Interview with Eric Williams, 2015 December 29

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  • Life before opening Mispillion River
    Partial Transcript: "I grew up in Delaware, northern Delaware..." "we'd come over the Delaware border, and we're home..." "I always wanted to open up my own business" "My whole purpose now is to make sure the lights stay on and people have jobs..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about his life before opening up Mispillion River. He says that he loved home brewing and around his fortieth birthday he decided to open up his own brewery. He talks about writing the business plan for the brewery. He talks about struggling to find a hop supplier which he found thanks to a chance meeting at a craft brewer's conference.
    Keywords: Craft Brewers Conference; Delaware; home brewing; hops; Milford, Delaware; Montana: University of Montana; North Carolina; San Diego, California
  • Opening Mispillion River
    Partial Transcript: "We had a couple key people that helped us get our business plan up to speed for the banks..." "I ended up getting about $160,000 in investment..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about writing his business plan and getting seed money. He says that he received about 500,000 dollars but really wanted 750,000 dollars. He talks about how he put his own time and energy in the facility and while funds have been tight, he has never missed his employees payroll.
    Keywords: business plan; capital; finance; loans; money; payroll
  • Changes to Mispillion River's business plan
    Partial Transcript: "I got caught up in the words... I felt like I had to sell something..." "The words are important, but the numbers are really what makes the difference..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about how Mispillion River's business plan changed. He says that the key was to show the bank the worst case scenario instead of the best case scenario. He says that he had to prove to the bank that the business would still be viable even if it was struggling. He talks about how his business model changed over time. He talks about how he wanted to open a brewery so large he would have to quit his day job to run it.
    Keywords: banks; business; business models; business plans; help; loans; planning
  • Buying a brewing system
    Partial Transcript: "I had settled on the fifteen barrel, it was in my price range..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about purchasing his brewing equipment. He describes how a chance meeting at a brewer's conference helped him avoid buying over-priced equipment. He says that he underestimated the amount of equipment he needed to make enough beer to meet demand. He says that his goal for 2016 is to minimize his running costs by optimizing his brewing equipment and acquiring a canning line. He returns to talking about how he finished writing his business plan.
    Keywords: brewing equipment; brewing systems; business plans; canning systems; Craft Brewer's Conference; Crooked Letter Brewing Company; Minnetonka Brewing and Equipment Company; planning; Southern Prohibition Brewing
  • Picking a location for Mispillion River
    Partial Transcript: "I wanted to do it in Milford because I live in Milford, my kids go to school in Milford, we shop in Milford, our friends are in Milford and Milford is still to this day an up and coming town..."
    Synopsis: Williams explains why he chose to locate in Milford, Delaware. He says that he wanted to stay in Milford because he already lived there and wanted to support and help the community. He also explains how demographics and location helped him choose his location due to Milford's location near Delaware 113 and Delaware 1. He talks about how his location can help his company to expand.
    Keywords: beaches; Delaware Route 1; Delaware Route 113; demographics; location; Milford, Delaware; State Line Liquors
  • Mispillion River's branding, design, and early experiences with distributors
    Partial Transcript: "It was important to me to portray a good personality and who we are... and like a young child, we don't know exactly who we are..." "That's the first one that came off the line and it was upside down."
    Synopsis: Williams discusses Mispillion River's branding process. He says it was a struggle, because they knew some parts of their personality but not all of them. He describes how their current ship logo is a callback to Milford Delaware's history as a ship building town centered on the Mispillion River. He also talks about his early relationships with beer distributors. He talks about how someone he knew suggested that he get in touch with a comic book artist to design their individual cans, which he describes a colorful and vibrant. He talks about getting his art and labels through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. He says that he loves his can art, but that he has never met his artist face to face.
    Keywords: Beach Bum Joe; branding; canning; distribution; distributors; Firearms Tobacco and Trade Bureau; identity; logos; Reach Around IPA; regulations; regulators; TTB
  • The relationship between Mispillion River and the surrounding community
    Partial Transcript: "I don't think its much different than a lot of small craft breweries, Milford is a small town, but it's one of the bigger towns in the state..." "Southern Delaware is such a small place in general that everybody knows everybody..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about running a business in a small town. He describes southern Delaware as being a small enough place that everybody knows everybody else. He enjoys the closeness of the community. He talks about small businesses that support him and the businesses that he supports. He says that his Plan B was to open a small store on the Mispillion River and only sell beer directly out of the taproom. He talks about what it was like to get approved for his loan to open Mispillion's doors.
    Keywords: Abbot's Grill; banks; communities; loans; Milford, Delaware; Mispillion River; small towns; The Milford Tavern
  • Getting the loan to open Mispillion River and job difficulties
    Partial Transcript: "So that was on a Friday, on a Wednesday, I lost my job.. I went from feeling incredible to the worst you could feel... I felt like I had blown everything..." "We all have chips on our shoulders..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about getting the loan to open Mispillion River and losing his job right after getting his loan approved. He talks about the circumstances surrounding losing his job. He talks about how losing the job potentially put his loan at risk, but the bank decided to stand by him. He says that while he still has friends at his previous company he is glad to be away from the corporate ladder. He says that his whole staff is concerned with building the best brand that they can.
