Public House Brewing Co. – Rolla, St. James
Public House Brewing Company is the brainchild of two Joshes, Josh Stacy and Josh Goodridge, old music buddies who parlayed their love of craft beer into a homey pub on North Rolla Street near the Missouri University of Science & Technology (S&T) campus in 2010. The Rolla landmark brewpub was a long time in the making, but they made it with strategic help from Keith Strassner, director, and John Woodson and Travin Shelton, counselors, at the Missouri S&T Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC). The center is part of a statewide network of counselors who provide business analysis, consultation, access to technology resources and training seminars on a variety of business topics. The SBTDC is a program of the University of Missouri Extension Business Development Program.
Public House also has a garden. And a taproom.
With a winery.
How can a brewing company have all of this?
By accepting capital from the four-decades-old St. James Winery, just 10 miles away, to build a new brewing facility with a taproom to dramatically increase production, and the new Gardens at St. James. At the Garden, people can enjoy the warmth, friendliness and good cheer of award-winning St. James Winery wines or a rich, creamy Revelation Stout from the Public House Brewing Company — all in a landscaped outdoor space with a fire pit, bocce courts and chess board populated with four-feet tall chess pieces.
Chess? With wine and beer?
The Joshes decided early on they wanted to create the sort of space they’d like to hang out in. The pub has no TVs, much less giant ones with sports at ear-splitting volume. There are no games but the old-fashioned ones where people look at each other or the board — not a screen. There isn’t even any smoking. All this was done to enhance the new old-fashioned pub experience.
The pub and gardens more than welcome students. But the demographic sweet spot, zeroed in with Missouri S&T SBTDC help, are professionals aged 35 plus. Josh Stacy describes them this way: “People who like to go out after dinner, who are tired of sports bars, regular bars — all that smoky, loud, chaotic stuff.” Stacy is co-founder, co-owner and brewmaster. He still keeps his hand in the game, but is concentrating more on the business side of things. “We wanted this to be the place for everyone else, more of what we liked.
“We didn’t understand how many everyone elses there really were.”
This was amply proven when the taps ran dry just a few days after opening. That’s not an issue now, because the Rolla facility’s 350-barrel-a-year capacity has been enormously augmented by the St. James taproom, built on underutilized St. James Winery land. Stacy says the pub still has 12 taps with constantly changing brews, an opportunity for the owners and brewmaster to experiment while producing these four mainstays:
- Rod’s Cream Ale — winner of a 2015 craft beer gold award, an all-American mild, pale, lighter-bodied ale, named for Public House brewer Rod Murray.
- Hide and Seek Hefeweizen — (German for “wheat with yeast”), brewed with a multi-step infusion mash method that gives the beer body without sweetness. Described as “Pale, spicy and fruity … medium-bodied with a fluffy, creamy fullness that comes directly from the wheat” with “subtle flavors and aromas of banana, clove and even bubblegum.” Why hide and seek? The flavors are there but have to sought to be savored, says Stacy.
- Elusive IPA — their take on the classic craft brew, slightly higher in alcohol content and made with six different hops.
- Revelation Stout — their best-seller, winner of a gold medal against formidable odds at the 2015 Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition, with a distinct chocolatey aroma, creamy tan head and notes of roasted coffee.
They still have time to dream up items like:
- Thorn & Heat Strawberry Wheat — a wheat beer infused with the same strawberry fruit used in St. James Winery’s popular strawberry wine.
- Cranberry Cream Ale — using the same cranberry fruit used in the winery’s wine.
- Six Degrees Chocolate Porter — with real chocolate nibs from a Missouri chocolatier.
These are the winners. Stacy says they experiment all the time, and if people don’t like them, they are brutally honest. But if they do like them, the brew is scaled up. Last year, the firm brewed somewhere between 500-700 cases of the strawberry wheat. That number will be closer to 4,000 this year.
“You get the full strawberry effect,” Stacy says. “But it’s not like a strawberry Jolly Rancher. More like strawberry jam spread over a warm biscuit.”
If that sounds like a hybrid, it’s because it is. Stacy says he sees a lot of convergence and crossover in consumer trends, especially with the younger generation. And the brewery and winery are now in a position to work with each other and try different things.
Public House’s beers are currently sold throughout Missouri and in Arkansas and southern Illinois. St. James Winery has a reach of at least 18 states plus the District of Columbia and more than 40 years of marketing experience, potentially making Public House brews available nationwide with far less of a learning curve. “It’s a decade worth of bootstrapping we have been able to jump over,” says Stacy.
Not that the Joshes are in a big hurry. Their goal is not to rival the huge South African and Belgian conglomerates but keep things real in their own back yard.
“Our back yard (the Rolla-St. James area) has been really good to us,” Stacy says. “We are not looking to expand our footprint. We have gotten a lot of success in Arkansas, southern Illinois, too, and our attitude is: Let’s take care of customers here before we push out farther.”
Then again, that’s what they said years ago in Stacy’s garage.
How did the Missouri S&T SBTDC help?
“For us, two guys with no business experience, trying to put together a business plan — we asked, ‘What do we need to do? This is our dream. How do we get from dream to reality?’
“A lot of it was sitting down with them (Missouri S&T staff), coming up with a business plan, structure, demographic information, pointing us in the right direction. They were a huge sounding board. We’d say, ‘Read over this, what do you think?’ Then we’d rework it, bring it back.
“Financials were a big part of it. Putting together a realistic budget was hard. But then we took it (the business plan) to banks, and had a bit of a bidding war! The first three banks we took it to, they all wanted to do it. We got everything we wanted and then some.
“It seems like yesterday. I remember spending a lot of time in their office. They were really good about following up, keeping tabs on us, asking us, ‘What else can we help with?’ They kept the door open.
“They have been very, very good.”
So much so that nine employees in 2011 became 15 in 2015. That number is now more than 30. And revenues of not much more than $100,000 to begin with and about a quarter of a million in 2013 will soon surpass the $1 million mark.
The staff at Missouri S&T SBTDC comment:
- “Having a business plan and information on markets and demographics is critical to all businesses. For a small business with limited time and resources or for someone just getting started, this is an area where our team of counselors can really help.”
— Keith Strassner, director, Missouri S&T SBTDC
- “It’s vital that anyone applying for a loan or financial assistance has the right information and documents prepared. This is another area where we can really help small businesses. We also have a network of resources to identify where a business might be able to get potential financing.”
— Travin Shelton, business counselor, Missouri S&T SBTDC
- “Our focus is on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs either start or grow their business. Most of our services don’t have a cost for the small business owner or entrepreneur, so the SBTDC is a really great resource for our area.”
— John Woodson, business counselor, Missouri S&T SBTDC
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