22 Jun Bad Dad Brewery Builds A Big Sand Box We Can All Play In
The pandemic shutdown caused many breweries to circle the wagons and hunker down to survive. They instituted new programs to try to stave off lost revenue, but they weren’t looking forward. Very few breweries took the bull by the horns and plowed ahead with plans in progress at the time or even expanded their goals despite the shutdown.
Seeing difficulty as opportunity is an attribute. Growth is possible during adversity with the right plan and a solid foundation to build it on. But this is precisely how Bad Dad Brewing Company in Fairmount is building a destination location brewery and restaurant as the state reopens.
The story of Bad Dad Brewery starts commonly enough – a home brewer with good beer has an opportunity to sell beer professionally. Barry Howard had good home brew and a restaurant (Grains & Grill); what he needed was a place for people to get a drink while they waited for a table. How about opening a brewery on site?
So they did. They were a true nano/micro-brewery, with a 5 bbl brewhouse and enough space to make a good amount of beer for local consumption. This was fine for a while in the early days, but then the beer started selling more and more. Maybe it was the name of the brewery, maybe it was the names of the beers (all named for dad sayings), but most likely it was the quality of the beer.
They sailed on with a good trailing wind for a couple of years, and then things started to build. They decided that having food in the brewery would be a good idea – and they had just the person for it. Brother Derek Howard was willing to come home form NYC to put in an Italian stone pizza over and star making pizzas for Bad Dad.
Yes, a pizza oven could add to their sales – if the pizza was good. The thing was/is, the pizza is stunningly good. People started coming for the beer and discovered the pizza, People who came for the pizza discovered the beer. It was a positive concatenation. Things just kept building.
In late 2019 and early 2020, things took another jump. Visit Indiana voted Bad Dad as the best brewery in Indiana, which got them a good bump in beer business, and then Pizza Today (the largest pizza magazine in the US) profiled them as a place to stop…… And then the pandemic hit.
The shutdown was a hit to Bad Dad’s sales, no doubt, just like it was to almost everyone’s. But Bad Dad had already been thinking about the future. They had hired Pivot Marketing a few months earlier to help them with a rebrand, labels and PR – and they worked magic for Bad Dad. The labels were gold – black based, yet they still jumped off the store shelves.
Consider their All Together beer label (a beer recipe donated by Other Half Brewing to support small breweries during the pandemic shutdown). It’s one of the few beer you buy just to read the label – this one has a bunch of different mask solutions for the shutdown…. They’re funny, believe me.
This addition to the Bad Dad brand just added more to their workday. Soon, they had more accounts than they had beer. Patrick was out selling every day as was Derek and his pizza dough, yet even more people wanted Bad Dad. In order to have enough of their core four beers (Socks and Sandals Blonde, Tapestry of Obscenity IPA, You’re Ground Mister Coffee Stout, and King of the Castle Scottish Ale) they were going to need a bigger brewhouse. In this case, that also meant more room in the brewery to house that brewhouse.
Bad Dad Barry pulled the trigger last November on a new addition to the footprint and a 15 bbl brewhouse with four 30 bbl. That meant that during the shutdown, they were building a huge addition (with floor to ceiling windows) to make room for their new BrewFab LLC system. They’re putting in a grain mill and an auger to carry the cracked grain up to the mash tun (perhaps a grain silo to follow), and they left room for the 5-10 bbl fermentors from the original brewhouse to be used for small batch beers.
Then Patrick, Barry, and Derek had to deal with the next challenge. If Patrick was going to go out to sell more beer to accounts, they were going to need a brewer to take over – a strong brewer that could make the Bad Dad beers on the larger system, but also could make new beers that expanded the Bad Dad world. They found that brewer in Jack Sramek – furloughed from Tin Man Kokomo Brewing.
He started working part time during the shutdown, and then came on full time as the state started to re-open. Jack can’t quite wipe the smile off his face when he considers the possibility of having a set schedule to brewing big batches of the Bad Dad core four beers that sell everywhere, but still have time and capacity to make some very innovative beers of his own.
You want an example – the Belgian Quad with plums called Plummber’s Crack that they tapped for Father’s Day. Oh my, is that beer good. These are the beers we can look forward to when we visit the taproom – and visit the taproom you will have to get the weirdest of the Bad Dad Beers.
This then brings us to the shutdown proper and what it meant for food and beer. Beer sales were slightly affected, yet they were still delivering beer a s fast as they could to accounts from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis, but the food sales went through the roof. Pizza sales skyrocketed, so much so that they had to buy a second pizza oven. They would consistently run out of pizza dough and have to cut off sales – you get the idea that this is popular pizza.
And that brings us up to date. Bad Dad is a brewery that is expanding to meet demand and is expanding their food production to meet demand. Yet that isn’t all Bad Dad has planned. The goal is to make Bad Dad a destination brewery; a place people come from far and wide to experience, for both the food and the beer. As far as things are going to proceed in the near future – here’s the plan:
1) Finish the big brewhouse that will be easily accessed by patrons via doors and windows and opens right out on to the beer garden.
2) The expanded beer garden will be expanding even more, and greened up significantly.
3) Move original fermentation tanks to the new brewhouse for small batch beers, and use that room to expand the taproom, including a much larger bar and a stage.
4) Rearrange the kitchen for more seating and to expand the menu.
5) Start their Brewer’s Dinners in the new brewhouse with tours and tastings of unreleased beers straight from the tanks.
6) Basically, get the word out that this a place to visit. They could go big on distribution, but they really want to be a destination.