Daredevil Brewing Co: The making of a craft brewery – part 2

This is part 2 of our story of how we built Daredevil Brewing Co.  In part one we covered the brand and marketing aspects and here in part 2 we get to cover more of the operational aspects.  Obviously this is not all the gritty details but we wanted to share enough of the important aspects so you can understand how we got here, what equipment we use to actually make beer and some of our inspiration that drives us to work days, nights and weekends to make it all happen.  Why do we do it? For lots of reasons, but mainly we do it because we love craft beer and we love sharing it with people who love it as much as we do.

Making a brewery plan that worked for us

When we were working on our business plan we agreed on several requirements that we needed in order to get Daredevil up and running on our terms.  These included:

  • We needed enough production capacity to brew on weekends so we could maintain our current day jobs while building the new business.
  • We needed a brewery that could scale to >2000 BBLs per year on a weekend brewing schedule, and >5000 bbl per year when we transition to a weekday schedule.
  • Given some of our brewing techniques, if we wanted to make this genuine, we decided to order a new, custom brewery. We could not find what we needed in the used market.
  • We decided to focus on being a production craft brewery with keg sales at start-up.  This simplified some operational issues by eliminating a tasting room and packaging equipment.
  • We decided to leverage a distributor in Indiana instead of self-distributing.  Beer distribution is hard work too. In addition to delivery, distribution involves line cleaning and other customer support. We chose to focus on product quality and innovation and selected a distribution partner that we felt complemented our customer service oriented culture.
  • And we of course had a fictional budget that we somehow actually hit over the 18-month timeframe.
  • Shelbyville! One of the first decisions was, “where to put the brewery?” After evaluating several possibilities, we decided to use a building we owned.  There was work to convert the building to a brewery, but it was much simpler than finding another appropriate space, dealing with zoning, lease negotiations, more legal costs, etc.  Plus, we see ourselves as part of the greater Indianapolis region and where the brewery is was not as critical since we had already decided to be a production brewery without a tasting room at start-up.  Shelbyville is a great community that has been very supportive of our business. We’re very happy to be there!
  • We wanted to source as much, if not all of our equipment from American made or at least American assembled manufacturers. This is quite a challenge given global trends, but it was an important consideration. As a company, how we purchase is a reflection of our corporate values and culture that will be integral to the success of our brewery. With the exception of very specialized items, all of our major purchases were “American Made”.
  • We wanted this to be a fun adventure. Sure it was going to be challenging, sometimes even frustrating, but our mindset from “day 1” was to enjoy the ride.


These decisions and discussions occurred between July and December 2011.  

Funding, Funding, Funding

With our business plan pretty well laid out and quotes for equipment in hand we had a very good idea of what it would take to get the brewery going we had some funding decisions to make. Originally we looked to source a portion of the start-up costs from outside investors. We had interest from several groups, but at this point we had already talked to several banks about business loans that would help smooth out our startup costs. In the end, we decided to go with a self-funded model by the three founders and just make it happen. So, Daredevil Brewing Co is 100% of our sweat + real equity + loan. Within a few days of going down this path we knew we made the right decision.

Our business plan was fully funded in early February 2012 and we quickly began to execute it.

Tell me again when that brewing equipment is going to arrive

While we were doing our business plan, we were also busy working on the actual design of the brewery. This involved evaluating both used and new equipment quotes. Our team has a strong technical background in manufacturing and process engineering. We were very aware that lead times for new brewery equipment were long and getting longer. When we say long we mean 6 to 8 months depending on the vendor and the order. That said, we are talking about lots of stainless steel, custom engineering and a few design elements very special to our brewing needs.  The lag from order to delivery just reflects the growing craft beer industry and the great demand for equipment.

In the end, we selected a 10 BBL brewery designed and built by JV Northwest from Camby, OR. Bid evaluation came down to 3 very competitive bids. As we considered all the pros/cons of the best proposals, the technical merits of each were quite similar. The JV Northwest bid was the only one that met all or our technical, financial, customer support and “Made in America” requirements. JV Northwest has exceeded our expectations and delivered an incredible brewery capable of making the eclectic, aggressively fun beers we enjoy creating.

We placed our order on March 9th, 2012 and got busy working on all the projects we needed to complete before its planned delivery in October.

The brewery in coming, the brewery is coming

After ordering the brewery equipment we did not get to just sit back and hang out for six months.  Given we had an existing building that needed to be turned into a brewery we had work to do and a lot of it; everything from cutting drains in the floor, building a custom walk-in cooler, working out details for all the new utilities and a tremendously long list of other items that seemed to just get longer each day. Some of these projects could be their own blog entries. We’ll post a lot of photos from the build out, because pictures tell the story of the transformation in an amazing way.

