QS Ep8 Brad Zeller

Highlights

  • Man
    0:44-11:07

    How are you maintaining your health during Covid-19? Here Brad speaks on his roots, the difference between doing workouts at home versus the gym and how innovation is key in everything

  • Woman
    11:07-25:22

    Building blocks and stepping stones are vital in every foundation or path. Fast forward here to learn how
    rad used his entrepreneurial spirit early on to set his ideas in motion

  • Human
    25:22-34:29

    No idea is a bad idea. Good things can grow from feedback when you surround yourself with like minded people. Hear how Aleman came to fruition through mistakes, lessons learned, and a commitment to being a better person

  • Aleman
    34:29-50:01

    Brewpub versus production space… Slide here to better understand why certain choices work better for Aleman’s ethos and how it aids in their mission of creating personal connections through beer

Ant Blair  0:00 

Hey what’s up ladies and gentlemen this is your man Ant and welcome to The Mo Head Y’all Show where we have heady conversations over hard poured beer. Today on the show we have Brad Zeller, co owner of Aleman Brewing Company in Chicago, Illinois. All right, ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome Brad.

 

Brad Zeller  0:34 

How’s it going? Thanks for having me. I’m doing great. Or as well as could be expected.

 

Ant Blair  0:40 

Man, bro, tell me about it. How are you holding up these days in the midst of a freakin global pandemic?

 

Brad Zeller  0:50 

See, you know, it’s if you could look in the crystal ball and you know make a few different decisions six months ago but of course hanging in there.

 

Ant Blair  1:01 

Right on right on. How’s your family?

 

Brad Zeller  1:05 

Family is good. You know, we’re like most people in the world we’re baking bread we’re you know exploring hobbies we’re just trying to make sure we get out of the house once a day. Yeah, it’s all about survival and with three little boys at home that survivals not always a sure thing.

 

Ant Blair  1:23 

Oh wow, I didn’t realize you had three boys. Holy cow. They’re probably going stir crazy.

 

Brad Zeller  1:30 

Oh my gosh. And you know, we had our little three inches of snow in mid April so it hasn’t even been nice enough to really get outside until lately but now they’re kids. They’re resilient. They don’t really know you know, we talked to them about it but they don’t know what’s what’s really going on. So you know, they’re just light hearted and happy to to have a lot of time with their parents around and right on just, we just got to keep them from killing each other.

 

Ant Blair  1:58 

How old are they

 

Brad Zeller  2:00 

Seven five and three. So pretty evenly spaced. Yeah,

 

Ant Blair  2:04 

Yeah. Pretty evenly spaced but old enough to if they don’t have enough diversion to definitely get under one another skin.

 

Brad Zeller  2:15 

Oh, yeah, just sometimes depends on the day. depends on who didn’t enough for breakfast, low blood sugar and then it goes to fisticuffs.

 

Ant Blair  2:25 

I love that word fisticuffs. Thanks for using that.

 

Brad Zeller  2:31 

We’re fortunate enough to stumble across my boxing gloves in the garage like very early on in this thing, so at least at least, the two oldest ones, ones a lefty and ones a righty so I can give each of them one glove and let him blow off a little steam.

 

Ant Blair  2:48 

Yeah, how is it that you have those? Yeah, literal fisticuffs? How is it that you have boxing gloves in your home?

 

Brad Zeller  3:00 

kickboxing is phenomenal workout for anyone who hasn’t tried it. Once upon a time in a former life before kids, I loved it, but just you know, where we’re at both geographically and the city and you know, with all the other stuff going on, it’s something that has not gotten the priority. But I would love to get back into it at some point. Oh, right. I’ve never I’ve never hit anybody in my life and have no intention to But okay, walk into that workout and you are dripping.

 

Ant Blair  3:31 

How did you get connected to kickboxing as a form of a workout regimen?

 

Brad Zeller  3:35 

I had an old roommate that had kind of dabbled into it and you know, there’s a special to get signed up and get X number of classes and he just kind of got hooked and stuck with it.

 

Ant Blair  3:47 

 Mm hmm.

 

Brad Zeller  3:49 

But, you know, it’s if you’re paying x for a gym membership and could pay X to go do something that’s actually a skill, a functional skill. Something that you know, I thought it was great.

 

Ant Blair  4:03 

Yeah, and I will tell you right now in the midst of all of this is it’s hard to get a workout in if you’re not super motivated. For me I had a Planet Fitness membership and when Planet Fitness shut his doors I’m like, man, god damn it, what do we got? What am I gonna do now so far as working out? I just started doing bodyweight and hit routines and that’s been super helpful. But again, you know, people looking for something physical to keep their physical fitness up in kickboxing can be a thing you know, hit workouts can be a thing. We definitely have to be innovative during this time to not come out on the other side of this 50 pounds heavier.

