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Forgive the Mess!

I’m updating the site to reflect the new name! Hang tight, we’ll get this done in the next day or two.

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What is Panic Alarmist Brewing ?

Whoa! Positioning solved! Suck it Kiser!

Whoa! Positioning solved! Suck it Kiser!

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.

Cheers,

G

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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.

Here's Wrap Architecture's first pass at creating a schematic drawing of the space. These folks are leaving no stone unturned!

Here’s Wrap Architecture’s first pass at creating a schematic drawing of the space. These folks are leaving no stone unturned!

Wrap are a husband and wife team of Cheryl Noel and Ravi Ricker. In the brewing world, they are probably best known as the architects behind both Revolution Brewing’s brew pub and production brewery.

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!

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Q: Do You Have A Location Yet?

A: YEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

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.

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Cheers!

G

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Busy!

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!

Cheers,

Gary

2 comments

Wandering About Equipment

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.

Alright then.

I can't figure out why I'm the only bidder on this sweet, sweet deal. Who says used brewing equipment doesn't exist?

I can’t figure out why I’m the only bidder on this sweet, sweet deal. Who says used brewing equipment doesn’t exist?

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.

Cheers,

G

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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!

My bankers are very powerful people, as clearly shown here. Once I have their money, I too will be very powerful. Might even buy a suit.

My bankers are very powerful people, as clearly shown here. Once I have their money, I too will be very powerful. Might even buy a suit.

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.

Cheers!

G

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My elite legal team on Isle of Man is working 24 hours a day to finish up my investor legal documents, which I’ve given an overview of previously. You’ll probably want to read that post before or immediately after this one as it gives a very brief description of those documents. So what does investing in Panic Alarmist Brewing, LLC or any LLC mean exactly? Investing in a publicly traded company is something many of us are familiar with. Investing in a privately held LLC is something quite different. I can only speak somewhat intelligently about my investment structure, but there are many, many ways to do this.

Here we see Panic's projected first year profits. No expense will be spared to keep said profits safe, as long by safe you mean in a large bottle in the middle of an unnamed desert.

Here we see Panic’s (now named Alarmist) projected first year profits. No expense will be spared to keep said profits safe, as long as by “safe” you mean in a large plastic bottle surrounded by an improbably short cinder block wall.

First let’s get to the big question: what does an investor get for their investment? In other words, how does an investor make money? I’m glad you asked! An LLC doesn’t have shareholders with shares per se, they have “Members”, and Members have “Interests” instead of shares. I’m a Class A Member, my investors will be Class B Members. Any annual net profits less reserves/operational cash is what my legal documents call “net cash flow”. Basically, I have a net profit, I subtract out whatever I think Panic Alarmist needs to maintain for operational cash flow, future expansion, etc. What’s left is net cash flow. Net cash flow is divided between the Class A Member “pool” and the Class B Member “pool”. In my case, I am the sole Class A Member. The Class B Members will share the Class B pool proportionally based on each member’s investment amount. So naturally someone who invests $20,000 will get twice as much money as someone who invests $10,000. The big decision to make is how do you split that pool between Class A and Class B. In my case, Class A represents 67% of the company, Class B represents 33%. This is based on what percentage Class B Members total investment dollars represent to the entire start up amount required. So it would seem that you simply split the moolah up like that and you’re done!

Well, not quite. Small businesses are a pretty risky investment, even craft breweries, so it behooves you to make the deal as enticing as you can in order to not have to spend 27 years seeking investors. There are many ways to do this. One way is to offer a larger share of the entire business. Another is to accelerate the payback to the Class B Members until they recoup their original investment, and that’s exactly what Panic Alarmist is doing. Until each investor recoups their original investment, net cash flow will be split 20/80 Class A/Class B. That means 80% of net cash flow will go into the Class B Member “pool”. This allows investors to recoup their initial investment much more quickly and is a nice reward for taking the risk when they could have put their money in historically safer investments.

But wait, there’s more! First, understand that an LLC has something called “pass-thru taxation”. This means that any net profits are added to each Member’s taxable income proportionally based on their investment. Each Member will receive a K-1 form indicating the taxable amount (I have an accountant who will take care of this during tax time each year). Pass-thru taxation is good because company profits aren’t taxed and then followed by a capital gains tax for each Member.  In other words, LLC’s don’t suffer from double taxation. So here’s the cool part. If there’s a loss, and there definitely will be during Panic’s (now named Alarmist) first year of operation, each Member will be able to lower their taxable income for the year. Based on the advice from my crack legal team in the Cayman Islands, until Panic Alarmist Brewing Class B Members recoup their original investment, they will divvy up 90% of the losses, Class A will only get 10%. That means bigger tax deductions for Class B Members. Now, I’m not an accountant and I’m sure things are not quite as simple as I’ve written, so please, please consult with an account or an attorney on these matters. I’m only relaying what I think I’ve learned.

