The First Year
This weekend we will have officially had our doors open for 1 year.
Our grand opening last year felt like a dream come true for me. But I stand corrected. Now I realize that it was only the start of something much, much larger than originally anticipated.
When I first approached Troy with the idea of putting the brewery in the back of our CrossFit gym, the pitch was always “let’s start small and see what happens.” With a bit of reluctance, he finally agreed to start with a 1 barrel system- if things went well, we would upgrade, and if things went south, at least we hadn’t bet the farm on this crazy little idea.
For me, the thought had always been to prove that we can make outstanding beers and that there was a booming market for homegrown, local beers right here in Fort Mill. If those things were true, we could start to think on a bigger scale.
And after just a few short months, we were already looking at each other and saying “Okay… might be time for that bigger system now…” I can still remember walking into the cooler after Thanksgiving weekend and realizing we’d almost sold every single drop of beer we had available. Yes, it is certainly a good problem to have as small business owners, but the task of keeping up with demand can also be a bit gut wrenching.
Even before that weekend, we knew we would have to expand. Troy makes amazing beers with exceptionally consistent quality. His impressive wealth of self taught knowledge and creativity combined within his engineer’s precision makes from some truly unique beers, all of which can be described with two key words: approachable and balanced.
You will simply not be able to keep up in today’s beer market brewing beers like Troy’s on a 1 barrel system.
That being said- he has admitted to me on more than one drunken occasion that he is very glad that we started small. We made a lot of mistakes in our first year and we sure as hell learned a lot. From merchandise, to logistics, to screwing up brews (this happens incredibly rarely, but it does happen), each mistake we made was on a very small, relatively inexpensive scale. Pouring a batch of beer down the drain costed us a couple hundred dollars instead of several thousand.
So the discussion about expansion began. Given that our plan had always been to start small, produce a high quality product, and establish a demand for what we were doing in the market, we had no intentions of going “a little bit bigger.” This was a proven product, and it was time to go to a larger scale. We’d heard stories of successful breweries expanding, only to find themselves outgrowing their larger systems in a few years time, and decided that if we were going to go big, we were going to go MUCH bigger.
Skipping right over the 10 and 15 bbl systems, our decision was to go straight to a 30 barrel system. We’d done the math on maximizing the capacity of a 15 bbl system versus a 30 bbl system and compared the cost and sales potential of both, and the math for the 30 bbl system just made far better sense. If we were going to go big, we were going to make sure we didn’t need to expand for a very long time.
And here we sit, on the eve of our 1 year anniversary, ready to fire up this beautiful system built by our friends at Deutsche Beverage Technology, with 30 times the capacity we had this time last year. A massive leap forward, to be sure, but a leap that was by design, guided by our mistakes, driven by sweat, and fueled with a pinch of luck. There have been a lot of long days, sleepless nights, and stressful meetings that have led up to this.
We’re hosting an awesome fundraiser on our 1 year anniversary this weekend- Tails and Ales- to benefit both the Mary Warner Mack Dog Park at Anne Springs Close Greenway and the York County Humane Society. We’ll be donating 50% of our tap room sales this weekend to support both of these wonderful local organizations.