2021 III: Random Thoughts

(This is the final part of a series that begins with 2021…Part The First and continues with 2021…The Quickening.)

A few thoughts, learnings and memories of 2021, in no particular order:

  • About mid-way through the year, I noticed that my “resting bitchy-face” had turned to “resting smiley-face”. Apparently, brewery-ing suits me. πŸ™‚
    • Probably related: I love all the little chit-chat interactions I get to have with the neighbors, and I don’t particularly mind doing the required work so, all in all, it’s “a good fit”.
    • It probably doesn’t hurt that all the neighbors & other visitors have been truly amazing! ❀
  • Building a brewery shares many aspects with Software Development; managing the two kinds of projects has a lot of overlapping tasks/skills.
    • Turns out I have a lot more experience working managing employees than independent contractors and, while there is quite a bit of overlap, there are important differences.
    • (Overall, they were mostly-awesome, and I learned a lot, so double-plus good.)
  • When we talk about the delays between lease & opening, a lot of people assume The City bureaucracy held things up. That is not the case.
    • In fact, the city was amazingly supportive from the very beginning. It’s only a tiny exaggeration to say that I repeatedly got responses from them of the form “brewery guy? Yes, go! Here’s my signature; go, go go!”
    • They were also all amazingly helpful guiding me through the “you need to talk to <this person> and <do this action/form/whatever>” stuff that I had to learn.
    • I want to make sure I don’t gloss over this: I cannot thank everyone at City of Saratoga enough for their help and guidance. Truly amazing folk, each and every one of them!
    • Even the County — who had a lot more “just as the pandemic was starting to open up a bit” flood in the month or 2 before opening — was quite helpful and friendly.
    • ABC, TTB and all the rest were similarly great.
    • Honestly, it all just boiled down to “COVID stuff”.
      • We lost some people early on to “leaving California” (because: cost of living); supplies were difficult to obtain — plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, lumber, actual brewing equipment — everything just took a lot longer than we’re all used to!
  • As an example of The City being helpful, they allowed that they could sign-off on the “brewery” part — allowing me to begin making beer, which takes several weeks — while contractors finished the “tasting room” part (what looks a bit like a “pub” or “tavern”; the part where customers sit, play games, drink beer, etc.)
  • Once all the brewing equipment was installed, running water through everything and verifying that it worked (and didn’t leak) was probably the most excitement I’ve had playing with a “new big toy” in a long time. πŸ™‚
    • NOTE: only a few parts leaked, only a little bit, and that was all quickly fixed by our excellent contractors, who were right there, all over it!
  • I think I make pretty darned good beer. When people compliment me on it, I try to be fairly humble and gracious, but I worry it sometimes comes across as “yeah, I know it’s awesome…” I think I do an ok job most of the time, but it’s probably worse if they sound surprised. Like, if they <sip> <surprised look> “Hey, this is really good!”, I’m likely to say something like “I know, right…?!” πŸ˜€
    • That said, I’m relieved that scaling up our tried & true recipes worked as well as it did.
    • The first batch I made in the new equipment got a tad over-sparged, and so came in slightly under ABV. It’s still delicious — in fact, it both looks and tastes exactly as it should! — it’s just about 0.75% lower than intended.
    • …But everything after that came-in pretty-much dead-on, which was a relief.
    • This is more of a deal with existing recipes that people have been drinking elsewhere. We’re not that widely known, but I like that I’m making the same product, as intended.
    • With new recipes, there’s a lot of wiggle-room, allowing us to take anything that tastes good and say “yeah, I meant to do that!” πŸ˜€
  • I’m excited that folks are catching on to the whole “come in, play some games, meet some new friends, enjoy each other” vibe-thing. I like that, while we’re a beer-factory and selling beer pays the rent, we don’t have to shove it down people’s throats; it’s more of a “oh, btw, we have beer, too” kind of thing. This makes me happy.
  • Dog-friendly was a no-brainer that has turned out to be wonderful for not-just-me. πŸ™‚
  • The “no beer outdoors without a bona-fide meal” rule confuses a lot of people, and I don’t understand the reasoning well enough to justify it, so I’m stuck with “<shrug> it’s just the rule on my permit, and I’m trying not to get shut down <wan smile>”.
    • “Bona-fide” meal isn’t well defined, IMO, but it’s something that you can look at and say “that’s lunch/dinner”; pretzels & peanuts don’t count.
      • Popcorn shouldn’t count, but I am aware that some others are doing that. I’m trying to behave myself!
      • We do encourage folks to get food anywhere in the village and come have a beer. YES, OUTSIDE FOOD IS WELCOMED!
    • That said, food is on the way, and it will include some things that count as a meal.
      • …But it’s mostly going to be of the “hot appetizer” variety. Big, soft (warm) pretzels), sausage rolls, etc.
  • Most folks who come in really like the homey, friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
    • About 2% (wild guess; I don’t count) of people are looking for something a bit more “uptown” — fancier, ritzier, less-raw. Or they want TVs and sports. While those are great things for a place to be, that’s not who we are. ManyFriends should exude the feeling of “welcome to my home; we can play games or just sit & chat. Hey, we made some beer, wanna try some?” Yes, we’re a business; yes, we have to attract customers — etc., etc. — but we can’t please everyone, so this is the sub-group (which just happens to include me πŸ™‚ ) that we’ve chosen to cater to. Most folk seem to enjoy it.
    • (That could well be selection/survivor bias, but I kind of don’t care.)
  • On the subject of TVs, it’s in our plan to get one at some point, and play local games. We will never be a “sports bar” — there are plenty of those to choose from — but we recognize that sports, especially local games, can bring friends together, so hat-tip there. But we don’t ever want the TV to detract from actual human interaction, so it’ll likely be a not-huge one, in the corner and, between local-team games, it’s likely to play some nature screen-saver or similar. It’ll probably also be the “second” TV, after the one we put up to list our beer menu. So: “after a while”.
  • On the subject of up-scaling: we will constantly evolve and improve. If you visit often, you should notice that it keeps getting nicer. But it will always be homey & welcoming, and no one should ever feel that they’re underdressed or otherwise not 100% welcome.
    • By way of example: I’m not thrilled about the sandwich-shop tables & chairs. They’re sturdy and functional, but I’d love to replace with homier. A few spots could use some paint. Some of the “artwork” is placeholder. I wouldn’t mind having more local art, overall. I haven’t decided yet if the mismatched floor is part of our “eclectic decor” or if something needs to be done with it. Either way, that’s big-ticket and requires a few closed days, so there will be time to think about it.

      …That kind of thing.
  • I think of us as in our “early access” or “late beta” phase — the “soft opening”.
    • We opened with 2 beers on tap and pretty limited seating.
    • While we plan to be always evolving, forever, I think we can call it “vsn 1.0” once we have 10-12 beers on tap and the food/oven permit with hot appetizers. At that point, I’ll work on setting-up our “Big Grand Opening” event. Maybe in time for St. Patrick’s day, but I can’t promise that (see “everything takes longer than expected”, elsewhere).
  • We bought too-big of a [food] refrigerator and not enough [none] of a freezer.
    • This will impact our choices for what food we can serve.
    • Actually, this is probably a blessing in disguise, as it means you’ll probably get higher-quality food (nothing frozen). Though I will need to get at least a small freezer before next Summer, for ice cream treats! πŸ˜€
  • I am finding it challenging to reconcile my tech-company interview/hiring training and experience with the realities of 2022 and the service-industry.
  • I knew what growlers where and that some people bought them, but severely underestimated how popular they would be. Luckily, I managed to order and receive another pallet full (this time, properly labeled!) while I still had a handful of the original ones left.
  • The day before Thanksgiving was our business day so far.
    • That is, a Wednesday. Wednesdays are typically pretty dead.
  • The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas was just all over the place.
    • Before Thanksgiving, there was a pattern that I think of as “normal”: Wednesdays were pretty slow, Thursday was a bit better, but still slow, Friday started slow (it seems Saratogans don’t drink beer with lunch! More on that in a minute) but is busy in the evening. Saturday is steady during the day, busy in the evening and Sunday is slow-but-steady.
    • After Thanksgiving, while business continued to grow as more people heard about us, the says were all a-jumble. Wed or Thur might be busy, a couple of Fridays were dead-like-Wednesday. Some Sundays were jumping, some Saturdays were slow; it was just weird!
  • The week after Christmas was topsy-turvy in a similar-but-different way. Lots of out of town visitors.
  • We were originally planning to be closed Christmas Eve, but realized we didn’t have anything to do all day (family dinner in the evening) and though maybe others would be the same, so opened. It was fun to share some cheer with the the more-than-a-few folks who stopped in. πŸ™‚
  • We had a New Year’s Eve Pre-party Hat Making Party from 4-7 (closing at 7) that was a lot of fun. Folks came in, made themselves a stylin’ NYE hat, then went off to their celebration, whatever that entailed, but with a great hat.
His hat even has a hat!

And that was 2021, in a nutshell. Probably a bunch of other important stuff happened, but that’s what comes to mind, as I type.

Again, I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2022, and can’t wait to hear your stories!

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