Brewery owners manage growth

PHOTO/Michael Penn/The Juneau Empire
Marcy Larson, co-owner of Juneau’s Alaskan Brewing Co., has some hard-won advice for small business operators managing growth: Be careful, pay attention to quality and make sure you’ve got strength in your home market before you expand out of state.

Listen to your banker is another bit of advice.

"There have been many times our banker has looked at sales projections and made us scale back, to make sure we can pay our loan even if sales didn’t meet expectations," she said. "That conservative view helped us.

"It’s easy to dream," Larson added. "Alaska is full of optimists, and it’s real easy to get up there in the stars without knowing where the ladder is.

"You have to take risks. That’s business. But do everything you can to mitigate those risks."

Alaskan Brewing, which makes amber, pale ales and English strong bitter that have become popular in the Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, has had brisk growth since the company started in 1986. Eighty Alaskans bought shares to help launch Alaskan Brewing, and 75 are still with the company.

Since that first year, production has grown ninefold to 90,000 barrels per year. Seventy-five percent of the company’s output is now sold out-of-state, in Pacific Northwest states.

The popular Alaskan Amber is now the second-best-selling microbrew in Washington state and is outsold only by Red Hook, which is helped by its part-owner, a major brewing company.

photo: focus
11/11/2001 - 8:00pm