By GREGORY ZELLER //
Consider it a home-brewed version of Kickstarter.
Riverhead’s Moustache Brewing Co., which launched following a successful 2012 campaign on the group-funding site, is once again appealing to its growing fan base – this time, to help fund new fermenting tanks essential to the microbrewery’s expansion plans.
Building on their successful Growler of the Month Club, owners Lauri and Matthew Spitz have created The Moustache Brewing Co. Society for Fine Liquid Provisions, a gift-packed members-only club whose annual $199 membership dues will offset the purchase of a new fermenter capable of producing seven “barrel batches” at a time, plus related equipment.
The blossoming brewpub already boasts two seven-barrel tanks and five one-barrel tanks, but the math is simple, according to Lauri: “More tanks means more space to ferment beer.”
Moustache Brewing Co. has proven popular since it officially opened its doors in 2014. In fact, Lauri noted, the microbrewery “has not been able to keep up with production since Day One,” which is “a good problem and a bad problem at the same time.”
And in addition to keeping up with current orders, the Spitzes are intent on expansion, making the need for more tanks paramount.
The fermenters aren’t cheap: A basic stainless steel 7-barrel tank, capable of producing 217 gallons of beer, can run as high as $8,000, with a menu of essential and optional add-ons – from gauges to pressure-release vacuum valves – running up expenses nicely.
Hence the Spitzes’ $20,000 fundraising target and their vehicle for getting there, the Society for Fine Liquid Provisions. Membership includes monthly growler fill-ups, a $204 value that alone covers the price of admission. Also included are four bottles of “Society Exclusive” brews, a Brewer’s Birthday Party VIP package, a quarterly society-only tasting room invitation, a free empty growler for the ill-equipped, 10 percent off all brewery merchandise and other incentives.
The brewmeisters did explore more conventional funding routes first, but found regional banks less-than-enthusiastic about lending to a beer-based startup – even one with Moustache Brewing Co.’s early success.
“They don’t take that into consideration,” Lauri noted. “When you’re a new small business, most banks aren’t excited about giving you money. And it’s not like we have $20,000 lying around.”
The Spitzes plan to cap membership when they hit their $20,000 goal, hopefully before Feb. 1. The thought of accepting memberships beyond that ceiling is tempting, Lauri noted, but represents bad business on several fronts: Overloading the society would only lead to the same production issues, while limiting membership serves as an incentive to those who miss out on the 2016 registration.
“We want to keep it as something people want to make sure they get in next year, if they missed it,” Lauri said.
If early response is any indication, Moustache Brewing Co. will hit its mark well before the self-imposed Feb. 1 deadline. Online registration went live Tuesday (sign-ups are also accepted in person during tasting room hours), and by 10 a.m. Thursday the campaign was one-tenth completed, according to Lauri.
The fast start is understandable: Not only did the savvy business owners launch the Society for Fine Liquid Provisions around renewal time for many Growler of the Month members, but Moustache Brewing Co. has an established history of successful group funding – and the society package is a lot more enticing than anything on Kickstarter, where it’s “give a hundred bucks and get a T-shirt,” Lauri noted.
“We really wanted to make this more enticing,” she said. “People like being involved and participating, and it’s a great deal – almost $300 worth of beer for a hundred dollars less, plus everything else. We feel pretty good about it.
“One Growler of the Month member said he didn’t care if it was $500 a year, he’d sign up,” Lauri added. “He just loves our beer. I think this guy singlehandedly pays our electric bill each month, but that’s another story.”