 

Brad Zeller  4:50 

Absolutely. I mean, I’m a runner so I can just throw on the shoes in our area. The city is not so densely populated that you know, it’s it’s not an issue for me to get out. But you’re right You can do a ton with bodyweight. And it sounds a little bigger. No, but even just like in your daily life, man, you going up and down the stairs like, I don’t know, just put a little hustle into it, but you can spend half an hour cleaning your house and get some semblance of a workout if you just can’t do any better bends and yeah, it’s a little groovy. But you got to stay active is it’s a great way to blow off some steam and a little shadowboxing in the backyard to top it off doesn’t hurt either. Yeah, that’s

 

Ant Blair  5:31 

right. That’s right. I wish I had a boxing I used to do heavy bag to speed bag, things like that. Those are really good workouts to if to put together a home gym, I think is definitely in my late 2020 plan.

 

Brad Zeller  5:50 

I’m sure you’re gonna see all kinds of creative folks out there. You know, not for next time we experience a pandemic But hey, I spent the last two months doing this. This is what I found to be successful. I’m sure you could find a way to set up a micro gym that only takes up a, you know, a closets worth of space or something.

 

Ant Blair  6:08 

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Hey, Brad, tell me where did you you’re in Chicago now, but where did you grow up?

 

Brad Zeller  6:16 

I am equal parts. Southern Indiana and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. You know, grew up in Indiana, folks split moved to North Carolina with my mom, but definitely bounced back and forth between those places. And each of those places played a distinct role on who I am now, but High School in North Carolina in those really formative years, you know, that’s, I guess where you would consider home but most folks still have a house in Indiana and back there a couple of times a year. So a little bit of both.

 

Ant Blair  6:50 

Why are you Tar Heels fan?

 

Brad Zeller  6:53 

You know, unfortunately, as much as high school is like the most formative years, your sports allegiances are set by Then so I was Indiana, Hoosiers through and through, you know, as Indiana for any professional sports team that existed and the ones that didn’t. you gravitate towards Chicago anyway, so I’m a Cubs fan because there’s no baseball. I’m a Blackhawks fan because there’s no hockey team, but

 

Ant Blair  7:19 

that’s right man. I’m a Red Wings fan that hurt. Oh, wow.

 

Brad Zeller  7:25 

That’s like a big brother little brother thing. I don’t think you have too much to worry about in that in that battle. Oh, we used to be good. We had our little run there too. But I think on the grand scheme, Red Wings are pretty top notch organization.

 

Ant Blair  7:41 

Yeah, they have been over the years. I’m looking for brighter days though. I really am. The struggle is real here in Detroit.

 

Brad Zeller  7:50 

Yeah. Oh my gosh, it’s a hot spot just like Chicago. So there’s a lot a lot of the same sentiments going on.

 

Ant Blair  7:58 

Yeah, truth man. If you had your preference, you said your Who’s your through, through and through during the formative years, when you compare the to where you were at? Did you have a preference of being in North Carolina, as opposed to Indiana or vice versa?

 

Brad Zeller  8:19 

Not really, I mean, I’ve seen this kind of a steady progression that I’ve always looked at in terms of people’s friendliness. So in the south, you know, you can say it’s lip service, you can say it’s whatever, but people are just nicer. And so, you know, kind of being in, in North Carolina, and everyone’s just super pleasant and goes out of the way in this net and then coming back to Indiana at IU for college, and it’s still got, you know, Midwestern sensibilities, it’s not a huge town. People are friendly, but it was noticeable. You know, this is And quite as warm and then moving up to Chicago after college. Again, that’s not New York. It’s it’s still got that Midwestern lean to it. But yeah, again, people are moving a little faster. Got a little less time for your business. Yeah. I don’t know if that’s also just me getting older and we all get busier as we get older but so it’s kind of been this progression from most friendly trending towards less friendly, but I’ll just say I love North Carolina. Like No, it’s just a question my kids do. I love the most depends on the day it’s

 

Ant Blair  9:38 

Yeah, I feel that. I feel that it’s interesting. You mentioned that as the differentiator I’ve noticed that too, I’ve not gone South often. The times that I go, I always noticed the hot that southern hospitality is really a thing in comparison to New York, when I went to New York, Holy moly, are you kidding me? nobody’s paying attention to you, New York unless you know them.

