Audio Podcast

Steven Burkhart:
Hi everybody this is Steven with the digital hustle show here with Burkhart Creative Agency and with Brian Helton. So he has this super sick brewery in like the downtown Phoenix area and here in Phoenix, Arizona. And I’m so excited to have him share with you guys the different struggles and successes he’s had growing in business, all the different transitions and I think he’s bringing a lot to the table as far as experience and education and knowledge and all the different stuff you do. So yeah, so we could just start, it can be just totally conversational. It doesn’t have to be super formal. And I know you guys do a lot of fun, cool stuff. So so yeah, just tell me a little bit about yourself and some of the stuff you’re telling me about how you started.

Brian Helton:
Yeah, absolutely. Let’s see. Helton Brewing has been around for about three and a half years, will be four in May. Been in Phoenix as a Phonation now about 23, 24 years, I think. I’ve been brewing for about 24, 25 years. You guys not only been in Phoenix for 20 years, then start in Cincinnati moved out here, you know, and the corporate side of running some breweries. This was time for me to start my own. It also bought the equipment, bought the largest building I can find. Which was kind of difficult here in Phoenix. A Phoenix has totally zoned C2 commercial, which is strip mall, like all a strip mall. Hell, I didn’t think a brewery kind of belonged in a strip mall. Being from the Midwest and used to some of the East coast breweries and what they’re, what I wanted in a brewery, I just didn’t really want to be in a strip mall.

Brian Helton:
The other thing is our production facility which is not necessarily a brew pub. Although we do have food and we have a tasting room, but I’m not a restaurant like people would think, or a typical bar serving, you know, vodka tonics and gin and tonics and what have you, strictly just our beer. So on. I finally found a building that had a large enough space. It’s 10,000 square feet. I have seven garage doors. I can move equipment in and out. Beer gets brewed on one side, moves through the brewery as a horseshoe out the door through the receiving area. Yeah, it took about two and a half years, but it’s a great building, 22nd street and Indian school. And you’re kind of in the middle of the Camelback corridor. Arcadia uptown on right off the 51 people at the airport. Sometimes we’ll Google breweries near me. They pick up Wren house and Helton, so they come this way, which is nice. So yeah, I like the location.


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Steven Burkhart:
Oh, it is a super great location and I mean you, you’ve been here long enough to know that they’re doing all these renovations in downtown Phoenix, so like, it’s only going to get better because they’re just building new restaurants, new places to hang out. Like it’s becoming more and more of a destination where you can hang out in downtown and stay there and still have like a great experience. And it’s not like super rundown, at least not everywhere. That’s right. So it’s it’s definitely a great location. Even just like I was telling you before, it’s like even just driving by, you guys are doing all this renovations and like the building has like this like flat black look to it. It’s very like very cool. Very, very manly. And that’s definitely something you wouldn’t get away with in a strip mall. So you guys are able to share like a little bit more of your story just even like in your presentation of the building, which is, is huge. Right? And you guys, you guys have like a really neat presentation in general and so walk us through a little bit. Like, so you, you wanted to start this place, you kinda got it rolling. Like what, what was like your creative process and deciding like what you guys like stand for, what you guys are gonna serve, like how you guys are going to look like as a, as a business, as a brand. How did that kind of happen?

Brian Helton:
Um, it needed to evolve. Being with my experience prior to this on the corporate side, you see mission statements being made yearly or kinda shoved down people’s throats. I didn’t want to do that. That’s one thing. Come from the corporate side, a mission statement and all of that. You know, how gimmick you might think it is. But it is very important, you know I’m really, it’s all about the company culture, but it needed to develop, you know, and if it came straight down for me in the beginning it just wasn’t going to work. You know, we had to see where Helton stood at a, the beering beer community, Phoenix in my staff, my staff is my culture. You know, I can develop it. This is my concept. This is my baby. But at the same time, the team that I put together is what makes Helton and successful, you know in the beginning like I said, it was me and Rob.

Brian Helton:
We built the place by hand, built the bar, tore down barns in Indiana, brought stuff back. We painted the inside of the house. I mean, everything we did, we installed the brewery. So a lot of my time was taking, being that person. And then it took me, you know, a couple of years to get Rob trained. You know, it was my brewer and other brewers, you know, had been assistance on the beers and we had to find our niche. Our niche is a brewer. You don’t come onto the scene. A lot of people don’t realize this, or a lot of homebrewers think this is how it works. It’s not, you don’t come and say, this is my beer. I hope you like it or you’re an idiot. It’s not going to happen. The beer that I brew here in Phoenix would not be the same beer if I went to Portland, Maine, or let’s say Portland, Oregon.


