Brandon Swan | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Brandon Swan

Background:  

These Guys Brewing Co. launched in August 2015 at the Norwich site that was the original home of Billy Wilson’s Ageing Still. The Franklin Street location has been a tavern since its construction in 1883, outlasting Prohibition.

Brandon Swan, a Bozrah native who lives in Norwich, has been with the brewery since its opening, starting as a bartender then moving up to director of marketing. He majored in neuroscience and behavior as well as Russian studies at Wesleyan University.

These Guys' head brewer, Rebecca “Becka” Alberts, was just the second female commercial brewer in Connecticut when the brewery opened. Alberts co-owns the 27-employee brewery with her husband Ray, and brothers Greg and Scott Demietri of Massachusetts.

The Mistake:

I wouldn’t exactly call it a mistake because it’s also been our strength. It’s our building. People like what we’ve done with it and find it an attractive space. The size of the backroom is the problem and there’s not much room for expansion. On-site sales are fantastic and we have 120 people in our mug club.

We’d love to be able to store more kegs back there but that’s where our brewing equipment is as well as our tiny kitchen. We have a 28-barrel fermenting capacity and we just can’t fit enough kegs back there. Every inch is spoken for.

Based on what we know now and if we were looking for a property today we might choose something different, something with more storage area. Our landlord, Charlie Oat, has been great and we love being here but one day we’re likely to outgrow it.

Beer has such a culture around it. It’s hard not to get excited about it.

The Lesson:

Do things that you like doing.

I’m sure we’ll find a way to solve our space issue. Opportunities come along when you’re doing what you like doing. You’re happy and that sends a signal to people and they want to do business with you.

We do what we do to the best of our abilities. That can uplift a place. People tell us that we’re uplifting Norwich. That’s a great compliment.

Beer has such a culture around it. It’s hard not to get excited about it.

Also, work with people who like what they’re doing. I’ve learned a lot working here. They’re people that have a passion for what they do. Throw beer into the equation and that makes it all better.

Be prepared for your idea to succeed beyond your expectations. We’re having growing pains but they’re good problems to have. We might have to hire another brewer because of the demand for our beer. And our space problem is what it is.

We’re working through the process of having our labels approved so that we can export our beer outside our doors. We have local establishments including restaurants interested in selling our beer. Once we get our labels that’s a whole new market for us. Getting our labels is our biggest goal for 2017.

Another thing we've learned is to drink a beer first before giving it a name. If you name it before you make it then you’re setting up something that might not come to pass. It sounds superstitious but I would never name a beer before drinking it.

I’m interested in a lot of different things and you need that to succeed in marketing. I’m very interested in history. I like the fact that we’re doing justice to the history of the place by keeping it going as a saloon and adding to it by making our own products.

These Guys Brewing is on Twitter at @TheseGuysBrew.

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