Don't Try This at Home - part 4

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

Brewpastor

Beer, not rocket chemistry
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
4,628
Reaction score
65
Location
Corrales, New Mexico
I am not sure, and have not bothered to go back and reread what I have writen up to now so I will just jump in and let the pieces fit together as they might.

Once all the headaches of getting started up had been taken care off the real headaches of running a brewery began and we quickly discovered how ignorant we were about running a commercial brewery. The quality control issues seemed way too immense to get around for one thing. We would bottle 300 cases at a pop, which meant we had to sanitize 300 bottles, 300 caps, the filler and everything else that came in contact with the beer. We couldn’t afford a consultant and there was no HBT, so we did the best we could. By and large it worked out, but we had our problems with infections and gushers and fun things like that. The first time you pour 28 barrels of beer out is something you don’t forget, but recalling 300 cases is way worse!

In the beginning we labeled by hand, one bottle at a time. We had rolls of sticker labels and we would put on a movie, open a beer or bottle and start working. We also built and filled all the cases and sixers the same way. We did have a loyal group of friends who would come and help for little more then the beer they drank.

For the first 2 years we produced 1 product, our Outlaw Lager. Man I really got to dislike that beer. But after a while we brought other products on line. Our second full time beer was a Pilsner we called Desert Pils. It was a simple, golden pilsner and has always been a good seller. We later introduced a bock and a chile beer. The chile beer is the won we won our GABF metals with and it was a strong seller as well.

Life as a brewer is a lot of work, but it is varied around the general tasks of production, packaging and maintenance. It can also involve a huge amount of drinking. It was pretty common to go to work and crack open a beer as you would get about whatever it was you had to do. We also would get bored with beer and so we had premixed cocktails on tap as well. We did loads of promo work, tastings at bars and retailers, and beer flight dinners at restaurants. People would come by so we could evaluate their beer or stop in to check us out and this would mean stopping to have a social drink. Our distributor would meet with us regularly as well and always bring along some samples of new wines, or spirits. It sounds a bit crazy in the retelling, but that was our life at RGBC. The three of us became very tight and took on everything as a team. Problems and successes were ours to share.

Our original fermentation set-up was built with Grundy tanks, which are 7 bbl British cellar tanks. We had a rig where-by we could link 4 of them together for a single batch. We had a two compartment cold room, one side for fermentation and the other for conditioning. This system worked fine but was labor intensive to say the least. Four tanks to set-up and clean every time, no conical bottoms to help things along. Temperature was set as a common standard with little control of variation. That is why we made a steam beer, a pils, a bock and a chile beer. The yeasts could all work in the same range. Eventually we got our first uni-tanks and sold the Grundies to some poor slob. They made all the difference. Individual temperature control using glycol, conical bottoms for trub and yeast management and CIP spray balls. I thought I was in heaven.

We eventually bought a labeler as well. The first one was not inline, but at least it was automated. We also made a deal with the devil, sold our souls and bought a pasteurizer. The reality was nobody between us and the customer cared about how our beer was handled. It would sit in a hot warehouse, ride in hot trucks, sit on sunny shelves. We could not afford the other options and so we configured a means to do in bottle pasteurization. Of course this meant the beer was degraded, but at least it was stable. As I look back I can clearly see the slow slip from the purest ideals of our home brewing roots to the compromised realities of our commercial venture. But at the time they were all basic decisions about surviving. When we went into business there were only three other breweries in New Mexico and we were at least four times as big as any of them. But within 2 years of our beginning the Micro revolution hit our region with the force of a Hurricane and suddenly our market was flooded with every kind of Colorado brew imaginable and good old Jim Koch was cranking all over the air waves about his great, great granddaddy’s age old recipe. That we survived all that still amazes me we did not die in that wave.

But we had some solid loyal followers and we started to get some good press and awards. The GABF was the icing on all that for me and really helped us get into some new markets. But RGBC never took off like those lucky few did here and there. Oh well, it still was fun to see strangers drinking your beer out and about. The day I knew I was really a brewer was the day I saw an empty Outlaw bottle on the side of the road.