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Brian Helton:
You know, it’s still a business and everyone has a cultural difference, so to speak. And you have to brew beer that the people want. You have to evolve. You can’t say, all right, here’s my lineup that I did 20 years ago. I’m going to do it today. You know, won metals back then I’m going to brew these beers. It doesn’t work like that. I never thought I’d be doing as many sours cause I do never thought the haze craze, you know, I’ve been broke for 24 years. I mean it was always that would be an abomination, you know, 20 years ago to brew a beer that was hazy, you know, but now, you know, if the beer is clear and an IPA is almost a negative Mark on it, you know, so you have to be able to pivot and change, you know new techniques, new styles, new generations are coming around.

Brian Helton:
You know, I remember when, like I said, for such a time that I’ve seen the next generation kinda not want what the prior generation did as it’s kind of inevitable. You know, it’s like I don’t want to drink more of their mom and dads are drinking. They want something different. They want their own brand. Kinda kind blame Starbucks for that generation growing up. And instead of just getting normal coffee, you know, cartel product placement instead of getting that, you know, they’re able to like order exactly what they want, how they want with all their descriptions. And it’s like at the time, like no one should ever have to say all those words at once in public, you know, when they do. So what I’m getting at. Yeah. So, you know, we definitely evolved. I first started out just doing cheese and charcuterie. The reason that it won’t, beer and cheese have been together forever, back over in Europe and say, why reinvent the wheel?

Brian Helton:
Right? We have substance here at the bar. I didn’t want to be a restaurant. I know that was coming from that. But at the same time, if you do not have any type of food, people will start to get a little drunk and it’s like, Oh, it’s time to move on. They need food. So our food programs slowly developed as I was able to move outside of the brewery a little bit and start working on the food program. And then of course, then came marketing, you know and that’s where we’ve kind of figured out how to put our flag down, who we are, of what Helton is. We do these barn bashes once a quarter and what we are, what they consisted of is kind of a night of art and a night art that I enjoy. And it was cow punk band type of music, which is very unique and different.

Brian Helton:
It would be cars all throughout the brewery and you know, whether it’s a rat rod or the guy that chopped it down or the guy that pinstriped their upholstery guy as you can see live paintings going on, we would have live graffiti outside and the receiving areas. So it was a night of art, whether, like I said from paint, so my beer to the music we would have four tattoo artists here, you know, tattooing people, which is kind of unique and different. I love when the music was stopped. You hear the guns going, you know, and people will be getting tattoos. So it was just kind of a unique way of us. Like, all right, this is a little bit different. We have this space. Our music at the brewery is a little bit different. We go from, you know, like I said, crazy cow punk to I’m pumped to old school rock as is always kind of unique, a little bit more progressive, not what you would always hear on the radio, which I kinda like depends on who’s bar tending sometimes, but yeah, we, we kind of looked at, you know, we, we just wanted our characteristics to kind of stand out and not just fall in lines with what everyone’s trying to do out there right now.


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Brian Helton:
So yeah, we’re, we just, it is, I’m wanted a place and I just put a large screen TV and this year I was never gonna put TVs in. I would rather have an environment of fostered eye contact and communication and maybe meeting someone different or your neighbor. And that’s what a brewery should be, or root pub. It’s like the community’s a neighborhood brewery. People get to come talk, relax. We get all types on any given night. That’s what I love about this place. It’s like you would have every type of society sector, let’s say here on any given night or certain bars and restaurants you would go to, let’s just, you know, say a sports bar, you know, we’re going to get here, you’re going to sports fans. We’re in Jersey screaming at the TV, you know, if you’re at a single spot or something like that, you know what you want to get here.

Brian Helton:
We have the mix of so many different people in so many different cultures. And you know, that makes me a little warm and fuzzy cause I did build something that other people relate to it. If you wanted to go watch TV and drink beer, there’s places for that. If you wanted to go to dinner, well there’s places for that. I don’t want to compete with those. I want to sell my beer at the end of the day. I’m still a production facility, but I needed an environment that kind of fostered a place where I’d want to go and drink where I could meet you and have a beer and talk about what’s going on in your world. And, you know, and not necessarily have a stare at the TV and watching woman’s lacrosse, but we really don’t care about.

Steven Burkhart:
Yeah, no I think that’s so cool. And I think that sometimes people get, can get caught up in the idea that like, they’re so unique that no one else is like them. And like certainly there are qualities that make people unique on their own, but it’s like you’re not the only one that likes that kind of music. You’re not the only one who actually wants to go somewhere and connect with people. So even though like all the things that you’re doing are centered around your interests, like clearly there’s other people that like doing that and you, you, because you’re the one setting the tone, you’re drawing those people in which are not just one kind of person as you as you mentioned. So to kind of backtrack what your first saying, I thought it was really interesting. Well two points for one, your, your, your whole comment about changing with the times makes so much sense.

Steven Burkhart:
Cause even the other day I was reading about, just like in the wine market, how Rosa used to be something that no one would ever talk about. Certainly not probably. And now it’s like a huge sector of the wine market. And so it’s like totally changed. And like now you can go to a grocery store or wherever else and you get Rosa is out the freaking wazoo and which is fine and but that side of the market changed and you can either accept it or not and you’ve done the same thing. We’ve kind of like seen the market. And instead of like being stubborn, you’ve decided, Hey, I’m a businessman and I love beer, but I also like making beer that people are actually going to buy, which is always nice. So how did you, walk me through a little bit how you like did you know we call it market research I guess, but like how did you find out what people really wanted to drink here?

