“When we decided to expand production of our small brewery from less than 2,000 barrels a year to 50,000 barrels, we engaged the services of First Key. Their Commercial Strategist broke down the market in our surrounding area using the existing trends and demographics to confirm that we weren’t over-reaching our boundaries. First Key certainly gave us a big advantage with our expansion, and I strongly encourage others to take advantage of their skills. We came away with a much clearer picture of who we wanted to work with, and how to make sure our contracts protected us.”
Sam von Trappvon Trapp Brewery
“It has been a pleasure working with First Key on various projects and we are very pleased with the results we jointly delivered.”
Taeyoung KimHiteJinro Co., Ltd
“Each year First Key provides an audit of our brewery operations, wherein they review our systems and equipment and provide recommendations for improving productivity, efficiency and quality control. We have been working with First Key for three years now, and each year we improve on all fronts. It continues to be a great relationship.”
Simon TheakstonExecutive Director, T&R Theakston Ltd.
“We found ourselves in an overload situation and retained First Key to conduct an overseas investment evaluation that required input from their marketing, technical and financial people. First Key delivered, to our complete satisfaction, a comprehensive and fully integrated analysis of the brewing business investment opportunity.”
Walter T. HoggSenior Vice President, Operations Strategy & Development (R), Molson Breweries
“We hired First Key to review our brewing and soft drink operations including a logistical assessment of our warehousing and distribution operations. The assignment required integrated input from First Key’s brewing, engineering, packaging and logistics personnel. They delivered a long term, comprehensive Operations Master Plan. First Key completed the project on time to our complete satisfaction. Please do not hesitate to call me if you would like to discuss the quality of their work.”
Ing. Alfredo AriasVicepresidente Ejecutivo Y Gerente General, Cerveceria Nacional, S.A.
“We really consider ourselves fortunate to have your skill-sets and experience on this complex project. The last batch of beer that you helped us with tastes great! Thank you for your creative input and ability to help us move this project along on a tight timeframe. We are so glad to be working with you.”
“First Key has effectively helped us to plan and successfully execute research projects involving several phases of studies. In addition, they have collaborated with us as a team in communicating the research findings in a reliable and clear way to diverse audiences.”
Keith SeizFounder and Vice President of Operations, The Arland Group
“I had the good fortune to work with one of First Key’s technical consultants for 9 weeks in the fall of 2016. It was a particularly challenging time for our company as we were looking for a new Operations head while simultaneously dealing with expansion plans, stock-out issues (excess demand is a high-class problem but still a problem!) and a few other production related issues. It was critical that we bring in someone who could hit the ground running, fit in and do some very quick problem solving.
First Key’s consultant was fantastic. As CEO, my head was focussed on many, many things and I was not able to spend a lot of time holding his hand (not that he needed it) and getting him up to speed on what we were doing or what we needed. He arrived, I dumped a lot on to his lap and he simply got stuff done and helped me see a great number of things that we could be doing differently or at least be thinking differently about.
In addition to managing all of the above efficiently and productively, he did it all with a fantastic demeanour that was a breath of fresh air in the building. To a one, we didn’t want to see him go. And while we have managed to find a worthy replacement, he is missed. He is welcome back anytime.”
Garnet Pratt SiddallPresident and CEO, Side Launch Brewing Co. Inc.
“First Key was engaged to assist in our investment evaluation of a large multi-plant brewing organization in Russia. After their preliminary marketing and technical evaluation, we re-engaged them to conduct a full due diligence with the objective of identifying issues to be aware of as the brewing company moved forward. First Key assembled a 5-member team consisting of marketing, distribution and procurement, operations, engineering and finance specialists. They conducted site visits and prepared an integrated report identifying the issues, categorizing there impact in terms of Quality, Cost and Capacity, and ranked them according to subjective investment risk. We were very pleased with the depth of their analysis, and the quality of their work. First Key helped us to understand critical elements of the beer business and strengths and weaknesses of the target company.”
Dmitry ChernyakInvestment Manager, Texas Pacific Group, Russia
“First Key were our technical advisors when we opened our first brewpub in 1993, and have been a key technical partner as we grew our business to over 70 brewery restaurants including Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom. I strongly recommend First Key to anyone in the brewing industry.”
