Above: Two Brothers Brewing implemented BeerRun software in May 2013.
Right: The OrchestratedBEER system
With so many breweries starting up—more than 2,500 operating at last count and another 1,700-plus in planning—small brewers need a greater level of technical savvy if they want to survive in the increasingly crowded and competitive market. Fortunately for them, software vendors have been tailoring solutions specifically for their needs, at all levels of their operations.
Breweries need a specific kind of management program, not only for accounting, but also inventory, production schedules, distribution and reporting to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Two companies, BeerRun Software and OrchestratedBEER, backed by established software companies SWK TEchnologies and SAP respectively, have launched in the past few years to meet these requirements. With those solutions, breweries can keep track of all facets of their business, such as which batches of beer are in which tanks, what quantities of malt or hops they will need and when they’ve run out. Both programs offer a component to automate reports to the TTB, making the process much easier.
BeerRun was created two years ago, the brainchild of Andrew Nunez, executive VP at SWK. “He recognized that this is a burgeoning industry with not a lot of really good solutions,” says Steven Plisk, who works in BeerRun client services. Nunez thought SWK could fill the need in the craft brewing industry. BeerRun’s current roster of clients includes Iron Horse Brewery, DC Brau Brewing Company and Two Brothers Brewing Company.
OrchestratedBEER originated for the same reason. “It’s a single software application to manage all different aspects of a brewery. Not just production, accounting, purchasing, sales, inventory. It’s all of the above,” notes Reshad Kazimee, vice president of operations. “Beer production is unique…You can’t anticipate it... it’s challenging to account for. That’s why other bookkeeping software can’t do it. It’s not designed to.” OrchestratedBEER’s client base includes Firestone Walker, Full Sail Brewing, and Fullsteam Brewery.
BeerRun and OrchestratedBEER are both customizable to suit each brewery that uses them, in size and need. “Smaller breweries have the same problems as the large breweries,” Kazimee points out. “[Our solution works for] the young brewery that produces less than 1,000 barrels, and we also have customers that produce over 200,000 barrels.”
OrchestratedBEER is an all-in-one-system, while BeerRun integrates with a brewery’s existing accounting program. “It’s a client-driven development process,” Plisk explains. “Our developer [Hart Singh] builds features and functions based on what our clients ask for... End users are really steering where the software goes and what it does.”
In 2013 OrchestratedBEER launched a forum for its clients to establish a community and learn from each other. “Our customers drive product development,” says Kazimee.
Brandon Skall, owner and founder of DC Brau Brewing Company (Washington, D.C.), began using BeerRun software in October 2013. “This works on a system where you have to make sure you’re following the beer along all the way through [its production process],” he explains, noting that it was an adjustment to switch from a series of spreadsheets to one automated program.
Though the beginning was a challenge, Skall says these types of programs are necessary. “We need accountants and programmers that specialize in our industry. We need all the support we can get. We’re all so busy growing and making more beer that it really helps to have these specialized people out there.”
Jason Ebel, founder of Two Brothers Brewing Co. (Warrenville, Ill.), agrees. “[Craft brewery owners and managers] would much prefer to be working in the brewery than sitting behind a desk trying to make sure they have all their ingredients or filing their tax paperwork. This software frees up more time to get back to the parts of craft brewing we love.”
Ebel started Two Brothers on BeerRun in May 2013, having previously made do with “a series of dry erase boards, clip boards, and QuickBooks.” The change has come with noticeable benefits. “We were getting to a point where there were too many moving parts to keep tabs on with our current system. Tracking inventory of ingredients, packaging goods, and finished goods was a full time job and things were still getting skipped,” he says, noting that features that have especially helped are inventory tracking and forecasting, streamlining of tax filing and a chart for the tank schedule.
Sean Lilly Wilson, founder of Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, N.C., purchased a license for OrchestratedBEER in the fall of 2012. “We were working with an accounting system that we were making fit our needs rather than designed to fit our needs,” Wilson says, adding that OrchestratedBEER has thought about the brewing process from “grain to glass”: “I like the idea of having a one stop shop for everything from inventory to sales management.”
As the craft beer industry continues to expand, software made specifically for breweries will give them an edge, Wilson thinks. “The craft beer industry is getting more competitive—as it gets more and more entrants, you’ve got to differentiate yourself. First and foremost it starts with great beer,” he says. “One way to differentiate is by being a keen business person, using tools that limit mistakes and maximize opportunity.”