Hob Knob Brewing Company

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Brewery Business Plans and Coming Soon To The Online Craft Beer World...

Hey Everyone!

I know it's been a long time since my last post on Hob Knob, but it's been crazy busy! Big things have changed for us as a brewery-in-planning. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with making beer. The wife and I are just weeks away from expecting our second child and extremely excited about that! Unfortunately, that was also the main reason we decided to put the brewery on hold indefinitely. The wife and I were going to have to go all in on the brewery (investing about 85-90% of our life savings to this point). Couple that with the fact that two other breweries just opened within 5 miles of my house (on top of the other 2 that are already in operation - so 4 total), and the wife and I determined that it would be just too risky with the kids. Not to mention, I'd hardly ever be home.  I've started other successful businesses in the past, and time becomes a very rare commodity.

That doesn't mean I've given up on the beer industry - far from it! I just had to find a unique way to stay involved. There have been little spinoff's from the efforts to get Hob Knob off the ground that will allow me to stay active in the industry I have been obsessed with for the better part of 5 years now.

The Brewery Business Plan

Project #1 is the Brewery Business Plan website which I completed last month. For the last 3 years, I poured my heart and soul into developing a comprehensive business plan for a brewery that couldn't fail. It was an endeavor that took hundreds of hours worth of research, planning, and development to create a business plan more than 100 pages in length. To build something like that just to throw it to the wayside didn't seem like a good option. Hence, brewerybusinessplan.com was formed, and I began selling my business plan to help other breweries get started. Developing a business plan is a daunting task to many startups, however, by using Hob Knob's business plan as a guide, other breweries have been able to save a ton of time and money, not to mention overcome the writer's block that so often accompanies projects of that nature.

To further assist breweries in planning, I offered to customize elements within the plan and offer consulting services on startups, operations, technological & web applications, employment, and marketing. My weak point was the production process I haven't brewed on systems larger than 1 barrel. Luckily, while I was developing the business plan, I met a few key people who helped me fill in the gaps on things like production. I was fortunate enough to cross the path of Dan, a professional brewer of more than 15 years, who knew more about beer production, recipe formulation, and yeast than anyone I've ever known. Dan has agreed to make up the other half of our brewery consulting team that will allow us to offer some really indepth consulting services to breweries of all kinds. Speaking of which, I need to update our consulting page.

I'm pleased to say that the microbrewery business plan has been relatively successful.  I've been selling around 1-2 plans per week, and get to routinely talk to people just as interested in learning about craft beer and starting a brewery as I am talking about it. The only real issue is advertising isn't cheap. Which leads me to project #2 I'm working on.

Brewerish - A Website Dedicated To Craft Beer Professionals, Homebrewers, and Enthusiasts

Advertising on other beer related sites for selling the brewers business plan was at best expensive, and at worst, completely unfeasible. I needed a way to help cultivate future breweries without spending an arm and a leg to tell them about our services. That's when brewerish.com was born. Brewerish.com - "We Speak Beer". Ok, yes it's cheesy, but have you tried finding any decent domains with beer or brewer in the name...they don't exist! Brewerish will be the mecca of craft beer online. Dozens of breweries blog, so why not do it on a site dedicated to the industry? Thousands of homebrewers have questions about the brewing process, so why not chat about them in some homebrewing forums? Professional brewers often face similar issues as other professional breweries, so why not create a professional brewers forum? To be a part of something that embodies what the craft beer movement is - and not just be a part of but facilitate that movement - would be something I would really enjoy doing. And so, I've been developing the concept of brewerish.com for the last few weeks. The blogging section of brewerish.com is almost done, the forums will soon follow, and the main site itself should be completed a few weeks after that. There are lot of incredible people who know just about everything there is to know about beer who have pledged their support and contributions, so stay tuned - or - if you have some suggestions on what you'd enjoy seeing on the site, let me know! :)



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Drinkin' A Lager, Eh? You're Welcome!

After pounding away on my keyboard for a few hours trying to get some semblance of a finalized business plan put together, I decided to take a short break, and pulled out some light reading material.  With a little Michael Buble' playing in the background (I lost my Kenny G & Celtic Woman albums), I thumbed through "Yeast" by Jamil Zain-impossible to spell last name.  Starting at the beginning the book dove into the history of the single-celled alcohol producing work plants. Upon reaching the section where they pay homage to the scientists who learned to propagate the "good beer" yeast strains, I came across a name. "Emil Christen Hansen." As I phonetically had to sound out his first name, lightning struck.

"Hansen? Hey wait a second. MY GRANDMA'S LAST NAME WAS HANSEN!" I read on.  I wondered if we were distant relations. It turns out this 'E-mil' guy was a pretty big deal. Consider him the second in command to Louis Pasteur! He isolated the first yeast strain and brought it to the brewing world. Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis - better known as lager yeast. So yeah, that lager you're drinkin', you're welcome. Who know's maybe Emil is my great great great grandfather. I mean, we do look a lot alike...just look at that hair line and giant noggin!

To add to the excitement, I found out he was from Denmark. You guessed it...my family lineage - Danish. There isn't a kringle safe when I'm around. I immediately went to ancestry.com to pour over their records.  Worthless. On to archives.com.  Again, equally worthless. As I was cancelling my free 7 day trials (which I'll still probably no doubt be billed for), I came across the site familysearch.org. Finally, I was making some headway.

I started with my grandmother, Norene Hansen and followed the lineage back through time.  My great grandfather - Paul Hansen - my Great Great Grandfather - Hans Peder Hansen, and all the way back to my Great Great Great Grandfather - Poul Hansen (no that's not misspelled, that's how they spell 'Paul' in Danish...mmmmmmMMMM...Danish...anyways). I'd traced my family genealogy all the way back to Poul's birth in 1838 - 4 years before Emil was born in 1842, and knew I was only one generation away from seeing if I was actually related to one of the most important men in brewing history.

...and then the trail just stopped. Agonizing hours went by. I wasn't able to see beyond Poul's lineage nor was I able to get any further than Emil's father, Joseph, who they had absolutely no information on.

So, I'll just have to pretend to be related to the father of the lager revolution, because the simple fact is that 'Hansen' is about as common in Denmark as 'Smith' is over here.  It wasn't a total loss.  I did find some very interesting ancestors on the Hansen side of the family.

Enter Knute Hansen (note to self...if I have another son someday...he shall be called "Knute"). Knute was a professional heavyweight prize fighter in the early 30s. It turns out he traveled the world, and was a considered the top contender for the heavyweight world title at one point! The man was a monster. Standing almost 6'5" tall with an 84" reach, he would go on to fight multiple times in madison square garden.

So while I can't confirm whether or not I'm related to Emil, I can say I'm directly related to my Great Great Uncle (I think he'd be an uncle?), Knute Hansen. You know...after looking at the pictures some more, I gotta say, I think I look more like Knute than Emil.  


So that wraps up our walk back through time, and tracing the Hansen family lineage.  As far as the brewery goes, hopefully we will get some good news on the brewery moving forward soon.  I'll keep you guys posted!



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Brew Smart - The NC Brewer's Guild

What a weekend!  First off, a huge thank you to Margo with the NC Brewer's Guild and Erik at Mystery Brewing for putting on a highly education, fun, and light-hearted event. Brew Smart was a great learning experience.  I have to say that just when you think you're starting to get a handle on how this industry works, you are able to meet the real experts, and they show you you've only uncovered the tip of the iceberg.  Everything from ABC licensing requirements to product quality was covered in depth.  It was a mixture of "Ah ha!", "OMG...am I really going to ask this question in front of 70 other people?", and "You know what...maybe I really can do this" moments.

To change wheels, one of the things that I have always found confusing (yet a huge blessing) about this industry is the way it turns traditional business models and ideas on your business's competition completely upside down.  For the last ten years, I've been in marketing and sales.  A fiercely competitive environment where companies and people routinely will do just about anything to get a sale.  It was a stressful field full of shell games and disingenuous people.  Where your vendors seemed to think you were only there to bother them, and the only time you heard from your customers was when they wanted to complain about something.  People were always willing to be your best friend - until the money exchanged hands.  It's the dark side of business and what it has become relegated to in many other industries outside the craft beer world.