Well, more on all this sometime down the road…
 

david_42

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2005
Messages
25,582
Reaction score
184
Location
Oak Grove
Thanks again. Even though my product has nothing to do with beer (unless you collect cans), it's always good to here about other entrepreneurs' experiences.
 

Brewtopia

"Greenwood Aged Beer"
Joined
Oct 20, 2006
Messages
2,295
Reaction score
26
Location
Seattle, WA
Yes, thanks for providing this insight into the commercial beer biz. It is an eye opener.
 

John Beere

Deep Six Brewing Co.
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
May 31, 2006
Messages
2,033
Reaction score
71
Location
Valdosta, GA
Brewpastor said:
and good old Jim Koch was cranking all over the air waves about his great, great granddaddy’s age old recipe.
I'm always very interested to read your posts, but this is one of my sore spots. heh

Sam Adams was my great, great, great-something grandfather. My great grandmother's maiden name was Adams and it was a direct decent.

Its a misconception that Jim Koch is related to Sam Adams... this was lifted from their website:

"While Charles thought his son's plan was crazy, he picked out his favorite family recipe, one that Jim's great-great grandfather, Louis Koch, had made at his brewery in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1870s. The following spring, Jim Koch filled his old consulting briefcase with bottles from his sample brew and started going door to door asking Boston bars and restaurants to server the beer that he named Samual Adams Boston Lager.

He chose the name because Sam Adams was a Boston firebrand, a revolutionary thinker who fought for independence. Most important, Samuel Adams, too, was a brewer who had inherited a brewing tradition and a brewery from his father."
 
OP
Brewpastor

Brewpastor

Beer, not rocket chemistry
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
4,628
Reaction score
65
Location
Corrales, New Mexico
John Beere said:
I'm always very interested to read your posts, but this is one of my sore spots. heh

Sam Adams was my great, great, great-something grandfather. My great grandmother's maiden name was Adams and it was a direct decent.

Its a misconception that Jim Koch is related to Sam Adams... this was lifted from their website:

"While Charles thought his son's plan was crazy, he picked out his favorite family recipe, one that Jim's great-great grandfather, Louis Koch, had made at his brewery in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1870s. The following spring, Jim Koch filled his old consulting briefcase with bottles from his sample brew and started going door to door asking Boston bars and restaurants to server the beer that he named Samual Adams Boston Lager.

He chose the name because Sam Adams was a Boston firebrand, a revolutionary thinker who fought for independence. Most important, Samuel Adams, too, was a brewer who had inherited a brewing tradition and a brewery from his father."
I have also been told that the recipe was produced recently and that it is an adaptation at best of an older recipe. It also has changed over the years and until recently was contract brewed.
 

JnJ

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2006
Messages
819
Reaction score
5
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Brewpastor said:
It has changed since I was there, but still has a burn.
Ya, it had a little burn. It was good with a nice mexican dinner in old town, but not what I'd sit and drink 4 or 5 of while watching a game.
 
OP
Brewpastor

Brewpastor

Beer, not rocket chemistry
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
4,628
Reaction score
65
Location
Corrales, New Mexico
It used to have this great pilsner first quality, that was followed and made more complex by the roasted chile undertones and a finishing bite. But even in it peak it wasn't a real session beer.
 

Erbium:YAG

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2006
Messages
427
Reaction score
3
Location
Jersey Shore
That was definitely a great story Pastor. The thoughts of going commercial have danced around in my head a few times. I naturally figured there are plenty of hurdles and logistical obstacles. Your story really shed some light on the whole process without me having to go out and buy and read an entire book. I'm sure there were many times it was outright scary. Thanks for your words of wisdom.
 

Biermann

Reinvented Biermann
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2006
Messages
1,461
Reaction score
32
Location
East Peoria, IL
So, I did some online research on RGBC-- is the company still in existence?? There were reviews from 2005 up to present on BeerAdvocate and some other sites, on some of the beers.
 