Brian Helton:
Well you kind of started basic, you know, just because you know, there’s kind of three types of beer drinkers really for now the sours. But you know, you have your hop heads. We talked that earlier. You just can’t make a hoppier beer for us. Hop as we love hops. Usually I have four or five different hops on or the IPA is on. We have a black IPA hazy, we have a North we call it kind of a North West style, you know, so it’s still a little hazy, but it’s not totally the West coast. And we have our West coast and a lot of times I’ll do a single hop session IPA. So I’m, I’m always about the hops with any guy. People like yourself, you don’t like cops, you know, which is okay because bitter is actually a safety mechanisms with our palette. Cause everything that’s poisonous to us is bitter.

Brian Helton:
So we’re not really trained to like bitter. So when people like, you know, they don’t like their coffee black and they put cream and sugar on it, I tell them it’s like sick, sick with an IPA, you’re not going to enjoy it. Move on to the multi, the sweeter ones. So that’s where you have to have a scotch show. You have to have your milk style. So you know that’s what we do. And then you have your people that are, let’s say they’re not really much into craft, they just want to, you know, their bud light drinkers or chorus lice or heavy drinkers, you know, wheat beers. So you kind of have to have something for those people as well. Also, we have a Pilsner now the new, you know, sours are so popular. Well you have to have a sour. So if you have, you know, two or three different, you know, beers in those categories, at least one of the beers that you have on tap.

Brian Helton:
When people come in and they’re going to find one, they like, I don’t brew my beer thing and everyone’s gonna like any one of my beers, us egotistical. They just needed to like one of them, they don’t have to say, you know what? All right here. I like fruity beers. I’m gonna drink this boys. And very sour, you know, or let’s say, you know, your grandpa’s in town and he’s like used to drinking Budweiser. All right? He can have the Pilsner there. Now if you’re a hot Pat, we got you covered. Right. So if you do that, you’re able to kind of see what sells. Along with that, we’re always doing 13 to 15 different seasonal beers throughout the year. So just by doing the seasonal beers, you get a really good indication of what people are wanting. You know, a great story with that.

Brian Helton:
I was brewing it downtown Cincinnati and Cincinnati, besides the original Octoberfest. Munich is the second largest Octberfest in the nation. So I was brand new at brewing and I remember the German club came in. I mean they’re like, Hey, I know you’re going to do an Octoberfest wall cause you’re a stupid American. That’s what you think we drink. But in all reality, that’s not what we like. We want a dark Munich lager. Well I haven’t been over to, you know, Octoberfest or Munich at this point yet. So I’m oblivious, you know, and I’m like, I kind of know what these are, but I really don’t. I go bring me one, I’ll do my best to match it, you know? So they bring me one and you know, I pop it and you know, is basically, you know, your Munich malt and crystallized Munich malt and it’s a logger and you know, it’s just, it goes great with boot and especially pig knuckles.


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Brian Helton:
So if you’re ever over Munich, you have to do those too. They’re amazing. I haven’t had that privilege, so now I know why they enjoy it. You know, they drink Hollis or in the day dark Munich at night because it goes great with foods, you know. So of course I brewed it. I have route 24 barrels, which is 48 kegs. Right? It was gone in four and a half days. Not necessarily because of public, but I think all the Germans in the area, they just hit a hard, so then I knew every year, all right, brew a dark Munich lager. That’s what they enjoy. So talking to people at the bar, looking at the numbers, being creative on what you’re brewing and brewing different styles to see what it’s like fishing. You got to, you know, put a different Lewer on to see what catches your at all. I mean there’s still creative things that we do. Constantly new techniques, new hops coming out, new mall. The SS brewers were like, Oh, I’m dying to do this. Or you drink a beer and we’ll say, I’m over at wandering tortoise and Justin say, Hey, have you tried this? You drink it. Like, Oh wow. What is that? You get inspired it also between all of those put together you kind of have an indication of what people are enjoying and what they want from you.

Steven Burkhart:
No, that totally makes sense. I mean that’s, it’s just trial and error. Just like so many other things in business where it’s like you really don’t know, like everyone seems when you’re, when you’re first starting in your researching, you quickly become to realize that like everyone somehow has had one thing hit pay dirt and there’s really no explanation as to why. And then the next person will have something completely different who tried that first thing. It didn’t work and then something else worked for them. And then, so it’s like, okay, well, so there is no formula like other than trying,

Brian Helton:
Yeah, you’re throwing darts at the wall, you just never know. Right.

Steven Burkhart:
Have you guys done a pumpkin Porter?

