From the January 2013 Issue.
Finding a market demand for something you are passionate about doing is often a route to success for small business owners. The often cited Confucius quote sums it up well: “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Of course, when it comes to turning that passion into a functional business, there will be days when you do have to “work,” particularly when managing the numerous modern demands businesses face.
For Ben Davis, the calling is his love of beer. As the owner and head brewer of Intuition Ale Works (www.intuitionaleworks.com), he not only enjoys drinking the suds, but also brewing specialty craft beers. The brewery, which celebrated its second anniversary in November 2012, is based in Jacksonville, Florida, where it has production facilities and a tap room.
In its two years, Intuition Ale Works has grown to about a dozen employees, and more than doubled its beer production to 2,600 barrels in 2012. At 31 gallons per barrel, that’s more than 80,000 gallons of beer, which is sold in their Tap Room, and is also distributed in kegs to more than 180 restaurants, bars and liquor stores in northern Florida. The company was the first craft brewery in the state of Florida to offer canned versions of three of its more popular brands. The beers, People’s Pale Ale, Jon Boat Coastal Ale and I-10 IPA, are available in about 60 retail locations in the state.
He was among the first specialty craft beer brewers in the Jacksonville area, where the business activity was only recently allowed. That was welcome news for Ben, who had attended the rigorous brewer’s certification program at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, and then had been perfecting his craft in his Jacksonville garage for more than two years.
Although relatively new to Florida, small craft breweries have been greatly successful throughout other parts of the country, with enthusiastic customers attracted to a greater variety of flavorful ales, lagers, IPAs and other styles, which are made with higher quality ingredients. For many, it’s also the concept of supporting locally-owned businesses.
“The local beer movement is popular because local beers are always fresher and people know where it came from,” Ben noted. “With the major international brands, the beer may have been brewed across the country and then shipped and stored for who knows how long. Local is always fresher.” He noted that most beer varieties are best within two weeks or so of brewing.
Through his training, he also learned of the many regulatory hurdles, as well as the back office accounting, payroll and reporting requirements. He had prior experience in running businesses, first as the owner of a popular wine and tapas bar, and then through his wine production experience in the vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley and New Zealand. Still, he didn’t get into the booze business to do paperwork, so before he launched the brewery, he sought the expertise of Chris Farmand, a local CPA (www.cfarmand.com) he knew through a mutual friend.
“I know what my strengths and weakness are,” Ben said. “I wanted to stay focused on the brewing processes and coming up with new beers. I’m better at marketing and conceptual functions, not the bookkeeping. So, I turned to Chris to help run the business.”
Coincidentally, Chris had started his accounting practice at about the same time, after several years working in a family firm. . The Jacksonville CPA has developed several “thought points” and suggestions that a potential brewer should consider before opening a brewery. One of the most important, Chris notes, is ensuring good back office procedures.