Patti Perspective
August 29, 2014

Do you have a local craft brew that you enjoy? The statistics look good for regional craft brewers across the country. According to the Brewers Association, while overall beer sales in the US were down 1.9% in 2013, craft beer sales were up 17.2%. 

 

Texas gem, Real Ale Brewing Company, is among the craft brewers driving the growth of this $14.3 billion dollar niche market. Our feature article this month is on a project our Texas team recently completed to help Real Ale Brewing Company quadruple the bottling speed of their quality handcrafted ales.

This month we have a new twist on our personnel spotlight. We just could not resist sharing an interesting and true American success story with you. Real Ale Brewing Company's owner, Brad Farbstein, is in our spotlight this month. We hope you will enjoy his story as much as we have!
Real Ale Brewing Company
Quadruples Bottle Line Speed
Old Bottle Line
Real Ale Brewing Company is the home of a dedicated team of brewers producing high quality handcrafted ales. The company has experienced consistent growth year over year, and is nationally ranked as the 54th largest regional craft brewery.

Located in the small remote town of Blanco, in the Texas Hill Country, the closest urban centers are more than 45 minutes away. As a result, Real Ale Brewing's team prefers to do as much as they can internally, without outside help. Accordingly, when Real Ale purchased a new bottling line which would quadruple the bottling speed of their current line, they decided to do the installation of the line themselves. After installation, they planned to have the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), Sentry Conveyor, commission the new line.

The bottling line they were replacing was mostly relay logic. In tackling this large project with more advanced automation technology they were unfamiliar with, Real Ale Brewing's owner, Brad Farbstein knew he would need to rely on a few good outside resources to supplement his teams' in-house skill sets.

Brad determined he would need a good electrical contractor as well as a good controls engineering company. After contacting several recommended resources, Brad knew Patti Engineering would be the right fit to provide the needed engineering expertise for his project. Brad was impressed with how quickly Wayne Hachenberg, Patti Engineering's southern region business development manager, responded to Brad's inquiry regarding the project. "Within a day Wayne was onsite to review the project. His genuine interest in our company and his thorough review of our needs stood out from the other companies," commented Brad. "We are a company that considers more than just price; we make our decisions based on what is best for our business, and we know good reliable partners can make all the difference."

Patti Engineering's Texas team worked closely with Brad and his team. The scope of services provided by Patti Engineering included the design of the wire gutter and basket system, specification and design of the cabling for variable frequency drives (VFD's), motor starters, and all of the I/O sensors. Brad hired C.H. Electrical of Austin to install Patti Engineering's design.

Patti Engineering also assisted with reprogramming an existing vision inspection system that was repurposed from the original bottling line. At Brad's request, Patti Engineering was also onsite to observe while the OEM commissioned the line. Learning the system from the original designers, Real Ale Brewing can rely on Patti Engineering for prompt local engineering support.
The New Bottle Line


The commissioning of the new bottling line was successfully completed earlier this month, increasing production speed four-fold, from 100 bottles per minute to 400 bottles per minute. Real Ale Brewing is now positioned to continue to meet growth demands.
Brad noted, "The success of this project is a direct reflection of the dedication, diligence and team effort of our Director of Brewing Operations, Tim Schwartz, our Maintenance Manager, Gary Turnquist, and our local partners, Patti Engineering and C.H. Electrical."

The Real Ale Brewing Company has a great story, and Brad has been kind enough to share that story with Patti Engineering, and has given us permission to write about it. We invite you to read our spotlight on Brad Farbstein and how he turned his passion into a successful business. We hope you will enjoy the story (and their beer) as much as we have!
Real Ale Brewing Company - How Brad Farbstein Turned his Passion into a Successful Business
Everyone loves a true American success story. Brad Farbstein and his wife Gabriel Gregerman deliver just that with their successful brewing business. Rightfully so, Brad and Gabriel are proud of their handcrafted ales, available only in Texas. Real Ale Brewing Company is one of the many great small businesses that we at Patti Engineering are proud to serve, and we thought our readers would enjoy hearing their story, so here it is.

