Silk City Distillers

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Everything posted by Silk City Distillers

  1. What's the difference?
  2. Just to be clear, the probability weighted forecast isn't about yielding an accurate forecast number, it's about testing the business model against various scenarios to understand how it will react to those, both optimistic and pessimistic. From a methodology perspective, it's the exact opposite of trying to build a single accurate forecast. It's acknowledging that you aren't in a position to build a single highly confident forecast, so instead you build a set of different forecasts, and assign a probability to those, for example, I'm 30% confident in the pessimistic forecast, 60% confident in the baseline forecast, and 10% confident in the optimistic forecast. We then plug those in, and see how those impact the model. Then, you can start to test the model - ok - what happens if we push the pessimistic to 40% and baseline to 50%? Or, what if we increase the volume on the optimistic scenario. Or, you can start to look at it from another perspective, such as what are the minimum monthly sales volumes necessary to break-even? Or, at what point can I actually draw a salary, have enough cash to make a subsequent investment, what level of sales do I need to be able to afford a certain level of inventory build, etc.
  3. Why not just assume zero for the first two years, and understand how that impacts your business model? Then model some realistic and optimistic cases on top of that, and build out a probability-weighted average? Nobody has a crystal ball. It was useful for me to build out an Excel model that took into account startup costs, in addition to fixed and variable operating costs, which took in various sales scenarios and calculated P&L, etc, etc accordingly. The probability weighted average, along with a dynamic spreadsheet, allows you to start playing to various scenarios (including hugely pessimistic ones). This way, you can adjust your planning accordingly to account for various scenarios. So while we hope the optimistic forecast plays out, we can at least have some confidence that the pessimistic forecast won't result in short-term failure.
  4. We are putting bridge-mounted agitators on the tops of our 550g Custom Metalcraft fermenters for a similar exact reason. Still is half the size of the fermenter, so we run two batches per. The issue is that batch one is grain heavy, and getting the fermenter homogeneous is impossible with a paddle. I imagine it would help significantly during cooldown as well. Nothing too fancy, 3/4hp motors with inline gear reductions. Will machine a coupling and just use a long shaft down to the bottom with a simplistic impeller. It doesn't need much. It doesn't need to run for the length of the ferment, just start it before the pump over.
  5. Ordered from Custom Ink a few times and have been happy with it. Not the cheapest, but they have a nice selection of very high quality t-shirts. I did a run using the American Apparel T's (USA Made) - and I must have washed mine a hundred times already. The Next Level shirts were really nice as well. If you are looking for cheap giveaway swag shirts - definitely not your place. Been meaning to order hats from Brewery Branding, but really wish I could just order 50 and not a gross.
  6. While there might be some merit for feints collected in a single pass pot still run, you are going to really hit diminishing returns quickly if trying to re-run feints collected out of a multi-plate column still run, even less if you are talking about the final run of a multi-run process that includes stripping, etc. Congener composition and high boiling alcohols are going to be significantly more concentrated, and usable product yield is going to be pretty small. Pretty sure this meme came right out of the hobby community, when pot stills were significantly more prevalent than column stills, and product yield was disappointingly low for the effort involved. Whats the vodka product yield in PG compared to the total potential alcohol (PG) in the starting wash? If the product yield is north of 50% of the total PG, I can't imagine the product yield from the feints run would be anything but tiny. If your vodka yield is very low, say 20%, than there is probably some merit in the process.
  7. Always wondered if there was a business to be made supplying low wines to small startups.
  8. A full tote will be in excess of a ton, probably closer to 2400-2500lbs - which means forklifts and if you are transporting yourself, a halfway decent pickup or even better, a trailer. Fermenting in an off-site location? It better be a distillery or brewery, and you'll need to transfer in bond if you've fermented there.
  9. Broken mash paddle hall of shame...
  10. Backset really does make a significant difference, even at small volumes. We use less than 5% of the total wash volume as backset (20 gallons in 530 total), and that has a material impact on buffering and the amount of citric we will need to use to drop pH. Probably something on the order of 20-25% of the total citric we use in a non-backset batch. And this is only because I'm somewhat anal about pH ranges during the mash - so I'll typically be using citric to step adjust pH anyhow - just use significantly less of it. We also top off with chilled water prior to cooling (just as a way to reduce the cooling load/time) - and this is where you see the buffer impact. Typically we would need to readjust pH after the final cold water addition. With backset added, we never do. We basically fill a small drum with boiling backset as soon as we finish off tails. The heat helps to keep the backset somewhat sterile until the next run. If your drum was clean and sanitized, you could probably hold the backset for a week or two, especially if you are dumping it into a cereal mash and re-boiling for an extended period of time (any new bacterial load would be killed). Just don't put 20 gallons of boiling backset in a 55 gallon drum and seal it airtight during the middle of winter.
