Friday, August 3, 2018

Brewery Clubs: Both Sides

The first beer club I joined was Lost Abbey’s Patron Sinners in 2008. It was a relatively novel idea at the time, essentially a CSA for beer. It was the easiest way for me to get bottles I’d heard such wonderful things about. Clearly the concept has caught on. For breweries it is an easy win, money months before the beer is ready. For consumers it can be a win, access to limited beers without the need to wake-up early or wait in line.

It’s an easier ask if the beers offered already have a good reputation. Signing up for Lost Abbey's club meant an opportunity to try "whales" like Cuvee de Tomme for the first time. It also gave me access to their microbes… those Red Poppy dregs colonized our first wine barrel for the group Flanders Red.

For Sapwood Cellars, Scott and I are in a bit of a unique situation. Many more of you have read about our homebrew-exploits, listened to us talk brewing, and brewed recipes based on ours than have actually tasted anything we’ve personally brewed (although you may have tasted something I collaborated or consulted on). Although I've been surprised how many people who signed-up mentioned tasting our test batches at festivals as a deciding factor!

Sapwood-Modern Time Collaboration - The Fruitening!

With the barrel program we have planned there is a bunch on money required now: barrels, racks, microbes, equipment, and wort-production. All for beers that we won’t be able to sell until 2019 or even 2020. If you choose to join, your money will go directly to allowing us to get more beer into barrels in the next few months. That will in turn provide a greater variety of stock available for blending, fruiting, and dry hopping. Our goal is to extend our homebrewing roots as long as we can, producing weird and wonderful beers… and dumping beers that aren’t up to our standards!

I completely understand if you don't want to spend $200-500 to buy beers that we haven't brewed or even named yet. I don't want anyone angering a spouse, or blowing their annual beer budget. Most of our beers will be readily available at the taproom, and I'd guess that there will be extra club slots available for 2020. Honestly I see the Wood club as good for someone who lives a less-than convenient trip to the brewery and can only visit a few times a year (but wants to know they can go home with a variety of sour bottles). The Sap club is good for someone local who plans to be a regular and loves fresh hoppy stuff.

We take the trust that people are putting in us seriously. We'll do our best to make sure that not only do you get beer, but it is the best possible beer we can create. That said, there is certainly a chance timelines will be slower than we expect and I'd rather have the final allocation of great beer in early 2020 than rushed bottles with carbonation issues in late 2019.

If you'd rather an experience over beer, today we launched opportunities to join me for a web chat about our sour beers, blending session, commercial brew day, and homebrewing. Most of these are permanently gone once the stock hits zero. There are also a couple slots for a group or anyone who has recently won the lottery to have us design a sour beer or hoppy batch to your tastes, we'll likely do a few of those each year. We still have plenty of merch available as well (shirts, glasses, and inscribed copies of American Sour Beers) for people who can't make it to the brewery!


We should be able to finally brew our first 10 bbl batch in the next few weeks. The last major piece of equipment to arrive is our glycol chiller, scheduled for next Wednesday. All of the piping is run for it already and the concrete pad it will sit on is curing. Other than that, a gas-meter upgrade and a tweak to the usage listed on a 1979 site development plan are the only things between us and opening!

Our first batch is going to be a kitchen-sink brew using the leftover ingredients from the brewery that was previously in the space. It was crushed 18-months ago… we’ll be giving away the wort to anyone interested! Of course, club members will get first dibs... but I'm guessing there will be second and third dibs at least!

I'm shocked at how amazing the response has already been. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has helped give us a little extra cash buffer, the beer (and our sleep) will be the better for it! We started with 50 memberships for our Founders Club... and they are all gone! Still plenty of the two individual clubs available for the time being, and we'll leave them up until the 2018 (unless they sell-out first).

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Sap Club 2018-2019

Sap Club Membership entitles you to $1/off each full pour or growler at our tasting room with a sweet membership card. It also allows you to purchase growler fills of any fresh hoppy beers, even the special kegs and weird experiments that no one else can bring home - in your club exclusive 1 L growler. Includes admission for two to our annual holiday party (December 2018) and pre-release access to canned IPAs (when that finally happen). This inaugural “year” of the club will run from opening through the end of 2019. First-year members will have right of first refusal for membership in the club's next year.

Wood Club 2019

The Wood club is for sour and funky folks. Membership grants you two .5L bottles of each of our first eight barrel-aged sour/funky bottle releases. This will include at least two releases exclusive to club members - using fruits and other ingredients too rare or costly for large batches. We won’t have a set release schedule as the beers will tell us when they are ready, but we'll allow semi-annual pickups. Plus $2 off and priority access to pre-purchase limited sour beers before the unwashed masses! You’ll also receive a Sapwood decanting basket. 2019 members will have right of first refusal for membership in the club's next year.

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In news closer to the blog, Mad Fermentationist T-shirts are available again, this time print-on-demand style. I've also got posters of the updated Brewery Connections graphic... which will feature prominently in the Sapwood Cellars bathroom decor!


11 comments:

James said...

The "design a sour beer" option would make a great group wedding gift for the right couple. Could serve it at the reception and cellar a few bottles for anniversaries.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'll be interested if anyone jumps on that! We figured no harm in putting a few extravagant ones on there, worst that can happen is no one buys it!

rrenaud said...

Maybe another thing you should consider is something like Brewdog's equity for punks program?

I'd bet there are lots of well off nerds in Silicon Valley who could easily and happily give up 10K each for some small slice of ownership, and enable you to scale your brewery quickly.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Not planning to scale up quickly. Honestly I don't think regional-brewery scale is a good place to be right now. We got a few offers (including one a Silicone Valley-type), but happier retaining control of the business and not having to deal with the SEC!

rrenaud said...

Scaling certainly seems hard, and NEIPA almost seems to make great hoppy beer inherently local.

But I'd personally love if Wicked Weed wasn't the best place to drink sour beer east of the Mississippi :).

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

We'll do our best (although don't forget about Allagash, Cambridge Brewing, Jolly Pumpkin, Hill Farmstead, Trillium, Jackie O's etc.)

Tod Sirois said...

Great list on east coast sours.

Any chance the brewery connections poster will be available on site to save the shipping charges?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'll probably run-off a few copies to sell at the brewery once I stop getting comments, got a few more logo-change requests yesterday!

Anonymous said...

Might want to add a little value to the Sap club. While I'm sure people want to support you, they also want a little value.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I really envision the Sap club as being for the locals/regulars who will get good use out of the taproom discounts and can make it to the holiday party. If neither of the clubs strikes you as worth the cash outlay, you can support us by showing up and drinking a couple beers now and then!

James said...

Scratch is also east of the Mississippi (though not by much).