Brian Helton:
You haven’t seen my video this year? I haven’t, I guess. Oh, you need to watch this video. I’m kind of against pumpkin beers. Yeah. And pumpkin Porter is really phenomenal. It has a place in my market doesn’t have a place in my palette. I don’t enjoy it. Four peaks is a high success rate with that beer. I’m not trying to compete with someone like four peaks by no means I can’t, you know, other giants and I’m a small little fish. But no, it’s my take on certain aspects of having a beer with certain foods. I want to have the pumpkin pie. I don’t want to drink it. You know, I mean, I can put a great beer with a pumpkin pie and enjoy it. Like, you have no idea, you know, but to try to consume a beer that tastes like pumpkin to me is this kind of asinine to I, I’m a drinker.

Brian Helton:
So in other words, I, I want something sessionable and I’m want to drink three, four or five Uber and home. Who knows how many I want to drink, but what I’m getting at those beers to me are not sessionable if I get through one of them, I don’t want to have another one. Well we just talked about being sales and business. Okay. So sales and businesses aspect of, why would you put a beer in a package product out on the shelves where a lot of other big boys are doing it. They can do it or now it’s not going to sell cause people can only drink one or two of them and they’re like, I’m not going to drink this, I’m going to move on to something else. Typically the people are buying those beers are more sweeter type of, you know, drinkers. So yeah.

Brian Helton:
So they get pallet fatigue, we call it, and I hear something I, you know, we can discuss it and it’s something because of my industry, but it’s called seasonal cream and pumpkin beers responsible for seasonal creep that, you know, without getting too political, kind of pisses me off because when we develop a beer, let’s say late spring or late summer, okay. And there’s my seasonal, I have it on the store shelves, a total line, and I’m getting bumped down the line because let’s say one of the big boys is putting out their pumpkin beer and July that screws up the quality. My shelf stability all the time. Not people are starting to buy this stupid stuff where, you know, let’s say whatever I had that’s supposed to be on the shelves. Now it’s just getting kind of pushed away. So we see seasonal creep happen a lot in pumpkin beer was kind of the, the first one to really push a lot of the small guys out of the equation because of that.

Brian Helton:
So now the first time you might have one of my beers during that time of the year, maybe it’s a little bit you know, older than I wanted to be because we got moved down the line because here comes our seasonal Creek beers. It’s the same thing and watch Starbucks. I do it, you know, pumpkin spice lattes come out way before the season even changes it up. Let’s ELLs. I get it. You know. So yeah, I got a couple of different feelings about that. We do do a lot. I got a beer that I made with carrots, so it’s not like I’m anti playing with food and beer. I’m doing a beer with mushrooms in it. Soon I’m doing a beer with bread, Jason Noble or Jason with Nobel bread. So I love playing around with different ingredients. It’s just the pumpkin one. It’s just, that’s the one, I just don’t get it. So I did a video. You gotta check it out.


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Steven Burkhart:
I will. It’s on our webpage. You guys videos are so fun. Yeah,

Brian Helton:
Still Manhattan, Brian, he’s the guy that does inform me. He is absolutely amazing. We have so much fun. We did that beer or that movie. We had a beer over it. We didn’t script it. He came out one night, filmed everything. Yeah, it’s just, that’s how good he is and how much fun we have doing them. Yeah. But yeah, you gotta watch it. It’s all about pumpkin beers and me smashing a pumpkin and killing it and

Steven Burkhart:
Yeah, expressing all your feelings about it. I took a sledgehammer to it. You no, of course man. That reminds me, you ever seen office space when they take that printer copier out and they’re like, beat the tar out of it.

Brian Helton:
Absolutely.

Steven Burkhart:
That’s kind of how that feels. Right. so, and maybe, maybe, maybe you’ve already set up, maybe there’s this kind of a different way to say it. Like what would you say has been like the lifeblood of your success here? Is it your ability to judge the market? Is it just the community that you create? Like how do you feel about it?

Brian Helton:
Hands down? People the, the culture of the company. It’s been developed because of the people that work here. The people that believe in what I’m doing whether it’s the people that have backed me since day one I’ve been drinking my beer or people in the neighborhood that want to support local friends, family is amazing community. The actual craft industry at by itself. The brewers that support us and we support them. But you know, the success that I’m seeing is strictly based upon people. Right.

Steven Burkhart:
Okay. So walk me through a little bit about community because you’re certainly not the first business owner that talked about the community and the support that you offer them. They offer you what gave you the idea to have these, would you call it new column? Barn barn bashes? Cause it’s a super cool idea and certainly like it’s a mystery to me while more people like you have overhead having a building, like a building, like you pay for this ground, so you might as well do something with it. Right. And so it’s a mystery to me why most more brick and mortars don’t do these community events. But what kind of like triggered you to do this? Was this something you’d always done something you saw somewhere? Like what got you started building this community with these different people?

