B.J. Haun and Kristen England of Pour Decisions Brewery

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Call it a reverse April Fool’s joke.

When news got out earlier this week about the launch of a hitherto unheard of Twin Cities brewery called Pour Decisions, skeptical observers (including myself) figured it for a prank. The sparsely populated website; the name which seemed like a satirical jab at the local brewery goldrush; the come-out-of nowhere and anonymous nature of it all — it felt less than real.

“That was the idea,” says co-founder Kristen England (above, right).

But why?

“I’m a cheeky bastard, that’s basically what it comes down to,” he says, laughing. “How do you jump big into this market? You start with the beer nerds and you go out from there. There are two things these people hate — they hate being scooped, and they hate being lied to. You combine these two things, we thought, it was like: ‘OK, people may think it’s an April Fool’s joke… but what if it’s true?'”

A visit last night to their cavernous (and still mostly empty) 7,500-square foot brewery space in Roseville suggests that the guys behind Pour Decisions are either real as they come, or master hoaxers who thought two years down the road when they filed for their LLC with the state.

Let’s proceed with the former assumption and go from there.

England and co-founder B.J. Haun (above, left) may have launched unconventionally, but their resumes suggest some serious beer cred. Both have won bushels of homebrewing awards (Haun took Best in Show at last year’s Minnesota State Fair for his Scottish light ale, and England has been Midwest Homebrewer of the Year and Highplains Brewer of the Year) and England is a Beer Judge Certification Program Grand Master Judge and Education Director. Both have also been deeply involved in the  Saint Paul Homebrewers Club, which has a local reputation for being both cranky and serious about its beer knowledge.

Courtesy of B.J. Haun (left) and Kristen England (right)

“We met through the club,” says Haun. “Kris was president of the club and I was looking for a club. The nice thing about the Saint Paul Homebrewers Club is that it’s unlike other clubs around the country where they’ll try your beer and say, ‘Oh, this beer’s good! Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything you could do to improve it!’ [In contrast,] the SPHC is very good at giving it to you straight, so you very quickly learn how to make better beer because they give you honest feedback.”

Haun and England are both PhD-toting scientists (Haun in plant biology and genetics, England in pharmacology) who work for a biotech startup and the U of M, respectively, and the craft aspects of science carried naturally over into the world of brewing. And naturally there’s work-related relaxation to consider.

“You’re in the lab 100, 120 hours a week — if you’re going to have a hobby, it’s making alcohol,” says England.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Beer #1: Pubstitute Scottish Light Ale

Pour Decisions will launch with two debut flagship beers. The first is a very slightly carbonated Scottish light ale (dark in color, light in alcohol content) that drinks fast and smooth, like a malty vapor.

“It’s called the Pubstitute,” says England. “It’s a Scottish-style beer that’s based on recipes from the 1900s — I do a lot of research on historic beers. It uses a couple malts that no one in the US would ever use. If you just drank this, there’s no way you’d say it was 2.8% alcohol. You can sit at a bar and drink it drink it drink it — it’s a great beer to have with Scotch, too.”

“When we work with our distributor, we’re going to make sure every place it goes, it’s a $3 pint,” he says. He’s animated at this point, truly worked up about the price of beer. “Nobody’s going to be carrying this unless it’s $3 a pint. In the UK, you can get a pint for under two pounds. It’s ridiculous to charge $6 for a pint of beer…  We’re not a discount brewery — we’re just charging what you should be charging for beer.”

He pauses for a moment and adds: “I shouldn’t go to W.A. Frost and pay $9 a pint for Summit. It’s right there! It’s right down the …  road!” he says, using an colorful adjective to describe the road.

Back to That Name…

The (over?)educated duo chalk the “Pour Decisions” name up to a reflection on the craft of brewing versus how they’ve otherwise spent their lives to date.

“Brewing in general is a very mechanical thing — like you can be a cobbler, you can be a brewer… it’s a craft,” says England. “You don’t have to spend a combined 50 years of school to do this. So it just clicked — poor decisions. We could have saved ourselves so much time and energy if we’d done this when we were 19.”

Granted, when they were 19 they might not have approached it with the same rigor. Despite the surge of interest and financial investment into Minnesota craft brewing, Haun and England say that they’re still getting in on the ground floor, relatively speaking.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

“We did a market analysis of Wisconsin and Colorado,” says Haun, talking about their business plan. “They’re similar-sized states, both have one major metro area, they support three times the craft breweries that Minnesota does. Granted, a lot of those breweries export more, but they didn’t start making 50,000 barrels and exporting on day one. That had to grow from local patronage. We see it as being in that early stage. Other breweries coming on line, it’s not a problem — the beer drinkers are there.”

To tap into what they see as a still-deep reservoir of local beer demand, Haun and England raised money from friends and family to cover soft start-up and marketing costs, going to banks for financing to cover the cost of their equipment. Their calendar isn’t set in stone, but they’re moving with deliberate speed:

“Best-case scenario, we’ll have beer mid-July,” says England. “Equipment will be here in 2-3 weeks, we’ll have our improvements done in the next month, month and a half. Then we get inspected, and then we can wait for our permits. Once we have our permits, we brew, and we’ll have beer about a month later.”

To a skeptic who wrote to their website asking whether the market was too flooded to support another brewery, England says he answered by explaining his opinion about the many out-of-stater breweries currently sucking up much of the local media and beer geek oxygen:

“These flashes in the pan — Odell’s, Deschutes, Stone — they’ll always come and go. But the Twin Cities do not have a stomach for outside beer. The Twin Cities are extremely local. There’s an untapped potential for local breweries with their own equipment on local soil.”

Patersbier Belgian Golden Ale

The second beer Pour Decisions will debut with is Patersbier, a 6.1%abv crisp golden ale that tastes light, perfumed, and delicately spiced. Except that there’s no spicing it whatsoever. “It’s just one malt, one type of hop, and yeast,” says England.

“It’s a Belgian style, but nothing that people have really had before,” says Haun.

Its origin is deep within the Trappist monasteries that are the origin points of much of Belgium’s beer culture.

