Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nanobrewery Interviews: Manchester Brewing (Part 1)

While most of us have toyed with the thought of starting up a nanbrewery, others have taken the plunge.  To find out more about who these people are and what makes them do what they do, Tom and I embarked on a series of interviews with regional nanobreweries to get their stories.

Manchester Brewing
Concord, NH

For the third brewery in our Nanobrewery Interviews series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Bloom of Manchester Brewing Concord, NH.  Started in 2008, Manchester Brewing produces 2 bbls batches and has licensing to sell Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachussetts.  However, as described below, Kevin has recently switched the brewery to just draft-only accounts as part of a realignment.  Massachussetts is currently the only state being sold into at the moment, with Vermont and New Hampshire hopefully coming back online soon.  

In addition to running Manchester Brewing, Kevin also runs a class called "School of Beer".  Targetting at individuals who are interested at starting their own small breweries, the class covers regulations, forms, sources, software, equipment, and of course, brewing.  One of Kevin's recent students just got all his federal licensing and will be opening Squam Brewing shortly in New Hampshire.  Anyone interested in finding more information on Kevin's School of Beer can email him for details.

Below is the first part of our two part Q and A interview with Kevin.

* * *

Lug Wrench (LW): What inspired you to start-up Manchester Brewing?

Kevin Bloom (KB): I really enjoy brewing. I came to it late in life after spending most of my time in real estate. After I started homebrewing, my friends kept bugging me to go pro. I went out to all our local brewpubs and kept pestering them until I got an assistant brewer's gig. I did that for a year and a half, then was hired as head brewer at a micro in Northern Michigan.

That place closed, (not because of the beer though!) and I designed several brewpubs, one of which is now open, Liberty Street Brewing Company in Plymouth, Michigan. I found the site, put the plan together, made the deal, and raised the start up capital for that one.  Liberty Street was still partially under construction when I sold my interest in it.  Manchester Brewering actually openned before it did.

LW: What made you select the name Manchester Brewing for your Brewery?

KB: I first incorporated in Manchester and liked the name. However, after a month it became clear that the powers that be wanted us to move into the millyard and there was no inexpensive way to do that. So, after looking at several places I liked Concord best and rented a spot here. Then I tried to get the name Concord Brewing company, but the state wouldn't allow it because there was one of those in Massachusetts once upon a time, and they still had the name, even though they've been closed for years. The state also wouldn't allow me to use Concord Beer Works, Concord Beer Factory, or anything with Concord and Beer in the name.

So since I'd paid for Manchester Brewing, it was easier to just keep that.

LW: What caused the shut down last year that made you regroup before starting the brewering back up in December?

KB: We started with one distributor. We were very naive about believing things we were told, and the distributor agreed to a certain volume of cases per week. They also said we needed to double production in the summer. To meet projected requirements, we spent a lot of money upgrading our equipment. The distributor never took that much beer, and in fact in a couple months stopped buying any beer whatsoever. From June to November 2009 we sold no beer in New Hampshire. If we hadn't gotten Massachusetts when we did, we would have closed down long ago. If any of your aspiring brewery owners should ever hear the phrase "We'll sell all you can make!" that would be a lie.

LW: Why did you decide to move to Keg-Only accounts when you started rebrewing?

KB: The margins are much smaller when you pay for glass, caps, and labels. Plus when you buy glass, it comes on a pallet, and you only get a price break on shipping with two pallets. There are 112 cases of 22 ounce bottles per pallet, which is more than 7 barrels of beer each. Two pallets with shipping are approximately $2500. When your distributor is selling 10 cases a month, all the money you spent on glass and bottling, not to mention beer, are just sitting on your floor. Meanwhile, you end up paying for rent and utilities just as though you were actually selling something. We can sell our beer for less and make more money with kegs. AND draft beer tastes better!

LW: You are a New Hampshire company, but your distribution plans are to supply Massachusetts initially, not NH. How come?

KB: Good question. Our Massachusetts distributor has their own cooperage, so they are sending us clean kegs to fill, and we'll just send them back full. Also our Vermont distributor will do that for us, but the New Hampshire distributors don't offer that option, and we haven't built a keg washer yet.

LW: Is there anything else you would think our readers might enjoy learning about you or your brewery?

KB: Making the labels is the most fun next to doing the recipes. I have a gas with the labels, especially with bad jokes, just like most of my peer group. Lagunitas got WTF beer approved by the feds, but they wouldn't let me have OMFG though so I'm jealous. I did get John Thomas Red and The Devil's Rooster, plus Conspiracy Theory which is my favorite.

On Naughty Nancy's they made us remove the nipples and cameltoe, but we kept the whip and leather skirt. We've been featured in Lehman Brother's legal blog a couple of times for pushing the envelope. We have probably had more labels rejected than most every other brewery, but we won't bore you. All the art is on the web site and please have a peak.

Incidentally, as a Discordian I felt compelled to put a 23 on every label. Good luck finding the 23!

* * *

Part 2 of our interview with Kevin Bloom and Manchester Brewing can be found here.

If you want to find out more about Kevin, Manchester Brewing, or School of Beer, check out their website or better yet, if you are in the Concord area, stop by the brewery.



“I am sure of this, that if everybody was to drink their bottle a day, there would be not half the disorders in the world there are now. It would be a famous good thing for us all.”
- Jane Austen

1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting interview! I guess I'm either lucky, (or maybe its a little old), but I got a bottle of Emperor Norton's Cinnamon Stout up in Manchester, VT! Looking forward to trying it, and I'll be looking for that #23!


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