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The Mayor of Craft Beer, Nate Tomforde and Ryan Talk Beer Business

March 17, 2020

The Mayor of Craft Beer, Nate Tomforde and Ryan Talk Beer Business
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On this episode, Ryan sits down with Nate Tomforde the Founder of Pour Taproom, the largest self-serve taproom group in the US. Nate gives great background on his entrepreneurial journey and his vision for Pour Taproom.
Tons of great insights here about the growth of the Craft Beer business and leveraging technology to improve processes while not minimizing the importance of human interaction.
If you enjoy this episode please check out the rest of our episodes on our channel. Please share, review, and subscribe!
Radical Podcast is always looking forward to meeting both aspiring, and grounded professionals across the country! Slide Ryan or Radical a DM on Instagram and let's make it happen!
@radical_results on Instagram
@ryanalford on Instagram
www.radical.company
Sponsorships: off for this episode


On this episode, Ryan sits down with Nate Tomforde the Founder of Pour Taproom, the largest self-serve taproom group in the US. Nate gives great background on his entrepreneurial journey and his vision for Pour Taproom.

Tons of great insights here about the growth of the Craft Beer business and leveraging technology to improve processes while not minimizing the importance of human interaction.

If you enjoy this episode please check out the rest of our episodes on our channel. Please share, review, and subscribe!

Radical Podcast is always looking forward to meeting both aspiring, and grounded professionals across the country! Slide Ryan or Radical a DM on Instagram and let's make it happen!

@radical_results on Instagram

@ryanalford on Instagram

www.radical.company

Sponsorships: off for this episode

Transcript

Audio File: https://www.theradcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/finalaudioep41.mp3

Ryan Alford [00:00:00] Hey, guys, on this episode of the Radical Company podcast, I sit down with the Mayor of Craft Beer, Nate Tomforde. Nate started and founded Pour Taproom in 9 locations, which will soon be 10 across the country. We talk about his path to entrepreneurship, growing the Craft Beer business, helping local craft beers get seen, heard, tasted, throughout his startup, Pour Taproom. And an interesting dialog about the beer business in general. And some tips and tricks for entrepreneurs out there looking to grow. Enjoyed sitting down with the mayor and hope you enjoyed today's podcast. 

Ryan Alford: Hey, guys, what's up? Welcome back to the Radical Company podcast. It's been a couple of weeks, but we're getting back into the groove here at the co-work space for our agency, Radical. If you ever agree, come see us on the Swamp Rabbit Trail in downtown Greenville. I am pumped about today. I've been getting to donate a little bit here over the last few months. We have a lot in common and are excited to talk about the business of beer. I mean, who doesn't love beer, right? Nate Tomforde is the founder of Pour Taproom and other ventures. He's an entrepreneur and there are nine locations in the country now. And Nate founded that business. And I'm excited to get behind the scenes. Being in marketing, advertising, I've worked on a few different beer brands, Budweiser, a little bit, about ten years ago in New York. And then now more of the craft scene, which I know we're going to get into the booming craft beer business. As much as I hate the snobbishness of craft beer, some of my friends are. And who you are if you're listening to this. But I'm excited to get into it. Did you ever think you'd have a beer business when you were growing up? Was it just a dream, the beer business? 

Nate Tomforde [00:02:01] I love the service industry, food, and beverage, but never thought I'd be selling beer for a living. 

Ryan Alford [00:02:09] Well, let's start from the beginning, Nate. Tell us a little about your background. Let's talk about what ultimately led to the idea. I mean, it's a pretty neat concept. We've got some people watching the video. You'll see the screen up. You go to PourTapRoom.com, learn more about the business. Let's talk about the general background that led you ultimately to founding it. But talk about some of your early days. And have you always been an entrepreneur? 

Nate Tomforde [00:02:45] From the time I was little, I remember trying to hustle and sell things to make money. So like a lot of people, I had landscaping, lawn mowing business, saved up my own money to buy a Super Nintendo. That was huge then. Baseball cards, Super Nintendo and then ultimately save up to buy my own car. So my dad was in construction, blue-collared and didn't have a lot of money. So, if I wanted something, I had to work for it. Earn that money and then I could buy it. So from an early age, I really enjoyed that I could put together some ideas, buy the right equipment and go make some money. So that carried on into college, started a clothing line in college. It was called PowerShirts.com and power shirts was in 2000 and we had an online store accepting PayPal.

