Hog Molly Brewing Reflects on Two Years – Insights for Drinkers and Breweries

Hog Molly Brewing Reflects on Two Years – Insights for Drinkers and Breweries

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Many people outside of beer think that owning a brewery and making beer is a dream job. While most owners and brewers do love their work, this is business isn’t about standing around talking to patrons and drinking beer. Many owners are not brewers, so they need to learn what their brewers know in order to make a business run smoothly, while the opposite is also true, there are brewers that, at first, don’t have the faintest idea how to run a business.

With so many aspects of the industry to deal with and things to learn along the way, breweries need to take time every once in a while to reflect on where they’ve been, where they want to go, and what knowledge and experience they have gathered on their journey – the unexamined beer is not worth brewing, as it was.

Anniversaries are good moments for this introspection, and Hog Molly Brewing just celebrated their second anniversary weekend in Columbus. I asked Martha and Lou Krempel a few questions about their experiences, both good and bad, when opening a brewery and moving forward as they enter their third year of operation. If you’re a beer fan, consider what they’ve been through and let it inform how you think about your favorite breweries. If you’re another brewery, compare and contrast their experiences to your own. If you are brewery in planning – learn the lessons now.

image credit: Hog Molly Brewing

Indiana On Tap: As you think back on your build out and opening, is there anything that would have made your life easier – more advice, less advice, a different kind of design for the brewhouse or taproom? How did you decide on a square footage and did you nail it, underestimate what you needed, or overestimate it. Was size driven by budget?

Hog Molly Brewing: In general we are pretty happy with our building, the split of our square footage between brewery and taproom –  but looking back on it, both were too small.  At the time we were looking for a space that would support us for 3 to 5 years but 2 years into it now we are looking for a larger location. We thought when we chose this building we would have plenty of space, however, we could have used 50% more square footage.  Cost, utility availability, and square footage were the drivers in choosing this location.  Many of our regulars really like this location because it feels like a personal hideaway.

IOT: I asked about the budget. How did you do guessing how much you’d need? Nobody has more money than they need, but how close were you on your estimate?

HMB: Actually the buildout came in very close to what we estimated and operating costs have been slightly more with things like internet and TV, music licensing, utilities etc…

IOT: What was the most surprising thing about owning a brewery?

HGB: Acceptance by the community.  We have had so much support from the locals.  It has been really encouraging.  The social aspect has really been a surprise.  It has been unexpected and fun especially making new friends and reconnecting with old friends.  What a blessing!

Hogstock in 2021 was the first of many music festivals for Hog Molly. image credit: Hog Molly Brewing

IOT: How was your second year different from your first?

HMB: The first year was REALLY strange because of COVID.  Even though that is still a lingering issue the second year has been a little easier.  We’ve seen a lot of growth and changes in our offerings and basic busy-ness which are both fantastic!  We have a lot of hope for the future.  In our second year we have begun thinking of expansion where as in our first year it was basic survival.

IOT: Did you learn specific lessons from operating during Covid that will help you in the future, or was it just so outside the boundaries that you have to look at it as an alien experience?

HMB: Some of both.  We had to modify our business plan for operating with the bounds of COVID, including outdoor events and more innovating way to get people to our brewery.  We are hoping this experience will help us in the long run, as it forced us to think outside of our comfort zone.

IOT: What’s been the hardest issue that you’ve had to deal with?

HMB: COVID!!!  Opening in December of 2019 we knew was chancy but then being hit with the shut down and the strict regulations around COVID were quite the surprise.  We really had to step out of our comfort zone and get creative with marketing and our business plan.  We actually believe we did better than we might have without COVID because of having to be so creative.  It may have been a blessing in disguise.

IOT: If you had it to do over, what would you change?

Hog Molly has done two barrel aged bottle releases, but look for many more. image credit: Hog Molly Brewing

HMB: COVID!!! Haha!  Actually if we could do it all over again knowing what we know now we would have sprung for a bigger building and a bigger tap room and PARKING!!!!!!  We have such a great following that we are bursting at the seams some days.

IOT: What do you see coming for the next 2 years?

HMB: We are going to be doing more canning and special releases with cans.  Possibly more bourbon barrel aging and bottle releases as well.  All of which may be predicated on finding a larger location.

IOT: You wouldn’t leave Columbus though, correct?

HMB:  Not with our main brewery and tap room but opening a second location somewhere else is a possibility in the future, GOD willing.

IOT: What’s the best lesson you’ve learned?

There’s music at Hog Molly nearly every weekend, including Three Beards Strummin’. image credit: Hog Molly Brewing

HMB: We should have done this 20 years ago!!!!!  It’s been a wonderful experience and liberating especially since we have both been able to quit our day jobs!

IOT: You both did leave your day jobs just a few months ago. Was it retirement time, you needed to devote more time to Hog Molly, or did they can you both?

HMB:  Haha! We joked about it being partial retirement but we are working longer hours than we did before we left our jobs.  We consider it a career change and it has been very liberating.

IOT: What’s still kicking your ass?

HMB: TIME!  Even with being here full time, there just never seems to never be enough hours in the day, week, month, year!  We have big aspirations so we just keep going.

IOT: What would you advise a brewery that is getting ready to open? What to do and what to avoid?

HMB:  DO brew what you love and are good at!  DON’T chase the current fad.  There are many breweries doing it much better than you can.  DO create an atmosphere that is inviting to your customers and treat them special, because they are! DON’T be an owner who lives in the background and never shows up in the taproom.

IOT: Rank and comment on what’s more important for success of a brewery – quality of beer, relationships with patrons, marketing, or location? And don’t wimp out and tell people they’re all equally important.

The patio is nice at Hog Molly, they just need about 3x the space. image credit Hog Molly Brewing

HMB: Location is easy…it’s dead last!  If you have quality beer and great relationships with your patrons, then good marketing will get them to your location!

IOT: Tell me something important that I haven’t asked you about.

HMB: We want to be the place in Columbus where people go as a default.  We want to be a destination location where people from distances come to be here!  We want to have music every weekend and have it well attended.  We want great beer, great food, and a great atmosphere yet still keep the IT factor that we have today.  We would like to have a large enough location where we can allow families to have a section.  We think that is a part of business that we are missing. We are only 2 years old but have such HUGE aspirations.

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