Tag Archives: 33 Acres

Landing Page Is Live

The process of getting all your customer facing material complete is full of ups and downs, set-backs and great moments.  For some reason, we always seem to be behind everyone else in getting this stuff complete!  If you have followed this blog, you know that things like our name, our logo and our packaging are works in progress.  Some days it feels like we will never get all the the items completed in time for launch which is now less than 5 months away.  Yikes!

This week we crossed of one small piece of our brand off the list:  Our Landing Page.  It was completed over the course of about 12 weeks, and while it is pretty simple, the process was full of change and tough decisions.  In the end, we are super happy with what we ended up having.  If you want to view our landing page, click on this link to be redirected.

Key learnings from landing page development, and web development for that matter:

  1. Start on this sooner rather than later:  Don’t wait as long as we did.  Consumers want to connect with you, so make sure you allow them the opportunity to do that.
  2. Expect 12 weeks start to finish:  If you are anything like us, there will be changes, u-turns, miscommunication, and a few other things that I can’t even mention.  All this makes a rather simple task a lot more of a grind.
  3. Prepare a brand guide:  This is a key step in the process to getting your brand ideal and message known to yourself, and then to others who are going to work with you.  Don’t leave it to a 30 minute meeting to let a web developer get a feel for your brand.  There has to be something concrete they can sit and read, minimizing the margin for error.
  4. It takes a while to see progress:  It feels like trying to get out of bed some mornings.  There are a couple false alarms, there is snooze involved, a little confusion, and a lot of light steps to get going.  Sometimes, after getting going, you just head back to bed and let it go for a little.  Building a website is a LOT like this.
  5. Stay connected with those helping:  No doubt about it, the more leash you give someone, the more likely they are to go down the wrong path and end up at a place that doesn’t mesh with you and your brand plan.  So have regular meetings and ask to see enough information to be kept abreast of things.
  6. Get detailed scope of work:  When you first sit down to finalize an agreement with a developer lets say, you will agree to a scope of work for your project.  If you want to add something down the road that is not in this scope of work, you are going to pay out of pocket.  As such, either agree to a rate for extra work, or budget in 10% of the total hours for misc work.
  7. Speak up: If you don’t say what you do and don’t like, you will not end up with a finished product that matches what you thought you would have.
  8. Balance:  Not sure what else to put as a heading here.  Sometimes you need to let someone else decide what is best for your brand, which goes against your taste or preference.  Others you need to get that person to change direction, against what they like.  It is a balance and one with no prescribed way of moving forward.  Just hope that you, or those you surround yourself with, have enough similarity and differences in opinion for a healthy relationship.
  9. Build from Scratch or use a wordpress:  Thats right, you will need to decide whether your website is built from scratch or uses wordpress as the foundation.  One costs more, but gives you a very custom website, and the other is much less expensive.
  10. Do something unique:  For us, in addition to writing this blog about starting our brewery, we added a webcam to our website, so people who are interested can view what is going on during construction without having to be there.  Just having another website with the usual information is not enough in my opinion.  Craft beer is booming, which is a great thing in so many ways, but also means you need to stand out a little bit.
  11. Brand Continuity:  Make sure that your website reflects who you are, the beer you are going to make, the brewery you are going to build, and what you think you should represent.  If you get away from this, you will end up at a place that is entirely what you don’t want.

So there it is.  Another set of best practices for starting a brewery.  There is so much more to a website than meets the eye, so don’t take this for granted.  Get thinking about this early on, and start much sooner than you think you need to.

Bottle vs Can for a Craft Brewery

One thing we have long struggled with is the type of packaging we are going to put our finished product in.  Speaking with other craft breweries, we are not alone in the uncertainty we face in making this decision.  I have summarized the pros and cons of each decision, and I hope at the end of the post, you can give me some feedback on what is the best in your mind.  Starting your own brewery is a great thing, but it is important to have a firm sense of what you want, and merge that with the financial and marketplace dynamics you face.  In other words, what you started out wanting may not be what you end up with.

Really there are 2 choices that you can put beer into.  Either cans or bottles.  Before I dissect each of the options, here are some general comments.  I had long thought that cans were the clear environmental choice, but a few articles haver pointed me back in the direction of uncertainty.  Click here to read one article.  So with no clear winner on the environmental side, what about taste.  I hear anecdotally that people can taste the plastic in cans.  Does this mean they don’t pour the beer out of cans into a glass (yikes).  Also there is the image.  Is the wider market really ready for high quality craft beer in cans?  I know Steamworks and Central City have their beer in cans, and by all accounts do very well, but could you imagine a much smaller player, like 33 Acres or Bridge Brewing putting their beer in cans?  Would it make a difference at all to your perception of them.

Cans:   Cans are a good option for a brewery for a variety of reasons, but there are some downsides to them, which I have tried tried to summarize below.  Essentially, there are 2 options for can sizes 355ml or 500ml.  The smaller can is more North American while the larger can has a much more European feel to it.

