Well that sparked some debate! I'm going to apologize now for being a little off topic, but I feel compelled to write a short thesis...
I agree with just about all sides presented, and I appreciate the candid advice (as I'm sure most everyone in here does). But, in the sprit of pragmatism, I feel that it's best to add some color to the previous posts:
Yep, kids are hard -- that's why my wife and I have dedicated ourselves to bulldogs. I doubt that we'll ever know the happiness that goes along with having kids... but that's a CHOICE. Sure there's probably a parallel here (can't tell you for certain because of the aforementioned reasons); but I've never heard as much cynicism about being a good parent as I have about blowing tons of money and making crap beer no one will buy. I would hope that we (as humans) would be more honest with the first, rather than the latter. And if a failed brewery owner looks back with the question 'why didn't anyone tell me it would be so hard?', that's the exact reason why they failed -- lack of 'owning' it and expecting someone else to 'tell me'.
Yep, brewing is hard, blue collar work -- but that's where I come from... I grew up on a farm and have been working since before I was a teenager. Anyone that says farming isn't as hard as brewing has never farmed. I concur that it's highly probable that a number of folks looking to start a brewery haven't worked a string of hard days in a row. But to assume that someone doesn't know what hard work is chaps me.
Yep, small business is hard -- that's why I got two degrees is business (self-financed education, by the way) and haven't stopped there; I began working as a financial consultant to get the best experience and exposure to business as I can. I've clocked plenty of 100+ hour weeks in the last five years consulting for breweries, can manufacturers, and BIG startups (read: hundreds of millions).
As far as Anchor is concerned:
Did I say it was wrong? It just made it easier for him and less risky than it might be for others. And actually I do know quite a bit about it since I grew up a couple blocks away from him.
Denny?! Come on, buddy;D... cooooommmmmmeeeee oonnnnnn........
1) Yes, Fritz had some financial resources -- that's why I specifically stated 'purchased'. I wouldn't say that having financial resources made it easier for him -- it made turning Anchor around POSSIBLE. I don't think that anyone will argue that you'll need a hell of a lot more than financial resources and a good product (see #2 below) to run a successful brewery. Work ethic, smarts, determination, creativity and luck are VITAL components to making it work -- amiright, Keith?
Anchor steam??? Common giys. We are talking about building a brewery ground up not starting with an established brand and family fortune. Doesn't work here. Rich guys are racing yachts not home brewing.
Keith?! Come on, buddy;D... cooooommmmmmeeeee oonnnnnn........
2) An established brand? You're kidding, right?
"By 1965, however, it [Anchor Brewing Company] was doing so poorly that it nearly closed again [yep, twice!]. Anchor's situation continued to deteriorate largely because the current owners lacked the expertise and attention to cleanliness that are required to produce consistent batches of beer for commercial consumption. The brewery gained a deserved reputation for producing sour, bad beer. In 1965... [Fritz] bought the brewery, saving it from closure. Maytag purchased 51 percent of the brewery for several thousand dollars, and later purchased the brewery outright."
I would argue that the road of taking a crap reputation with existing copper/stainless (AND KEEPING THE SAME NAME!!) is infinitely more difficult than building a solid reputation from scratch. The 'family fortune' is minuscule in comparison to what Fritz was able to accomplish. Oh, and did I mention that he started doing it at 28? ;-D
I don't want to cause TOO much of a stir (OK, maybe a little bit ;-D), but I do want to point out that (in general) the posts I've read are put forth from a 'one size fits all' perspective. A number of them are condescending and patronizing -- I've only ever gotten that once from the 30+ brewery owners I've spoken with. And actually, here's a great story that goes really well along with the sentiment of 'putting a different spin on it':
Matt Cutter from Upslope Brewing Company sold me my first 7 BBL fermenters over two years ago. I showed up with a Penske rental truck, a cashier's check in hand, and a half full corny of blueberry wheat that I had thrown in the back of the truck (and had bounced all along the road to Boulder). After loading the fermenters, I asked Matt if he would like to try the beer (at something like 9:00 AM). He smiled and said "Sure", went inside to grab a few glasses and came back. Obviously, the beer poured like s*** after bouncing along in the back of the rental truck, but Matt smiled and sipped it nonetheless. Matt, being inquisitive, asked how I planned to unload the fermenters and if I had a CIP system set up to clean them -- I believe my response was "CIP? I'm open to suggestions..." At that point, I'm sure Matt couldn't believe the new home his (now my) fermenters would be going to. Again he smiled, and began to show me his CIP system....
The industry (and this forum) needs more of Matt and less of what we've been hearing...
PS -- we got the fermenters unloaded and used them that weekend....
... and made crap beer -- but the beer has been constantly improving ever since ;-D Hell, maybe one day we'll actually be able to sell it. Anyone who wants to learn how to unload 7 BBL fermenters without a forklift or pallet jack, feel free to PM me.