“There are a few of the Trappist breweries in Belgium that make a similar beer, but it’s just for the monks,” says Haun. “It’s not for sale, you can’t even drink it… But my good friend Stan Hieronymus wrote a book called Brew Like a Monk. And me and him had been working on this recipe for a long time … It’s kind of like a pilsner, but with all Belgian grains. I’ve probably made it 80 times to get it where it is today.”

And that complex flavor?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

“It’s all yeast-derived, no spice,” says Haun. “It’s just elegant, perfumey, crisp, clean… you go to bars, and the Belgian beers are the dubbels, and the trippels, and the quads — you buy a bottle and it’s $40. I don’t like spending $40 on a bottle of wine, let alone a bottle of beer. This is designed to have all that complexity of Belgian beer, but still be approachable to people who don’t like Belgian beers.”

From England’s perspective, the Pour Decisions Belgian triumphs with its crispness. Of other domestic Belgian-style beers he’s tried, “there are very few of them that are crisp. That’s the first thing you’ll notice about this — it’s crisp, it’s clean. There’s nothing to hide behind. If there’s the tiniest thing wrong with this, it’ll stand out like nobody’s business.”

The Power of “Brew It Yourself”

When asked why the duo didn’t step up slowly from homebrewing to contract brewing at another brewery’s location to finally owning a brewery, England was blunt: “I don’t trust contract brewers at all.”

“You give them your recipe and say ‘I want this malt,’ and you get… ‘Well…this is our base malt,'” says Haun. “‘We want crystal 50.’ ‘Well, we have crystal 40.’ Before you know it, it’s not even your beer.”

And so Pour Decisions launches after nearly a decade of intense homebrewing and recipe research — the painstaking acquisition of knowledge that will unlock the door to what is sure to be a number of memorable beers and, of course, many more painstaking years of knowledge acquisition.

“It’s all research, right?” says England. “Our lives are based around research. First thing you learn as a PhD is that you’re not as smart as you think you are. And then you proceed, and you learn from other people, and take the best from what they’ve learned and put it together.”


  1. geoff

    BJ has brewed some very good and highly interesting beers over the years. And I would be willing to bet that there’splenty of room locally for brews that are regional, unique, fairly priced and delicious. Just no more overhopped IPAs, please.

  2. Mark

    Is it just me or do these guys sound like pompous assholes? And on their “Why do you care?” section of their website when they said: “I mean ‘brewery’ in the most literal sense: a place where beer is brewed. In the Twin Cities. On local soil. Not an imported product with a local address.” Was that a knock on Fulton???

  3. Greg

    “These flashes in the pan — Odell’s, Deschutes, Stone — they’ll always come and go.”

    You guys are pretty impressed with yourselves, aren’t you? I am interested in seeing what you actually produce.

  4. Ryan

    I, for one, figured it was a prank. The date. The source. (Another award-winning homebrewer who likes to stir the pot on MNBeer and who may well be the originator of the phrase “Surly Fanboy.”) The Photoshop-filter-o-rific logo.

    That being said, as our readers did a little sleuthing/stalking (including posting BJ’s home address), it started to appear to be a reality. I’d say this solidifies it.

    Best of luck to these cheeky bastards. Judging by their pedigree, they may just do well. If their patersbier is anything like the kit Kris and Stan created for Northern Brewer, they’ll be filling my pint on occasion.

  5. Kristen England


    Re ‘flashes in the pan’ that was 100% mis-interpreted/poorly worded. We’d be so lucky to have the quality of beers and success that they have. My point was to emphasize the local fan base for local products. Meaning that these large non-local breweries have massive releases, all over town, taking over every tap in some locations. There beers are all very good. There is huge outpouring and coverage. Then a month or two goes by, there is maybe a tap or two in each bar. TC’ers revert back to their local products. When given the opportunity to choose between equal quality products, they always go local. That’s why we are starting a brewery. We love the TC beer scene!

    That absolutely came out completely dickish which was not my intention in the least. We are cheeky, but not stupid. First interview. First FUBAR. Lesson learned. I need to slow down talking. Again, my sincere apologies.


    Kristen England
    Pour Decisions Brewery

  6. Steve

    Flash in the pan as they come into the market, everybody raves, nobody buys their over-priced, over-hyped stunt beer (Dogfish Head anyone…anyone?) and they’re gone. Widmer was here, gone, now back. Used to be able to get Three Floyds too.

    There’s a glut of imported beer, yeah. A glut of good local beer? No. I’d say there are 3 reliable local breweries, excluding brew pubs. Hint: they all start with S.


    If you don’t stir the pot stuff will burn. ;-)

  7. Scott

    From the Pour Decisions website, “Frankly, you haven’t heard anything about us until now because we wanted to release ourselves to you ‘full monty’.” So we should assume that their ‘full monty’ is an empty warehouse in Roseville? Huzzah!

  8. Erik

    I can’t wait to try the beer…it sounds damn good from this article.

    And definitely agree about the lack of local beer options in the Twin Cities. I Just got from Burlington, VT and there were at least 10 breweries/brewpubs in a city of 500,000. It made TC look like a desert. The more good beer choices, the better.

  9. Ric Heins

    I am always willing to try and support local brew. Congrats to Kristen and B.J. I’ve been lucky enough to have sampled a few of Kristen’s “experiments” and can’t wait to try the production model!

  10. Lonny

    Very excited to see things are up and running. Can’t wait for the beer to start flowing

    @Greg: I’ve tasted some of B.J.’s beer. They have every reason to be impressed with themselves. The Double IPA is insane.

  11. Andrew

    I support beer that is made by people I can talk to, not talk up at or be talked down to by. be careful with your ‘cheekiness’ as we craft fans are a fickle group. I’ve met a lot of classy headbrewers and brewery owners, I hope to keep it that way.

  12. Dave

    Trust me when I say these two are legit. I’ve tasted several different flavors of their product and, pound for pound, it is worth a taste. Best of luck.

  13. Sean

    Love the idea of a low alcohol flavorful beer. Been waiting for something like this for awhile!

  14. Jacob B.

    So maybe I missed it – what type of system? Are they planning on bottling or kegging? Sounds like they are using a distributer, who? I will refrain from all other skepticism, especially as it relates to business 101 and relationship building.

