Chapter 1 - Big dreams

It’s early January, 2018 and I’m standing in an empty brick building that’s substantially larger than an NFL football field.

It won’t be empty for long.

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In a matter of days, a few million dollars worth of high-end brewing equipment is scheduled to arrive and a construction project over two years in the making is set to begin. This should be a moment to cherish, the culmination of months upon months of diligent planning finally bearing fruit as Workhorse Brewing Company shifts from an idea to a reality.

And yet, as the lights flicker on overhead, I’m left wondering if what they reveal is more than I bargained for. I’m staring directly into my future and yet I can’t help thinking about the alternative paths I might have taken had I not chosen to drop everything and open a craft brewery.

What if I hadn’t put the brakes on my original passion project, a company to which I have dedicated the majority of my adult, professional life?

What if my incredibly patient wife had finally grown tired of my entrepreneurial spirit and the uncertainty it created for our family, urging me to think pragmatically for the sake of my newborn daughter, our first child?

What if I had paid heed to the voices in my head, quietly warning that perhaps the challenges ahead were too great, too risky, too complex to tackle? Was I biting off more than I could chew?

But evaluating “what ifs?” does no good; time spent daydreaming won’t change the fact that there’s too much on the line to turn back. All that’s left to do is open a beer and hope that this calculated risk pays off. Thankfully, it’s not the first time I’ve made this type of wager. Good thing too, because I’m going to need that experience if this is going to work.

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My name is Dan Hershberg, and nearly ten years ago, I had an idea and made a life-changing decision.

In the summer of 2008, I decided to leave my job in studio production at ESPN--a dream job for as long as I can remember--and move home to pursue a career in entrepreneurship. Ironically, this literal move into my childhood bedroom would force me to grow up quickly: I was now a 24-year old, first-time business owner armed with little more than a supportive family and conviction in a company that did not yet exist.

That company became Philly Phaithful, an apparel brand selling Philly-themed, mostly sports, tees. We found our collective voice as I spent the first few years hustling the tailgate parking lots before local sporting events, slinging shirts out of my car for $15/apiece. In doing so, I received an education in sales...with a non-institutional minor in beer consumption. Sports fans—like beer drinkers—make for a diverse set of customers and getting a chance to interact with Philadelphians of all backgrounds is an opportunity for which I’ll always be grateful.

As Philly Phaithful developed from a necessary hustle into a sustainable business, I’ve grown alongside the company; sharing in its successes and bearing the full weight of its failures. Whether by grit or good fortune, I’ve been able to experience more of the former than the latter, although as most entrepreneurs will attest, it’s the mistakes that help shape your path more than any individual triumph.

Specifically, I used to think that mistakes were the result of an improper action, but experience has taught me that inaction is often the culprit. Because at its core, entrepreneurship is an exercise in patience. Knowing when to leap at opportunity has to be properly balanced with self-restraint; is this idea crazy or I am crazy to pass on it?

Workhorse Brewing Company is one of those ideas and we’re all about to find out if it’s crazy good…or just crazy. From The Horse’s Mouth will share our story, chronicling how we came to be and providing an honest, transparent account of everything it takes to start—and grow--a craft brewery. From fundraising and sourcing equipment, to hiring employees and creating a brand, it’s an all-access look behind the scenes. Consider it a brewery tour before there’s a brewery and you get to watch it unfold in real time.

I’ll be your guide on this journey and whether you follow along solely on our website or across our various social media channels (scroll down for links), we encourage you to read, look, listen and engage. Each medium will share unique content that is complimentary in nature, a piece of the larger narrative that can be consumed individually or in tandem for a deeper dive into Workhorse. This project also serves as an educational initiative: our brewmaster Nate Olewine is a 10-year industry veteran (Victory, Devils Backbone…more on him to come) with serious brewing chops, but this is my first foray into the world of craft beer. Beyond just the brewing process, we invite you to learn as we learn, whether it’s about the right pitch in the brewhouse flooring, the development of our logo or how state distribution laws effect our operational strategy. Most importantly, we want you to meet the people who will bring Workhorse to life: Philadelphians by birth, entrepreneurs by trade and folks with whom you’d want to share a beer or four. Cheers!

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Coming up next on From The Horse’s Mouth:

  • Our origin story; how a chance reunion with a college friend changed the course of many lives.
  • A visit to Cincinnati and Rhinegeist Brewery; an idea takes root.
  • First steps to starting a brewery; what do you do when you have more questions than answers?

Want to learn more? Have questions for our team? Let us know what you think by engaging on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or by email (info@workhorsebrewing.com). For real-time information, or to subscribe to the blog, join our newsletter. You can also check out a short promotional video below, one of many such clips to come your way over the next few months.