Tim Schoen is the CEO of a company called Brew Hub, which he expects to play a significant role in the huge expansion of the craft beer industry in the United States. In the next seven years, his plans are to have a brewing business that will employ as many as 500 people in five cities spread across the country, including St. Louis. His wife, Diane, is the GM of the company; and both were execs at the ‘old’ Anheuser-Busch: She was in sales and marketing, he was a VP and global head of the brewer’s vast sports and entertainment marketing division. With that kind of pedigree, Diane has every reason to be optimistic that this family venture, led by Tim, is destined for success. “He’s always had such an entrepreneurial spirit—that’s just him. He’s a great leader and has such great vision and this is what he’s meant to do.”
The start-up is a $15- to $20-million project with venture capitalists The Yucaipa Companies as the primary investment partner. Despite the high stakes, the Schoens hope to maintain a more folksy company quality similar to most small brewers.
I sit with the couple at their Chesterfield home, where the guest house next to the swimming pool is Tim’s office, the current world headquarters for Brew Hub. It allows him to spend a lot more time with the kids than he did when he worked on Pestalozzi Street. Another big plus of that ‘folksy’ aspect? He gets to do the laundry.
“I have a laundry room right here and in the main house—trust me, I’m a laundry guy!” While they laugh about Tim’s laundry prowess, it can tell you a lot about a person—things like work ethic, and the desire to do even a small job the right way.
It’s the same type of attitude you might expect to find in a craft brewery. Schoen wants to work with brewers who have great products but limited ability to grow substantially without help. Tim says that’s where Brew Hub comes in. “We’ve got a lot of people who are passionate, and have a lot of expertise and sophistication in the beer industry,” he explains. “So we bring those components, including economies of scale, knowledge, relationships, procurement—all these elements that craft brewers might have some of but don’t have them all.”
Also on Schoen’s team are Brew Hub president Jerry Mullane, also a former A-B VP, and Paul Farnsworth. Farnsworth is Brew Hub’s head brew master and a renowned innovator in the craft-beer industry who’s helped develop more than 100 breweries in 10 countries. The core management group is in place, and the hope is that they have the company in a position to ride and push that wave of expected craft beer growth.
Schoen says in the 1990s just 1 percent of all beer sold in the U.S. came from craft brewers. Right now, the number is up to 7 percent. The anticipation is that by the year 2020, that number will rise to as high as 15 percent of total U.S. beer sales.
Brew Hub’s first 50,000-square-foot brewery is almost complete in Lakeland, Fla., with a target date of May 2014 for the first amber suds to start flowing. A St. Louis brewing operation could be up-and-running within the next two years. Schoen is already importing a few brands like Medalla Light and Pistonhead for redistribution in the southern United States; but the big picture is to brew several craft and foreign brands at Brew Hub facilities, then market and distribute them to as much as 70 percent of the country—eventually, Tim says. “Right now, you have certain craft beers that are popular in regions, but logistically, they can’t get from one place to another. We’re going to solve that problem, and do it economically.”
There also are plans to export American brands through Brew Hub to Europe, Australia, China and Central and South America. Meanwhile, Diane is doing everything in the office that needs to be done: payroll, human resources and marketing, just to name a few. She says they are both working very long hours, while actively raising two young sons. “It’s communication—in any marriage, that’s the key. But in ours especially because were juggling work and kids and house and dogs and it’s just life, but it works really well for us.”
Diane tells me she doesn’t want it to sound like a cliché, but she thinks it’s a perfect example of the American Dream, while Tim sees it as an opportunity to create a company that leaves a legacy in the business. “You can’t imagine building something that can potentially have 500 employees in five different cities impacting countless families and communities. It’s staggering to think about, but we’re on that road,” he says. “It’s creative, it’s innovative and you can see the excitement.”
Schoen believes big brewers really can’t seize the opportunities in the emerging craft markets the way Brew Hub can, and it’s not just because their CEOs probably don’t do their own laundry. But Diane admits, “He’s phenomenal at laundry, he’s almost obsessive.” Tim says his secret is using eco-friendly detergent.
Well, it’s time to get back at it for the Schoens: Another million-dollar deal needs some work; and then there’s that load of whites.
A native St. Louisan, Brown is a lifelong journalist, and previously served as a broadcaster for KMOX and KTRS radios and ABC 30. His Paul Brown Media specializes in public and media relations.