Since we were (more or less) properly equipped, we did indeed let the tasting parties commence! We hosted two more parties that went over quite well and brought us very valuable feedback and support. After those two parties, we were faced with a great opportunity. But first, some back-story:
Since October, 2005 (Junior year in high school), I’ve been practicing the ancient trade of glassblowing. I’ve used this skill as a tool to express my entrepreneurial ambitions, hosting shows and selling my work at the high school art gallery.
My glass experience enabled me to get in ground level with a fellow Oregon Duck (who coincidentally graduated from my same high school 4 years ahead of me) that was looking to open a glass shop. I’ve been working with the glass shop for three years now and in the last 12 months I’ve worked to establish us as a glass production company with nationwide sales reach and our own private production facility. When the owner told me one day that he wanted to have a grand opening party on 5/12/12 to celebrate our hard work, my mouth started watering- this was a great opportunity for Viking.
I told Dan the next day that we needed to make as much beer as we possibly could because we were going to be supplying a party full of thirsty glassblowers.
With our newly expanded fermentation capacity, we were able to produce 20 gallons of brew- 10 of a red ale brewed with orange blossom honey and 10 of an IPA brewed with wildflower honey. A standard half barrel keg is 15.5 gallons so we essentially had 1 1/3 kegs available. The bigger craft breweries go through hundreds of thousands of kegs per year, so spending two weeks to make 20 gallons is rather pitiful from a commercial standpoint, but it seemed huge to us! More important than the volume was the fact that we had TWO VARIETIES which could be tasted side by side.
Having two varieties posed a small problem in that we only had one tap in our kegerator. We quickly solved this problem with a chest-top freezer, a temperature control switch and a new two-handled tap setup. We contacted a local woodworker to make us a couple tap handles on his lathe.
With the brew and dispensing device completed, all that was left was to head down to the glass shop and start pouring. Thinking we didn’t have enough to drink, the owner of the glass shop showed up at the party with an additional keg of Ninkasi Total Domination, so the stage was set for a taste-off between the nascent brewery and the established brewery!
As it turns out, our 20 gallons got guzzled down in short order while the Ninkasi almost lasted the evening. Again, on such small scale the real significance of this is tough to determine, but for Dan and I, it was quite clear that we were on to something. The party lasted late into the night and we received awesome feedback from the hundred or so people that were brave enough to give the new guys a shot.
After that night, we began to seriously work on our business plan and strategy. We have since progressed a great deal as we have secured our first round of funding and are within weeks of securing a commercial production facility of our own. This is where the real fun begins!
L to R Addison, Resident Viking Rachel and Dan (first ever Viking Brewing Co. tap handles in foreground).
Addison Stern, Founder and Co-CEO