Craft beer is different, and it's great!  I just spent the last two days with many people who, for all intents and purposes, would be considered my direct competition.  The truth is, many of these 'competitors' treated me with more respect and consideration than actual 'vendors' who I would deal with on a routine basis in my past professional life.  They were actually willing to discuss and put more time into helping me develop my business than people I would pay in the past for such services.  Granted, there are some subjects that remain somewhat 'tongue in cheek' at functions such as these. Things like recipe formulation and traditional items like financials are areas where you would tend to tread lightly.  Still, you routinely see breweries (competitors) coming together to collaborate on projects - working together to formulate some of the best brews in the world.  It was as if every area of their businesses was an open book.  All you had to do was ask.  It was such a refreshing and delightful environment to be apart of, I frequently found myself offering my own $.02 (well, I guess it could really have been considered more like a half cent than two cents) on how people could improve their own operations.

In conclusion, it was a great experience.  The costs were reasonable.  A great networking tool.The time wasn't overwhelming.  The food and beer were great.  The people were friendly and knowledgeable, and a pleasure to be around.  Cheers to the NC Brewer's Guild, and all it's members for bringing together such an incredible group of outstanding individuals.  It's made a believer out of me! :)


Hob Knob Brewing Co.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Great Grain Experiment

The great grain experiment has officially BEGUN!  Donning my mad scientist gear, I've begun a long and arduous journey to discover the ideal brewing recipes.  It all begins with the grain.  We've got 19 different specialty grains - everything from aromatic to victory, and we plan on testing every single one of them.  The first round of experimentation will create a 'tea' of sorts from each brew.  After crushing the grains, I soaked them in 165 degree water for about 10 minutes.  Then filtered out the grain particles and husks.  Each 12oz bottle was then filled with my brewT to allow to cool.  Today's round of testing included victory, special roast, crystal-10, crystal-20, crystal-40, crystal-60, crystal-80, and crystal-120, producing a brewery rainbow of sorts that would make a munchkin thirsty!

The next step will be to finish out our teas by doing the same thing to our cara vienna, honey, caramalt, caramunich, caramel pils, biscuit, brown, chocloate, roasted barley, and black patent malts.  From there, we'll be producing 1.5L mini brew batches to see how these grains will flavor our brews.

To keep things simple, and to really get an idea of the flavors, mouthfeel, and aromas imparted by the grains, we'll be doing dozens of the micro batches.  Some will have just the grains, some will be hopped - each batch will have a single yeast strain, and single hop variety (otherwise called a SMaSH brew) to keep the experiment as controlled as possible.  Should be interesting, so let the great grain experiment begin!

Here's a great shot looking down the top of our erlenmeyer flask.  Billions of little happy yeasties are smiling back...you just can't see them.  This first starter contains a california ale yeast from wyeast labs.

With regards to our location, we continue to look.  We found the perfect location right around downtown concord, but the owners didn't agree with our intended use...even though we offered them their full lease rate.  Go figure.  The search in concord, the south end of charlotte, huntersville, davidson, cornelius, and mooresville will continue until we find our spot.  We are in this for the long haul, as I recently just quit my full time job to pursue our dream of getting a craft brewery off the ground!



-----Update 1/23/14-----

The experiment is progressing nicely, with one shortfall.  Hoser decided to raid my grain stores.  A storm of 'beer farts' ensued, as she no doubt found a specialty grain that was high in dextrins!

I was really surprised to see how well the grainT profiles turned out.  While you couldn't tell a huge difference, say between the crystal-10 and crystal-20 malts, you could taste a huge difference between the other varieties.  Some, like the cara malts would impart a clean, sweetness to the teas, while others would just have maltiness all up in your face.

