On Tap: Chainsaw The Princess of Karate

chainsaw-650

Ever had a pink beer?  Now’s your chance.

Meet Chainsaw.

Or Chainsaw the Princess of Karate to be exact.  Raised by a family of punk rock ninjas, she set out to battle cancer with a skillset that includes flying, rocking out, and…kicking ass.  She is arriving just in time for International Sour Beer Day (9/13).

Chainsaw is roughly a Belgian Pale Ale with flaked rice (aka Awesome Ale).  But what makes her punk rock is that she is soured for several days with four strains of lactobacillus.  The lacto metabolizes sugars and produces a beer that is tart and tangy, as opposed to the vinegary flavor of some sours.  Boiling kills the lacto and she is then fermented with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois.  The Brett adds to the tart, fruity character of the beer.  To kick it off, near the end of fermentation, 50 lbs of dragon fruit puree are added to the 10 barrel batch.  Hence, pink, punk rock beer.

file000142446609 (Dragon fruit!)

Chainsaw is also a tip of the cap to our past as a collaboration with Big Choice Brewing.  When we were starting out, we shared a shipping container from a Chinese manufacturer for some of our original equipment, and Big Choice received some tanks in that shipment as well.  To mark that, we chose flaked rice and dragon fruit because they are indigenous to China, and we brewed this one in collaboration with Big Choice.

Attendees of the 18th Annual Colorado Brewers Rendezvous in Salida, and our own One Year Anniversary Party will remember Chainsaw.  She’s been a hit everywhere she goes.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we are once again teaming up with Big Choice Brewing to raise money for Susan G. Komen Colorado with our pink collaboration beer, Chainsaw the Princess of Karate. We are kicking off the campaign on Saturday, October 4th, while Big Choice will hold their kickoff on Sunday, October 5th. During the opening night and for the remainder of the month, we are donating a $1 for every pint of Chainsaw sold. In addition to that, we will donate all the profits from the Chainsaw T-shirts sold as well (t-shirt design coming soon).

Don’t get your hops up

I used to love hops. I loved them when I was buying them on a homebrew scale and making award winning double IPAs. I suspect I will love them again. That moment isn’t here yet.

Depending on the time of year and the style of beers involved, hops can be a nightmare for a startup brewery. We started working in earnest on Odd13 back in December. We got to a point in early February where we knew approximately (hopefully within a month or so) when we would be open. At that point, I sighed heavily thinking about hops.

Hops are short right now. Over the past 3-5 years, they have been short several times. The explosion of the American craft/home brewing market has lead to an enormous demand for hops that has created an unpredictable market for hop growers. Hops like Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, Nelson Sauvin, and Galaxy (and any other newish hop that makes a good double IPA) sell out as soon as they are harvested.

North American hops are harvested in late August or early September. They are generally available in whole leaf form around October. Hop pellets (the form most commonly used by home and craft brewers) become available around November. Those timeframes are different for Southern hemisphere (Australia/New Zealand) hops and European hops. If you use your imagination, you can probably figure out when they are available.

Hops are primarily sold by major raw materials suppliers like HopUnion or Brewer’s Supply Group in two ways:

One option is to contract hops. Contracts often require a multi-year commitment but they guarantee the availability of varieties that might otherwise be hard to get. They also require the brewer to predict what they think they can brew and sell in a year. That might be easy for a company like New Belgium that uses a ton of hops but can afford to pay an analyst or three to run the numbers. For a startup, it’s a guess at best. One underrated advantage of contract hops is that the supplier will hold them until you are ready to accept delivery (more on this later).

The other way to buy hops is on the spot market. The spot market is basically the leftovers from the contracts. If you get in touch with the hop suppliers early enough after harvest (once they know their yields), you could possibly buy some good hops on spot. Even that is not guaranteed, and it’s not generally possible if you are ready to buy in February or March like we were. Please note that spot hops are delivered as soon as you pay for them.

Less common is for breweries to buy hops from other breweries or from third parties like homebrew suppliers. Sometimes these can be economical options. Other times, you’ll pay through the nose.

So what should a startup to do? I would suggest doing almost what we did.

When we decided we were serious about Odd13, I stopped brewing with Simcoe and Citra. I started brewing with hop varieties I thought I could get like Summit, Calypso, and Crystal. I mistakenly thought that varieties that were new and available to home brewers would be easy to get. Not true. I definitely learned from the experience, but it’s not exactly the strategy I’d recommend for a new professional brewery.

If you are considering starting a brewery, reach out to hop suppliers to figure out what is likely to be available when you are ready to buy on spot or sign a contract. Next begin experimenting with the hop varieties that are available. If you are a hophead brewer, you should actually have been doing this all along. For us, we should have been piloting Mosaic and Comet. We are going to pilot one of those this weekend.

