Mader Family Capitalizing On A Hopping Industry

You know the old adage in stock trading “buy low, sell high?” That’s kind of what Randy and Michele Mader were doing when they purchased Beer Meister in 2008, relocated the beer refrigeration and dispensing business from California to Hamel in the Western suburbs.

“I was looking for a business for a few years, a company that been around a while that I thought wasn’t run in a way that I would run it,” Randy Mader said. “Beer Meister had been around for 35 years so we bought it.”

Here was the issue the Maders ran into: If they did their job well people would not be repeat customers; they’d by their kegerators and that was that.

“Over the years, we had people ask us for homebrew sets,” Randy said. “I wasn’t well versed in that space and did some research and we added it. It’s a third of our business and we set up our beer dispensers to hold the (homebrew) kegs.”

With the addition of homebrewing equipment, Beer Meister became Beer Meister Supplies. In addition to beer kits and kegerators, they also sell winemaking kits, which can produce 30 bottles of wine at cost that works out to roughly $4 per bottle. The newest addition to Beer Meister Supplies is smokers. From smaller home-sized smokes to industrial-sized units that have a trailer hitch for competitions. Michele said the brisket for Rosh Hashanah came out terrific.

Adding the homebrew side to the business wasn’t without risk; Midwest Supplies and sister company Northern Brewer, two massive companies in the homebrew space were already well-established in the Twin Cities. AB-InBev – the parent company of Budweiser, among many other beers – purchased those companies this year, and the Maders are still trying to figure out what it means for their business.

“We’re still trying to figure out the path, but It’s not great for the industry when you get someone like that with unlimited pockets into a highly fragmented industry that has the resources they do,” Randy said. “But what we’ve found is that there’s a negative backlash so could actually be good in growing some share. It could be tough to compete with, but there’s some resentment in the market. As a consumer, people like that we’re still the small, independent.”

The Maders, who own the business with Randy’s brother, Ryan, are in the business at an excellent time in Minnesota, with a booming craft beer industry that has driven growth. Nationally, the American Homebrewer Association reported 40 percent increase in the number of homebrewers between 2010 and 2013. There are about 1.4 million homebrewers in the U.S. right now.

“The people that come in are really happy and in terms of interest in craft beers, people are super happy to find us,” Randy said. “We’ve been [in the current location] about a year and it takes time to get the word out, but I’m bullish. The craft beer industry is here to stay.”

The India Pale Ale is a hoppy beer that is among the most popular in the craft-beer industry, where one-in-four craft beers are IPA. Of their pre-packaged kits, 10 are IPAs. The recipes are all one’s they’ve developed in-house.

“A lot of these names are a fun play on words,” Michele said, citing the Two Hear Ted IPA (a play on Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted) and Sweatpants Andy, named (lovingly, they swear) for their brother-in-law. For the more experienced brewer, they sell a full array of grains, hops and malts to build your own recipe – or emulate a recipe found online.

Ryan answers a lot of the customer’s questions, says one of the biggest one he gets has to do with people thinking it’s more work than it is.

“If you have a kettle and a kit – the beginner kits are all in one – and three hours later you’re done brewing,” Randy said. “The one thing people don’t like is the bottling process.”

Said Ryan: “I bottled once, but it turns out we have everything you need to keg.”