The Chicago Reader’s Philip Montoro wrote a very nice article about Alarmist! It’s right here:
Well here we are. All the years of planning, stressing, multitasking, fixing, solving, sometimes breaking down and crying (literally, and more than once), writing, calculating, reevaluating, re-planning, iterating, and formulating come down to the next couple of weeks.
My pale ale is about to be transferred to the bright tank. From there, it goes into kegs, then out to my distributor, with a few kegs staying with me for self-distribution to bars near the brewery.
I’m excited, exhausted, trepidatious, elated, stressed, worried.
This brewery isn’t just a business to me. It’s a journey. It’s the realization of a dream. It’s knowing that incredible focus and hard work can get you to your destination, which is really just the beginning of the real journey. It’s the financial future for me, my wife, and our two crazy, wonderful boys. It’s personal. Very fucking personal.
It’s a Hail Mary pass. There are no second chances.
This brewery has taken me to places I’ve never been psychologically and emotionally. It has stretched me beyond all the limitations that I’ve always held onto so fiercely all my life. I’ve overcome incredible doubt and the constant second guessing of what I should’ve done, what I could’ve done, and what I’m doing now. Never have I worked on anything this demanding, with this much intensity, and this long in my 47 years on this Earth.
What happens now? Will the first batch of beer live up to my expectations? Will it live up to the expectations of all the great people who’ve followed me or supported me all of these years? Will I disappoint? Will people be forgiving if I do? Should they be? Am I just a self-hyping, run-of-the-mill craft brewery?
I do not yet know. What I do know is this: I will never stop trying to make sure my beers are as good as they can possibly be. I will always try to be my own worst critic. I will make mistakes. I’ve made quite a few already. I will try to learn from these mistakes and I will try become a better brewer, a better business owner, and a better person because of them.
I will tweak recipes and processes over and over until I figure out how to make the best beer I know how to make. I will run this business in a highly ethical and honest way. I will become an important part of the community that has embraced me so enthusiastically.
But even that might not be enough. I just don’t know. I’ll be damned if I’ll ever give up though.
I want to thank everyone who has helped me get to this, the eve of the beginning. I stand on the shoulders of so many giants in so many ways: family, friends, other brewers, investors, all the amazing volunteers, and so many more.
To those of you out there who have been so supportive of me over these five-ish years, thank you. Most of you I’ve never met. Many from other parts of the country or even other parts of the world. You’ve sent me emails, posted comments here and on Facebook. You’ve tweeted, retweeted, shared, favorited. Those things might seem trivial in a world of social media clutter, but they sure as hell mean something to me, a millisecond of caring. So thank you a million times over. You have no idea how important these things have been to me on this journey.
To all of you whom I’ve actually met, thank you. Thank you for introducing yourselves and saying all of those wonderful, encouraging things. That too meant and continues to mean the world to me.
I will repay all of you by making the best beer I know how to make and hopefully spreading some joy to you and yours in some small way.
After all, I think that is what this is all about.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
March 7, 2015.
My interview with Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting is live!
If you dream of a world where I can live amongst hot models in Argentina, well, this is the interview for you!
What an adventure. The first beer has been brewed and now the hard part begins. Let’s discuss.
First, as you’ve no doubt guessed, my ability and desire to blog has declined in direct correlation to how busy I’ve been. As much as I’d like to fill in all the details in the past year, I just don’t have time, which is a shame, because there is a LOT to share.
We brewed this past month, the beer, a pale ale I’ve been working on for a long time, is in the fermenter, it’s ready to be dry hopped, conditioned, and carbonated. The brew day was not without its challenges. I decided to brew 10 barrels (20 kegs), which is half of what my brewhouse can produce, and a fourth of what my fermenters can hold. Even though I knew this would create issues with wort production and fermentation control, I decided to go through with it in order to kick the tires of the system and figure out some of the basics of my process.
It was a great day, lots of help, lots of support, lots of friends texting and coming by to wish me good luck. We learned a lot, solved numerous problems, and the next brew day should go a bit more smoothly. It will take time to dial in my recipes for the brewery for things like mash efficiency, hop extraction efficiency, variations on water temperature through out the year, water chemistry tweaking, and on and on. But I feel I have a very good understanding of my brewing system and how to get water, wort, and beer from point A to point B. That’s a good start.
I can clean and sanitize all of my vessels very efficiently now, thanks to all the training I had at Metropolitan Brewing. So that’s a good thing, because I’ll be doing that a LOT. I have a good understanding of how to best handle and use the various cleaning and sanitizing chemicals that every brewery uses. Some are quite nasty and require good safety protocols. Again, Metropolitan guided my way on this back during my internship.
So I’m a couple of weeks away from introducing my first beer to the Chicago market and that’s where the real work begins. Brewing beer is just one part of this journey. Now I have to ship it, sell it, market it, maintain it, efficiently operate it, and grow it. I’m a bit nervous, but I’m up for the challenge.
The next step in this enterprise is a tap room. That is going to be a long process to navigate through more permits (including Chicago alcohol ones), construction, and god knows what else. I hope to have it up and running this year, but knowing what I know now, things in Chicago can take a very long time.
I want to thank everyone for their kind comments (the stupid ones were never approved, you should’ve seen some of them, jeez.) and words of encouragement.
This blog will live on as one part of the upcoming new Alarmist Brewing website. We’ll be transitioning to a proper business site with information on events, beers, and goings on of the brewery. It will look dramatically different, like even almost professional!
Stay tuned, but for the latest and greatest news for now, check out the Alarmist Brewing Facebook page.
I thought these concrete floor construction photos might tide everyone over until I have an actual real post again…
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.