Nate Tomforde [00:03:54] Anybody could not buy clothes online, you could go to their website and see what they had. 

Ryan Alford [00:04:02] Amazon was just selling books then I think. 

Nate Tomforde [00:04:04] So we had all these shirts in my apartment. My roommate just scattered all over and I would be shipping random people shirts. So I don't even know how they found out about us. It had all the videos on the website and we thought we were pretty cool. 

Ryan Alford [00:04:24] Looking back now, you were definitely ahead of the curve. 

Nate Tomforde [00:04:29] So that was fun. They were shirts that had the positive one-word message on them: “believe”. 

Ryan Alford [00:04:37] You were advanced! Think about it now. That's what’s cool now. I mean, everyone's got a t-shirt that has a motivational message. You guys, with e-com and motivational speaking shirts, were definitely 20 years ahead of the curve. 

Nate Tomforde [00:04:57] It was fun. We did a lot of like a fashion show and we were going to be in the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco and then, unfortunately, lost the momentum with my partner, had a terrible family loss and it just kind of derailed our momentum. So, oh well. 

Ryan Alford [00:05:16] So entrepreneur from the get-go, then you started in the eCom business. And then, like every other entrepreneur store, got grounded a little bit back to the real world. And then it's kind of that's my story, too. 

Nate Tomforde [00:05:31] Well, I grew up in San Jose, California, so in the Silicon Valley. So, this tech is part of my DNA, just part of when you grow up there and you see all the entrepreneurism and you see all the different startups, it really makes you think through how can I use technology to kind of take something that is easy to sell and use technology to sell it further? So that's what I like to do. I like to take simple things and then not recreate the product, but figure out how to deliver that product in a new way. 

Ryan Alford [00:06:13] Yes, I mean, that pretty much is the concept of Pour (Pour Taproom) in a lot of ways. 

Nate Tomforde [00:06:19] It is. Yeah. 

Ryan Alford [00:06:20] Well, let's talk about Pour Taproom. When did you start Pour Taproom? 

Nate Tomforde [00:06:26] 2014; So six years ago. 

Ryan Alford [00:06:28] Where did the idea come from? 

Nate Tomforde [00:06:29] Well, I saw a tech company had a short video. Basically, self-service taps have been around for about ten years mostly and like tabletops one or two taps, sometimes 12. And really what it was designed for was the volume of cheap beer. Stadiums use them for cheaper American lagers. And you would just try to free up your bartenders to let people just pour beer that caps off at 32 ounces and then it frees up your bartenders to serve more wine and cocktails. So it was really a function of convenience. And hey, just pouring pints is laborious. It takes very little skill to pour a pint into your glass, and fill it up. 

Ryan Alford [00:07:21] We have a keg here at our workspace. I must be the world's worst beer pour because no matter what, I have half a glass of foam. And I'll watch, someone will come behind me and I'm watching them, he has no head on his. And I'm jealous of their pour. I turned it sideways. I don't know what it is. 

Nate Tomforde [00:07:46] I mean, I'm sure it's not the best Draught system. 

Ryan Alford [00:07:48] Come on. It's a drought. The rolling kegerator is not the perfect draught system? Come on. 

Nate Tomforde [00:07:55] We'll say it has more to do with that than you. 

Ryan Alford [00:07:59] We'll be nice. We'll go with that.

Nate Tomforde [00:08:04] To walk you through 2014. 

Ryan Alford [00:08:09] Yeah, let’s hear it. 

Nate Tomforde [00:08:09] So here I moved from Santa Cruz, California, to Ashville, North Carolina. One, to get closer to my wife's family here in Greenville, where I now live. But the other reason was that Ashville was one of the new and upcoming Mecca places for craft beer. And so I thought if I was going to move back to the south or the southern region, that would be a good place to test the concept. So I got in touch with the tech company out in California and really talked to them about a concept that would be started from scratch, like a true self-serve bar. Not just 6 or 12 taps. Like the architecture of the building, the way the setup is, the layout, everything would be this giant tap system of beer, wine, cider, and create an entire one hundred percent self serve bar for beer and wine. It hadn't been done before. There was a place in San Diego that had a lot of taps, but they still had a bar. So people were using it as a widget – a marketing thing. I wanted it to be an entire business plan because for me it was about variety and selection, not about, “hey, what’s this cool technology?” I'm a big believer that technology should be used to standardize the delivery of a product, but not necessarily replace people and get rid of labor, right? It does naturally help reduce some labor in a restaurant. But if you're going to open a self-service place for that reason, you're doing it for the wrong reason, in my personal opinion. We used it as a way to try lots of different beers and wines because you pay as you go by the ounce. Yeah, so the idea is that the variety and selection really dictated the business plan. 

