Many people consider beer to be one of life’s simple enjoyments, but the process of opening a brewery can be one of the more challenging types of small businesses to launch. It takes a very specific type of person with equal parts creativity, enthusiasm, responsibility and craftsmanship. A good sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.
The Zauber Brewing Co. is a new microbrewery that will be launching in Columbus in 2012. We recently spoke with Geoff Towne, founder of Zauber, to find out more about his new business venture and what types of challenges he’s faced in the process.
The Metropreneur: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal and professional background as it relates to brewing?
Geoff Towne: Sure, I’ve been surrounded by the alcohol industry most of my life, professionally for about a decade. First by watching my father who sold packaging and coordinated relationships with not only large breweries, but distilleries and wineries too. I soon followed in his footsteps. I found myself dealing with a lot of brewers, vintners, and distillers and I got the bug from there. I soon found out that I could get an academic education in Brewing at UCDavis. “Beer School” sounded like so much fun, and from there I passed an international exam to become a brewmaster. I came back home to Ohio to work for Great Lakes Brewing as a brewer, and later I was recruited away to work for Boston Beer Co. — the brewer of Sam Adams — as an Assistant Brewing Manager. From there, we came back home to Columbus where I briefly worked for a local distributor, and then set a goal to start my own brewery.
[M]: Was there something specific along the way that made you decide that opening a brewery business was something you really wanted to do?
GT: In a way, opening a brewery was always what I wanted to do. Initially all I knew is that I wanted to work some way in the beer industry, and found that I had this entrepreneurial spirit for it along the way. Every experience I went through was helpful in making me find my way back to the beginning.
[M]: Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind Zauber Brewing?
GT: The concept and style of the brewery has evolved organically along the way. It started out with me falling for the European beer culture when I studied abroad in Austria. Then it changed when I was observing the fun and openness of the emerging craft brewing scene in California at “beer school”, which was then fine-tuned on the job as a brewer. Our concept at Zauber will be to create our own unique Ohio version of all those fun and amazing experiences.
[M]: What have you found to be most challenging about the process of starting a beer brewing business?
GT: Bringing together the right collection of partners and collaborators that are aligned with what we are trying to bring together. The bureaucratic process of starting a brewery can be challenging and you have to be a good sport about working with the system.
[M]: What types of local resources have helped you to start your business?
GT: I must have asked for advice from every local business service in town… SCORE, The SBDC, TechColumbus, ECDI, and others. Anyone that would give me the time! Luckily, a lot of people like to talk about beer! I also got plenty of advice from friends in and around the brewing industry, both local and beyond.
[M]: Are there any local mentors that have helped you with the process?
GT: My extended family and friends have always been supportive of this crazy dream. Locally, there are many people that have given their advice, support, and encouragement along the way. It would be tough to single any one person out, though I have to say that I would love to grow up to be like Liz Lessner some day!
[M]: How did you go about scouting a location for a brewery, and why did you choose the location that you did?
GT: First, by doing what most Real Estate experts advise. I got in the car and I drove around town! We wanted our business to be located near the center of Columbus, so we decided upon the Grandview area. This area not only has a lot to offer culturally, it’s also a fun, evolving part of town. From there I found a large industrial building that could fit a brewery and our long term concept.
[M]: How do you feel about the current microbrewing business scene in Columbus?
GT: I think our local culinary culture is growing and evolving in so many exciting ways, and alcoholic beverages are a part of what we have going on here in Columbus. The more passionate voices we have touting the virtues and exploration of beer, the better. A rising tide floats all boats. As for the brewing scene, brewers are in general are an open and encouraging group of people. We all want to see each other do well and grow the beer culture here in Ohio. For comparison, Portland Oregon, a city roughly the same size of Columbus has around 35 breweries. So we still have a lot more room for growth.
[M]: Anything else we should know about your new business venture?
GT: Aside from the fact that we are just about ready to start constructing phase two of our master plan, all I can say is that Zauber Brewing will always be evolving. We are literally ‘having fun with beer’. Our goal at Zauber Brewing is to continually produce interesting and amazing beer. This will not only be some of the best and most extrinsic brews you’ve ever tasted but it’ll be made right here in Columbus… How cool is that!
To learn more about Zauber Brewing Co., visit ZBeers.com.
CLICK HERE to read more about Zauber’s products, retail outlets and more at ColumbusUnderground.com.