Allen Corey President (R), Craft Works
“When we decided to build a brewpub we needed a consultant that could handle the entire project. First Key were our “partners” from the early stages of concept development and equipment selection right through to developing the beer recipes, setting up the lab and acquiring all the necessary supporting equipment, supplies and raw materials. They managed the startup and commissioning of the brewery, assisted us to hire and train a staff brewer, educated our staff on the brewing process and our beers. First Key did an excellent job, leaving us with a comprehensive Brewery Operations Manual that included customized operating procedures and an on-going quality management system. It was a real pleasure to work with a company that could handle all aspects of the project.”
Bob PratherDirector of Food & Beverage, Feather Falls Casino, Lodge & Brewing Co.
“I would like to thank the entire First Key team for its very professional, responsive, and high quality work.”
Urmas PaavelHead of Private Equity, ETC Initiative, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (“EBRD”)
“After StarBev was established, we engaged First Key to work with us to develop our malt procurement strategy for going forward. Their knowledge of the global supply chain and current industry practices was fundamental for considering all possible options and ultimately setting our course of action. We have been most pleased with First Key’s expertise and advice.”
Philippe VandammeChief Supply Officer, StarBev
We have used First Key twice. Firstly to do an evaluation of an operating brewery we were considering to buy. We got a comprehensive report, with recommendations on what we should do and estimate of costs for replacement / upgrades. The 3rd party valuation helped me with my business plan and helped me raise finance for the business. We made the purchase. Two years later we are selling a lot of beer and the brewery is starting to groan under the pressure. We got First Key back to review our systems and processes, make recommendations for stream lining and improving the consistency of our beer. We are still making use of their advice, but we have made big steps in maintaining consistent product quality and flavor profile. Frankly, I always groan at the cost of consultants. But their industry experience helped validate our plans and so helped with finance.”
Bruce DeanPresident, Whistler Brewing Company
I would like to thank you and your entire team for the time and effort you put into the analysis and the report. The report provides valuable information to me as a board member in assessing the state of the company today and the requirements for creating value over the medium term.”
Stephan DuCharmeMember of Supervisory Board of JSC Lomisi (representative of EBRD)
“We engaged First Key to develop a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS) for managing and controlling our product quality. First Key did an excellent job setting up the system, and they now conduct periodic audit reviews and submit conformance reports that include recommendations for adjustments and corrective actions if required. Having an independent audit of the QMS performance at our three breweries, benchmarked to international standards, is a fundamental part of PIT’s commitment to quality.”
Henk Van GelderenChief Operating Officer, PIT International
“We asked First Key to conduct a complete evaluation of the ammonia refrigeration systems at each of our breweries. They provided excellent people for the assignment and delivered a comprehensive report in Spanish. We are very pleased with the depth of First Key’s technical knowledge, professional approach, and standard of work.”
Ing. Humberto Del GrossoGerente Nacional de Ingeneria de Procesos, Cervecería Polar C.A.
“We operate more then 45 casual dining restaurants in the United States; 10 of which are brewpubs. With the objective to minimize the total annual operating cost of beer supply and distribution from breweries to restaurants, we engaged First Key to conduct a network optimization study. They developed a network flow model with over 1500 variables and delivered a comprehensive “Optimization tool” for achieving our objective. A job well done.”
Alex PuchnerSenior Vice President, BJ’s Restaurants
“The people at First Key have been “on-the-ground” working in Russia since the early 1990’s. They understand the Russian beer industry, and have worked with our company on a number of projects over the years. I have been impressed with their knowledge and quality of work.”
Joe StrellaChief Executive Officer, SUN Interbrew
“We were aware of First Key’s expertise in developing, implementing, and post-auditing Quality Management Systems (QMS) in large scale brewing companies but, as a micro brewery, we needed a QMS that took into account our small size, modest budget, level of complexity, and capability. I was most impressed with First Key’s ability to comprehend smaller-scale operations, to work with our people, and mutually develop a manageable system of policies, procedures, standards and quality testing to ensure that our plant operations are conducted in a consistent “high-quality” manner. An excellent job! The management team at VIB is extremely pleased with the QMS program developed by First Key.”
Barry FisherPresident, Vancouver Island Brewing Company
“I’d like to take the chance to thank First Key for providing an excellent service during this assignment. I have very much enjoyed the conversations we have had and the final report was very informative and well presented.”
