LOCAL Brewery & Co: building a business that feels like home
Megan21 Jun, 2023
Visit a local establishment enough times, and you’ll soon be greeted by name as you walk through the doors. There’s a sense of comfort that comes with stepping into your local coffee shop and knowing the barista will make your order exactly the way you like it. But local is more than a place; it’s a feeling of belonging.
It’s this sentiment that LOCAL Brewery & Co tapped into when naming their business. “We have a favourite beach, coffee shop, and sandwich spot – the comfort of arriving at a home away from home is what we wanted to communicate most in our own business,” says co-founder Lee Geldenhuys. “The concept of “a local” looks and feels different to everyone, but no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what you drink, there is always a place that feels like home. We wanted to be that.”
For one night a week, the brewery opens its doors, providing patrons with a warm and welcoming atmosphere where they can unwind while sipping deliciously crafted beer.
We caught up with founders Euan Johnstone and Lee Geldenhuys to learn how they crafted their business from the ground up.
Your new local
Euan and Lee are both avid beer lovers. Along with brewing exceptional beer for consumers to enjoy, they wanted their business to be as inclusive as possible.
“As a beer lover, I really wanted to be a part of and contribute to the industry in a meaningful way,” says Euan. “I wanted to build something that would help grow the craft beer market not only in general market share but general appeal to people who may not have thought to try it before.”
“When I met Euan, and we started conceptualising LOCAL, it felt like an opportunity to build something that matters – something bigger than just ourselves,” adds Lee. “Contributing to spaces and products that make people feel welcome is a privilege and an honour, and LOCAL is our way of doing that. Or at least trying to!”
LOCAL Brewery & Co have built their home in a beautifully restored heritage building in Woodstock. The building is made up of exposed concrete and red brick, with factory windows providing swathes of natural light.
A red roller shutter door and blue lightbox, both with LOCAL’s brandmark on it, signals to their patrons that they’ve reached their home away from home. “We created the taproom to allow customers to experience the beer where it is made and get a real feel for the product,” says Euan. The taproom houses a state-of-the-art Bottoms Up Beer Dispenser, which pours beer straight from the tank. While LOCAL’s lager is a permanent fixture, the rest of the beers on offer change often.
This is how we brew it
Euan holds a Master’s in biochemistry. He puts this knowledge to use when it comes to their brewing process. “By using a scientific approach, we’re able to make beer that is sustainable, reasonably priced, and, most of all, consistent,” says Euan.
Their scientific approach ensures customers continue to enjoy their favourite beer with the same level of enjoyment each time. Many of their beers have been through several rounds of recipe development, ‘even as much as 20,’ says Euan.
“We’ve made some really excellent beers, and some really average beers, but I keep going back to our lager,” says Lee. “It’s such a difficult beer to get right, and the market is so flooded with lager variants, having one that stands out is certainly something to be proud of.”
Customers have also raved about their IPA, Pale Ale and a few of their more experimental batches. Crafting beers that others enjoy has been a good learning experience for the LOCAL team. They quickly learned that beers they liked wouldn’t always be crowd-pleasers. “We’ve had beers that we were certain would flop, only to be surprised by their popularity,” says Lee.
Service with a smile
While you’ll find master brewer Euan, at the brewery six days a week, the doors to the taproom are only open to the public for one night a week. “We decided to rather open the factory up to the public once a week for the sheer novelty of being able to enjoy a beer in the middle of the manufacturing facility,” says Lee. “It also allows everyone who wants to enjoy our beer to come together at the same time,” adds Euan.
Only opening for one night a week means that Euan and Lee are able to be fully present when they’re serving their customers. Being present has allowed them to cultivate a warm-welcoming atmosphere that their customers enjoy.
“The most frequent feedback we receive is that it’s simply easy to be here,” says Lee. “We don’t require anything from you; you can just be here and decompress. We work really hard to create that environment in ourselves first, and then the rest usually follows. We find the friendlier and more welcoming we are to each person walking through the door, the friendlier and more welcoming they are back.”
Even when they’re facing hurdles head-on – like when their machines weren’t working the way they were supposed to or the beer didn’t turn out the way they hoped – their customers took it in stride and remained supportive. “I’m convinced that people came back over and over nonetheless because we greeted them with a smile on our faces no matter what,” says Lee.
Hop before you’re ready
The pair behind Local are no strangers when it comes to dealing with challenges. Like many businesses trying to gain traction in the middle of a pandemic, Euan and Lee faced several to get their business going. But despite the challenges and feeling as though they should be doing more, they were determined to put their business in motion.
“You will never be ready,” says Lee. “It will never be perfect. You will never have everything you need. You have to do it anyway; otherwise, you’ll never start.”
Most of what the pair know about running a business, they learnt while running their business. When they were faced with knowledge gaps, they tapped into the wisdom of those around them.
“By leveraging those around you, you can essentially crowd-source the knowledge you need,” says Euan. “It helps that everyone we’ve encountered in this industry has always been extremely welcoming and generous with their time and experience.”
And while learning from your peers is invaluable, Lee explains that ultimately they’ve had to figure out what works best for their business. “We’ve had to filter a lot of information – every single person we speak to has advice on how to do things. I try to listen to everyone, but we know that not everything will work for us – and sometimes, we have to just learn the hard way by making the mistakes,” she explains.
“You have to become comfortable in your own discomfort because you will mess up a LOT,” she adds. There will never come a time when you suddenly stop making mistakes. Fear of failure will destroy you – rather, try to become comfortable with the idea of failure because it will happen no matter what. You may as well be friends.”
Tap into convenience
Having experienced firsthand how tough running a business can be, Euan and Lee wanted to simplify their processes as much as possible. It’s one of the reasons why they opted to use SnapScan as their payment service provider.
“We always knew we would most likely go with SnapScan, but did our due diligence on what our options were. It was wildly confusing and overwhelming,” says Lee.
“For most services, they would offer excellent offerings for some of our needs, but we would need to use another service for the others. It became a complicated payment ecosystem which we really didn’t have the bandwidth to manage or navigate, especially since each service came with its own fee structures.”
“The release of the SnapStore Pro made things even better by allowing all payment methods imaginable to be integrated into one easy-to-use device,” adds Euan. “To run the risk of sounding scripted, as a small business, every second counts. The ease of using one payment provider for everything lets us focus on other aspects of the business instead of having to worry about how the money is coming in.”
Hoppy ever after
Although LOCAL Brewery & Co are still finding their feet, refining their products and identifying their long-term goals, they’re excited to slowly move into the next phase of their business.
“We want to make sure we’re doing what we need to as well as we can possibly do it without overstretching,” says Lee. “Because everything we’re doing is so new, everything feels like an exciting future project. Each time someone that’s not a friend or our moms compliments us or shares something about us, it feels like a major milestone.”
“It’s all still so new and fresh to us, and I love this time. I’d like to try to always remember what this feels like, no matter how long we do this or how many projects we’re a part of in future.”
For now, the pair have decided to finally exit their pre-launch phase and launch their business to a broader consumer base. “You can look forward to finding our beers available on our online store and hopefully at some bars and restaurants in your local community,” says Euan.
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