Welcome to CBB On the Scene, a series where craft breweries of all shapes and sizes explain how they build business plans to succeed within one super saturated craft beer region: Cleveland. Above is episode 2, in which contributor Kathie Zipp sits down with Platform Beer Co. co-founder Paul Brenner.
Platform Beer Co. has been one of our favorites here in Ohio since it busted on the scene in 2014, just as the craft beer revolution was gaining steam. Looking back, its business plan was visionary:
1) It started distributing in cans. Suddenly these slick looking cans were everywhere you bought beer
2) It was totally focused on new, innovative beers. Every time you went to the shelf, there was a new brand or style from Platform. “We’re basically all one-offs,” Brenner tells us. “We want to stay relevant and try new things,. That’s how we like to brew.”
Breweries at the time were not as committed to those two concepts as Platform was, and now, five years, later, Platform is synonymous with Ohio craft beer. Platform is now producing 27,000 bbls of beer a year (most of which are not staples), operating three locations in the state (Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati) and a fourth in planning in nearby Pittsburgh. They also continue to stay ahead of alcohol beverage trends, coming out with a new line of hard seltzers last year. Here is everything we discussed with Brenner:
8:30 – How much Platform has grown.
10:00 – How has local competition changed your approach?
13:00 – If you opened a year or two later, do you think you’d see the same rate of growth?
15:00 – The difference of “brand loyalty” and “product loyalty.”
17:00 – How do you handle retail accounts while constantly offering new products and styles? How do you swap in new products without causing confusion for distributors, retailers or customers.
18:00 – How retail sales is different from the direct to consumer strategy.
21:00 – How Platform is constantly in R&D mode, letting customers in as part of that process. (This is where we learn the actual number of beers Platform has produced)
23:30 – Discussion of their the move into hard seltzers.
25:30 – Why cans always fit their vision. Plus, what equiment are they using these days to get the job done? And why some beers go into 16-oz cans.
29:30 – What size brewhouse are they using, and why, and how they have upgraded over the years, including lab equipment and staff.
32:00 – How to incorporate food but still not be a restaurant. And are they considering a more dedicated food program for any of their other new locations?
34:30 – How they developed their nonprofit night.
37:00 – What’s next? Are they still going to be able self-distribute?