Yesterday I posted about how Nate and I have been presented with an "awesome opportunity that will make this journey a lot easier and cheaper". About an hour after I posted it, Nate called me and told me the deal was approved and we are in business! So what is this deal that we've been chomping at the bit to share? Let's start at the beginning. Once Nate came on board as a partner about a month ago, we started bouncing ideas off of each other as to how to further mitigate our risk. We're both married with mortgages and children and despite our passion for brewing beer, we're not interested in putting any of that needlessly at risk. That meant we needed to seek funding from sources other than just banks and individual investors. Banks are fine and all, but we would have to put up personal guarantees which could put our houses at risk. Investors are a great option but the more investors we bring on board, the greater the risk of someone rocking the boat and expressing dissatisfaction with how the business is going.
So what's left? Well, there are venture capital firms, but those deals require relinquishing control of the business you've built with your heart and soul. That wasn't an option. What we needed was a partner with lots of cash who would let us run the business our way and trust our judgement and vision. Someone who maybe wanted to get a foothold into the craft beer industry but wasn't quite sure how to make it happen, and someone who was based in Chicago.
Well, after mining through many business and personal connections, making about 30 phone calls, and with a heaping dose of blind luck we've found our partner.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Vienna Beef, Ltd to the
Panic Alarmist Brewing family!
Wait, what? What do hot dogs and lunch meat have to do with craft beer? Well, perhaps that might seem a stretch at first. Initially it definitely seemed incongruent to what Nate and I are trying to do. Allow me to explain.
One of our mutual friends has a close cousin who is not only a huge craft beer fan, but also happens to be an executive at Vienna Beef. Our friend was at a family gathering and mentioned in passing that she was friends with some guys opening a brewery and they were looking for a business partner based in Chicago. Her cousin's ears perked right up apparently and by the end of the day, Nate and I were on the phone with her discussing our vision for the brewery.
Well, it just so happens that Vienna Beef, founded in 1893 here in Chicago and still headquartered here is looking to branch out from its ubiquitous hot dogs, Italian beef, and deli meat business. The owner, Josef Schulkerstein, is 5th generation of the founding family and still runs the company as a family business.
Two days after our initial conversation with our contact, Nate and I were sitting in Mr. Schulkerstein's office discussing brass tacks. We educated him on the economics of the craft beer industry, the capital requirements for starting up and future expansion, and our passion for brewing beer. Josef (I'm tired of typing "Schulkerstein") was genuinely fascinated by the industry. He freely admitted that he was not a craft beer aficionado but greatly enjoyed new beers whenever the opportunity presented itself. Nate and I shared the same vibe about Josef: a very open minded man with solid business sense. We were hooked. And so was he.
So it's been two weeks now and we, along with our attorney, have been in intense negotiations with Vienna's executive team (and their attorney). As of last night, we've reached a tentative agreement. The contracts need to be drawn up, reviewed, and signed, but all signals are green and I'm 99.999% confident the deal will happen. Josef is equally confident and gave us permission to share the great news!
What does this mean to
Panic Alarmist Brewing? Well, it means we'll be starting off with a larger brewery, 30 barrel brewhouse vs 15 barrel. We'll definitely have our canning line, we'll be able to sign a lease on a particular property we've been eyeing, and we can be up and running by early 2014 no problem! But wait, it gets better.
Vienna will actively market our beers wherever they have an existing foothold including sports stadiums, grocery stores, you name it. They will also encourage all the various Chicago "hot dog stands" that carry Vienna Beef products to obtain Chicago liquor licenses so they can serve our beers! That's about 350 outlets in the city of Chicago alone!
But wait, there's even more! Josef is so excited about this whole new world of beer (to him) that he's offered really great ideas for unusual ingredients, many of which Vienna Beef uses in their various products. So Nate and I will be experimenting with Vienna's various spices used in their Italian and Polish sausages! And we're going to brew a special beer specifically for Vienna Beef outlets called "WeinerBrau". It will be a traditional German style lager but spiced with sage, fennel, onion powder and garlic powder. Our idea is to have it taste as much like a delicious sausage as possible. So much so that customers will actually want to buy a Vienna Beef sausage product to go with the beer. And more sausage eating means more beer to drink! It's true honest to goodness synergy.
We have so many ideas in the hopper now so once we have things figured out we'll announce all the great happenings!
So please, once again, welcome Vienna Beef to the
Panic Alarmist Brewing family! We are thrilled and honored to have them as a partner in this adventure!