By Nick Corona – Five Suits Brewing
Here at Five Suits in Vista, after we worked through the purchase of Barrel Harbor, we had to switch up our business model on the fly to adjust for the new norm and the uncertain future. After planning for years, it’s been quite interesting to swing our focus to meet up with this dramatic change in the market. Things that were important suddenly are not, and vice versa. There are so many unknowns, so all we can do is try to speculate where we’ll be in a few months. But as we have seen on a daily basis, mandates and closure dates seem to be a roll of the dice.
We had originally projected a June 1 grand opening for the tasting room. While that no longer looks like a possibility, we’ve been working feverishly to be prepared to sell packaged beer for pickup/delivery by that date.
It’s difficult to know how much beer to brew at this point since we’re not only starting up, but also dealing with COVID-19 and closures of bars and restaurants. It looks like we’ll also have a lot of time on our hands, so we’re doing as much as we can in the tasting room as well.
The first commercial batch was a session IPA brewed to raise funds for the Pink Boots Society. That was followed by a simple SMASH (Single Malt And Single Hop) beer, as I wanted to get a feel for the system and verify numbers. We used 100% Golden Promise malt and Mandarina Bavaria hops, a couple of my favorites.
I had already planned on doing a coconut/vanilla stout back in February, but had to put it on hold due to all this craziness, so I made that our next batch. With longevity and shelf life in mind due to the uncertainty of demand, we just brewed a Vienna lager that can hold for a while. The next few batches will be a hazy, a West Coast-style IPA, and finally, my Hefeweizen.
While we were looking to hold off on packaging for a bit, we really didn’t have a choice. A canning line would be great, but we aren’t sure how long this will last, so we just opted for a seamer and some crowlers. Those were ordered a month ago, so hopefully they get in soon. Everything packaging related seems backed up, which is easy to understand, as not only breweries are trying to sell packaged beer, but restaurants as well. We even grabbed some glass growlers when some were available.
As for other adjustments, we’re working to ensure our curbside pickup, fills, and limited delivery options will be set to go when we start sales. But our main focus right now is the safety of our product through packaging all the way up to delivery. A lot of people are concerned for their safety and we want to take every step necessary to rest those concerns.
Looking even further out to opening our tasting room, we’re redesigning our layout to accommodate more spacing between guests, ensuring we have the necessary safety equipment and procedures in place to deliver a sanitary and clean room, while also preparing for the potential of more stringent guidelines, should the state require them. We’ve ordered a couple temporal thermometers, so we can take readings if it becomes necessary.
It’s been such an unbelievable experience in dealing with this, but we’re just getting started. I have reached out to a few friends in the industry and just tried to offer my encouragement to them as they already have a couple months of this under their belt. Thankfully some of them seem to be getting help by way of deferments or loans. With a new business, none of the stimulus packages are available to us, so we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that we aren’t going to see many more months of this.
One of the things that’s continued to surprise me throughout this ordeal is the resolve and compassion that I still see from so many industry folk who have the deck stacked against them right now. In a time where it would be reasonable to assume that spirits are down and focus is on surviving, I’ve personally benefited from their seemingly endless generosity. It’s incredibly humbling and a huge part of why I decided that I wanted to be a part of this industry.
All in all, it’s still been exciting and my passion for delivering some outstanding beer has carried me through. Every once in a while, you stop, think about all that’s going on and you get a very surreal feeling. Any time that happens, I think about two things: family and beer. Both of those things bring a big smile to my face and I get back on the grind.
One thing’s certain in all of this: we’re all going to have one hell of a story to tell our grandchildren. As a business starting up in the midst of this, I just keep thinking about the potential for an incredible startup tale.
Nick Corona is a highly decorated Homebrewer with hundreds of awards won at the local, state, & national levels. Nick’s titles include National Homebrewer of the year, National MCAB Grandmaster, CA State Homebrewer of the Year, & San Diego Homebrewer of the Year. Keep up with the progress of Five Suits Brewing on the website, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook.