Margot C. Lester
Itâ€™s an old story that Wall Street still isnâ€™t helping Main Street when it comes to lending to small business. And even though the folks in Washington say theyâ€™re working on that, tangible results are still a ways off.
But the current economic climateâ€™s not dampening the spirits of Erik Lars Myers. The Chapel Hill resident plans to secure $40,000 in start-up funding for his craft beer-making business, Mystery Brewing Co. (mysterybrewingco.com), via a campaign on the micro-financing site Kickstarter.com. To date, heâ€™s raised about 20 percent of the total. Myers will only get the funding if he reaches his goal by July 23. (Myers isnâ€™t alone in thinking nowâ€™s the time for microbreweries. The mid-south region boasted the largest growth in craft beer sales in 2009 and the state is currently home to more than 40 breweries. Three more are slated to launch this year.)
â€œMy preference is for capital investments and slow growth via cash flow,â€ Myers explains. â€œThat means that Iâ€™m not necessarily starting off with my ideal business â€“ for instance, somebody else will be making my beer for me for a short time â€“ but I think that the lack of crushing debt ultimately gives me a better chance to succeed.â€
The decision to use Kickstarter was partly driven by friends wanting to support Myersâ€™ venture but lacking the funds to be â€œrealâ€ investors. Via the site (mysterybrewingco.com/kickstart/), folks can put up as little as $5.
â€œIt sounds ridiculous and clichÃ©, but every little bit helps,â€ he notes. Myers also was drawn by the sense of community the site creates. In return for their contributions, donors will get gifts ranging from stickers and bottle openers to access to beer tastings and video chats. â€œItâ€™s a fantastic opportunity to grow a community around the product â€“ and beer is a social product â€“ while getting help with getting the business off the ground.â€ In addition to funding, Myers is scouring Orange County for space.
â€œIâ€™ve been looking at Hillsborough for a while now, and Iâ€™d ultimately love to have a space there,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s an awesome town with great locavore culture I think a brewery could thrive in. I have visions of collaborations with local farmers and dairies â€“ beer and cheese is a mind-blowing combination â€“ and itâ€™s hard to complain about being situated on the corner of I-40 and I-85 when it comes to distribution.â€
Mystery will feature seasonal, small-batch brews that Myers plans to sell in $8 six-packs and reasonably priced growlers/refills and kegs. The first beer will be a Belgian/French-style farmhouse ale made with unmalted wheat and rye.Â Other candidates for early lineup include an English-style best bitter, a peat-smoky Scottish-style beer and a hefeweissen made with a particularly flowery variety of oolong tea.
â€œIâ€™ve also been planning to buy used barrels from local wineries to do lines of wine-infused beers and sour beers,â€ Myers says. â€œMy wife works part of her time on Documenting the American South at UNC and has run across a few recipes from pre-Prohibition North Carolina plantations. Iâ€™d like to work those into production, as well as explore some European styles that have fallen out of existence, like Lichtenhainer, a German-origin smoked sour beer. Itâ€™s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.â€
The window for investment is open through July 23. For more information on Mystery Brewing Co., or to invest, visit mysterybrewingco.com/kickstart/