Three Things I Learned from Running a Brewery

Kendall GarrisonFebruary 13, 2023

Reviewed By: Amplify

Barrels stacked on one another

I’ve been thinking a lot about beer recently. More than usual, I mean.

Back in the 1990s, I took a hiatus from the banking world to run a brewery. Bosque Brewing was the first craft brewery in Waco, Texas, and I spent nearly a decade pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into its success. Then I made the decision to return to the real estate industry, and that was the end of that.

I was the banker who used to run a brewery. Figured that could just be my fun fact at parties.

And then, a few weeks ago, I got a phone call from Kevin Decoud at Southern Roots Brewing Company in Waco. Turns out my little brewery was an important piece of local history, and they wanted to honor that history with a reboot of our best-selling beer. I said yes, of course, and now people are going to get a little taste of Bosque Brewing this summer. They’re even celebrating Bosque Brewing Day on February 16.

But this whole experience has me thinking about that journey from banking to beer and back again. So after giving it a little thought, here’s what (I think) I learned about business from brewing.

Creativity Is Everything

It takes a whole lot of confidence to start a business. You need to believe two things: that you have identified a hole in the market that nobody else can see, and that you alone are the person to take advantage of it.

“It takes a whole lot of confidence to start a business.”

But once the doors open and your days start filling up with one crisis after another, you learn real fast if you’re as smart as you think you are.

Listen, there is nothing more satisfying and more terrifying than being the one calling the shots. But from staffing to equipment, you’ve got to be ready to think outside the box – or maybe the barrel – when it comes to solving problems. Bosque Brewing taught me that there’s a solution to every problem if you work at it hard enough. It may be unsatisfying or even a little painful, but there are no dead ends in life – just redirects.

You Learn Very Little from Success

One of the things they don’t tell you about the beer business is how long it takes to get a recipe just right. You must drink a lot of early batches to get to something special, and I owe my friends and family an apology for subjecting them to some truly “interesting” rough drafts.

In my defense, doubling the honey seemed like a good idea at the time.

“Failure means you found one less way not to do something.”

But each failed batch got us one step closer to our final product. You heard that old saying that failure means you found one less way not to do something? There’s no better proof of that than beer. Every batch we brewed was a masterclass in beer education. I spent as much time developing my palate and instincts as a brewer as I did finding a product I could sell. And whether it’s beer or banking, for my money, shortcuts always leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Timing Matters

Did I close Bosque Brewing just a few years before craft beers started to take off? Sure did. Do I sometimes wonder what Bosque Brewing might have looked like in a world where the culture (and politics) of beer has changed so much? You bet. But I don’t feel any regret about getting out when I did. The work I do right now is the most important of my career, and if I had stuck it out – tried to be the next Sierra Nevada – I would’ve missed bigger opportunities to make a difference.

Timing might be what separates a side project from becoming your future day job, but that hard work helped build your community. What was bad timing for Bosque Brewing turned out to be the building blocks for the rest of my career. Plus, I’ve gotten to keep one foot in that world through Amplify’s work with local businesses. Turns out having a banker who knows a little bit about brewing isn’t the worst thing in the world.

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Kendall Garrison

Kendall Garrison is President and Chief Executive Officer of Amplify Credit Union. He has been instrumental in driving growth for the credit union over his 12-year tenure, which has tripled in size over that time to more than $3B in assets under management supported by 200+ employees.

Before Amplify, Garrison held senior management positions with various mortgage and commercial banking institutions over a 40+-year career. These organizations included privately held and publicly traded institutions in Texas, including Franklin Bank, Synergy Mortgage, and Extraco Bank. He also worked as a consultant for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, overseeing entities in conservatorship around the country.

Beyond Amplify, Garrison is active in the Austin community. He currently serves as Treasurer for the Board of Directors of Saint Louise House, a nonprofit that provides housing and support for women-led families seeking to break the cycle of homelessness.