  15. Jacob B.

    Ok – I think my Friday morning skepticism was a little harsh. I am blaming it on the lack of caffine. I wish these guys the best of luck – and am excited for them, now if I would have only did this when I was a young man….. I probably wouldn’t be so bitter.

  16. John Robertson

    I am trying to figure this out. They have pictures of their brewhouse on their facebook page that look finished, but do not look to be in the same building they are photographed in with heavy table. This is all so confusing, I need a drink, hoping these guys can help me out with either issue.

  17. Beastly Fido

    I think it’s refreshing to see a business strategy whose marketing plan is designed to annoy and insult many of the folks who would likely become some of the core customer base. I also applaud the courage it takes to poke a stick in the eye of the competitors that have blazed the trail ahead of this venture. Remember, this is not about a beer tasting good. It’s about the people who make it being better than you.

  18. Kristen England


    Re the system. Its of a German design meaning its fully decoction capable. Its a 20bbl brewhouse with 40bbl fermenters.

    As for the picture of the system, that is our actual system and is from the manufacturer. It will be shipped here in about 2 weeks. That’s where the confusion lies. We figure any picture is better than no picture.

    We will be moving into getting a canning line as the situation presents itself. We’ve always like the half liter cans as they are massively popular in Europe and just really catching on here.

    We’ll definitely be doing specialty 750ml bottles of various things well before that though. If any of you read what I do at http://www.barclayperkins.blogspot.com or have read the stuff I did for Stan’s Brewing with Wheat book that will give you some idea some of the neat things we have in mind.


    Kristen England

  19. Jason

    Congratulations guys. I’ve heard of your homebrewing success, but have never had the opportunity to try your brews. I’m very excited for you and to try what you have. Keep up the good work!


  20. Brewzdogz

    Would this list of “special brews” include a lager based lime beverage perhaps? I sure hop so.

  21. Ted W

    I think most people who have interacted with Mr. England would agree that he is a very arrogant and condescending fellow.

    I went to a number of homebrew club meetings where he was present and I was blown away by the things he would say to people, especially new members of the club. It wasn’t much of a surprise that a lot of people would go to one meeting and never attend again. Mr. England acted as though he was some sort of Beer Czar that should be tolerated, if not cherished.

    Reading through this interview and the content on the pour decisions website it seems like not much has changed with Mr. England. To subvertly attack other craft breweries, whether they contract brew or not, is low and unnecessary. Craft brewers generally don’t directly compete with each other because they need each other to survive. Craft beer drinkers are fickle and its the immense variety of craft beers available that will continue to help craft beer eat away at big beer’s market share.

    With this “gold rush” of breweries it doesn’t surprise me that a character like Mr. England would enter the market with his sad attitude in tow. Good luck to Pour Decisions.

  22. AJG

    Gents – I’ve enjoyed a few of your beers in the past, they are incredible. Looking forward to many more!

  23. geoff

    speaking of sad attitudes…one man’s idea of what’s arrogant and condescending is another man’s idea of helpful advice:

    “The nice thing about the Saint Paul Homebrewers Club is that it’s unlike other clubs around the country where they’ll try your beer and say, ‘Oh, this beer’s good! Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything you could do to improve it!’ [In contrast,] the SPHC is very good at giving it to you straight, so you very quickly learn how to make better beer because they give you honest feedback.”

  24. Steve

    Remember that line by Jack Nicholson? “You can’t handle the truth.”

    The people who can handle the truth and want to brew better beer join SPHBC.

    The cry babies who want group hugs slink away and whine about what jerks SPHBC are, when what’s really going on is honesty and a lot of kidding around.

    I’m so sick of the snobby alleged beer geeks who really want to brown nose brewers and be their BFFs. It not about good beer to them. It’s about their status as brewer sycophants, yes men, and suck ups.

  25. dave

    I thought the comment regarding One of the top breweries in the nation….Stone, was an april fool’s. Arrogance is a good thing sometimes….I hope the beer lives up to the hype.

  26. Ted W

    “The people who can handle the truth” ?

    “The cry babies” ?

    “Snobby alleged beer geeks”…. wait, is that a snobby comment? I’m not sure.

    Steve illustrates the general attitude of the SPHBC very well.

    My point is not that the club is too harsh on people for their piss poor homebrew. My point is that there were certain members of the club, in particular Mr. England, that seemed to look down upon everything that had not originated in their brew kettle. Whether that was some guys first extract brewed brewed beer, or beer from Town Hall. The snobbish, elitist attitude that is conveyed in this article and on the Pour Decisions website is verbatim to what I have encountered. It is this attitude that I think Pour Decisions would be wise to leave behind.

    In fact the beers that I brought to the meetings were met with generally raved reviews and fairly useful constructive criticism. It was the side conversations and general observation that made me gasp.

    In summary. That is great that another homebrewer is starting a brewery, after-all, brewing beer on a production level is just like being a shoe cobbler.

  27. Tom H

    These 2 guys will do well. I love the attitude. “don’t go changing”. This is going to be BIG!

  28. BrianJ

    Kris, I believe I work with your wife and had some of your homebrew in exchange for some of my Cascade hops. I really liked your Belgian pale ale.

    Best of luck with your new venture!

  29. Tim S.

    Unfortunately, Pour Decisions might be much to close to the truth about the marketing approach these two have taken. Understanding your market and how to position your products and value proposition into that market are critical aspects of any business launch. This is especially true in consumer based markets. A message that slams directly of indirectly the base that is the core of the whole market movement is an incredible miss. Talking about not launching like a bunch of other craft brewers who had tweeted and blogged their way forward, yet having a pic of your soon to be brew house in Germany but not set up locally smacks of a credibility issue. Being smart tongued and arrogant may work for some, but those that do take this approach, like Stone, do so with a strategy to place ‘like’ product tangent to that message. And they STILL do not attack their core in the process. Pour Decisions has decided to have an arrogant message tied to a low price product. By pricing cheap (in an inelastic market!) they only position themselves against BMC. In fact, their pricing approach speaks to the lack of fundamental marketing and business thought behind the effort. Having followed the Craft Brewing market for two decades fairly closely, it is disappointing to see this effort coming out of Minneapolis. I don’t wish them any extent of failure by any means. However, the current approach seems to be advertising very loud the lack of business and marketing savvy that us needed to persevere.

