Petrichor Brewing is a craft brewery just outside of St. Louis in O’Fallon, Missouri that specializes in all the craft beer standards — brown ales, IPAs, porters — and they are especially well-loved for their Blood Orange Wheat. This July, Petrichor Brewing was selected as the winner of the $5,000 Barrel Giveaway that Honeycomb and Barrels Direct offered!
We spoke with Michael Crowell, one of the founders and owners of Petrichor Brewing about the story behind his brewery and his plans for the future. When we met Michael after he won the giveaway, we discovered that the present moment is an exciting time for the brewery! They are getting ready to open up a second location in the Lake of the Ozarks, and are rebranding the business into Shortleaf Brewing.
“Shortleaf is Missouri’s only native pine tree, and it reminded us of hiking,” says Michael. “That's kind of what Petrichor was about for us, my brother Jonathan and I. It's the smell of the earth after it rains. All of our can labels have this natural element to them, they all have like a fruit or a plant of some kind on the can itself. So I think moving that direction really brings the old brand and the new brand together nicely and we’re pretty excited about it.”
Read on to learn more about how Michael turned his interest in homebrewing into a successful business, the unexpected delight of winning the barrel giveaway, and his plans for Shortleaf Brewing in the future!
How did you get into craft brewing?
Well I started having a really strong interest in wine and vineyard management. I used to do a blog for Missouri wines called MO Wine Please, and it was something that really intrigued me. The whole process from planting plants, to harvesting fruit, the fermenting juice into wine and to having something that ultimately you’ve made entirely and it's something that you're really proud of.
I was trying to learn all the different avenues of winemaking and I wasn't very successful. For me, it was just a hobby so I didn't really take the time to really get good at it. I kept going to the shop called St Louis Wine and Beer Making where they sell all the stuff to make your own beer and wine.
This is where I met Dave Deaton, the owner, and I was telling him how it was frustrating the heck out of me not getting the chemistry right. I was spending all this time and not getting any good. He said, “Well, have you tried beer making?” Not that it’s easier, but the basics are for sure. I hadn't brewed ever. So I started trying it, and the first batch was pretty good and I thought, “Okay, maybe this is the avenue instead of winemaking.”
I'm still interested in winemaking, but I love beer and got into it pretty quick. Actually got hired there as a part time guy. I was the wine expert even though my wine was never stupendous, I knew the ins and outs more than anyone. But, I also got a chance to learn about hops, yeast strains working there, the grains and their different uses and got to really hone in my craft. It was the perfect educational opportunity for me because people would come in and ask questions. So it was a nice way to really learn about every aspect of the brewing process. I was really fortunate to learn from Dave Deaton.
What made you decide to start Petrichor Brewing?
I was homebrewing all the time and I would ask my friends to come over and they hardly ever did. But my oldest brother Jonathan showed some interest in it and I used to take my system down to his lake house for his birthday every year. We started going to competitions and he started brewing with me more often. We got more and more into it and then we started talking about how cool it would be to own a brewery. By the way, this is a common topic amongst homebrewers everywhere.
Finally our significant others were like, “Hey, if you're gonna do it, do it. Otherwise stop talking about it.” We created a New Year’s resolution in 2018 to start writing a business plan and finish it in two months. So we started writing, and by the time April hit, we had finished it and submitted it to an incubator here in Missouri, the Economic Development Center of St Charles. They were able to talk to us about the plan and provide some feedback on our overall model and idea before we submit it to banks for financing. He finally called us in and said, “Guys, I'm not gonna lie, this is probably the most thorough business plan ever seen.”
We submitted to a few banks, and it took a while to get the financing. We actually got an article written about us in the St. Louis Post Dispatch about trying to open businesses that can't get the funding.
Initially it was going to be just a bar and then we decided to make it a brewery. How much more would it be, we thought? It was a much larger expense than we had originally planned, but it wasn't that much more work to do your own beer.
It’s funny, because people will come in and say, “Hope you guys make it, there's so many breweries,” but also, there's lots of bars! We have a full bar, but we also make our own beer, so it's really not that crazy of a concept.
How would you describe Petrichor Brewing’s relationship with the O’Fallon community?
If you have an aerial shot of where Petrichor is located, we are on the south side of O'Fallon, Missouri, right in the middle of a neighborhood. So, most people don't even know we exist unless they live in the neighborhood. We don't have any road signage, we don't advertise, really. However, we are in the middle of nearly 3,000 homes and it's like we are this neighborhood brewery.
