Hillsborough brewery wins $50k on TV show

May. 23, 2013 @ 03:07 PM

Mystery Brewing Co. won $50,000 to help grow the more than one-year-old Hillsborough brewery in a competition between three small businesses held as part of a new CNBC Prime television series.

The series “Crowd Rules,” in its first season, brings in three small businesses to compete in front of an audience whose members vote on which business should win an investment. The brewery was part of the second episode that aired Tuesday.

“It’s sort of a shark-tank model,” said Erik Myers, founder, CEO and head brewer at Mystery Brewing, who said that part of the show is to examine at what’s going wrong, and what’s going right, at each of the businesses. “There was always the possibility that maybe we were doing a lot more wrong than we thought we were, and we were going to get completely lambasted on national television.”

The show filmed at the brewery in February, Myers said, and he also flew to New York in April. He said there was a period of time when he couldn’t talk about the show or its results.

The theme of the show that included Mystery Brewing was debt. Myers said Mystery Brewing started the business with about $330,000 initially -- $180,000 of that coming from a bank loan, and also from five friends who invested in the company.

Mystery Brewing got off the ground in February of last year, making beer in part of a business complex in Hillsborough that previously housed a textile mill.

Its beer is sold for consumption at other bars and restaurants by keg and by the growler, which is a half-gallon container, Myers said. It’s also sold in the brewery’s own taproom, which opened earlier this month.

Called the Mystery Brewing Public House, the taproom opened at 230 S. Nash St. two doors down from the restaurant Hillsborough BBQ Co. and four doors down from the general store and music venue The Depot at Hillsborough Station.

It’s also adjacent to the home-brew supply store, Nash Street Homebrew, which is a subsidiary of Mystery Brewing. The store opened in 2011, Myers said, so the operators could secure the adjoining space for the taproom.

“The plan was to get a taproom open quickly,” he said of the founders’ original plan. He said they’d identified a space around the corner from their brewery in what he described as an up-and-coming area of Hillsborough. They started working on the space, and realized it needed more work than they’d thought, he said.

“(It was) a slow climb toward getting that taproom open over time,” he said

The taproom seats 49 inside, Myers said, and there is additional seating outside. He said they wanted a small taproom rather than a “huge, cavernous place.” Their focus is on beer, he said; they don’t sell food.

A grand opening is slated for the taproom this weekend. There will be live music and a new-beer release on Friday, and food sales from the food truck Pie Pushers, as well as releases of new beers from the brewery on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Myers said that now that the taproom is open, company is bringing in more revenue, and is on the edge of breaking even.

“We need to grow in order to realize the potential of the brewery,” he said, adding that he hopes to continue to grow the business by adding more brewing capacity, as well as bottling equipment. He wants to raise additional investment.

Part of his plan for the $50,000 is to pay down debt and to also acquire bottles, labels and the bottling equipment. He wants to start out filling 12-ounce bottles of beer, and progress into smaller sizes.

Myers said he believes the smaller sizes will help the brewery appeal to more customers and get into more stores.

“We can have a lot more exposure in the marketplace if we have smaller packaging,” he said.

For information about the brewery or the grand opening, go to the website www.mysterybrewing.com.