A Day in the Life: Dennis Kramer-Wine (Pt. 2)

Pt. 1 Can be found here

Rhinegeist is approaching 21 months since our first beer was brewed.  Sometimes, like when you’re waiting for something, 21 months seems like an eternity.  But when you’re on a fast train, 21 months can go by with a snap of your fingers.  Five full time people from day one, and now Rhinegeist has an employment base of over 60, which was the plan — in something like five to ten years.  Growth like this can be scary, and I’d be willing to bet that is has been for some of us at Rhinegeist, but for me it’s been the front seat of the fastest, most fun roller coaster imaginable for the kid that loves roller coasters.

 This ride has to start with creative planning and vision from Rhinegeist leadership.  From there, the brew team creates the magical product that brings people back for more, whether it be from their favorite watering hole, grocery store or another visit to the taproom.  2,500 people walked through the door during our grand opening, and those people have been our faithful that has helped make Rhinegeist a prime destination spot for Cincinnati.  On any given Friday or Saturday night, there could be upwards of 250 people in our facility at any given time.  This has helped keep our production schedule healthy and our brewers working long days, sometimes seven days a week.

21 months, snap of your fingers.  It seems to many that Rhinegeist is an old veteran in this game.  Our brand is strong, our product is tasty, and our name reaches beyond Ohio.  And here’s some perspective on time — we’re in the middle of a multimillion-dollar expansion where we bought our building and have added an amazing new brew house (brewing equipment).  The next phase of this project is under way with the build out of new offices, conference room, library, event space, an elevator and rooftop deck.  Again, this growth can be intimidating — even scary.  How do you keep a healthy culture appropriately fed during such transition?  There’s no question that this grown-up game could sink a cultural ship and deflate what was once good, however in the eye of the perfect storm it’s best to have trained professionals there to help inflate the rafts, and that’s what has happened with our little experiment. 

And what I know — what I do — is distribution.  Self-distribution was not in Rhinegeist’s original plan, but was an add-on based on a successful model from our friends at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis.  So from the beginning, similar to traditional entrepreneurial risk, distribution has been trial by fire with belief in people, work ethic, and intelligence.  And for me, I feel like I’m on the championship team without a single superstar, but a team of rugged workhorses that push limits to find ways to come out on top. 

Our distribution team grew from me creating invoices, organizing and maneuvering beer, loading up and delivering, then reconciling and creating systems to carry us to the next level.  Now we’re 14 people strong with nine drivers, a daily distribution manager in Cincinnati, another that relocated to Columbus, and two people managing the dock.  Oh –— I almost forgot — we bought a 53 foot long refrigerated tractor-trailer, an 18 foot box truck and started a distribution company in Erlanger, Kentucky. 

A couple weeks ago I was driving back from Columbus with Bryant after another intense day of interviewing sales and driver candidates for that part of the Columbus expansion when he dialed in to a nationwide call discussing the 2014 chain store sales data.  On that call, only about eight breweries were discussed by name.  They are respected breweries like Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues and New Belgium among a few others.  And Rhinegeist from Cincinnati, Ohio.  The strongest new craft brewery for sales in the United States.  I could come up with reasons why this news is shocking and exciting, but what hit me the hardest and made me the most proud to be on this amazinger-than-the-front-car-of-The-Beast roller coaster ride was that every one of the roughly 6,871,295 ounces of beer in that analysis was hand delivered by a Rhinegeist employee.  I only know a little bit in the grand scheme of everything there is to know, but this little nugget of information brings the work full-circle.  It started with an idea and turned into that data point, which is pretty neat.