Building a Brewery

Building a Bigger Brewery: Weeks 4-8

Dec 6, 2016

Yikes.  Where has the time went?  I had to make a slight diversion from looking at properties to getting the kitchen ready to open.  I was able to look at one more property though.  This one is in downtown Akron...and it was a former brewery.  This would be a lot easier to plug-n-play though it is on the smaller side and has a few other challenges.  Nevertheless, it's a good option to keep in consideration.

Also, while being called in to do dishes, guess who came in and sat down at the bar in front of me?  It was 'only' the Director of Public Service of Akron (think properties that have steam piped-in from Akron's steam plant for a boiler for a brewery) and also the Director of Urban Planning for Akron.  These were the exact two people that I wanted to locate to have a conversation with on land or properties in Akron to serve as production facility.  I should have left and got a lottery ticket too!  The odds are astronomical.  I love Akron.


So focusing on the kitchen is good for getting a production brewery going?

Well, yes!  When the kitchen is up and running in January (sometime), there ‘should’ be more beer sales (according to Bar Rescue) which means we will be doing even more brewing.  But we can’t have any part of brewing overlap at all with when we open to the public and serving food – the quarters are too close.  Never shall the two mix.  This makes streamlining operations very important.

If a production brewery is going to happen after the kitchen, I have to ‘let go’ of doing some of the daily minutia.  The problem with me is that I’m used to doing everything myself, that is my nature, I hardly ever ask for help and just assume more work…then when I get stretched too thin, I don’t do it as well as somebody would do it if it was their focus.  This is something my wife has tried to tell me and I’m beginning to accept it (stubborn Irishman).  A brewery-bar-restaurant is a big operation. I can’t have my hands in everything, everyday.


L to R: Ryan, Jesse, Chris

So in anticipation of a kitchen and getting a production brewery going we just went through a significant staffing change.  We just brought on a guy, Ryan, who has been helping us the last few months – he has incredible beer knowledge with an emphasis on barrel aging which is a program we are working on growing.  Ryan also has skills in remodeling homes, which means he can do a lot of odd jobs for which we have several – it’s still very part time, but in the New Year, I bet it will grow.

Chris will take on more responsibility of keg and fermentor cleaning – besides just 2nd shift brewing and bar tending.  Today, for the first time, he was able to do a beer from ‘start to finish’…as in, cleaning and sanitizing the fermentor, brewing it and putting the new beer in it and pitching the yeast.  Essentially, the brewer of that beer has control (and responsibility) of the entire process.  He was pumped.

Jesse will still brew 1st shift like he has been but he is gaining more responsibility on the operations side.  His new title will be “Director of H-Ops”   There is a lot to do to get ready for a new week on Wednesday.  Jesse, as a head brewer should do, is doing all grain and hop inventory now (if we run out of beer, it is now his fault!).  He will also setup a better employee scheduling system for the bar side instead of me texting everyone every week, “Are you good to work this week?”    He will also be doing cooler/beer inventory and taking over getting the taps ready for a new week.

Both Jesse and I have been writing SOP’s (standard operating procedures) on everything from brewing to opening to closing so that everything gets executed perfectly and is completed, everytime.

Kelly.  Kelly will take on some additional responsibility to ensure that the front-end is in tip-top shape and ready to open daily.  I will be getting her setup to do more HR, payroll and POS management…and handling the daily ‘front of the house’.

As far as our other employees, the written procedures we now have and are evolving, combined with more of a chain-of-command, they will be able to execute their jobs better (and easier) as everybody’s function is more defined.  Honestly, everybody has been doing GREAT so far and I couldn’t be more thankful with the people that I have, but with food coming, we need to keep performing great.  I would have no problem moving any of our more part-timers up to more full-time gigs and newer roles as we grow.  They are that awesome.

My wife will start handling all the financial stuff – keeping track of numbers, writing checks, filing any necessary monthly paperwork with the state and feds, etc.  Even double checking the email to make sure things don’t get missed.  This will be a huge help.

What will I do?  I am back to focusing on new recipe formulation with a focus on Lab Rats, IPA’s and Double IPA’s, Imperial Stouts and Imperial Coffee Stouts (mmmm…) – amongst other styles.   We need to keep our R&D tradition strong.  BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, I will have time to do more QC work as far as tracking certain metrics of a batch of beer so it’s easier to spot changes in flavor, fermentation time, etc.  All of which will be critical in a production brewery.  And obviously, I will now have a little more time to get this production brewery going.

I’m so excited!  I can now get back to beer and spend more time on new recipes, knowing that my crew can execute the brew-cycle flawlessly and handle the front-end perfectly.  This will also leave the time to build something bigger. The two things that I thrive on is creativity and building stuff.  I’ve begrudgingly learned that if I allow myself to get bogged-down with daily, though important, things that don’t serve creativity and building instead of empowering and giving other, more capable people that responsibility, then wheels get spun and nothing new happens.

So essentially, this reorganization is huge and exciting in that we will have excellent people able to perform the day-to-day operations and I can get back to what I do best.  Even though the last month we haven’t moved forward much on the production brewery, we are now actually setup as an organization to do that.

Though, don’t get me wrong, I have loved every second of this evolution as everything has been an education.  It has allow me to really see my weaknesses and how I have to change.  I now realize though, that I have to keep evolving too.  I have to educate and empower people to do what they do best and start building not only a production brewery, but an organization.


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