It’s not every day that you wake up and think to yourself, “I’m going to build a brewery”. I imagine for most that thought dissipates rather quickly, probably after succumbing to other aspirations or distractions. For some, a profound love of beer, or more accurately the firsthand experiences associated with beer, have tempted them to flirt with the idea. For others, the prospect of getting into business isn’t appealing on any front so brewing and appreciating beer is better served as a hobby. For a few, the idea of opening a brewery flirts with reality just long enough to motivate them to pursue a career in beer. Few people get lucky enough, or are crazy enough, to be at the point where we are: building a brewery as co-founders and managing partners. If you believe that luck is the crossroads of ambition and opportunity, then we are some lucky guys.
The Beginnings of a Business Relationship
Christian and I met through a mutual connection, Julie Verratti, back in 2015. I was the beer buyer for Republic in Takoma Park and he was the brewer at Gordon Biersch. We met because Christian wanted to experiment with selling self-distributed beer and Republic had made a name for itself as the premier spot to sell self-distributed beer in Montgomery County. As a beer buyer I had a general rule that I wouldn’t buy beer from someone unless I could see their operation and “kick the tires”. I got to the Rockville Gordon Biersch and we hung out in the brewery, talked shop for a while and sat down to have a couple beers. Most notably the witbier was delicious and the conversation was highly engaging. Even back then Christian had a vision for this brewery concept he wanted open based around drawing influence from the four major brewing cultures: list brewing cultures here.
Continued Conversation in the Community
Eventually we would go on to work together, me as the buyer and him as a brewer, and we served several beers from Gordon Biersch at Repulic’s annual Fourth of July event, Freedom Fest. Conveniently we lived in the same community, Takoma Park. Often Christian would come into Republic and have a beer and/or dinner and it would give us a chance to catch up. We always managed to keep abreast of one another’s projects. I was in the middle of managing the restaurant and operating a draft beer maintenance company on the side. Christian was busy brewing at Gordon Biersch and working on a business plan during mornings and weekends. We kept in touch and I knew over time that he was getting increasingly serious about pursuing this full time.
The Great Leap
Christian officially left his post as Head Brewer at Gordon Biersch in Rockville sometime around April of 2016. He recognized back then that if he didn’t pursue the business full time that it may never gain enough traction to materialize. At the same exact time I dismantled my draft beer business and took on the job as General Manager at Republic. I knew I wanted to get the experience of wrapping my brain around managing a very busy and successful restaurant at a whole new level, from a numbers perspective. A few months passed by and I recognized that my itch to strike out and build my own business hadn’t gone away, maybe just subsided for a little while I recovered from several intense life events. We kept in touch and somewhere around October of that year Christian examined a few other entrepreneurial opportunities but none of them panned out. I believe they didn’t pan out for one reason: they didn’t involve building something from scratch, I came to learn this is exactly what Christian wanted to do.
I had introduced Christian to one of these potential opportunities and it didn’t end up panning out. I was drawing closer to the incredibly busy winter season at Republic and I felt something inside of myself that said now is the time to act and that Christian and I would make a kick-ass team. Part of me believes he already knew this and was just waiting for me to come around. If ever there were a time to live out this dream, then now was it. Remember that whole thing about luck being the crossroads of ambition and opportunity? One thing led to another, Christian shared his business plan, we batted around some high level conceptual stuff and then we began exploring the idea of creating a real operating agreement. This happened in tandem with the beginnings of a new business plan: one that included both of our visions for the business, our various skill sets and areas of knowledge.
What I Learned as a Homebrewer
When I was in college I began homebrewing beer, more fervently as more time went on. What I learned was that having a homebrewing partner was instrumental to our continued motivation and success as homebrewers. For those that have done it you’ll appreciate this: cleaning glass carboys, removing labels and bottling beer are tedious endeavors. When you have a brewing partner, there is one other voice encouraging you to keep going. Simultaneously, there is another perspective on the direction to take the beer, or the way to deconstruct it when you make mistakes. The same is true in brewing as a business: having a partner is everything. I think that we both benefit from the motivation of working together.
The Silver Branch Chronicle
This is very long story with only the first few pages filled in. Having grown up on the works of Beer School, Brewing Up A Business and several other beer specific entrepreneurial books, one of my greatest hopes is that together, Christian and I will write a book someday. After all, I repeatedly told friends and family for the last ten years that I’d rather go out in a giant ball of fire and say I gave it my all then be left asking myself, “what if?” For now, we’ll focus on getting the doors open and when we can we’ll give you insight into our perspective throughout the process.