Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Midsummer Fundraising Update

These are interesting times for small business. Conventional wisdom states that business begins at the bank, with a loan application and subsequent handshake. We attempted applications and prepared to shake hands, but we were met time and again with the same responses that entrepreneurs across the nation are receiving from commercial lenders:

"We're not lending to startups at this time".

"We're only considering applications from a select few types of business".

"We're not doing any business lending to nonestablished clients at this point".

Or of course,

"Essentially, you'll need to put up your first born to get a loan right now."

No, that's not a joke. Those are the actual words we were told, straight from the mouth of a representative from Fortune Bank.

This introduction could easily turn into a rail against the current state of commercial small business lending, but it wont - instead, I'm going to let it serve as a firm foundation upon which we've laid out our method for raising this beer-soaked barn. It's the reason we're doing things the way we're doing them - to prove that banks sealing their vaults shut does not mean that entrepreneurship and innovation need to stop. To prove that hard work mixed with a strong idea can still be a recipe for success, even if the conventional starting blocks have to be re-engineered a bit.

Which brings us to the fundraising. The current incarnation of the Ankerhaus Pub business plan calls for an initial capital fund of $160,000. This amount will get things off the ground and keep the lights on while the cash flow stabilizes over the first few months of operation. The banks aren't lending, and so we choose a different method to put our seed money together - through many smaller private investors. Investors who might not have ever considered that they might become investors. A crowd notably devoid of monocles or top hats, who drive their own (non-limousine) cars and go to work at real jobs every morning.

People like us.

As of the writing of this post, the Ankerhaus Pub has secured its first anchor investments, from real people like you and like us, totalling $20,000. We're going to make it to opening day, and we're going to do it by inches. Let the banks keep their miles. If you're reading this post, then know that I'm writing it directly to you - as you click to it from your job, from your laptop in front of the TV, from your iPhone that's vastly cooler than my overrated LG Dare.

You can be an investor. You can be a part of this venture, and give us the green light to work our fingers, toes, and tap-handles to the bone earning you a solid return on your investment. No monocles or monograms needed.

Let's make this thing work, just you, us, and a mess of people just like us. Get in touch. Let us send you a copy of the plan. Take a look and figure out if you can make room to be a part of this thing. I'll be honest with you - you can. It doesn't take a millionaire, just a lot of real people working together and pooling their resources not only in the name of making a handsome return, but also in the name of proving that hard work and a smart plan can still add up to be What it Takes.

June 30, 2010 - $20,000 of $160,000 raised.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Report

I purchased a Kindle about 6 months ago, and ever since, I have been chewing through books at an alarming rate (alarming for me, anyway). I've always been a reader, but for some reason, this amazing device has amplified my power.

My latest completion was House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty. This was a great read for wine freaks, history buffs, and business nerds (or any combination of the above). Robert Mondavi was a pioneer of the American wine industry and the establishment of California as a producer of fine wines. The book details the history of the Robert Mondavi empire, from its roots at the Charles Krug Winery through multiple generations of being a family-run business, until it finally went public in the mid-'90's and the family eventually lost all control in the company to outside influences. The author interviewed members of the Mondavi family, as well as employees of the winery and assembles a detailed, yet interesting narrative of the events that unfolded over the years.

This book is an interesting piece of wine history, as well as a fascinating look at a multi-generational family business. Robert Mondavi created an empire that eventually sank into ruin as a result of a variety of factors: family turmoil and fighting, greed, poor decisions, and bad luck. Little by little, the family lost control of the business it had built to outside influences. This book was a fascinating read for me, not only as a wine enthusiast, but also as an aspiring business-owner. It was very interesting to learn about the various changes that the Mondavi Corporation underwent over the years (both as a result of the changing economic climate and as a result of the people running the show).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Organic Brewing on the Rise

Sustainable Business Oregon posted an interesting article today relating to this weekend's North American Organic Brewers Festival (which we mentioned here back in April). Organic brewing is definitely on the rise. The USDA officially adopted its organic standards back in 2002. Organic beer sales more than doubled between 2004 and 2009. Check out the article for more interesting info on organic standards and the brewing industry.

The festival this weekend will feature over 50 certified organic brews. If you can make it down to Portland, it sounds like it should be an exciting event.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Washington Brewers Festival

I'd just like to start off by saying that summer colds are the worst. Nothing sucks more than being stuck inside in June with sinus pressure and gallons of snot pouring out of your head. I even took the day off work on Friday to rest and heal, in the hopes of salvaging my weekend. Despite spending most of the day either napping or on the couch watching True Life and playing Castlevania, I actually managed to get worse.

Since I spent the next two days pretty much out of commission, I was unable to partake in the massive offerings of local brews featured in the Washington Brewers Festival. Fortunately for me, other beer lovers were able to attend and document the experience. There are some great write-ups at:

Washington Beer Blog

Beer Blotter
Wine and Beer of Washington State

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What We're Drinking

On Sunday, we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous Seattle summer and take a drive out to the Snoqualmie Brewery and Taproom. It's a great, laid-back place for lunch. Their menu consists of a variety of fresh, tasty sandwiches, as well as some pizzas, and of course, the beer, which is clearly the star of the show. On this lovely afternoon, we sampled two beers from their list:

Black Frog Oatmeal Stout - This is a robust stout. It has a hint of bitterness that is offset by the rich, slightly coffee-y taste that comes from the chocolate malt that they add during brewing. The rolled oats help to smooth out the acidity, making for a rich, rather mellow finish.

The Steamtrain Porter sported a lot of similar characteristics to the Stout (chocolate and coffee flavors from the malts), but with a very different outcome. The Porter didn't finish quite as smooth, and definitely packed a bit more of a punch with its rich bite.