  11. And this is exactly the reason that Jim Beam is paying Mila Kunis millions of dollars a year.
  12. I don't agree with this, and it's not because I have a biased or vested opinion as an owner (after all, where you sit is where you stand.) Yeah yeah, easy money is over. Everyone with a first mover advantage that didn't parlay that into growth and investment has lost that opportunity. Are we talking about a small craft producer turning into a national brand? Hell, that's always been a long shot. Are we talking about new business failures and failure to launch? I don't think that's new, I think it's just becoming more visible through places like ADI, etc. Remember, 80% of startups fail on average. This business is no different. Like I said, that first mover advantage that might have lowered this rate to 60% - that's gone, but all that means is it's no different from trying to open up a franchise sandwich shop. First, I don't understand how you define or easily identify brand saturation in a market. From my position, if the market sufficiently fragmented such that smaller players are able to gain or retain enough market share to be viable, what does it matter the aggregate number of brands? How is it that the wine market is not sufficiently brand overloaded? I personally think that the Scotch section is incredibly confusing and cryptic, but it continues to grow. In addition, the bulk of the craft brand growth has been local/regional, with very few being in national distribution. There is no single national "shelf", unless you are a major national player, everything else comes down to the local shelf. And not even all of the local shelves, but the local shelves that matter. A single strong specialty spirits retailer can move more product in a month than dozens of nondescript mom and pop corner liquor shops. Why would you even bother to waste your time with the latter (more on this later). Is it about the ability to respond to market changes? Craft distillers can very rapidly adjust their business models to account for short-term preferential changes in the marketplace. We have the advantage of agility. If tomorrow, anchovy vodka was the next hot thing, most of us could be in the artisan anchovy vodka business relatively quickly. A national producer would not have similar agility. We have the advantage of being significantly more agile in the marketplace, this should not be overlooked. Also, are new entrants able to grow the size of the overall market themselves? You might think the question is a little bit silly, how can new market entrants grow a market that major players have trouble doing whilst spending tens, if not hundreds of millions in aggregate, on advertising? But I I think the answer is that they can, by virtue of being local, and by virtue of being experiential. IMHO, that word, "experiental" is going to be the key, and it's not going away. I think the last piece is the key differentiation that craft brands have over nationals, the ability to be experiential. But what the nationals can't do, is appeal to the experiential buyer at mass-scale. They can only be experiential in so far as their marketing material takes them. I don't think that translates into local market dynamics. Awareness is not experience. How can you ignore the demographic change that is driving this longer-term market shift? A shift which clearly has legs. Every retailer is incredibly focused on this. Every consumer service business is incredibly focused on this. Even the financial services industry is spending millions on this. And hell, who wants to be caught dead in a bank branch? What kind of "experience" is that? There are dozens and dozens and dozens of studies and articles talking about this paradigm shift, there are probably just as many consultancies that state that they have the secret keys to be able to navigate this. But, the fact is, nobody has figured this out yet. It's fair game. I'll just leave a few keywords and concepts here, which I think are really important to think about. This is not your father's Oldsmobile. Experience, not Things Authenticity, Sincerity, No Bullshit. Social (as in Conspicuous) Consumption In Collaboration, actually Listening Environmental and Social Conscience Local and Artisanal Obvious Passion Respect, and Respected Unique and Limited, not Mass Market and Undifferentiated I firmly believe that a new craft distillery entrant in a crowded craft market can absolutely destroy the incumbent players if they master this experience component, and can scale it. Let that be a warning to anyone sitting on their ass. A millennial marketing to a millennial will absolutely beat the pants off you. Are you still hanging onto that trope about your great uncle Cletus' secret recipe? Sorry, they don't give a shit about that. Doing a private spirits pairing at the hot local restaurant, with a custom menu designed by it's hot local chef? Pretty food, pictures plastered all over Instagram, now we're talking. Personally? I don't think this demographic is interested in mass market anything. It's about creative differentiation, limited availability, having a brand image that a demographic wants to be associated with. It's not about being able to spend massive marketing budgets either. It should be the national brands who are shaking in their boots.
  13. Let me know when I'll be able to find a Vendome for the scrap value of the copper.
  14. I found a local gasket supplier that sells stock gasket material, he sold me a 24x48 sheet of FDA platinum cured silicone sheet. I was able to just drop the flange on, trace it out, and cut it with an Xacto knife. If you are interested in cutting your own gasket, I'll track down his contact info. It was not particularly cheap though.
