This week, we're exploring the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in Ludlow, Ky. Check out our story about Second Sight Spirits here.
A local clown is taking major steps to rejuvenate and nurture Ludlow's business interests, and he’s not joking around.
Paul Miller, a.k.a. Pauly the Clown from Circus Mojo, is a forward-thinking businessman. His newest venture into beer brewing, Bircus (pronounced beer-cuss) Brewing Co., is projected to be a means to an end for his already existing circus education program that provides both job training and entertainment to Ludlow’s residents.
Bircus thinks, acts and spends locally. Inhabiting the old Ludlow Theater, Miller and his troupe aim to invert the old idiom of “the circus comes to town,” and instead, bring the town to the circus.
“We are not going to worry about canning, bottling or putting Bircus on grocery shelves," Miller says. "The goal is to become a destination. For seven years, we’ve been doing events in Ludlow, but we’ve been selling other people’s beer. The margins just aren’t there.”
Mixing hospitality with live entertainment, this business model is nothing new. Miller has collaborated with Matthias Vermael of Circus Planeet, a similar brewhouse-circus venture in Ghent, Belgium. The intent is to mix the theatrics of circus performance and the concessions of a brewery to maximize showtime profits.
The first public batch of Bircus beers was recently sold in the brewery’s parking lot patio area during this past weekend's Shop in Ludlow event.
Crowdfunding is the primary source of income for the fledgling brewery, whose funds currently stand near $300,000 of the $500,000 goal. Bircus is the first brewery under a new section of federal law that allows crowdfunding investors to buy equity.
“I did that so I can maintain control because I don’t want to argue with someone about whether or not 'bellydance night' made sense, or something like that,” says Miller. “I’ve said no to money for a long time, where people have said ‘I’ll give you all the money you want, I just want 50/50.’”
The goal, he says, is to keep the heart of the business beating and to refuse any notions of straying from the best interests of his circus and his local community of investors.
“I don’t want to be a Rhinegeist, I don’t want to buy 8,000 kegs and 40 trucks, there’s no reason. I can’t depreciate what I didn’t spend and I don’t have any loans, so there’s no amortization. Our self-distribution will be the biggest turnaround. Instead of making maybe fifty cents each six-pack, we hope to be making four or five bucks a pour.”
Bircus has signed a three-year lease with Norfolk Southern for a parking lot near the brewery to ensure convenience for visitors. This was procured so the brewery’s adjacent parking lot can be utilized for outdoor patio space.
The brewery is still under construction with no established opening day yet announced. Keep tabs on its Facebook page for up-to-date information.