Craft Beer Puerto Rico: business bid amid the crisis
Enjoying good wine —whether it is white, red, or rosé— requires one to elevate their senses to maximum capacity to appreciate smells, flavors, and overtones. Since its tone captures visual attention, until finally tasting its texture, wine offers a different experience to experts and aficionados. Not too distant from this reality is crafted beer.
Such was assured by Gustavo Franceschini, creator of Craft Beer Puerto Rico, a new entrepreneurial project with aims to promote the artisanal beer industry on the island through education and union of the beer community.
“[Craft beer] is like wine. A lot of people believe that wine is what we consume in restaurants, but wine is more complex than that. The same goes for beer, it is complex, but at the same time it is striking, attractive, and there is much to look for in the artisanal beer industry,” said Franceschini in an interview with Caribbean Business.
Four years ago, when the artisanal movement began garnering greater attention among the island’s beer lovers, Franceschini decided to combine his love for the beverage with his “passion for writing, informing, and educating.” Although it started as a hobby, Craft Beer Puerto Rico became a viable business opportunity within months.
With a warm “Welcome!,” the Ponce native inaugurated his online platform in January 17, 2013. From the beginning, his mission was clear: share his fascination for that industry and motivate others to view craft-beer tasting as a different experience. Now, four years after publishing his first article, Franceschini has more challenging goals.
“We have many plans to expand outside Puerto Rico, not necessarily depending on the local economy… We are aiming for Craft Beer to be the information source on everything related to beer, not just in Puerto Rico, but in the Caribbean and Latin America. We see a huge opportunity for that to happen,” he informed.
Amid a plummeting economy, few would dare to let go of their job security to venture into self-employment, but for Franceschini, the fiscal crisis sweeping over the island “has partially motivated me to go on my own.”
After spending several months in talks with an interested investor, the 32-year-old resigned his job in a publicity agency by late December to dedicate himself fully to the brand’s development. In defiance of all financial projections, Franceschini took on the challenge to begin the year with a new facet: entrepreneur.
“I think there are more opportunities here when the economy turns rocky. We get more creative on how we can make our own money, and I think that was the opportunity,” he stated as he said he trusts he could generate more income even though the new stage will take more time and effort.
The fact of the matter is, Puerto Rico’s beer industry has taken a blow due to the fiscal crisis. Prior to Old Harbor Brewery’s departure, as well as other local breweries, the industry’s growth had reached an impasse. According to Franceschini, “the industry has been greatly affected by taxes,” although he assured a renaissance of the movement is underway.
The possibility for the industry to evolve this year was exactly one of the aspects that motivated Franceschini to dedicate himself fully to the platform. Although he is supported by an investor, the Craft Beer creator manages all the brand’s aspects, including writing its content and developing its strategy, logistic, and contact with its clients.
“Now I have to dedicate more time to visiting clients, to visit restaurants and bars… It entails much more work than it used to, now I have less people working with me, [so] I have to do everything. The change has been drastic, but I am used to it at the same time,” affirmed the blogger with eight years of experience in digital and print media.
With more than 26,000 followers in all its platforms, Craft Beer allows Franceschini to live solely on his project thanks to event coverages related to artisanal beer across the island, a new clothing line, and offering beer tasting sessions and chats.
On the latter, he stressed that “there are great opportunities in education, a lot of people don’t know the industry.”
Chats and beer-tasting sessions are aimed toward culinary schools, businesses, and people interested in knowing more about the industry and craft development. In addition, he hopes to provide consistent chats in different parts in the island.
“The first thing to do is to go back to basics and then implement a series of chats to elaborate a little bit, to then talk a little bit more of other different styles, of how to do homebrewing, how to establish your own craft beer [company]… we can go from the most basic to the most complex subjects,” he explained.
Promoting his project with a distinctive cap with the slogan “Got Beer?,” Franceschini adjudges his fascination for artisanal beer to his passion for the industry’s community, manufacturer’s creativity, product quality, and unconditional support from his followers.
“The industry doesn’t stop surprising, doesn’t stop being creative, here or in the exterior… What the industry encompasses –breweries, bars, restaurants, beer lovers–, is a world full of positivity, arduous work, and never looking back,” he emphasized.