Jay Harman joined Cisco Brewers right after graduating from Fairfield University in 1996 and is now the CEO. What started out as a hobby during school concocting different brews in between classes and writing his senior thesis project on microbreweries has turned into a life long passion. Working with 5 other parters, Cisco Brewers has grown tremendously since Jay joined the company to include Triple Eight Distillery and Nantucket Vineyards. Late last year, a partnership with Craft Brew Alliance Inc was formed to further help Cisco Brewers expand their reach more cost effectively.
While visiting Cisco Brewers one hot day in August, Jay spent some time giving a tour of the facilities and providing Sweet Travels with his latest scoops on new product offerings (rose in a can…very refreshing), recent awards, and event happenings. A visit to Nantucket is not complete without spending an afternoon exploring Cisco Brewers.
1) Your passion with Cisco Brewers started with your senior thesis paper. What drew you to Cisco Brewers from a business standpoint (flavor, location, production, people)?
I had visited Nantucket several times with my girlfriend and I knew I wanted to make it my home. I also knew I wanted to open a microbrewery. During my studies at Fairfield University, I met Randy and Wendy Hudson the original founders of Cisco Brewers. They had been working with Dean and Melissa Long who founded Nantucket Vineyards in 1982. I knew it was the right fit for me and fortunately I was offered a job right after graduation to join Cisco Brewers.
2) You mentioned you received your Masters degree from Cambridge College in Boston. How did you go to school in Boston while working full-time in Nantucket?
We were able to create a program in which professors came to Nantucket Thursdays-Saturdays to teach the classes. It was an incredible opportunity for my colleagues and I to use real life experiences on location as part of our MBA program. The professors enjoyed the unique opportunity too. Not a bad way to get a Masters Degree!
3) Nantucket is a beautiful place to work but it is also very expensive from an operations and production standpoint. How does the seasonal aspect of operating on Nantucket affect your business from a production, retail, and human resources perspective?
Since Nantucket is an expensive place to live and operate a business, we have expanded our operations off island to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This increased our craft beer production significantly as we are now selling in 21 states. At our location in Nantucket at 5 Bartlett Farm Road, we focus on our retail business. Cisco Brewers is open every day of the year and during the peak months we get upwards of 1,000 visitors a day, 200,000 annual visitors. We bring in live music daily and we offer a variety of food trucks on premise. We are fortunate to have a steady group of employees and we offer educational opportunities to our team. In fact, last winter a team of 40 employees traveled to Nicaragua to visit a Nicaraguan brewery.
4) Cisco Brewers has joined forces with two other lines of business, Triple Eight Distillery and Nantucket Vineyard. Has that changed the feel of the company?
Not at all. Walk around 5 Bartlett Road and visit the Brewery, the distillery and the tasting room for the vineyard and it still feels like a small campus. We have a community of friends, business partners, employees who all work together to make this a really fun place to work and live. Nantucket is a special place and I love it here.
5) What are the most popular selling beers, vodkas and whiskeys at Cisco Brewers?
Sankaty Light, Blueberry Vodka and Notch Single Malt Whiskey.
On a side note from Moira McCullough of Sweet Travels…I can attest to the Blueberry vodka which tasted like real blueberries…only problem is I did not bring enough bottles home. Guess I need to make another trip to 5 Bartlett Road soon. Late October seems like the perfect time of year to plan an Octoberfest type weekend away with friends.