  30. Krista

    All I know is that I am in grad school for my MBA, and I am definately using this company as the base for my project in Marketing Strategy. One of the choices for our project was ‘successful Social Marketing’. The other was ‘misfires and failures’. I am now definitely taking the later.


    From the incredibly cheap logo, to a REALLY bad set if content to missing your audience, this one is not pretty. Bad press may be good for Charlie Sheen, but not products. Kind of sad.

  31. Steve

    Tim S.-

    Do you buy beer because it’s good and you like it? Do you make up you own mind about the beer? Or do you look up the ratings on those stupid sites to see if you’re right? Do you follow the herd?

    Is Greg Koch a nice guy? Why should I give a crap? Is Vinnie Cilurzo? Tomme Arthur? Is a super swell guy?

    Should I burn my old Miles Davis LPs because the guy was a total douche? Can you separate the artist from the art?

    You illustrate my point all too well by taking yourself and your role as a beer geek way too seriously and thinking you matter to the vast majority of beer drinkers who don’t care what the brewer’s first name is or if he’s stopped beating his wife.

    Guess what, Tim? No one cares what beer geeks think expect other beer geeks who drum up these bogus little tempests in a growler and get all worked about about misperceived dissing.

    Grow a pair.

    You may have small role in educating non beer geeks about hops or something, but really. Do you do a background check on who grinds your beef? Bakes your bread? Changes your oil?

    So, you want me to drink beer because brewer X is a great guy but his beer is mediocre?

    If Satan made a kick ass beer and God had some under-attenuated POS…Satan wins every time for me.

  32. Krista


    No. This is not about the success long term. It is about bad marketing. You are very emotional on this obviously. You even attacked Tim S for being a beer snob when he us referencing Marketing and Business. You railed on him for being a beer snob, yet you spent about 5 times more typing about beer. The facts as I see it are not about beer, but about bad choices. They are FAIR GAME for any comments since they put themselves so forcibly out there. Tim was very correct from a marketing standpoint. Basically advertise you are better than others, then paste a picture of the equipment that isn’t even here. See the problem? Position yourself as Superior and with Attitude, yet price a beer for the highest price sensitive consumer? Pabst grew into the fastest growing beer brand in the United States, and tops in Portland of all places, by joining the emotional connection with the consumer and RAISING price! This is a business, not a potluck. The difference between those who survive and those who just are some content in an article about past brewers are those who don’t screw up the fact that this is a business. If you are going to position yourself as Pour Decisions did, then you better be SPOT on with your message and visual branding. They swung and missed. Heck, just read this and other blog/posting sites. It’s actually facinating. And before you start attacking posters, come ti the realization that they fully opened themselves up to any and all comments by launching. And more importantly to them and any other business is the exact point if my soon to be project in class. In the era of modern technology and social media, you absolutely better not mess up. The same positive force that developed for Surly around their legal proposition can easily be a negative force if you piss of your core. Your response are doing more harm to them than good. Maybe your just pissed because you were the one who came up with that Yugo quality logo.

  33. Cap

    As an owner of multiple restaurants, I am kind of amazed at how PDBC is going to market. First, probably not a good idea both legally and business wise to tell the owner of the establishment which you are relying on to sell your beer what they should be charging. Comes across as arrogant and uncaring. Second, why would I replace one of my twelve taps with a beer that I should only charge $3 dollars for? You want me to make less money? I can purchase a keg of high quality craft beer, charge $6.50 and make around $600 gross and get the turns. You would have to pay me $300 just to take your beer to make my purchase whole. Considering a breweries monthly cost of capital on the carrying of kegs is anywhere from $10 – $13, you would have to charge an establishment at least $50 just to cover your costs. Offering a product which is a bad business investment to the purchaser is not a wise idea, especially when market supports an upwards movement in pricing.

  34. Tim S.

    So Steve,

    So apparently it is appropriate to critique beers to help improve the beer maker, but it is problematic if you criticize business tactics? Grow a pair? Thanks for your ramblings. You made a great topic of conversation last night on how posting can damage an effort. You may be friends with the owners, but all you did was add to the perception that the overall approach is out if touch with the core market.

    I am a huge fan of local breweries and the craft movement, more than I care to prove here. Hopefully Pour Decisions quickly retrenches and establishes a great brand and succeeds. Do not make the mistake that winning awards as a homebrewer has much translation to succeeding as a commercial brewery.

  35. Chad


    How long will the market support that upwards movement in pricing, though?

    As an end of the line consumer, I’m going to have one of those $6.50 pints of craft beer, and then head somewhere else. You’ve made $6.50, your bartender has made $1 on top of that. Good for you.

    Now, if you’re offering something like the Pubstitute at $3, I’m going to sit in your establishment for a few hours and have, say, 5+ beers. I’m spending at least $20 in your restaurant, plus I might possibly order food, because at that price, I feel I’m getting a fair return on my money. And I’ll keep coming back to you time after time after time to have that beer.

    Obviously you’re banking on stupid people that will pay that ridiculous price one time, but at $6.50, though? Come on. I’m someone that is almost dying to throw my money away on beer, but at that price, I’m never coming back.

  36. Cap


    That’s a good question to ask. We recently had a regional symposium that looked these and similar questions, whether food, beer, apps or others. What we discovered is a long term tend in rising price acceptance. This does not mean that we are charging 6.50 for every beer, but as an industry, we have a consumer base that is willing to try high quality craft beers and pay a price similar to wine and other beverages. We have tiered pricing, but from a business standpoint, we need to gain revenue at the higher level that the market can bear.

    In many cases, we can not keep up with demand. A tap or a kitchen is very similar to a factory. We need to maximize the return on those assets. If the market does not support higher prices, those forces will absolutely force us to adjust. The reality now is that the market is willing to pay higher prices for good beer. In an unusual economic trend, we are seeing greater demand and volume when we have a higher price selection. This does not mean we are screwing the customer. We are simply providing product at the price they are willing to pay.

    I do take some umbrage with you calling consumers stupid. They are demanding higher quality and unique choices.

