With the continued growth of craft beer in the Sacramento region, I wondered if all of these thriving breweries had the right vision when they launched, whether it was five years ago (Track 7 and American River Brewing) or nine months (Fountainhead).
So I contacted scores of area breweries and asked them to finish the following sentence, “If I knew then what I know now …”
One specific answer was by far the most popular, and it largely had to do with optimism. Here is what I compiled:
Ken Anthony, Device Brewing: “I would have gone straight to a seven-barrel (brewing) system. (He started with a tiny one-barrel system.) The one barrel was way too small and way too much effort for not enough beer.”
Julien Lux, New Glory: “I think I would have started bigger. I would have gone straight to a 15-barrel brew house instead of the three-barrel. Also better planning for what the needs would be for the brewery.”
David Gull, New Helvetia: “I would have built a bigger equity group up front and gone in with bigger and better equipment to start out.” New Helvetia started with a seven-barrel system and expanded to 10 barrels.
Andrew Mohsenzadegan, Flatland: “I would’ve started with a bigger (brewing) system so I could produce more beer. It’s hard for us to keep up with demand. Any time you open a business, it’s a risky venture. I was trying to stay out of debt and I think I’ve done a pretty good job at that.”
Mark Bojescu, Fountainhead: “One thing that stands out is time. We (he and co-owner/brewmaster Daniel Moffatt) tried to balance the two jobs and it just didn’t work. There are too many moving parts at a brewery.” (Moffatt has since left his job as a store manager at Toys “R” Us; Bojescu has kept his full-time job as a key account manager with Coca-Cola because the hours are flexible.)
Brian Palmer, Claimstake: “I’d do it all over again and never look back.”
Mike Mraz, Mraz Brewing: “I would form better relationships with the banks. We just bought another $25,000 worth of kegs. That would have been nice to have early on.”
David Mathis, American River Brewing: “Instead of staying 100 percent local for as long as I did, I would probably see if I could open up a few more markets, concentrating on the Bay Area, then moving south to Stockton and then Los Angeles.”
Derrick Prasad, Tilted Mash: “If we knew how fast we would outgrow our spot, we would have gone with bigger square footage from the start.”
Anthony Brown, Out of Bounds: “I would have opened with a more aggressive West Coast brewing style rather than an English brewing style.”
A.J. Tendick, Bike Dog: “Bike Dog would have secured a bigger space when we opened. In general, we haven’t predicted our success well (or were just overly conservative) and have bought three glycol chillers now because we keep outgrowing them. Waste of money, waste of time getting them all set up, etc. Ultimately though, way more things that I think we’ve gotten right, though, so your question isn’t one we dwell on too much.”
Brian Ford, Auburn Alehouse: “I wish I would have built a bigger brewery and doubled the capacity in the brew house.”
Catherine Johnson, GoatHouse: “There’s probably a reason why we are one of the only breweries in the state that are farming and brewing in the same location – it’s a (lot) of work. That said, no matter what comes at us, we stay focused on our dream and enjoy the ride. Oh, and a hop harvester machine is at the top of our 2017 wish list!”
So there you have it. Many of these breweries opened in the throes of the Great Recession and had projections that, in hindsight, were overly conservative. No one seemed to bank on the idea that nearly every brewery would be struggling to keep up with demand as Sacramento blossomed into one of the great craft beer markets in the United States.