Edward KalajzicBusiness Development Manager, CBH Group
“After we decided to close the Romford Brewery we appointed First Key as our agents to sell the plant. First Key not only introduced the buyer and helped negotiate the sale-purchase agreement, but also provided project and construction management for the removal of all the brewing and process equipment. The site was returned to Carlsberg-Tetley on time, under budget, and in an orderly fashion…a job well done.”
Alan DavisManaging Director, Operations South (R), Carlsberg-Tetley Brewing
“First Key was engaged to review our overall brewing operations. The task included a technical assessment of key brewing unit operations, technical support services (quality and maintenance), capacity verification, identification of bottlenecks, and the establishment of a series of benchmarks to facilitate a program of quality and productivity improvement. We were most pleased with First Key’s performance, and do not hesitate to recommend them.”
Philip J. AdkinsManaging Director & Chief Executive, J. Boag & Son
“First Key has acted as our technical advisors since we established our first brew-pub in 1993. We now have 26 locations throughout the United States and are expanding rapidly. Through an on-going technical services arrangement, First Key provides regular quality control, product development, and staff training services. Our “Partner” relationship with First Key is fundamental for our rapid growth.”
Rob GentryVice President, Brewing, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants
“We have engaged the services of First Key to carry out the engineering process design, process plant installation, and start-up and training for our 2 million hectolitre greenfield brewery in China. I have been pleased with First Key’s technical expertise and overall service, and would be happy to call on them again in the future.”
John DunwellVice President, Technical Services, San Miguel Brewing International Ltd.
“Its always a pleasure to work with First Key. As brewery specialists they know what they are doing.”
Les FeayEngineering Manager, Tuchenhagen UK Limited, United Kingdom
“We at Beau’s have been greatly impressed by the OCB M&M program we participated in, which was run through First Key Consulting. We have been given tools and knowledge to improve our product quality, increase our efficiencies and reduce operating costs. We would definitely participate again. Kudos to an excellent initiative!”
Steve BeauchesneCo-owner, Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
“One of the first things that we wanted to do when starting a craft brewery project was to engage a good international consulting firm that could provide overall technical guidance and support. After looking around and talking to many brewery consulting firms, we felt confident in First Key’s reputation, expertise and its pool of talented professionals to help us in our project. First Key has played a critical role in our craft brewery project by providing the technical support and guidance in all aspects. Without their support and help, we would not be where we are at this stage.”
Dasho Karma DorjiFounder, Ser Bhum Brewery
“I engaged First Key to develop the business plan for the brewpub I am planning and found them very knowledgeable, professional, and flexible partners. First Key’s commercial specialist took the time to understand my vision for the brewpub and assessed the market. Based on the market assessment, First Key’s technical and financial specialists were able to size the brewery and project the key production variables, equipment and operating costs. This all came together in a comprehensive business plan with financial statements that I could take to investors.”
Max MeighenFounder, Avling Brewery
“We hired First Key to provide technical advice through the design, build and installation of our brewery in Brooklyn. I found the First Key team easy to work with and they had a wealth of knowledge that allowed us to make informed decisions throughout the planning and construction of our brewery.”
Kevin O’DonnellCo-Founder and COO, Five Boroughs Brewing Co.
“We needed a new contract brewing partner and engaged First Key to coordinate the negotiations and implementation of the agreement on a day-to-day operational level. It has been great working with First Key and I plan to continue to use them as an indispensable resource as our business grows.”Geoff HarriesCEO/Brewmaster, Buffalo Bill’s Brewing
“It was great to work with you! I appreciate the speed, depth and out of the box thinking you put forth on this due diligence assignment. I look forward to working together again, whether it’s on the follow-up projects for the company or another due diligence engagement.”
Jonathan MarshallVice President, VMG Partners
“It was absolutely essential having First Key as our transaction advisor. Having their deep brewing industry knowledge and understanding of our business really was the key to the success of the sale. They helped us to make informed business and financial decisions throughout the whole process.”
Nathan DunsmoorCo-Founder, Double Trouble Brewing Co.
