How Modern Times Beer broke Kickstarter record & how you can too—
The beer-blogosphere has turned up an interesting little story about Modern Times Beer, a small craft brewery in San Diego that just broke a record for the amount of money raised by a brewery via Kickstarter. There’s been mixed reactions from the beer community, including this parody Kickstarter project from Freetail Brewing Co.’s Scott Metzger. But when I spoke to Craft Brewing Business writer Keith Gribbins, he saw Modern Times Beer’s Kickstarter success as a popular backlash to corporate, mass produced products.
“I feel today there is definitely a collective disgust for ‘corporate’ products that range from music to film to beer,” says Gribbins. “People feel like the personal side of falling in love with something has been taken from them. Crowdfunding allows fans and customers to not only feel like their funding something entrepreneurial and important, but that they are actually taking part in its creation”
I’ve written on breweries using Kickstarter campaigns for financial backing before, and wanted to revisit the subject given Modern Times Beer’s raging success. After speaking with MTB’s founder Jacob McKean, there are certain elements that he applied to his company before taking to Kickstarter. If you’re a small business looking to secure some serious crowdfunding, he recommends the following prior to starting any campaign:
1. Build a crack team.
Getting your team right will excite your customers on your eventual product and assure them of its quality. McKean assembled brewers from some of most experienced brewers in the country.
Matt Walsh was Head Brewer at Lost Coast, Whilst Alex Tweet brewed for the ever excellent Ballast Point (I’d recommend their Victory at Sea – Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter, which you can find here in Texas). They’ve also enlisted the help of Mike Tonsmeire who is somewhat of a legend in the Internet home brewing community.
2. Have most of your funding in hand.
McKean already saved enough to pay for all of his brewing equipment, as well as his location- just like Jake Endres from Crooked Run Brewing . The Kickstarter donations were to add a taproom as well as a lab to create unusual beers. Both the lab and the taproom with provide immediate benefits to the donors in the form of unusual beers, and a venue to drink said unusual beers (like the mostly forgotten Scandinavian Kvass), and will thus foster more donations.
3. Team up with other local businesses.
I noticed that amongst the donors to the brewery were other local businesses. McKean explains how it happened; “Atlas Kegs gets the credit for that idea. They emailed me out of the blue and said they wanted to help motivate people to hit our goal. I thought it was such a cool idea that I expanded it to any of our vendors that wanted to participate.”
Not only does this foster a sense of localism, but it’s also good business sense for everyone involved. As Keith Gribbins puts it, “just look at Modern Times Beer’s biggest donor list – its vessel manufacturers, keg services and malts and hops groups – people that I assume Modern Times will be doing business with in the future. [It’s a] smart investment on their part.”
4. Build up a diehard following on social media.
For MTB, this was the driving force behind the campaign. “I started working to build a following for Modern Times the day I left Stone [Brewing],” says McKean. “So 16 months of consistent effort and transparency lead to a social media following that pushed the Kickstarter campaign hard.”
5. Hire some great graphic designers.
Many graphic designers are jobless, so help them out. No really; not only is MTB’s website design really, really good, but so is their Kickstarter reward merchandise. While looking great, McKean is still quick to point out that the quality of the beer is still paramount:
“Obviously the beer came first. I was even a little hesitant to hire great designers because generally when I see that kind of artwork on craft beer, I’m suspicious that it’s not real craft. But I wanted the cans to look awesome and inviting and tasteful, so I went that route.”
I couldn’t agree more with McKean on this one. Poorly designed (often extremely sexist) beer labels are a blight on the beer community. I can see McKean’s concern about appearing too corporate, but the can designs of Austin’s own Austin Beer Works and Hops & Grain prove that looking great will positively effect a beer’s credibility.
It’s quite amazing that McKean went from being a beer blogger and social media guy to heading up an incredibly ambitious brewery in under two years. By following his example, you could be the next one breaking Kickstarter records.
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