Once the 19 malt teas were done, it was time to try something a bit different, so we did 9 mini brews!  The recipes were simple.  I used DME to get the bottled water's OG up to 1.040, and then added 10% of the grainT's to each sample.  From there, each batch was boiled for 30 minutes, and had 2g of amarillo hops added.  The airlocks were easy enough to make.  I melted the end of the hose, and mashed it into a plate - it's edges would flatten out, almost like a flange.  I then added a ring of food safe silicon to seal the hose, and pulled the hose through the cap which I had drilled out.  After 8 hours, many are happily bubbling away, though it looks like 2 of the 8 bottles may have leaks.  In 3 weeks, I'll bottle these bad boys and sugar prime them.  Then, we'll get some more flavoring notes, and complete the experiment.



-----Update 1/25/14-----

The fermentations are all happily bubbling away.  I'm happy to say that it looks like the seals all held except for one bottle containing the c-60 grain.  Whether or not it ends up getting infected, only time can tell.  As for the fermentations themselves...just look at that krausen :)

In about 3 weeks, we should have some ready to bottle brews!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Brewery That Refused To Die...

Oh Hob Knob, Hob Knob where for art thou Hob Knob?! The blog has almost 10,000 views. The facebook page has a couple hundred likes. It would seem there is a lot of interest in Hob Knob, and for that, we thank you! :)

We were going to start, then we weren't, then we were, then we weren't, then we were going to do a distillery, then we weren't. Such ambivalence!

I'm a person that believes things happen for a reason. When we first looked at the small 1200sq ft space in Cornelius, we had no clue what we were doing, just that we wanted to make good beer. Well, in order to make good beer, you have to learn to make good beer. We hadn't even duplicated any of our favorite recipes up to that point, lol. That was more than a bit naive, but we were fired up! It just wasn't the right time.

After about a year, building brewsnbbq.com, giving classes on brewing, learning everything I could about the art of brewing, and 40+ batches of beer later, Hob Knob made a reemergence. This time, a building two blocks up from the call center where I work opened up in Statesville, NC. Well, rather than just signing the lease for $1200, I decided to be cheap and only offered $1150....I know... :rolleyes: Uncle C's BBQ Joint moved in a month later. Again, I think it just wasn't the right time.

Hob Knob just refused to die. The idea for a brewery faded, but was reborn anew with the concept for a craft distillery. I knew that with my added obligations to my job that I could never do it by myself, so I brought one of my friends on board to help with the project, Shawn. As soon as we had selected the commercial still and location we would be using, my wife broke the (wonderful!) news to me that we were expecting our first child. Though I was ecstatic about the news, I knew it would be the end of Hob Knob. Funds dried up, and it was tough telling Shawn that we just weren't going to be able to do anything at the current time. What was supposed to be the death knell for Hob Knob just wasn't. Hob Knob's become the itch that I just can't scratch.

So now, I'm still running a small company, working 70+ hours a week, and am in the midst of designing some of the most complex software I've ever taken on. Is now the time? The wife is just as pregnant as ever and due in December (we just found out we're having a boy - "Noah" :) ). Is now the time to just cut the purse strings, and go for it? The craft beer market is quickly becoming saturated. Olde Meck is moving to a new, ginormous location. NoDa is bursting at the seams. Assclown's operation has come together nicely. Birdsong & 4 Friends continue making some great brews. Heist opened in the last few months. District 9 I've heard is going through the legal processes, and will open soon. Did we miss our window of opportunity?

Unfortunately, I don't think so. We will remain a quaint little garage brewery content with offering brewing classes to those interested in getting started in the craft. Maybe sometime in the next 4 or 5 years we will be able to put something together. I sure hope so, because Hob Knob is an itch I haven't been able to scratch for a long, long time.

It would be a tremendous source of pride to be able to say to my little boy that, against all odds, your father was able to build something incredible. Your father never let his lack of time, money, dealing with the government, the naysayers, the blown deals, the failures time after time, and everything else stop him. There's one reason your father was able to accomplish what he set out to do - he never gave up.

In other beer news, our hop garden has been doing really, really well. Just check out all those beautiful cascade, fuggle, and centennial hops! I see a few english browns and pale ales in my near future :)

So that's the latest on Hob Knob. :) I wish the news was better, and I could tell you we will finally get this brewery of the ground. I can tell you, while we may delay, we won't give up. In the meantime, I'll continue to post the latest happenings with our classes, get togethers, and brewing here as time permits :) Cheers! Jeff

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brewday - Follow along each step in the brew day with Hob Knob's Brewmasters!

