August 09, 2018

Getting to know you: 2 Row Brewing

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I headed out on a visit to 2 Row Brewing this week where I had the chance to meet Brian the owner and check out his brewing facility. 2 Row is located in Midvale, Utah and is a family business. I've been trying to get around to meet many of our Utah brewers in person since I started the position last month and thought I'd capture the conversations I've been having as a regular blog feature. 

As a lifelong businessman and entrepreneur, Brian Coleman, owner and president of 2 Row said, "2 Row's story is not real different from other stories. We've had a lot of crazy twists and turns, but it started as homebrewing. I tend to take my hobbies to the extreme! I knew early on with homebrewing it could potentially end up becoming a business for me."

I asked him what it was like making his first batch, and he said "The first time I made beer with a kit I was like 'Wow, cool! I made beer.' And then I realized I wanted to make better beer, and I went on a quest for knowledge, read every book I could get my hands on, and even took some classes at Oregon State in their brewing program."

Brian made the leap from homebrewer when he saw the opportunity to buy some brewing equipment from Atlanta, Georgia. The same day that he called about the equipment he was on a plane with his wife to Atlanta to look it over. They bought it and started packing it up. It took him a week to box it and ship it back. Brian is a guy who really has that DIY ethos in his veins.

So how does one make the jump from homebrewer to brewery owner? According to Brian, "There's a couple things about business that you need to know. I've started new businesses from scratch a few times before. I knew what it was like and I knew the amount of money that was required to get a startup going from scratch. As far as brewing the beer, I still had a lot to learn: volume, bitterness levels, how do I store yeast properly, and propagate it on a large scale. How do I package the beer with our new bottling machine? I hadn't done any of those things before. I was able to gain some knowledge from some fine folks at Epic Brewing, Bohemian Brewing and Wasatch/Squatters."

Now that he has his brewery up and running, it's always a learning experience. Brian explains, "There's a lot of knowledge you can pick up from your fellow brewers. We learned how to keep the oxygen out of our packaging. A lot of that was taught to me at Oregon State at their brewing program."

I asked Brian about his favorite part about being in the brewing business. He said "I hired a brewer and other people to do work in the brewery. I miss brewing a little bit. I love the business aspect though. Making beer seems glamorous to some people, but the reality is that it's a lot of hard work. As far as the business end of things, I love being the underdog, and I love pulling out of being the underdog. I've done it in other businesses where you're the new guy and after some years you grow up and become a leader in the industry. We hope to do that here. I'm finding ways to grow."

So where did the name 2 Row come from? It turns out 2 Row is actually a type of barely. According to Brian, "There are two kinds of barely, 2 Row and 6 Row. 2 Row has a lot more starch, sugar content, and potential for extract. It has starches and plenty of enzymes to convert those sugars. 6 Row has even more enzymes. 6 Row variety is being used by Coors, Miller, Budweiser. They put a lot of adjunts in: corn, rice and cheaper ingredients that can make sugar, but they don't have enzymes in those grains. So you need the extra enzymes from the 6 Row barely to help convert the starches in corn and rice. So for them that's a good thing. We don't need those enzymes. We would rather have the higher yields of the 2 Row variety. I wanted a short, easy-to-remember name. I wanted to have a number in it, and I wanted it to have something to do with the brewing industry." 

So what's Brian's advice to someone starting a new brewery? "Something I heard a lot when I was doing research was whatever capital investment you think you can do it on, triple it, and it still might not be enough. There were some things I overlooked. It took a year to get a permit and licensing from the city and state governments. Building out the brewery took almost a year as well. You have to have a space and pay rent during that time. It's called your 'burn rate' - you could burn through $100,000 waiting for your pieces to come together. Even when you're selling product, you're not making enough beer to pay your expenses so your burn rate could be at least 3 years."

Brian's plans for 2 Row are focusing on his growth plan and starting a taproom, possibly next year. We'll stay tuned to see where 2 Row goes from here, and we'll eagerly await batches of their popular "Chasing Haze" double IPA, which is keeping his customers very happy!