“Our brewery was in the midst of construction when we ran into a number of build out and commercial scale up concerns. First Key mobilized quickly to understand the project requirements and provided on-site support; working closely with our management team, vendors, local engineers and contractors. As a result of the collaborative effort, the brewery installation progressed well and the equipment was installed properly. In parallel, First Key worked closely with our brewmasters to refine and scale up our beer recipes. Ultimately we achieved our goal of starting up successfully brewing great beers.”
Albert EtheridgeFounder, Pretoria Fields
“When we started the Business of Craft Beer Program at the University of Vermont our goal was to offer a program for aspiring new brewery owners with industry experts as instructors. We were fortunate to have identified First Key Consulting as a partner in this effort. Many senior staff in breweries serve as instructors or guest speakers. Yet, the First Key Team offers extensive experience across all facets of the industry and all brewery sizes. Their staff lead our Brewery Operations, and Marketing & Branding courses. Honestly, I’m uncertain we would’ve successfully started without First Key’s support.”
Gregory DunklingDirector, Business of Craft Beer Program, University of Vermont
“Our brewery is situated on the waterfront in a picturesque part of St. John’s, Newfoundland, with limited space for capacity expansion. We asked First Key to prepare a master plan from brewhouse, fermenting, bright beer, packaging, through to warehouse inventory management to maximize our capacity within the current site, while using as much of the existing infrastructure as practical. First Key worked diligently with our team to develop a plan that was then validated through our busy season. We found that the First Key brewery engineer assigned to our project was genuinely interested in our success and went the extra mile to ensure we had a plan that was practical and specific to our situation. We feel very much stronger having First Key working with us.”
Hugh McDermottGeneral Manager, Quidi Vidi Brewery
“The first commercial brew went as well as we could have hoped. The feedback we’ve gotten from restaurants and consumers has exceeded our expectations!“
Confidential product development client
“First Key conducted a top-to-bottom assessment of our craft brewery in Roscoe, New York that resulted in a series of recommendations related to operations, equipment, distribution, sales strategy, training and development, taproom functionality, food service and organizational structure. We implemented many of these recommendations and beer volume and total income increased by +30% from the previous year as a result. We thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated our experience with the First Key team and would not hesitate to work with them again or recommend them to other craft breweries looking for professional and knowledgeable support. In addition, First Key continued to make themselves available to discuss the craft beer landscape afterwards. It is comforting to have them on our team!”
Phil ValloneOwner, Roscoe Beer Co.
“Thanks again to all involved in the preparation of the Market Assessment. It was a pleasure to deal with such knowledgeable and committed people and to gain from their combined experience in this industry. Every experience and touch-point that we had reflected positively on First Key as an organization. We were delighted to work with you on this project.”
Joe Kelleher Financial Controller, Malting Company of Ireland
“First Key completed an assessment of our brewhouse hot liquor system and provided recommendations including detailed process drawings to reconfigure our system. We are now enjoying significant improvements in heat recovery, lower water usage and improved availability of hot brewing liquor.”
Alex ArkellDirector of Beer / Head Brewer, Arkell’s Brewery Limited
“The team at First Key Consulting are A+ operators! We could not have met our build objectives, critical deadlines, or quality & efficiency initiatives without their incredible project leadership.”
Jim BirchGeneral Manager, Faubourg Brewing Co.
“I was building a new brewery and needed to develop a marketing study for the craft beer industry in Texas. First Key walked me through the process, were patient and explained in detail what and how we were going to develop our go to market plan, choosing a creative agency, and what the total potential would be for our business. The final plan was very detailed as it went down to the SKU of each beer, size of package, volumes, growth, price, and to what markets to launch in. As an owner, this information made it more comforting in making an investment in a market space that I had no previous knowledge of.”
Paul C. Sorensen
“First Key has been an indispensable resource throughout the development of our brewery. When we engaged First Key’s help, things started coming together quickly. From working with us to develop the overall commercial strategy to planning all the technical details, it has been amazing to work with First Key and see our vision coming together.”
Mike GrenkeStarkhünd Brewing Company
“You guys have been fantastic helping us with our expansion plan. We appreciated how you provided us with sound recommendations, showing the costs and process implications of each option. You took the time to walk us through each scenario and helped us come to an agreement as a brewery team on a clear way forward. We will not hesitate to pick up phone to engage First Key again down the road.”
Jeff Green Director, Spindrift Brewing Co.