An Interview With Brad Smith, Founder and Owner of BeerSmith
I’m pleased to be able to present this article to you, which is a short interview with Brad Smith, the Founder, Developer and Owner of BeerSmith LLC, the producer of that awesome brewing software we all know and love: BeerSmith.
If you’ve not heard of BeerSmith (apart from wondering which rock you’ve been living under) I would absolutely recommend you check it out and consider downloading it for your phone, tablet or PC. It is a fantastic bit of software that you can use to perfect your recipe generation and brew consistent quality beers. There are some really useful tools and calculators on there too, which will save you loads of time on a hectic brew day.
Here’s the interview …
What is your role within BeerSmith? Are you its Owner and Founder?
I am the owner and founder of BeerSmith. I also authored all of the software including the desktop and mobile versions and recipe sites.
Tell me a bit about how BeerSmith came about and how you got set up in business? Give me a bit of history about your company and the people you set it up with (if any).
Originally BeerSmith was a tool I wrote for my own personal use in 2002 but a few fellow brewers encouraged me to develop it further. Over the period of about a year, I expanded it and eventually released it in late 2003 as BeerSmith 1.0.
Over the years I made additional improvements and eventually launched BeerSmith 2 in 2011, about a year after I went full time on BeerSmith. Since then it has grown quite a bit after adding the mobile versions and BeerSmithRecipes.com website.
Is it just yourself? Or have you grown as a business and now have a team behind you?
When I went full time in 2010, my intent was to keep the business small. So I actually do just about everything including marketing, all of the web content, programming, development, testing, podcasts plus the daily aspects of running the business.
A few years ago I did hire a virtual assistant to help manage the emails which can easily reach 50-100 a day. She helps answer many of the routine questions.
One consequence of keeping it small is that I can’t get updates done as fast as I would like, but it does keep me focused on what’s important as I have a lot to do in a limited amount of time.
The email list which now has over 60,000 subscribers and also the podcast (which also has a large base) both take time to support and maintain, but they do help grow the business.
To date, how many software downloads has BeerSmith achieved worldwide?
I don’t know the exact number of downloads but well over 100,000 people have used the software at one time or another. The BeerSmith recipe site has over 92,000 users and some 434,000 recipes on it as of today.
That’s not a bad circulation you have in respect of active customers. Is this a growing number?
It continues to grow though the homebrewing industry as a whole has leveled off the last two years. People are still entering the hobby but existing brewers are not brewing quite as often as they did a few years ago.
What does it feel like to have something you have personally created used and enjoyed by so many people?
Every once in a while I get a really great note from someone who won a gold medal or started their own brewery, and they credit me for not only the software but the knowledge from the podcasts, newsletter and articles I’ve written. That is a nice feeling, as more often the emails I receive are people having problems who need support.
What does the future look like for BeerSmith?
At the moment I’m hard at work to update the desktop version, followed by adding the same updates to the mobile version. Some new features include better separation and recording of session data, much easier recipe building, a large number of usability enhancements, and updates to the brewing engine to support the latest brewing techniques and ingredients.
Is there a target release date for the new desktop version of BeerSmith?
My goal is to get it out in time for the HomebrewCon in June 2016, but I’m not quite sure I’ll make it on that date. I have a large portion of the desktop platform done and will enter testing with that soon but I still need to bring the mobile versions up to date, and that is only partially done.
How important is good beer design when setting up a new brewery and making a product debut in the industry?
I’m not a pro brewer, but I can tell you that bad beer simply does not sell well. So having a good set of recipes and excellent brewing techniques is very important if you want your beer to succeed in the industry. This is especially true as the number of micro-breweries expand. We now have over 4,000 craft breweries in the US, which is actually larger than the number the US had before prohibition.
That’s a lot of breweries. I think we’re close to 1,500 now in the UK. Do you actively market your software to commercial brewers too?
Actually I don’t do a lot of marketing aimed specifically at commercial breweries. I’ve been toying with doing a commercial version for several years now to support their specific inventory and reporting needs and may pursue that over the coming year.
What advice would you give to someone making the transition from home brewing to commercial brewing?
Most brewers serious about making great beer already know quite a bit about making the beer. What many of them lack is the business skills to manage all of the other aspects of running a business such as securing funding, marketing, labeling, navigating the maze of government regulations and licensing, taxes, accounting, and hiring and managing people. Those skills are at least as important as brewing the beer.
Luckily, that's where we come in. Our Nanobrewery Project provides online courses and pay as you go consultancy support to help bridge this gap for brewers making that transition. Check out the banners on the right, further up the page.
Tell me how the BeerSmith software can help, or even facilitate, the design of new beers.
While you can do all of the calculations BeerSmith does by hand with a calculator, it would take a long time. It really lets you focus on designing the beer and not worry about how many points of gravity or malt color units are in a pound of roast barley.
BeerSmith also helps you manage the brewing process by giving you step-by-step instructions, which makes more complex processes like brewing all grain much more accessible to the average brewer. Literally hundreds of people have written and told me that BeerSmith lets them brew better beer - in many cases award winning beers - that they believed were not possible without BeerSmith.
Check out the software here: Click here to visit BeerSmith LLC.
What on-going support do you offer customers using your software?
Most of the support is done online via video tutorials, the discussion forum and as a last resort email. I try to check the support forums every few days for unanswered questions - though often an existing user will answer the question first, and I get between 50-100 emails every day and try to answer every one to the best of my ability.
Do you have any special offers running at the moment that readers of this article might benefit from?
I don't at the moment though I may run a special after the new version is released. Usually I do short specials (three day weekends for example) and I always announce them on the email list.
Further reads, links and other awesome shit:
You can find out more about BeerSmith brewing software and also download it by clicking the link below.
You can also access thousands of awesome beer recipes covering all styles here at the BeerSmith Recipe Website.
If you liked this article then please share it with other brewers and newbies by using the social media share icons below. We want to share free brewing knowledge with as many people as possible and we can only do that if people share our content.
You can also join our mail list to receive notification of new blog posts and loads of FREE stuff including massive discounts on our range of online courses, exclusive interviews with commercial brewers and much more. I won’t bombard you with junk mail … I email out on a monthly basis only.
If you need further assistance I do provide affordable, low cost, pay as you go brewery consultancy. Click here to find out how I might be able to help you and to see what other people thought of the service.