 

Brad Zeller  10:07 

You get in a conversation with somebody in New York waiting for food, then you think they might be crazy, just like a casual conversation with a stranger that North Carolina just was, I don’t know a little more of the the default setting. Hey, how’s it going? How you doing?

 

Ant Blair  10:23 

Yeah. And the how when you went to college, what did you What was your degree program? When you went to college, you said you went to IU.

 

Brad Zeller  10:32 

I was a business major with a focus on entrepreneurship. So, you know, at that time, I knew I wanted to be in hospitality and going after something restaurant leaning, but I didn’t necessarily just want to go into a hospitality program. So general business degree, all the economics and counting and tremendously boring stuff. But we’re building blocks for Things that I knew I wanted to do.

 

Ant Blair  11:02 

Sure why hospitality? What was the draw for you at that time in your life to hit in that direction?

 

Brad Zeller  11:09 

I don’t know, I got a job in a restaurant when I was 16. And that was it. Just the schedule the the ebb and flow of of workday and just kind of bunch of people working without necessarily having to verbalize their communication but just kind of you know where you’re needed here and you know where they’re needed and they need you to do this and there’s just this dance that I found really fascinating and had some some pretty strong role models, various restaurants. People that hey, I could see myself there or you know, I I like what they’re doing that seems like something I’m interested in getting involved with.

 

Ant Blair  11:52 

What did you do at the restaurant? were you a server we back at the house front of the house,

 

Brad Zeller  11:56 

start out front of the house, and have bounced around to back of the house, you know, wherever I’m needed just add a necessity. You know, there’s times where we don’t have enough hours for you out here but if you want to go chop some vegetables or this then put your work back there. And so I’ve worked a line of I’ve managed I’ve had a lot of responsibility I’ve had next to no responsibility have. I’ve been all over it, but even then you’re pivoting towards the brewery like hospitality and that mindset still is very central to everything, every decision that I make and everything that we do.

 

Ant Blair  12:36 

Mm hmm. Let me jump back to the college years and that whole thing when you went through. Were you involved in any fraternities where you like, Hey, I’m going here, get my education and I’m out of here. What was your mindset when you were in college?

 

Brad Zeller  12:58 

my mindset in college I had the advantage of knowing exactly what I wanted to do and what I wanted to come out on the other side with so nice wasn’t like I was taking a bunch of Gen Ed’s and trying to figure out my pet you know, I was pre accepted to the business school. That was it every class it’s almost like I could cherry pick the stuff that I felt was relevant to where I was going. It just kind of turned my brain off to rest and there’s certainly a lot of a lot of social education going on there as well. But if you catch my drift yesterday in terms of extracurriculars and stuff, not really man I I got a job my freshman year and was basically working full time the entire time and and then that became my extracurricular my family like, you know, I’ve been on on Facebook posts and messenger threads and an ongoing conversations with, you know, three dozen people that happen to work at this world. No tiny restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana a lifetime ago for you know, some of them three months, some a couple years. But you know for how short of a time, these are people that I keep in touch with more so than most of my high school friends, other college friends. So that was my extracurriculars kind of building and cultivating that group of friends.

 

Ant Blair  14:25 

That’s interesting. You say that I’ve worked in hospitality for a while to in my college years, people the relationships that are created in the hospitality industry. You get all kinds, man, I mean, so eclectic, anybody and everybody comes through that industry and some of the bonds that I have, and that’s been forever ago, I still keep track of people, like you said on Facebook, on social media and whatnot, because man, the people are so interesting and they do some of them Do really become almost family to some degree Yeah.

 

Brad Zeller  15:06 

And then there’s other folks that they come in to your life and you work with them 40 hours a week, and then they quit, you quit, they get fired, whatever. And as soon as they’re out that door, you never hear from again. So yeah, it can kind of cut both ways. But the the folks that you do tend to stick with Yeah, that’s, that’s lifelong. Lifelong. Exactly.

 

Ant Blair  15:32 

What’s the lesson that you took away from those college years and you’re working full time, you’re doing school full time, you’re putting in your extra curricular, you’re learning… you’re getting your social education as well. All of these things are happening in life at that time. What was something that you took away from that period of life that you hold on to now

 

Brad Zeller  16:00 

I think what I took away from was something that was very static, like you can go to school, you can learn this and you can, you know, shape your mind in this way. And you can discover this about yourself but putting in work just like the day to day mean work ethic is the clean kind of box to fit in, but just, you know, people who like wake up and all right, like, what am I going to do and just log in those hours and instilling that work ethic that I had, I’m going to do spend this many hours doing this and then know if I have time for this list, but X, Y, and Z have to be done before these other things. And now, I have my folks have tremendous work ethics, and I think that’s rubbed off on me a little bit. So I think just kind of coming to the self realization that regardless of what happens elsewhere, I know if I’ve put in the work, then I’m going to be alright.

