Jim Koch is the founder and brewer of the Boston Beer Company, the producers of Sam Adams beer. He’s also the author of the new book Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two.
Wanting to do something he was passionate about, Jim quit his job and started brewing Sam Adams beer in his kitchen in 1984, at the very beginning of what would become the American craft beer revolution. He identifies the craft beer ethos as small, traditional, and made by independent brewers who are focused on flavor and taste, paying a lot of attention to the quality of the ingredients and the brewing process.
The major styles of beer encompass quite a range, and in a normal year a brewer like Sam Adams will brew and release up to 60 varieties of beer, from seasonal favorites like Sam Adams Summer Ale and OctoberFest to the limited availability, 28% alcohol, barrel-aged Utopias. For Jim, craft brewing is about innovating in lots of ways, from experimenting with ingredients to new techniques to marketing. Here are Jim’s tips for aspiring entrepreneurs who are eager to start craft food and beverage brands:
1) Do something you think will make you happy, rather than rich. The chances of starting a business that will make you rich are pretty slim, but the chances that you can support yourself and grow a healthy small business are larger.
2) When you start a business, make sure the project you’re offering consumers is either better or cheaper than the alternatives. If it’s neither, there’s no reason for someone to buy it.
3) Launch your long shots: Jim believes it’s important to innovate not just when it comes to beer ingredients and flavors, but also new techniques and processes, as in the Nitro Project, which carbonates a variety of beers using special nitrogen-enhanced cans, or the beer glass Boston Beer Company designed for a better beer-drinking experience.