Part III: Interview with the Chief Watermelon Officer
In Part I of our interview, Nico Freccia, Co-Founder of 21st Amendment Brewery, told me about 21A's philosophy and how they've pushed the envelope with their beer. In Part II, we talked about making the leap from small brewpub to major distributor. In the final part of our interview, Nico reflects on 10 years in the craft beer business.
It sounds like 21A has been growing very rapidly. How much beer did you produce last year, and what do you expect for '10 and '11?
At our pub we routinely do 800-1,000 barrels per year, all sold over the bar. For distribution, we did 4,100 barrels in 2009 and will do close to 14,000 in 2010 (at close to 300% growth this year, I think this puts us in the top 5 fastest growing breweries by percentage in the country). We expect to hit 20,000+ barrels for 2011.
Looking back 10 years, did you expect 21st Amendment to be where it is today?
No. Shortly after opening we were dealing with the dot com crash and then a severe recession. We were just worried about keeping the doors of the pub open. It took many years for things to stabilize and the neighborhood to grow up around us. When we decided to launch our beers in cans and distribute more widely, in 2006-2007, we had no idea what to expect. I suppose we expected it was just as likely that it would be a big flop as a success. We didn't realize we were hitting what has been touted as the beginning of a massive shift and significant growth spurt for the craft beer industry.
What have been your biggest challenges and joys in building a business from the ground up?
He wears it well.
Opening the brewpub was a dream. I had been working in restaurants for about 15 years and running them for other people. It was a huge challenge to raise the money and get the place open, but I was driven to run my own place and stop working for other people. For years, though, we lived on the precipice of disaster...every night going to bed worrying about whether we could keep the doors open the next day.
With the production business, there was a whole new set of challenges. We were basically restaurant people and small brewers moving into a whole new realm of sales and marketing. Shaun and I used to joke that we could open a women's hat shop for all we knew about running a production brewery business. But you figure it out and surround yourself with great people and I think growing as a production brewery has been really fun and fulfilling. Plus, we kept the two businesses (pub and brewery) separate so we're at least not always worrying about the whole thing coming crashing down all the time.
Looking out 10 years from now, what do you expect 21st Amendment will look like?
I just hope we'll still be making good, interesting beer and having fun with it.
The 21A team collecting Great American Brewfest bling for Hop Crisis!
I have no doubt about that! I'd like to thank Nico for being so generous with his time. I'm a new blogger and was thrilled when he agreed to meet me for an interview. I really enjoyed our discussion and learned a lot about the craft beer business. Can't wait to try your new beers.