 

Ant Blair  17:01 

¬†I can get down with that. That’s a really good life lesson. In addition to their work ethic, it sounds like also having an aim, you’ll know where you want to go in life. I see a lot of young people and older folks do for that matter, just kind of letting life take them along as opposed to really taking control of life and designing the life that they that they want to live.

 

Brad Zeller  17:29 

It’s, it’s clarifying, in the sense that, I don’t know somebody asks you to wear it. Do you want to eat dinner tonight, and your brain starts racing in all these different restaurants and this and that, it becomes a much more difficult choice than if somebody says, I want to have Chinese food. Where are we going? it narrows down the choice and allows you to just boom, all right, that’s the one and so it’s having that already narrowed down is helped me be a more decisive person just because I, I’m not toying around with other periphery options, you know, my entrepreneurship degrees, you know, simultaneously very focused in that way and also very wishy washy, it’s, yes, find, find a path that you’re passionate about. And then you can see some sort of economic viability on the other side of and go. And for me, I went to every class in college under the rubric of, you know, opening a restaurant or bar or something hospitality related. I didn’t plan open a brewery. But you know, yeah, you take a couple steps along the path and you see things built up and I think we can do this and, and go so it’s kind of this balance of, of what I didn’t know but also just being focused enough to know when I saw it, that’s the way

 

Ant Blair  18:55 

right on. when you see it and not getting distracted by bright, shiny objects. That absolutely is a thing that is a thing, Brad. Tell me what was your first job out of college? And then how did that get you to Aleman today

 

Brad Zeller  19:11 

is a pretty short pass. So I left college, I went and traveled around Costa Rica for 10 weeks. I mean, when else in your life do you have that opportunity? And so I sold my truck. I took every bit of money that I had saved, and I bought a one way ticket and said, I’ll come back when the money’s out and basically just cruise around backpacked around, absorbed a culture that was not mine. And then when the money was out, I had roommates already set up here. You know, we’d signed a lease, I’d prepaid a certain amount of rent, and you know, they picked me up from the airport and You know, I started looking for jobs in the hospitality business. First place that I, you seriously considered was a little restaurant up on the northwest side Rockwell’s neighborhood grill. And I’ve been there ever since. That’s where I met my business partners, Jim and Nate, and Josh. So that was kind of the Nexus for everything. So it was not like I bounced around all over the place is I knew I wanted an independent, independently owned and operated restaurant. That gave me a little bit of creative expression in terms of how that restaurant operated and was able to define it pretty quickly and didn’t really feel the need to look much further.

 

Ant Blair  20:44 

stayed in line with what you just said, know what you want and just go into that direction. You have been consistent so far, Brad. That’s got to keep it on bread. I’m trying to tell you what, uh, what How did you meet your business? Partners you said that’s where you met them in that circle. But what how did you all come together? And how did this ideal Pun intended bubble up for Aleman

 

Brad Zeller  21:10 

¬†Sure, sure. So Jim was already working there. And Nate and Josh just lived in that neighborhood and became regulars. And so it was kind of sharing beers over the bar and bounce around ideas with Jim and Jim and Nate had started doing some brewing on their, on their own. And then I had been brewing with another friend and that Fred lost the appetite for it. And so I just kind of globbed on we all started brewing together at the restaurant, on off days. And so it was just as simple as you never know what conversation you’re going to have across the bar and what common interest you’re going to find and was very fortunate to have a customer base that I’m not serving at Bubba Gump down on Navy Pier, a bunch of like, you know, these are people of character who I was lucky enough to just kind of have this ongoing conversation with over the course of days, weeks months and, or it can evolve past small talk and into items of substance.

 

Ant Blair  22:20 

Indeed, I know you said days, weeks, months, how long did it take from Okay, this is something that we can do to its done.

