Building a Brewery, Chapter 3: Outside Expertise

We’re pretty excited about our beautiful new branded stemware by @sahm_glass

A photo posted by Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery (@oakhold) on

Growing comfortable with this reality has not been perfectly smooth. As with many things, there’s a substantial learning curve. We have had ups and downs and we just have to accept that uncertainty and change will always be part of the calculus. Working with people who are invested in our vision has given us opportunities to conceptualize and better understand our identity and messaging so that we are able to clearly communicate what Oakhold is all about when it’s time to start selling beer.

This is especially true with our “Creative Authority,” Charles Awad of Patmos Design & Identity. Charles has been with us since before we were Oakhold and has helped facilitate many of the design and marketing conversations that have occurred over the last couple years; addressing everything from design of our logo and brand, where to buy T-shirts, credit card payment processors, web design, effective use of social media, and beer label designs. Some conversations, especially surrounding design, layout, and art have been especially tough for us. Caleb and I both know what we like when we see it, but our creativity lies in brewing beer, not illustration and design. We often have a lot of trouble conceptualizing and articulating what we would like to Charles and to our illustrators. But we’ve been through the process a few times now and we’re learning to have fun with it.

Another area where we felt that outside help was absolutely essential from the very beginning was on the legal side of organizing the brewery.  Not only is the alcoholic beverage industry is highly regulated—from federal to local and every level in between—but starting any kind of business carries with it legal complexities far above Caleb’s or my expertise. Our connections with Fair State Brewing Cooperative have once again paid dividends in this regard, as co-owner Evan Sallee also practices as part of Hop Law, a firm dedicated to helping breweries and distilleries navigate the legal landscape surrounding opening a successful brewery.

We’ve been working with Elliot Ginsburg, a colleague of Evan’s, from the beginning, and the services he has provided to us have been instrumental in getting us this far. When the name we had been using as homebrewers was denied provisional trademark registration due to a recent filing of a similar name, Elliot ensured that we got trademark protection immediately for Oakhold and has guided us in the trademark application process for a number of beer names as well. We are now comfortable enough with the process that simple “word mark” applications are something we can do on our own.

Elliot also has helped Oakhold establish our Operating Agreement, which is the legal framework that defines how our brewery operates, who has what rights and responsibilities and how the owners and investors are protected. Caleb and I felt that this was a key component of establishing ourselves as a business entity in order to protect every party from the many risks that come with owning and operating a business—especially a brewery, where there is a lot of potential for physical harm. Yes, we could easily have started up without as comprehensive a document in place, but if we encounter a situation down the line and that framework were not well thought out, it could lead to messy and expensive efforts to reach a resolution. Again, we are fairly risk adverse people and view this legal help as the proverbial “ounce of prevention” that could save us a significant amount of heartache down the line.

Most of what Caleb and I have accomplished so far with Oakhold has been behind-the-scenes work, setting up the basis for the brewery as a business, but now that is quickly changing. Earlier this month, the foundation was poured, and is the most concrete (pun alert!) evidence that this brewery is truly going to happen. With the help of our friends, collaborators, and professional advisors, we are finally starting to see the physical manifestation of our work, which is incredibly rewarding. Not only with the barn and brewery itself, but we’re also getting closer to revealing the artwork and bottle label designs for our core beer lineup. We’re excited to be able to share that with you all in the coming weeks and months.

Levi Loesch

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