Tuesday, June 23, 2009

So you want to to open a brewpub?

Bill Madden is a doyen of brewers in the Washington, D.C. area. For the past 14 years, he has brewed at other people's breweries.

Now, he's planning to open his own —Mad Fox Brewing Company— a brewpub in Falls Church, Virginia. Beer blogger HolzBrew recently interviewed him.

Brewer Bill Madden

Among the questions and answers, there are these exchanges that could be illustrative for anyone else who might wish to open their own brewpub:

Talk with someone who has business acumen
a great friend of mine and current business partner, Rick Garvin, started to mentor me on how to go about developing a business.
Have the time.
We would talk and then I would be given a task list to go out and work on and then I would get busy with a beer festival or some other distraction. The business took longer and longer to develop.
Have the experience
Rick has started numerous businesses over the years and I have helped in the opening or restarting of 7 brewpubs in the area
Seeding the finances is, obviously, ultimately critical
Rick put up startup capital and he has been instrumental in helping me to deal with the startup business issues. [Even lowballing the rent per square foot in Falls Church at $25, the rent check for the 8,000 square foot location would be a hefty $200,000 per year. That's a lot o'beer! ]
A brewpub is a restaurant first, brewery second
I have a number of consultants from investors who are successful local restaurateurs

The beers will be similar to those Madden brews now at Vintage 50 in Leesburg, Virginia, and to those he has brewed for other breweries in the Washington, D.C. area over the past 14 years. He has won several medals for his Kölsch and his Wee Heavy.

As to the food, Madden states that much will be locally sourced, and that the primary menu emphasis will be on pizza.
There are great pizza places in this town and there are great beer places but no one to date has put the two together. [Since there are some good-pizza-good-beer spots in the DC area, I think that Madden is referring to a dearth of DC area brewpubs specializing in pizza.]

Madden concedes that planning for a November 2009 opening might be overly sanguine, but he is confident that Mad Fox will be operating by the first quarter of 2010. [UPDATE: The latter projection seems on target, as reported in the Falls Church News-Press on 20 August 2009.]


  1. Just a heads-up... you calculated the rent incorrectly. The per square foot number is the annual number not the monthly.

  2. But, of course. Thanks for the correction.


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