Things have really changed, and today the beer isn’t just good, but outstanding. By opening a brewery, you are essentially saying you think you can make outstanding beer too. If you cannot live up to that promise, then you are going to have an awfully hard time competing in today’s craft beer market. I thought about this before starting Heretic and I knew we would have to work hard and be creative to compete in this marketplace.
I had just been thinking about the high standard of beer quality in our area when the Heretic crew gathered in San Francisco for beer week. Our plan was to sample some of our homebrewed pilot batches, discuss business plans, and visit some of our favorite breweries in the area. One afternoon we decided to stop at one of my favorite places, Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California. If you are a craft beer lover, then you have heard about Russian River and the magical beers they brew there. The four of us ordered some beers and a sampler to share. We worked our way through the twenty or so beers in the sample, commenting on what we liked about each one, and how much we loved this beer or that. As we worked our way through the twenty unbelievably fantastic beers, it hit me: The beer here was representative of the greatest craft beer in the world and this is was our goal. “Oh man,” I said to myself, “They’ve set the bar really high.” This wasn’t a sampler of two great beers and a few decent ones. This wasn’t six variations of pale ale. This was a complex assortment of almost everything possible in craft beer and it was all flawlessly executed. As a passionate craft beer drinker, if Russian River was the source of all my beer for the rest of my life, I would be extremely happy and I would never get bored with the
I am a confident person, but for the first time I started to think that we would never match up to a brewery like Russian River. Perhaps we could produce one beer that would compare favorably, but would we ever be able to put forth such a stunning show of brewing greatness as the sampler tray that sat before me? I am not sure if the rest of the Heretic crew realized it, but it freaked me out a little.
We began the drive back to San Francisco and it took awhile for me to get my head back on straight. I told myself we did not need twenty phenomenal beers. We only needed one to start. I’m sure Vinnie would have told me that he didn’t start with twenty phenomenal beers. He created them over time with many years of hard work and dedication. OK, I can do hard work, but is that enough? Will we have the inspiration and creativity that is clearly a key ingredient in greatness? I’m hoping we can, but there is only one way to find out. What is that saying? A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step. I guess the journey of brewing great craft beer begins with plenty of passion and a single brew.