Brewing up business: Pale Fire Brewery a success

Tim Brady has been brewing beer professionally for years. With both the passion and the expertise to harness the rising tide of interest in craft beer, starting Pale Fire Brewing Co. was the logical next step for the James Madison University graduate. “I’m very drawn to the creative element in brewing beer,” says Tim. “It’s such a great mix of both creativity and chemistry.”

With its high concentration of locally grown and owned businesses, Harrisonburg was the perfect place for Pale Fire to call home. “People here are especially supportive of local businesses,” says Tim, a longtime enthusiast and proponent of the town, “so it’s just an ideal place for us to be.”

A year after opening, Pale Fire quickly proved that its beers were bigger than mere local acclaim. The brewery won not one but two medals at the 2016 World Beer Cup, a highly prestigious global beer competition, held every two years.

The SBDC played a vital role in helping Tim make his brewery a reality. He worked closely with the Shenandoah Valley SBDC Director Joyce Krech to perfect a business plan. Joyce arranged sample investor presentations, which Tim says were invaluable in fine-tuning his pitch. “I would get so much good feedback from these trial runs,” he says. “I was well prepared for questions from actual investors just based on having those practice opportunities.”

Tim quickly raised the capital needed to open his brewery in downtown Harrisonburg. In fact, Tim so impressed his investors that he raised the entire $900,000. With his recipes in hand, Tim began production in 2015. By 2017, the brewery had three full-time and eight part- time employees. Business was so successful that Pale Fire wanted to bottle the beer to distribute across Virginia.

Tim returned to the SBDC and met with Capital Access Advisor Bill Groseclose. Bill helped him prepare a proposal that landed a loan by a local bank. It funded a new in-house bottling line, consolidated existing debts, and improved cash flow for the business.

As craft beer continues to enjoy intense popularity, Tim is reminded of the creative spark that drew him to brewing in the first place. “Craft beer is popular right now and that’s great, but that also means there’s lots of competition, which can be a challenge,” he says. “But our team is what sets us apart. We have the experience and we have a true passion for what we do.”

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Virginia SBDC