Smuttynose is the newest of your companies, and it’s a distributing micro, with nothing to do with food.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, many of us who got into the production brewery business as an outgrowth of our brewpub business were probably laboring under the illusion that it would be a fairly straightforward transition, but it’s not. A brewpub, obviously, is first and foremost a restaurant that makes its own beer, and a producing brewery is first and foremost a factory that happens to make a really cool product instead of widgets.
What are you able to do at Smuttynose that you can’t do at the brewpub? Why did you make that step?
Well, to say we “made the step” implies a certain level of intent, when in fact we kind of blundered into it. There was a small brewery that had opened here in Portsmouth and went out of business, and the bank auctioned off their assets. I attended the auction without having any intention of purchasing anything. Of course, I ended up purchasing this building full of brewing equipment. As far as starting business go, it was the most ass-backwards way you can imagine. Normally, you start with an idea, you flesh it out, turn it into a plan, and it goes through many levels of scrutiny…
…before you buy the equipment!
Before you sign a lease and fill your building with equipment, you pretty much have everything figured out, not the least of which is your brand identity, your financing, your business plan and so on. Here I ended up with a building full of equipment, and none of that.
I kid around about this, but we’ve been in business thirteen years and to some extent a good chunk of that time has been spent putting the horse back in front of the cart. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing, that we’ve had to make it up as we go along. The whole beer industry has changed so much that it had we gone into it loaded down with the baggage of conventional wisdom, we might have found that a bit of a limitation. Going into it, I was very green and naïve, and we wasted a lot of money going up some blind alleys in the early days, but I think that was a necessary part of our evolution as a company.