Lessons Breweries Learned From Jim Koch’s ‘Brewing the American Dream’

Brewing the American Dream is a program to help kick start or grow smaller breweries, and now it’s become a variety pack from Boston Beer.

Samuel Adams released the pack recently, picking the collaborators from five breweries the Samuel Adams has worked with in the past through the Brewing the American Dream Program.

“For us, this 12-pack is more about exposure and marketing more than anything else,” said Bosque Brewing co-founder Jotham Michnovicz. “The amount of cases that came into New Mexico was nominal but it allowed us to do several news spots and print articles.”

Grant Fraley, the Head Brewer for Ramona, California’s ChuckAlek Independent Brewers said he was proud to be a part of the 12-pack alongside the other collaborating breweries.

“It’s also great to see proceeds going back to Accion, Boston Beer Company’s lending partner for the Brewing the American Dream program,” he said. “It means more businesses like ours will have the chance to strengthen their business and realize their vision.”

Rick Abitbol, the brewmaster for Wheat Ridge, Colorado’s Brewery Rickoli, said his key takeaway from the program was that running a brewery was actually inventory and cash flow management.

“Sure there’s beer, but at the end of the day there is logistics and cost of goods and management of people,” he said. “It has helped us change our budgeting and day to day running of things.”

Fraley noted that working with Boston Beer’s Jim Koch in 2015 help narrow growth scenarios that he and ChuckAlek CEO Marta Janowska had been discussing.

“That set in motion the plan for our second location, ChuckAlek Biergarten, which we opened in San Diego in 2016 and we saw 300-percent growth in revenue for the year,” Fraley said of the brewery that produced 300 barrels in 2016.

The Brewing the American Dream program opened up key financing to Bosque during its startup mode, Michnovicz said. The brewery now produces more than 6,800 barrels per year.

“The love of beer and the love of business drove us to start Bosque,” he said. “When we were getting started, we looked for things like growth, profitability, and multiple revenue streams as depictions of success. While those things are certainly driving forces, I’ve been most excited lately when we get to offer a new benefit to our co-workers — like health insurance, and PTOs.

“When I get a chance to coach someone through a difficult situation or when someone tells me that they’ve never worked at a company where they felt more valued and respected. For me, that’s the big win.”

At ChuckAlek, the brewery sells nearly all of its beer on draft direct to customers through its tasting room in Ramona and Biergarten in North Park, San Diego.

“The 12-pack will reach a segment of the market that we normally don’t even approach, which has exciting implications for the reach of our brand locally and nationally,” Fraley said. “Particularly as we plan to launch distribution in our local market next quarter, the visibility provided by our Time Hop Porter collaboration with Sam Adams is huge.”

Abitbol says the variety pack getting into consumer hands is a great amount of visibility that they could not otherwise achieve for the brewery that created 325 barrels in 2016.

“We are already doing well in terms of getting our product and the word out about our no-compromise gluten removal process but it’s huge to get our gluten removed stout into this regular 12-pack,” he said. “We feel that it will help change the general perception that if you say the gluten word, you must be trying to make up for a compromise in flavor. If we did not say it, you wouldn’t know it. The way we craft beer for no gluten does not change our beer, so I use it across all 20 or more styles that we currently make. We currently have 10 SKUs that are fully TTB approved to have the “Crafted to remove gluten” text on our labels. That’s more than anybody else right now.”

Fraley noted that success is certainly a moving target, but at ChuckAlek they are building community around the brewery and Biergarten every day and strive to offer an experience through unique, locally crafted, beer.

“In our beginnings, updating Old World beer styles and giving San Diego access to more than our great array of local IPA was the vision,” he said. “That, coupled with sustainable revenue and a trajectory from the humble 1-BBL brewhouse we started with to larger production capacity were initial goals against which we could measure success.

“Fast forward four years to the present and our vision is still very much the same, but growth means a lot more than scaling production to meet demand. Marta and I started the brewery with no employees, but now employ 17 team members across our two locations and that’s a metric of success that gives us pride and will continue to grow. It’s gratifying and inspiring to reflect and what we’ve built and look forward to what lies ahead.”

Roc Brewing in Rochester, New York and San Francisco’s Woods Beer are also featured in the variety pack.

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