    As for how long the market will bear this? Many economic models indicate a 10 year continuation of the growth of craft beer market share gain. Thus is coming from imports, wine, large brands and spirits. So…when a restaraunt or bar owner is faced with replacing a high profit tap that is commanding volume with a lower profit one, today there is little incentive to change, since the industry is NOT seeing a reverse correlation to sales. At the price differences in question, a standard establishment would need ti see a 400% increase in volume of single tap beer sales to break even on the exchange, or perhaps a $1500 increase in food sales from just that tap replacement to augment the replaced cash flow.

  37. local

    I hope the good doctors don’t think a table of homebrew ribbons translates in the slightest to operating a manufacturing plant. At this point, the success they’re touting amounts to filing paperwork. Why not sell a case of beer before letting us all know how awesome you are?
    Furthermore, I’ve made my living off craft beer for thirteen years, and I’ve never met a distributor or a bar owner who likes being told what to charge, especially less money. So you go ahead and pull your product from everybody who won’t agree to a $3 pint, a nice sentiment, but idealistic unless you start selling $55 kegs.

  38. Tom H

    At the end of the day it’s all about making good beer. The local craft beer scene is boring. We now have Stone in our area. Really, what does Stone offer that isn’t already here? I’m excited as hell to see this new brewery.

  39. Steve

    Tim & Krista-

    You’re writing the epitaph pretty early and giving self appointed beer geeks more credit than they deserve in influencing the general beer drinker.

    Sounds like you’re the ones who are miffed. You might have a nice thesis, but that’s all you have. Your opinion.

    I try every local beer myself and make up my own mind. I don’t need social media and beer rating sites to decide for me. I buy a beer because it’s good, no other reason.

  40. Burton


    Wow, I wish I opened a restaurant by you. It would be awesome to have you take a revenue producing seat for a whole 5 hours and average 4 bucks an hour!!!!! Could you, please? And you called other people idiots.


    I admire your sole diligence on protecting the effort of the startup team, but you are simply wrong. You are only thinking about yourself and perhaps a few people you know. The other posters are laying out the indisputable dynamics of modern marketing forces. Figuring this out and executing to it well us what pays the bills, and people are influenced by many factors. This includes keeping those who distribute your product profitable and happy.

    This whole thing, from the article itself to the posters here show that there are those who understand business and those who do not. Don’t let you marketing professionals play with pharmacology, and ……..

  41. Chad


    I never said I wasn’t also an idiot, and I obviously know that I’m not the kind of customer that these bars/restaurants want. All I meant is that it would be nice to have a cheaper alternative so I can drink more. Ah, to dream…

  42. BJ H

    Hello Everyone,

    Quite the discussion here! It seems like we have polarized people on all aspects of our marketing launch (product pricing, the Twin Cities craft beer scene, our timing, our equipment, our beer and our attitude)! We are indeed fair game for any comments/criticism. Maybe the posters here care about my two cents, or maybe not, but here goes.

    The $3 a pint comment was perhaps a little too utopian (in the sense of having a great craft beer that doesn’t break the bank). It comes from our belief that a craft beer does not always need to be high in alcohol, high in hops and high in price. Our objective is not to tell the bar/restaurant owner what to charge for our product, but rather to price our product to them (while still maintaining our margins) so they can place it on their menu for less than the other craft beer offerings. If it costs us less to make, shouldn’t it cost you less to drink? This conversation only applies to the Pubstitute. It is a low alcohol session beer. There will be other beers in our lineup that will come in around the previously mentioned price point and we will have hoppy, high alcohol beers in our lineup. But we are trying to do something different. Not for the sake of simply being different, but because we feel there is a void in the market. That void is reasonably priced, flavorful craft beer. If we are wrong, then we will work to identify a new niche that differentiates us from the rest of the beer available.

    Regarding the timing of our launch and our equipment not being here yet. Are we supposed to wait until we have beer ready to sell before we announce to the world? We need time to inform people about who we are and what beer we are trying to introduce to the Twin Cities . If nobody knew about our beer until it was on tap at some bar, we wouldn’t sell much beer. Was there a better time to launch, perhaps. Is there always a better way to do something, of course. We will have beer ready for sale in 3 months and hopefully that gives us enough time to spread the word about us and our beer.

    Regarding our “cheap” logo. Given the financial situation this country is in, it goes without saying that capitol for a start-up business such as ours was very hard to come by. We were able to raise X amount of money and had to make decisions on how to best spend that money. I, for one, like our logo. Could we have spend thousands of dollars on getting it professionally designed, sure. But we had to decide how to spend our precious start-up capitol. Number one on the list was getting the best equipment we could find. And while it is quite possible a couple thousand dollars could have bought us a “better” logo, we simply couldn’t afford to take that risk. There are plenty of company logos out there, that in my opinion, are awful. I’m sure some of those companies spent a lot of money on them. We felt we could effectively fund and operate our brewery with the money we raised. Would we have like to raise more, absolutely.

    Regarding our attitude and us coming across as arrogant or pompous, that was definitely and obviously was not our intention. We have all the confidence in our beers and it seems as though that confidence in our product was interpreted by some as being personally arrogant and pompous. It is unfortunate that some people here had a negative experience in interacting with one of our owners. We both have strong and outgoing personalities and an even stronger passion about beer. Not all personality types see eye-to-eye, but it was unfortunate that certain posters here had to use this forum to attack us personally. We put our company out there and it is open to comments/criticism and we accept that. However, to voice your opinion about one of us personally was not necessary. It also was not very Minnesotan.

    Small businesses make this country great and we are excited that we were able to take this risk and turn our passion into our profession. We have areas that need improvement and we are taking all these comments to heart and will learn from them to make our company better.


    PS – Krista, wanna put your money where your mouth is? Meet us for a pint and give us some of your opinions on how we can be better at social media marketing. I know business relationships that have started under far stranger circumstances. Go the website and email us if interested. At the minimum you get a free beer out of it!

  43. Beastly Fido

    heh, you know, half the problem is associating w/ guys like Fletty, especially when he poorly defends your off-base marketing. I think who you are is partially defined by the company you keep.

  44. Josh

    I do find it laughable that BJ is accusing people of not being very Minnesotan given the arrogant tone in the article, on the website, and in the drivel on the SPHBC Twitter feed. Beastly Fido nailed it: you are defined by the company you keep, especially when they’re mentioned in the article. I’d like to see what BJ and Kristen think of what SPHBC is saying on Twitter now that they are small business owners who depend on the very people being insulted. I probably don’t need to even give your beers a try because I don’t have the palate to appreciate it.