Photo 1: The empty and ready Daredevil Brewing Co building


We were a Nano Brewery for 4 whole weeks!

Did we mention we have a lot of engineering and manufacturing experience in regulated industries? We want to briefly, discuss the paperwork involved in becoming a legal brewery. After we familiarized ourselves with the Federal and State application process, we filed a Federal application with our 20 gallon home brew equipment on February 29, 2012. It’s a requirement to have all the brewing equipment at the brewery before filing for with the Feds. While first time application approvals average 3-4 months, filing an amendment to an existing permit takes a few weeks, We hoped to brew small batch beers over the summer while we worked in parallel to retrofit our building for our the 10 BBL Brewery we were expecting in late Sep. Unfortunately, by the time we received Federal and State approval our new brewery had arrived. We scratched the plans of being a nano-brewery, filed amendments for our permits and got busy with the final phase of our build out – installing the brewery.

Wow, shiny new brew house

One of the most anticipated and exciting events of our lives. Really. Not exaggerating one bit.  At this point we had poured heart and soul, time, effort and our own money into the brewery project for over a year.  Seeing the shiny stainless steel equipment show up on two semi-trailers was just incredible.  The brewery arrived in mid-October.

Photo 2: The first semi-truck with fermentation tanks arrives

We had a JV Northwest installer on site for 5 days to help us unload the brew house and

fermentation tanks. After that, the real work began. We still had a lot of systems to install: glycol coolant, water treatment, electrical, plumbing, keg cleaning and filling, etc. For the most part this all went smoothly. The one exception was the glycol coolant system, which set us back a few weeks.  For those not familiar with what a glycol coolant system is let’s just say it is what is used to control the temperature of the beer while it ferments, which is very important in delivering the quality and flavor profile we expect in each of our beers. Anyone that’s done a home plumbing project knows the odds of getting all the parts needed on a complex project are slim to none with one trip to the hardware store. Our parts issue was complicated by the fact we had to get some missing parts shipped from Germany where they are made. One of the few product choices we made where we selected a non-American made part was to use Georg Fischer pre-insulated glycol pipe and fittings. The parts are glued together and after a 48 hour wait for the glue to cure a pressure test is conducted while everyone prays for no leaks.  As it turned out, we needed two tries at the pressure test due to a coupling that had a pin-hole leak. Of course the coupling we needed to replace was out of stock. Manufacturing and shipping delays cost us a few weeks before we could make the repair, but looking back we feel pretty lucky that this was our only major start-up hurdle. There wasn’t anything we could do about it, so we put that time to good use. We did some test runs and, started to get comfortable with the new equipment and began optimizing the work flows we previously could only discuss in theory. Now that we had the brewery installed and operational, we were thrilled that things working as well or better than all of our plans.

Photo 3: Brewhouse and fermentation tanks setup


Batch #1, Batch #2, and Batch #3

We brewed batch #1 on December 8, 2012. In a future blog story we’ll share the experiences from our first month operating Daredevil Brewing Co and the pure joy of filling the first keg of Lift Off IPA.

Photo #4: The first pint of Lift Off IPA

It takes a village to build a craft brewery

While the three of us worked long hours at nights and weekends to make Daredevil Brewing Co what it is today we could not have done it alone. 

We were lucky to work with many great tradesmen and suppliers in Shelby County, greater Indianapolis and other locations.

  1. We worked with many professionals and companies on everything from plumbing, electrical, general construction, concrete, floor drains, floor coatings, lumber and many other items.  These included: Doug Rodebeck, Heath, Keith Rodebeck, Sam Kuhn, Brad Kuhn, Kevin, Jason, Travis Atwood, Shawn, Sam Booth, Mike Dougherty, Ross Montgomery, Phil Loen, and Juan Lucas.
  2. We had amazing support from the nice folks at Carter Lumber who placed many special orders for the unique materials we needed to build a brewery.
  3. The Shelby County Plan Commission was great to work with and understanding when we had adjustments to our business plans.
  4. JV Northwest who has been a great supplier for our brewery and already hard at work on our next phase of growth planned for middle of 2013.
  5. And most of all our families for their constant support and letting us follow our dreams!