  15. Yes
  16. What's the fitting? For high proof I prefer teflon/ptfe seals on a stainless valve body. Nylon wouldn't be my first choice.
  17. Take a gander at this: Wonder what the TTB would have to say.
  18. I have an uncle who keeps a loaded shotgun in his office. Double barrel thief?
  19. The PID I mentioned above Omega CNI16D53 - has both Proportional (0-10v and 4-20ma) Outputs and Relay Outputs w/ Cycle time (Basic PWM - in seconds) - The "5" in the model number stands for proportional output, and the "3" stands for relay. If you are going to use solenoids, make sure you use relays between the controller and the solenoids to provide additional level of safety for the controller. If you do have only proportional analog output, but want to use solenoids, as mentioned in the Stilldragon thread posted above, the Burkert 8605 and 8611 controls are a nice way of converting a 4-20ma proportional signal from a controller into a solenoid-friendly PWM. They also provide much more flexibility in solenoid control than you will find in a straight PID. Burkert makes proportional solenoid units that are comfortable with faster duty cycles, with the integral controllers, but they are just as expensive as actuated proportional valves. If you are using municipal water with solenoids, and have a high water pressure, make sure you account for water hammer, as it can be severe depending on your solenoids, flowrate, duty cycle, and plumbing. For safety sake, use normally open solenoids on your condenser loops, so that when your control system fails, loses power, solenoid burns out, relay burns out, etc - your condensers will go to full flow and shut down the still. This will require manual shutoff valves. Same goes for proportional valves, just be sure you understand and consider what the behavior is when the system fails, and someone else is operating the still.
  20. I'm glad I'm not the only one flailing with the canoe paddle.
  21. I think the suggestion by @Brian could be a good approach. Could it be easier to just work with a local vendor to replace the whole gas train and burner assembly with something that's certified under the local authority, with a local (at least Canadian) representative? They'll probably be able to provide the appropriate exhaust requirements to pair with their burner as well. You'll have lots of paperwork from the regulator, burner, etc etc. Take the angle that the still itself is no different from any other pot on a regulated burner (just a bit more odd, you know, like a big wok or kettle corn popcorn). Not sure if propane was your first choice, but if you have natural gas, it's at least the opportunity to switch them out.
  22. If you can build something like this, eBay and industrial surplus are your friends. For example, the PID I list, you can find on eBay for $100. From Omega directly? It's like $350-400. At $100 it's a better deal than a standard off-the-shelf PID for $50. Same goes for valves, decent proportional control models are relatively easy to find on the surplus market. Sure, theres some risk involved, but like I said, this endeavor requires a certain amount of technical and mechanical skill, if you have those, you should be pretty comfortable spec'ing the right parts, sizing valves, pumps, plumbing, etc. Do solenoids work too? Yeah, totally, plenty of ways to skin this cat. On a municipal or well water based system, solenoids are really the only way to go. @indyspirits mentioned software, so I thought I'd share the details around the Omega, since it's a pretty cost effective way to put a PID in place that has the ability to be connected. Omega has some very good documentation online for how to interface over Ethernet, and there are plenty of options in place if you are interested in hacking around. You can data log to Excel, build simple VB programs with their ActiveX control. They've got some dashboard software too.
  23. Omega CNI16D53-EI Proportional control PID (With Ethernet for remote control/logging), RTD in the dephlegmator itself (through the wall). Using a Johnson 4-20ma proportional actuator with a 3 way ball valve to provide dephlegmator flow control. We use a reservoir, and the dephlegmator is on it's own loop, so the water either passes through the deplegmator or bypasses back to the tank (easier than dealing with pump control or pressure bypass). We are using a Grundfos Alpha circulator valve - it uses a ridiculously small amount of power, about 5 or 6 watts. The dephleg loop only runs about 4-5 gallons a minute. Nice thing is the PID compensates for the reservoir temperature as it heats up through the run. We can adjust the dephleg to any temp we need on demand, and I think that the run-to-run repeatability is solid. Makes it very easy to do things like run heads compression, slowly back off to take off fores/heads, adjust the hearts proof, and then compress tails if necessary. The only upgrade pending is to swap to a much faster acting proportional valve. Went with PID as it was easier to control on the fly than something like a PLC - especially considering the cost of an HMI. To go through all that trouble and the PLC would really just be "simulating" a PID? We use the same exact setup for product condenser temp control.
  24. No but we used NSF sinks to be sure that they wouldn't have an issue.
  25. 2 pound of grain per gallon total volume is a reasonable estimate.