We are 3 years into our beery adventure and we still have no time or money. We reckon that is a good thing. It all started with a stall selling interesting bottled beer at a local farmers’ market. We had no idea at the time that it would lead to us brewing but here we are with our own cask ale starting to go out to pubs. It is still enjoyable and exciting and I put that down to our rules for growth.
We said from the start that we would grow organically. No cash injections or loans allowed. We don’t put any money in that we don’t earn from sales. It has served us well. It means that we are not heading down a pre-ordained path but have the flexibility to follow where the adventure leads us. It keeps us lean and every bit of profit is important to us. Good margins are vital but then you also learn about the importance of cashflow. Overheads can kill you so we have to keep them to almost nil. We want no pressure on us to service a loan each month. We have no budget for advertising but we don’t need to advertise far and wide. We just work on building up a core base of customers close to home who care about us and vice-versa. At the moment we pretty have much sold everything before we brew it. Our biggest issue is keeping up with demand.
We keep heading off to Morrow Brothers to buy another firkin (We now own 6 and a half) and you get the feeling that people who have been in the business a long time think that we are doing it the right way. Slow and steady. For people like us who have not spent years in the brewing industry it is important to enjoy meeting people and learn from the ground up.
We have a limited amount of time too. I think that this is just as important for creativity as financial constraints. We devote about 3 Sundays a month to the brewery. It makes you be organised and focus on what works best. Do we brew 3 times a month and sell all out to pubs in firkins? Do we brew once and sell bottles on 2 markets? Do we brew twice and do one market with the rest going to pubs? Do we brew 3 times and just sell bottles on Eebria? We are pragmatists and look for the things that work best but we also follow the fun. This whole thing is meant to be enjoyable and living the dream.
This discipline of limited time and money is good for us. When we deviate from it, we become flabby. We had a phase where we hit every market we could. We made decent money but it masked inefficiency, left us worn out and the fun and enjoyment went.
We are progressing step by step. Every brew allows us to add a bit more equipment and refine our methods. There will come a point when we move from brewing under a gazebo (We really do – everything under one tiny roof) to a unit somewhere but there is no rush. We won’t jump to that until we know we have enough customers to make it work and we have the know how to avoid the many blind alleys you can head up.
When I started blogging, the best piece of advice was to keep writing and find your voice. It starts to emerge after 100 or so posts and your blogging identity slowly forms. I think that it will be the same with beers. We will keep brewing and down the line our true identity will come out slowly. We can allow that to happen if we take it steady and don’t force the issue. It is at that point when you can start to build a brand that is genuine and will stand the test of time. It would be too easy to spend a fortune on branding and it jar with what we eventually become.
For now, I am still getting a buzz when I walk into a place and see our beer on. I hope that never goes away.