|Hob Knob Brewing Co., Cornelius, NC|
I figured I'd write this to help myself as much to update everyone on Hob Knob. Putting my thoughts down on paper has always helped me in organizing them, and made me consider things I possibly hadn't thought of when rambling through dozens of thoughts per minute. Such is the mind of a person with ADD. Some consider it a weakness, but I've come to look at it as a strength. While it is true that focus is more difficult, the fact that your mind bounces around to 50 different things a minute presents opportunities and considerations that a more focused individual might overlook or not even think of. Another difficulty associated with ADD is obviously your attention span. Things that interest me typically only do so for a very short time period. The question is can you stay focused on something long enough to become truly successful at it.
My brewing 'prowess' has slowly, but steadily increased over the last 2 years to the point that I can make pretty good beers. That doesn't mean I know jack about running a brewery, and only slightly more about running a business. Knowing your weaknesses is a key in any business. Knowing mine mean I need more people. I need someone who knows breweries and machinery. I need someone who knows the intricacies of the brewing process, namely yeast, malts, water profiles, etc. I need someone who can keep the business focused while not restricting creativity. I need a 'by the books' individual who can run the day to day operations and manage accounting, the government, new accounts, etc. In the end, I need a group of talented individuals with their own unique set of strengths in the brewing world. Starting a production brewery like this would be futile by myself.
Which brings me to one hell of a difficult decision. Do we offer shares of ownership in exchange for people's expertise, or do we keep the brewery in the family and pay out the wazoo for other people's expertise? I'm very averse to offering partnership to anyone outside the family because of the inherent problems one inevitably finds in any partnerships. Even in the family, they are never easy because of differences of opinions. Still, through partnerships, you can work out of better locations, brew better beer, make fewer mistakes in starting up. I guess the real answer to that question is how much startup capital can you amass, and can you survive the learning process if you want to go it alone. There's no doubt about it, a partnership would be much less of a risk, but would it be worth the problems? At 31, I've already been involved in both, and neither are easy. Perhaps the best choice is a little bit of both. The dogfish head brewery is an excellent model. While Sam Calagione is the owner, his employees are all part of a profit sharing plan - all the way down to the dock workers. As of right now, that sounds like it's probably the best option along with bringing my dad in, in a family partnership. He's got a lot of strengths that could overcome my individual weaknesses.
So that brings us to the next difficult decision. Where should you put Hob Knob? Craft beer lovers tend to be yuppies (like me!). They appreciate quality over quantity, and price for the most part is only a small consideration. We've considered Statesville, but that doesn't really have the market for a craft brewery, nor does downtown Mooresville, which was another consideration. As my friend Todd said, both areas tend to be lager Mecca's, or as I put it, more country and less yuppie. That leaves a few prospects - around downtown Davidson, near the Birkdale area (yuppie central at Lake Norman!), or in the business park that's about a mile from my house and near my friend Matt's brewery - Assclown. All have their strengths and weaknesses.
One of the obvious considerations for the building is how appropriate it would be for Hob Knob, and at what level do we start. Naturally, we want to prove our beers first and come up with some solid recipes. The real question is in what format do you want to do that. You can get the ball rolling with the gov't, and a small hole in the wall place to begin creating a buzz about the brews that you make, but you'd have to move up to a larger facility and production capabilities when you're successful. That would be time consuming to say the least! The other option is to continue doing what I've been doing. Remain an enthusiastic homebrewer. Obviously, there's no costs involved which reduces your risk, and allows you to put more money away faster for a much larger scale brewery. The real question is the size of the steps. Do you go from homebrewer straight into a 7-15BBL system - maybe, with the right personnel, but it still sounds risky. The alternative is to take progressive steps. Start immediately, and go from homebrewer, to glorified home brewer (but with commerical & gov't licenses), and then take the next big step into a 15BBL system?
The scary thing is things are coming to fruition. What have been dreams up to this point have reached the point of crystallization. My entire family is 100% behind me. By the end of this year, we'll have the access we need to capital to go bigger than we ever thought possible a year ago. I've got an incredible knowledge base to pull from both from people that have walked this path before, and from my brew club, the Carolina Brewmasters. I've got just about all the literature I can bear to read on starting a brewery and perfecting the brews.
What will our next steps be? Make sure to like us on facebook and keep up to date on all the happenings. I'll also be brewing like crazy, and will have more than enough to go around. I'll be looking for feedback, so let me know if anyone would like a growler!