So here we are after a month and a half of being open, and it seems like everything was an instant success. The taproom is reliably packed, and distro is starting to pick up. After so much work, it is nice to enjoy a sense of accomplishment for a moment. We risked everything and it worked. Our taproom is already too small, and we are going to need to order more tanks soon to up production.
Personally, this is a huge deal for me. I had to move back in with my mom in order to open the original nano in 2013. Living in the same tiny room I had lived in since I was 9, the house packed full of equipment, we both struggled to build the business and endure for three years with a far-off goal of expanding. Expansion meant everything to me–a way to a real financial future where I didn’t live week to week, worrying about running out of beer or unplanned expenses sinking everything.
On a psychological level, I also struggled with feeling a lack of validation. With no marketing budget and a tiny presence, I felt like no one really noticed our efforts. Not everything we made was good, but there were some really good beers we released at the nano that went largely unnoticed. We also had some issues with beers during the first year, and I always felt like I was struggling to overcome a negative perception among beer snobs around here. I remember one time I was introduced to a guy when I was out and about, and he said “Crooked Run? I hear you guys are pretty iffy.” I smiled politely and told him that I think every nanobrewery struggles a bit in the beginning, but on the inside, it felt like whatever I did, it made no difference.
Fortunately, there are a few industry people whose opinion I respect tremendously and who have been very supportive. Your random neckbeard only knows what social media tells them is good beer, but I’d rather have people who actually know what they’re talking about like what I am doing.
In addition, even though the beer scene around here is more friendly than competitive, you are sort of competing in the sense that customers judge you the same as anybody. I.e., a three barrel nano the size of some walk-in closets started by a 25 year-old is supposed to be the same as million dollar brewery or bar. Time and again, I was frustrated by how careful we had to be. Other businesses could just throw money around or ignore regulations, but we had to be very focused.
Now, I am tremendously proud of what we have accomplished. With careful planning, everything has fallen into place. We managed to avoid a lot of pitfalls. Believe it or not, hard work and patience DO pay off! Sometimes it takes a little longer, but it is worth it.
My three favorite things about the Sterling location:
- The look. Lee did a fantastic job creating one of the nicest-looking taprooms I have ever seen. The handmade tables and bar are amazing! I love the lounge area with the projector TV.
- The beer. Over three years at the nano, I learned a lot about recipe formulation. Anyone can brew clean, passable beer–that’s not hard. But a menu of 12 rotating beers that hits a wide variety of styles, including some pretty unique ones, is something that I think will bring in all different sorts of people and have them leave happy.
- The food. Teaming up with Senor Ramon was, in my humble opinion, a brilliant move. Their food is fantastic and just goes so well with our beers. We were the first in Virginia to do something like this, and I think you will see more and more of it.
Anyways, this is just the beginning. There is plenty of work to do ahead, but for the moment, it is nice to rest on your laurels for just a second.