Thursday, April 3, 2008

Drinking from the Firehose

Our "pre-production" phase officially began April 1st. This refers to the 6-month period during which we are allowed to spend our time pulling together all of the various aspects of starting a brewery, but aren't expected to actually sell any beer. We both officially work full-time for Metro now. Of course, I've been doing so since October 1st and Doug since March 21st. The difference is that now, we get paid for it.

I've never needed a nap so badly in my life.

Every day begins early. We typically schedule appointments beginning at 8 or 9am with one of our six Realtors to drive all over Chicagotarnation looking at possible spaces. I'm not going to say that we've seen it all, because that would be exaggerating. But we have seen a space that was too lovely, oh so perfect and out of our budget; a warehouse space with "place rodent trap here" drawn in marker on the wall; a barn-like space that would have worked nicely but for the sagging and chipping roof; and a space that might work once the dollar-store merchandise has been liquidated. How do you put stuff that costs $1 on sale?

Last week, we took a field trip up to The Great Dane at Hilldale in Madison, WI. The brewhouse (the tanks in which you brew beer) at this location is the prototype of the system we intend to buy. The brewer was incredibly hospitable, allowing us to brew a batch of his Oktoberfest with him from start to finish. The entire 15 bbl system made us feel like really little kids in a normal-sized toy store. The hoses were big...
The mash rake in the mash tun was big...

And the amount of spent grain needing to be raked out of the mash tun was big...
And apparently, we need to brush up on our Cantonese in order to use the equipment.
We've been asked to give a talk at the Siebel Institute of Technology (this is the school where The Dugg earned his diploma in Brewing Technology) here in Chicago next week during a 3-day seminar named "Start Your Own Brewery Course." I guess we've actually gone through many of the paces necessary to open a brewery, and I suppose we do have some wisdom to pass along. But we don't feel like experts and we desperately hope that no one sitting in the course holds us to such standards. However, we are looking forward to sharing some of our experiences and even took some time to pull together a snazzy PowerPoint presentation in order to look more official-like. Our mantra: learn from your mistakes. Hell, learn from others' mistakes too, if you can help it.

The past few weeks have also involved numerous meetings with our accountants, lawyer, insurance agent, and banker. Oh my! Now, each person involved is lovely and has helped us tremendously, but like the back of a thong on a 20-something, our inexperience is showing to the embarrassment of everyone involved. We were soundly scolded for mixing up our personal and business financials. A situation that is now remedied... but we do often "buy gifts" for Metro with our own money. Sorry, we love our kid and can't help but spoil it.

And we're waiting with bated breath for the appointment wherein a nurse (PortaMedic... hee!) comes to our home to take urine and blood samples. These, along with an interview that grills us for our health information will finally be distilled into a number for each of us. This number will be stamped on the life insurance policy - and our checkbook annually - required by our bank in order to obtain our bank loan.

A high point of our meetings with professionals involve our graphic designer. He is probably one of the strongest members of our team. He's a genius of graphic design, brewing, and marketing and we're relieved he saw fit to help us along our way. This week, he showed us a nearly-final version of our first beer label. Behold...

We're happy to be nursing our newborn through the first few months of life. But they say new parents are often surprised by the amount of work and attention their larvae-like offspring requires. We're no different in this respect. Fortunately, if we screw up too badly, no one dies.

And to think... we haven't even begun to apply for our licenses yet...

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