Minnesota on Tap

Ryan Tuenge is an avid home brewer and craft beer lover who is not afraid to spend his last $5 on a pint of beer at the local pub. As a member of the Minnesota Home Brewers Association, Ryan has tried a wide variety of beers and has toured many of the local breweries. He also has a blog about craft beer in Minnesota. He likes to read, write and travel with his wife. Follow him on Twitter @lodgefather.

The Four Firkins Expanding

Posted by: Ryan Tuenge under Beer, Beer, Local business Updated: April 18, 2014 - 11:56 AM

The little store that started on Minnetonka and Texas has come a long way in nearly 6 years. Thanks to a dedication to customer service and the craft beer boom here in Minnesota, The Four Firkins is looking to bring their model to the east side of the metro (Woodbury) and beyond. 

Woodbury was chosen for the second store partially based off a zip code study that they conducted last year. “Years of study go into something like this, and our customers come from all over the metro,” said Four Firkins owner Jason Alvey. Another factor is that Woodbury is surrounded by largely populated areas such as Maplewood and Hudson, Wisconsin.

In order to accomplish this expansion, The Four Firkins is asking for help from the community in the form of a crowdsourcing campaign. The campaign is on Indiegogo, a platform similar to Kickstarter, where an individual makes a pledge toward a cause and gets something in return. Some of rewards offered are access to special release beers; a plaque with your name on it, which will be on display at the SLP store; in-store beer education classes; and even dinner with the owner.

Crowdsourcing seems to be the way of the future, and it also allows for someone to raise capital while retaining full ownership. The traditional way to raise capital is to invite investors in to take on ownership. This, however; was not what Alvey wanted. “Small businesses do not have piles of cash, it’s just not realistic,” said Alvey. Retaining ownership was a priority for him, whose store is the only one in town dedicated strictly to craft beer. When asked why they chose Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter he had this to say, “We didn’t know how it would be received so we didn’t want to risk a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter is all or nothing where Indiegogo gives you the money even if the goal is not reached.”

They are looking to open 3 more locations in the future after the Woodbury store. This, however; is the only campaign planned—meaning that the second store will be able to help them raise the capital to open the third store and so on. So far, it has been well received by many, having already raised over $24,000 of the $50,000 goal, but there is only a week left in the campaign.

The campaign itself raised a stir on the Beer Advocate forum, where a thread was created, bashing the choice to go with crowdsourcing over traditional investors. The critics claim that The Four Firkins charges more for their beer than most stores in town already. “We sell our products for a fair price,” said Alvey. “We don’t believe in needlessly de-valuing local craft beer.” The store was the first to join the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild—a sign of their commitment to local beer—often giving breweries feedback on their products. Some stores around the Twin Cities will buy a large volume of beer nearing the end of its shelf life just to offer it at a discounted rate. At The Four Firkins, they don’t do this, “It’s incredible the stuff in some of the stores you see,” said Alvey.

Despite the fact that everyone has a right to voice their opinion, the arguments against crowdsourcing seem a bit harsh considering that other local businesses have used this model to fund things such as restaurants and coffee shops. Two, in particular, that come to mind are Travail and the Birchwood Cafe. Alvey noted, “Either way, we have to get the capital. This gives our customers an opportunity to be a part of something special.”

The Four Firkins crew prides themselves on selling only fresh beer. “Turnover is a big thing,” Alvey explained, “our inventory turns over two and a half times a month. This is because we are a destination store. We don’t ever have expired product on our shelves.”

The little destination store that began on the corner of Texas and Minnetonka is bringing their unique experience to the rest of the Twin Cities thanks to the community that has always supported them.

You can support the campaign here.

Four Firkins IndieGoGo Video from Limited Release Beer on Vimeo.

Cheers!

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