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Your Long Overdue FT2 Update

Hey everyone, here is your standard opening paragraph where I apologize for not updating on a more regular basis. I won’t bother with an excuse or a promise to do better… I’ll just say that hey… I suck at keeping this up-to-date. The silver lining is that I suck at keeping up-to-date because we are staying busy!

Progress is a little behind schedule as we had some unexpected snags with the water main and fire suppression system, but I think we’ve got those things in order now and are charging forward. I won’t predict a finish line, but my goal is to have us brewing by the end of the month. Light a candle for our little project.

Let’s take a photo tour of what’s happening down there, shall we?

Outside, we  clad the north face of the building in metal. Above is an in progress picture of the cladding. This will provide us with a little more insulation and protection from flying rocks (which has been an issue to date).

Making a lot of beer is serious business and it requires serious power. We are quadrupling the capacity of our municipal power supply, which required a new pole and box from our utilities provider. We also are working on another power project we hope we unveil soon, but it isn’t final so stay tuned for that.

Moving inside, local artist Bruce Pena is nearing completion on one of three murals inside the tasting room. We’ll keep the other two secret until the official opening of the tap room, but here is a sneak peek. The entry way back into the brewery you see here will eventually be glass doors leading back into the brewery.

We got our finished product cooler erected a few weeks ago, in all it’s majestic glory. It may not look too big in this photo, but that’s because this 12,000 Cubic Foot cold room is sitting inside of a 660,000 Cubic Foot building. After packaging, all it’s beer will go to this cold box waiting for our distributor to pick it up and deliver it to your local bar/restaurant/grocery store/sports venue/etc

We also got all our ferementers & bright tanks stood up a few weeks ago. Here is an action shot of the rigging crew sitting up our 16’10″ tall 60 bbl fermenter. No need to be nervous.

Here’s a shot of all the tanks after setting them in place.

A favorite shot of mine that I took from up on the lift looking back at Jason, showing the scale of the tanks.

Meanwhile in Canada, our equipment manufacturer has been sending us pics of the brewhouse as it is being finished up. It will be shipped to us next week where we’ll start installation and hopefully brewing shortly after.

Another brewhouse shot, though there is a vessel missing from this one.

Brewhouse shot showing piping detail from the platform

Brewhouse shot showing knockout heat exchanger and hopback

A final brewhouse shot.

That’s it for now! Follow progress of the new brewery at @Freetail2 on twitter or as always you can get me @beermonkey.

I do want to mention, this blog is inundated with spam so I’m unlikely to see any comments here.

Cheers,

Scott

Ananke Day, RealTail 2014 and more…

ADVANCE WARNING: THIS IS A LONG ONE

It’s that time of the year and the inquiries as to the date of this year’s Ananke Day have started to pop up. So, without further ado, I am here to announce that there will not be an Ananke Day 2014.

You read that right. Nothing happened to the batch, we just never made one. This wasn’t an oversight, but rather a deliberate transition from our existence as a single-location brewpub to a brewery with wholesale distribution (and a brewpub to go with it). Ananke is named for the primeval goddess of necessity but the mythology of the goddess is that she is also the mother of fates and both mortals and gods alike respected and paid homage to her, as only she had control over their destinies.

The destiny for Freetail Brewing Co. is a transition to grander things: a big new brewery, new (and presumably functional and reliable as opposed to the used and abused stuff we’ve gotten by with) equipment, beer for wholesale distribution, an expanded barrel program, and a greater growth potential for our company.

In Ananke’s place, we will have the final two wild ales produced before we move to the new brewery (and I know I’ve said this before… but FOR REAL THIS TIME): Makaria and Endymion. We will release these beers at SuperMegaAwesome Bottle Release Day 2014, to take place in September. The logic behind the timing goes something like this: we’ve developed a specific character in our wild ales that lives by it’s own rules within the oak staves of our barrels. We want to continue to allow this character live and evolve in those same barrels. Very soon after we commence with the first brew at the new brewery, we will brew a base beer for the wild ale program. To ensure the livelihood of the bugs that reside in those barrels, we will empty them at the pub (they’re currently filled with Makaria and Endymion) and then transfer them to South Presa right as the new sour beer is ready to be transferred into barrels. We expect this transfer to occur sometime in July. We’ll then bottle up Makaria and Endymion and then set them aside for conditioning for release in September.

So, about these beers:

In Greek mythology, Endymion was an astronomer who Pliny the Elder (the man, not the beer) credits as the first human to observe the movements of the moon. Endymion was granted eternal sleep as to never age or die. In this same spirit, we created this wild ale, made from our psuedo-Solera process in which a barrel is never completely emptied, but rather topped off with fresh base beer whenever aged beer is extracted (beers previously extracted have been going by the moniker “SoleraTail”). While constantly evolving, the resulting blend is granted its own eternal sleep so that it may live forever.

