Hemauer Brewing Co. is open in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Starting your own business is already a tall task. Starting a business during a pandemic seems down-right impossible.
That’s exactly what Brooks Hemauer, owner and brewer at Hemauer Brewing Co., pulled-off.
Just weeks before Hemauer was set to open, the world shifted on a dime, and so did he.
“We really needed to learn how to pivot,” Hemauer said. “I think it almost might have been to our benefit that we didn’t open just yet. Unlike other businesses, we weren’t set in our ways. We were able to turn on the fly and figure it out.”
Sample flights became Home Flights with eight-ounce cans. Pints at the bar became 16-ounce four-packs or crowlers.
“We were still in that brand-building phase,” Hemauer said. “We had to do what we could to get our beer into people’s hands.”
Yes, Hemauer opened in the middle of a pandemic, but the groundwork for his success was laid well before opening on May 1.
It started with one of those homebrew kits …
If you’ve been in the local beer scene over the last few years, you’ve probably seen, heard of, or tasted Hemauer’s beer.
Does anyone remember “Peep Show” from Harrisburg Beer Week‘s Little Big Beer Fest a few years back? Yep, that was Hemauer.
He had nearly six years of brewing under his belt before pouring his first crowler in his own brewery.
Like many brewers, he started with one of those homebrew kits. The first two beers he made were IPAs.
“I didn’t go blind or deaf and it was drinkable,” Hemauer said. “But thinking back, and by my standards now, they were probably terrible.”
The combination of DIY with being a bit frugal, made him stick with it. It didn’t take long until Hemauer started crafting his own recipes. His next step was investing in a system to brew all-grain, but at this point, it was still a hobby.
“When I first started, at no point did I have an inkling that I would be owning my own business or that this would be my livelihood,” Hemauer said.
It wasn’t until he joined a local homebrew club that the wheels started to turn. He said that he saw himself continuing to progress and becoming more confident in his brewing.
“My wife and I went to a homebrew festival and people kept asking ‘Where can I buy this?’ over and over,” Hemauer said. “At that point, it was a maybe we can actually do this.”
Building Hemauer Brewing
Once the notion was there, Hemauer started his research. He said it was on his honeymoon that he first broached the subject with his wife.
With his career path not going the way he wanted, he wanted to do something where he could control his own destiny.
“There are so many people out there that don’t realize the opportunity that’s in front of them, and then there fewer that do and do something about it,” Hemauer said. “Fear motivates me. It doesn’t make me quiver up in a little ball and not reach my full potential.”
Hemauer said none of this would be possible if his wife wasn’t 100 percent supportive. When he went to her with the idea, she said ‘Let’s do it!’
For the next three years, they both worked on making the dream a reality.
Hemauer became known for his brewing creativity with his beers like Peep Show, Swedish Fish Berliner Weisse, and Fruity Pebbles DIPA.
While Hemauer showcases his creativity with unorthodox brews, he also nails the traditional styles as well.
He continued to hone in his brewing, and in November 2019 they signed the lease on their brewery.
Navigating a brewery during a pandemic
Opening a brewery when you can’t actually have people in your taproom obviously wasn’t the plan.
Originally they looked at a late-March opening, but construction pushed back the date a few weeks, and then came the pandemic.
“I was a few days away from contacting the LCB for our final inspection to get our license,” Hemauer said. “Everything was pre-approved since I took care all that previously and then we waited.”
After a week in that waiting period, Hemauer knew they had to find a way to get beer out of the door. He had filled the keg cooler to the brim in anticipation of an all-out Grand Opening that never came.
In order to get the brewing license, Hemauer tapped the assistance of Brewers of Pennsylvania. He contacted the attorney on retainer who “had a guy” in the LCB who could help.
“I sent him pictures and the info that he needed, and in a few days we had our brewery license,” Hemauer said.
They waited a little while longer to see how things would play out, but they knew they needed to open.
They set their first day as May 1, and the beer started flowing immediately.
“We refreshed our online orders at 11 a.m. and we already had about 20 orders,” Hemauer said. “We filled 225 crowlers on the first day alone and close to 400 through the first weekend.”
How about the beer?
Hemauer knew that he had to try some different tactics to get beer out of the door during a time where people might be a little tighter with money.
“We knew it might be a lot for someone to invest in a full crowler of a beer they never tried,” Hemauer said. “That’s why we came up with our Home Flight 8-ounce can pack to give people a taste of what we can do.”
There’s no doubt Hemauer has made a name for some of his more off-the-wall beers. He said he likes shooting from the hip and diving into the uncharted territories where no one has gone before.
But, along with that Hemauer prides himself on being able to have a well-balanced tap list with something for everyone.
The two beers that will be on as much as possible will be his Lucky Lobsta NEIPA and Helles Lager.
“Lucky Lobsta holds a special place for me,” Hemauer said. “But the Helles has been my go-to lately, and I think it shows off my overall brewing skill.”
He described his Lucky Lobsta as a Northeast-inspired IPA with Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe hops added late in the boil and in the dry hop.
“You get the classic citrus flavors and some pineapple with a hint of bitterness from the Simcoe,” Hemauer said.
Of his 12 taps, he said he wants to try to dedicate five as a constant lineup, which includes Lucky Lobsta, Helles Lager, McFadden’s Irish Red, and Oats & Hoes Oatmeal Stout.
The rest of the taps will see a seasonal rotation, but don’t expect to see any of those previously-brewed Swedish Fish or Peep beer return any time soon.
“I like to think of those as sequels to a movie,” Hemauer said. “People hold the first in such high regard, and if you can’t do it better the second time, there’s no reason to do it again.”
They will live on in delicious, off-the-wall beer history.
The taproom is currently open for limited indoor and outdoor seating. You can also order Hemauer beer online for pick-up or limited delivery.
Hemauer is open 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday; and 12-5 p.m., Sunday.