Daredevil Brewing Co: The making of a craft brewery – part 1

It is pretty common for people to blog away as they are building out their craft brewery.   Part of this is to share the day to day struggles of building a real live business and part is to share the joy of overcoming those struggles.    We decided to focus on making “it” happen, because sometimes going public early creates unneeded extra pressure and expectations too early in the build out process.   We have always planned to tell our story, because it was mostly  fun and we knew from experience we would get lots of questions about the process of bringing Daredevil to life. We want to share what we have been doing for the last 18 months and will share the story in two parts.

In part 1, today,  we will focus on the making of the brand and in part 2, next week, we will focus on the hands on process of designing and building the brewery and all the aspects of launching that we are just now completing.

This might be a flyer, but do you know a lawyer in Australia

When you are out in the planning stage of a craft brewery the first or second question everyone asks is “what is the name?”   At some point the answer is “not sure”, or you are trying out ideas or you have the final one and are proudly answering that question almost before it is asked.   

Daredevil Brewing Co was not our first name but was an idea that came up after going through several rounds of thinking about what our vision of the brewery was and looking for a name that complemented that inspiration.    

The first time we all said the name we thought that it really embodied the vision of our craft brewery. The definition of daredevil is “recklessly daring”. We would not call ourselves reckless in the traditional sense, but this definition fits us in that we are not afraid of a good challenge and are willing to take educated risks and bets.

Now, when Daredevil came up on our name board the second reaction we had was “there is no way that is going to be available in the way we want”.   The reason was that besides looking for a name that complemented our vision we also wanted something that we could own the trademark on as we built out the brand.    A trademark search on “Daredevil” led us to learn that the mark was owned by an out of business Australian wine company.  In the United States, trademarks are not allowed to overlap between wine, beer and spirits so this was mixed news.  Good that no one had an active trademark in use across the wine, beer and spirits category, but the winery had been out of business for several years, and they provided a legal hurdle in our path if we wanted to have the ability to trademark the brewery name.

Here is where six degrees of separation comes into play as it happened that one of us knew a person who runs an Australian company that connected us with a legal firm in Sydney who connected us with an awesome lawyer who was willing to work with us to find and chase down the owner of the trademark.   After a few months of back and forth, we were the proud owners of the worldwide trademark that we have used as the legal basis for building out the Daredevil Brewing Co brand.   It seems like yesterday, but we actually completed the trademark acquisition in December 2011 and after five months of negotiations and a little nail biting.   And over the last twelve months we have extended our legal trademarks so that we can make sure there is only going to be one Daredevil Brewing. 

The branding of Daredevil Brewing Co

Anyone that has done company branding, naming and marketing knows it looks way easier than it actually is.  This is especially the case if the idea is to be consistent across a portfolio of products like a craft beer lineup.   

We were lucky that among the backgrounds of our team we had some experience in this area.   Still, branding something like a craft brewery that we all were putting a lot of sweat equity into is very personal process.   At first we had some ideas put together by a local designer but it became clear that if we wanted something more unique at the company and beer lineup scale we were going to have to find an agency with some background in the craft beer industry who could work with us and be more creative.

Our search brought us to Cultivator, a full service agency based in Denver, Colorado that has worked with New Belgium and several other breweries mostly located in Colorado.    Just on visiting their office it was clear this was a company that loved craft beer.   Their office proudly displays prior work for packaging and advertising done for several clients and they had a fully stocked fridge of craft beer on hand.

We traveled to Denver for an on site kick off meeting that included sampling about a dozen different beers from IPAs, Belgians, Stouts and Lambics so the agency could have an appreciation of not just our plans but our beers and the vision for the brewery.    It was a great bonding experience and one that went a long way in our knowing they understood a lot better what we were all about when it came to plans for the company.

The process for getting to our brand assets was filled with ups and downs as we learned a lot about ourselves, personal preferences and that colors, imagery and fonts can be really complicated. We love that where we ended up embodies the vision and spirit of Daredevil Brewing Co.    From the helmet logo, to our mission statement, to the Lift Off IPA™ label artwork our branding compliments our vision of a craft brewery that will make beers that are fun to drink, at times push the norms of style guidelines and are perfect to share at any given moment or occasion

The timeline of the branding process ran from March to July 2012 for the helmet logo and text marks, from July to September for the Lift Off IPA artwork, and then glassware, coasters, and t-shirts were all done from August to October. Obviously there will be additional work as we add more beers to our lineup in the coming months and continue to grow the visualization of Daredevil Brewing Co.    If you want to see examples of our branding check our our Facebook page. 

Up next in part 2 we will cover the ins and outs of designing and purchasing our brewery equipment, how we converted our site into a brewery and the startup process from testing out the system to our first shipment of Lift Off IPA this week.