In a way, I can’t believe we will be brewing our first batch in just a couple days.
For the past several months it seemed like there was always one more thing that we had to do before we could be licensed or to get the brewery ready for production. It was a little frustrating at times, but then there were also moments when it seemed like the dream took a large step closer to reality.
Now our focus needs to change from preparing to produce beer to actually doing it. I know it seems simple. I’ve brewed enough times that the process doesn’t worry me at all and I have great faith in our head brewer, Chris Kennedy. We’ve done some pilot batches so we’re confident in the beers that we will be brewing (Tafelbully, Evil Twin and Miscreant). Sure, there will be some trial and error figuring out the new equipment. What kind of efficiency will we get? What kind of weird quirks will we have to deal with? (Every brewery has some.) We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure everything was designed and installed correctly, but brewing has a way of ferreting out the smallest of mistakes.
Even still, the stuff that worries me right now is not the production of great beer, but getting great beer out to the consumer. Regardless of how great you think your beer is at the brewery, you can’t just slap it in any old package and expect it will be great for all consumers. I think most craft beer lovers have experienced a bottled beer letdown at one time or another. Remember when you visited that great brewery during vacation and the beer was out of this world good? Later, distribution finally reached your area, but the beer tasted nothing like it did at the brewery. Perhaps the brewery packaging process was less than stellar or maybe it was something to do with handling at the distributor or retailer. (Stacking cases of craft beer in front of the store window is never great.) Regardless, you were a bit disappointed that it didn’t live up to your memory of the beer.
Of course, the ultimate responsibility is always with the brewery, no matter what the cause of the problem. The brewery needs to do everything possible to ensure a quality product reaches the consumer. There is a whole science behind packaging and distribution and I know if we don’t think about what we are doing early and often, we will end up disappointing the consumer. Heck, even the best of breweries out there have faltered a time or two, so I know we have a lot of work ahead of us.
So this is now what keeps me up at night. We plan to spend a lot of time stress testing our bottled product to see how well it will stand up to the rigors of distribution. Until we are satisfied with those results, we will confine ourselves to selling draft beer locally, where we can self-distribute and control the process better. But we can’t sit on our beer forever. Eventually we will need to take that step, put the beer in bottles and go for wide distribution if we expect our brewery to be successful. I am sure, by that time, I’ll have moved on to worrying about something else.