Finally, if you need specific hops to open your brewery, buy them as soon as possible. In case you didn’t get this from my previous comments, spot hops sell out. If you are trying to open a brewery late in the crop year, you should be buying spots as soon as you get funded. Otherwise, you’ll be paying $20 a pound for hops that would sell for $10 a pound through one of the major suppliers.

Here are some of the hops we bought:
hops

After we opened them, it looked like this:
empty-boxes

Our freezer looked like this:
chest-freezer

But we ran out of space, so both of our basement fridges looked like this:
fridge

TTB 101

We reached a huge milestone the other night, we filed the TTB paperwork! For all of you not sure what “TTB” is, it stands for Tax and Trade Bureau. All breweries and brewpubs are required to file paperwork with the TTB to obtain a Brewers Permit. We have heard that it’s a lot of work, and while I am not claiming it to be easy, it’s not hard – just time consuming! As the President, Ryan claims I am responsible for doing all the paperwork. Since when do Presidents do all the “dirty work”? I guess that’s how it goes when we have no employees!

Obtaining significant amounts of information, from a variety of sources proved to be more time consuming than anticipated, and seemed to make the application process drag out longer than it should have been. I want to share with you some details  that may help you avoid some complications through your application process. At the end of the post, I have included some useful links to the TTB related topics discussed.

One of the biggest questions, most startups face is when do I start the process? We had looked into the TTB months ago, and figured out, we can’t do much until we have equipment on order and a facility leased. Once we had that done, we started the online brewers permit application.

The electronic system allows you to save your progress along the way, and while that’s a nice feature, you can’t skip around the application, which I discovered once I reached the page on OOI tracking numbers. I am thinking, “what’s that?” So, after some research, I realized I needed to get some very detailed information from our investors. As stated by the TTB: “For each person who is a sole proprietor, partner, officer, director, member, managing member, or owner of 10% of applicant entity, you must file a Officer/Owner Information Application”.

In our situation, we were required to file 5 OOI’s! Each person is able to create their own login ID and password and fill out all the information. It sounds easy, and actually took me about 20-30 minutes to gather my OOI information, but I am a very proactive person, and this TTB permit is what sits between me and being able to sell my brew. Involving three other people (out of state) to do this was kind of hard. I think they were a little fed up with my repeated emails or calls “did you get your OOI submitted yet?” But hey, that’s my job.  I would give yourself a week (or slightly more) to get all this in (unless it’s just you, then it’s easy). Once the OOI’s are submitted, each person gets a tracking number, which you will need to provide within the main brewers permit application, along with more details regarding their “stake” in the business.

Within the OOI application it asks several personal/background type questions. They request 4 business/character references (including phone and address), a bank reference (TTB told us to call our bank and ask for a bank reference), and place of residence history. Getting our investors to figure out where to go, what to fill out, and actually getting them to do it is the hardest part. In addition to the OOIs, investors will be required to state source of funds and provide appropriate documentation1.

Speaking of attachments, there are SEVERAL of them, and they vary depending on your company’s setup (i.e. corporation, LLC, etc)2. Ryan and I reviewed these attachments a few times during our application process, and at quick glance we felt we had everything, or could easily obtain it on very short notice. WRONG! Both the Brewers Bond3 and the Certificate and Articles of Corporation (articles of incorporation stamped by the Secretary of State) took longer than anticipated.

I just checked my email, the first correspondence regarding the Brewers Bond was February 28th, we finally got it on March 20th! I got so fed up, I called up the surety company, and said “you are holding up our TTB filing, if we don’t get the brewers bond tomorrow, we are going somewhere else”. Guess what, we got it! The point is, get the Brewers Bond setup early. While I have read that other brewers got their bond setup in one business day, I would start early to be safe.

If you have done any sort of research on TTB, a lot of times this whole Brewers Bond topic comes up, and breweries reference getting their $1,000 bond. So, my question was, it is always $1,000 bond? I discovered that fairly recently, the TTB issued a “temporary three year rule”, which essentially says if you are a small brewery with an estimated excise tax liability no more than $50,000, your bond amount will be set at $1,000. Do some quick math, ($7/bbl)(X bbls) = $50,000….you would have to produce approximately 7,143 bbls. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen in year one on our 10bbl system.

We will be posting future blogs regarding any changes recommended by the TTB and share them with you (if we have any). One last thing, I have to say my experience with the TTB through this whole application process has been great. If you have a question, call them, they are great and will answer your questions!

