I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “Are you having fun running a brewery?” Or, “Are you glad you opened a brewery?”
“Uh, well…” I often start out, “it has its good times, but it is challenging and a lot of work.”
I really don’t know what to tell people. I know they have the best of intentions when they ask, and I think they expect me to get excited and tell them how wonderful it is to go to work every day where the focus is great beer. I don’t want to make it seem like owning a brewery is somehow a horrible life choice, but on the other hand, I don’t want to make it seem like all we do is party and cash big checks from distributors. It isn’t anything like that. It is constant work, hard work. As a business owner in a very competitive market with hundreds of new competitors jumping into the market every year, you face new challenges every day and the vast majority of those challenges have absolutely nothing to do with beer.
You can ask any business owner if they’re having fun. I think most would respond the same way. Most of what you do when you open a brewery is the same stuff that every business owner does. You work on hiring the right employees, finding the right suppliers, working with distributors, keeping the building upright, making payments, and a million other mundane things, like paying taxes and keeping the bathroom clean for customers.
But don’t get me wrong. Even though running a brewery is a tremendous amount of work, even though it has its frustrating challenges, there are some great times. I do love meeting people geeky about beer and I get to do many events. Lately we’ve had the opportunity to do collaborations with brewers and breweries that I really respect. That is a blast. I also get to hire smart, fun people and surround myself with them. That is a benefit of any business, but I think, (like the software world) the craft beer industry just attracts a fun crowd.
Of course, I was doing a lot of this same stuff before I opened Heretic. I could have just kept on doing the fun parts and skipped all the challenging parts that come with owning a brewery. But, I would have missed the satisfaction that comes when you take on a substantial challenge and succeed.
The other day I was walking through the brewery late at night and there weren’t any catastrophic problems dangling over my head. Everything was clean and organized. Beer was fermenting and I was happy. I was satisfied. In fact, I was pleased with myself and everyone else that is part of Heretic. We’re not just working in a challenging industry, but we’re doing a great job of it. And that is where satisfaction comes from, a job well done. And yes, that does make me happy I opened a brewery.