  1. More transportable and lighter than bottles
  2. Beer keeps better in cans than bottles
  3. Per unit cost is less expensive than bottles
  4. About 66% of all beer sold in BC is sold in cans
  5. Government liquor stores want new listings in cans
  6. Canning lines are more expensive than bottling lines and notoriously more finicky.  We have quotes for a canning line at $90,000, and the price can go sky high from there
  7. Minimum orders for cans are about $30,000
  8. You need to figure out what beer you are going to sell and then hope the market likes it, as production time for cans is much longer
  9. Image of someone drinking from a can doesn’t always conjure up quality craft beer
  10. Lead time for can orders is much longer than a bottle label order
  11. A couple different sizes of cans which completely change the look and feel of the marketing

Bottles:  On the other hand, bottles are a great option for a new brewery, as the 650ml bottle is the standard size for craft beer, and is well established in the BC marketplace.  Not unlike cans, there are both pros and cons to packaging beer in bottles.

  1. About 33% of all beer sold in BC is sold in bottles
  2. A beer bottle doesn’t put off any odd tastes, whether perceived or not
  3. A beer label allows for more colours and detailed artwork
  4. The amount of time needed for artwork and printing is much shorter than producing cans
  5. Bottling lines are less expensive than canning lines, and you can buy change-over parts to switch between bottle sizes
  6. We have quotes for bottling lines at about $60,000 and the price can go way up from there
  7. There is a much wider variety of bottles available to put beer into (all are in ml):  330, 341, 350, 500, 650, 750, 1000
  8. Government liquor stores are trying to get out of bottles, so a listing with BCLS is much harder to obtain
  9. In my opinion, a bottle of beer put out a different image than a can of beer

So you can see how we are conflicted on the decision that we are going to make.  We have flip-flopped back and forth from cans to bottles and we have really wrestled with the decision.  What would you do?  What would you want us to do?  The trouble we now have is that we can no longer waffle on this decision.  We need to place our order so that we can get our equipment in time for the launch of our brewery.

So vote here, and let me know what you think.  I would love to hear from you as well.

Finish of the Tasting Room

So I received some amazing feedback from readers on what is important in a tasting room layout, and key attributes of the space.  It has proved very helpful in helping to construct a space that meets the desires or craft beer enthusiasts and also those who will be visiting our space.  However, the progress we have made has naturally led to another huge question:  What do you want in the finishing of the space?

Does an ultra modern space like 33 Acres go over well, or would you prefer a look and feel like Brassneck.  Are there other tasting rooms outside of Vancouver and BC that stick out for you?  Tell me what you would like to see?

  • Minimalistic/Stark
  • Traditional
  • Modern
  • Ornate
  • Made to feel like a bar
  • Left to feel like a warehouse
  • Repurposed materials

More than talking about our space, I would love to know what other restaurants, bars, and spaces in Vancouver you like.  Of course our space will have a personality of its own, but we are keen to know what direction you think we should go with the finish.  As always, thanks for the thought and the feedback.

How Many Breweries are Enough in BC, Canada and North America

I often wonder how many breweries can a City, Province, Country and Continent support?  As an entrepreneur and soon to be brewery owner, the concern is always in your head that the market reached a saturation point with businesses.  Eventually, craft beer market share will stop coming from Molson, Labatt and other International giants.  It will indeed come from other like minded craft breweries, which means I can taketh and I can giveth.

In the United States, the Brewers Association indicates that there 2,538 breweries operating in the country as of June 2013.  It also states that there are an additional 1,600 in the planning stages.  If you take a 90% survival rate, that would make about 4,000 total breweries operating in the USA.  That is a lot of beer, and one would have to think, reaching the point of saturation.  In fact, you can read this article posted in the USA Today, which looks at this very question.

In Canada, best estimates put the number of breweries at about 300, and within 5 years, that number is expected to reach 400.  Where is the tipping point?  Well no one knows for sure, but not unlike our counterparts south of the 49th parallel, with every new brewery, we take another step towards saturation.

All of this plays in your mind when you open a brewery.  It fundamentally matters what you stand for, the type of beer you make, and how you put all these moving parts together to form your brand.  It would be my opinion that as the market gets more and more crowded, new breweries need to carve out a more focused niche.  It used to be that making a craft beer was enough of a differentiator, but with more breweries doing more unique beers, being uncommon becomes a good play.

It feels like this is the path that we are going down with our brewery.  It just seems to make the most sense to me, and when something makes sense, I usually jump in with both feet.  When I look at the breweries that have opened and experienced success, they all stand for something.

Parallel 49 – Always something different and unique, but merged with hitting the middle of the market

33 Acres – Clean, refined and connected to Vancouver

Red Racer – quality craft beer in a can that appeals to the middle of the market

Four Winds – New world innovation influenced by old world tradition

Do you think Vancouver could support a brewery that focused on beer from one area of the world?  What about a brewery that focused on Low Alcohol beers or Gluten Free Beers?  Or do you think a brewery that focused exclusively on Sour beers, or different types of Saison would do well?  What about doing what Steam Whistle does, and only make one beer?  What about a brewery that only sourced local ingredients?

These are some of the options that are coming into play with new breweries, and ones that we have kicked around.  At the end of the day, I am going to brew beers that I believe in, and hopefully others like them as well.  There really is no other way to go, and to be honest, doing otherwise would be somewhat disingenuous.  As for the number of breweries, this is not something I can worry about.  It would be counterproductive for me to focus on what others are doing, at the expense of conveying what we are doing.

Back to my Excel spreadsheet I go.  It seems that I am spending far too much time making the numbers work.  My topic for next time will be the tasting room and what are some of the decisions and qualities that are important in designing one.  For now, I will leave this parting thought.  I hope that we are a ways from saturation, for it will make the task before me that much more attainable.