Cheers,
Kristin

1Source of funds documentation: http://www.ttb.gov/applications/pdf/information_required_source_of_funds.pdf

2Attachments required by the TTB:

https://ttbonline.gov/permitsonline/h/ReqdDocs.htm

3Bond form with instructions:

http://www.ttb.gov/forms/f513022.pdf

I’m going pro

The first couple of posts I made to this blog were pretty nebulous. They hinted at what was going on, without making definitive statements. This post is a definitive statement.

I’m going pro. That statement is accurate, but it’s not the whole truth. Keep reading.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably already know this, but I’ve ordered equipment. My fermenters, serving tanks, and brew kettle are ordered. I’ll talk more about those later.

This post is about how I got here.

First, EVERYTHING I know about brewing I owe to The Brewing Network. I went crazy for craft beer in about 2008. Before that, I really liked craft beer but you would probably still find Coors Light in my fridge. At some point, I turned a corner and I couldn’t learn enough about craft beer. As a techie, I was already aware of podcasts. I quickly found the Craft Beer Radio podcast. Their show was interesting, and I enjoyed learning from people who knew more than me. I honestly don’t remember how, but I found The Brewing Network shortly after.

GAME OVER

The Brewing Network may not be your cup of tea, but it spoke (and continues to speak) to me. By late 2009, I had listened to every episode of every show the BN ever aired. I listened to the BN for about 7 months before I ever even brewed because it’s damn entertaining. If you like beer and dick jokes, you probably would too. You don’t even need to be interested in brewing – just in beer. If you like (or can get past) the dick jokes, you will learn something. The going pro series on Brew Strong is an amazing resource.

The second, and more important part of how I got here is my wife, Kristin. She has gone from thinking I’m an idiot for wanting to brew (2008), to reluctantly letting me brew (2009), to doubting whether I could win a pro-am (2010), to admitting my beer is pretty damn good (2011), to inspiring Odd13 Brewing (late 2012). For a long time, I said wanted to open a brewery when I retired, but that was a dream. She made it a reality late last year when she said “we should open a nano-brewery”. I didn’t even know she knew what nano-brewery meant. She did, and she’s learned even more since then. We’re no longer planning to be a nano, but the credit still goes to her.

I’m not going, pro. We (Kristin and I) are going pro. In this post, I used the word “I” intentionally and repeatedly. “I” is wrong. None of this is possible without Kristin. There is no “I”. There is only we.

This post started as an admiration of the BN. It’s still that, but Kristin deserves as much credit. The BN made me a brewer. Kristin made us a brewery.

It’s always harder than it seems

Kristin and I knew it was going to be hard to get Odd13 going. We budgeted, rebudgeted, and planned for contingencies. She did months of research, and I’ve been doing the research for years (thanks to The Brewing Network). We assumed we would run into a snag that would slow the project, but we also assumed that the snag would be a common issue like slow delivery of equipment or a delay in TTB licensing.

The snags we’ve hit are not exactly the ones we expected.

If you’re working on a brewery (especially in Colorado), pay attention to water rights. Water rights are immensely more complicated than I’m ready to talk about, but the basic idea is that a property has a maximum allowed water consumption per year. If you plan to go over the allowed consumption by any significant amount, just paying your water bill doesn’t exactly cover it. The location we’re looking at has limited water rights because it used to be a residence that happened to have a plumbing business in the back. That’s where the commercial zoning comes into play, but that’s also not exactly a brewery.

This problem is solvable. In fact, we had a great meeting with the city of Lafayette today. The bottom line is that starting a brewery is going to come with some challenges regardless of how well you plan. We did tons of research and expected some challenges – this just wasn’t the one we planned.

Our special use zoning meeting is this Saturday. Come support Odd13 at 301 E. Simpson Street this Saturday (February 2nd 2013) from 4-6 PM.

Things are moving quickly

Hi. I’m Ryan. My wife Kristin and I are working on starting a brewery. I’ve been dreaming about opening a brewery since some time around my 4th batch of homebrew. I thought it seemed like a great thing to do when I retire, but a few months ago Kristin brought up the idea of starting a nano brewery. That advanced the plans a few decades.

After a ton of research, we threw out the nano brewery idea and focused on planning a 10 barrel brewery and tasting room. Kristin has full time to dedicate to the project, but I plan on keeping my day job (thanks to my company’s huge focus on work-life balance). Keeping my day job wasn’t going to happen brewing 2 barrels at a time, but at 10 barrels it seemed possible.

The whole project accelerated when we went to see a potential location in Lafayette, Colorado. It’s an amazing location that has the potential to inject some life into old-town Lafayette. Nothing is final with the lease yet, but we’re working on it.

Thanks to some understanding family members, we have the funding we need to get things moving. It looks like this is really going to happen!