Ryan Alford [00:10:11] That makes sense and I've been to the wine bars that have the machines and things like that. I always liked that concept, because the biggest thing with trying a new beverage is ordering a whole drink. Or even if you want to go to the grocery store and order a whole bottle. We like getting to hey, we have an ounce of this to try it before you buy it. Or you're buying me out. But instead of buying a full beer, it's less risky. So, First Pour opens in 2014? 

Nate Tomforde [00:10:47] It was the first one in West Asheville and Haywood Road. And there were 54 taps there. I thought. 48 beers and 8 wines, 56 tabs. And it was the largest self-service bar that had ever been opened and the first one hundred percent self-serve bar in the country. 

Ryan Alford [00:11:11] How did it go? I mean, was it a new concept? The first one of many things is always a little bit dicey. 

Nate Tomforde [00:11:20] It was really difficult in a lot of ways. The networking, the layout of getting permits and licenses, was very confusing. Up there it's ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement) in North Carolina and South Carolina. Those agencies do not like new things. So it was a lot harder than people realize. Six years later, we've figured out how to navigate through and educate local officials and everything that it's not a frat party. Pay 15 dollars and drink to drop from a solo cup. 

Ryan Alford [00:12:04] There's something that they think that the bartender is in between the person. I know good bartenders know when not to over-serve people. But at the same time, there's a lot of misguided assumptions that that bartender is stopping someone from drinking more than they should. 

Nate Tomforde [00:12:22] Correct. Unfortunately, that bartender is not getting paid very well. So all of their money is tips. So they don't want to stop people from drinking because they'll make more in tips. And like you said, that's certainly not the majority of bartenders there. They're doing a great job.

Ryan Alford [00:12:41] Serving how many other people are not there is unfeasible for them. Yeah. If someone's falling over you, of course. But, someone's falling over at Pour Taproom. You've got enough people there that they're not letting that happen. 

Nate Tomforde [00:12:54] And the way the system works is based on alcohol volume. And, wine is less. 32 ounces of beer is the largest single serving in most states before you get to a pitcher and then a pitcher of beer has to be shared between two or more people. So the 32 ounces is a good cutoff spot to basically check on somebody. Make sure that they're not slurring their speech, make sure that they're not stumbling and you're not serving people under 21. Those are the three main things you have to be aware of as a bartender. So we have bartenders that are just more hosting, talking to people about the product, showing them how to work the system. It's more of a laid-back kind of a house party vibe because you can get as little or as much as you want. You don't have to wait on anybody. You also aren't pressured into “hey, you want another drink? Are you sure you don't want another drink?” And you feel like I better leave this table because I'm tying up this server or bartender's table. It's this game: how long can I stay without having to buy another drink? So what's interesting is the system, I think, is more efficient at catching that because it doesn't care how much money you have or how good-looking you are. It's going to cut you off when you hit 32 ounces and then you're going to be forced to talk to a beer host or a bartender/server. And you are going to get a site check just like a bartender should be doing. Every time they serve you a drink, they should be looking at you and making sure that it's okay to serve you another drink. So, that's the legal side of things. As far as the reception. I don't know how many people listen to this in Asheville. But Ashville is a unique place and new concepts are not that welcomed, even though we're just a local business. I lived in West Asheville. It definitely was a different thing for people. Now, at the time, there were only eight breweries in Asheville. Now there's 43 in proper Asheville. There were very few beer bars. So it was a great platform to showcase local beer because a lot of those breweries didn't have taprooms. Now they all have these amazing taprooms. But at the time, we would do tap takeovers every week. Local breweries and all these places were very excited because not a lot of people would drive out to their taprooms. They wanted to showcase their beer and enable people to try their beer and put four different beers on tap and have them try them. And then they could go buy what they wanted from the store. And then we started doing Crawler Cans in 2015, which was only about 8 to 10 places in the country doing crawlers at the time. So that was kind of new. It's canning a single can, which is very popular now, but you fill it up on draught and then you seal or can it – one at a time. And we were selling 300 of those a month for a while because it was, it was so new and novel. But overall, I mean we did really well sales-wise and I think the community saw that I was the owner-operator for a year and a half just putting in the time and the community supporting the breweries. All we do today is still showcase local and regional craft beer. That's why we call it a beer festival every day. We do also have a good amount of wine and cider and have some means and a lot of variety. Now, the Seltzers are more popular. But you can still support a craft brewery. They make seltzer's so you don't have to just go get a big brand seltzer. You can still support that local person. It's just as good, with better ingredients. So that's how it started in Nashville, and then we had an opportunity to open a location here in Greenville, and that was really for family, my brother-in-law runs this store here in Greenville and downtown. And so we opted for a little bigger space, did 70 taps here, and it was pretty bonkers from the start. Just very busy, big space, dog friendly. We partnered with a Mexican restaurant next door to provide all the food so we didn't have to have a kitchen. So we had that kind of setting and vibe of a brewery downtown. And Blue Ridge Mountain was there, but then they eventually moved to Greer. So we were that big craft beer place downtown and that was in 2016. So we've been here now for four years. 

