I recently had a chance to talk to Core Brewing Company‘s founder, Jesse Core, about their recent expansion into Southwest Missouri, his choice to go pro, and why he’s excited to introduce you to his beer.
First, tell me a little bit about how Core Brewing got started. What triggered the idea, and what convinced you that you could go commercial?
First, I have been brewing beer over 20 years. It has always been something that I loved doing. I will be a homebrewer as long as I live! As a software engineer, I had the opportunity to live in some beer-centric areas such as Boulder (3 years) and San Diego (7 years). When I had the chance to move back home, I missed the beer-culture and saw an opportunity to help locally.
Then, I just did a cannon-ball into the deep end!
You guys were opened in 2010, but you’re now one of Arkansas’ largest breweries in terms of volume production and distribution. Tell us a little bit about how that journey went.
Currently, Diamond Bear is the largest in terms of sales. We have the largest available capacity.
If all goes well, maybe we can give Diamond Bear a run for their money soon. Our overarching theme is simple, quality product. I regularly iterate to my team the need to focus on quality, quality, and quality. If we make great product, the business-side will be pushed by the demand.
And fortunately, that is happening. Demand has given us the opportunity to grow rapidly. So, we are very grateful for the support.
That’s some serious growth. What have been the biggest growing pains you’ve encountered?
As with any startup, cash is something that has to be managed well. Rapid growth can put a strain on cash-flow. I feel we have done a good job in that area to date. Also, putting together a team of dedicated, positive, hard-working folks takes time. I am very proud of our Core Team. We are a group of laid-back, good-hearted people who feel lucky to be doing what we do.
Were there any times in the past four years that you thought about giving up? If so, can you provide any examples?
No f’n way. This is my dream job. The work is incredibly hard, but extremely rewarding. My personality does not allow me to give up. I have a responsibility to my employees, investors, banks, family, and community to make this company a big success.
What is the most important lesson you learned in operating a brewery?
Find people you can rely on. As much as I love brewing, I have other responsibilities that pull me away from my passion. If you have a team that you can count on, you can focus on growing the company. Like I said, I know I can count on the group that I have.
So-called experts know jack. If you are passionate about opening a brewery, there will be a 100 experts telling you how hard it is why it can’t or shouldn’t be done. Screw em’. Jump into the deep end head first!
What’s with the slogan, “Take Pride in Your Wiener!”?
Our mascot/logo is my ol’ wiener dog, Barney. We just have a lot of fun with the marketing surrounding wiener dogs.
Do you have any advice for a homebrewer who wants to make the jump to commercial brewing?
See my previous points on the so-called experts. I am certainly not an expert. In fact, I am learning new stuff daily. All I can do is offer some of my experience. Take it or leave it.
Making good beer is important, very important. Just make sure that you have the business side covered. Brewing and Distilling is capital intensive. Align yourself with good partners and make sure you are properly capitalized. Under-capitalization is the death of startups. Also, I am happy share my experiences with whomever wants to swing by the brewery for a beer. Just hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You used to be a computer programmer by trade. Has that experience affected your success as a brewer or business owner? How?
I am a nerd. I love processes. I love improving processes. I love automating processes. As a software guy I learned how to take big problems and break them down into bite-sized chunks.
Brewery issues can be daunting, very daunting. My experience allows me to compartmentalize them and communicate them to my team in a way that can be executed efficiently.
I noticed your brewery no longer has a web page, but has a large presence on Facebook and Twitter. Why did you decide to eliminate your web page and focus on Social Media?
Good question. We are in the process of redesigning our website to better integrate with our mobile applications and social media.
What has triggered your expansion of distribution into Southwest Missouri? Why now?
Frankly, we were not ready. We want to grow intelligently and make sure we are well represented in Missouri. Missouri has a strong craft beer base. We needed to make sure that we were 100% ready.
What beers will Southwest Missourians be able to find in stores or on draft in the area? Can you tell us a little about each one?
All of our staples and seasonals including ESB, Leg Hound, Behemoth Pilsner, 2x Red, Oatmeal Stout, Hilltop IPA, Toasted Coconut Brown, Hazelnut Brown, and many more!
I understand your beer is not found in 12 oz bottles, but can only be found in cans, 22 oz bottles, and on draft. Why cans?
Well… soon it will be. We recently purchased an automated 12-oz bottle filler to complement our cans and bombers. In addition to being more sustainable, cans can be taken to the game or to the lake or places where bottles are not allowed. I now actually prefer to drink beer out of our cans rather than bottles… That being said, to each his own. If you like bottles, we have those too!
Your business is called Core Brewing and Distilling. What’s up with the distilling?
Only took the BIG GOV 19 months to get us approved but we are now a distillery as well. I have recently distilled our Toasted Coconut Brown Ale into a spirit and it tastes great. I have also distilled a 50% Wheat – 50% Barley whiskey as well. I am having a lot of fun with this side of the business and look forward to making some fun and interesting products.
What is your favorite part about being a brewer and brewery owner?
Making beer is tough, very tough. But, when I see our customers enjoying our product, I feel incredible. I love making customers happy. As brewery owner, it makes me feel fantastic when I see the team executing well, fixing things they are not asked to, and helping their colleagues without being asked to. When you see this, you know you have a good team.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about Core Beer?
Just that I am grateful for the support. If ever you get down to NWA, please swing by the brewery. We have a pub that is open every day until 9:00pm with live music on the weekends.