Outgrowing QuickBooks: Risky Business

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You’ve built your brewery using QuickBooks, but as your business grows you need systems that can keep up with and support new business opportunities and changing demands. tomcruise
A brewery management solution from VicinityBrew Software provides the insight and tools you need to increase sales, simplify business operations, and keep your people productive. There’s never been a better time to buy, with affordable, low monthly payments, and cloud-based deployment options. We can help your brewery solve business challenges, such as:

• Increasing sales and profitability with better business insight
• Keeping up with demand without adding headcount
• Managing multiple lines of business, currencies, or multi-site locations
• Simplifying and securing processes to reduce data entry and risk
• Scaling operations to support ongoing growth
Take time today to change your business for the better every day.

It doesn’t matter what size your business, little things become big issues without the right brewery management software. A business solution from VicinityBrew helps manage your financials, inventory, and brewery operations with the power to support your growth ambitions. With proven implementation tools and an intuitive user experience, you can be up and running quickly—in the cloud or on your servers—the choice is yours.


Making Excise Reports Less Taxing.

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Five questions regarding excise tax automation with Kevin Rasmussen, co-founder  of EthoTech

Making Excise Reports Less Taxing.
Making Excise Reports Less Taxing.

Q. For beginners, how does excise tax differs from sales tax?

A. Excise tax differs from sales tax in two main areas: Sales tax appears on the invoice and is paid by the customer. Excise tax does not appear on the invoice, as it is paid by the brewery or distributor.

Sales tax is calculated as a percentage of the invoice sale amount. Excise tax, in the craft brew industry, is calculated as a dollar amount times the quantity sold. This is further complicated because the taxing unit of measure may differ from the selling unit of measure. For example, you may sell in cases but be taxed in gallons. Both the tax rate and taxing unit of measure are set by each tax authority.

Q. If a brewery has an excise tax problem in their accounting system, how would VicinityBrew solve that issue?

 A. Our VicinityBrew module allows you to create federal, state, county, and municipality tax authorities, along with the tax periods and rates for each tax authority. When a sales document is created, the excise tax owed to each tax authority is automatically calculated, based on the customer address and line items that appear on the document. Our product reminds you when it’s time to pay tax to a particular tax authority and even creates a payables transaction if you desire.

To sell bottled beer within the jurisdiction of a particular tax authority, a brewer must obtains a Certificate of Label for each beer that will be sold. Each Certificate of Label must be renewed each year; otherwise, the brewer is prohibited from selling that beer until they re-certify. These renewals are not excise tax, but since they are paid to tax authorities, our product includes reminders for paying label renewals and can also create a VicinityBrew payables transaction for the renewal.

Q. How long would it take for that company to implement your excise tax module?

A. The time to implement can be as little as a couple of hours or as long as a few days and is dependent on several factors, including:

The number of tax authorities to which a craft brewer is subject. The tax rate complexity for those tax authorities. The number of customer addresses to which they sell. The complexity of their unit of measure schedule setups.

Q. Which states have the highest excise tax rates?

A.  Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Alaska, and Hawaii have the highest rates in the United States. Tennessee is the highest at $1.17 per gallon. So, it really makes for an uneven playing field for craft brewers. For example, the state of Wyoming is only $0.02 per gallon.

 Q. Has the unprecedented growth of the craft beer market in the last three years effected the   demand for automated excise tax?

A. Absolutely! For craft brewers, excise tax becomes an issue when they begin selling into multiple states, as the complexity increases given the varying rates, tax periods, and rules governing tax within different states. Additionally, timely payment of label renewals becomes an issue when multiple tax authorities are involved.


Kevin Rasmussen drives the product development, customer support and information technology side of EthoTech. Graduating from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics focusing on theoretical and applied mechanics. Along with his degree, Kevin holds key industry certifications including: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer [MCSE], Database Administrator [MCDBA], Integration Developer for Great Plains Edition [CID] and Installation Specialist for Great Plains Edition [CIS]. Prior to EthoTech, Kevin contributed to executive leadership teams for two Microsoft ISV Partners and was responsible for the development of a large vertical application franchise management solution.

The EthoTech’s excise tax solution is available as a VicinityBrew software module.


