The Rhythm Method: Turning Pro Part 27

It took much longer than I had anticipated, but now we brew and bottle on set days every week and the production currently matches demand. It was tricky early on, because at first we didn’t have cold storage, so we had to hold our beer in our fermenters to keep it cold. As we needed kegs for sale, we would keg off some beer and deliver it. Of course, this keeps you from using that fermenter for anything else. And, if you can’t use a fermenter for that next batch, your production suffers.

I was able to get some temporary cold storage up and running and that helped a lot, but then we were stuck as we began the process of bottling. We worried about moving too fast with bottling. We wanted to match production to the available distribution and that requires lots of assumptions. You don’t want to end up sitting on dozens of pallets of bottled product and no draught product to sell or vice versa. Even if you produce the right mix, you still need to produce the right volume. Going too slow or too fast for the
distribution you have annoys the distributors, the retailers, and the customers.

The distributors (and even your own sales efforts) rely on having beer ready to deliver when a retailer wants it. Not having product when a retailer needs it is a waste of both sales and marketing efforts, making the cost of selling the beer higher, and reducing profit. So you want to err slightly on the side of having too much beer on hand, but you cannot overdo that either. Beer, like a person, begins its inevitable march towards death the moment it is born. You don’t want to sell stale beer, so you have to make sure the beer is moving through the pipeline quickly enough to maintain quality.

You and your distributor may have grand visions of how much consumers will buy, but if you are wrong and the beer sits on the shelves, ultimately you bear the cost of that stale beer. The retailer and distributor
will want fresh product or money to replace that stale beer and in many cases it comes out of your pocket. Even in this booming craft beer market, there are breweries failing to make enough money to stay in business. When margins are tight, the threat of bankruptcy forces some brewers to release less than
stellar product instead of dumping it. Of course, putting inferior beer out to market has a way of further depressing sales, making the financial problem worse, until the brewery spirals out of control into the abyss. The business of craft beer is not as simple as many people would like to think. You need to be
ahead of the game, keeping everything balanced, ensuring quality, and spotting issues before they take hold and spiral your business into the ground.

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