Brian Helton:
It’s kind of like that hands down approach, you know? I was, there’s no way I could have done this without help from so many different people. Even during the install, you know, we’d work till 10, 11 o’clock at night and people would work their day jobs and show up and whether them helping me build a cabinet guy helped me design the bar and build a bar top to you know, this one guy walked in one day said, Hey, if you ever get a candy line, I want to help work on it, you know, and that guy turned out to be a super good friend. He’s always in here working and fabricating things, you know, for me. So when other people are always helping you, you help them, you know, I come from a family that’s, I was always all our mentality as well.

Brian Helton:
So if I have the space, and like I said, a brewery to me is a place where the community comes together and just drink spirit no matter what. That’s how we have our Helton, adventure, tribe runs. And you know, we’re, we’ve got this health club, we all get together and do mountain bike, you name it. But if I had the space, why not? They’re coming together over beer. I don’t lease the space out. I don’t charge anyone. We’ve had so many art shows here and I didn’t realize, cause you know, I’m a brewer, you know that someone sold a piece. So at the end of the night he came up and tried to give me money and I was like, what’s this for here now? He’s like, well that’s kind of, you know, you get 25, 30% of the cut when you let us do these art shows.

Brian Helton:
I’m like, how much your money, you know, you’re the starving artists. You know, I had, I made money. People came and drank beer tonight. People that follow you showed up Helton for the first time and had beer. So they walked. I win, I don’t need money. That’s not what I’m looking for. We’ve had events here, we’ve had weddings here for people in there. They’re just blown away that we’re not charging them for space rental. Well, that’s not what we’re here. We’re still a brewery. You at the end of the day, people can use this face come together. We’ve had a motorcycle clubs bikes, you know, we’ve had bike classes, we’ve had a car shows you name it. I mean jewelry making, just whatever we need to do to let someone that maybe isn’t been as fortunate as I had to get to brick and mortar to say, Hey, you know, we’d love to do something here.

Brian Helton:
Dog meetups. Gosh. I mean, I can go on and on. And some of the the events and the other cool aspect is the aspect of, you know, the charitable aspect know we’ll sell X amount of beer on a given day, but yet X amount is going to go back to that charity. So the win for me is, like I said, I’m getting introduced to the public, to a sector that I possibly doesn’t know me yet. Also. And everyone loves beer. Everyone can sit around and have a couple beers and talk and enjoy their Saturday or Sunday or the event. Just it works nicely right now.

Steven Burkhart:
Oh totally. I mean I think that in general that is part of the joy of hitting some level of success is that like you get to like, it’s a little bit of a feedback loop. You can like actually do more of like the like philanthropy type work that you want to do the whole time because you could actually like fund and do those things like you, you took the huge risk of having a space so that you can actually do those things. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to give back in that way, which is just, it’s really cool. Not only that you’re doing it, but it’s also cool that you’ve been able to like build that momentum to be able to do that comfortably and like not be hurting, you know, because of that.

Brian Helton:
Yeah. And when it comes to the art and like that, that’s something that I just love and enjoy. You know, I’m a big music person. My background is like I said, engineering. I’m very analytical, you know, do all my equations by hand, like 16 pages, you know, just on a recipe. I don’t have it where these guys have, I’d love to watch these guys do graffiti, you know, they’ll walk up and they’ll have to talk about why they’re going to do those, walk up and start, boom, start a line. I would have to measure that. Find out sooner, you know, I would have, I would just overthink it and that’s how my mind works. So I love to see other people’s ability to express themselves like that. And this is really cool. Yeah. So that’s another aspect that is great to let people, you know, show off what they’re able to do.

Steven Burkhart:
Oh, absolutely. I, I, I, I consider myself a creative person, but my creativity ends when it comes to me holding anything and doing it like pencils, paint, brushes. It’s just like an instant, like there’s a brick wall on my brain that says like, no, not good at that. And so when I see someone paint and start and like draw some random line and connect something else and all of a sudden you see an eyeball and it’s like, how did you even get there? Like it just blows my mind. So you, I mean you do obviously super artistic stuff with your brewing mean like there’s a balance in the art and the science of that pages of equations I can imagine. But you know, so that, that’s his own art form, but that’s just so different, you know what I mean? And, and everyones contributing artistically but in just so different ways. I think that’s really cool. So I feel like people don’t give business the artistic credit it deserves sometimes cause it is really an art, like all the balancing and doing, you know one thing I would definitely want it to cover just because you, you talk so much about culture with like your employees, like walk us through like the very first person you hire. Like, how did you start instilling the culture right away and how has that kind of evolved as over time?

Brian Helton:
Sure. that’s kind of easy. A first person I hired was Rob Coat, which is my brewer. Okay. He’s from Indiana. I’m from Indiana. So there is a work ethic that we are both used to. He was coming from the culinary side, he was a chef and he did some brewing in Indianapolis. Very, very humble and honest guy had to call a friend of mine clay that owns sun King brewing, his name dropped him and he’s like, Oh yeah, this kid’s a badass, you know, a kid he’s got. So we started off on the same page with a common work ethic, B, coming from Indiana, knowing the beer scene and having some common friends like clay, sun King and what they’ve done and how they’ve accomplished. So we’ve spent many nights just envisioning how we wanted this to end up, you know, seeing what the Phoenix market is and not trying to jump in and just being in a stream of other breweries and opening to psych.