 

Brad Zeller  22:33 

Yeah, I mean, so I started in seven… didn’t start brewing until 2011. So yeah, there’s probably four years where you’re not saying, Oh, hey, we, I like beer, you like beer, we should know. But you have conversations about music and a host of other interests and, you know, beer being the common thread. That’s the reason that we’re here. That is the reason that so These conversations we’re having. And so I’d say we seriously started saying, let’s find out a little more about what goes into this glass 2011. And just gonna, as a point of reference, Aleman got our state license in 2016. So, okay, you know, it was, it was not a fast journey. But I don’t think any of us were in a rush, the exploration the stuff the fun. Anybody heard of beer, you know, you’re not brewing it. Just to drink the damn thing. Like it’s way easier to go buy somebody else’s beer, you’re brewing it because of result or action excess result why and take some notes and then your tweak this and just this process and this tinkering and toying mentality that I think all of us kind of share. It was and continues to be, you know, the going back to that restaurant thing like some of the deepest connections in my life, also started from a place that most people just see as a paycheck.

 

Ant Blair  24:04 

Mm hmm you being the ever opportunistic person though looking for opportunities within all of that, and here you are. Here you are.

 

Brad Zeller  24:16 

¬†I don’t want to be the dope but if something’s sitting under their nose they don’t snatch at it. So you just exactly Keep your eyes open I tell my kids be aware of your surroundings in free chat that relates to where you’re standing on a sidewalk or you know how other factors in your life are all kind of floating around just be aware of your surroundings.

 

Ant Blair  24:38 

Man preach so true so true. How did the idea the story of Aleman come to be and what what is an Aleman in the first place?

 

Brad Zeller  24:52 

So you know the the name kind of came last year we were brewing as amateurs. We had done this Coffee, Pale Ale, inspired by a really bad coffee Pale Ale that we have had commercially. And, you know, and that’s not a slight on that brewery or on that beer like, I’ve got a lot of crappy ideas. But maybe my idea inspires one of Jim or Nate or Josh’s good ideas, you know, it can never hurt to just get something out there, get some feedback, and it’s what you do from there. So we had this terrible coffee beer we brewed one that we thought was pretty good. entered into a competition with stone and two brothers. So that beer was the Day Man. It was the standalone nose, you know, we had given beers a lot of silly nonsensical names, but they man simple clean to the point. So as we know won this competition and we started having different conversations, both in public and behind closed doors. We immediately thought restaurant concept and one of our partners at the time, was a trained chef and wanted to do a mash up of German and Latin cuisine. So German and Spanish Aleman. So we got Day Man Aleman we just kind of built our, our brand organically in that way and just how it’s evolved into, you know, at the bottom of every can is man, woman, human, Aleman. And just this, you know, global citizenship and responsibility to one another and, you know, things that we’re kind of already how we’re living our lives and just the idea of learning how to do things with your hands and, and give back to the communities in which he operate. And so we were able to just kind of take that simple progression and turn it into our entire ease those and you know, it’s talking about being holed up quarantine, baking bread and doing this and that like sign me up for all that I love the brewery love the ways that overlaps with a bunch of other stuff but I could be happy doing all kinds of stuff and so Aleman really was kind of the the meeting point there where all right Jim and I, maybe share these views Nate and I share these Aleman where we meet in the middle and be your happens to be the organizing premise the focus for all that but so we, we had this brewpub concept, we then started to flesh out a more cohesive brand identity and ended up pivoting away from that brewpub model and just doing a straight production. But it’s been the easiest thing in the world moving forward. Just take these beers that already have stories behind them. And basically just kind of give them give them a name, so to speak. That fits within our branding.

 

Ant Blair  28:08 

Great. Thank you for sharing that story, man. I will say I had no clue about Aleman until Andrew Wiesner turned me on to you guys. He said yeah, we’re picking up these guys. You should check out some of their beer and we’ll get together and he he brought over a few cans and I’ll tell you what, what was, I think is the brown ale, which one is the brown ale?

 

Brad Zeller  28:33 

So let’s see. The Soul Man is our American brown ale. And then we’d also done a couple of variants spoked off that wheel.

 

Ant Blair  28:46 

Yeah, those I’ll tell you what that brown ale was. Surprisingly impressive. Most of them I’m not Yeah, I’m I got into Browns way early on in my beer drinking experience got away from them just because I’m really bad. That just got away from them into it. I think that that soul man was the first brown ale I Trank probably in a couple years. And I was I enjoyed that a lot. And it turned and it got me thinking, Wow, so what else do these cats do? And then that’s when I bumped into you and Josh down there at the Seymour pizza. That was a great night. That was a great night you talk and one of the things that impressed me about the conversation was just the depth of the conversation that we had at that time. Also, one of the things that you talked about when you talk about the community and all of that, you talked about how your your branding goes along with graffiti art and has an urban vibe. Tell me about how all of that came to be why why go down that lane with your visual representation of the brand?