“From Passion to Profits, Taking your Brewery to the Next Level: Part 3”

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The DudeWhat can I say? I love the Dude. “The Dude abides.” But, my favorite quote from the Cohen brother’s cult favorite, The Big Lebowksi, has to be, “That rug really tied the room together man.”

I think this quote works for our discussion today as we look at the needs of craft breweries producing over 100k BBL annually. When breweries reach this level, it’s all about bringing things together. Managing multiple production facilities, defining more precise operations with formulas, and integrations with control systems.

In this group, you will find some well-known brands such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Stone Brewing Company, and Dogfish Head Brewery. Breweries at this level typically have successfully implemented an ERP system and have a need to formalize processes and dive into deeper data navigation across multiple facilities. Applications such as Microsoft Dynamics® (there are many flavors of Dynamics) with third party specialty applications such as VicinityBrew® are a powerful solution for these breweries. These larger breweries typically have an onsite IT support team and their in-house server hardware.  These companies have the infrastructure and bandwidth to support a traditional ERP system.

100k BBL is a lot of beer. Understandably, as demand increases, so does the need for systematic procedures and uniformity throughout the brewery. But if you are a brewery that has broken the 100k barrel per year mark, you may want to take a look at the following practices within you production operations.

  • Defining processes in formulas
  • Integration to control systems
  • Multiple brewery scheduling

Challenge: Defining processes in formulas.

Solution: There is clearly a typical way beer is made.  Specific methods vary from brewery to brewery.  This is one reason the same brew formula in one brewery will yield different results in another brewery.  The system and the way the beer is made in that specific system is the key to consistency.

As a brewery matures, making consistent beers in larger volumes and potentially at different brewing sites becomes a bigger challenge.  This requires standardization and communication of those standards.

In the early days of a brewery the brew formula or fermentation process may be loosely defined and altered regularly.  This is method becomes much more complex as the brewery grows in volume.

What started out as a list of ingredients and simple instructions just won’t cut it as the brewery grows.

One method of communicating standards is to provide more processing information in the formula than they did when they were starting out.  This may be related to how raw materials are introduced or specific equipment settings needed for a style of beer.  The formula becomes more than just a list of ingredients and instructions but also a communication tool to assist the brewers, fermenters and packers.  In short it provides more structure to the beer making process.

VicinityBrew allows a Brew Master to define the beer making process using Unit Procedures, Operations and Phases.  Many of you may recognize this as the S88 standard to communicate to control systems.  VicinityBrew has embedding that three level structure in the core formula architecture.  This provides a way to better define the steps and processes to making beer.

One way to communicate specific technical information is by creating user-defined parameters. Breweries may want to communicate machine settings, transfer rates, resting times and a whole host of other information.  This data is not easily communicated in a block of text.

At any step in that process materials, instructions, labor, QC and parameters can be defined.  This gives needed structure to breweries increasing in production volume.

So a brewery in its emerging stages may not have the need to centralize production processes – rest assured as they grow beyond 50k BBL and above 100K BBL this become crucial.

VicinityBrew addresses this need out of the box and is ready to provide that needed structure when the time is right. 

Challenge: Integrations to control systems.

Solution: The design of VicinityBrew’s formula management module and hence, our batch tickets, is developed in such a way that it follows the industry standard of an S88. An S88 defines the levels and or data within a control system. These are the levels of information a control system reads. VicinityBrew adopted this S88 industry standard in the creation of formula management, so when it is time for a brew log to talk to the control system that is running the Brew house, such as Delta-V or Braumat, it will marry up much easier.

Challenge: Multiple brewery scheduling.

Solution: VicinityBrew allows you to account for multiple production facilities. This allows breweries to consistently produce the same finished good or SKU from multiple locations. For example, a production facility in California will have different equipment, different climate, and even different water from a facility in North Carolina. With VicinityBrew software, breweries can define the beer making process specific to each facility. The result is a standard quality and consistency in every SKU.  For example, an IPA made in a brewery’s California facility will be exactly like an IPA produced in their North Carolina facility. This simplifies customer service. Customer service does not have to worry about whether the IPA came from California or North Carolina. All they need to know is where you want to ship the SKU out of, thus pushing it to scheduling.

Check out these videos to see more information. Our next post will have a supply chain discussion on the main differences between a bar-code data collection system and a full warehouse management system (WMS) and where each solution fits best.

