2012 was a big year for Modern Times because it started to exist. On January 13th, 2012 I left my job at Stone Brewing Co. to wade full-time into the messy slog of building a beer factory from the ground up.
The ensuing 12 months consisted mostly of long stretches of hyper-anxiety dotted by brief moments of elation. I haven’t been shy about this, and a few people have pointedly questioned why I’m not constantly stoked out of my freakin’ gourd to be following my dream. In almost every case, these are people who have either never started a business or have profoundly delusional financial instincts.
And while many new business/brewery start-up blogs are a flurry of excited exclamation points, I know that’s not the reality. Several people have tried to convince me that it’s just me, that all the other new business owners are relentlessly upbeat cheerleaders for their fledgling enterprises. But I talk to the founders of new breweries all the time, and what I hear is the opposite.
They often feel obligated to maintain a positive façade because they believe that’s how marketing is supposed to work, but personally, they’re a wreck. The owner of one (excellent) new brewery told me that he survived on nothing but Clif Bars, gum, and Red Bull for six months. The anxiety in his voice was so intense I worried for his well being, and I handn’t even met the guy. Probably because my background is in social media marketing, I feel like my only obligation is to give people a look behind the scenes, no matter how messy it is back here.
So from a personal perspective—which is also essentially the perspective of Modern Times, since I remain the only employee—2012 has been incredibly taxing. But, the result of all that stress and panic has been pretty momentous.
First, I roped Mike Tonsmiere into working with me on developing recipes, and perhaps, if everything goes swimmingly, coming to work for the brewery. Since then, we’ve worked on a lot of recipes together, producing several very promising beers and at least one outstanding beer.
Second, I went from being an unemployed guy with a business plan to a guy with $1.25 million of investor money and a business plan. Fundraising was harrowing, but I pulled it off with assistance from several other people. Obviously, that has made the rest possible.
Third, I found and leased a 12,540 sq. ft. industrial building in Point Loma. It would be difficult to overstate how challenging it was to locate a building in the urban core of San Diego suitable for a production brewery, and the search often ventured into absurdity. But again, with the help of others, I got a killer building in a convenient location.
Fourth, I hired a contractor and an architect; I also ordered a brewing system. These were difficult and extremely expensive decisions, easily adding up to more money than I’ve earned in my entire life. But I feel like I ended up making the right choices even though they were made under tremendous pressure.
Fifth, we began construction, and I applied for a brewing license. And that’s where we are now.
So from 10,000 feet, that looks like pretty good progress for 12 months, and even though it’s been trench warfare on the ground, I’m thrilled to have made it this far, this fast.