 

Brad Zeller  30:09 

I mean, music is, is fundamental in in most of our upbringings, you know, we we grew up singing songs before even though the words and you hear a song with a certain beat and you just start dancing or tapping your toe. And so, you know, for us, early r&b soul Motown like this is music that we just really enjoyed Nate, especially Jim, especially, kind of have the encyclopedic knowledge of it. I’m more more visceral, you play something for me. Do I like it? Or do I not Am I human or am I not? And so you know, where’s craft beer seemed to be very singularly voiced with metal and, you know, your core and this and that is that just was Wasn’t the feeling that came to mind. You know, and we’re sitting around talking about beers, and it’s just something a little smoother, easier in the background, you know, just something a little more in line with our environment, you know, whereas a city brewery and I didn’t intend to, to put down roots in Chicago, but yeah, you meet a girl and you start having cats. I probably never leave in. And so, yeah, you know, we felt it was a very clear way to kind of tie in our city identity with, you know, this upbringing of, of music and, you know, way to then basically just a creative outlet to pour that into beer, the graffiti, artwork and some of that visual that was just, you know, Jim Nolan, a guy who used to run with some guys and who used to jump fences but now made handsome Because they’re super talented artists, and so some conversations are more flashbulb. Some conversations happen out of boredom or, you know, we talked about us starting down this path in 2011 and not getting going until 2016. You know, you kill some time you say, oh man, it would be cool if we took these white walls and did this and this and oh, well, I know a guy and just the conversation starts to snowball to where we were able to get a crew of very serious artists into the space. And for the cost of some paint, pizza and beer. Yeah, allow them to go crazy on the inside of our brewery and breathe a liveliness vibrancy into the space that man I love going to work every every day. You know, I always say I probably wouldn’t decorate my living room with Griffey Jr. But there’s just a realness and In the moment, this of it that kind of hooked me as somebody who didn’t necessarily you know, growing up in Indiana in Chapel Hill, I didn’t have a, an urban upbringing, but it was just real and something I kind of latched on with pretty pretty immediately. So there’s been this reconciling of sorts where we have these hand carved, very German, Nordic old worlds kind of tap handles, then our logo, and, you know, certain sensibilities that that takes your mind towards, but then kind of our urban environment and trying to merge the two as much as possible. It’s a long rambling answer, but hopefully got to get to the core of what you’re asking for.

 

Ant Blair  33:45 

Absolutely. I appreciate as a black man in America, that vibe that you put off at Aleman, to your point. A lot of the breweries they’re either very vanilla They don’t really have a vibe to it, or the vibe is very metal. Very, I want to say even stereotypical to where the vibe more resonates with a certain type of folk that I’m not into be able to go into a place that has the vibe that you just described and graffiti on the walls, things like that. I’m going to feel a lot more comfortable way more welcome in a place like that. Then in some other places that I’ve been other craft brewery spots that I’ve been and I was super sad because I wanted to check it out and we had that beer for good lined up and then we go around to a global pandemnic. I mean who puts that in their business plan right

 

Brad Zeller  34:58 

and we went a little love to have you guys out there because I think to be in that space and live it and breathe, it is going to give you a much different context than, you know, picking up a camera or you know, some brewery that you never heard of from, from some guy and the choice of the production model is part of what has helped us convey a little bit of that branding a little that character. We don’t have this place where you can just come and order a beer at a tap room, and kind of get the Aleman experience we have to try to inject as much of our personality and our sensibility into what we’re putting out into the world as we possibly can. Because otherwise there’s no way for people to absorb it.

 

Ant Blair  35:45 

Yeah, I agree. I’ll tell you what, you did a good job of that with the Party Man beer. That’s the grape one correct? Man that grape IPA that was fire and being at Seymore pizza that night it was it was jam packed. It was like a party. And to the point of Party Man, that keg blew. That night. It blew the night. And I think it did just that whole idea of the party man being is very fun, flavorful, different IPA, I think I drink four of them. So you did a really good job with that beer. I can tell you of injecting the personality into it, that whole party vibe into being a fun beer and a flavorful beer. And especially it worked very well in that environment and that very, you know, high energy, high spirit environment that we were in that night.

 

Brad Zeller  36:51 

Absolutely. And so most beers for us, you know, there’s there’s got to be a hook. Sometimes that’s a name that you fall in love with. Sometimes that’s an ingredient This is a beer that we had brewed once upon a time as amateurs that we actually brewed with grape jelly.

 

Ant Blair  37:09 

No kidding?!

