Gary Glass, director of the American
Homebrewers Association (www.homebrewer
sassociation.org), says, “The majority of the
new breweries being opened these days are
being opened by home brewers. I would also
estimate that more than 90 percent of the peo-
ple who make their living as professional brew-
ers got started as home brewers.”
“I’m living proof that a home brewer’s
dreams can come true,” says Jim Koch,
founder and chairman of The Boston Beer
Company, which makes Samuel Adams beer.
Craft brewing is exploding in popularity.
The Brewers Association ( www.brewersassoci
ation.org), an organization promoting small,
independent American brewers, says the
number of craft brewers has gone from eight
in 1980 to 537 in 1994 to more than 2,300 in
2012. As of June 1, 2013, more than 1,500 breweries were in development in the U.S.
Larger companies have started producing
their own “craft” beers, including Costco,
whose Kirkland Signature™ beers keep grow-
ing in popularity. But the Brewers Association
defines true craft brewing this way:
; Craft brewers produce less than 6 mil-
lion barrels of beer a year (compared with
more than 150 million barrels produced by
Anheuser-Busch) and are independently
owned and operated.
; Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients such as malted barley; inter-
THE TAMING OF THE BREW
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 27
esting and sometimes nontraditional
ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
; The hallmark of craft beer and craft
brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret
historic styles with unique twists and develop
new styles that have no precedent.
; Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their
customers and tend to be very involved in
their communities through philanthropy.
For those contemplating the leap to commerce, Koch advises, “Make sure you are
brewing really great, wonderful beer. Because
there’s a lot of good beer out there. Truly wonderful is probably where you need to be.”
Here, Costco-member craft brewers
share some of the challenges and joys they
faced while taking their passion for brewing
from hobby to small business.—Steve Fisher
DURING THE EARLY ’90s, in
their college years, brothers Jim
and Jason Ebel both spent time
traveling around Europe and
sampling a variety of beers.
When they returned home the
two began brewing their own to
re-create the flavors they’d experienced in Europe.
Their first step to taking
their hobby pro was to open The
Brewer’s Coop, a shop for home
brewers and winemakers, in
Naperville, Illinois. Despite the
success of the store, the brothers
dreamed of opening a brewery.
One Sunday, over dinner, their
mother finally said, “You guys
either need to open a brewery or
shut up about it, because you’re
driving me crazy.” With the
blessing of their parents, the
brothers created a business plan,
secured a modest budget and, in
1996, turned some of their
retired grandfather’s dairy equipment into a draft-only brewery.
“We thought if it didn’t work
out, we were young enough to
get different jobs,” says Jason.
In the last 16 years, Two
Brothers Brewing has gone
through three major expansions
and opened two restaurants and
a coffee roaster. The business is
the largest independently owned
and operated craft brewer in
Illinois, and brews more than 20
different year-round, seasonal,
artisan and special-project beers.
“We’ve always said we want
to have controlled growth,” Jim
tells The Connection. “We’ve
always tried to use business rev-
enue to fund our growth.”
“We’re serial entrepreneurs;
we start to twitch if we don’t have
a new project,” adds Jason, who
explains that most of the growth
has happened in the last four or
Currently, Two Brothers
beer is sold in several states.
While the brothers aren’t
opposed to entering new states,
their focus is very much local.
“We want to own our home
market,” says Jim. “Eighty per-
cent of our beer is sold in
Chicago. We want to be the beer
[local] people think of.”
—Stephanie E. Ponder
An ale of two brothers
Challenge: “When we started,
we didn’t have any business experience and had to learn to do
things on our own. Learning how
to be a good and effective manager is something we still strive
Jim and Jason Ebel
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about Two Brothers Brewing.