Ryan Alford [00:17:53] So talk to me about the technology side where that comes in, is that all in the dispensing of the ounces and things like that? 

Nate Tomforde [00:18:01] Yeah, there's a valve and a flow meter. There's nothing new about valves and flow meters, they’re on gasoline and oil and different things like that. And so we had partnered with a tech company. We have a different partnership with a different tech company now. And so I helped a lot in kind of beta testing things and looking at customer perception and how they interacted with the screens because every tap has a tablet above it which acts as a digital tap handle. So we can change that tap handle. And it gives you tasting notes in the brewery's logo and then the price per ounce. So it's very informational. That's a huge part of the visual appearance of a place as well. And we can change it automatically. And so the technology allows for keeping a LIVE tab. So you just come in and you open a tab just like any bar, and then you just pay for what you drink so you can get 4 ounces and be done or you can have 2 or 3 beers. So there the technology obviously is a huge portion of Pour Taproom. Then you just close out your tab at the end of the night or you walk out and we add 20 percent to it like any other bar. 

Ryan Alford [00:19:21] How's the domestic beer?

Nate Tomforde [00:19:27] No, we put domestic 

Nate Tomforde [00:19:31] We put it in. I mean, Yingling is craft but PBR, Modelo. I mean we wanted to have some cheaper, easier drinking options. I don't like to have a ton of InBev products on display. InBev, Budweiser, and lots of other craft breweries. They don't love craft beer, obviously, so I don't love them. It's as simple as that. I try to be the mayor of craft beer. And so most people don't need to taste Budweiser. But we will have PBR and as I said, Mendelow, three or four or five options depending on the location, easy-drinking beers that you can come in and get for three dollars a pint. That type of thing. 

Ryan Alford [00:20:24] Starting in 2014, you're 6 years in. We'll get to some of the additional locations. And those are 9 now. What have you seen is the business of beer and how it's changing and evolving. You talked about in Nashville, when you first there 7 or 8 breweries and now with the ability for them to have taprooms, there's 40 plus. So obviously a booming market with craft overall. But talk about any of the just business of beer in general, the evolution that you've seen in the last 6 years. What are the things that stick out to you? 

Nate Tomforde [00:21:07] Beer trends are interesting. So a couple of different things. Beer trends, the taproom mentality for the breweries now and then, just the number of breweries and beer spots has drastically increased. Just a lot more competitive now. There are thousands of more breweries today than there were 6 years ago. I don't know the exact number, but it's in the thousands, somewhere like 3 or 4 thousand. And now they are close to 7 thousand. It's almost doubled in 6 years. So nationwide. So we are a national company now, but we can get into that later, but there are partnerships. We're not a franchise. So, styles are interesting. We had a Sauer section back in 2015 when we were totally new. Most of those came from Belgium and Belgium had been making Sauers for hundreds of years. American brewers started finally doing a Sauers age to have different types of bacteria, whether it's lactobacillus or just there are lots of different types. So that was a new style. Craft cider started growing. These are a big deal. Most ciders that I had were like Hornsby's or something – incredibly sweet. 

