Deep Ellum Brewing Co. will host its Third Annual Brew-B-Que this Sunday, an event that was a launch party of sorts back in 2011. It will a chance to pack the brewery and courtyard with hopheads, sip local beer and have Pecan Lodge barbecue, all while listening to tunes of Cody Foote (who hopefully covers Islands in the Stream again), Grant Jones, The Pistol Grip Lassos and The Vic Duncan Band.
Guest brewers at the event include Armadillo Ale Works, Rabbit Hole Brewing and Martin House from Fort Worth. Check out the specifics and ticket info here.
We tracked down Tait Lifto at DEBC to chat about the brewing business for our biweekly-ish "One Year Out" interview (although, it's been a year and a half since they started brewing). Lifto turned in his starched-button-down-shirt-job for this gig at the brewery, where he's the Brand Ninja and is charged with making sure beer drinkers far and wide know of DEBC.
Working at a brewery is just a big party, right? Ha! I wish, although it truly is the perception of many people. I personally work about 60-70 hours a week, yet mostly people see me just at events. I may look relaxed, but most often my mind is going a billion directions; meeting everyone, talking about our beers, answering questions, staying on point, etc.
What's the typical day like? Beer, beer, then more beer? In the morning, I get in around 7:30 and work with the drivers to ensure all the orders go out the door. I answer emails, phone calls and texts and meet with the brewers to check on production, and I'm constantly working on different events. Lots of texts -- in the last 24 hours I've received text messages from 54 different people. Other days, I'm out visiting potential or existing clients across the state. More events, tappings and dinners. Then there are meetings with corporations like grocery store chains, or meetings with business partners. The cool thing is, it's my passion.
Did being the first to market in Dallas (aside from Rahr and Franconia) come with advantages? Yes and no, we've definitely had a lot of firsts for craft beer in Dallas. But we've also been under the microscope since day one. People kept telling John [Reardon, co-founder] that opening a brewery in Dallas was foolish and he wouldn't succeed. However, we also didn't have anyone here in Dallas to be measured up to -- we got to blaze the trail our way and just go about business the way we thought was best.
Obviously there's been a huge shift in getting on taps at bars and restaurants. When we first went to bars and restaurants in the Dallas market after we opened, there was a lot of resistance to putting us on tap. It was an unknown, unproven thing -- craft beer in Dallas? I had to work hard to get new accounts. But, toward mid-2012 things had changed for other breweries opening because establishments saw that DEBC was a high seller. And then Peticolas and Lakewood were selling strong. So, toward the end of 2012 it seemed that anyone that opened a brewery received "instant taps" across the city regardless of quality. I think it's overall good to have such a large local presence, but at the same time what I'm seeing now is that there still isn't a good measurement for how beer is distributed.
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What's the most complicated part of running the business: equipment, producing beer, marketing, logistics or personnel? Everything. There is nothing that isn't complicated about running a brewery. Seriously.
Tell me what you've learned about the craft brewing brotherhood in the past year. The craft beer community is a family of people that are passionate about craft beer. It's a fascinating thing and one of my favorite aspects of this industry. A few weeks ago, Michael and Melissa Peticolas just dropped in at a DEBC tour with their kids to have some brews and enjoy themselves. I respect Michael's beers a lot and while it may appear we're competitors, we're friends and have common goals. About a year ago, we had an issue with a yeast and Real Ale helped us out because they had some of the same yeast strain on hand. It's a true community of likeminded individuals that may have different strengths, weaknesses and personalities but at the end of the day, I can raise my glass with anyone in the industry.
What have been a few of the best moments for DEBC in the first year and a half? The first keg sold, the first brewery tour, the first festival ... I can easily think of 50 right now. The first tour in 2011 was phenomenal with live artists, music and lots of great beer. When we launched the Deep Ellum IPA in early 2012 at the brewery and then loaded people onto double-decker busses and brought them to the World of Beer Arlington grand opening to continue the party -- that was epic. The first time we sold bottles (we hand bottled Cherry Chocolate Double Brown Stout) and arrived at Bolsa Mercado an hour early and there was already a long line, well ... that stands out. When we built the beer garden and had the first tour, that stands out too. My goodness, I could keep going on and on. I'll fast forward to last week when we did our ceremonial lighting of our new sign.
If you could give advice to any brewers out there looking to start a brewery, what would it be? I got pages of advice, so call me. But it starts with knowing who you are. What is your identity as a brewery? Know what your brand is and who your target audience is. Staying close to your fans and engaging your audience goes a long way. Ask for help from other breweries -- while the outside world thinks we're all competitors, the reality is that behind the scenes we see ourselves as on the same team and we help each other out a lot.