It truly has been too long since a hob knob post!  With it being a long weekend for thanksgiving, the wife and I decided to document the entire brew day, and get some great shots along the way!  :)

Sit back, enjoy, and feel free to ask questions!

Bring the sparge water up to temp.  This is brewed in a 20g tank/pot with a 5500w element that is connected to a 240v line.  It is incredibly fast at bringing 20g of water up to temp in no time flat (typically <1 hour).  

Here you can see the self installed 5500w element and the whirlpool arm in the sparge tank, which also doubles as my boil kettle.  The upgrade to an electric element from gas is a must if you're using propane.  I use my home's electric breaker which is located in my garage to turn the element on and off.  Total cost for the upgrade was around $60 (if you have all the tools you need), which is easily offset by all the propane that is saved.  A 240 line is recommended, though not a must.  Visit this link for instructions on how to add an element to any brew kettle!

I don't have a pH reader, so I do the easy thing.  I add 5.2 to my sparge water.  I have excellent tasting well water, and the 5.2 get's the water to the ideal level for sparging.  For those of you on city water, there are additional additives you'll need to add to your water to remove nasties like chlorine and fluoride, or you can do the easy thing and just grab a few gallons of spring water or distilled water.

 The Brew Stand is up to temp.  Now to grind the grains and add them to the mash tun so we can get our all grain mash going.  Today, I'm doing a Mild Brown Ale.  We'll be adding the water at 158.2 degrees F, and hoping for a final mash in temperature of 148 degrees. 148 will produce a drier beer, as the sugars produced by the enzymes at this level will be more fermentable.

Hob Knob!  Represent!

Weighing the specialty grains.  This is 1# of C60 getting set to go into the barley crusher.

We used US 2 row & Marris Otter as our base grains.

In go about 16# of base grains!

The barley crusher comes preset at a good grind width to get your grist just right.  You're looking to keep the husks intact to create a natural filter for your grain bed in your mash tun.  Too fine, and you can get too much flour which adds undesireable tannins to your mash.  Too thick, and you'll kill your efficiency because not enough of your grains are getting cracked.  The default settings the barley crusher comes with worked well for me.  We're saw efficiencies of about 75-80% on this last batch.  Our original gravity going into our fermenters was 1.051...well above the 1.043 we were expecting!  This is an overhead shot of our barley crusher with the 7lb hopper.  It's powered by my air drill and compressor.  Good rittens to my old corona mill.  My arm would be numb by the time that thing would finish grinding grain!

Almost perfectly at 158.2...must be time to sparge!  I used the batch sparging for this mash, and finished up with a fly sparge at 168 degrees to get me to my 12.74g of preboil volume.  The grain bill was 12lbs of marris otter, 4lbs of 2 row, 1 lb c60, 1lb c120, 8oz pale choc., 4oz black patent malt.  The hops used were 2oz of East Kent Goldings.

 The mash is ready!  Time to pump in our water!

 Mash In!

Checking our mash temp.  148 on the dot!

 After a 75 minute mash, we begin vorlaufing.  Vorlaufing is the process of pulling off some of your wort, and gently pouring it back into your mash tun to create a natural grain bed filter.  You'll notice that the more you pull the slower and clearer your wort becomes.

Remember, the key is to gently pour the wort back over the top so you don't disturb the grain bed!

After 75 minutes, we begin draining the mash tun, and fly sparging the grains.  Batch sparging is essentially covering the grains with water, and soaking them for a period of time.  Fly sparging involves a continuous flow of water through the grains.

A march 809 pump powers the fly sparging water up to the top of the mash tun where it trickles over the grains.  Temperatures are about 170 degrees, as we're doing a mash out to stop the enzyme action.  It's important to not exceed 172 degrees with your fly sparging water, as this could lead to the release of tannins, which could result in unfavorable taste attributes in your final beer.