 

Brad Zeller  37:11 

growing up on PB and J’s and having that as this nostalgic flavor in the back of our mind and feeling like it would pair pretty nicely with hops and so that beer mixed bag of success there but was still scratching it still scratching at us and then as we start to develop our brand and our identity it’s an idea that you rekindle and see an avenue to just breathe life into it so holy crud you know we love Princeton and funk and soul and okay so we’re this was just kind of a fun static beer. Now you you give a life and a persona and makes you want to pick that glass up and cheers and hang out with some friends so we intentionally release it around New Year’s every year. Just for that room, you know, I think it’s helpful to have ways to put a little bit of yourself into the beer that would take it otherwise normal. I don’t think anybody is reinventing the wheel in terms of ingredient x with ingredient why there’s just agree, enough breweries out there that eventually every possible combination is going to be tried. But it’s how can you find that core principle and do it in a way that you truly have fun with it, that you can then take that to the market and people can, can feel that more and more as there’s so many breweries out there, they failed and small, we don’t need for everybody to drink our beer. Certainly, if you haven’t tried us pick it up, give it a shot, but, you know, it’s finding those people with whom party man is going to resonate. You know, if if that’s not your jam, that’s fine. You know, we’re, we’ll have another beer for you but creating personal connections through beer. That’s what we do.

 

Ant Blair  39:01 

Creating personal connections through beer that’s been a running theme all day with people who I’ve talked to. It’s funny how that works itself out. Let me ask you this, Brad, as we’re getting towards the end of our conversation, I’m curious to know, we’ve touched on it a little bit here and there. What is it like for you as a young person? Leading a relatively young company through a time like this? A lot of uncertainty, disruption, like I don’t even know if I can compare it to ’08, you know, I could probably I can’t I don’t even know if I could even compare it to 2001. If I was to come make a comparison, I guess I go back to ’01. I can’t even imagine you know what, what is it like being a co owner of a brewery during This time in the world?

 

Brad Zeller  40:06 

graying as in your hairs.

 

Ant Blair  40:09 

¬†I heard that. I’ve heard that

 

Brad Zeller  40:14 

But at the same time, like, it sounds cheesy, but there’s certain things that you can control. There’s other things you cannot. And, you know, we just have always been about absorb whatever informations at our disposal, put our heads together to make the best decision that we can move forward and try to continue to look forward, not back. So, you know, it’s been testing I mean, there’s been a lot of sleepless nights but yeah, you kind of start spiraling and getting into a bad brain space and that’s when you gotta just shake yourself out of it. And you know, go play catch with one of the kids in the backyard, go for a run, try to, you know, do something to shake yourself out of because it really can be all consuming if you allow yourself to wallow in it. and explore worst case scenarios, but we will be fine.

 

Ant Blair  41:05 

that’s good to know.

 

Brad Zeller  41:07 

I just keep telling myself like, this isn’t gonna sink us If anything, when we come out of this we’re going to be stronger than ever. And necessity breeds ingenuity. So I think across the industry, you’re going to see a lot of really cool ideas come out of this, whether it’s in ways to to market and engage with people socially. Whether it’s how to refine a process to really squeeze every last drop out of the existing grains or hops or raw materials and house with is just having more open and honest conversations with your suppliers or your your bankers or your your, you know, ancillary business partners that maybe you wouldn’t have if things were just humming along good, uninterrupted, so very much in the same way that when our startup, hit a few bumps in the road All right, well back to the drawing board let’s re engineer let’s rethink let’s Tinker like that’s all we can do now you know the the world is not ending this really free and socks and I hope that everyone’s doing the things that they can personally to make sure that they come after all right but from the business side you you acknowledge a certain amount of uncertainty when you get into something like this and he can tell you and I think I have a certain level level of comfortability in chaos or in uncertainty you know, going back to the restaurant setting it’s it’s controlled chaos and some people aren’t built for just getting slammed on a Friday night and totally weeded and not no one was no i i love it. I live for that. Not the the trailer just kind of taking all these chaotic pieces and putting them back into order. That’s kind of the way my brains approach and now there’s a whole lot of stuff that I can’t control. I’m just gonna take the little things in my immediate situation that I can. And eventually the world will turn right back right side back up. And we’ll, we’ll have a little more character while some more stories tell the kiddos and life will go on.

 

Ant Blair  43:23 

Life will go on if that’s one thing that is consistent and all of this when you talk about one thing that is certain, in all of this uncertainty is that things will continue to move on.

