For a lot of people in the beer industry, the 2020 Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywine Festival was the last time they got to see each other before the pandemic hit two months later.
Laura Lodge guessed early on that it would be a very long time before those people saw each other again — at least in Breckenridge, where Big Beers takes place. And she was right: Laura and her brother Bill, who founded the event with her in 2001, had to cancel the 2021 iteration due to the pandemic. As a result, Lodge moved temporarily to Ohio, where she could be close to her father and oversee a project making thousands of homemade masks for front-line workers and organizations in the Cleveland area.
But beer was never far from her mind. So while she continued to tentatively plan for a 2022 Big Beers festival, last October, Lodge began working with well-known California craft brewery trademark attorney Candace Moon and graphic designer Misty Gordon on a website designed to help would-be and existing brewery owners.
That site, called StartABrewery.com, launched in early May with dozens of articles on everything from how to find the right staff to where to come up with financing and how to file a trademark.
“It’s designed as an educational platform, free to the user, that shows the stages of launching a brewery and a lot of things newbies should be considering throughout the process,” Lodge says. “The concept is based on years of teaching the same basics and answering the same questions. That, paired with the number of people we know who also speak or teach basic educational content to startup breweries in the industry, seemed like a great way to pull together a really robust educational resource.”
Dozens of the articles' authors have Colorado connections, thanks to Lodge’s contacts and friends in the beer industry, including Rick Wehner of Brewery Finance; brewpub expert Tom Hennessy; brewery insurance consultant and former Goldspot Brewing owner Matt Hughes; Horse & Dragon Brewing's Carol Cochran; Nancy Trigg of Arryved; longtime brewery investor Jeff Mendel; sensory specialist Melissa Antone; Ruby Street's Brian Mollohan; former BA spokeswoman Julia Herz; and even Westword beer writer Jonathan Shikes.
The idea for the website came about during — and probably because of — the pandemic. "The opportunity for Candace to purchase the URL happened to come during the pandemic," Lodge explains. "If it had been sent to her at a non-pandemic time, I’m not sure she would have paid it more than passing attention — if at all. But it did. And because of the pandemic, I had the bandwidth to build it out and create it...and Misty was available to do the building of the site. It’s been odd, but there are definitely silver linings…and one of those includes the opportunities to do new and different things when the rest of your world hits 'pause.'"
As for the Big Beers festival, the tentative dates of January 6 through January 8 have been set for a 2022 version, but Lodge says its status is still up the air. "We cannot have any mask or distancing advisory/mandates in place in order to have the event and break even," she notes. "The latest CDC advisory is encouraging. The discussion of vaccine passports, booster shots for vaccines, and any issue with variants are all the things that make us uneasy."