Ryan Alford [00:22:36] And my wife loves blueberry cider. I'm convinced it is probably 70 grams of sugar. 

Nate Tomforde [00:22:45] Well, the craft ciders are using more natural ingredients. They're not adding sugar and all these different things. So the beer trends have been really interesting. IPAs have always been big, but some of the other things that have come around, I think now craft breweries have realized that most people, and a lot of Americans, want easy-drinking beer. So there are craft lagers and pilsners. You don't have to buy a cheap American lager. You can buy a lager made with one hundred percent pills and malt from Riverbend Malthouse up in Asheville like Highwire does. They make 100% pills and malt lager. And it's fantastic. 

Ryan Alford [00:23:30] I enjoy one or two craft beers. I'm not a “hoppy” guy. All right. I'm not big on the IPAs. It has never been my thing. I have not found a good game day Saturday where I like to have four to six Miller Lites. And I have no affinity to Miller Lite. It's just easy to drink. I have yet. And this is your challenge. Everyone always goes “but you haven't had the blonde.” And I'll have two and I want no more. But I want more, I'm saying? But I don't want any more of that. I am still trying to find that every day you're going to have four or five and not be falling. I'm 6’5”, 250 (pounds), I’m not falling over after 4 or 5 beers. But that's a comfortable level for me to enjoy. I've yet to find a craft beer. That is that one. There's your challenge. 

Nate Tomforde [00:24:41] There are dozens. And just here locally. Regionally. 

Ryan Alford [00:24:46] And have you tried the Allagash White? Yeah, I've tried the Allagash White…

Nate Tomforde [00:24:51] That's a Belgian wit. You want to light American lager. And there are multiple craft breweries that make light American lagers that are 4.5  percent alcohol, which is what a Miller Lite is. And they're going to be clean and crisp and carbonated and easy-drinking. I mean, pilsners and lagers are probably where you need to stay. Belgian wits or wheat beers, I think are going to be a bit much. 

Ryan Alford [00:25:15] And I like the ones that are tasty, I'm going to have one or two and I'm fine with that. I appreciate that. I love the different flavors. I enjoy it. But when I'm looking to liberate myself a little. As we call it on the other side, celebrate a little bit anyway. I digress. 

Nate Tomforde [00:25:33] So there that is, I guess that's what I'm saying about the trends is they've craft breweries have realized that and now they're making those one hundred-calorie, .45 or 5 percent loggers and pilsners, but they're using wholesome ingredients. They're using malt and hops, yeast and water. They're not putting corn or adjuncts is what it's called into the beer. They're still using good ingredients. So, highwire lager is fantastic, 4.5 or 4.7 percent alcohol beer that you could drink 4 to 6 of them. And it's not too sweet. It's not going to be too “hoppy”. And so keep looking around. Or after the show, I'll give you a list. 

Ryan Alford [00:26:19] I'll be down or come over to the Pour and we'll sample. 

Nate Tomforde [00:26:23] So we have a huge section that we just call light beers. So they're lighter in color, mostly lighter in terms of alcohol. And so we have general categories. They're not actually styles of beer. So we have a lot of styles within that section just to simplify it so people can go to that area. 

Ryan Alford [00:26:41] One thing I found fascinating. Being a marketer. I know it's grown, I think, correct me if I'm wrong, a lot of these breweries are started by beer lovers. They want to follow their passion. And I'm wondering when it clicks in like “I really need to make money doing this” versus it's a hobby. And you have so many people. And so how many people are coming into craft now because they want to get bought by Budweiser or how many are coming in because it's still that love and affinity for the grains. I'm fascinated by just the balance of those things because you've got to sell enough beer to make some money and then make enough money to make it worthwhile. But then there's the love of craft and then the selling to Budweiser. Which one is it like? 

