Michael Peticolas: The People's Brewer

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I recently caught up with Michael Peticolas, owner of Peticolas Brewing Company, after a private tour for a one-on-one chat. Here's what he had to say ...

You just finished up with a private tour. Talk about your tours; what type of experience are you trying to create? My tours are a little bit different, I'm a smaller brewery, my goal is not to be anywhere and everywhere, and stuff as many people in here as I possibly can. For me, this is the entertainment industry, and if someone cares enough about my beer and my brewery to come down here, I want them to have a good time, that's all I really care about. When I do these tours, I actually want to connect with people, and talk to people, and let them know about me, about the brewery, talk to them about the beer. As a result, I do my tours on a much smaller scale, between 30 and 50 people, typically. I want everybody that comes down here to have a full mug of beer, get a chance to talk to me, if they want to talk to me, actually hear about the beer-making process, if they want to hear about the beer making process. It allows me to connect with people, I don't advertise, I don't market, I try to make my consumers my marketers.

Would you say that's the most important thing behind your product, connecting with your customer? For me, it's about making great beer, firstly. Secondly, customer service, giving the customer whatever they want. That would come in third, I guess, the connection, but that's certainly a big part of it, the story. It's very, very important for me to connect with people, to let them go out and sell my product for me. It's more sincere that way.

Is that why you don't advertise? Yeah! When I first opened, I had all these places calling me that I never thought about. This is my perfect customer, my perfect customer isn't these beer bars that I thought it was. My perfect customer is seeking me out. They've heard about my product, they want my product. It's about taking care of them before going somewhere else. I was responding to all those people who were calling me out of the blue, and I was making sure I was taking care of those guys before going somewhere else. I made it a big goal to not ever be out of beer, my goal is to not market so much that someone who bought my beer from day one calls me up and I'm out of beer. It's about taking care of those first guys who bought my beer on day one.

Is that how you decide on who you sell your beer to? Absolutely, I haven't walked into a bar in two months. I'm a mom and pop; it's just me. I brew it, I deliver it, I do it all. I'm selling as much as I can brew and I want to grow slowly. I don't want to be in Austin, I don't want to be in Houston, I want to develop a local market here in Dallas. So it's important for me to be in Dallas, I live in Dallas, I want to give the city a local beer. These Austin bars call up for beer, and I tell them "I've been driving down to Austin for years picking up good beer, why don't y'all drive up here!" I'm trying to build a market here, make this a beer city. One day that will come. There will be a time and date for all those guys out there, but right now I want to take care of the people here.

Where do you want to be in, say, three years? I want to be in business in three years! When I started on this road, there were no other breweries, and that was one of the reasons why I wanted to open here. I get contacted by someone every three weeks that is opening a brewery. I open up my doors, they can come work with me, I'm happy to talk to those guys. There are so many breweries, I'm not kidding, they're not all going to work. We're not all going to be here in five years. Some of these are going to fail, I'm not joking when I say my number one goal is to be here in three years.

Tell me a little bit about your background, where you're from, what were you doing before this? I'm from El Paso, originally. I'm a seventh-generation Texan, I'm a fifth-generation Texas trial attorney, I've been practicing law since 1999. I opened my own law firm in 2005. I accomplished basically every goal I set out for myself in the legal field a lot sooner than I thought I would. I have to have a challenge, I can't just go through the motions and do the same thing over and over. I was looking for something to do, and my wife and I were considering investing in a brewery that was opening up. We were discussing it, and one night she says, "Why don't we do this ourselves?" And a light went on over our heads, and I thought, "Why don't we do this ourselves?"

Did you brew before that? I had been brewing at home before that. To go back, my mom is the first person I knew who ever home brewed. She pulled out some beer -- it was some apricot flavored Mexican ale -- she had made it and it was just awesome. I was struck right then about how grave an experience it was to share a beer that tasted better than what I could buy down at the store and was made by my mom! Sitting in her backyard, I still remember enjoying it. I didn't start immediately after that, but I had some friends who were into home brewing, and one friend kept trying to get me to brew, and I kept saying I didn't want to invest the money, I didn't want all the equipment. He showed up one day, arms full of home brew stuff, I went out and bought ingredients that day, and brewed a clone of a Belgian quad, which turned out terrible, but I was bit by the bug. I started educating myself and eventually enrolled with the American Brewer's Guild and took their intensive brewing science and engineering course.

So I guess you're wife's reaction must have been a positive one? I could not have done this without her support. For me it's all about friends and family; business is great, but some people live to work, I work to live. I'd rather spend time at home with friends and family. That's one of the reasons we named it after the family. There is no one else involved in this, there are no investors. This is me, my wife, my 7-year old little girl, and my twin 5-year olds. That's why we have a pentagon in our logo.

What do you like to drink? I don't discriminate. I love beer. I love distilled spirits. I love wine. But the cocktail I've been kind of hooked on is a Tito's vodka with 1888 dirty martini mix, and I've been drinking a lot of those. Other than that I'm really kind of a bourbon guy, but then I'm drinking my beer. I've got Golden Opportunity and Great Scot on tap at home.

What about a nice night out? I'm a big believer in supporting the people who support me. Let's take Smoke for instance. I've never been to Smoke, they bought some beer from me, so the next time my wife and I are trying to find a place to go on date night, we go to Smoke. I'm going to places that buy my beer that I've never been before. Look at the list; it's on my website. If I want a pint: Bryan Street Tavern, Meddlesome Moth. If I want to dine: Company Café, Acme F&B, Eno's.

What can beer drinkers expect in the future, in terms of what you're expecting to brew? That's a good question, because I hardly know what to expect. In the winter I'm bringing on a spiced winter ale called the "Wintervention." I'm definitely doing that. I'm definitely doing a brown ale, the "Alfred Brown Ale." Alfred Brown Peticolas was my great-great grandfather. I'm going to be doing a Belgian Tripel called "A Lost Epic," which is an anagram of Peticolas. And a rye pale ale called "Rye't On." That's my plan right now, things could change, who knows.

You had an even recently at Whole Foods. Are you delving into that market? The take-home/growler market? Yeah, hopefully I've got beer on there full time so people can take it home and enjoy my beer at home. That's really the only way, since I'm not bottling.

Is that where you want to go, be able to bottle? I'll bottle one day, but bottling is a science in of itself. The best way I can protect my beer is putting it into a keg. I fear putting it in a bottle, having that bottle sitting in the back of a grocery store for four months at 90 degree weather, and then going out on the shelf. It's not going to taste anything like I intended. I won't be bottling today or tomorrow, but it's certainly in the long-term plan, I'm not in a hurry. My mantra is doing things properly, not quickly. I don't care about doing things fast. I want to do them right.

What's your mission statement, how do you want to grow your business? I want to grow slowly, taking care of the customer, focusing on the beer, giving a good product. All I care about is quality. I feel everything else will take care of itself. All I want to do is make good beer. It's about that small growth so I can make sure I can take care of folks as I grow, I don't want to outgrow my ability to take care of the customer.

How many hours do you put in between brewing, delivery, all things beer? I'm 24/7 because I love it.

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