Recently, Monday Night Brewing celebrated its 12th anniversary with a party at The Garage, its sprawling taproom and event space at the Lee + White development in Atlanta’s West End.
Owners Jonathan Baker, Jeff Heck and Joel Iverson were homebrewers who met at a Monday night Bible study in 2006 and decided to start a brewery together. Since then, the business has expanded to include taprooms in Birmingham, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; and Charlotte, North Carolina, with a location in Knoxville, Tennessee set to open in late 2023.
Recently, I talked with Heck, who is the Monday Night Brewing CEO, and drives the growth and development of the company. Here’s some of what he had to say.
What’s your role these days? Has it changed much?
I’m still serving as CEO. The thing that has changed is that the business has grown. We started with two taprooms, and we’ll end 2023 with six. So just the size and the breadth of the organization in terms of people and structure. But functionally I’m still in the same role. I’m the money, culture, strategy guy. Those are my three big buckets of stuff.
What’s your take on the beer business these days?
Broadly speaking, the two big macro things that have happened over the past decade are a whole bunch more breweries have opened and the market has matured. So 10 years ago the industry was growing in double digits every year. But what’s happening in craft (brewing) with the slowdown of the industry is normal. No industry runs at a 15% annual growth rate for 20 years.
What’s the strategy behind continuing to open taprooms in other states?
I think it’s done a couple of things. First and foremost, it goes back to our purpose statement: To deepen relationships over some of the best beer in the world. The two prongs of that are exceptionally good quality and relationships. It’s hard to build relationships, to be part of communities, to have a real presence in a market without having anything more than a facing (presence) on a grocery store shelf or a tap handle at a local pub.
From a business standpoint, our taprooms serve three purposes. One is creating meaningful connection in the neighborhoods and places we’re selling beer. The second part of that is that it’s great marketing for our brand and our wholesale business. And three, it’s a generator of revenue and cash flow.
Then why haven’t you opened more taprooms in Atlanta?
I would love to build more taprooms in Atlanta, but the requirements for brewing onsite are just cost prohibitive. And the inability to purchase outside alcohol, or even slightly resemble a retailer, just limits our upside.
In Tennessee, North Carolina and Alabama we have full bars. We can have food, guest taps, liquor and wine. It’s a much more diverse revenue stream at a lower cost. We don’t have to spend a half a million dollars and hire multiple full-time salaried production positions.
What’s the current challenge?
When I left my day job seven years ago, we had about 20 employees, and now we have over 170 across four different states. That’s been the huge change, to go from a small proprietorship type business to a multi-unit hospitality company. And that’s while still having a robust production and wholesale business while not compromising quality and innovation. For me, that’s been the biggest challenge, but also the most fun.
Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter
Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.