 

Nate Tomforde [00:27:38] I think that pre-2015 or 2016, it was your home brewers’ passion, “I want to do this for a living. I enjoy that, the community aspect of it.” And I would still say the majority of all craft brewery owners are in it for the love of the grain and the malt and community. I think first and foremost, what makes craft beer unique is that it's locally made. And so when you're part of a local community, you're making a product on-site and you're opening your doors up for people to enjoy that, you're supporting something local. You're not just buying it, buying Budweiser from the grocery store and it's made wherever it's made. So there's that approach. So I think most people are in it for the right reasons. There are more and more businessmen getting into craft beer that care more about money than the community. So it's going to happen. It's the evolution of an industry, right? It starts growing. And then more people pay attention and say, well, “I can make some money on that, so we're going to invest.” So you will see more and more of that. But I still say a large majority of people are doing it for the community and because they love beer. And, part of the reason why people are getting into it more for the money is the Taproom Sales. So I saw that from the beginning, that's why I wanted to do a taproom and not open a brewery as I loved beer. But I didn't have the skill set to brew beer. And so I thought selling it, buying it wholesale and selling it retail was the best way to be a part of the community. Enjoy, connect with the brewers, and support them, but then make money that you have to in business. So, it's an interesting balance now because from the beginning of beer, breweries would sell beer to the pubs and then people drank at the pubs. There weren’t a lot of breweries that had their own taprooms. I mean, 10 seats at a bar and you come up and order a pint or do a tasting or take a brewery tour. But they weren't large bars. And so what started to happen in Asheville at the start and is now everywhere is that you have breweries acting as the manufacturer and as the retailer. And that's a tricky thing. I still struggle with it because all we do is buy other people's products. But then now they're competing against us for the taproom sales. So how do you handle that? I don't know. It’s tricky.

Ryan Alford [00:30:29] Your great differentiator is the variety, right? And I love Jimmy’s. Do you work with the company? That's Jimmy's and I love Jimmy. So, Jimmy, if you're listening to this, I love you. But Jimmy's craft beer is not maybe the best craft beer, but it's my example. But Jimmy's isn't going to have I'm going to say that it's not a craft beer anymore. Like Wicked Weed. I think they're owned by Budweiser. But, Jimmy's isn't going to have all that. He's only going to have Jimmy's. So that's your great differentiator. The selection, the variety. But at the same time, I get it. It's a challenge. 

Nate Tomforde [00:31:15] I mean, every Pour Taproom, when you go to it, will have probably around half of the taps will be local or regional, produced within an hour or two. So you can come to one place like you would at a beer festival and taste two ounces of 13 different beers before you find something you like. I mean, it's endless. So to me, the tasting room is our advantage. When you can come to one place and try a beer from virtually every brewery in the area that distributes their beer. 

Ryan Alford [00:31:52] That's a tagline. I'm looking at this right now. I'd like to get into my Pour Taproom- the craft beer person's tasting room. 

