Twin Creeks Reflects on a Year in Business

Even at a year since opening, Andy Bishop had to wait until he got done with his day job to talk beer one evening.

“We are being really fiscally conservative with this place,” Bishop, the co-founder, said about Twin Creeks Brewing, a brewery in Vinton, Virginia, a town of about 8,000 people, that opened in November 2016. “[We want to] make sure the company is set up right. We don’t want to get paid until the company is paid for.”

That means Bishop, his brother Jason and friend Barry Robertson come in after work to brew up to three times a week on a five-barrel system. They produced more than 500 barrels this year, with most pouring from taps that are manned by members of the Bishop and Robertson families.

“We couldn’t do it without our wives, it’s a family business,” Bishop said, pointing to the bar area. “Barry’s two kids have worked here as well and even my daughters want to help out.”

After going through a local business plan contest, the trio won nearly $17,000 along with some marketing help and tied that in with a small business loan and personal investments to get the brewery off the ground.

It’s led to the creation of 15 jobs in the town and has helped breathe life into the downtown area.

“We want to be an economic generator for the town and the town seems pleased,” Bishop said. “Even the local hardware store has commented that they have seen an uptick in people at their place since we opened.”

It’s also been a place for local food vendors sell to consumers, young and old.

“We want people to remember to come down here and grab a beer instead of maybe heading somewhere else,” Bishop said. “We want to do things the community likes. Charitable fundraisers, Sunday sip and shop for local vendors to sell crafts and other wares. We have a ‘plant night’ instead of paint night, trivia, open mic. We like to celebrate community and we want this place to really be all about Vinton.

“It’s become that so far and we are proud of our reputation. We stress that a brewery is not a bar and a bar is not a brewery. We operate like it’s a family establishment here. Kids are more than welcome. At Christmas time we had little presents under the tree for the kids. They love those little things like comics and coloring books.”

It’s something that has helped the Roanoke area boom lately as both Deschutes and Ballast Point are opening large production facilities in the area. Coupled with that is the expansions of local breweries and fellow Virginia brewery Starr Hill adding a pilot house in downtown, which is a five-minute drive away from where Twin Creeks is located.

“The local breweries have been great to us,” Bishop said, pointing out veterans to the area like Parkway Brewing in Salem, 20 minutes away. “They were all very helpful. Critiques … and praise when needed. But we are all very willing to help each other. This area is exploding in craft beer and it’s a great alternative to going to a bar.”

Bishop, said he always prided himself on being the best engineer he could be.

“I have managed multi-million dollar accounts and, come to find out, that doesn’t help run this place as a business,” he said with a laugh, indicating that the brewing is the fun part, but the business of beer is much more important.

“People warned us that we would end up over on budget and under on time during the planning and building of this place, and they were right,” he said. “Everything cost more than quoted, but we have learned patience and humility.”

Another learning experience over the year is quality and consistency.

“If all three of us don’t approve a beer, we either dump it or we drink it ourselves. Quality and repeatability is paramount to us,” he said. “We are constantly learning about quality. I am and Lean Six Sigma black belt in my career and I want to bring those practices of manufacturing into this career.

“Surprising there are lot of applications for industrial thinking and methodology.”

Those attention to details and growing slowly means the brewery is just venturing into letting beer leave its home by starting to send out kegs through a distributor.

“We are finding key locations that have good traffic for craft and a desire for it,” Bishop said, stating that 5-10 accounts will be the start with a look to make sure they can service those accounts properly.

“We want to service them and keep the quality up,” he added. “We came into a town that has a bar down the street, but it’s nothing like this. I was surprised how accepting the town has been. Now, I wasn’t expecting pitching forks, but people still come in surprised how there is a brewery in this small town.”

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