Both are definitely recommended, if you're a dark beer-lover. If you are looking for a pleasant way to spend a lazy Sunday, take a drive out to their Taproom. If you're too busy, fear not - their beers are available at local retailers, so pick up a bottle.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Interview with Jolly Pumpkin Brewery Founder

Last month, we linked to a New York Times article about their recent blind tasting of 20 different Belgian-style beers. The first-place winner was the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery's Oro de Calabaza. Today, annarbor.com posted an interview with Ron Jeffries, the founder and owner of Jolly Pumpkin. Check it out for interesting info on his background and his business philosophy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Washington Beer Biz Thrives!

It's official - Washingtonians love beer. NWCN.com posted an article yesterday that states that the Washington beer business is kicking ass, despite the struggling economy. The Washington State Liquor Control Board stated that the bar industry is on the rise, with 355 more alcohol licenses than there were 4 years ago.

In an economy that has seen home foreclosures, lay-offs, downsizing and many other businesses struggling, the bar industry is thriving. New bars are opening, brewpubs are expanding, and craft beer is bigger than it ever has been. As we continue to put together our initial investment funds, we are reassured when news like this hits. We know that we can make this venture successful, but seeing that the industry is doing so well in spite of a difficult economy is extremely encouraging.

As entrepreneurs, we are excited not only to build a business in an industry that is doing so well, but to do so in a community that values the product as much as this one does. The Northwest produces some incredible wine and craft beer, and its residents know the good stuff when they find it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Light Beer Sales Fall

The Wall Street Journal recently posted an interesting article stating that sales of light beer are significantly down. According to Advertising Age, Bud Light is down 5.3% and Miller Light is down 7.5% this year. The marketing teams, in their infinite wisdom, can't seem to figure out why. The article kicks around several possibilities, but I like to think that maybe people are just getting tired of flat, flavorless beer.

I've personally never understood the idea behind light beer. It has no taste. Beers, as a general rule, have a distinct flavor - be it malt, hops, barley, whatever. Except for light beer, which doesn't seem to even try. The writer of this article even went through a blind tasting of several light beers:

Taking notes in my blind tasting I quickly found myself running out of ways to describe vapid nothingness. Natural Light was "flavorless"; Michelob Ultra was simply "bland"; Coors Light was "blah"—though it did have the slightest hint of sweetness, as if an ounce of (bad) ginger ale had been diluted with pint of club soda. Miller Lite had a slightly foamier consistency (the Vortex bottle at work?) but no particular taste that could be discerned through the suds; Bud Light earned the honorific "least awful, but just barely."

If you are not into darker, heavier beers, there are still plenty of ales and lagers out there that have the ability to tingle your taste buds. There is no reason to waste your time and money buying swill when you could just as easily drop your cash on a beer with a little personality (or play it super-cheap and just drink water).

While we have no plans to serve light beer of any kind at the Ankerhaus, rest assured that, no matter what your beer preference is, we will have something available to suite your palate.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

7 Breweries to Visit Before You Die

Some easy reading for a lazy Sunday...

The Seattle PI picked up an article from Blogcritics.org yesterday about the 7 breweries that any beer lover should visit in their lifetime. The list was compiled based on the writer's personal beer preference and the historical significance of the breweries.

Are any of your faves on the list?

Friday, June 4, 2010

What We're Drinking

Last week I had the opportunity to try the 2006 Kiona Lemberger as part of WA Wine Report's monthly virtual tasting. Kiona was the first winery in the country to produce Lemberger and has been doing so since 1980. I had never tried a Lemberger prior to this, and I was pleasantly surprised. It's a medium-bodied, easy to drink red wine, that packs a spicy punch at the finish. I was really really into the peppery sensation at the end. It helped to round out the mellow fruitiness of the wind and gave it a bit more complexity. Participants in the tasting were pairing it with anything you can imagine - pasta, pizza, chocolate strawberries - the winemaker even chimed in and said that it even goes well with BBQ. This is a very versatile wine that will complement a variety of dishes, and will offer an interesting alternative to the more standard table wines.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Judgment of Paris

I just finished a fascinating book, and wanted to pass along the recommendation. It was entitled, Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine

Some backstory: The event was conceived by a British man named Steven Spurrier. He was living in Paris, where he owned a wine shop and had also opened the Academie du Vin, which taught wine-tasting classes. In 1976, after hearing that interesting work was being done in California and that they were making good wines in the French style, he decided to stage a blind tasting in Paris between Napa Valley wines and classic French wines. To everyone's surprise, the California wines won: the 1973 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon placed first among the reds, and the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay placed first among the whites.

Though it was a small, unassuming event (only one journalist even bothered to cover it), the impact that this had on the wine world at the time was huge - not because the French had been "brought down" (I don't know if you realize this or not, but they do still make wine in France), but because people began realizing that quality wine could be produced in other areas of the world. Prior to this, while wine was made all over the globe, if you wanted to drink or serve a quality, serious wine, you typically went with the French stuff. This event opened the doors to the global wine industry that we know today.

The Judgment of Paris was written by George Taber, who was the Time magazine writer who covered the Paris tasting. This book is fascinating because not only does it describe the event itself, but it gives a detailed (yet never boring) account of the history of wine production in both countries, as well as the wine-making process and the effect that the tasting had on the wine industry. Taber also tells the histories of the winning wineries, and the stories of the principal players in the production of both wines.

I highly recommend this book. It's an interesting read, and gives some fascinating information into the history of wine in France and in the States, as well as the state of the global wine industry. Pick it up, pour a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy.