A few moons back, I undertook an undergraduate course in physics with a focus on astronomy. During study and since finishing, this time of year has caused me to pause on yet another journey around our star, the sun. Not so much a recap, but more of a reflection. Above and past all the lists and best of’s that we are accustomed to both take part in shaping and consume, it’s pretty bloody awesome that we have travelled another 940 million km.
From our family to yours, we hope this most recent orbit has been an enjoyable one if not momentous, and if not, well you made it anyway. Outside of family life, I think it is safe to say it has been a pretty strange one in the Western world. A year that almost questions whether the democratic experiment is working. I’ll stay away from that for the time being and instead want to reflect on the major two parts of my life and what the year has brought with it: The brewery and my family life. There is actually a fair bit to cover here in this blog post so I will address things one by one, forgive my structure.
This December marks 20 months since we sold Gold and Amber Blend #1. For 12 months from that first sale, these were the only two beers we sold to our wholesale accounts, with only a handful of brewery releases there in-between. In the 8 months since, we have loved sending out some 23-odd more projects we have been working on, into the world. The most fun part, though, has been y’alls response. From visitors at the cellar door, to instagram and facebook posts, I truly love seeing these beers being enjoyed. These also added up this year as we were tipped with the following major awards:
Another completely awesome thing I got to do this year was actually travel and be at events around Australia and in my home America for the brewery. The year kicked off at GABS with an overwhelming response selling out of beer at every session, onto Canberra to pour at the closing party of Barrio’s bar. Next the release of St Henry at 10 William St in May, a pre-release party at The Bitter Phew in June and pouring at the always excellent BottleTops party at Franklin in Hobart (thanks Forbes!). Later in the year Chris and I flew to Seattle and were so generously hosted by both my brother Matt and Matt Storm of The Masonry fame. We took over the latter’s bar with all our kids’ beers alongside our standards and some special stuff from our friend Adam of Floodland brewing. Huge thanks to you both for making possible what was one of the best most surreal nights of the year. Then onto Portland and finally Denver to serve Wildflower beer from Marrickville at The Festival alongside dozens of our brewing heroes and world-class breweries. So great catching up with old friends and even better making new ones. Lastly, just only recently, our fantastic trips to Melbourne and Adelaide to awesome events in both. Damn I love Adelaide.
On a brewing front, I can't overlook how meaningful it was to host Jeff Stuffings and his family from Austin TX to brew a collaborative beer together. Jester King has been and will always be a special place for me, so making a beer with both our house cultures brings it all full circle.
At the close of our second year of brewing, we have nearly filled all the barrels we can, completing the cellar. For the way our beer is made, the extended ageing and necessity to blend from a plethora of stock, this was huge for us. Since we started brewing in late 2016 we have been making on average 65% more beer than we sell on any given month. That is real barrels, malt, hops and time on other brewery’s brewhouses we have paid for up-front without a real understanding on when any of the beer from a given batch will be recouped. With a realisation this year that Gold spends on average 10 months in barrel then 3 in bottle (Amber is 8 and 3 respectively) this means that our net cash flow cycle has been on average over 14 months taking into account trade accounts payment terms. To say that cash has been tight is an understatement. For the past 24 months, Chris and I have on multiple occasions sourced more funding in order to keep brewing because expenses have continually outpaced revenue. At one stage we thought this may affect the ownership of Wildflower but I am proud to say that it is still just Chris, me and our wives. Much of this credit goes to Chris and his ability to manage cashflow but also it has meant some significant sacrifices from our families… Emily and Benny, thank you.
This year all up, it looks like we sold around 38,000 litres or 315 US barrels of beer. It is about double the rate of what we sold in 2017. So to say that we grew is an understatement. This year we lost 6,500 litres of beer to poor ferments, about 17% of the volume that we sold. It sucks, it’s more than we predicted and we have learned from this to steer away in the future. Looking forward though, we are looking at about 10-15% growth to just shy of 45,000 litres. About halfway through this year, Chris and I had to look at this and decide if we were to continue producing to be able to sustain that kind of growth. We decided against it and instead to focus on being more efficient by investing in equipment that also increases the quality. Year on year double digit growth (even when talking small volumes) is not a goal of ours. Instead, going forward you will see a honed focus on making the small volume of beer we do make better, from raw materials to packaging, every part of the process is getting a look at and we are spending it all on time to reflect on those processes, question why we do things now and experiment with different ones.
We tightened our cellar door opening hours (thank you all for understanding) and hired an additional staff member. That brings our total to 4. Chris, myself, Luke and Brayden. The latter being the newest, he has been a welcome addition and we are finding ourselves getting out the door on time more often. This is a big goal of ours for next year and leads me into the second section of this post, this year outside of work.
Life (not work)
It has been a great year for us with our daughter Florence, watching her grow and having more and more fun with her. She is cheeky like her mother and stubborn like her father. Benny (my wife) and I have been playing the game of being both parents and having jobs. Juggling this has really given me a new appreciation for what our parents did for us. And to think, we only have one kid! To all you parents out there, we are in awe.
Early on this year we lost a patriarch in the family, Benny’s grandfather. A remarkable man born in The Netherlands (to a brewery production manager, as it happens), he lived and survived through Nazi occupation of his home country, scandalously married an Australian (Benny’s grandmother) whom he met on a ship voyage and with her raised a family while living in Holland, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and finally Australia. In addition, friends of ours lost their child this year. It devastates me to even write that now. Both these lives well lived truly mark this year for me.
We welcomed to the world two nephews and a niece in Texas and Georgia whom we enjoy seeing over The Internets. In addition, Luke and his wife also had a new addition in their first born.
For me, I hope I can look back on this year and remember these things. The things that matter, the things that impacted my life for future laps around the sun to come. I hope you get to enjoy a glass of something bubbly and nice next to someone who had helped you through this past year tonight. Thank you for your support of Wildflower this year, it has meant the world to us.