What a whirlwind.
All of it. The production, the events, the promotion, the sales, the distributor relations, the branding, the media requests, the social interaction. The all of it.
Some of it is easy, most of it is fun. Some of it is hard, a very small portion of it really sucks. None of this is groundbreaking. Thousands of breweries before us, and thousands more after us, all with the same stories to tell. Very few of us were raised with beer in our blood. The vast majority of breweries in the United States are owned and operated by first-generation brewers, all of us learning on the fly.
Wait, not just learning on the fly… writing the textbook on the fly.
I’ve spent the last year serving on the Brewers Association Board of Directors with many of my heroes. The people who wrote the first chapters of the modern brewing industry textbook. When Freetail opened 6 years ago, I was assured that this textbook was sound and solid, and I’m just as sure today. But what I know now that I didn’t know then… is that all of us who came after aren’t just footnotes tucked back in unfurled pages. No, we are writing the next chapters in the book. Further, our heroes are welcoming of the new additions and are avid readers of our work. They read intently, and not in some perverse schadenfreude sort of way. They are truly curious, and inquisitive, and more than anything else, proud. (And anyone who ever questions the motives of these folks, you’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you that these are folks who twist themselves into knots to represent the smallest of us, even if it isn’t even in their best interest)
There are easy parts… and there are hard parts. Some parts I used to think were easy, are harder now. And a lot of parts I used to think are hard, are a lot easier than I ever. Easiest among those things: never forgetting those who wrote the chapters ahead of us, and fostering those who will write the chapters after.
To pioneers and future innovators a like, cheers!
PS: Over the years, I’ve received a countless number of requests of folks starting breweries who just want an hour of time. To pick my brain, to throw their ideas at me, etc. Out of necessity I’ve turned down a lot of these requests, but I’ve always told folks to email me your questions and I will do my best to answer them for you in time. That offer still stands for anyone trying to get into this crazy business, but I now also preface my responses with, “these are just my opinions, and a lot of really successful breweries have started after me who have business models I thought were crazy!”. The point there being, none of us know anything about the future. We may have opinions about what you’re doing, but they are just our opinions, and we can easily be wrong! Don’t be afraid if your chapter in the textbook of the future is of a different form of prose or is in a completely different language. Be the one to prove everyone wrong!