(Editor’s note: This post was updated at 10:20 a.m. on July 14.)
Here’s a cool biz story for a hot summer week, a three-fer for Insider Louisville readers: beer, business and social media.
Jeremy Rathfon, 28, is trying to raise $30,000 to open LouBrew, a “nano-brewery,” the industry term for a beer operation with the potential maximum output of a few hundred pint glasses per day.
That’s four barrels or less, or eight kegs.
And, by the way, that’s Doctor Rathfon to you.
The aspiring brewer is a research engineer at the University of Louisville’s ElectroOptics Research Institute and Nanotechnology Center. We’re not making this up.
As you might expect of a guy with advanced scientific degrees, Rathfon appreciates the potential of experimentation and new technology.
So he’s using a social media/crowd source site, Kickstarter.com to try and raise the capital for LouBrew, the new-wave brewery and tap room he envisions opening somewhere in the Germantown/Schnitzelberg neighborhood where he lives.
How serious is he? “I want this to be my full-time gig,” Rathfon said.
First, the beer:
As you’d expect from a scientist, Rathfon describes himself as an experimenter, which is how he got into brewing.
His background in organic and polymer chemistry “is actually kind of similar to experimenting with brewing beer,” Rathfon said.
He envisions LouBrew as using high quality ingredients for standard types of beers such as pale, amber and browns ales and wheat beers. But as he pushes the limits, he wants to experiment with ingredients such as spices and high alcohol content, up to 14 percent.
His pub/taproom will be a neighborhood affair where neighbors can drop in, have a beer and eat while watching the brewing process.
Now, the business:
Even pouring a few hundred glasses per day, the high-end, boutique beer business can be very profitable. “A few business-savvy people have approached me, but they want to make it this huge brand,” Rathfon said.
His vision is a nano-brewery making maybe 130 barrels annually. A barrel equals 31 gallons, which will be distributed in 45-pint “pony kegs.” Rathfon
wants to build loyalty by “keeping it a small local thing” while distributing to a few local restaurants.
Finally, how he pays for all this:
Rathfon may be a highly trained researcher, but he ain’t rollin’ in dough.
But he found out Pipeworks Brewing Company in Chicago raised $40,000t through Kiskstarter, an all-or-nothing Internet funding platform for artists, filmmakers, musicians and, well, pretty much anyone with a dream.
If projects don’t receive the target raise, no money changes hands. Kickstarter keeps about four percent of the amount raised of projects that get funding, according to Rathfon.
In the Kickstarter model, contributors don’t own equity in the company. They give basically out of altruism, generosity, to get premiums such as brewery stuff and T-shirts and the joy of helping create a community asset that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
“It’s a grassroots way to come up with the money to start a hangout everyone can enjoy,” Rathfon said. “(Contributors) get a sense of community pride and T-shirts and stuff.”
So far, LouBrew’s biggest donation category is $100, for which “investors” get a large mug with their name, exclusive access to first releases and private parties.
Or , you can chip in a buck and get your named etched onto a big plaque recognizing donors. A $25 donation gets donors a private tasting and brewery tour with sampler rack.
“And you can come in and ask me as many questions as you possibly want,” Rathfon said.
Rathfon set his goal as $30,000 in 48 days, and that was about 30 days ago.
His parents came up with a couple of grand and Rathfon has a few hundred bucks.
So, at the moment, LouBrew has raised about $5,000.
Caroline Knopp, who owns Simply PR, as well as a number of bloggers and other brewers are volunteering to spread the word about the LouBrew capital raise.
In his model, Rathfon said, everyone is a winner.
“Basically,” he said, “I’m doing this for them to have a place to drink beer.”
LouBrew fundraiser coming up:
BoomBozz Taphouse Highlands at Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway will host a LouBrew fundraiser Thrusday, July 21, The event is scheduled for 5 p.m. to closing. Any pour of a local beer including BBC, NABC BoomBrew and Fall City will result in $1 going to Rathfon’s fundraising effort.