guilty about my generalized startup costs anyway, so I dusted off the old itemized equipment list and gave it a makeover. At first, I wanted to find pieces of used equipment and plug their prices into the list. After a few hours, I realized it would take me years to estimate my costs that way. What I did instead was assume that used equipment will cost 40% of new and that I'll be able to find 50% of my equipment used, which means my expected equipment cost is 70% of all-new. There you have it: our first official business gamble.

Updating the equipment costs didn't take up very much time, but creating an entire year worth of beer recipes did. Why would I do something like that? To figure out my hop needs, silly! It's harvest time and there seem to be some hops available on the spot market (meaning they're not all going to fulfill prior contracts). A while back, New Zealand Hops told me that my chances of getting hops next spring are decent. They even thought that I could get organic hops, which is unheard of these days. The problem is that the hops in New Zealand aren't harvested until March, so I won't know where I truly stand until then - I'm still waiting for them to project their yield and give me a prediction. If I can get my grubby little hands on some hops now, I'm absolutely going to do it. If I don't and New Zealand fails to come through for me (never!), I hope you like guest beers.

Looking a little ways down the road, a future brewery owner who I met at the Craft Brewers Conference was awesome enough to send me his private placement memorandum. My legal paranoia dictates that he'll have to remain anonymous for the time being, but that document is going to be a monster help. Once the business plan is ready to shop around, I'll tailor the document for our needs and have a lawyer review it. Paying a lawyer to write one from scratch would probably cost over ten grand.

Pilot brewing continues, I still need a beer fridge, blah blah blah.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Logistics, Shmogistics

Madison Sourdough will sell us partially-baked loaves for slightly more than it would cost us to hire one full-time baker. We don't need to quantify ingredient costs, energy costs, staff scheduling and owner inexperience to realize the decision is a no-brainer. Randy George, you were right! I hadn't even thought of partially-baked loaves: freezing them until we need them will reduce waste and allow us to customize a delivery schedule, and the pub will still be filled with delicious bakery smells.

I spent all day yesterday at the Master Brewers Association of the Americas' Midwest Technical Conference. The event was very informative, relatively affordable (I don't have enough time right now to rant about the American Society of Brewing Chemists) and a lot of fun. As usual, I drank a healthy amount of beer and met a lot of cool people. The price of admission included a tour of New Glarus's amazing new brewery and dinner at J.T. Whitney's. I'm glad that I spent the day learning things instead of watching Michigan lose to Notre Dame. It's not gonna be my year for football.

I'm back in business plan mode. By the end of next week, I want to have the plan ready to show potential investors. Jane and I will need to do other things before we actually can, such as write a formal investment offering and make sure that we won't be breaking any laws, but we'll try to not climb those mountains before our gear is packed.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Anniversary Beer

In May of 2006, I brewed a beer that's known around the house as Raspberry Belgianwine. Once a year - on our wedding anniversary - Rachel and I share a champagne bottle of it. The base beer was essentially a 5-gallon batch of "imperialized" tripel. After a couple weeks of fermentation, I added 4 lbs of raspberries and a peeled vanilla bean. The beer weighs in at 10% abv. Here's what it looked like after 4 years of marriage:

So far, the beer has tasted better every year. If the trend continues, Rachel and I will be drinking the delicious final bottle on our 13th anniversary. Brewing the beer at the pub will require a coarse filter to fully separate the beer from the fruit. It'll also cost me about $160 per keg (half-barrel) to brew, unless I can find organic raspberries for cheaper than $4.00/lb. Money and hassle, pssht. This beer WILL be brewed for commercial consumption!

In other news, it turns out that Jane only spent a week in the UK. I finished the bakery book well before she got back, but I'm still giving myself another week to research bakery logistics.