Nate Tomforde [00:32:09] So there's a struggle there and you have to find something unique. You have to find a widget unfortunately to make yourself different or you're the same as everyone else. So it is always location first. I mean breweries still have a hard time. They can't go downtown because there are regulations. When you're brewing beer, it puts off-odors and smells. And you can't just be downtown around million-dollar apartments in Greenville. So you have to still think about the fact that there are just regulations dictating where you can manufacture and produce beer. So taprooms, places like Pour Taproom will be able to still compete with top-notch locations in downtown areas where you're getting high volume, people can taste your stuff. And then we encourage people to go out to the breweries that they like. I mean, we're supporting and making breweries money, so there's no reason for this symbiotic relationship to continue. It just is a little trickier than it was in 2014-15. So we're navigating that space. I think breweries understand that. They're still trying to push people out to the pubs and the taprooms, but they're also competing in the bar business. So I don't really know what else to say about it, except that we have to just keep winning on excellent locations and keep offering variety. And then you've got to make a space fun. It's got to be dog-friendly. You've got to have games. It's got to be family-friendly. You got to have some food. But you don't need to be a full restaurant, but you do need to offer some form of hot food. And those are the challenges we continue to face as we grow. And our growth has been through an early adopters kind of friends and family network that we decided to basically create a partnership or a license. So they have a lot of freedom to do their own thing. They use our brand. We teach them, there's a lot of consulting. We teach them how to open the business to navigate local laws, help them secure a lease because of the power of the brand and our proven concept secures an A-plus location. That's the number one thing that we really offer, is that brand, the marketing, the website, social media. So, I did all of our social media for three or four years before I outsourced it. So, that's Silicon Valley, wanting to kind of do things and understanding enough to get by. I think as far as social media is concerned, we have some of the biggest impact for a bar that you would have because we're very Instagrammable. Videos and it's a very visual place. Those screens light up at night. And it's impressive appearance compared to an average bar. So, the growth has been great. What I love to do today is help other people open their own businesses. It's a big dream for a lot of people to be able to open it up. And it’s extremely complicated to start. But then after you learn and you train on that, it can be very relaxing compared to the typical restaurant because you're hanging out with customers, you're talking to them about the product and showing them the way rather than constantly pouring pints endlessly. You don't have time to talk to customers. That's what's interesting. When you come to a Pour Taproom and you have more time to talk to staff and learn about the local scene or what different beers to try because they can direct you that way rather than with a bartender where’s literally it's transactional. I give you money, you hand me a pint. And so for beer, that skill set, anybody can learn to pour a beer. I mean, it takes practice, but it's different than a cocktail or even talking to a sommelier about wine and tasting notes. So that will always continue. You can't put cocktails on tap. Margarita's, things like that work really well on tap. But you're never going to be able to, like, get an old-fashioned or a Manhattan or something like that. That's going to taste good. So the goal for Pour Taproom is not to replace bartenders, it's to transition their role from a bartender to a host to someone who spends more time with people and talking about products and less time hustling and serving. 

 

Ryan Alford [00:36:43] So we're in nine total markets now. 

Nate Tomforde [00:36:46] We just announced our tenth in Buffalo, New York, opening this summer that just came out. So we went to the media with that early this week. 

Ryan Alford [00:36:56] Atlanta. Mostly in the southeast.

Nate Tomforde [00:36:57] Knoxville, Tennessee, Durham, Charlotte, Wilmington, North Carolina. Charleston, Greenville, St. Petersburg, Florida. Atlanta. And then Santa Cruz, California, where I'm from. My best friend growing up opened a spot out there. 

Ryan Alford [00:37:19] So where do you see all this going? 

Nate Tomforde [00:37:21] It's a good question. I mean, I enjoy helping other people open a spot. So as long as there's interest, we don't do hardcore marketing, sales right now. We're very picky. We have a long kind of application process. It's about five steps to kind of get through. Because it's a partnership and we don't have this 200-page franchise agreement we have. It's very interpersonal. So we take our time. It's a long sales process, so to speak. It can be a year and a half or so from the time we start talking to somebody till they actually get open, just because leasing a building and fitting in and all of that can take 6 to 8 months. So I'm not saying I won't franchise someday. I think if we can dial in a model and it makes sense, franchises are not evil. I mean, it's the number one small business in America; it's opening a franchise, not just food and beverage, it's construction, it's windows. It's a lot of different things. There are so many franchises because it's a proven model. And so if you want to have a career, a job or be self-employed, you pay somebody some money and they teach you how to run a business. And that's yours. So, definitely open to doing that someday if we can dial it in. The problem early on, which is not so much anymore, is that craft beer is local and you can't regulate the product. You want it to be unique for each location. And we wanted to find the best location possible. So every Pour Taproom looks completely different and unique. You have our Wilmington stores and an old 1900s bank. They put the wine taps in the vault. It's a beautiful old building with an upstairs and mezzanine area. And then Greenville here is in an old World War II-era warehouse that was all boarded up and just this old kind of airplane hangar-looking building. And then in Charleston, where the tallest rooftop bar and restaurant and all of Charleston on King Street, we're on top of the Hyatt, so have wraparound views. And so I always just say, let's find the best education possible. Then you make it look however you need to, and then we figure out how many taps we can get in there. And so that's hard to franchise, put it in a box. There are ways to do it. There are lots of franchises to do a great job. And you can still locally own and operate.  

Ryan Alford [00:39:59] You’ve spoken like a true craft beer guy, the mayor of Craft Beer, which is now your official title for me. Yes, that's why it's hard because someone that appreciates the art of the beer and the art of the business, it makes it really hard to cookie because there's something there's cookie-cutter that's a franchise. You want to have a system and process and technology and you appreciate all that. But the art of it all is hard to duplicate because you go to a different market and there are different settings or different things or different people. There are different local breweries. So, all that makes it hard to duplicate. 

