This team definitely has something to celebrate. Penrose Brewery created a
dream team that has produced a buzz in the brewing industry. The dream of
creating a phenomenal line of products is now the reality over at Penrose.

Penrose 1 Penrose 2 Penrose 3 Penrose 4 Penrose 5 Penrose 6

Let’s go back to Goose Island because that is how it started right? Take me through the story of how it started and talk a little bit about how this dream start to take motion into what might become a reality. Even the initial thoughts on how you got into beer, all that stuff.

ERIC: I had met with a gentleman who turned out to be one of our principal investors for the first time in August of 2010. I had heard through some family friends that he was interested in starting a brewery, and I ended up finding out out he’s not interested in starting a brewery — he’s interested in financing a startup. So I met with him and told him about the rough outline of my plan. But I had indicated that I’m not a brewer; I’m just a business mind and need a brewing partner. I had one in mind who was Tom but hadn’t approached him about it yet. [The investor said] “If you get Tom on board let us know, we’ll be interested in seeing your business plan.” So I approached Tom about it and gave him a general idea of what I was thinking. I asked him what he thought and asked him to bring his ideas to the table, which were very much in line with what I was thinking. So we decided to write a business plan.

We spent about three to five months spending our nights writing and re-writing. It was all after hours type stuff putting our ideas together. It eventually got to the point where we were working on our own: he was working on operations and I was doing marketing and sales. The idea was to bring everything back together to make sure we had this cohesive plan to deliver to the investors. When it was all said and done we had about 160 pages on paper — everything from exactly what the ideas for styles to how to present those styles and the stories of ourselves and our brewery, plus five years of income expenses, balance sheet and target accounts. We had everything laid out. By that point we showed the investors. I don’t think they cared as much about the details in the book at that point as they did about the fact that we took the time to do it. That was what led to them getting behind us in a bigger way. They had a different idea for the brewery location but the beers are the same, the margins, and the cost from Day One and so on. That was three years ago and we haven’t had to change much.

What drove you away from where you were before?

TOM: Creating something of our own that stands out and sculpting something from the ground up is a big challenge, whether it’s the beer recipe to marketing to price point to location.

Did you agree with the way things were being done there or was it more of a disagreement?

TOM: You learn what works and what doesn’t. We’ve been talking to a lot of breweries for a long time talking about what they like and don’t like. It’s all about putting our own spin on things.

What has been the most exciting part about going through this? Let’s look back from February, how long did this take to plan?

ERIC: August 2010 was when we met Brad, one of our principal investors. It will be three-and-a-half years from the first “Yes” to the point we brewed our first batch of beer.

Has it been a steady line or more of a rollercoaster ride?

ERIC: Culture is a huge part of what we do and why we got Jeff on board. We try to live the craft beer lifestyle. We celebrate those little wins and do the cool things that keep you inspired. When we get a liquor license or get through the permit process we go out and celebrate. Remembering to celebrate the little things that keep us going along is important. If we would have thought back to December 2010 how long and how big of a process this would take, this would have been overwhelming and I don’t think either one of us would have wanted to do it. But because we look far enough ahead to the next step that we have to take and we made more of a process out of it, it ended up being more manageable. It was less tedious to think about it as a whole.

Do you feel like your living your dream out here? Can you imagine doing anything other than what you’re doing out here?

TOM: Every day. The fact that we are pushing forward the way that we are is crazy and I love it. Can I see myself doing anything else other than what I’m doing right now? No, because I see so much of Eric and myself in this company.

From a workload standpoint, how much harder do you feel that you worked in this setting compared to what you were doing before in your job? How would you describe the workload of your dream?

ERIC: I don’t work harder; I’m just less aware of when I feel like I’m doing more than what’s required. In my old job I always felt like there was more that I had to do. For this you know that you have to do everything, so you just do it. Tom made a comment recently and said no matter what goes wrong here, one of us has to fix it. As a trio, we delegate really well and sometimes Tom is captain of the ship or Jeff, or me. We all support each other to get things done the right way.

There’s no off switch, you’re always doing stuff. There are so many things that you have to think about. There’s nobody else to depend on. You have to lean on yourself a little more.

What have been your proudest moments to date? What about 3.5 years forward?

