Sunday, April 22, 2012

Now the hard part begins...

If you haven't been following me through other social media outlets (twitter, facebook) I'm sorry for filling you in on this so late but it turned out to be a big week this past week.  We got the burner situation straightened out sooner than originally expected (thanks to the good folks at Stoermer-Anderson).  The electrical inspector was pleased so I was able to get my final building inspection last Wednesday and low and behold IT PASSED!  So what's next?  What other regulatory hurdles are left before we can get this thing off the ground?  The answer - NOTHING!  That's it, we're done.  City building occupancy was the last regulatory step and now, its complete!

Part of me feels a little weird.  For the last year I have been so focused on construction and permits and licenses that now that it's all done, I feel like part of me doesn't know what to do.  Sure there's still a few "projects" to put together but for the most part my focus must now shift to the truly hard part of opening a brewery - actually operating it....

Once the final inspector left, everything suddenly became very "REAL".  See, for me, the nuts and bolts of putting the brewery together were the "easy" (relatively speaking) part.  Now I have to deal with marketing and sales and invoices and inventory control and on and on and on.  These are the areas of running a business that are a little less in my "wheelhouse" so to speak.  It's not that I don't know how they work, it's just that I don't have a lot of experience doing them.  Let's just say that researching the finer points of credit card merchant accounts isn't my strongest suit, nor do I find it very fun.  But hey, if I only did the fun stuff I would have run out of things to do a long time ago.

Of course the operations side has always been in my mind and things have been in motion for months to get everything set up.  Now that the permit process is over though it really has to kick into high gear.  It wasn't an hour after the building inspector left that I was on the phone ordering 5,000 pounds of grain and 250 pounds of hops.  Even though the taphandles were ordered weeks ago (and still haven't arrived) I'm still working out the final details on the labels for them.  I've been brewing a few pilot batches so that I can have samples to take to potential customers.  I even have the first of what will be a few meetings with distributors next week (more on that another day).  The tanks need their final cleaning and we need to run a few water tests through the whole system to make sure everything goes where it's supposed to.  So even though we've moved into the next "phase" of start-up there's still lots to do.  If all goes well we should be brewing a batch by the end of this next week.  As far as an official launch, that still isn't fully decided but should be in time for American Craft Beer Week which is May 14-20.

I modified the tagline of the blog today to say "starting (and operating) a brewery is exciting and scary at the same time".  For as scary as getting this thing started has been, operating it is even scarier...

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