It used to be there was really only one or two ways to kickstart your own brewery: start off incredibly well-off (or have super rich parents, uncles, etc), or take out a terrifying business loan. Now, aspiring brewers are holding something of a virtual bake-sale, minus actually selling any cupcakes. Instead of standing on the corner with a lemonade stand to raise some capital, they are creating pages on Kickstarter.com, the crowd-funding site for creative projects. And really, what’s more creative than making beer?
Over the last two years, over a dozen peoples with professional brewing aspirations have held out their pencil cups online sparechanging for brewery bucks. When people pledge donations, their credit cards are actually only charge if the project reaches its funding goal. If someone reaches $24,999 of their $25,000 goal, no one—neither the brewery nor Kickstarter.com—sees a penny. To help get funded, those launching projects offer premiums. Five bucks might get you a sticker. A grand might score you your own tank or a beer named after you. The best part may be the 5-minute videos each commercial brewery hopeful posts on their page.
In San Francisco, Regan Long and Sarah Fenson have been homebrewing together and decided to go pro a year ago. They want to call their local brewery just that, Local Brewing Co. They’re eyeing the 3-barrel nanobrewery route. After honing recipes doing underground markets and tastings in the park, their friends at Thirsty Bear Brewpub helped them brew a 15-barrel batch to actually tap around The City and drum up interest and support for their lofty $69,000 goal. “I’ve noticed that more breweries have successfully (over) funded on Kickstarter,” says Long. “It’s super encouraging that there are communities out there that really pull together to support small, local brewery start-ups. We’re really hoping SF steps up to help us build Local Brewing Co.”
Other projects currently seeking backing are Brickside in Copper Harbor, MI (almost hit $20,000 goal), TwoDeep production brewery in, Indianapolis, IN (way shy of $21,000), theologians turned brewers and the guys behind the religious beer blog ThankHeavenForBeer.com, Wilderness in Kansas City, MO (a third of the way to $40,000) and two more, LouBrew and Scooter Brewing.
LouBrew aims to be a nanobrewery in Louisville, KY, but with only about 10% of Jeremy Rathfon’s $30K goal, it doesn’t look good. Same goes for David White and his gay-themed Scooter Brew, which, believe it or not, would not be the world’s first gay brewery. (And I don’t mean Schmitt’s Gay.) White is an actual lion and tiger tamer! For a pledge of $1,500, he’ll introduce you to his fuzzy coworkers. No one has taken him up on that and he’s almost $34,000 below the goal of 35 Gs.
Two days ago, Jason Robinson of Copper Harbor, MI stopped worrying when he barely topped his $20,000, meaning his Brickside brewery now becomes a reality. Similar success for Armadillo (Denton, TX, $4,000 overfunded from their $30K ask), Natian ( Portland, OR, $1,500+) Pipeworks (soon to become the newest brewpub in Chicago), and Mystery Brewing (Durham/Chapel Hill, NC, $40,000+) where Erik Myers vows that “No two batches of my beer will ever be the same. I’ll have a constantly-rotating selection of beers.”
So, got $10, $100, or $1,000 burning a hole in your beer fund? Would you ever support a brewery this way? If so, what would you look for most (i.e. local to you, innovative mission statement or beer lineup? Best premium per donation?)