 

Brad Zeller  43:39 

Absolutely just got to keep keep looking out for each other. A lot of a lot of industries are connected. But the brewing industry specifically continues to be a family and getting cliche but there’s a host of resources out there for people who are applying for this loan or who are dealing with the exact same struggles that we are in virtual social happy hour.

 

Ant Blair  44:02 

Yeah, a lot of that going on.

 

Brad Zeller  44:03 

Don’t talk about the sad stuff. Just Hey, I missed ya. What’s going on? We’re feeling alright. it’s bizarre that this has become normal so quick, but it’s almost now like alright, just the way things are. So the sky’s not falling it’s just we’re still no bars and restaurants that was more than 50% of our business is on premise consumption of bars and restaurants. All right, this is just our new equilibrium. This is our new normal how do we move forward what are we doing today to better ourselves better the brand better the beer

 

Ant Blair  44:38 

yeah I’m thinking to is good its still good though that you’re in distro with cans too, because the the liquor stores and the beer and wine shops they still going pretty strong from what I understand.

 

Brad Zeller  44:52 

Thank god yeah, we’re draft only for the first 20 months and if this pandemic had hit us in 2017, we would be out of business. And yeah, you know, I don’t consider that lucky because I don’t think anybody’s particularly lucky in this situation. But it could be a lot worse. And we do have now four years under our belt. So we have a little more of a leg to stand on. If we were to go talk to a banker, this or that, just think about a brewery that just started or that was in planning or so as bad as your situation is brewing or life. There’s always somebody that has it worse. So we’re dealing with where we’re at.

 

Ant Blair  45:32 

Good and that’s that’s good to hear. It’s good to know. I am a fan of your beers. I do not want you all to go anywhere. That wants you to go anywhere.

 

Brad Zeller  45:44 

 I appreciate that.

 

Ant Blair  45:45 

As we get up on the tail end of the conversation, do you have some parting words. a final thought to share with us Brad?

 

Brad Zeller  45:58 

¬†Man, I wish I had something a little more insightful, but you know, I think, just try to be as kind to the people that you can be kind to and try to try to pay it forward. My wife is a teacher. And so we’ve been lucky enough to have that steady income as things have been a little more uncertain at the brewery. She’s adapting to a whole new landscape, but she is also finding time to bang out masks for family members, for friends. She’s now on to mass that she can actually donate to medical professionals. You know, that’s a very tangible way but there’s always a way to put yourself into something and try to pay some good forward out into the world. So try to be a pretty positive person and the more positive vibes that are out there, the better it’s sure as hell one of the things that appreciate about you is, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a bad day from talking to you just put enough positive energy out there and that I think more people would do well to, to hear and foster on their own.

 

Ant Blair  47:07 

Hey thanks, Brad. I appreciate that a lot. I tried to keep it positive. The alternative sucks. So you know what I mean? So I stay positive because I don’t like the I don’t like negativity and you know, there’s enough of that without me contributing to that problem. And I think that’s a good good final thought the way I heard it was, you know stay positive and pay it forward. You know, help help people out like you said, with your Aleman brand you know, just be a better human be a good human.

 

Brad Zeller  47:41 

Yeah, got a bunch of negative energy online, like unplug yourself for a minute, or

 

Ant Blair  47:46 

That’s right. Yeah.

 

Brad Zeller  47:47 

Maybe instead of putting something that’s a downer, put out something positive. throw something up in your window that’s gonna make somebody else smile, you know, acknowledge people that you pass in the street. It’s little things I’m all for grand gestures as well, but society is built on the little thing. So just continue to be decent human beings to one another and think that’s an easy enough thing that everybody can do.

 

Ant Blair  48:16 

I wholeheartedly agree and wholeheartedly encourage people to do just that. Brad. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation. When I knew that you were down for doing it. I hadn’t spoken to you since Seymour pizza and we had such a good conversation there. I knew we would have a good conversation here today. And of course all I wanted to just know how you were doing, you know, hopefully that you are holding up well and your family is holding up well and sounds like they are and that’s good to hear man.

 

Brad Zeller  48:54 

Anytime but whether it’s beer or not, you know, sit around in and chat about all kinds of stuff with ya. I swear, we’re similar in that way is beer being the tie that binds but look forward to doing this in person at some point, but until then,

 

Ant Blair  49:08 

absolutely.

 

Brad Zeller  49:09 

Always happy to jump on a call man,

 

Ant Blair  49:11 

man for sure I appreciate it. Thanks a lot for being on the show Brad.

 

Brad Zeller  49:16 

Alright, thanks, Ant.

Heaven Brainz

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