Perspective Online

Hopportunity Knocks

by Julie Lineback

What started out as a father-son bonding project has turned into a lifelong passion for Josh Rachel ’08, co-owner and award-winning brewmaster of Jekyll Brewing. As a strapped-for-cash University of West Georgia senior majoring in marketing, Josh and his dad spent Father’s Day brewing beer in his parents’ garage. His love of the craft only intensified when, after graduation, he got a part-time job at Brew-Depot in Alpharetta—a “temporary” gig that lasted more than four years—and started brewing at home and entering competitions. While at the Brew-Depot, he met Michael Lundmark, who suggested they start a business together.

“Every home brewer’s dream is to become a professional brewer and have a brewery,” Josh said. “It’s a lot of hard work, and the reality of it is successes are few and far between.”

But today, he and Michael are living that dream. Jekyll Brewing, so named for the first Deep South brewery that was founded on Jekyll Island in 1738, opened only two-and-a-half years ago and now encompasses 20,000 square feet. Before Jekyll Brewing moved to its current location at 2855 Marconi Drive in Alpharetta, Josh and Michael launched a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter. Getting the message out via friends and family and word of mouth, more than 350 backers managed to raise almost $34,000 in support of the young entrepreneurs.

“When I went to orientation at UWG, someone said the one thing you need to learn is that it’s all about networking,” Josh remembered. “Having that connection and using it as a marketing tool has been very beneficial.”

Using networking knowhow with the growth of the trendy craft beer industry has also helped the brewery’s success. Although Josh said it took the South a little longer to catch up with the rest of the nation, mainly due to local and state laws, more and more breweries have been popping up.

“It was a tidal wave coming through, and we were on the forefront of that boom of craft beer in the Southeast and Atlanta area,” he continued. “We were fortunate on that timing. It benefited us to be in the right place at the right time.”

Josh said his degree in marketing from UWG played a significant role in getting the business off the ground, especially when it came to branding and logos. Even with everything else on his plate as co-owner, he remains involved with that side of the business.

“We sit with our artist and talk about what direction we want to take, and I think that with my background in marketing, I am able to help out,” he stated. “I have to believe in the brand.”

Jekyll Brewing keeps five beers on tap year round and eight seasonals on rotation. The award-winning IPA Hop Dang Diggity accounts for 60 percent of their sales and is the one the company is most known for. Their varieties run the gamut from light beer to dark beer to heavy beer and everything in between. Josh said the variety Jekyll Brewery offers is a result of his love of the craft and his desire to be creative.

“We don’t stop short of putting everything we can in there to make it full of flavor,” he added. “Even if it’s a light beer, there’s still a lot of craft that goes into it. I try to differentiate the taste of our main beer each year. Other breweries get the same flavor in every beer, but I strive to separate the beers so they are different.”

When making beer, Josh says you can only create so many brews that someone else hasn’t already done. Sometimes, all it takes is a new ingredient to make a drink different again. He described the craft brewing community as tight knit, friendly, and always willing to share techniques.

“It’s about making great beer. This is what we do, and we’re not trying to cut corners. It’s a craft, and people are starting to appreciate that. To me, it’s more of an art than a science.”

Jekyll Brewing employs around 30 people in what Josh called “a family-driven environment,” and one that sets them apart from other breweries. It’s been a grass-roots effort, with organic growth and horizontal moves that keep a core of employees.

“I want to make sure I take care of these guys no matter what it takes,” he said. “I want everyone to succeed and be able to live the life they want to live. That’s really important to me, and it’s a focus that the company and I have.”

But Josh isn’t keeping things small. He strives for expansion and continuous growth.
The brewery recently upgraded its bottling line from a hand-operated system to an automated production. This new mechanism increases production to 120 bottles a minute as opposed to the previous capability of six bottles a minute. In the spring or summer, they will be getting a new brew house that will be five times bigger than the current one.

“The efficiency will be through the roof,” Josh predicted. “We are finishing up some more funding that will offer us new opportunities to purchase what we need. Everything is always moving.

“This year, I also want a bigger push on competitions,” he continued. “Win or lose, it’s really cool to be in that environment. It’s like the Grammys.”

Josh confided that there are days when the reality of his success hasn’t fully set in. When asked what advice he had for young entrepreneurs, he said there has to be followthrough.

“You have to be dedicated and believe in yourself,” he concluded. “It’s a roller coaster, and you never know what’s going to happen at the end, but if you never try, you’ll never know. Don’t focus on the stress. Just drive through.”


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Posted: March 17, 2016

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