Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The First Brewery in Manassas


Since mid 1990's, the craft beer industry has witnessed accelerated growth. Virginia was recently named one of the 7 top beer destinations in North America by the Travel Channel and August was dubbed Virginia Craft Beer month! 

I'd like to point out that many of the Northern Virginia cities such as Alexandria, Arlington, Centreville, Ashburn, Vienna, and even Fredericksburg each have their own breweries. However, historic Manassas, with its local pride, bustling farmers market, seasonal events, and growing nightlife sadly lacks a brewery. Someone had to step in and fix this horrific problem! So, how did we get started on this idea?

Jeremy was inspired to start brewing after his high school class took a visit to Germany where he was introduced to full bodied beers of all sorts.  Since his trip, he has brewed over the years and said that one day he would start a brewery but never thought that it would really happen. 

During my entrepreneurship class at George Mason University in the spring of 2009, my group was clueless on an idea for the final project. Jeremy threw the brewery idea out there. So the business plan was created. Then Jeremy showed our group how to brew a nice pale ale and the idea was presented. It was so well received that our team won first place in my class against a judging panel of professional experienced entrepreneurs. They loved our beer (and yes, we provided samples) and said if we ever opened up, they'd be our first customer! Needless to say, we received an "A" on the project!

Based on our research, we observed that the market was there and the demand for craft beer was becoming more pronounced in the US. The solution to adding more value to our lives was staring us right in our face, but we agreed were in no situation to open a business. It was all so overwhelming, especially with the regulation in Virginia requiring us to serve food with pints. We either needed a large amount of capital to get started on a large brewing operation to profit on distribution through economies of scale like RedHook or we could try to do a brewpub the Dogfish Head way. Well, we did not want to run a restaurant and we sure as hell did not have a large chunk of change to invest in a million dollar brewery. So the idea was put on the back burner. 

Over time, friends and family planted little seeds here and there. Family members would give us brewing articles about some successful entrepreneur or give us some "starting your brewery" business book. We talked a bit more about starting the brewery and I even pulled out the business plan.
 Jeremy continued to brew and we continued to mention we would do it someday when the time was right. 

After our fantastic little boy was born in Jan 2012, we started talking with people again and the "dream" was mentioned casually to some friends who had started their own incredibly successful businesses. Three businesses come to my mine and dammit, if I wasn't starting to get pissed off! I thought to myself, why had we not started our business!? Then Jeremy came home one day and said he really wanted to be his own boss. Either he was going to work for someone else forever, or he was going to work for himself. Almost simultaneously, we found out legislation in Virginia was changing for breweries in our favor. VA bill SB604 amending code section 4.1-208 ¶ 1 effective July 1, 2012 provides the legal opportunity for a brewery to serve beer on premises without the food requirement! (so no restaurant is needed to sell our beer). So the stars began to align from this moment on. It's no fun drinking all of our beer in the garage without sharing it! We can't sell it either because we need that fancy brewer's license. So all the more reason to take the next step.  It suddenly turned into the question of "What are we waiting for? Let's do it!".

We pulled out the old business plan and worked endlessly on revising the darn thing. It was so outdated and needed a good scrubbing. After round 1, we had a SCORE counselor review it. Then for round 2, an excellent entrepreneur friend of ours (who loves to work on business plans for grad students) critiqued the hell out of it. No problem, we needed to fix some stuff, well, maybe a lot of other stuff. 4 extra eyes are better than our eyes! We did it though! Several beers later and nights of researching and all that jazz, and it was done. A masterpiece in our eyes. It was the golden ticket to our dreams. Maybe I'm exaggerating it just a little bit. 

We thought of many names for the brewery including one of my favorites, "BeerKat" since there were so many "dog" brewery names. We also thought of local names from the area. Someone can take the BeerKat name if they want, it's still my second favorite to BadWolf. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you but we want to keep it a secret how we decided on BadWolf. That's for you to figure out! 

Needless to say, we could not have picked a more perfect time for this project. Enter BadWolf Brewing Company. BadWolf, with it's local focus and community ties, is the perfect fit for Manassas. Our small batch approach to brewing allows us to produce excellent beers and a dizzying variety of recipes to suit all tastes. BadWolf's focus on customers and customer feedback will allow us to tailor our selection and recipes to the regions' tastes. We will open a tasting room for customers to visit and of course fill growlers so everyone can taste all of the goodness at home and share it with friends. Our current timeline for opening is Jan 2013. We have placed a letter of intent on a space and will be working on signing the lease very shortly. Then we start the buildout and complete the fun and exciting paperwork process for licensing!

Whatever it takes on our part, I promise everyone there WILL be a nanobrewery in Manassas next year. It's bold promise but those who know Jeremy and I know that whatever we set our minds to do, we accomplish! We look forward to serving our beer to the community. Have one (or two, or more beers) while you wait. We cannot wait until opening day. Thank you to everyone who has helped us this far and continues to support us. We could not have done it without you.


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