I’m updating the site to reflect the new name! Hang tight, we’ll get this done in the next day or two.
I very recently hired my friend Kim Leshinski of Hail to the Ale fame to create the
Panic Alarmist Brewing brand. By “brand” I’m referring to more than just the logo, although that’s a big piece of it and that will be Kim’s primary focus during this iteration. The current logo was great as an identity to get out there, be seen, and help churn the waters for investors, banks, and future customers. It was always going to be a temporary logo and it has served its purpose well. My huge thanks goes out to Scott Olson who created it. Scott came up with the entire idea of the dynamite and the “Ka-boom” and those will both always be part of the Panic Alarmist identity forever.
Alas, it’s time to go far deeper into the identity of
Panic Alarmist Brewing. In order to do that, I have to provide Kim with a feel of what Panic is, where it’s going to go, and how my personality will be a part of it. These and other intangibles will guide her as she creates the new Panic Alarmist Brewing brand. That brand will find its way to beer cans, beer delivery trucks, tap handles, cans, shirts, hats, my scrotal tattoo, etc.
So I have homework to do for Kim and I decided that the homework would manifest itself as this blog post. Forgive me while I try to tease the
Panic Alarmist brand out of my head as I write this post. This could get interesting.
First, what does “brand” mean to me? Hmmmm. My corporate identity? Yes. The actual logo(s) and color palettes I’ll be using for everything? Sure. But brand is much bigger than that. According to this site, brand means “the sum of all available information about a product, service or company”. That’s probably vastly over simplified, but I’m not a branding/marketing wonk, so that works for me for the purposes of this post.
And then there’s something Kim and Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting like to talk about: “positioning”. According to this site, brand positioning “enables a brand image and identity to instantly have meaning for consumers and differentiate it from competitor brands”. I’m not sure that really captures the idea, but I suppose it’s somewhere in the ballpark. Kim and Michael would also say that there’s an emotional component of positioning as well. A connection that a person feels with a brand in a way that’s most likely quite different than with any other.
Apple would definitely be that for me. I have a very strong emotional connection to Apple going back many years, well before the iMac even. We could go into that for hours (and debate it with Android lovers), but to me there’s a very unique connection I feel with Apple that I have with no other brand of any kind. At the end of the day, it really comes down to the fact that I LOVE to use their products and I HATE using competitors products. There’s an aesthetic, an elegance, and a simplicity that I find incredibly compelling with the MacBook Pro, iPhone, iPad, Mac OS X, iOS, Apple TV, etc. And the way they all integrate together seals the deal for me.
So how does
Panic Alarmist Brewing fit into this insane world of craft beer? Can Panic Alarmist carve out an identity as distinct and sought after as Apple, but in the craft beer world? There are so many brands, many very unique and distinct. How does Panic carve its slice in the craft brewing landscape? Perhaps I should start with Panic Alarmist Brewing’s purpose. If I were to distill down all of the things that I think Panic is or will be I think it would have to be this: Panic Alarmist Brewing is about bringing joy to people.
Probably not what you were thinking, eh? Me neither. I just thought of it myself. It’s not just about making great tasting beer, but that’s the most obvious way this “joy” would manifest (ok, it’s a “mission statement”, I just didn’t want to sound all corporate buzzword bingo-y). We’re also going to bring joy with humor and we’re going to convey that humor through what we print on T-shirts, what we say during brewing tours, what we testify to during libel hearings, etc. I value humor in a person more than just about anything else and that will be a core part of the
Panic Alarmist Brewing DNA.
If I were to extend that “purpose statement”, perhaps I would say:
Panic Alarmist Brewing is about bringing joy to people by brewing delicious beer, fostering a hysterically funny and irreverent culture, and becoming an important part of the local/neighborhood/craft beer community.
Not bad. We can tweak that quite a bit, but it gets us in the ballpark. It is vitally important to note that although our culture will be irreverent (and antithetical to American corporate culture), no one will take beer flavor, quality, and consistency more seriously than
Panic Alarmist Brewing. That will also be part of our DNA from day one. We will constantly strive to iterate, iterate, and iterate to improve our recipes, processes, quality, and consistency for all of our beers at all times. Doesn’t mean we can’t have some fucking fun while we do it though.