OP
Brewpastor

Brewpastor

Beer, not rocket chemistry
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
4,628
Reaction score
65
Location
Corrales, New Mexico
Biermann said:
So, I did some online research on RGBC-- is the company still in existence?? There were reviews from 2005 up to present on BeerAdvocate and some other sites, on some of the beers.
It has moved out of the beer market and into the production of "clear malt" for other companies to use for those freaky, foo-foo drinks you are seeing around. Easier money basically.
 

Biermann

Reinvented Biermann
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Mar 24, 2006
Messages
1,461
Reaction score
32
Location
East Peoria, IL
Brewpastor said:
It has moved out of the beer market and into the production of "clear malt" for other companies to use for those freaky, foo-foo drinks you are seeing around. Easier money basically.

Ahh, I see. When did it move away from beer?
 

blacklab

Banned
Joined
Nov 2, 2007
Messages
2,379
Reaction score
50
Location
Portland, ME
I just read parts 1-4. What a journey! Myself and a bunch of friends out here had pipe dreams of opening our own micro brewery back in the early 90's. I always felt like I missed a great opportunity. Glad to hear about someone who actually did it!

Apparently I need to move to NM where the pastors drink in the morning, and run breweries!
 

AFAJ Brew Guy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2007
Messages
692
Reaction score
2
Location
Fernley, NV
Thanks BP, that is a great story, I really do appreciate you taking the time to put it down in words for all of dreamers out here. Thanks again! :mug:
 
OP
Brewpastor

Brewpastor

Beer, not rocket chemistry
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
4,628
Reaction score
65
Location
Corrales, New Mexico
I just reread this and it makes it sound like a drunkfest, which I guess it was but I think we did work a bit too!
 

cd2448

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2007
Messages
601
Reaction score
4
Location
Haddonfield, NJ
just read this now - really interesting story. like a lot of things, it makes a great hobby but i bet it's really tough to do as a business. i'm surprised you can look a homebrew MLT in the eye after mashing 2000 lbs of grain in a batch!
 
OP
Brewpastor

Brewpastor

Beer, not rocket chemistry
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
4,628
Reaction score
65
Location
Corrales, New Mexico
Cleaning out 50 pounds of grains really seems like nothing after shoveling 2000 pounds into 55 gallon drums!
 

Baron von BeeGee

Beer Bully
Joined
Jul 20, 2005
Messages
5,374
Reaction score
30
Location
Barony of Fuquay-Varina, NC
Brewpastor said:
Cleaning out 50 pounds of grains really seems like nothing after shoveling 2000 pounds into 55 gallon drums!
Well, please come clean out the 12 lbs in my cooler, then! Everytime I've tried to sneak into my neighbor's backyard since Sunday he's been over there.
 

chadley

Banned
Joined
Nov 6, 2007
Messages
38
Reaction score
0
Location
Howell, MI
Thanks for the great read BP! It's interesting.....I have been watching some friends of mine try to open their new brewpub and I see so many of the same things you have written about. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
 
OP
Brewpastor

Brewpastor

Beer, not rocket chemistry
Joined
Feb 16, 2006
Messages
4,628
Reaction score
65
Location
Corrales, New Mexico
Baron von BeeGee said:
Well, please come clean out the 12 lbs in my cooler, then! Everytime I've tried to sneak into my neighbor's backyard since Sunday he's been over there.
"Golly Frank, I have no idea where that pile of grain came from. Is your dog on some kind of new diet or something?"
 

blacklab

Banned
Joined
Nov 2, 2007
Messages
2,379
Reaction score
50
Location
Portland, ME
Brewpastor said:
"Golly Frank, I have no idea where that pile of grain came from. Is your dog on some kind of new diet or something?"
Hey Frank! I did you a big favor and have introduced you to something that, at this point, only the crazy hippies out in Frisco are up to. It's called composting. Nevermind the rotting pile of $hit in your yard - it's progressive!
 
Top