I think the community really likes us and respects that we're trying to do stuff in the neighborhood. We try to throw events every month. We close the street down and do a festival, we have a farmers market every other Sunday, this last weekend we did a car show, and just really continue to provide a high quality service and experience for our patrons.
We're trying to do stuff for the community so they don't have to go anywhere. You just walk over to our place. So we have a lot of events that we plan. We have tons of regulars that come in every day that live there, so it's awesome. It's wonderful that they are welcoming us. At first, they were not happy that we didn't have any domestics, but we have since convinced them that we make good stuff too, but it's just different.
What do you expect to change with the second location at the Lake of the Ozarks?
So, we have a pint club. And what that means is people can purchase a membership and annual membership, we have nearly 200 members this year at our Petrichor location, and all these people are asking about whether or not we're going to have a pint club at the lake, because they all have lake houses and they can't wait to come down and drink at the new location. So with relation to our most loyal customer base, we’re excited that they're excited to actually consider going physically to the new spot because it's two and a half hours away from where we're at.
The new location is close to the Lake of the Ozarks, which a lot of people in St. Louis go to. We're ready to break into the city which is Camdenton, Missouri. The actual city itself is kind of small, but I mean, we're looking forward to being the beer of the Lake of the Ozarks.
We want to be in every bar and restaurant on the water and in the towns. And so that's kind of what we are going to try to do is own it and we want people to think of Shortleaf Brewing, which is what we're going to be rebranding to, as their source for craft beer at the lake.
Why did you decide to enter the Honeycomb Barrel Giveaway?
I was at the new space doing work, taking a break, I was browsing social media and doing some quick marketing. I try to participate in the Craft Beer Professionals group on Facebook quite a bit because it’s a tremendous resource for me. I saw someone shared the giveaway because it was the last day to do it. I was thinking we could really use a barrel program at this location and figured why not?
We had been talking about starting a barrel program at our new location, because we have the space for it, so we had already had discussions about how that would go. We’d already bought a few barrels just to kind of start experimenting with barrel aged stouts at Petrichor in O’Fallon since we know that they’re really popular.
Our original goal as a brewery was to just make really good examples of what beers are rather than being kind of on the edge, being sort of experimental, that's not really what we want to focus on. We want to just make drinkable beers that people will come back for. But at the same time the craft beer community, I think, respects places that do tiptoe into that realm of ‘what-ifs’ some more. We want to be known as a more respectable brewery that can do all kinds of styles, not just like the normal drinkable browns, blondes, and IPAs, so that's kind of why we wanted to get barrels.
[When I got the call that I won] I was like, “Oh my god, really? Don’t lie to me, for real? That's like...that's awesome!” I really didn’t know what to say.
Do you have any advice for craft breweries looking to open a second location?
I don't know if I have advice or not, because we're learning all the time. We thought opening the second spot would be easier because we existed for a year and a half already. We had to wait until we had the full year of financial information to start using the company itself as a means for getting the financing rather than individuals.
I suppose one thing I would say is don't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone as to where you want to be located. Camdenton is not that far, it’s annoying in terms of just how you're going to deal with logistics of managing the place, but it's not that bad of a drive. The town is really nice and we’re really excited about being their first brewery.
We actually got a really good deal on a building because we were able to look into a bit more rural areas of Missouri. I mean that's what we're going to do for the next spot too most likely. Everyone deserves great craft beer, even outside the city! Look for the spot that this is missing and go for it.
Where do you hope to see Shortleaf Brewing in the next 5 years?
Well, we want to open up a third location. We're hoping to create our group of restaurants and brewpubs that offer the same great pub fair and beer we’ve got going on at Petrichor Brewing. A place that you can go to and you know you're going to get these specific types of beers that we make, consistently every time.
The hope is in five years at the lake our Blood Orange Wheat is being drunk at every single bar. We want to be producing products that people look at and say that's a great product. We know it's good.
Finally, we also want to be seen in the craft beer community as people that can make a variety of styles like these barrel aged beers that we're hoping to get going. We’re talking Imperial browns, stouts, porters, barleywines and more. Very excited to have won this chance to start a barrel program and the big jump start is thanks to you guys.
Grow with the community by your side
We’re excited to be a part of Shortleaf Brewing’s story, even in a small way, as they grow to multiple locations and make a name for themselves in the Lake of the Ozarks community! If you’re ever in the area, have a pint for us, okay?
Honeycomb helps small businesses achieve growth through fair capital raised from their family and friends! Learn more about crowdfunded small business loans at www.honeycombcredit.com/grow, and fill out the form below for more information!