Nate Tomforde [00:40:52] I think there's a path to get there and you dedicate a large portion of your taps to local and then maybe the rest are regional and you can still stay craft. But so they're working through that now. I mean, I think you get to a certain spot and you do have to have some things in place to make sure that quality is there, that the repetition and the standard that we create for the brand is duplicated correctly. And I do actually get to finally open a brewery.

So I found partners and a good brewer here locally. So we get to come and scratch that itch. It's a Double Stamped brewery. It's going to be on Lauryn's Road close to downtown. But, it's a unique space with a half-acre private park, and a home team barbeque is going to be there. We're going to have two hundred and fifty parking spots, it's going to be a pretty epic outdoor location. There's an adventure park zip line. Well, more of a ropes course that's going in there by the other side of the Swamp Rabbit Trail behind East Washington Street. 

Ryan Alford [00:42:12] How wide a distribution do you want for the beer itself? 

Nate Tomforde [00:42:17] Well, We're just going to have a taproom and do that. So the goal with that was its location. If a developer comes to you with an amazing location, it's hard to turn down. And I feel Greensville can use a few more outdoor spaces. There are obviously some great ones. Birds Fly South, does a fantastic job, and to be more involved in the craft beer scene, here in Greenville. I mean, Pour Taprooms supported a lot of local breweries throughout the last 4 years and now want to have an opportunity to also join that side of the team.

Ryan Alford [00:43:01] Any advice for someone listening in the craft business or in the beer business or an entrepreneur in general? You've kind of had a lot of experience. You enjoy helping people in need. I imagine we can have a podcast just about that in full. I know we can do that. We can have a little ongoing segment here. I'm still interested and we're going to save a secret. Nate and I are talking about he's got some good ideas and I want to execute them, but we'll come back to that. But any advice for entrepreneurs out there in general, any words of wisdom?

Nate Tomforde [00:43:50] That's a tough question. That's a big question. 

Ryan Alford [00:43:52] What's the biggest thing you've learned or a couple of the biggest things? 

Nate Tomforde [00:43:58] When I was thinking about starting a business, it's kind of a relentless pursuit of finding things that are easy to sell and finding a way to sell it in a unique way. I think those are some of the best ideas out there. I mean, just very simple things. And it's like why didn't I think of that way to sell it or that way to promote it? And, so I think if you can find something, I'm not an inventor and a creator. So some people can find niches in a market where they are programmers and coders and they are able to create an app or a website or something that fills a really unique niche. However, I think today, there's a lot of creators out there. And so rather than trying to just beat everybody at creating something, maybe take that like we did with beer and wine and say, how can we make this more approachable? All these unique styles of beer it's like 65 plus styles. How do we educate people on that? And it's well we have to give them variety and selection. So, technology allows that to happen. So I think. You can say that the typical “find something you love and go do it”. That doesn't always pay the bills, unfortunately. I definitely think you should do something you love. But it might not be your career, unfortunately. So I think. Find something that is easy to sell and find a new way to sell it. 

Ryan Alford [00:45:40] Well, the mayor of Craft made time for it. I love it. We have found the title of the podcast. Ryan sits with the mayor of Craft Nate Tomforde. I really appreciate you coming on. I look forward to developing our relationship and helping each other down the road. And I know people will find this story fascinating. And, I love just learning about other people's kind of entrepreneurial journey. So I know the people will enjoy it. And thank you for coming, brother. 

Nate Tomforde [00:46:15] Yeah, thank you for having me! It was fun.

Ryan Alford [00:46:17] All right, guys, this is Ryan Alford the host of the Radical company podcast. You can learn more about Pour Taproom online at PourTapRoom.com. Look up Nate Tomforde on LinkedIn and other channels. Anything else, Nate, where can they find you, that you'd mentioned? Good place, LinkedIn?

Nate Tomforde [00:46:31] LinkedIn is the best.

Ryan Alford [00:46:33] Yeah, so look up Nate on LinkedIn and you can find us at Radical.company online and at @radical_results on Instagram. Thank you so much. We'll see you next time.