Garth’s has something to say about “better beer.”
“Better is always changing and it’s subjective, it’s personal, and that’s what we’re here for,” Garth says. “To ride the wave of an ever-changing beer landscape while connecting with the community that’s part of that change.”
For more than three years, Garth Beyer has worked to open a craft beer bar on Monroe Street. The idea began after a trip to Budapest where “it just clicked.”
Brewing An Entrepreneurial Spirit
Garth knew he wanted start and run his own business since he was seven.
“I didn’t have a lemonade stand, but I would sell and trade Beanie Babies as a kid. I loved the interactions, the happiness I could bring,” he says.
The spirit for entrepreneurship carrying with him into his teens, Garth ran a vending machine business with his dad. Shortly after that – and with his entrance into college – he knew he wanted to run his own business, he just didn’t know what business that would be.
Garth graduated from UW-Madison where he started a beer column for the Badger Herald called What’s On Tap and profiled Potosi Brewing Company in the Journalism School’s Curb Magazine.
“After talking to all these brewers and brewery owners and hearing their goal for building a community and their tenacity and compassion – it all added up for me. I wanted to do something for them,” Garth says.
At the same time he was wondering how he could help breweries thrive, he visited another country, Budapest, where he entered a beer bar called “Hops.” Naturally, it was over a beer that the idea clicked. He would open a craft beer bar to help breweries and the Madison community thrive.
Pouring Action Into A Dream That Helps Breweries Thrive
If there’s anyone who might give the adage “you can never be too prepared” a run for its money, it’s Garth.
Once back in the states Garth began emailing every bar on Draft Magazine’s list of America’s 100 Best Beer Bars to get their advice. He also developed a 15-minute survey that nearly 200 local beer-drinkers filled out. Then he reached out to work with the Small Business Development Center. He did all of this while training for – and becoming – a Certified Cicerone® (the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier).
With a good dose of personal research visiting bars in town, Garth says it’s also his goal to raise the bar of bars.
“There are a number of establishments that clean their lines regularly, who train their staff on beer and really invest in them, and who go above and beyond for their customers,” he admits. “But that number isn’t as high as we’d like.”
If the pressure to up one’s beer game doesn’t come from a bar or brewery, Garth says it will come from the people.
“Everyone is getting smarter and the average level of beer knowledge is rising,” he says. “On top of that, more people are caring about what they consume and paying attention to the stories of those product-makers.”
Tapping Into A Model Of Beer Appreciation And Community
Though Garth explored spaces as near as E Johnson Street and as far as Columbus, he ultimately landed with a 2,150 square-foot space on 1726 Monroe Street.
It wasn’t without struggle to land in a space that was “perfect for the model” of a craft beer bar.
“I’ve had to have a lot of patience for a space and if you know me, I’m not the most patient person. But I knew the community I needed to be in and it was the neighborhood around Monroe Street.”
After evaluating all the current spaces on the street, Garth found only three to be the right size (more than 2,000 square-feet) and shape (most Monroe Street establishments are long and narrow and he was looking for “something more square”).
He struggled, of course, until Urban Land Interests (ULI) showed up to a Monroe Street Merchant’s Association meeting that Garth attended, wherein they shared plans to replace the Associated Bank with an apartment complex that had retail spaces on the bottom.
“As they say, it was a match made in heaven,” Garth says. “ULI knew that I cared about the community and would make this a meaningful gathering space.”
With hundreds of people having told Garth “location, location, location,” he knew this was what they meant.
Crafting A Vibrant, Social Third Gathering Space
Garth estimates that the space will have room for roughly 80 people inside. He designed a shorter bar (~9 people) so the space could have more variety of environments from a comfortable cozy corner to a more private series of “booth cubes” and an area for communal tables.
While the inside will support the vibrant nature of Monroe Street, he also seeks to bring a social and bright coffee-shop element to the space.
“A lot of inspiration is being drawn from Door County” Garth says. “My wife and I started going up there annually about six years ago and each time we do, we find some element of light or art or atmosphere that we want to bring to Madison.”
Beer is sure to help fulfill the prophecy. In addition to having 18 taps, a mix and match selection of American craft beer will be available for purchase for on-premise consumption or to-go from a reach in cooler.
Garth says he’s hand-picked the breweries to sell from which have fun, meaningful and “sometimes crazy” stories behind their beer and their brand.
It’s over a round of beer (or two) that the best stories are told and even better stories are made. Here’s to a bar that has big hopes and dreams for our community. I’ll drink to that.
If you’re wondering who the hell wrote this piece, it was yours truly. There’s no better way to improve on your brand story than to write it from the perspective of another. I have Seth Godin to thank for inspiring this post. It’s all part of the journey.