Transition / Operations / Future Plans

From Africa to DC: The Next Chapter of Lost Nomad Brewing Company

July 06, 20247 min read
Lost Nomad Brewing Company in DC

Our journey in West Africa is coming to a close, and for the brewery it’s a good time to head back to Washington, DC for a beat. We’re not just moving; we’re evolving. We'll be in town for a year before we plant our flag kettles in Mexico City, and as we look back on our time in Africa we’re excited about how far we’ve come and where we’re headed.

Brewing in the Sahara: It’s Not a Mirage

Six Core Recipes

We've been busy fine-tuning six core beer recipes that we feel showcase the concept of “differences in beer based on where they’re brewed around the world”. Two lagers, two more-or-less earthy/funky ales, and two IPAs:

  • Tap Tap Haitian Lager: A surprisingly malty, hoppy lager that you wouldn’t expect to find in the Caribbean.
  • Como Se Dice Mexican Lager: A classic, corn-forward, refreshing lager. Tweaking this will be fun when we’re in Mexico City.
  • Flint Hills Farmhouse Ale: A rustic ale with a nod to the traditional funky farmhouse beers of the American Midwest.
  • Hachiko Japanese Saison: A secretly Belgian Saison but brewed with rice additions. Notably more crisp ale than the Farmhouse ale but just as interesting in its own way.
  • Best Coast West Coast IPA: Hop heads, rejoice. Close your eyes wherever you are in the world and this brings you back to the US Pacific Northwest.
  • The [Redacted] West African Coast IPA: Alcohol is illegal in the part of West Africa where we captured the yeast used to make this beer. It was tempting to make an NA beer or a hop water from this part of the world, but we couldn’t resist using the (low flocculant) yeast to make a Hazy IPA from the west coast of another continent.

The Unexpected Hero: Hop Water

Who knew Hop Water would steal the show? It’s become a crowd favorite for its refreshing taste and versatility as a cocktail mixer. It’s the surprise hit that’s outshining some of our beers, hard seltzers, and cold brew coffee. I’d be slightly offended at how popular it is if it weren’t so ridiculously drinkable, and makes the brewery a little more inclusive to those non-drinkers.

Note: do not surprise your spouse with a glass of hop water in the morning when they ask for water. Enough said.

Brewing Stateside

Earlier this year we kicked off showcasing our beers back to the States. By signing a contract brewing agreement with a DC brewery, we’re bringing our flavors to a wider audience in the DC/MD/VA area. Plus, thanks to a workshop from White Labs, our quality control game is on point. Simple tests now help us prevent or isolate contamination sources and diagnose fermentation issues like a pro. I can’t justify spending cash on an ATP meter or hemocytometer yet, but Christmas isn’t that far off. Family if you’re reading this…

Getting a Foothold

We’ve landed a handful of retail accounts in the DC area and filed our Statement of Use for the trademarks around Lost Nomad Brewing Company and the tagline “Exploration through Fermentation.” We went about as far as we could establishing a brand…from another continent.

My 2024 nomination for the understatement of the year: beer isn’t software. Retail owners want to meet the creators (at breweries of my size) when they make a purchasing decision.

What's Next on the Horizon?

Retail and Distribution

First order of business: more retail accounts and a distributor. This means draining our current Best Coast inventory through sales, events, and a little business development (aka handing out samples). We’re also eyeing local beer events like Hop Fest, Snallygaster, and maybe even Savor. I can get away with self-distributing for a while in the next 12 months but that will obviously come to an end when we move next summer.

Draft Accounts

Draft accounts are gold—less production cost, less spillage. They might also take a big bite out of production, easing the pressure on smaller liquor stores.

Community Engagement

We’re joining the local brewers guild, restaurant association, and the chamber of commerce. It’s all in-line with becoming part of the community. Squinting farther down the priority list: we’ll update our swag. It was fine for a while but we’re shifting into marketing and brand awareness, and we want swag that folks won’t throw away right in front of you. Hat tip again to CODO for making modular designs that can go on I think anything we can conjure up.

More Beer, More Fun

We’re planning additional production runs of the Best Coast West Coast IPA and the [Redacted] West African Coast IPA to show off our geographic differences in beer concept. Curiosity is a powerful motivator, and those interested in our West Coast IPA might just grab a comparison beer from West Africa too. Also, in several conversations I’ve had with retail folks tend to gravitate towards the West African Coast IPA since it’s truly unique with a great story. My prediction is that as it sells its existence will cause the Best Coast IPA to stand out (i.e., cool by association maybe).

Hop Water Production

We’re also considering a Hop Water production run. It’s (maybe?) the only hop water made in DC, perfect for the DC summer heat so this might be an experiment around May next year. If we do decide to do this, expect a post about the (surprising) wide breadth of hop water quality on shelves already.

Long-Term Aspirations

Less Hands-On, More Expansion

Once our sales pipeline is flowing with a distributor, we’ll expand our offerings to include more core beers. I'm my own sales team for now, so the focus will be on handing off accounts to a distributor once we’ve got them in place.

Tap Room in Mexico City

While we’re absolutely setting up another pop-up nano brewery in Mexico City, we’re likely going to shy away from establishing a brick and mortar there or doing any contract brewing with local breweries. Aside from the fact that we won’t be in CDMX long-term, our mission is to bring cultural influences in beer back to the States, not the other way around.

I’m excited for the local ingredients and unique flavors we might impart in our beers. Peruvian breweries use quinoa and Senegalese breweries use fonio. We resurrected yeast from West Africa, and we’re excited to incorporate unique, local ingredients from central Mexico.

US-based Tap Room

We’re in no rush, but we’re keeping an eye out for the perfect spot to plant our flag, whether in Southern Oregon (or the DC area if the right opportunity presents itself). Our story of bringing beer back from every place we’ve lived only gets richer with time and every new location we set up shop.

What’s Next?

The next 12 months are going to be an exciting evolution for Lost Nomad. We’re winding down tap room production in West Africa and shifting focus to production, sales, and marketing in DC. Integrating into the local craft beer scene is particularly exciting since we kicked off from a remote location which isn’t totally ideal for what is admittedly a very personal, craft business. And, of course, my lawyer is probably most excited that the paperwork will be easier now.

Cheers to this next phase and those local to the DC area should keep an eye out for our beer!

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