    At the end of the day, a table full of home brewing medals means absolutely fuckall in the pro brewing world. The only measure of success that truly matters is the number of pints you’re selling, regardless of whether your beer is technically superior. And the current score sits at PDBC: 0, all the other local or out of state breweries, regardless of whether they brew on their own equipment or contract brew: ∞.

    That’s not to say that PDBC can’t do it or that trying to bring something new to market is a bad idea. But as they said, the local beer drinkers are extremely fickle and loyal. It’s going to be an uphill battle to steal regular business of mine from other breweries that are just as passionate, have just as tasty beer, but can pull it off with less attitude.

  45. Joe O


    Is there an IPA in the works? I am a bit of a hop-head, so I am excited to try that, and all your beers. Best of luck. The area can certainly handle more and better brewers.

  46. Steve


    What are these ” indisputable dynamics of modern marketing forces?” When did marketing become a hard science with immutable laws?

  47. Steve

    For people to go out of their way to take personal potshots at a homebrew club is ridiculous and has no bearing on two skilled and respected brewers starting a new business, whether you like their website or not.

    Why shouldn’t these guy have confidence in their beer? They have the knowledge, and the track record, and the respect of serious beer lovers across the country.

    Why shouldn’t that knowledge of brewing translate to a larger system?

    Instead of personal attacks, maybe you Negative Nellies should try the beer.

  48. Josh

    @Steve – people are just calling things like they see them, no need to get your tightie whities in a bundle, champ. The link between these guys and SPHBC is well established (even mentioned in the article even) and further reinforced on the SPHBC twitter feed with the congratulatory messages. I don’t know who is tweeting from the club account so I can only assume the opinions expressed there are of everyone involved. As a potential consumer, I like to deal with businesses that don’t view me as one of the “unwashed … masses” who needs a “better palate”. But hey, that’s just me. Maybe others like to be derided for their choice of beer to drink.

    The biggest thing that author of those tweets fails to realize that in the real world, outside the ivory tower of beer competitions, what makes a good beer is the number of people who are willing to plunk down money to pay for it. As long as both you and I have a couple of bucks in our pocket to spend, our opinions are equal when it comes to whether a beer is good or not. If you disagree, well then go ahead and try to pay your suppliers or bank with medals and descriptions of how technically superior your beer is to everything else on the market.

    And no one ever said they shouldn’t be confident in their beers or that they weren’t knowledgeable. Some of that knowledge will probably translate to brewing on a larger system…BUT we both know that there’s more to a great beer than just a recipe. Process and equipment factor as much into the equation as the actual recipe. As they will be brewing on new equipment and likely with modified processes, my assertion still stands: a table full of home brew medals means very little in the jump to pro.

    But as I said in my previous comment, I’ll still give the beer a fair shake when it’s ready. And hopefully the mixed reaction has given some points for BJ and Kristen to take to heart. If I were them, the first thing I’d do was to distance that jackass who is tweeting from SPHBC twitter account. Or I guess they can embrace it, and see how well that works out for them.

  49. Steve


    First my boxer briefs fit quite comfortably and are not binding, thanks.

    Brewing is the same process, essentially, regardless of scale. Sure, you have to learn your system. No big deal. I’d put my money on someone with a track record more than I would on someone with no proven skills.

    By your argument, lite lager is the best beer ever because more people buy it.

    And no everyone’s opinion is not equal. When I need surgery, should I listen to some guy off the street or the surgeon?

    Now, we certainly don’t need experts to tell us what to drink and people drink what they like, whatever, I don’t care. On the other hand, I’ll listen more to someone I know is a knowledgable brewer with a trained palate and proven skills than I will to some guy off the street or a beer rating site.

    I make up my own mind. I don’t care about social media. I don’t care about ranking sites. I don’t care if the brewery has a slick web site and a warm and fuzzy backstory. If that’s anyone’s main concern, hey, how’s life as another victim of mass marketing & herd mentality working out for you?

    With regard to club tweeting, which has nothing to do with PDBC, why wouldn’t the club be excited to see their homies go pro? Also, the club has been quite successful in, as you say, “calling things like they see them.”

    If you or anyone else fails to realize that:

    1. There’s a difference between the club and a new business
    2. That the club is often sarcastic and joking
    3. That the club honesty has helped many improve their brewing
    4. That you don’t have to read the tweets or listen to the opinions expressed therein

    Then, well, I guess there’s no pleasing some people.

  50. Josh


    Well from a professional brewing perspective, which the article is about, I don’t think you or anyone else can deny that the lite lager was a pretty good beer for the likes of BMC to bet on. Whining that it isn’t a very good technical beer doesn’t change that, no matter how enlightened your palate is. There’s also no denying that craft beer in general wouldn’t be growing like it is and providing opportunities like PDBC is trying to capitalize on without the lite lager and BMC as a foil.

    I’m sure you know the old saying about opinions… For me, there’s certainly no harm in asking Joe Blow off the street his opinion. It’s not like you are obligated to follow it, and he could be actually be a surgeon or have some other direct experience. This is doubly true when you’re trying to sell Joe Blow something, not asking him to perform surgery. But you’re right, you have to take a variety of things into account when evaluating the merit of the opinion. On the other hand, the guy that gets in my face and tells me what my opinion should be is the one I need to be more critical of because he obviously has an agenda. But that’s just my experience, YMMV.

    Thanks for clearing up the difference between SPHBC and PDBC. I guess it remains to be seen whether the attitudes expressed by one carry over to the attitudes and actions of the other.

