Moving from a Brewpub to Production Model

Nebraska Brewing “grew up” at a weird time for craft beer and in doing so, co-founder Kim Kavulak said the brewery saw the need to adjust the business plan, going from a brewpub to becoming a production facility.

“We were in a decent footprint in a world where breweries were not blowing up quite yet,” Kavulak said. “The consumers wanted a package, but we had to decide if we would continue into packaging or retract and just be a brewpub like we always thought we would be.”

The old plans went out, and in 2012 new plans were put in place by co-founder Paul Kavulak and Lead Brewer Tyson Arp to recreate the brewery, going from a 12-barrel brewhouse in a pub to a 30-barrel production facility that would start to can immediately.

That meant ordering twice as many raw materials and ingredients. It changed the way that the brew team would plan, not just for the next week or month, but for all the batches yet to come.

Even in a slow production time, tank space, alignment and planning each day becomes a whole different ball game.

“We have made so many mistakes, hopefully not the same twice,” Kim Kavulak said. “We learned a lot in distribution.”

She noted that at the end of the day, a brewery is in this business to make money, and distributors used to have a vested interest in teaching. At least when Nebraska entered the market, the ability to work with hand-in-hand with a distributor was still fairly simple.

“We were fortunate to be on the front end of the most recent craft beer boom,” she said. “I don’t think distributors do as much hand-holding anymore. They don’t have the time or they have a lot of hands to hold now.

“We got a lot more one-on-one across the country, and we learned what markets were good for us.”

At its peak, Nebraska was servicing 30 states, now it has contracted to what Kavulak calls the “Midwest Corridor” of North Dakota down to Texas and Iowa to Colorado with Wisconsin being a place to thrive.

“The key is the right distribution partner,” Kavulak said. “They are your liaison to getting that beer to the market.”


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