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From hobby to business: Son used education to construct brewery's business plan
John A. Huber's brewing hobby has become a microbrew business with a growing customer base.
John A. Huber Brewing Co. started producing its flagship beer, Hubrew Blonde Ale, earlier this year near Fruitland.
He started brewing in 2003, after his sons, Matt and Chad, gave him a home brew kit for Christmas.
When he got tired of driving to St. Louis or paying to have online supplies shipped, he started Homebrew Supply of Southeast Missouri.
Customers who sampled his work encouraged him to take his brewing to the next level.
"People were asking, ‘Can we buy this?' We said no so many times, we started thinking about what would it take," said Matt Huber, CEO and business manager.
Huber, who also works as a project coordinator at the Southeast Missouri State University Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, began researching the microbrew industry while completing his degree.
"I tied in the business plan to a lot of my entrepreneurship classes and papers I had to do," Matt Huber said.
After a guest lecture in one of his classes, Matt Huber was so inspired, he called his dad.
"I said, let's just do it. We had talked about it for a couple years, but not seriously. That's when the research started on my end," Matt Huber recalls.
While researching the microbrewing industry, he was surprised to learn that despite a down economy, craft beer makers were still making a profit and selling at a higher price point.
In 2011, craft beer's U.S. market share surpassed 5 percent for the first time, according to the Brewers Association. Its market share has grown from just 3.8 percent in 2007 to 5.6 percent last year. In 2011, the overall U.S. beer market volumes declined 1.3 percent, the Brewers Association reports.
"The craft beer movement in general is just on fire," said Keller Ford of Primo Vino, which sells Hubrew. "I just think that there are more and more people every month that are discovering that there are better beers out there than the mass-produced beers."
Ford said he's been getting positive comments from customers about Hubrew.
"There's obviously a trend for people supporting local," Matt Huber said. "I think that's what's helped a lot of small ones be able to start in their local area and then, as they get popular, expand from there."
Because John A., Matt and Chad still have their day jobs, they brew on the weekends and bottle or keg their beer in the evenings. They stick to traditional ingredients for their blonde ale -- malted barley, hops, water and yeast.
"You can buy your grains already cracked, but we crack them ourselves right before we brew to ensure the best flavor characteristics," Matt Huber said.
After brewing for eight hours, the fermentation process takes three to four weeks.
The beer is bottled at a rate of 72 22-ounce bottles an hour.
"It's all hands-on, there's really not much automation we use," Matt Huber said. "We have control over the whole process this way."
The Hubers have been taking their Hubrew to a variety of local restaurants, wineries and bars for tastings. A schedule and a list of retailers can be found at facebook.com/Hubrew.
3463 State Highway FF, Jackson, MO