The Chisms were frugal from the start, counting on
their own hard work and sweat equity first. All brewers
can learn from Council: Every penny saved is a penny
that can be reinvested back into the business.
Lastly, it’s critical to select a financial partner that
understands the industry and the challenges brewery
owners face. Live Oak Bank specializes in financing
for wineries, vineyards, craft breweries and craft distill-eries nationwide with loans customized to help brewery
owners achieve their business goals. abfj
TRACY SHEPPARD is a senior loan officer for Live Oak
Bank’s Wine and Craft Beverage Lending Division. He
is also responsible for developing and launching Live
Oak’s Asset Based Lending program specifically for
Their first change was to upgrade equipment,
including trading in their original plastic kegs for stainless steel, adding fermentation capacity and a bottling
line. While the business and beer had been impressive without this specialized equipment, the ability to
outsource some of the manual labor allowed the Chisms
to focus more time on brewing new beers and running
The next exciting upgrade was to expand the bre wery’s
sour beer program. Sour beers include gose and lambic
brews, created specifically to have a sour but pleasing
taste. “We call it the Magic Factory,” Curtis Chism adds.
Magic indeed. Council Brewing’s creations have a 97/100
rating based on 846 reviews on RateBeer.com.
The sour beer program started with a microloan
Live Oak was able to refinance to provide greater value
to Council. The Chisms had previously run into issues
with banks that did not understand how capital intensive breweries can be. They appreciated the expertise
that LiveOak had working with craft brewers. “Our loan
officer knew the equipment is expensive. He understood what we needed to successfully run our brewery,”
Curtis Chism says.
Building a Community
Council Brewing has wisely reinvested in its business
and leveraged financing to pursue its real passion:
brewing great beer. This passion has also driven its
success. The couple believes consistently introducing
new beers helps drive their loyal customer base.
To further support the business, Council Brewing
continuously promotes beer education and experiences
that make the brewery a key part of its customers’ beer
appreciation. It offers ongoing events such as beer
dinners, tastings and education nights. These events,
which often sell out, offer the community an opportunity to gather and learn more about the brewing process,
beer pairings and different types of beer.
Building community was a critical factor in creating
the tasting room layout at Council. A long table encourages people to congregate while the bartender is always
accessible to provide recommendations or just chat
Lastly, the Chisms brew a variety of beers to ensure
Council Brewing is a gathering place for all beer lovers.
From Belgian beer to IPAs and sours, the brewery offers
beers anyone can enjoy.
Council Brewing is a success story and a model for
home brewers considering starting a business. However,
sheer competition in the craft beer industry is a challenge for hopeful home brewers across the nation. In
2016, there were more than 5,000 breweries in the U.S.,
99% of which were small and independent craft brewers
according to the Brewers Association.
While competition is increasing, consumers increasingly prefer and select craft beer, so it’s not too late in
the game. Hopeful brewers should be dedicated to
making a high quality product that people like and,
ultimately, will buy.
“Local bankers would just stop by the brewery when I was in the middle of a brewing process and expect to talk. It was clear they thought running
a brewery meant hanging out and enjoying beer most of the day.”
— Liz Chism, Owner, Council Brewing