Once Class B Members recoup their original investment, the percentage of net cash flow will flip to the aforementioned 67% for Class A and 33% for Class B and that will remain in place until forever. By forever I mean until a Class B Member decides to sell their interests, in which case the Operating Agreement and Private Placement Memo clearly lay out how that happens. In my case, Class A Members (me) will get right of first refusal to purchase those interests at a negotiated price. Should I choose not to purchase those interests, the Class B Members will then have the right to buy them. Again, this is all described in detail in my Operating Agreement and PPM.

One consideration that any investor interested in something like this should understand, and it’s very important that the managers/owners of the LLC explain this, is that profits do not automatically equal a cash distribution to the funding pools. As I mentioned earlier, “net cash flow” as defined in my documents (and this is typical from what I understand), as net profits less operating cash flow and any other amounts management deems necessary to maintain the health and growth of the business. In other words, if in year two, Panic Alarmist has a net profit of $300,000, much of if not all of that amount will very likely stay in the company’s bank account in order to have a nice safety buffer for monthly cash flow (the #1 killer of small businesses!) and to use through out the following year for expansion. Brewing is a capital intensive business. Growth = more fermenters, more construction, new equipment. And of course more employees to help with that growth. I see this as a good thing however. Allow the company to grow now and reap the rewards of more profits down the road. Not everyone might understand this, so it’s important to explain that very clearly. Investors looking for quick returns on investment might do well to look elsewhere.

One other item related to the previous paragraph. In the same example, if Panic Alarmist were to make a net profit of $300,00 in year two and distributed none of it, the profits would still be reported as income for each member proportionally based on their investment amount. That means all members could have a tax liability or at least an increase in income tax. The solution to this problem is for the LLC to disburse at least enough funds to the Class A and Class B pools to cover the additional tax liability. However, this may or may not be possible based on the cash flow requirements and growth plans of the business. Do you buy another couple of fermenters to increase your production which would return significantly more profit down the road, or do you instead disburse the money to negate any tax liabilities for the Members? Well, that’s something you’ll have to figure out and you need to address that in your operating agreement and PPM. I’ve handled it by basically stipulating that Panic Alarmist will try to disburse funds to cover increased tax liabilities, but not necessarily. That will be a judgement call I’ll have to make. I don’t want to dramatically hurt the growth and health of the business, but I also don’t want to saddle my investors with a tax burden. This is something I’ll figure out as we go along and work with my investors to reach an amicable solution. Remember, any money not invested back into the business has a cost in the long (and maybe not so long) term.

There is much more to LLC investment than just cash distributions. There are voting rights, limitations on transferability of Class B interests to other parties, management rights, and lots of other considerations. I’ll try to go into those topics at some point in a later post. Let me stress that this is but one way to do this. I know of another Chicago based brewery who relied mainly on promissory notes to raise their start up cash. As I understand it, that’s basically a loan with interest paid at an agreed upon rate to the lending party. This has the advantage to the owners of not having to give up any equity in the company. One disadvantage of this approach is having the ability to make those payments on time without harming operational cash flow and such.

My philosophy is that I am sharing this journey and I think anyone who is willing to risk their hard earned money with someone like me who has never run a small business, let alone a brewery, should have the potential to reap some nice rewards for the long term. Hope this helps anyone thinking about taking on investors for whatever venture they might be planning and hopefully clarify some things for potential investors.

Cheers, G

13 comments

Chicago Craft Beer Week is over and what a week it was! My favorite part of the whole week was meeting new Panic Alarmist fans and admirers. I’ve lost count how many people came up and thanked me (I was wearing my Panic T-shirts all week) for sharing so much and offering wonderful words of encouragement at the four events I attended. My wife, Bridget, who isn’t usually a big beer festival fan, accepted that beer events would be a part of our lives from now on and joined me for all of them. She really got to see first hand how much all this work I’ve done has started to pay off and she’s more excited than ever to get this brewery up and running. And as usual, people liked my wife more than they liked me. I’m used to it.

