Brewery

28 Oct

I have decided to open a brewery.

I started to look into the idea a few years ago. Ultimately that didn’t pan out, something that given my circumstances at the time was a blessing. Since then I have debated with myself about whether I should or shouldn’t consider the idea again. I started the podcast, talking to people in the Maryland craft beer industry, in part to channel my interest in a brewery into something less risky.

When my father was my age, he had started and run more than one successful business. My career has taken a different path, building technology for others. The work, especially the opportunity to learn new technologies and to make things, has been very rewarding. After decades nothing I’ve created professionally has been truly mine, as much as I do still feel a good deal of ownership and pride.

I have been home brewing consistently for almost a decade. I started in college and dabbled on and off for years before really diving in around the end of 2009. I really enjoy brewing and sharing my beer. I have won a couple of awards and received what I believe to be sincere appreciation from people, including professionals, who I admire and trust.

One of the things that has been holding me back is that running a successful brewery of any size involves so much more than making good beer. Even the brewing, at all but the smallest scale, represents a significant learning curve, producing it at more of an industrial scale. I have a lot of experience tackling learning curves for technical pursuits. Everything else needed to run a business? Not so much.

When my father passed away a few months ago, part of processing my grief was personally taking stock. My dad’s older sister, expressing her condolences, pointed out how much my dad had yet to accomplish at my age, reminding me of my own potential. She didn’t know at the time that I had been grappling again with this idea, to build something that was my own. Surrounded by stories of the best of my dad, I felt that I owed it to him and to myself to finally try. I felt some optimism, that if he had taught me anything, that if I shared any of his amazing abilities, then I had more to draw on for success than I initially gave myself credit.

Through the podcast, I have had the good fortune to visit other breweries in planning. I have been struck time and again with a certain kind of awe. There I am, in a raw, empty space or one that perhaps has started construction, a rough sketch in piping, wires, framing and dry wall. Whatever the place in the process, I am standing in someone’s dream. I feel it to a lesser extent, too, after the ribbon has been cut and beer has started to flow. Seeing evidence of the brewery taking shape, though, brings the thrill home in such a visceral way.

Each one of those experiences, for the owner, started with a decision. To take a risk, to work harder than they have ever worked to see that dream made real. Succeed or fail, that is the path I am now on, having finally taken the first step, making that same decision.

I don’t have any definitive timeline, yet. I literally have only made the decision. And arranged to attend some training and a conference this coming week. After that, I expect to have a bit more clarity on next steps. Thankfully, my co-workers and my boss at my day job are super supportive, so I will be able to keep working full time while I figure out what the next couple of years will entail. I even have a month long paid sabbatical coming up December of next year to acknowledge five years at my day job. At a minimum, I will need to figure out before this coming Summer how best to use that amazing opportunity.

I haven’t settled many other details, really. I have some ideas and preferences. I would like to be hands on with the brewing if I can. I want to stay local, to join the amazing community of craft breweries in Montgomery County. Andrea is all in, eager to bring her own experiences in retail to help focus on our tap room. I definitely want to create some sort of gathering space and focus initially on own premise. Much of the next few months will be figuring out what is possible and feasible, solidifying details and forming a plan.

For those who listen to the podcast, I plan to continue it though it is likely to undergo some evolution. I will probably continue the interview format but it will now be intertwined with my own story, likely introducing people I encounter as I figure out how to realize my dream. I very much would like to incorporate a recording space into the brewery to keep the conversations going for some time to come.

If you’ve had any of my home brew, those recipes and experience will be my starting point and inspiration: British styles with both deep historical influences and modern sensibilities, with some added room for experimentation. I’ve done a little searching and for now, using the name of my home brewery, Beers of Peculiar Character, seems workable. This may change due to the realities of names and businesses. For now it helps, allowing me to start with what I know as I learn and figure everything else out.

7 Replies to “Brewery

  1. Thomas, I am massively proud of you. I admire you greatly and love to see you committing to the pursuit of your passion. Good luck and if you need anything, please let us know!

  2. I’m so proud of you! In this short period of time knowing you I had learn so much from you and you motivate me and inspire me. So happy to know that you are following your passion! I’m here to support you 🙂

    • Thanks! All the friends I’ve made this past year in the Maryland craft beer community, through the podcast, helped immensely in finally making this decision and in having more courage following through.

  3. Hey Thomas! Love the blog post. Looking forward to following you on your journey from start to finish.

  4. Hey Tom,

    This is exciting to hear. You know I have always had the highest regard for your work and intellect. I have no doubt this venture will be a success.

    Best of luck,
    Jenn

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