01 March 2009

Old Forge Brewing Co - In the News

Just saw this article in the local news. Congratulations Damien & Maria.

Clicky HERE ot read it or just scroll down.

Passion leads eastern Pa. man to brewing career
JOHN-ERIK KOSLOSKY
The Associated Press

DANVILLE, Pa. - For two years, Damien Malfara spent his days as a salesman and his nights figuring out how to turn a dream of pouring pints of his hand-crafted beer into a profitable operation.
By the time he was looking at locations around the area, his business plan was 100 pages long, he said. It took eight months of work once he settled on a narrow Mill Street storefront before he was ready to open.
Still, today, Malfara, 33, often finds himself working seven days a week, even though he promised himself he would spend Sundays somewhere else.
But his investment has paid off, so far. On Friday and Saturday nights, Old Forge Brewing Co. routinely has a list of drinkers and diners waiting for some of the 70 available seats. On its busiest nights, the brewpub serves 200 customers, Malfara said.
The pub and eatery, which opened three months ago, now provides 20 people with paychecks.
The early success is well beyond what Malfara had envisioned. He figured on a slow start, with business growing over time as word spread.
"But it's been busy ... from the start," he said.
Malfara, a trained chemist, decided to make a go of what most home brewers only dream about. He was selling scientific instruments and laboratory equipment, and had recently moved to Bloomsburg from Philadelphia.
Used to freshly brewed beer at pubs scattered around the city, Malfara found himself routinely traveling to Selinsgrove and Williamsport to visit the area's nearest brewpubs. He knew others were doing the same. He figured they would support a place in Bloomsburg or Danville.
He settled on Mill Street after finding an affordable storefront. It would be a tight fit, he knew, but he could make it work at a reasonable startup cost.
Months of work followed.
A brewery system was custom-designed. A detailed plumbing plan was needed to carry liquids to and from brew kettles and tanks to ferment and store the beer, located at opposite ends of the building. A separate system was needed to convey malted grain from the second floor to the brew unit at the restaurant's front windows.
Bars and tables had to be designed and built. Malfara hired a chef, Martha Barlow, to design a menu that not only puts a twist on traditional pub fare, but also could be prepared in a small kitchen with little refrigeration space.
That meant limited ingredients.
Malfara won't say how much money he's invested in the restaurant and brewery.
"I hope people think I invested a million dollars in the place," he said.
But it's common for a brewer with a place the size of Malfara's to invest $250,000 or more, said Paul Gatza, director of the Craft Brewers Association.
Those numbers are what often separates the home brewer with a dream from the brewing entrepreneur.
Brewers have about a 50-50 chance of surviving for more than a few years, Gatza said.
About 135 have opened in Pennsylvania over the past couple of decades, according to BeerMe.com, which boasts itself as the "most complete source of brewery information worldwide." Of those, about 62 have since shuttered their doors, or at least, cooled their kettles and stopped brewing their own beer, the site says.
That's about a 46 percent failure rate.
But Gatza says those numbers are not unusual in the restaurant business. In fact, it's a little better than the industry average, which is closer to a 60 percent failure rate, he said.
Gatza said location is important, as it is in any business. But brewpubs both succeed and fail in small towns and big cities.
There are successful brewpubs that serve pricey, haute cuisine, and those that are burger joints and pizza parlors, he said.
Most successful owners seem to have a good balance of passion for beer and food, and business sense, Gatza said.
Some home brewers start up businesses with little if any business knowledge. They run into unexpected problems they may not have money to fix, and hit delays they don't have the money to outlast.
In other cases, businessmen have looked to cash in on what had become a chic trend by the early 2000s, but did so without any passion for or knowledge of beer. Those owners have fared the worst, Gatza said.
"We've found that people who are in it for the buck aren't making it," Gatza said. "People who are really passionate about the beer are."
Malfara said he could see business dip if the initial buzz about the place dims.
But he's confident Old Forge Brewing will be serving his hand-crafted beer for years to come.
"There's always a certain amount of worry that we're going to do this and it might not work," he said. "But if I didn't think it was going to work, I would never had done it."

2 comments:

amy w/ a W said...

As of 11/10, Old Forge is now finished with their upstairs construction and can now accommodate larger crowds. They are always busy and yet that never takes away from their food or service. Their seasonal Smashing Pumpkin Ale is one of the best I've ever had. Cheers to Damien and Maria!!!

mybeerbuzz said...

Thanks Amy. I had Damien on the show a few weeks ago and he was telling me all about the updtes. Very exciting...and yes we sampled the Smashin' Pumpkin too...yum!