As for Makaria, I strung you along before explaining what this was for a reason. Think: Black Ananke. We feel this is an appropriate end to the barrel program at the brewpub. Makaria is the daughter of Hades and represents a merciful death as opposed to one of misery and utter destruction. This black ale shares its genesis with Ananke, our sour-mashed witbier left to evolve in its wooden tomb. We brewed this batch on Christmas Eve 2013 for release on Ananke Day 2014, which for reasons previously stated will now be SMABRD ’14.

Thanks for your patience on this. I know you’ll find the wait is worth it!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

I’m also happy to use this opportunity to announce the return of RealTail after a year hiatus. RealTail 2014 (which marks the 4th occurrence of the event, and the collaboration beer will be the third iteration) will be on Saturday May 17, 2014. We’ll have at least 8 Real Ale beers on tap including special releases from their Mysterium Verum and Brewers’ Cut series. The collaboration beer is affectionately called “Ebony and Ivory” by the respective brew teams, though the name doesn’t find it’s way onto the label. The style: It’s a Black White IPA. I’ll leave you to figure out it out from there.

BUT WAIT THERE IS STILL MORE!!!

I’m also extremely proud to announce a collaboration years in the making with my close friend Dan Wiersema of the Free Beer Movement (FBM). FBM is a grassroots movement of American soccer fans sharing their passion for the game with and educating not-yet-converted, but willing, friends, family and colleagues in exchange for a beer here and there. You probably know we’re big soccer fans at Freetail, so this is one we’ve been super excited about. The beer, “We Are Going to Braz-Ale” is a “Super Patriotic” (and super hopped up) Red Ale just in time to cheer on the boys in Stars and Stripes for the World Cup. This beer will be ready just in time for the first kick-off and we’ll it on draft and in bottles. We’ll also have some awesome T-shirts available as well.

VERY LAST THING I PROMISE…

The last thing is that we’ll have one other beer we bottle up before we move the bottling line to the new brewery. But details will be kept to myself on that one. For now, I’ll just tell you that we’re trying to round up everyone who has ever helped brew at the original location for the very last brew before we commence operations at South Presa. This beer will not only be a celebration of our new place, but of the crumbling of antiquated laws that kept us from distributing until recently. Your only other hint:

I’m gonna make a toast when it falls apart
I’m gonna raise my glass above my heart
Then someone shouts “That’s what they get!”

Cheers,

Scott

Another FT2 Photo Update

Sign visible from I-37/HWY 281 by local artist Bruce Pena

One of many tank deliveries to come

 

Unloading tanks

 

Tanks, lined up and ready for action

New entry stairs and ramps, waiting to be poured

Mountain of kegs, coming soon to your favorite tap handle

Freetail Partners with Silver Eagle Distributors

I’ve told this story a million times, but here it is again. When I started working on building Freetail in 2006, I “borrowed” my business model from Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head: start as a brewpub to build our brand, and eventually move into distribution. One small detail in this business model: a brewpub distributing in Texas was illegal. So, our original included a paragraph that explained how we were going to change the law to remedy this minor inconvenience (as I’ve since joked to Sam, who I have the pleasure of serving with on the Brewers Association Board of Directors, “if some guy from Delaware can do it, how hard can it be?”).

The point of retelling this origin story is to say that despite my model and business plan from the get-go, there were more than a few instances when I was less than confident it would become reality. As you know by now, we did change the laws, and we are building our new “production brewpub” (new term I’ve invented to describe the brewpub designed for wholesale production that we are building).

With all those other parts in play, I’m extremely proud to announce that we have partnered with Silver Eagle Distributors to be the exclusive wholesalers of our products for a multi-county region which includes our home market of San Antonio. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the Silver Eagle team through our battles at the Capitol, and without their support for statutory reform, brewpubs still wouldn’t be allowed to distribute in Texas.

As I got to know the team at Silver Eagle better, it became clear that they weren’t just the right legislative partner, but they’d also be the right partner for our distribution plans. Their presence, scale, and thirst to grow the craft market aligns greatly with our desire to be San Antonio’s Beer and eventually expand into other markets around Texas. I’m more excited than ever for the prospects of our brand.

See the official press release below.

-Scott

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Freetail Brewing Co. and Silver Eagle Distributors Partner on Distribution Agreement in San Antonio
Date: 3/24/2014
New state laws allow brewpub’s beers to reach the market for the first time

(March 24, 2014) San Antonio, TX – With recent changes to the state’s alcoholic beverage code, Freetail Brewing Co. is able to sell its beer for wholesale distribution for the first time, and it has partnered with the nation’s second largest beer distributor to do so. Silver Eagle Distributors, with operations in Houston, San Antonio and surrounding areas, will be the exclusive wholesaler of Freetail products for a roll-out that will initially include the San Antonio metro area and surrounding counties.“This is a historic moment for our company,” said Freetail founder and CEO Scott Metzger. “We are honored to not only be partnering with one of the country’s premier distributors, but also with an organization that stood beside us in the fight to loosen restrictions on small craft breweries in Texas.”