Ahhhhh.  Soon to be a beautifully colored mild brown ale! Can't wait!

With the 5500w heating element on a  50 amp line, it takes no time at all to reach a strong rolling boiling.

One thing you'll notice about the boil is a lack of any type of head.  The reason for this is the grain bill that was used is very low in proteins.  Proteins actually are the primary contributors of 'mouth feel' in a beer.  With the low ABV% expected from this particular brew, and the lack of any real head during the boil, I expect and easy drinking, light, session brew from this mild brown ale.  There was a single 2oz hop addition of East Kent Goldings at 60 minutes.

One of the good things about being on a well system is a virtually unlimited supply of cool water.  After the boil is complete, we hook up a plate chiller to the March 809, and recirculate for about 30 minutes.  The ample water flow and plate chiller bring down the temperature of our wort from 212 to 68 degrees extremely quickly.  

With our wort now at 68 degrees, it's time to transfer to the carboy and pitch our yeast.  I use a funnel that has a small filtration screen in it as well as the thin mesh filtration screen that goes over the funnel.  The hops still manage to clog both on a routine basis, so keeping a sanitized spoon handy to keep the wort flowing is essential.  I sanitize everything with star san.  Don't fear the foam.  It's ok to leave it on your vessles and utensils.  The foam actually breaks down to a yeast nutrient. :)

Overhead shot of adding the wort to my fermentation vessel (a 6.5g glass carboy).

Fermentation Underway!  Fermentation is the single most important step in the brewing process.  Happy yeast, make happy beer.  Depending on your strain, you typically don't want to exceed 68 degrees to keep the yeast in an environment they can thrive in.  You should also familiarize yourself with the different stages of fermentation.  Just because you're bubbler isn't bubbling away doesn't mean the fermentation is done.  The yeast need some added time to clean up after themselves and remove some off flavors.


 For those of you anal about the clarity of your beer (like me).  There are numerous ways to help clear it.  You can add whirlfloc tablets to your boil which helps remove chill haze.  You can add polyclar to a secondary.  You can add gelatin to your keg.  You can filter.  Here, I'm filtering in a 2 stage process.  I use co2 to pressurize the keg to prevent oxidization of the brew.  The filters are 5 micron and 1 micron.  You *can* use a 1 micron by itself, but it will take 20 years to filter your beer. I'm filtering my 90 minute IPA in this shot.

The Hob Knob keg, representin!

Prost!  The final product!  Man...that's makin me thirsty.  Enjoy :)

Hope this article helps everyone gain a better understanding of the all grain brew process.  Feel free to post comments or questions below, and I'm happy to help.  Until next time!



Monday, June 25, 2012

Contest - Help Hob Knob Find Our New Location!

We're looking for some help from the Knob Nation (like the name?  I just made it up!)!  We've been looking for the right building off and on for the last 18 months, and nothing, nada, zip, zilch, nichts!  Just when we're on the verge of signing on the dotted line last week here in downtown Statesville, we get shot down so Statesville could get it's 3rd BBQ place within a 3 mile radius.  BBQs, 3 - Breweries, 0.  

I've looked for the last few days, and nothing seems to be the right fit for us.  The goal is now to be up and running by the end of the year, and we're enlisting the support of the Knob Nation to help get us off the ground and find a building!  We're going to make it interesting.  The Knobber who finds our future location get's their first month of pints/growler pours ON THE HOUSE!  So, put on your thinking caps.  Here's what we're looking for (we're trying to get as close to this as we can but realize that no building is perfect):

Somewhere between exit 25 Huntersville, and exit 49 Statesville.  That includes the cities of North Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mooresville, Troutman, and Statesville.

At least 3000 sq ft.


We're looking for a building with some character.  Historic buildings, unique buildings, etc. 

Building Features
  • Move In Ready, Low Up-fitting Costs
  • Concrete Floors (Trench Drains Would Be A Huge Plus!)
  • Climate Controlled
  • Patio/Outdoor Entertainment Area 
  • Not Out In The Countryside, But Not Prime Commercial Real Estate
  • Cellar
Contact me via facebook if you find anything worthy! :)