  51. local

    @Josh/Steve…. Why don’t you guys get married and have like a thousand babies?
    All kidding aside. There IS a major difference between homebrewing your “go to” recipes in 5-30 gal batches and brewing commercially on a larger format. Josh- you are correct, commercial brewing process is a major component that doesn’t offer the same reliability/consistency your kitchen does. You simply cannot predict that everything will go as planned. Remember, it’s not about a killer batch you cranked out last weekend and entered in your local comp, it’s about cranking out multiple batches a day of consistent product and selling them.
    This being said, there is no “track record” until you are SELLING beer to people you don’t know. Nothing about PDBC is proven, except that attitude is part of the plan.
    On another note, Steve- craft brewers absolutely rely on the opinions of Joe blow on the street, even the beer geeks you are so quick to dismiss. Word of mouth is the best advertising you can have, bar none. Conversely, negative word of mouth (or shit beer)is detrimental, and once you lose consumer confidence, you’re done. One bad batch, dirty kegs, foul lines, etc…. can put you in a tailspin. The pitfalls are myriad, the guarantees are few if any. It may not even be the brewery’s fault as in the case of dirty lines or poor distribution, but as a brewery you have to keep on top of the whole chain from grain to pint. It is truly a multi-faceted responsibility that goes far beyond recipe and palate.

    I wish the boys all the luck in the world, after all craft brewing success as a whole is all about getting more people in the tent. I’d wager that PDBC will soon be more occupied with keeping people happy than sounding like a badass. Deriding your co-breweries and future patrons is a big step in the wrong direction, no matter how cute you think being cheeky is. Edge is good. Douche is, well, douche. I urge you all to tip an ale tonight and hope for the best. Break a leg boys, I eagerly await my first pint.

  52. Tom

    Steve,Josh, we get it thanks. Let’s just wait to the beer comes out and we can then discuss the merits of the brew. We all agree that this is an exciting venture and expectations are very high.

  53. Steve


    Wait…isn’t commercial equipment more reliable, automated and calibrated than some hinky kitchen set up? Once you’ve learned the system it should be easier and more repeatable than the homebrew scale, shouldn’t it? After all, the better breweries have labs and do all sorts of analysis.


    I was giving you crap about lite lager. It’s a great beer in the right situation. I certainly don’t want a RIS on the beach or fishing.

  54. Erica M

    Oh FFS, people. Calm down. Just wait until you taste the beer. I’m happy to have another brewer in town. Maybe it’s the engineer in me, but I’m rather tickled by their research-y take on the whole thing (which also happens to be good business sense).

    Related: I wish you could get more beer flights. So many good local brews on tap.

  55. Charles

    I am one of the consumers that PDBC is targetting. I am 35, a huge craft brewing fan, a 15 year homebrewer (never met the owners or had interaction with their club) and have helped (business plan wise) a good friend launch a brewery out west. This article and the postings caught my eye and then began to fascinate me. And for me personally, I find myself wanting this whole thing to fail. Even I think that is sad.

    It does not matter what “is” and what “isn’t”, since perception is all that matters for brand positioning. And all I keep hearing and finding is that this company, particularly one of the owners, is so out of touch with the market being served it is almost funny.

    Steve, I applaud your fire for sticking up for your friends. However, you are missing the reality that marketing, brand awareness, PR and positioning all have tremendous impact on the financial health of a company. In the craft brewing world, this is MORE true than others. I think you will probably respond with a “prove it” or “I don’t care” post. There is no way to explain in detail here the proof or empirical data. For what it’s worth, I am responsable for global brand management and have a graduate degree in marketing strategy. I can’t prove this on a post, and I am not going to put my name out there to do so, so you either beleive it or don’t.

    PDBC can not run away from the comments on the article, even if they say sorry. Nor can they duck what has been said or posted in past history. I think it is hard to misinterpret what was said, especially when you search on their history of comments whcih is public record. What comes out is a narcisistic attitude and a pattern. Putting Ph.D. on your posting signature might be an accepted custom, but in the craft beer world, you risk coming across like elitist – the opposite of the consumer base. By being blunt and sarcastic on beer quality and comments, you might be “trying to help”, but you risk coming across like you are uncaring or supportive – again opposite the mentallity of the consumer. By slamming Fulton – you basically slam the very industry you propose to succeed in. And then you back up your lack of connection between your actions and reality by calling others “un-Minnesotan”.

    You have made me, others I know, and perhaps countless others not want to support your brewery. For every one of me posting here, there is a chance of 1000 others who feel similar and did not respond. Those thousand others have a network of thousands more. That is your dilemna.

    You make me want to go buy Fulton and others……and I admit I don’t like that.

    So, either at this point you are mad and think I am full of it. Fine.

    Or, maybe you see a trend above, and, maybe, you will adapt quickly. I do want to see you succeed. I DO want the craft beer market here in Minnesota to flourish.

    Look at the above article and the tangent bad PR being generated and seize it as an opportuntiy. You will have to be honest with yourselves and you may not like it, it may be painful, but you will need to feel that it must be addressed. (Steve – you said that you do not get influenced by Social Media. Please read the Strib article on what happened globally around Surly and the legal proposition they are supporting. I am using that article as a foundation for my staff here at work to understand the POWER of SM. Don’t look at it as SM can hurt you, whcih it can. Look at what SM can do FOR you.)

    So here is the advice, and I am neither trying to be arrogant or condensening in the following. If it comes across that way, I apologize…

    QUICKLY acknowledge the mistakes you made. Do not try to explain them, that will only hurt. Kristen did ok earlier, but it was not good enough. You have to go full monty. I am not only talking about the article but anything else that has a chance to sneak up on you. You will have to poke fun at yourself. You will have to not so much say that you were misundertood as much as you were wrong. Do it with humor. Position yourself (which in essence IS your company) as one of the consumers.

    Invite the public over to your new brewery for a tasting of your homebrew. Do it with humility – throw a party and have fun.

    Reach out publicly to other brewers, whether they brew in Minneosta or not, and offer support and praise. This is, and I can not stress this enough, a market that is unique. It is growing beyond belief and the consumers are waiting for breweries to enter. It is a “high tide carries all ships” time right now. If you go against that in any way, you will only hurt yourself.

    You do not need to hire a marketing or PR firm. That is a waste of your money. Your logo and website are great. The only reason someone ripped on it was that it was an easy target and was more than likely a reaction to your percieved attitude. Hell, I don’t personally like it, but from a business perspective it is HIGHLY unique and immediatley indentifiable. Perfect.