This is what I hope to be the home to Panic Brewing. There's lots of space, but the other tenants are either a bit insular, pregnant, or dead.

This is what I hope to be the home of Panic Alarmist Brewing. There’s lots of space, but the other tenants are either a bit insular, pregnant, or dead.

Let me start with the biggest news thus far: I’ve found a space I’d like to lease. I like it a lot. It’s almost perfect. I say it’s “almost” perfect as there are some potential zoning issues I’m trying to hash out with the alderman’s office for the location. I want to be able to open a retail store first, and then a tap room down the road. There could be some problems with the current zoning, but like everything else, it will all work out. As much as I’d love to reveal the address, I can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet. There’s a lot that has to happen before I can sign the lease and it will definitely be several weeks or more before the deal is done, but I REALLY want this space. I’ll gladly share the ins and outs of leasing once I have it signed.

Another big deal for me was opening a business checking and credit card account, which I did last week. Yes, it’s easy to do (you need to be a registered business entity with your state and get your EIN from the IRS, which is easily done online here), but I had put it off as I thought it might be an additional expense I wasn’t ready to take on yet. Turns out, it’s pretty cheap and actually free if you maintain a certain balance. An easy task, but it’s checked off the list, and that’s a good thing.

Now, the big question is, where is Panic Alarmist now in the process? It seems like I’m always saying, “almost ready to fund raise”, or “finishing up the legal investment documents”. Well, I’m almost ready to fund raise. I’ll officially begin once we finally finish up the legal documents. I spent 2 hours on the phone with my attorney last week to go over the damn near final versions of the operating agreement and PPM. We’ve agreed to have these 100% completed by mid June. Monday, June 17 to be exact. I’m sure I’ll have to go through at least a couple more reviews before then, but that is my focus right now. I want this shit done NOW!

I have some final tweaking to the business plan that I will be finishing up over the next two evenings and then that’s it. No more business plan changes. Over the past couple of months I’ve received some new equipment quotes and learned some new info that has allowed me to make some pretty significant changes to my financial analyses ranging from start up costs to ongoing monthly costs. Some changes are required due to how some banks underwrite loans. I’ll go into painful detail on bank loans, especially SBA backed ones once I have my loan in place.

Let me go into my business plan process real quick. I finished the plan months ago. Since then I’ve made numerous revisions both big and small. This is how I operate. When I am learning something new, I iterate over and over until at some point I feel comfortable with the result. I’m not looking for perfection with the business plan, but I’m definitely looking to not commit any egregious errors. Perfect example: there are so many things that could go wrong during the construction process that my costs could be way beyond what I’ve budgeted. I’ve tried very hard to mitigate that. But at some point, you have to let it go, roll the dice, and do your best. Most people would’ve started the dice rolling much sooner than me. That’s ok. Everyone is different and I’m very comfortable with how I learn and execute. It’s now time to execute.

So here’s kinda how the rest of this story unfolds, as I see it:

  1. I get the completed investor documents from my attorney (which is my current primary focus)
  2. I contact all the folks who’ve expressed interest in investing (there are quite a few), email them the operating agreement, PPM, and some other stuff.
  3. We meet or talk on the phone, I answer any questions investors may have. (more on this when the time comes, which is SOON)
  4. Investors invest, money goes into an escrow account and stays there until a certain funding level is reached
  5. Once a certain funding level is reached, I continue my conversations with the banks I’ve been dealing with. They see I have investor money and personal investment, they analyze the business plan, they approve, the SBA agrees to guarantee it, loan gets funded. This takes several weeks.
  6. As soon as the loan is funded, I order equipment. Brew house and fermenters require about 6 months to arrive.
  7. Also, as soon as loan is funded, lease is signed. This will take a few weeks of negotiation.
  8. Once lease is signed, contractors allowed to bid, contractors hired, work is completed. How much and what type of work will depend on the space I lease.
  9. On the day the lease is signed, I will submit my paperwork to the TTB (Federal agency in charge of breweries amongst other things). I will have begun completion of this paperwork way before this. TTB approval takes about 2 months. Could be more, could be less.
  10. Once TTB approval is received, I can then start the Illinois state approval process which can take up to 2 months. It would be nice to start this process in parallel with the TTB, but that would make Illinois business friendly.
  11. Construction finishes, equipment is installed, licenses all received, brewing begins.
  12. Beer is brewed, packaged, and sent to a distributor in the Chicago area. I will not be self distributing.
  13. Once operations are smoothed out and cash flow is good, I’ll begin the process of opening up a retail store or tap room, depending on zoning and Chicago liquor license bull shit.

