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5 fears of a new brewery owner

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Opening any new business is overwhelming, but opening a brewery has to be exceptionally stressful. A mere two weeks ago, a new nano, Trophy Brewing Co., opened its doors to the buzzing Raleigh, N.C. beer scene. You may be familiar with the duo behind the outfit: Chris Powers and David Lockwood also own Busy Bee Café, a pretty nifty craft beer bar that’s a regular on our annual best bars list.

Since the grand opening, roughly 2,500 people have turned up to sample Trophy’s cleverly named beers like Best in Show, a saison; Limbo Champ, an American brown ale; and Trophy Wife, an American pale ale. By all accounts, the business is a success, but we’re curious about what fears nag at the mind of a new brewery owner. We caught up with Powers, who filled us in.

1. Confidence game
“People won’t like the beer. Test batches are a good way to test beers out on people, but you can only make so many test batches before you open.”

From left, David Lockwood, brewer Les Stewart and Chris Powers.

2. Running dry
“We will run out of beer. We were brewing our asses off to combat that fear. But there are limitations to models like ours. We are a tiny nano-brewery. We have three 3-barrel fermenters and two 6-barrel fermenters. So we could only have so much liquid going at a time. We could buy more kegs, but we have nowhere to keep them. Luckily, we have been able to keep up for now. But our kitchen and outdoor patio opens in two months and we are preparing to be rocked again.”

3. Gaining street cred
“Will people take our beer seriously? Breweries in North Carolina are opening every day. We have lots of competition. Brewing on our scale is a big step up from 20-gallon batches at home.”

4. Waiting on a flagship
“What beer will people like best? We made a conscious decision not to push one beer out ahead of the others. That way people would decide what beer we would be known for. But how do you build a production schedule around that? The answer is, we are working on it.”

5. Stretched too thin
“How are we going to manage opening a brewery and a restaurant and not lose focus on the Busy Bee? We are trying to split our time right now. We keep our conversations about the Bee going. What’s next? What’s the next big event for us? What do we need to do to keep people interested? The Busy Bee is continuing—we are busier than ever.”

Do you think you have what it takes to open a brewery?

[Images courtesy of Trophy Brewing Co.]


Chris Staten is DRAFT’s beer editor. Follow him on Twitter at @DRAFTbeereditor and email him at chris.staten@draftmag.com.


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  • Raleigh Barfly says:

    I love Chris’ and David’s yeast! Tastiest in Raleigh. Their combined 20 gallons has always kept me satisfied. Like many of the parched men in Raleigh, I look forward to experiencing their increased capacity!

  • Richard Mitchell says:

    Great post. I’ve thought a few times about “what’s going to happen to Busy Bee.? I’m confident that both will succeed, and most likely enhance each other over time. Trophy will surly add to the NC beer community.

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