The Business of Beer: Innovative Business Models in Craft Brewing

It’s no secret that the craft beer industry is in a renaissance in the United States. A recent getaway to Tampa, Fl was the perfect excuse to look first hand at this phenomenon. What I discovered, however, was far beyond ‎what I expected. Innovative approaches to manufacturing and distribution are driving the industry’s growth in ways that used to be out of reach for most craft brewers.

My tour of Tampa craft ales started at a local ‎home brew shop where, to my pleasant surprise, owners practice what they preach. Southern Brewing & Wine Making offers more than 15 rotating taps, and convenient 6 oz sampling glasses. Brews on-tap included sours and spontaneously fermented beers (e.g. Gose, Berliner Weisse), Witbier, Imperial Ales, and Barley Wine, along with standard India Pale and Irish Red Ales. As you’d expect from a good homebrew shop, staff were knowledgeable and willing to share tips. They even have a small beer garden at the back of their facility. What struck me most about Southern is the way that they seamlessly built their micro-brewery directly into their homebrew shop. And it seems to be working – staff claim that they can’t keep up with current demand. While the company looks to be into organic growth, it would be interesting to see where they could take it in 10 years.

The next stop on my brewing tour took me to Cigar City Brewing (CCB), a brewery that is firmly on the craft brewing map in North America. CCB‎ sells commercial beer locally throughout Tampa, including its hoppy Jai Alai IPA. With more than 20 beers on tap, there is lots to choose from, including 4-5 guest and collaboration taps, stouts, porters, imperial ales, and sours. One of their most intriguing beers was a dark 11% ABV Imperial Ale aged with chillies. Besides a great tasting bar, CCB specializes in to-go brew available ‎in kegs, cans, or pop top. CCB is having trouble meeting demand for their beer. To help meet demand, they’ve turned to a unique partner – Brewhub.

Brewhub ‎was the last stop on my Tampa craft beer tour…actually it’s located in nearby Lakeland. Brewhub is a massive brewing facility that produces beer for local brewers that have quality / consistency concerns, or simply can’t meet demand with their current capacity. They also act as a incubator for brewers by helping with marketing and distribution. Brewhub is currently helping Key Billy, a local beer in exactly those areas. Brewhub can help bridge the gap for small craft brewers by providing extra capacity and business knowledge, thereby significantly reducing overhead costs and preserving cash flow. It can also provide smaller commercial brewers with extra capacity to enable growth.

No Trace: Interpretations of Zen

IMG_20140822_203955_editThe thoughts to follow represent my own self-reflection, and are not meant to be a definitive or exhaustive analysis of the topic area.  Hope you enjoy!

 I remember my first time reading Suzuki Roshi’s ‎Zen Mind, Beginner Mind. There were many nuggets of pure brilliance.  One term that really intrigued me though, was the concept of ‘no trace’.  The Zen master writes about putting everything you have into your work or activity so that you burn away ego; so that there is no trace of ego left. You become part of the activity and you burn away any separation from the present moment.  

 In meditation too, I think, we work to burn away separation from the present. Engaging in meditation grounds us firmly in the now. We are less hooked by thoughts (i.e. what’s for dinner, does Tabitha like me, do my arms look pumped in this shirt). There is no room for ego if we truly are in the present moment. So too in life, engaging our senses and taking in ‎sights and sounds burns away separation. 

 What impact does this way of living (or orientation) have on our lives?  ‎I believe there is a clear impact to karma. Karma is a complex concept, but the aspect of karma relevant to this discussion relates to our own human life. A traditional analogy for karma and it’s relation to ego is a seed. If you feed your mind with negative thoughts and actions, these activities create certain negative seeds that deepen (roots) and grow (foliage) in your mind. This increases the likelihood and proportion of negative thoughts overall in your mind in the future. If you engage in negative activity or thoughts, you develop a habit for it.

 At a practical level, I believe that no trace means being able to react to negative events in a way that does not leave a permanent scar on your psyche. It means being able to fully feel emotions related to negative events, but then being able to let them go. In this way, the mind as like a river where thoughts and events are reflected and then disappear, leaving only a calm surface. Negative thoughts cannot take root.

 If we live and act in a way that leaves no trace of ego, then we are able to cut negative karma at the root, stamping it out. Of course, having this level of mastery over the mind requires tremendous will and a significant amount of practice. Attaining this mastery just might be a worthy lifetime goal.