Brian Helton:
All right. But here is the areas of opportunity. Here are the areas of strengths. Here’s areas that we think that we could possibly go into. And what dictated that was what location. It also once that location hit. Everything started to fall in, you know, it never started with a mission statement or an executive summary of stating this is what we are, you know, cause I was smart enough to know that does doesn’t exist. It has to be evolved as a develop. You have to nurture it. And then you start hiring staff and let them be a part of the equation. Let them be a part of decision making. Hiring is probably the best bet to success I think that people can make or fail on. So by hiring, well if you have a company culture and mission statement and they come in and they have a 12 point system of sales and they have to do this and they have a uniform and it gets to a certain point where they feel they’re a robot or you know, they’re just following where if they get to have their input and they feel their are heard and of course they are heard, you know, you include them, then that more of a buy-in, you know, if the staff is bought in to what you’re trying to do then the success is just gonna fall all follow you.

Brian Helton:
Right. It’s just going to fall in line. My staff is amazing, you know like Christmas, Christmas Eve and Monday I don’t have, you know, I’m not married. I have no kids. My family’s back in Indiana. So I’m like, you guys all have and you know, friends, kids, I’m going to work the bar. Everyone go home, they all try to talk me out of it, which they should up because I got my butt kicked, you know, I was busy. But it was neat that here I am trying to do something nice for them and they’re trying to do something nice for me. You know, that is something that you can’t instill in people. A company cannot put that on paper and script that out for people to buy in. I had one of my staff members buy me a bottle of bourbon on their birthday.

Brian Helton:
Wait a minute, a little backwards. I did forget it was your birthday. I feel really bad right now. But you know, but no, they were just saying thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of this. I think it’s also because we’re a new company, you know, even at three and a half years, we’re in our infant stages. Every company, you know, you’re, you’re still an infant just barely walking to this point in the game. So I think everyone likes to be a part of something. They like to see something grow and say, you know, I, I was a part of that. Right.

Steven Burkhart:
So if you’re being honest, since you’re so analytical, has being really relational with your staff is something that’s come natural, is that something you really have?

Brian Helton:
No, it came natural. I mean, when you think about, no matter what business or not, you know, but any business, your number one asset is your people. Right. You know? And if you don’t realize that, then you’re pretty much going to be working for people your whole life, right. If you’re able to understand just the human nature of what people want and how they want to be treated, you know, it’s kind of basic. Like I said, it’s that hands down approach when someone is down, you help them up cause they helped me up when I’m down or I need help people keep helping. So is this kind of a, a cyclical thing that is, if you can instill that in your staff, you know, like I said, I’m trying to give them the night off for Christmas Eve and they’re all trying to get me the night off. It’s a beautiful thing, you know? So now it comes easy, you know? I guess that’s my upbringing. You know, and give that to my parents were kind of teaching me, you know, just how to be a decent person. Isn’t that sad though? Really? Just being a normal, nice person or decent to people is odd in today’s society because everyone’s all about take, take, take me, me, me, or you know, here’s your schedule and this is your, you know, it’s, it is kinda sad these days I guess if that’s, you know, part of the equation.

Steven Burkhart:
Well, I think there’s definitely those people and I also think there’s people who are less relationally aware, you know? And I think that, I mean, that’s even why I even thought to ask the question is because so many people who are analytical, they are, it’s not that they don’t like people, they, they view people as a function, right? Whereas you view people as like a huge asset, which obviously they are, but some people can’t make that connection or don’t treat people like that’s the truth. Even if they do know that about people

Brian Helton:
Come and go. I mean, this industry, we’re lucky to get someone to stay for a year or two. You know, even chefs, you know, any restaurant, the average, you know, lifespan of a chef is two years. They move on. And that’s just the industry. We get that. But the, the beauty of it is that people that have left in moved on to other places. We’re still amazing friends that are still buying my beer. So it’s like they’ll go and move to a different spot. Cotton and copper, I mean, yeah, Tamar is a great friend of mine, the chef and owner, but you know, at T foul Tiffany, she’s the bar manager. Of course. First day she was hired. She’s ordering my beer right now. I can go on Bay, Megan, Bonnie. I got so many of these bartenders and people that helped me open that I moved on to open up their own locations, their own places and you know, and that, that’s a Testament to me that, you know, apparently Helton wasn’t that bad of a place to work or I wasn’t such a prick that they’re like, I’m so glad I’m out and I’m never buying his beer or anything like that.

Brian Helton:
Now they’re out there still preaching the gospel and buying my beer and spreading the knowledge, which is amazing, you know? So even then that there, that’s a good enough reason to treat your employees right, they’re going to walk away and talk to people, you know? So it’s like we’re, we’re in the industry of making people happy. I mean for crying out loud, it’s not brain surgery. It’s, you know, it’s beer and food. It makes people happy, you know?