    Keywords: banks; employment; jobs; loans
  • Staffing at Mispillion River
    Partial Transcript: "I did social media for the first little bit and it was terrible..." "...it's very unorthodox..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about staffing and talent acquisition at Mispillion River. He talks about the risk he took hiring Lauren, his social media manager and Ryan, his head brewer. He talks about the importance of having a staff that knows how to treat people well. He also credits his wife and partners for allowing them to run the business as they see fit. He thinks that their workplace culture attracts and develops talent.
    Keywords: brewers; jobs; social media; staffing; types of beer; workplace culture
  • Mispillion River's business philosophy
    Partial Transcript: "You ever watch the TV show, The Profit?" "People. process, product..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about his drive to succeed and grow his business. He expresses hope that the brewer's he respects also respect him.
    Keywords: costs; Great American Beer Fest; medals; philosophy; staffing; success; talent; World Beer Cup
  • Varieties of beer brewed and sold at Mispillion River
    Partial Transcript: "When I was home brewing I was looking for those special recipes..." "We've also brewed well over 250 different beers..."
    Synopsis: Maloney talks about his personal history as a brewer and home brewer before that. He talks about his personal search for finding the perfect beer recipe as a home brewer. He talks about the variety of beers brewed at Mispillion River. He says that they were trying new varieties all the time on their smaller brewing system. He says that what goes in the can is what's popular, what's going to sell and what tastes and smells good. He talks about how well some of his different types of beer sell.
    Keywords: home brewing; IPA; personal history
  • Choosing cans over bottles
    Partial Transcript: "There's a lot of really good reasons to choose cans over bottles... I liked drinking out of a can..." "The biggest reason for us is because you can't shotgun a bottle...(laughter)"
    Synopsis: Williams talks about choosing cans over bottles. He says that he chose cans because he likes to drink beer out of cans. He also says that current cans are better than bottles. He says that they have a lining that will not impart a metallic taste to the beer, that cans are easier to recycle than bottles and that they can travel easier than bottles due to their size and form factor.
    Keywords: AB InBev; Annheuser-Busch; bottles; cans; drinking beer; Miller-Coors
  • The importance of hops
    Partial Transcript: "At the beginning... the brewer we had was a brew pub brewer, so when he bought hops he bought a variety of hops, which was good because it allowed us to experiment..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about the importance of hops in the brewing process and how hops availability is a bottleneck in the craft brewing industry. He talks about the importance and difficulty of predicting future growth but that it is critical as hops are purchased years in advance. He talks about how hops are traded between brewers.
    Keywords: bottlenecks; contracting; growth; hops
  • The costs of brewing and canning beer
    Partial Transcript: "During the summer this past year and fall we were canning 150 to 200 barrels a month... and we couldn't keep up..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about the costs that come with canning and canning lines. He says that he was one of the first clients with River City Cannery and discusses that company's growth. He says that the costs of hiring out a canning line and their growth means that the most economic choice he can make is to buy his own canning line. He talks about growing his business and selling his inventory and how he seems to hit production capacity in the summer.
    Keywords: brewing equipment; canning line; fermenters; River City Cannery
  • The demographics of the craft beer marketplace
    Partial Transcript: "We brew a wide variety of beer to not just reach men or women but different palettes in general..." "We don't think about men or women when we're designing a beer, we just try to think of a wide variety..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about demographics in the craft brewing industry. He says that in his experience men and women take different approaches to trying and drinking beer. He suggests that men have too much ego in trying new kinds of beer as opposed to going for whatever tastes good. He says men go for what they think they should. He says that when they design a beer they don't keep that idea in mind, and instead create beers for a variety of tastes.
    Keywords: craft beer; demographics; drinking beer; ego; gender; home brewing; men; palettes; sour beer; tasting beer; women
  • Varieties of beer and varieties of wine and the growth and popularity of local food and drink
    Partial Transcript: "We've done beer versus food, beer versus wine pairings - we had a sommelier... and we beat him and we had more options..." "It's meant well for our business.."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about pairing beers with foods. He says that there is more choice in pairing beer with food than wine with food because there are more types of beer than wine. He thinks that the current focus on local and handcrafted food and drink has helped his business and businesses like his grow.
    Keywords: beers; flavors; food; food pairings; wines
  • The future of craft brewing and Mispillion River
    Partial Transcript: "The industry part is more difficult...I think it's fairly saturated, I think the bigger breweries are gonna have a bigger problem, they're doing 20, 30, 40, 50, million dollar expansions and they have to pay for that..." "Smaller breweries... they have to run that like a business first..." "I see us staying here and growing this business, maxing this place out..."
    Synopsis: Williams talks about the future of his business and the future of craft brewing. He thinks that brew pubs might be the local breweries of the future. He says that he would not open a production brewery in today's market. He notes that getting a distributor is difficult. He believes that every town can support a brew pub if the owners run it well. He thinks that his current facility will become a contract brewer for brew pubs after he opens a large scale production brewery on the other side of Milford. He says that he wants to learn more about running a restaurant.
    Keywords: brew pubs; breweries; brewing; brewing equipment; contract brewing; economic bubbles; Milford, Delaware; production brewing; Smyrna, Delaware; the future