It wouldn’t have happened without the pandemic.
“I would have been too busy with events,” Laura Lodge says. “And Candace probably wouldn’t have even had enough bandwidth to look at that opportunity to purchase the URL.”
Lodge is the force behind the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival; the Customized Craft Beer Programs; and the author of Distribution Insight for the Craft Brewer. Candace is Candace L. Moon, also known as The Craft Beer Attorney and author of Brew Law 101: A Legal Guide to Opening a Brewery (California Edition). And the URL is startabrewery.com, a recently launched website offering a wealth of information for those looking to join the brewing industry and those looking to improve their business.
Lodge and Moon go back years. So does the web address, but the pandemic brought them together for this new venture.
“We have all this information,” Lodge explains. “We’ve been presenting about distribution, about trademarks, about you-name-it in the legal and events and distribution world for years. … So, to have one place where people could go to get the answer to all of those questions … just seems like a slam dunk opportunity.”
Startabrewery.com launched in May and already has 50-plus vetted contributors with posts covering everything from ingredients to designing tap handles. There’s an endless string of known unknowns when opening a brewery, and Lodge knows their platform will be of service to anyone and everyone entering the industry. Especially those from underserved communities:
“Somebody who’s aspiring to do this but doesn’t have a local brewery, doesn’t have a mentor, doesn’t have a buddy that they can work with, doesn’t have, you know, an uncle to invest, doesn’t have all of these resources that many [other] brewery owners have had,” she says.
And it doesn’t just stop at information and tips. Lodge sees startabrewery.com as a chance for “chambers of commerce and state organizations to say we have scholarships, we have funds, we have all sorts of opportunity.” An opportunity to raise the bar and help create “better startups, smarter startups, and startups that are really integrating with their community.”
“I think [startabrewery.com] will be a good way to disseminate information about consciously building a culture,” Lodge continues. “In light of this whole #MeToo craft beer reckoning that we’re going through right now, the need for information and resources is very apparent. And so to have a platform that is free and open and available to anybody and everybody, I think is really going to be helpful.”
Lodge plans to have advertisements pay for bandwidth and upkeep, so the content of startabrewery.com remains free. That’s important to Lodge because, as she explains, subscription-based organizations or memberships tend to get backed into a corner by focusing on the topics the members are interested in.
“So, until there was a crisis, there wasn’t a lot of interest in ‘How do I develop the culture in my brewery?’” Lodge says. “For a while, there was kind of a fitness focus, but that’s not a mental health focus. And there’s never really been a focus on liability or focus on just being a better employer.”
Lodge is quick to point out that startabrewery.com is not a substitute for the institutions, courses or certification programs already in existence. Nor is it designed to replace established educational resources.
“This is more of a funnel to get all the people who need that,” Lodge says. “This is all to benefit the industry.”
‘With regards to being inclusive’
Lodge has been in the beer industry for a long time. Long enough to see the “huge strides” women in the industry have made.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere close to 50/50, but I have seen significant improvement in the opportunities offered,” she says. “There’s still a long way to go about treating women equitably, and that’s not necessarily just with opportunities — it’s with the day-to-day culture. And I think that the culture will drive or impede us from being better as an industry, with regards to being inclusive.
“If you have an open, mindful, respectful culture in your brewery, you are more likely to be of interest to someone who might feel less comfortable in a different space,” Lodge continues. “Ultimately, I think it’s being better people, but it also takes work, and it takes money, and it takes time. And that’s three things that brand-new brewers have very little of.
“There’s all this talk about your human resources people and continuing education and team building,” she continues. “None of that happens in a startup — in 99% of the startups — because there’s no money, and there’s no time.”
It’s an aspect that has to change. It starts with acknowledgement but requires action. Lodge remains hopeful that brewers, owners and customers can come together to create a respectful and “positive, inclusive space.”