Friday, April 10, 2009

Sorry I haven't been around as much. Here's why.

(Stream of consciousness, unedited)

I understand your concerns. Let me tell you the story as I see it, and know that to the best of my ability, I’ve endeavored to keep you informed. But life has been craaazy lately.

Begin by accepting that it was time for NABC to expand. The trick has been to do so in a way that maximizes our strengths, minimizes our weaknesses, and offers something different in a crowded marketplace. Merely duplicating the original location would be inadequate, and probably disappointing, because it is unique. The decision was to take the most comparatively undervalued section of the portfolio, NABC’s own beers, and provide it the room to grow, while at the same time rebranding it with an entirely different on-premise atmosphere that would contribute to the regeneration of downtown New Albany.

We knew from the beginning that once the Bank Street Brewhouse opened, supplying both retail locations with NABC’s own house-brewed beer as brewed within the confines of the existing garage brewery would be a profound challenge, at least until the new brewery downtown went on line. Everything had to be perfect for the game plan to work.

Unfortunately, everything wasn’t perfect. Because the aim all along was to sell NABC beer and NABC beer alone downtown, without any guest taps, I decided that the taps downtown would be kept filled with NABC beer to the exclusion of the selection at Rich O’s and Sportstime. The reasoning remains simple. At the pub and pizzeria, there are 30 other taps and a few hundred different bottled brands to provide temporary cover for the absence of house brands.

Of course, this assumed that production would be consistent in the existing brewery. We’d run low, but not run out. However, yeast issues in the existing brewery were not supposed to be part of the equation, but as living creatures, yeast sometimes have minds of their own. Replacing yeast and growing it to strength takes time, and so does a normal brewing schedule, and that’s why our core brands have been absent, and it’s also why I’ve already been compelled to swallow hard, reverse course and happily welcome guest beers to the new location. They’ll remain on tap as we slowly catch up, because there’s only one way to catch up: One brew day at a time, until serving tanks and kegs are filled … and then immediately repeat the process.

Meanwhile, rumor has it that the “regulars” at the Public House miss me. I’m flattered, but would ask that you not draw faulty conclusions from my absence.

I spent quite a lot of time in January and February working concurrently with the Bank Street run-up and Gravity Head 2009. Veterans of the pub scene understand how much work Gravity Head entails, much less actively opening an entirely new business. My strategic plan? With Gravity Head off and running for all of March and usually into April, time would be provided for me to concentrate on Bank Street’s opening before returning to the original location to begin envisioning the remainder of the year in beer and facilitating the long overdue beer list update.

All this became possible because of Mike Bauman, the beer manager at Grant Line, who has done marvelous work running the day to day while assimilating a staggering amount of information about the tricks of the trade. Trust me when I say that the many recent shifts in wholesale availability, from regularly stocked items to a large preponderance of special order beers, would have baffled even me, and without the Bank Street demands. Mike’s been slogging through this, and the hard work should soon visibly bear fruit.

Other than getting into the habit of referring to the original site as Grant Line and the new location as Bank Street, which should help newcomers distinguish between the two, little will be changing on the north side. At some point in the near future, we hope to implement a few long-delayed and sorely needed changes: Kitchen expansion, the incorporation of much of Prost as a full-time Public House seating and service area, improvements to the existing brewery as it assumes the role of seasonal/specialty/experimental work area, and whatever outdoor seating can be carved out of the remaining scant real estate. I hope these things can begin happening later this year, and during 2010.

For them to happen, we must continue making our friends and customers happy by serving them food and drink. With respect to me, personally, it should be obvious that doing all these things at the same time makes it difficult for me to predict when I’ll be at which location. I hope you understand that. Like so many other considerations, my absence from the pub isn’t at all personal. It’s business. We’ve been at this a long time, and the business is at the point where it must grow. I’m working as hard as I can to achieve this, and so is Kate, Amy and the rest of the teams in our employ.

Finally, I’ve accepted that this is what I want to do when I grow up. Now, I have to grow up. I’ll be seeing all of you somewhere, some time. You remain family, and don’t doubt it.


The Original BBC Brewmaster said...

Growing pains usually end up in the positive column. When we first bought Pipkin we got down to two handles in the brew-pub with no guest beers.

Personally, I'm glad you've finally excepted your destiny. Making those hard, personal decisions is always good for the soul.

funambulator said...

I just wanted to say keep up the good work! Though I don't know you personally, I'm a long time Rich-O's fan, and my band played at Fringe Fest (which was awesome). I hadn't been in to the Grant Street location in a few months (unusual for me!) and when I was there last weekend, I was happy to see you'd added a host to seat tables. That will make a huge difference!

Looking forward to getting to know Bank Street (have been in once, but not since the full menu came out). I'm sure you're swamped, but I know good things are to come & it'll be worth it!