Now it seems maybe the challenge for Kim is going to be how to meld this idea of joy, humor, dedication to the craft, and some fucking dynamite into a cohesive brand.
Glad I’m not the one doing it.
Guess what? That blog post title is a pun! Yup, when I’m not planning my brewery, I spend all my free time ignoring my family and just working on really, really clever puns. Here’s where the pun is explained:
So the big news right now is that I’ve hired Wrap Architecture (pun revealed!!!) to do all my design and drawings required for permits/construction.
They came highly recommended from numerous people in the business and after meeting with them, I could immediately see why. Very knowledgeable and just damn nice people.
So now, we wait while Wrap and their consultants do their thing. We’re talking general layout, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical plans and building code research (always fun in Chicago). This is going to take a few weeks.
After all the plans are completed, we’ll be submitting drawings to contractors for bids and submitting for building permits. The building permit process in Chicago is a complete nightmare, but we’ll get through it.
Since my last post I’ve also taken care of my general liability insurance for the business, got my surety bond for my TTB application (which is 99% ready to submit), and have firmed up what hops I can get from a variety of suppliers. I’ll FINALLY have my hop contracts in place before the year is over. Slim pickings, but we’ll deal with it. I’ve also done more detailed research on steam boilers and glycol chillers.
As usual, many wheels in motion. Lots of cogs in this machine, but we’re getting there!
Ladies and gentlemen, I present the home of
Panic Alarmist Brewing: 4055 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL
11,000+ square feet of Chicago industrial goodness. Here’s the kicker. Wanna know who had this built and then had their home here from the 1950′s up til the 1990′s? Go on, guess. Give up? The Siebel Institute of Technology. America’s oldest brewing school. I know right?!!!! Yup, this was Siebel’s home until they moved down by Goose Island on Clybourn in the 90′s. This is a piece of Chicago brewing history and
Panic Alarmist fully intends to add to that history!
Here are some photos. Note the outdoor courtyard. Yeah, Panic’s courtyard. Oh lordy. So much going on. I’ll share more when I can. As always, check out the
Panic Alarmist Brewing Facebook page for the latest scoop.
Uber quick post. Last week I was approved for my small business loan which is HUGE! More investors on board (and room for a few more). Lease negotiations seem to be complete, contract being written up now. Will be ordering 20 BBL brew house, 40 BBL fermenters, 40 BBL bright tank, 40BBL hot liquor tank and accessories this week.
So busy, lots to do in order to close on the loan. I’ll go into great detail on loans, leases, and such when time allows.
For the absolute latest news, follow me on Facebook.
The brewery is finally happening!
Ha! See the title of this post? It’s a pun! You’ll see how in a second, but right now let’s just talk about how incredibly inventive I am! I’m the goddamn Einstein of puns.
I’ve been collaborating a lot with my friend from brewing school, Chad, who is opening Wander Brewing in Bellingham, Washington. (See the punniness now?) Chad is one of the few people I’ve run into who’s done as much if not more research than I have on opening a craft brewery. Quite frankly, Chad has me beat on several fronts, including brewing equipment quotes. I received quotes from the main players in the game, Premier Stainless, DME, JV Northwest, NSI (Newlands), and a few others. Chad has received quotes from pretty much every single domestic based brewery equipment manufacturer, including the aforementioned and quite a few I was not familiar with. The one that has really stood out for him is Marks Design and MetalWorks based in Washington state. Unlike Premier, DME, and others, who build some components in North America, but have some or most components built in China, particularly vessels, Marks is 100% built in Washington state. Chad visited the factory and was well impressed with everything and has placed an order. Because I trust Chad implicitly, I’ve received a quote from Marks as well and will be comparing it line by line to my other quotes this next week.