Steven Burkhart:
Well, I think, I think a lot of companies, they spent all this money on like advertising marketing and they don’t realize that like what people say about like the people who work for you have the most influence because of the fact that like, they know better. Like they know that if their friend asks them, they’ll get the real story about what it’s like to be with you. You know what I mean? It’s not like you can’t, you can’t put a shiny advertisement on that.

Brian Helton:
And I don’t really want to go into this too deep, but you know, a lot of people do know my background and the company I worked for, which is amazing company. They helped me purchase some of these equipment. When I left him, gave me a great package. Well I guess what I’m saying at a corporate level, at the end I was also student of what not to do cause I seen a very successful company and the early nineties and how different CEOs or business philosophies could come in outside of my market and try their philosophies and watch it fail dramatically. Watch the bottom line being the most important aspect of, you know, running a company. You know, now don’t get me wrong with the P and L and you, that’s huge. We’re running a company, we’re running a business, but you cannot run it strictly on those.

Brian Helton:
The bottom line EBITDA is not the end all result as a success. So having that information and watching that gave me the the knowledge of how I really wanted to structure this company and how people need to be first and who they are first which I seen it in the beginning culture of the company and then how it can easily be lost. I don’t ever want to lose it, you know, I don’t want the dollar to be the almighty determination of my success. Right. People first the money will follow products is good. That’s my philosophy. If the product is good and consistent, it’s going to sell it. The people are happy, I will be successful, you know, if I’m just strictly worried about money, well I’m in the wrong business, you know,

Steven Burkhart:
Probably be a financial analyst instead or something. So to kind of transition in the marketing a little bit, obviously you guys, like you said you got, you guys have like a video guy that’s been helping you out. Like what ended up, what kind of steps led up to that? Did you just like always know that you needed to like pursue that or was there something that kind of was the catalyst to start doing like your videos and, and, and

Brian Helton:
Your marketing? Let’s see. When I first started, of course I was, I literally have an apartment here, you know, cause I always spend 20 hours a week and get, or a night get two or three hours of sleep, get up and brew shut down the bar, do it again. That happened for about 14 months. I would let other people do some social media for me. Okay. But what was missing was the actual vibe of us, of me. If I would do a post, I would get more likes than somebody else. So what I realized, I, I talked to someone that was doing, you know, social media and they’re like, Brian, you get three times more hits. One is from you because people relate and they know you and they’re trying to support you. You know, which we’re only talking a couple of hundred cause I was already small starting off.

Brian Helton:
And they’re like, don’t let anyone do it because they’re not speaking, you know, your, your tone. Are you talking to like the venue, social media, marketing, just anything. Even the pictures, it’s like, you know, the people could tell, you know, as they, you can see, it’s like we know that didn’t come from you, that came from probably somebody else. That’s not how you speak, you know? And it’s like, that’s written, like, you know, people know it’s not you. So I was forced. I’m like, are you kidding me? I don’t have time to do all this social media as well. So I dragged my feet, definitely kicked and scream because then Rob brought out a good point. Why don’t we just start like following people that we did, that we like and notice what’s making us, you know, like, or you know, pictures on Instagram, let’s say.

Brian Helton:
And also we started doing that. And then it was actually Dylan, at Goldwater, Goldwater brewing company, which if you guys haven’t been to Goldwater, you need to, they’re phenomenal. They just opened up their second location. So proud of those guys. But I noticed I was them and then one day their lives almost doubled. And I asked Dylan and I was like, dude, what did you do? And he’s like, I bought a better camera and I’ll, and I’m getting really good at using it, you know, and he’s always been a huge component of helping me develop, you know, where I needed to go with some of my marketing, you know. So, and then once you get into which apparently you are as well, a camera geek it gets addicting, you know another black hole man with your money and your attention. Yeah.

Brian Helton:
So, you know, a couple guys started helping me, giving me advice like all right by this camera and then all by these two lenses and just take your own pictures. So, you know, so I started doing that. And learn how to use light room after hours upon hours of hours of YouTube videos. Cause you have nothing else to do. Exactly right. Let’s just do that. Well, I’d go home. Keno, that would be the beauty of it. He’s like, instead of being here drinking all night, I go home, started developing pictures, videos, all new to me. So I’m just now learning, you know, final cut pro and all that fun stuff. So I’m really bad at it, but it’s neat for me to go back through my Instagram. I’ll see the beginning of what I used to do to what I’m doing now. Yeah. So that’s been a progression.

Brian Helton:
And I always tell people, you know, I do some consulting and opening breweries with others. It’s like, do this in the beginning. I know you don’t think it’s important. I have a friend that’s about ready to open up a brewery and he was like, I don’t think I’m going to worry about my webpage. I’m like, let me show you my Google analytics. Just Google, not Firefox, not Safari as like, just guess how many people hit Helton last month, you know, and he’ll say a really low, low number. And I show him and he’s like, are you kidding me? I’m like, so this is what’s important. You know, your demographics are set where people from the ages of let’s say 35 to 55 are all email base as well. You know, but if you want that 21, so you know, it’s like you don’t have to do tech talk, but definitely Instagram is huge.