During the 2013 regular session of the Texas Legislature, SB 515 was passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support. The bill made it legal for brewpubs like Freetail to sell their beer to wholesalers, who in turn can sell to retail license holders such as grocery stores, restaurants, bars and package stores. Such sales were previously outlawed.

“Freetail Brewing Co. has been a favorite of San Antonians since opening its doors in 2008,” says John Nau, president and CEO, Silver Eagle Distributors. “All of us at Silver Eagle are very excited to partner with a business like Freetail that has such a passion for both beer and the local community. We look forward to expanding the brewery’s reach outside of its brewpub so that local residents can also enjoy Freetail in the comfort of their own home or favorite bar.”

In order to meet the market demand for Freetail beer, the company is constructing a 30,000 SF brewery at 2000 S Presa St. in San Antonio. When complete, the facility will have an initial capacity of 6,000 barrels/year, expandable up to 60,000 barrels/year. The company has stated its goal is to be “San Antonio’s beer” and to first expand its presence at home.

“A lot of breweries start out and expand to as many markets as possible. We want to do the opposite by focusing on our hometown and become the first thing people think of when it comes to craft beer in San Antonio,” said Metzger.

Though the San Antonio market will be the primary focus starting out, the company still has eyes on other markets in the future. “Houston, we hear you,” said Metzger, referencing a failed bid to open a Freetail location in Houston in 2011. “While we may not be opening a physical location there, our partnership with Silver Eagle is especially exciting because it gives us the potential to expand to the Houston market when the time is right.”

The initial roll-out, slated for mid-summer, will include draft and 22oz bombers. Cans are projected to be available as early as this fall. The brewery currently has four year-round beers plus a variety of seasonal and limited editions available throughout the year.

About Freetail Brewing Co.
Freetail Brewing Co. is founded on the pursuit of creating exciting, innovative and unique world class beer. We embrace the laid back and fun-loving Texas culture and set out to create products that mirror the lifestyle of our diverse and rapidly growing community. We believe in promoting an increased appreciation of craft products and their responsible enjoyment. For more information visitwww.freetailbrewing.com.

More FT2 pics

A few more pics from FT2 as things progress

Trenches are now fully dug, plumbing being roughed-in

 

Smart contracting: build the office of the guy who pays the bills first

Freetail2 Update, In Pictures

Here are some pictures of the happenings at the new brewery now that we have our construction permit in hand and can really rock and roll!

I thought this was a cool picture to give an idea of how far south of downtown San Antonio we are. We are exactly that far!

 

Next to the building, we are prepping the lot to be used as overflow parking

 

For ADA compliance, we are building a new ramp and steps to the main entrance. We’ll actually be raising the front door another 2-4 feet in order to be level with the space inside.

 

The pad you see outlined is where the brewhouse will sit. The outlined square will be a curb, and the floor with then slope down to a trench train under the brewhouse. The fermentation tank farm will be behind this area.

 

The floor saw in action, cutting up trenches for plumbing.

 

Close up of cuts made for floor drains. Cutting trenches is almost a right of passage for breweries under construction. Also one of the most annoying/costly/aggravating/absolutely vital part of the process

 

More to come!

Five Full Years, In The Books

Having closed down for the rest of 2013 about forty-five minutes ago, I thought I’d be fun to dust off the old business plan (which had a five-year projection) and play the “how good of a guesser am I?” game. If nothing else, I thought it might be a good bit of information for start-up brewers out there.

While we ended up making & selling about 18% less beer than I thought we would in our first year, turns out I was a pretty good guesser from years 2-5. I projected within 1% of our output in year two, 1.74% in year 3, 6.75% in year 5 and 4.14% in year 5. Pretty good considering all those projections were made before we even had an idea of what our restaurants floor layout would look like! The bad news: all those percentages I was off? They were all to the negative, meaning we didn’t end up making as much beer as I thought we would. But, we still finished a shade under 1,100 barrels in 2013. Not too shabby for a brewpub in a town that some felt couldn’t support one.

On the revenue side, there was good news. After falling 1.8% short of our revenue projections in year 1, we’ve exceeded them ever since (6.9%, 4.3%, 10.0% & 13.3%, respectively). Hey, more revenue is a good thing (sorry, I’m not going to share our financial details with you)! Unfortunately, our actual profits have been about half of what I projected (hence why I still don’t drive a Lambo) as it turns out running a brewpub costs more than I thought. I will say that counter to some narratives I read, running a brewpub doesn’t mean you’re going to struggle to keep food on your family’s table. You definitely won’t get rich doing it either: there is always something else to spend some money on, including a brand new brewery!

With five full years in the books, my original projections are an out-dated reference (not that they really matter once you open the door for business anyway) and I feel like our little pub on the outskirts has reached adulthood. In 2014, we start the next chapter for Freetail, opening our production facility. It turned out I was pretty good at projecting brewpub numbers, but I’m far less confident in projecting wholesale figures. Thankfully I tend to err on the conservative side, so I’m hoping I’m pleasantly surprised as we blow through our wholesale projections.

Thanks again for everyone who has supported us and we look forward to the adventures to come!

Head Space

Just a quick before and after shot of the new brewery with the drop ceilings removed. What a difference!

We’ve sent our drawings to the city for review and hopefully we’ll start Finish Out construction in January. We’ll have all the updates for you here!

Having a little fun: Lecture Series beer labels

Most of you may not know a little background about me: I’m a economics geek and as of Fall 2013 a retired economics prof. While I miss teaching, I definitely appreciate the additional time I have to focus on the brewery, especially as we prepare to expand.

The other night I was missing teaching a little more than normal, and I got the idea for a fictional series of beers designed to teach some basic lessons in introductory economics and point out some of the crazy stuff I see happening in the beer industry.

The first lesson deals with artificially restricted supply. There are a lot of reasons a brewery might choose to do this, and most of them don’t have anything to do with greed or malice.

First, it’s easy to observe how relative scarcity of a product leads an overall enhanced reputation, or allure, of said product. An example I’ll use throughout this post is with our own imperial stout, La Muerta. We got to a point a few years ago when it was selling out right away, so we made more. Then it sold out again, so we made even more. Now not only does it not sell out right away anymore (we are down to about 50 bottles left of 1500 sitting on our shelf 20 days after it was released), but it sells at a slower pace than it did previously. Part of that is people don’t feel the need to rush out and get it (which I think is a good thing, I like that people don’t feel like they are fighting over the last Furby at Christmas for one of our beers). But another part is that the beer isn’t as appealing as it used to be, because it isn’t as scarce.

A more malicious reason for doing this is to artificially drive up the price of the beer. Price is the ultimate rationing mechanism, so as a good, service of resource becomes more scarce, the equilibrium price for said good rises. So, make it more scarce, you can charge more. This isn’t in itself that malicious, but as with most things in this world, perception is reality. So if I can make you THINK it’s more scarce that it really is, you’ll be willing to pay more, and my overall revenue is higher as I sell for a higher price (there are other factors in play here, which I will cover in future Lecture Series. No. 2 will be on Elasticity of Demand and No. 3 will be on Monopolistic Competition to round out the lesson on this particular point).

At Freetail, I make a point of being as transparent as possible. We don’t raise the prices of the beers we make, even when we can. We are honest about how much there is. And we are honest when we say that we’re trying to make more (hence, the building of a new brewery). Hopefully you trust us, and appreciate our approach to fair beer dealings. And by no means am I accusing high priced beers of being guilty of artificially inflated prices… just something to whet your conspiratorial appetites.

 

Dia de La Muerta 2013 Release Details

Blue Wax for La Muerta VI (2013)

Wednesday is here and, as promised, so are the details on this year’s Dia de La Muerta.

We will be selling 1,596 bottles/133 cases this year (up from 1,476 bottles/123 cases last year).

Here are details on the event itself:

  • The bottle share will start at 7:30am. We request that no one come on the patio until this time, and there should definitely be NO ALCOHOL CONSUMED PRIOR TO THE OFFICIAL START OF THE BOTTLE SHARE. This is done for our safety and yours.
  • Upon the start of the bottle-share, numbered and color coded wristbands will be distributed. Because of the volume of bottles produced, we do not anticipate a sell-out on the first day. Wristbands will be distributed mostly to determine the order of purchasing.
  • Bottles will be $11/each and there will be no limit on the number of bottles that can be purchased. We also have bombers of Hopothesis G available for sale for $9 and some bottles of Nexus Texas for $6 (this was a beer we produced for the Master Brewers Association of America national conference in Austin). Note: prices do not include sales tax, which will be added to your total.
  • Sales of bottles will begin at 9:30am and there will be two registers open to conduct transactions. Both registers will accept cash or credit cards, but we will state that cash is always appreciated and helps things move more smoothly.
  • At 10:35am we will make a 10 minute announcement and at 10:45am the bottle share will need to come to an end so that we may prepare for open of business at 11am.

The tap list for beers available at Dia de La Muerta (Edited 11/01 with Guest Taps):

Updated Tap List for Dia de La Muerta

See you Saturday!

Scott