So, that’s the plan. There are lots of mini tasks in there as well, but this is a good overview of what’s involved yet. From the day I get the loan, we’re looking at at LEAST 6 months to opening day, most likely 7 or 8. Who knows?

But this I can promise you, it’s moving along better now than ever before. It feels very real and there’s no stopping.

Last note: My latest batch of Panic Pale Ale is finally in the ballpark of what I’m looking for. There’s a lot of tweaking yet to do, I’ll be experimenting with some hop schedules, but it’s close. Very close.

Cheers,

G

6 comments

Ever since I started this amazing and sometimes maddening adventure of opening a brewery I’ve been agonizing over what beers I want to brew. I’ve covered this subject in a few previous posts, so I will try very hard not to repeat myself or say the same thing again (see what I did there?). Well, I’m happy to say I have a much, much clearer vision of what I think will be Panic’s (now named Alarmist) two flagship beers at launch.

First, I’m not going to divulge exactly what they will be because the marketplace is getting more and more competitive and I’d rather wait until the brewery is almost ready to begin operations. Once I’m ready to roll, I’ll go into great detail about the beers and supply enough info that homebrewers will be able to get very close to the final recipes.

How hard can it possibly be to sell another APA in the market place?

How hard can it possibly be to sell another APA in the market place?

The first beer is an American style pale ale. Now that doesn’t sound very interesting, does it? You can’t go outside without tripping over an American craft pale ale (at least at my house, since I just throw all the bottles onto the front porch or into the yard). Who in their right mind would brew one of the most popular styles of craft beer in their start up brewery?  IPA is actually the most popular craft beer style I believe, but APA is up there somewhere. This APA is hopefully going to be quite a bit different than just about any other APA in the Chicago market. I have a very specific hop profile I’m going for and I’m getting close enough now that I’m moving from small prototype batches to regular 5 gallon and soon 10 gallon batches. I’ll cover my prototype process in a later post.

I’ve really mulled over this recipe and brewed it multiple times. Each iteration has gotten a little bit better but I’ve recently learned a few things which will help me to get it exactly where I want it. I should point out that Nate was extremely helpful in formulating and iterating this recipe and brewed a tasty 10 gallon version of it back in March.

The first thing I’ve learned is how to calculate late hop IBU contributions. I didn’t know what the exact theoretical IBU contributions should be and my beers kept coming out more bitter than I wanted. I finally finished reading Stan Hieronymus’ “For the Love of Hops” and about fell out of my chair when I got to the late hopping/whirlpool hopping section. There is lots of good data from Stone and Firestone Walker and others regarding hop utilization at lower temperatures in the book. Then I started an email thread with the creator of the brewing software I use, BeerAlchemy 2 on both Mac and iOS (the syncing feature between Mac and iOS is absolute killer). I asked him about how to calculate IBU’s from late hopping and he kindly pointed to the feature built right into the software (it’s the “Hot Steep/Whirlpool” parameters, which I had never noticed for some damn reason). Since I had never filled in the two fields for whirlpool time and temperature, the software never calculated the IBUs from those hop additions. Duh. These very recent discoveries have been extremely helpful in providing at least some kind of guidance on how much bitterness I can expect in my beers. Remember these numbers are all theoretical, but that’s better than nothing.

The other beer is going to be Englishy. I love English bitters. This beer is not an English bitter. It is absolutely informed by English beer styles and there are other craft breweries doing something like this, but I’m going to make it my own. It will be very low hopped, very low in alcohol, and easy quaffed by the gallon. I’m really excited about this beer.

Oh, almost forgot to mention. My local homebrew club, Square Kegs, has an entry in this year’s Beerfly Alleyfight which will be taking place at Haymarket Brewpub. All competitors will be brewing a porter. I created the recipe with fellow homebrewer Jordan von Kluck based on the ingredients provided and some tweaks to help us bring home the gold or whatever it is. I brewed it a couple of weekends ago, which turned into quite a fun Square Kegs party in my back yard. This is a big, fun competition that’s hard to explain, so go Google it and try to make it if you can. I’ll be there for sure.

As usual, I have lots more to share covering everything from SBA loans to licensing. I’ll blog all this stuff as we continue.

Cheers,

G

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