It has been a year since Marko Barcan started producing craft beer "The Count" and "The Countess" in his company "Brewery Slavonica". So we asked him what was his experience after a one year business period?
The situation is still challenging for me. So I can't say it's light, simple. Honestly, I was hoping everything would go faster or better. But it turns out that they were right to warn me in good faith that it would take me four or five years to complete the initial plans. The business of the company is stable, which means that I am meeting all my obligations, including the gradual repayment of the 50,000 euro loan I received from HAMAG. But I still have to invest my own resources and that of my family.
In relation to expectations, what is the physical volume of production?
Monthly production 3000 liters
I currently work at about 30 percent of capacity, which means we produce about three thousand liters per month of the theoretical maximum of ten thousand liters to what my production capacity is. Those three thousand liters are some minimum for normal financial operations. My expectation was that we would reach 4 to 5 thousand quickly. But obviously it won't go so fast. I currently have two products: Count and Countess. Now the two of us are busy. I expected more favorable financial operations and creating conditions for opening a tasting room, which I announced last year in an interview in your media. But there was no funding, no time.
Is beer a seasonal commodity, an item sold more in summer than in winter?
I thought so too. But after a year, I saw that I was wrong. The Zagreb market is important to me, where I distribute it through some 30 or 40 cafes. But in the summer, Zagreb empties so much that some of these cafes even close and take a month off so I can say, at least when it comes to my business, that beer is not a seasonal commodity. When I saw that Zagreb would not be able to withdraw my planned quantities in the summer, I tried to orient myself to Istria. But it turned out that the cost of transportation did not withstand the market price, so my experience was such that I would have to focus on the business for about 150 kilometers in business.
What is the local Pakrac-Lipica market?
I'm not in the serious variant or expecting much from the local market. We are present in a dozen restaurants that pull a certain amount, but this is far from being able to make a living from that market. The reason is part of the price, although the caterers have mutually agreed and in agreement with me they have not set a double margin, which is the usual practice, but they went a little handy with a slightly lower price so that beer can be bought in catering establishments at a price of 15 to 17 kuna, which is slightly lower than in Zagreb.
Any feedback on quality?
It has the meaning that the ratings are quite good, satisfactory, even in restaurant-type establishments where a slightly more informed audience may appear. I am particularly pleased that we have no complaints that the beer tastes different. We have reached the standard and we are constantly striving to follow and keep to the achieved recipe as scripture.
What happened in the craft beer market in Croatia this year?
In the fall, two new types and a gastronomic souvenir shop
The number of small breweries has grown to some seventy. As a result, catering establishments that do not have exclusive contracts with industrial breweries, almost every week, get some new beer, with the vast majority being excellent craft beer. But our consumers are always keen to try a new beer. Therefore, I will almost throw out the third ones as well, and in the winter I expect to start production and black beer. It is because of this habit of constantly researching consumers that I can already be sure that I will sell the new beer without problems in the first two weeks in quantities of 4 or 5 thousand. I don't want to market any product. I've tried the recipe for a long time and I know what I want and need to get.
Plans for a second year of business?
Of course there are plans, but they are always tied to investments with limited resources. This is also the reason that I did not compete for some EU funds this year, because in private investments they always require significant own investment. Therefore, this year I did not even realize the announced tasting room in the facility and yard in Tomislavova Street where we make beer. Partly because of the money and partly because of the time, because all the work around production, but also distribution, marketing, bookkeeping, not small administration, is done by the two of us.
The plan is to open something like a gastronomic souvenir shop in the existing office space in the fall, where he would also present and sell other gastronomic products in the area, such as fruit juice or Casic wine. Unfortunately, such products, with a declaration allowing free retail, are few in our area, so I will probably reach for the Jares cheese from Dezanovac. As a part of that, I would also sell craft beer from another Croatian producer every month so that Pakracan craft beer lovers will get an insight into Croatian production and be able to compare my beer with others. With the launch of two new announced products, there will be a novelty. Although everything is not going as fast as I planned, I am satisfied. Especially the fact that I still have that initial fervor and the will to succeed in this business.
Source: Pakrac newspaper, interviewed by Darko Baronica