Weston Brewing Co. – Startups: Made in Kansas City

All right, guys, welcome to the Weston Brewing Company, my name is Mike. We’re kind of a small group today, so questions, comments, concerns, raise your hand, throw something at me. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll make it up. That’s about half the tour anyway, so money well spent. Man, I’m kidding, you guys are rough, jeez. We’re gonna start with this panorama here, this is the brewery about 1910, 1911. The town of Weston went through several fires, as did the brewery, so this is kind of a rebuild, kind of a hodgepodge of structures to keep the facility up and running.   ♪ And we are at the, uh– we’re in the lowest cellar of the Weston Brewing Company. We purchased the brewery May of ’05. We had initially had a plan to– my partner and I am co-owner– We initially had a plan to start a smaller boutique microbrewery that would service Kansas City’s higher end restaurants, we were gonna do custom signature beers specific to a particular high-end restaurant. About the time we were firming that up, my current partner called me and said, “Hey, by the way, O’Malley’s is for sale,” which O’Malley’s is on the site of the original Weston Brewing Company. I told him he was nuts, I probably added a few expletives, but eight months after that phone call, we were in the works of, uh– in the process of putting together the finances to make this happen, and here we are today, almost eight years later. The brewery hadn’t been used for six years. The guys that had all the money for the project kind of took his toys and went home, they locked the doors, and it was literally as if a virus had come to the brewery and taken out all the people. There was still beer in the tanks, it looked like it was in process, so six-year-old beer in the tanks when we got here. I did taste it, it was not good. It took us almost a year to refurbish the brewing system. Anything that was rubber, any gaskets, any seals, lots of the motors, all sorts of things had to be completely taken apart and rebuilt from scratch, so a little over a year to get the brewery back up and running. All right, so this is the brew house. The back wall here, that’s the original back of the brewery, so that’s 1842. That runs through the back of the brewery into the restaurant and connects to the lagering cellars downstairs which is where we house the Irish pub today. So a little bit about the brewing process… It might sound kind of silly, but I think one of the things that’s made us successful is we were just dumb enough to take the plunge. And it’s been constant work. You know, it’s sweat equity, it’s blood, sweat, and tears to keep the place running and we made a lot of progress. We’ve increased our revenue double digits every year since we’ve started. You know, more than anything, it’s just tenacity, it’s just work, you know, you got to believe in what you’re doing, and, uh– and push, push, push, push, push, and you’re gonna make mistakes, you know, we’re smarter now than we were eight years ago and in some ways, I think that we don’t know anything. The more you know, the less you know. It’s gonna feel like– it’s gonna feel like you’re failing a lot of the time, especially when you’re becoming successful, it gets more expensive to do what you do, so tenacity, I think, just gotta push, just gotta drive. To our left here, these are two brand-new 45-barrel fermenters that we purchased. Delivered yesterday, we set them up last night. These are– these are pretty monumental in terms of– in terms of investment, in terms of where we’re trying to go. It’s kind of, uh– business like this, that gets–bit of a gamble, it’s a bit of a risk in that if we waited until we really needed this expansion, it’d be too late. You’d be behind the curve, so part of it’s kind of trying to predict when you’re gonna need this stuff, when to pull the trigger, and a lot of times it feels like you’re putting yourself out there, not really knowing– knowing where you’re going, but, uh– you gotta stay ahead of the curve. There was a real disconnect between the restaurant and the pub, you know, people knew O’Malley’s Pub. They didn’t know the America Bowman Restaurant. Or people who knew the restaurant didn’t know the pub, so you had two different collections of clientele. We’ve tried to put the whole facility under the moniker of the Weston Brewing Company. We’ve also added, uh, the Inn at Weston Landing, which is the bed and breakfast next door to the brewery. We purchased that because below it is one of the four original lagering cellars and when that came on the market, we felt like we had to make a push to grab that to put the whole facility back together again. We’ve also purchased the Saint George Hotel on Main Street. It’s about a two-minute walk from the pub, and that’s beneficial for some obvious reasons. So that was the upper pub. Down the stairs, that’s the lower pub, this room we call the middle pub. I would explain that but it takes a very long time. Man, nothing on that, you guys are rough. Jeez. Believe it or not, under the stairs, that is the secret cellar and that’s where we’re going next. We’ve got really great artwork for our beer. We work with a company called Blacktop. David Terrill is the artist that’s done the artwork for us. He’s done a great job of taking certain qualities of each brand and spreading it across the spectrum of brands, so there’s a connection between all the products. It’s so important when there’s so many beers on the shelves, anything that can differentiate us, that can tie us together– You know, you put five beers together, you’re gonna obviously have more visual presence than a beer here, a beer here, a beer here, and everything looks different. So branding in terms of visuals, it is huge. We have visual elements in each of our brands that kind of tie them together. Some of the ways we treat text, some of our colors, some of our antiquing techniques, so visually, you can see the stuff on a shelf and you’re gonna know that, “Hey, that looks like it comes from Weston,” you’re probably right. So hopefully, people are making that connection.   ♪   And you make Steve do all the labor, I see. Absolutely. Steve knows what’s goin’ on. See, Steve’s gonna shut this behind us and guard the stairs, so– All right, a couple things to be mindful of down here, if it’s marked orange, watch your head. If it’s not marked orange– Watch your head. Exactly. Watch your feet, as well, it’s the original dirt floor, so one eye up, one eye down. That’ll serve you the best.   ♪ Are there any ghosts here? We’ve seen some strange things, yeah. We’ve seen some odd things. Craft beer in general has really, really grown year after year. Most craft breweries are almost collaborative, you know, we realize that it’s not necessarily us against each other. It’s really a fight for shelf space against your large domestics.   ♪   So we believe– we believe in hyper-local, it’s a term we’ve coined that describe the market area we want to participate in. We’re not trying to conquer the world, there’s enough market share in about a 200-mile radius to, uh, to keep us as busy as we could possibly be, to really push us to the max. We originally had distributor contracts in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota. We kind of changed our philosophy on that. Other breweries are shipping as far as the coasts, and that’s great, but you run the risk of having a local retailer not be able to get the product. We don’t want to do that. We want to dance with the people that brought us, basically. So hyper-local, that’s where that comes from. Way more than enough market share to keep us busy. These tours really drive our business. The vast majority of people that show up for these tours haven’t been here before, so this is their first exposure, it’s their first time. There are so many “wow” moments in the facility itself, you know, people walk through that tunnel to the first cellar, you hear “wow” all the time. They come down to the lower cellar for the first time. We’re a bit too well-hidden to the secrets, so hopefully, when we have people that come that have never been here before, but come back, they’ll bring friends. These tasting are free advertising, really. The more people we can get to come to the tours, the more beer we can get into mouths, the more they go out to supermarkets, liquor stores, other bars, the more they purchase our product, so these tastings really– really push our business forward. Better get the beer over there. All right.   ♪   A co-production of KCPT. And Outpost Worldwide, at home in Kansas City.   ♪   Captioned by  

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