Test Kitchen: Lessons Learned During Quarantine

Brewer Magazine possesses the only “Test Kitchen” in the craft beer publishing community. This 1.5 barrel brewhouse utilizes current and former clients for the purpose of testing equipment, ingredients and services. Look for our Test Kitchen articles in future print issues and online.

While COVID-19 has been hard on all of us it’s also provided a lot of time for self-reflection as well as to plan for the future. In the Test Kitchen we ended up with somewhat of a struggle due to only having to-go sales from our taproom — we had yet to invest in distribution portals.

That being said, we were on the cusp of exploring growth pre-COVID-19. We had begun shopping for a production facility and had become open to a variety of growth strategies.

It’s funny how timing works, but we received word that our ideal location was up for lease the week before the quarantine. We were all very excited and then our bubble burst.

Some of the steps we took over the past couple of months will actually pay off, but one thing we did not do was look back into our business plan.

Most businesses — including Brewer Magazine (No Walls Media) — spend time going back and analyzing initial business plans, reworking projections and estimations as knowledge is gained.

With the Test Kitchen, I had yet to analyze our previous business plan. This week when I began to do so it was eye-opening. What I discovered was that estimations slightly outweighed the amount of production our facility could handle. While that’s a negative, it’s also positive — every ounce of beer we produced on the system was consumed quickly by our patrons.

To hit our Year One goal we would have to produce 180 barrels. While that’s a small amount, it was designed to be so to test our market. I didn’t want to over-invest in our town. Now that we are looking to expand, understanding why we missed our initial goal helps to gain a better grasp of what our future production can actually handle.

The initial lesson learned at this time is to keep track of your business plan. Don’t be emotional about your business, it’s simple math. Take time to analyze and see where you are every quarter — some will be better than others, however, it’s vital to keep track of where you are and what you can do to enhance your business and its finances.

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