While on a business trip to Atlanta, we decided to take a cab to a large, local brewery. Having been avid beer lovers for many years, it was the natural way to unwind after 8 hours in a conference.
After a tour of the brewery and packaging lines, we sat down to taste the different styles the brewery had to offer. As we moved from one sample to the next the conversation bounced from our current career paths to a stroke of inspiration. With our background in business and our love for beer, we should start our own company! And it should be a brewery! We are both young, and passionate about business and beer! It felt like a natural fit.
From there we were off and running in a new direction and excited in a way that was so visceral and contagious. First the name...what would we call it? There were so many bad ideas...so. many. bad. ideas. But over coffee one morning, it came to us--Brawling Bear. It was perfect. We were fighters who hated the word “no” and loved an impossible challenge. And “Bear” was Eric’s childhood name (though some still call him that to this day!).
From there it was all about bringing the name of our brewery (and new lifestyle) to life. We worked with an amazing illustrator in Bologna, Italy (Francesco Dibattista) who was able to illustrate our Brawling Bear and bring him to life with an equal amount of ferocity, and life-like softness. We then found the perfect way of presenting him with our name and ultimately created the company logo. From there we experimented with packaging, the website, swag and other items to create a brand image that we loved and were proud to share with the world (or at least our families!).
For the next year we worked tirelessly perfecting our business plan, our many, many, many recipes, and working on licensing with the Federal government and the State of Maryland (this being a full-time job in and of itself - email us if you have questions or want to commiserate over the insanity!). Making the beer, tasting the beer, writing business plans, packaging design, hunting for properly zoned buildings to call our HQ was (and many parts still are) a family affair that our spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents and even children are involved in and help with where they can. (Ask Jenn’s 7-year-old twins what is in an IPA and they will gleefully shout “HOPS!. We’re pretty sure they can also use a refractometer and a hydrometer correctly! #lifeskills).
From day one we had a clear vision of what we wanted for our beer. We wanted accessible, drinkable, craft beer that anyone could enjoy - not just the craft beer lover but the lover of some of these mass-produced lagers. We want everyone to find something in our beers. It may seem like such a stereotype to come out with an IPA first to market, but for us, it was something we had to do. Most IPAs on the market are hop bombs that leave your palate destroyed after one to two sips. Ours had to be different. We were tired of buying IPAs only to be done after a half a pint. (We've tasted hundreds of IPAs and poured many down the drain...sad, really...it hurt our soul each time we did it and I’m pretty sure a beer fairy died...)
Our India Pale Ale was born out of this frustration. It has a 7.3% alcohol content but drinks like a session ale. With a massive grain bill, and aroma hops to boot, we were able to achieve a balanced brew that gives a smooth mouthfeel, a balanced hop bite, and then finishes clean and delicate on the palate. It consistently leaves us wanting more and doesn't leave us with a face puckered from the bittering hops. The haze was also a must - it helps with the mouthfeel - and is a direct result of the dry hopping combined with the beer being unfiltered at packaging.
Where do we go from here?
Today we’re focused on the distribution of our India Pale Ale (IPA) and Low Blow Blonde Ale (find it here), while we put the finishing touches on our tasting room which is located in Old Town Gaithersburg, MD. Family continues to be important to us as we continue to cultivate and grow our business and we look forward to including the local community into our family through the tasting room in the future.