Are breweries really the new startups? With well over 4,000 breweries now open in the U.S. and acquisitions by big beer happening regularly, perhaps. But decades ago, well before craft beer was cool (and potentially enormously lucrative), a daring group of homebrewers and beer-lovers started a revolution that changed the world of beer as we know it.
Fortunately, some of these entrepreneurs lived to tell their tales—and that’s resulted in some amazing business knowledge. If you’ve been on the lookout for your next business book, we’ve compiled a list below of some of the best business strategy and entrepreneurship-oriented books from brewery founders.
Regardless of whether or not you’re starting a brewery, a tech company, or you're just interested in beer, these founders share some timeless business knowledge.
By Sam Calagione
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s founder Sam Calagione has long been an advocate for the craft beer movement. But, like many reading this post, he started out brewing beer with nothing more than a homebrewing kit. His book, Brewing Up a Business, tells the story of turning that hobby into a 175,000 barrel a year company. It has received praise for being extensive in describing the challenges Calagione faced while pursuing his dreams as well as in the strategies he shares for rapidly growing the business.
The book has recently been updated to discuss “innovative marketing ideas, including how social media has become an integral part of the business model and how other small businesses can use it to catch up with bigger competitors.”
By Ken Grossman
Much like the stories of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, where they got into their uncommon trade at a young age and took to it, Beyond the Pale explores the history of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company founder, Ken Grossman. He shares the story—the trials and tribulations—of learning to brew as a teenager through his transformation into a skilled brewer and ultimately growing an empire that produces almost a million barrels of beer annually.
By Steve Hindy & Tom Porter
Revered by many as an exceptional business book, Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery, offers advice for anyone interested in starting a brewery, told through the lens of a memoir by Brooklyn Brewery founders, Steve Hindy and Tom Porter.
The chapter names say it all:
- Creating that all-important first business plan
- Getting financing and/or recruiting investors
- Using guerilla marketing, publicity, and community involvement to attract attention
- Keeping employees educated and motivated
- Partnering on events and networking for opportunities
- Keeping your cool when the Mafia comes calling
- Hiring "virgins"—why veteran salespeople can have problems in start-ups
- Managing people, finances, expectations, and growth
- Surviving a vociferous attack in Las Vegas when the odds against you are 8-to-1
The book’s forward was written by former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to boot.
By Jim Koch
The Boston Beer Company and its founder Jim Koch are crucial to the history of the American craft beer revolution.
Quench Your Own Thirst is a business book and memoir that inspects Koch’s unique perspective on growing the Boston Beer Company from a startup brewery (where he used his great-great grandfather’s recipe) in 1984 to a publicly traded company. Well-written and insightful, Koch intertwines anecdotes from the past three decades with sound advice on sales, marketing, hiring, and company culture.
By Tony Magee
In less than twenty years, Lagunitas grew from a tiny startup to one of the largest and fastest-growing breweries in the United States.
Described as “A must read for aspiring brewers, beer aficionados and entrepreneurs alike” by Rogue Ales’ President Brett Joyce, So You Want to Start a Brewery? is a memoir and business success story told by Lagunitas founder Tony Magee. Along with the quirky writing and stories (like when Lagunitas briefly got shutdown as a result of an undercover weed bust), this book is perhaps the most unique and humorous on this list.
By James Watt
There are some people who carefully plan out their business, and then there are others who just jump right in. The latter was the case for BrewDog's co-founders James Watt and Martin Dickie.
With mantras throughout the book like "CASH IS MOTHERF*CKING KING" and "GET PEOPLE TO HATE YOU," Business for Punks makes for a slightly alternative business read. This description is spot on: "Business for Punks rethinks conventional business wisdom so you can go beyond the norm. It’s an anarchic, indispensable guide to thriving on your own terms."
Like beer? Check out our friend's over at Keg's & Code's new Kickstarter, "Brewer's Passport - Craft Beer & Travel Pocket Journal." Funding period closes on August 23.