As Owner and Director of Operations of a property management company, Bernard P. knows what it means to “pour” your heart and soul into a business venture.
When the storefront across from our property management company opened up, I talked my wife, Michelle, into letting me open up a brewery. The building was built in the 1890's and is part of historic downtown Burlington. During horse and buggy days, there were stories of runaway horses breaking loose and galloping through the town. So when it came time to pick name, Runaway was the favorite.
I finished the business plan in June 2019, and we opened one year later. We started with to-go curbside orders and patio service, which really saved us since we opened during the pandemic. If you’ve got the space, get a patio.
Our tap room is about 1,000 sq. feet and can fit 45-50 people comfortably. There’s no TV’s or digital menus—we wanted a cozy and electronic free space for people to come and hang out. We have a panini maker and make craft mac and cheese, giant pretzels, homemade french onion dip and a hummus plate. We partner with a local chef who makes ready to assemble sliders and a bakery down the street gives us desserts to sell. We also sell dog treats.
We don’t have a canning line, but we invested in a table top crowler canning machine. You’d be crazy not to have a crowler machine. We fill 16 oz. and 32 oz. cans on demand. We go through 1,100 cans every three months and sell at $12 to $15 each. People will come in and stock up for the days we’re closed. We also sell cans at farmer’s markets and local festivals.
I’ve been a homebrewer for almost 15 years. My first piece of Spike equipment was a stainless steel conical fermentor. I still keep it around for test batches. Since we own our space, the biggest costs were fixtures, furniture and obviously brewing equipment. I looked at systems in similar categories from other companies, all ranging from 1 to 3 barrels. There was ample opportunity for another company to come in as the front runner, but no one even came close to Spike.
Because of the Nano’s small footprint, we maximized our brewing space by having a walk in cooler, small kitchen and 12 fermentors all lined up downstairs. We brew double batches twice a week. This allows us to have at least 10 different beers on tap at all times. Some beers last six weeks, while a milkshake IPA or a light lager will be completely tapped out in two weeks. We also just made our first seltzer.
We’ve used the hell out of this system. To date, we’ve brewed 200 double batches. You can make a really good IPA from start to finish in three weeks. With the 1-barrel system, you can brew fun flavors on a smaller scale and experiment more.
Runaway is a family business. Michelle loves sours and fruity beers, so we’ve always got some of those on tap. She oversees the decor and flower arrangements inside and outside. My daughter, Mave, is six and loves everything about beer. How you make it, what it looks like, how it smells…and tastes. My son, Finn, is more interested in what goes on in the kitchen.
Is owning a brewery worth it? Absolutely. We just sell one beer at a time.