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Kickstarted beer: The craft of crowdsourcing a brewery

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This week's beery Kickstarter opportunities

You don’t need to be a venture capitalist to invest in a brewery; sites like Kickstarter let beer lovers fund breweries a few bucks at a time.

by Nathan Meunier

The craft beer industry is the latest to benefit from the recent crowdfunding boom: Websites like Kickstarter let anyone pledge financial support to help creative entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition. In exchange, backers get access to unique rewards for their patronage. Music, publishing, and film industry projects are popular draws on the platform, and now the craft brewing community is getting in on the action. Just ask Erik Myers: If it weren’t for several hundred strangers willing to collectively pour more than $40,000 into his vision, he might still be pushing papers at an IT desk job instead of running his own brewery. Myers’ small Durham, North Carolina-based operation is the first brewery funded through Kickstarter.

In order to get his dream rolling, this avid homebrewer needed some serious seed money. “It felt like a big gamble, and I was hoping for Kickstarter to work as a sort of proof-of-concept for me, so that if it was successfully funded I could sit back and say, ‘Hey, look! This could work! Let’s go for it!'”

The $44,259 he raised through Kickstarter fell short of supporting his original contract brewery concept, so with additional investment support from five close friends and some tweaks to adapt his battleplans to a more traditional brewery model, Myers launched Mystery Brewing Company in late 2011. “It’s fantastic to be open, and it’s even more fantastic that our beer is being received really well,” he adds.

Though Mystery Brewing Co. was the first brewery to be successfully Kickstarted, it certainly hasn’t been the last. Among this year’s many successful Kickstarter-funded brewery projects, Long Island’s Moustache Brewing Co. recently raised $31,413 and Boise’s organic-minded Cloud 9 Brewery raised $30,231. The platform is a becoming a popular hotspot for helping upstart breweries build momentum and get their name on the map.

Myers is grateful for the 243 backers who pitched in from the get-go. He keeps in touch with supporters regularly, giving progress updates and sending out backer rewards. “I really enjoy the ongoing task of eking out little gifts to them all the time,” he says. “In a way, it’s like having a long distance admirer that you get to keep a long-standing romantic relationship with.”

Eschewing a single flagship brew, Myers rotates seasonally inspired beer. Here are three to try.

Papa Bois: Lemongrass and citrus-infused foreign extra stout

The Dragon’s Mouth: A Belgian pale ale ramped up with a hint of Tobago pepper

Annabel: Floral and fruity black saison

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