10 Things A Craft Brewer Can Do To Reach An Ideal State of Mind

Brewing beer for a living is hard, messy and downright laborious.

But why do we do it? It’s an idea we’re striving to achieve. I don’t believe perfection exists, but we can all strive for it.

I became interested in brewing during my college years. I studied Philosophy at Ohio University while finding my identity. I experimented with some things, namely beer. It was Jackie O’s in Athens where I worked as a cook and bugged Brad Clark, the brewmaster there. I learned as much as I could from him, all the while brewing my own batches for my roommates to drink. He would lend me second runnings from the pub and I’d go home with it to create my own beer. I’d count on my friends to help drink the fruits of my labor. I found pride in the final product, but I found more in the act of brewing.

Today, I own and operate Fifty West Brewing Company. I started it a few years ago with the help of friends and family. Not much has changed; we’re still an adventure. We like to come up with new beers all the time. There are many challenges along the way.  Like my fellow craftsman, I’d like to share some of these to those in the craft or looking to get in, so that we can all get a little closer to that ideal state of being.

1. Know Your Role

We make beer, but we also create an experience for people. Beer is a lifestyle brand. Certain people identify with us and we’re looking for them to join in the fun.

2. Be Prepared for a Reality Check

I have to admit I’ve asked myself, “What have I gotten into?” Then I remember that I’ve surrounded myself with good people and that we brew beer for a living, so it’s all good.

3. Prioritize

Quality beer is a mindset. We’ve grown by leaps and bounds and plan to learn even more every day. We strive to make the best beer. Simple as that.

4. Create an Atmosphere

We decided to put a brewpub in an old roadhouse. It has elements of history that tie into the brand. Beer is our product, but we also have a great place to drink it in.

5. Have a Vision

Brew beer was all my tunnel vision could focus on in the beginning. I did that. Now what? I encourage anyone who gets into brewing to have a goal. Goal- with a capital G. Mine is to make some people happy. Not all people, because that’s impossible and unrealistic.

6. Foster Community

I’d be lying if I told you I started this place, and I am the one who made it happen. Yeah, I had an idea that was put into reality, but it’s the crew I work side by side and the guests on the consumption side of this supply chain are the people who really make it happen. Without the community, we’d be nothing.

7. Remember Your Roots

Beer has been with the human race for a while now. It’s not going to go away anytime soon. This means that there are those who have done this before you. More often than not, they’re willing to lend advice and help if you just ask them.

8. Evolve

Part of the fun of brewing is creating something new and innovative. It’s one of our values and we’ll continue to do so for a long time.

9. Look Inwards

It’s easy to get caught up with what everyone else is doing.  Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Capitalize on the strengths and diminish the weaknesses.

10. Have Fun

Most people get in this industry because the product from their labor makes someone happy. Make some time to share in that happiness.

Well, that’s where I am. And that’s who I am. Fifty West has been not only the most daunting task in my life, but also the most rewarding. I have high hopes for the future. I envision it’s filled with more triumphs and tribulations. And beer!


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Owner and brewmaster at Fifty West Brewing Company.

2 Comments

  1. Ben Yagle

    May 22, 2015 at 5:46 AM

    thanks for the great advise. My buddy & I are starting a brewery and it gets scary sometimes. We just found out how much money it’s going to take & its way more then we expected but some how we are going to make it happen. How big did you go when you started?

  2. Mike Steenstra

    May 29, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    Hey Ben Yagle,

    It is super scary staring up at the mountain from the bottom. We are working on our build out right now and it’s crazy how often you have to swipe that piece of plastic. But, a dream is a dream!

    Feel free to e-mail me and we can talk about our problems together. Maybe we need a ‘New Brewery Support Group’.

    – Mike, Kraftify Brewing (NY State)

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