    B.J. and Kristen, I have no idea if you are good guys or not. It does not matter, but you are the face of the business and my PERCEPTION of you is not positive. Therfore, my perception of the brewery is not positive. Steve mentioned this earlier, that may not be a big deal – but in your case and in this market it is. The typical consumer of a craft beer is 22 – 35, educated, and this is the important part, purchases product because of “meaning”. Behind meaning are all kinds of positive words, such as “local”, “anti-establishment”, “great”, “open”, “kind” and so on. These are the market attributes that brand positioning is built on. PDBC has so far come across on the opposite end of this spectrum.

    I would love to see PDBC seize this opportuntiy and kick it hard. Be as humble as you can be, then get even more humble. Make fun of how dumb Ph.D.’s are. Have a party with a dunk tank, quote past negative blogs/posts/rants/articles on your website and then poke fun at yourselves and invite the public to do so as well. Ensure public opinion turns positive. You will be VERY surprised ant how quickly you can get a rebound effect if done properly. Then, just educate your audience over time on the beers. Don’t compare them to anyone, and don’t talk about them from a homebrewing standpoint. They need to stand out on their own. In fact, you might consider removing quite a bit of tie-in to your homebrewing awards. That can be a back story. I can’t explain well enough here, but there is a chance that it limits the acceptance of your beer.

    So….all said, sorry for the long post and part rant. You guys pissed me off and I hated it. That SHOULD NOT HAPPEN in this market. This is such a cool time and I am jealous to be honest. I wish I was younger and could take the leap. I hope you think my advice is valuable and that you think about your next steps. Do not listen to any advice that says you need to do nothing and that the beer will sell itself. You will end up with some very expensive homebrewing equipment if you think this way. You do not need money (at least a lot of it) to change your position and approach. You may actually have a unique opportunty to bounce up higher than first possible. It is up to you, and only B.J. and Kristen, to change things, and while it may be a little painful at first, you may just end up having the time of your life.

    I wish you success and I hope to see you an active and positive part of the Minnesota scene, not an outlier.


  56. rlibson

    65 Comments on a widely read blog popular with local foodies – I think they have a pretty good handle on marketing and creating a splash.

    Craft beer pricing is out of hand, how many furious/sweetchildofmine overhopped clone beers does one market really need? and 9 bucks for a four pack – good lawd…forget about northern lights them farmers out in humboldt better be planting noble and cascade strains.

    There is quite a market for people that like good beer at affordable prices and still like to throw back a high life every now and then on a hot summer day without being chastised.

    James Page used to have a six pack of cans for like 5.99, it was a decent beer at a fair price. If you can come to market with something like that you should be in the honey biscuit.

    Good luck

  57. Steve


    BJ & Kris are great guys. Honest.

    They have a unique take on beer and I think you’ll see some interesting styles that no one else is doing. I’ve had the privilege of tasting a number of the things they’ve been perfecting. If you like beer, I think you’ll like their beer.

    Meaning? Hunh. You are the beer you drink? I understand your point about meaning/identity. I think it’s crazy that people think they way. I’d hope that people put more thought into things and were more conscious and educated about those choices, but then I’m a bit of an idealist.

    So, Charles, what percentage of people really believe marketing? I don’t think I’m alone in having an extremely high degree of skepticism for sales/marketing. And, as I asked before, when did it become a hard science with provable laws?

  58. geoff

    Thank you Charles for channelling Robin Williams’ Carpe Diem speech from Dead Poet’s Society. Also, TL;DR

  59. The Real Pour Decision

    I wish you all the luck. You seem like a very genuine and sincere person, I just wish you would have selected a business partner who wasn’t a pompous jerk. If you are smart, you will chain him to the brewing equipment and keep him away from the actual sales and marketing aspects of the business.

  60. MN Beer Lover


    The answer to your question is a very big YES. Statistical analysis, economic theory and more all go into the practice of Marketing.

    I am wondering if your thinking of marketing only in the context of advertising? Marketing is much more than advertising. This includes product development, pricing, and many more items. Sometimes people are very cynical on the effect of advertising (and yes there is a LOT of evidence and empirical studies on the effects of this).

    Also, vastly different approaches for different markets and products within markets.

    Just trying to put an answer to your question. No way to explain or show here either.


  61. Mark Osborne

    Dear Mr. England,
    You are one of 2 or 3 people whose methods and techniques I have followed and learned to trust implicitly. I still get hammered about your 2-stage starter chart whenever I bring it up. Don’t change anything.


  62. Sean

    It is an absolute fallacy that craft brewers should be one big happy family. The idea that it is craft beer as a group vs BMC is absurd. Walk into MGM and watch what happens. The BMC people go grab exactly what they want and walk out.

    Craft beer buyers look over the isle trying to decide what beer to try this time. Yes some people know they are going to get this or that. They also usually try a variety, so some decisions are made on the spot.

    I see no reason not to call out Fulton if you want to. Their beer is fine, but they don’t brew it. It is not local. If I get a recipe off the internet, or in a book, and I win a competition. Does the person who came up with the recipe get the medal? I don’t think so. I see no reason that everyone has to be nice to each other. They are your competition. If you are gonna call someone out just don’t pussy foot about it. Say it.

    Stone sucks! I would never buy their beer. Yeh let me pay $19 for a six pack so you can build another waterfall. I don’t think so. I don’t buy Surly either. for the same 12 bucks I can get a 12 pack of Summit. I understand Surly’s position, demand is greater than supply. Go make a buck its cool, but there are better deals. I wish more breweries would be like Summit or Boston Beer Co. Good beer does not have to be expensive.

    For the restaurant guy I noticed you did not put the name of your establishment. I suspect that was not a coincidence. I always avoid franchises because they have people like you working at them. All the marketing costs, executive compensation, and other corporate costs are muda. Places that focus on gouging people will never last like the Cosseta’s or Mancini’s of the world.

    BJ, Kris, good luck with your venture. Your website sucks! Your beer labels suck! Your logo needs work. You are just flat out wrong if you think this is something you can skimp on. Your friends are not going to buy enough of your beer to make you profitable. Do whatever it takes to get the money and hire a good graphic designer. (try talking to whoever just did the site and labels for Badger Hill Brewing, That is a very good design work. I have no affiliations with them, nor do I know who did the site.) Don’t include the link to this page when you put up a professional site. Make sure your packaging tells a story about the beer, it creates an emotional attachment to the product, and makes people want to buy it and try it.

Comments are closed.