It all began for Brad back in college at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin where he played for the lacrosse team. It was a fellow lacrosse teammate who invited Brad over to his apartment to brew a batch of beer that started it all. From there, Brad was hooked concocting his own homebrew recipes throughout his college years. Upon graduation from UT with his economics degree, Brad approached his father telling him he wanted to open his own brewery. His father promptly told him he was crazy, and then gave him some very good advice. His Dad told him he needed to start on the road to his dream business by working for, and learning from, someone else - an established brewery.

Brad took his Dad's advice to heart, and set his sights on working for a Houston based brewery. For the next six months he repeatedly approached them to hire him. His persistence paid off and Brad was hired. After working for the brewery for several years, a local Austin beer distributor offered Brad a job in sales and marketing. Realizing the opportunity to learn the business from another angle, Brad seized the opportunity.

It was in 1998, while working for the distributor, Brad's golden opportunity presented itself. Brad had become friends with one of his customers, the owners of a small brewery, Real Ale Brewing Company, located in Blanco - a small town in Texas' Hill Country.  Phillip & Diane Conner along with their son, Charles, had set up shop in the basement of an antiques store on the Blanco town square. Brad would spend his weekends helping them brew, in exchange for a couple of beers - enjoying their company, as well as learning more about the brewing business.

In business for just two years, the Conner's were struggling financially and wanted to sell the business. Phillip asked Brad if he knew of anyone who might be interested. Recognizing a rare opportunity to turn a dream into reality - even though he had no idea how he was going to pull it off - Brad said, "I'm your man."

Fortunately, Brad had a nest egg from a small inheritance he received when he was just 11 years old when his grandmother died. At the advice of a family friend, Brad's $13,000 inheritance had been invested in the stock of a small Austin based grocery store chain - Whole Foods Market! The stock had escalated to $80,000, giving Brad the opportunity to pay down the brewery's debt and slowly buy the Conner's out.

As is the case with many small businesses, Real Ale Brewing Company struggled to survive. Brad did not take a paycheck for the first 5 years, and the business took over 8 years to even turn a profit. Brad credits his wife Gabriel for keeping the "ship afloat"; supporting Brad's run at his passion and dream business by paying the mortgage and covering the bills.

The struggle paid off. Real Ale Brewing Company just celebrated 18 years in business! When Brad purchased the business in 1998 the company produced 300 barrels of beer a year, now the business produces 60,000 barrels of beer, has 42 employees, 12 million in annual sales, and is nationally ranked as the 54th largest regional brewery. Quite a feat for a company which only sells in Texas and has no future plans to expand beyond the Texas border.

Brad gave us his perspective on keeping his business local, "for us it is not about moving boxes or units, instead it is about enjoying our passion and focusing on brewing quality beer." Brad also made it clear that his passionate and dedicated team of employees make Real Ale Brewing Company the success that it is today.


Gabriel works in the business now, running the office and managing human resource responsibilities. Brad, Gabriel and their team strive to create high quality ales and lagers as diverse as the passionate group of people who produce them. Real Ale Brewing's flagship ales include Firemans #4, Devil's Backbone, and bold seasonals such as Phoenixx Double ESB and Coffee Porter. While they honor the brewing traditions of the past, they are not bound by them. They continue to brew traditional beer styles, but always keep an eye towards innovation.

Gabriel and Brad's family expanded 2 years ago with the birth of their daughter, Sadie Jane. The family also has an important four legged member, a 4 years old German Short Haired Pointer named Hans. Or, around the office, you may hear Hans referred to as 'Manchego' - a nick name he acquired after sneaking an entire block of Manchego cheese off the family table leaving behind only the rind!

We at Patti Engineering love the Real Ale Brewing Company's story and we are proud to be part of the network of local resources they count on to keep their business moving forward. And by the way, we love their beer as well!
We work as partners to our clients. When you need an expert to help solve automation challenges, we are here to add value to your solution - enhance efficiency, increase productivity, and work with your team as a trusted resource. Visit our website for more information on our areas of expertise, or call us (248)364-3200 for a free initial consultation.

Thank you for your interest in Patti Engineering.

Best regards,

Georgia H. Whalen
Director of Marketing
Patti Engineering
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