Monday, July 27, 2015

Home to Pro, a Q+A series: Shaun Kalis of Ruse Brewing. Portland, Ore

Brewer: Shaun Kalis
Brewery Name: Ruse Brewing
Portland, Ore

Q - How did you get into home brewing?
A - I got into homebrewing when my college roommate needed help bottling some of his homebrew, I thought it was so cool and interesting. The whole act of creation and having a start to finish of something seemed so inspiring. I have an art and music background and it fit perfectly as the puzzle piece of my imagination.

Q - How did you get initially get into the industry?
A - I lucked out and my girlfriend happened to be working at a pub that needed an assistant brewer. She recommended me to the head brewer (who was also from Michigan like myself). We met and really hit it off. Not only was I a homebrewer (and not a very knowledgeable one), but I also worked in sales at a great craft beer bottle shop in the Detroit suburbs. These experiences helped me get my foot in the door. I basically learned to become a brewer on a commercial scale without much homebrewing or any experience. I was only 22 when I became a brewer too.

Q - When did you know you wanted to go pro?
A - It took me a couple of years of learning about styles and homebrewing before I wanted to go Pro. I also studied Entrepreneurship at Central Michigan University where I did my final business plan on a brewing company operation. It all came full circle when my girlfriend suggested we move to Portland, Oregon...the craft beer capital. Then I knew I had to pursue this as a dream and career. 
Q - If you were to outline a simple 5 step process from transitioning from hobby to professional, what would it be?
  1.  Look into schooling. I studied Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering at the American Brewers Guild. (A school taught by all brewers) The knowledge you will gain will be unreal. I learned so much, even after 5years of already having the commercial experience.
  2. Ask as many questions as possible. The brewing industry is by far one of the coolest, most brewers are excited and willing to help. Emails work great for questions.
  3.  Read as many books as possible. There are some great books out there, especially the brewers publication books!
  4.  Train your palette. Sensory analysis is one of the most important aspects of our industry. If it doesn’t taste or smell good, then figure out the why.
  5. Yeast is your best friend. My company is a very yeast forward brewery focusing on beers such as Saisons and mix culture barrel aged beers. Make sure your yeast is healthy and you are pitching at accurate rates at ALL times.

Q - What was an obstacle that you had to overcome to open your brewery or get licensed?
A - Getting money. Banks have tightened up money big time and SBA loans for a high risk startup is not an option. Private money can be hard to obtain because of the huge amount of startup capital needed. I still am facing this challenge. Although I currently don’t have my own facility open, I am brewing my brand out of another brewery get started. Unlike contract brewing where you hand over your recipe and another manufacturer produces it, I just rent the brewery space to use when I need. I store my kegs, raw materials there just like the brewery is mine. This was the best option for me until I gain the adequate capital I need to open my own facility or I am no longer considered a high-risk startup. 

Q - Any weird state or government laws you had to battle?
A - The TTB wait times have been less than ideal but what are you going to do. 

Q - What do you know now that you wished you had known before starting the process? 
A - What I have learned along the way is to have patience. Opening a successful business takes all necessary planning and steps to get ready. Don’t rush it. Be humble, ask questions.

What did your start up cost? How did you fund it?

A - Startup cost-$552,000. (200k for buildout, don’t compromise in this area because it will cost more than you think) Still working on all the funding. I had 50k of my own to get my Alternating Proprietorship, I also have a lead on a family friend investor back in Michigan. I would ideally like to be privately funded to avoid any bank relationships which I don’t like so much. 

Q - What size barrel system is your brew house? How much beer are you planning to produce annually? 
A - It's a 10bbl system, with 10’s 20’s & 30bbl FV’s. I plan to do 1500bbls by year 3 and no more than 3000 at my facility. I want to stay small.

Q - How did you come up with your brewery name?  
A - I had it on a list of potential names and a few buddies and I were sitting around brainstorming, they really liked the name. (I actually thought it when I was listening to "My Friend," by Phish) I'm going to kinda tie ruse's into my branding...just like the penrose triangle, mazes, etc. I have always liked things that make you think when you look at them. I plan on my tasting room to have all sorts of visual arts for customers to enjoy and ponder. I am also a huge fan of MC Escher, I always have thought..what would his brewery tasting room look like...hmmm, this is when the whole Ruse Brewing lightbulb went off. 

Q - What differentiates your beer from other craft breweries? What's your style?
A -
How am I going to make myself different. Not a huge fan of this question because we are not reinventing the wheel. But I want to incorporate my love for music, art, and craft beer by having a music venue/art galley brewery in which shows are paired with beer releases. I like the fruit and floral of Oregon in some many ways and hope to highlight these in my beers. Supporting other business and my local community is must of my company. It is pretty amazing I can get all my ingredients for Ruse Brewing within a 60 mile radius. 

Q - If a consumer can take away one beer or a vibe about your beer company, what would you want them to remember about you and why? 
A - If a customer wanted to take one vibe away from my company it would be to expect many different beers and less year rounds. I plan on having 4 year rounds and the rest will most likely be one offs. Also, is that we stay true to what we believe inspired and community and culture driven. The romance for us is to have less of a predictable road. 

Q - Where do you see your start-up brewery headed in 5 years?  
A - My brewery by year 5 will be packaging much more..standard and sour released stuff will be available to a wider consumer base..WA, ID, CA, CO. I hope to open a second location maybe..Just a tasting room. 
As for the industry, you will start seeing closures. There is no more room for mediocre beer. Set the bar high for yourself and your company…you have one chance in this industry. If the beer is not good, cut your losses. I have definitely dumped barrels in the past that didn’t turn out the way I wanted them. 

Q - If you could give one piece of advice to a home brewer that wants to go pro, what would it be?
A - You never stop learning, be humble and ask tons of questions and learn from each other. Share things that have worked for you too.

Nancy Brew wants to know! 

- Are you in the process of transitioning from home brewer to a pro brewer? If so, I'd love to hear from you!

- Are you curious about transitioning from home brewer to pro? Did you find this Q/A helpful? 

 - What other questions do you want to know about going Pro?

1 comment:

  1. Great interview!It is interesting to read it to the bottom.