Chad also had a very smart idea that I will be using. He was able to put 10% down just to get into the manufacturing queue. See, these manufacturers have hellacious lead times right now. Anywhere from 6 months or more. So if you order today, you’ll be waiting at least 6 months to take delivery. That’s a long time, especially if you’re paying for a lease. And usually manufacturers want 50% up front. By getting a place secured in line, Chad was able to remove a significant amount of waiting time as he secures his funding. I love that idea and will try to do the same in the next couple of weeks once I have a final price negotiated. That’s a big step.
One thing you’ll discover if you’re publicizing your start up brewery is that you’ll get lots of interest from Chinese manufacturers who will email you seeking your money. My advice: avoid like the plague. You’ll have no service, huge language barriers, questionable quality at best, and little if any post purchase support.
Folks like Premiere Stainless have their fermentation vessels manufactured in China, but they have very high quality standards, provide plenty of support, and fit the vessels with top of the line valves and such. I have a very simple rule: if it has a moving part, make sure it’s not made in China. I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions, but I’m not willing to seek them out.
Until next time.
This guy right here! Hi again! It’s been awhile. I’ve been busy as usual, and I actually got to take a family vacation to Wisconsin this past week, which was much needed.
So let’s do some status updates. First and foremost, investor fundraising is going through the roof! As of yesterday
Panic Alarmist has 48.5% of the investor funding goal in the bank, as in, actually deposited in the Panic savings account! That’s after 2.5 weeks of official fundraising. Not bad, eh? And there is at least another 25% on its way, just coordinating meetings and phone calls to answer final questions and figure out document signing logistics.
It would be nice to sit back and spend some time trying to absorb the fact that my over 2.5 years of planning is actually paying off but we’re not there yet. Still lots to do, like……
As my investor funding comes in, it’s now time to pivot a bit from investor/lease mode to investor/lease/bank loan mode. As I’ve written in the past, there are two pieces to the funding puzzle. Investor funds will be used for things like construction build out, operational cash flow for the first year+ and miscellaneous other expenses that a bank won’t want to pay for. The bank loan, which is larger than the investor funds, will be used primarily for purchasing the brewing and packaging equipment, ingredients, packaging supplies and other tangible assets
Before a bank will loan me money, they want to see skin in the game, meaning they want to see how much money I’m putting into the business (meaning my own personal investment plus investor funds). For a start up, a bank likes to see anywhere from 25-50% of the total start up cost provided by the business before they’re comfortable with providing the rest. The actual percentage is based on the bank’s risk appetite, their financial health, the loanee’s credit rating (mine is stellar, just sayin’), the business plan, the size of the loan request, and much more.
Now that I’m about to blow by the 50% of the investor funding requirements, I can start the loan process. This is the tricky part. Will a bank see that I have half of the investor funds plus my personal investment, feel comfortable that the rest will be funded in the future before it’s needed, and loan me the rest? Or will I have to be at 75% or more before a bank will even consider the risk? Well, based on what I’ve been told by business bankers, 50% is a good place to start the loan application process, which I officially did yesterday!
I will be applying with one very large bank, and one local bank at first. The local bank was referred to me by one of my investors who has been a business customer with the bank for a decade. I was given an introduction, we chatted on the phone, and the business plan was emailed out. I should have some kind of feel next week as to whether or not a loan with either institution is a possibility. Both loans will most likely be backed by the SBA and that should be quite the learning experience.
Next up in my three prong attack is the lease. My real estate agent put in a Letter of Intent to the owner of the property I’m interested in leasing last week. The first thing the owner wants to see are my finances, which is expected. So here we have a bit of a catch-22. I can’t get a lease without my finances in place. What does the owner want to see? No idea yet. Just like banks, commercial real estate owners have different risk appetites based on their particular situation. Maybe the owner will see my investor funding total and be comfortable with that. Maybe they’ll want to see the bank loan in place. The latter is probably most likely. Now the bank wants to know if I have a location. Well, no, I don’t, because I need my finances in place. So far, it appears that as long as I’ve identified a location and am in the leasing process, the banks aren’t too concerned. Having a location in mind though will very, very likely help assuage the loan underwriters. I’ll report back on that once I know.
I’ll have some other news to report which I’ll do in the very next blog post to help break things up a bit.