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“IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME….” Breaking Up with QuickBooks

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For most breweries, over time QuickBooks will not be robust enough, consequently your company is looking at replacing QuickBooks sooner or later. You may be seeing clues that it is time to move on at your brewery. An impending breakup becomes easily apparent when almost all reporting and scheduling is completed in a combination of Excel spreadsheets, whiteboards, and sticky notes. This leaves QuickBooks used for standard journal entries and check writing . None of these methods are even addressing the key component of your business operations that is occurring on the plant floor.

Does any of this sound familiar? Has your brewery outgrown QuickBooks and Excel? Craft Brewers need an ERP system that is easy to use, quick to deploy, and will grow with you as your brewery grows. QuickBooks is a reasonable solution until you reach about 5k BBL. When the inevitable happens, and your market share increases…

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“From Passion to Profits, Taking your Brewery to the Next Level: Part 2”

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Removing Large Beer Vat From BreweryIn our last post, we discussed the business challenges of micro and regional breweries producing less than 30k barrels per year (BBL). Now let’s take a look at the mid-level group of craft breweries who produce between 30k and 80k BBL.

In this group, you will find some well-known brands such as Highland Brewing Company, Flying Dog Brewery, and Oskar Blues. Here you have a need for a robust and extensive financial and distribution application.  Applications such as Microsoft Dynamics® (there are four flavors of Dynamics) with third party specialty applications such as VicinityBrew is a powerful solution for these breweries. These larger breweries may have an onsite IT support team and their own in house server.  These companies have the infrastructure and bandwidth to support a traditional ERP system.

The number of Breweries between 30k to 80k BBL is booming. This market segment has seen the most rapid growth over the past two years. Understandably, not every craft brewery strives to be a 100k BBL company. But if you are a brewery that has broken the 30k BBL per year mark, you have most likely run into these production challenges.

  • Quality Tracking
  • Costing Analysis
  • Production Scheduling
  • Bar Code Data Collection

Challenge: Quality Tracking

Solution: Breweries need a solution that has the ability to store and track all QC test results by brew and recipe, so you can review test results over time and review the number of tests performed by recipe. Brews requiring significant adjustments can be easily identified and the recipes themselves can be reviewed. Also, this gives brewers the ability to adjust recipes based on QC data on the fly.

Challenge: Costing Analysis

Solution: Look for an ERP system that allows you to calculate accurate production costs and compare them to actual sales activity. This makes it easier to identify lower-margin brands. By tying an actual production cost to a brand, such as a seasonal brew, you can then take corrective actions if needed by increasing the selling price of the product or, if necessary, discontinuing a poor preforming recipe. Having this depth of cost analysis allows breweries to be able to see the actual profit per unit.

Challenge: Production Scheduling

Solution: First of all, get out of excel! At this point, if you are producing over 30k BBL, you need an forecast that integrates with production. Software such as Vicinity Brew, allows you to run production scheduling and material requirements planning (MRP). It does this by tracking data from sales order to forecast to brews. The production schedule can be derived from an MRP generation that includes sales orders and forecasts, so all demand for an item is considered during scheduling. If the demand for a given item is not reflected on the schedule, the system automatically notifies the scheduler. Breweries need to be able to make scheduling changes in real time and need to communicate these changes to as many departments as necessary. Keeping everyone informed helps departments set priorities for the production, quality and purchasing.

Challenge: Bar Code Data Collection

Solution:  There is nothing magical about bar code data collection. Simply find the best solution for your use. That is to say, look for an ERP system that supports bar code data collection across the entire application. Craft Breweries who are producing over 30k BBL may be needing to record production data on finished goods packaging in real time. A word of warning: when looking for an ERP solution for your brewery, make sure there is a solid integration with a reputable bar code data collection application such as Panatrack. If you already have an ERP solution make sure your systems are well under control before adding bar code data collection. Not doing either of these may cost your brewery greatly in the future. As they say “Bar code data collection is a tremendous thing.  A bad process gets repeated at the speed of light”.  So make sure your manual process is buttoned up prior to automating it with bar code data collection.

Check out these videos to see more information. Our next part will discuss the operational challenges of craft breweries who are over 100k BBL.