Recipe: Hand-Chopped Beef Burger (Paleo Friendly)


One of my favorite pubs in Toronto ( serves an excellent hand-chopped burger.  They basically cut a steak down to half-inch cubes, stick it together, and serve it on a bun.  I recently wanted to replicate the recipe (which is super-easy), but was surprised to find limited online content on this style of chopped burger. So I thought I’d take a stab at posting my version of the recipe. Keep in mind that this is NOT a cheap burger, especially when you consider your choice in meats for the recipe.  Here’s what I used to create three burgers:

  • prime rib roast (1kg/2.2pd);
  • Montreal Steak Spice (2 TBSP);
  • Garnish (75% Heinz Chili Sauce/25% Siracha);


1. Cut down the prime rib roast (or alternate steak) into half-inch cubes (or smaller). Discard any large marbled fat – smaller pieces of fat are OK.IMG_20141010_192854

2. Pat the cubes into a ball with your hands and place on a sheet of saran-wrap. Fold the Saran Wrap (as in the picture) and compress the meat to help it stick.  [you could consider adding a binding agent, like egg whites, but I didn’t find this to be necessary]. Place the burgers in the fridge for 30 minutes to help the cubes to stick together.

3. Grill or pan fry using medium-high heat with oil.  I recommend Coconut oil, but it also provides some additional flavors.

Since this is a paleo recipe, I served it up without a bun, using Heinz chili sauce and Siracha as a condiment, along with a commercial chopped salad on the side.

Hope you enjoy!

Personal Success: The Not So Intuitive Way to Make a Million Bucks

img - successThe link below is to an article from the Globe and Mail that discusses eight not so intuitive steps to becoming a millionaire.  These steps include “tracking how many people you help everyday” as an indicator of the strength of your own network – i.e. if you help those around you succeed, you are more likely to be successful yourself.  The author, Dharmesh Shah, focuses on setting up measures like number of people served and new products generated as a way to create goals outside of money alone.  From this perspective, money is a by-product of the individual’s own creativity. Other steps include frequently covered topics like time management, tracking progress, building routines, etc (a la Stephen Covey).

One point I connect with requires you to dissect your own idea of what success looks like – pick ten people who are the best in the world at what they do.  How did you pick the list? What was the key to your selection process?  What criteria did you use?  What does each individual you chose have in common? Your answers to these questions help define your own perceptions, criteria, and ideas about what success looks like FOR YOU

 I’m not certain that these steps will make you rich, but they will likely help you live a more fulfilling life. Hope you enjoy!

Fragments on Work-Life Balance

ID-10042798What does it mean to have work-life balance? It seems clear that the term represents an ideal state. I often say that when my life is really ‘clicking’ for me, I feel like I’m riding a wave. This might be a short, sporadic feeling or it might last a couple of months, but it eventually passes. Maybe true and continued work-life balance is unattainable…

Backing up a little, I should mention that I’m highly career motivated … at times I’ve held three jobs, and other times I’ve had hobbies that take 20 hours a week. Too much activity has sometimes been self-destructive. When I find that I am continuously moving from activity to activity, I’m inevitably burning the candle at both ends. Decidedly, work-life balance is not trading work for hobbies, self-destructive habits, or escapist activities. So balance is still elusive…

I’ve learned to cope and create further balance in a number of ways. I’ve found it helpful to simplify my life when I need to by cutting out time wasters, saying ‘no’ to excessive volunteer work, and focusing more fully on being close to loved ones…

Further, I’m intrigued by Heidegger’s phrase ‘building, dwelling, thinking’. These, I think, are the three fundamental creative activities of humanity. Dwelling, in particular, is an interesting term from a phenomenological perspective. To be human is to dwell. There is a subtle ease to dwelling, like a tea ceremony. It is at once to be self-aware, and to be engrossed in an activity in a fundamental and authentic way. Is this the true experience of work-life balance?

Maybe work-life balance is it a term cooked up by the media, marketing gurus, or 20th century political idealists. Continue reading Fragments on Work-Life Balance

Strengthening Mind: My Experience of Meditation and Leadership

ImageYou can do a quick Google search to find a plethora of articles on the benefits of meditation. Scientists have been researching, experimenting, and publishing in this area for some time. I won’t repeat these findings here, but I will give you a sense of my own experience with meditation over the last seven years, and more specifically how meditation has impacted my own personal leadership style. I currently consider two Tibetan Buddhists living in North America to be my teachers in the path of meditation.

Most people are introduced to meditation through an open house, work event, reading, yoga, or because they are working through a life event that calls for introspection and self-discovery.  Experienced mediators will tell you that a small percentage of people stick with it, and usually only when they have a deep longing and sense of commitment to the path. The root cause of this commitment is different for everyone. Some people look for a way to work through the stresses of daily life, or want to sort out past or current traumas.  Others are natural ‘seekers’ looking for a deeper connection to life.

I believe it is important to separate meditation practice from the path of meditation. While meditation can be defined as a practice or activity, the broader path of meditation is a lifestyle choice impacting your worldview, daily activities, lifestyle choices, and behaviors. Undertaking the path is a major commitment, and not suited for most people looking for a quick introduction to meditation – akin to Neo taking the ‘blue pill’ in the Matrix.   This distinction is an important preface to this article.  Continue reading Strengthening Mind: My Experience of Meditation and Leadership

…or the search for happiness through constant change