Brian Helton:
You’ve got to learn to use a camera. You can’t afford it. We can’t afford, we’re too small to force someone to come and take pictures of us or do videos for us. You have to do it yourself and no one’s gonna. Actually no one has the eye besides you, how you want to represent your company. Sure. You know, so just don’t just do it from the beginning. And so yeah, we’ve been getting better at it and then people like Clydesdale is absolutely amazing. Anytime I can work with him, Ryan is just so talented and you know what he does and he’s more a comic, you know, and more relax. And I’ve been told I’m very kind of, you know, up not up typo kinda, Oh guys, how should we say this? I’m serious about my industry, which I am. I’m really serious about the quality assurance, my beer, my product and what have you.

Brian Helton:
So he kind of brought to my attention some things of what we can have fun of this and we’re going to be, you know, we can make fun. I can make fun of myself and be goofy at it. And you know, make comments like the, the pumpkin beer, there was one hit that they’re like, I can’t believe that you didn’t get any negative aspects cause I made a comment about my distaste for this and I lost like 50 followers next day. Oh wow. I didn’t lose any. Maybe it’s because how I did it dude out kind of make up on of myself about it. How am I, you know, so it is how, how you present yourself and he does a really good job at doing what he does. So, so yeah, we have fun at it. You’ve got to have fun at it.

Steven Burkhart:
Oh yeah. I think, I mean, so I, I do a lot of weddings and stuff like that. And so there’s always that fine balance between like having fun and also taking what you’re doing seriously. And that doesn’t mean you have to wear a serious face. It really doesn’t like you can have a great time but also be like having a very careful eye or careful ear or you know, tasting carefully and making sure like, okay like this doesn’t match the standards we’ve got to try again. And that doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the, you know, terrible day. It doesn’t mean you have to be grumpy about it. Like, I mean certainly bad things happen, but you can be serious about your craft and also have a great time. And certainly having that guy that you hire out helps out too because then you can be relaxed because you’re not the one holding the camera. Cause there’s definitely a different expectation there. Well cool. So so what do you guys see, like in your new feature in your near future, what are you guys kind of like looking forward to the next season? Right. So we’re coming into spring, summer, like what’s kind of next for you guys?

Brian Helton:
Beer wise is say’s on time for me. I want to do a black Saison. Last year we did a plum stays on as well. So springtime it’s all about that. We’ll move into our pink lava Goza or something like a strawberry rhubarb sour. So we’re kind of moving in that season. Where we have a Imperial stout for a Arizona strong beer week or Arizona beer week, which is the strong beer festival, Indian school. Well, I think on February the eighth, Saturday somebody had a CoLab with the new brewery rage fury. He’s opening it up. We did an apparel, sat with him. We’ll probably do a collaboration with Justin of a pig or a wandering tortoise. So we’re doing a bunch of colabs. It’s our 20th anniversary. So lots of what’s going on with that. That’s around the corner. So mostly bigger beers for that. But once a February is over, we’re kind of moving into the spring training and you know, we’ll get our Mexican surveys. So back out again, the outlaw surveys just kind of get ready for the summertime. It’s around the corner. Makes up on us. It really does.

Steven Burkhart:
Yeah. It’s, it’s so hard. You gotta think like two seasons, you’re making stuff because you got to take all the production and all the testing and all that other stuff in the into play. And it’s like, as a videographer, I’m like, you know, when, you know, a senior picture of season comes around, I’m like, Oh, shoot. It’s like, it’s already started. And it’s like, Oh no, I should’ve been advertising two months ago, five months ago. So yeah, it’s, it’s a challenge to stay on top of things when you’re trying to like, make now happen and future stuff happen. Well, cool. So if people want to find out more about what you do, watch your fricking hilarious videos, all that. Where can they find you?

Brian Helton:
Definitely a heltonbrewery.com. Instagram is Helton Brewery Company is pretty easy. Hashtag Helton Brewery, you’re gonna find us Facebook as well. Yeah, I do all my own social media. Answer phones, make sandwiches, cleaing the bathrooms. I’m always here. So, you know, I always come in through more than happy to show people around and talk to them about their beer, our beers, and, you know,

Steven Burkhart:
Yeah. It’s definitely a very cool place. So you should be very proud. It’s definitely got its own vibe and it’s a very welcoming it’s not it’s not too what’s, what’s the word I’m looking for? Pretentious. Pretentious. Yeah. It’s not pretentious. It’s very welcoming. So even though it’s a high end product, high-end thing, it’s not not unapproachable by any means. So that’s really cool. So, well, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing your different advice with hiring, with marketing, all that other stuff. That’s super helpful. And I certainly learned a lot and so thank you for sharing.

Brian Helton:
No, thank you. Appreciate it.