“Given another shot, I’d totally do it over… just perhaps a bit differently.”
Brewery Owner Shares His Learnings Moving from Homebrewer to Professional Brewer in Seattle WA
Chris Smith has grown from homebrewer to professional brewer and, in the process, expanded from brewing 5 gallons of beer at a time to 500. His brewery, Lowercase Brewing, opened its doors in January of 2014, and is located in the South Park area of Seattle Washington. Since then, he has also opened a taproom in Georgetown. Lowercase’s passion is brewing simple, approachable beers. Chris has been quoted as saying: “We got our start making beer in our basement, and seeing what our friends thought of it. After a little trial and error, the beer started tasting pretty good.” Recently, Chris took the time to share his thoughts with Portland Kettle Works regarding his journey from homebrewer to professional brewer.
From Homebrewer to Professional Brewer, Chris Smith, Owner, Lowercase Brewing
PKW: Where did you find the courage and inspiration to make the move from homebrewer to professional brewer?
LCB: Entrepreneurship comes naturally to me, so opening my own business wasn’t a stretch. It just happened to be a brewery. Lowercase Brewing came from some strange combination of a hobby, timing, and boredom of the day-to-day of the corporate world. Given another shot, I’d totally do it over… just perhaps a bit differently.
PKW: What was the biggest challenge moving from homebrewer to professional brewer and how did you overcome it?
LCB: Financing. Under-capitalization almost put us out of business a few times and still plagues us today. We are finding our way through, but mainly through sheer grit and scrappiness. Know your costs, be conservative on your revenue estimates, and trust the expertise around you. More specifically, don’t be afraid to admit mistakes and ask for help when needed. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to let those around you offer a hand.
PKW: Now that you’ve gone through the process, what would you do differently?
LCB: It’s easy to get caught up in the now… the trick is you have to look a few years ahead. Where is the industry going and how can you meet it, or beat it, there? It’s relatively easy to make beer, but much harder to sell it. If your specific market is growing hand over fist, will that continue by the time you are up and running? Probably not at the same pace. Build for that, not for today. Today is already past… focus on what’s coming next to be ready for it. I probably would have gone smaller, and had a more immediate focus on retail. It was clear that the industry was headed there… I just didn’t see it.
PKW: What has brought you the most success in your business?
LCB: I think we’ve been successful because we’ve had an authentic story to tell. We have our own take on beer, and while we are aware of trends, we have not built a model that is beholden to them. We have a perspective, have something to say, and try to communicate naturally and honestly. It works for us, because it feels like us. Find yours and do that. It might not be a hit out of the gate… but people will catch on because authenticity can be felt.
PKW: What’s your funniest/most memorable moment at the Seattle brewery so far?
LCB: Random mistakes… I remember taking off the wrong tri-clamp on a pressured tank. It was empty of beer, but had plenty of yeast in it. There was literally a shadow in the shape of me on the cold room wall… the rest was wet yeast slurry. Too funny.
Lowercase Brewing, Outer Planet Brewing, & Pink Boots Society Brew Witbier for International Women’s Day (PKW fermenters line the background)
If you want to relax and enjoy a pint or two, stop by Lowercase Brewing and their taproom in Georgetown, Seattle, Washington. Their website captures their easygoing vibe…
It’s a place to make beer.
And have a beer.
A good one.
Hopefully, a great one.
Come On Down.