TOM: The first brew day here we’ll feel an overwhelming amount of accomplishment. We’ll obviously just be starting out, but it will be pretty awesome when we get to pour our first beer here. That’s the only thing we have in our sights that is the pinnacle moment for now.

What were some of the wins along the way?

ERIC: Getting the investors to write us big checks, the city giving us a special use permit, to finding Jeff to getting this building. The steps that led to the next bigger steps are important.

You’re two weeks away from brew day. What will be the big moments beyond that?

ERIC: Putting the build-out behind us, and moving forward as brewers at a working brewery is big moment #1. Then watching people taste our beer for the first time with be pretty fantastic – and probably a bit terrifying as well.

Beyond the initial ‘honeymoon’ phase’ of a new brewery, it all comes down to great beer and great culture; things that signify those are really the wins we look forward to. It doesn’t have to be winning medals for great beer — it can be as simple as having a peer say, “Hey man, this beer is awesome” or hearing someone order your beer at a bar or restaurant.

Who are your motivators and supporters? How did they help influence your dream outcome?

ERIC: To have a wife who is 100-percent on board with this has been a lot easier. She’s a driver for me. I want to provide for her, I want to provide for my son, I want to provide a life for us. I don’t look at it in financial ways; I’m a better guy when I’m doing something that makes me happy. That drives and motivates me more than financial gain. Every day I wake up and realize I’m living my dream; I wake up excited and thrilled. If I was doing something I didn’t want to do, I can’t say I would be as happy in the morning. I feel a responsibility to Tom, Jeff and our investors that if I don’t work my ass off every day, they’re affected by my decisions. It’s my responsibility to do what I can do to make sure their goals and dreams are met too.

TOM: Family, friends, and the support they give all the time. Our investors have been hugely helpful in pushing us forward and giving us the support we need to create a great company and a brewing business. It’s great to have had peers and previous co-workers push us or give us advice and support.

Tell me a little bit more on why you do what you do?

ERIC: I would feel unfulfilled if I wasn’t doing this.

TOM: We want to create something that makes people happy — whether it’s our beer, our environment or our culture — whether it’s with family, friends, at a dinner party. It’s all about the happiness that we can bring to people. We want people to enjoy that moment.

ERIC: We feel the happiest when we’re creating. We try to create a product, an environment and an overall enjoyable experience for people. When you see someone appreciate your hard work, it fulfills you.

You’ve seen a lot of changes of the last 3.5 years, what changes do you think you see over the next 3.5 years?

TOM: You can project as much as you want. You can plan it all down to a T but once that changes, that plan goes out the window and you have to scramble to create a new one. The core values of what we’re building here will stay the same. It may be that one beer doesn’t go over so well and we have to change it or we get tired of the look of our packaging or want different bottles. But those are cosmetic changes. Really you build a base, a foundation, so you don’t change who you are. This environment is going to look quite different in a few years correct?

ERIC: Change is the only constant thing in our lives.

Is there any one thing that has to happen in that time period to be happy about the progress?

TOM: Get open.

ERIC: We take a hard look at every opportunity presented to us, but we aren’t in this for to get rich. I want to be a good father, husband and individual. My goals are pretty modest: I want to have a house, put my kid through college, come to work every day and make sure I feel fulfilled about those things. Because my dreams are pretty modest I have a hard time thinking about what big success looks like. We’ve talked about it – it’s fun to dream, and Tom & I talk about everything, so we have a general feeling but who knows. The beer market might shake up in two or three years and be totally different. You just have to have a general idea but go with it wherever it goes. There could be 10 different directions it can go.

You guys have gone through a lot of things that other brewery’s haven’t. What advice do you have for people who are pursuing this dream?

TOM: Same thing people have said to us: double your timeline, double your budget. There have been a lot of people who’ve helped us along the way, and there have been others who have come to us for advice.

ERIC: Karma is a big thing. I do believe in doing the right thing as often as you can and helping everybody as much as you can. We had a lot of guys helping us out, so we look to pay it forward. But we want to feel a sense of authenticity with that person or project — you need believe in what they’re doing to really want to help them. It’s easy to throw someone a bone if you can. If someone asks us questions about stuff we know, things we’ve lived through — especially when it comes to drawing upon experience we’ve had, we’re usually more than happy to share.

Final thoughts:

-This isn’t a job this is their life. They live craft beer.
-Step back, celebrate the small things.