In this article I’ll run through our brewery software and every other piece of software I can think of that we use at Black Hops.
We started Black Hops in 2014 with one app, Whatsapp, which we used to text back and forth our ideas for our original beer the Eggnog Stout. While we still use Whatsapp, over the years we’ve had to discover and implement lots of other software apps to help us run and expand the business. We thought it would be useful to go through them all here. Keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list and we regularly change the apps we use as the business changes. Also we did a recent podcast where we went through some of those, you can have a listen to that here.
We use Beer30 as our main tool for managing production at Black Hops. When we signed up for Beer30 it was relatively new and we were one of the first breweries in Australia to use it. We had become frustrated with other smaller production tools and didn’t like the look of the big production suites used by the major breweries. We were also a bit small at that time to be looking at one of those systems. Beer30 has grown a lot since we started using it thanks to great work by their founders and developers. They have built a lot of great super critical features into the product which we are now using, like Invoicing / distribution / Xero integration etc.
There is still a fair bit that Beer30 doesn’t do and like anything that does this many things, we do have a few frustrations with it. But overall it’s a solid system that is getting better every day.
The support from the Beer30 team is outstanding and we are currently working with them on an app to sync Beer30 with our CRM (Pipedrive).
We also use Google Sheets for lots of things including a production schedule and production log. The production log pulls together high level brewing information in one central place and allows us to make sure things like quality checks are all done properly before beers are released into the wild. We’ve also configured it to give us some nice reports. Beer30 should ultimately be able to do all of this for us, but it wasn’t quite there when we were ready to start a full scale production and quality system at Black Hops II so we set up some spreadsheets for it. We use Google Sheets for lots more things including all of our manual reports we do each week and each month. Everyone can contribute to sheets and docs at the same time and there’s no software needed (all web based).
Ever since we started Black Hops, we’ve been communicating mostly via message to get things done. At first it was WhatsApp back in 2014 when it was just me, Eddie and Govs.
Once we got a bit more serious around 2015 we set up Slack and we’ve been using that ever since. At the time Slack was a new competitor in the company intranet / chat space, but these days it’s one of the most established company communication tools in existence.
All Black Hops staff have a Slack account, we use it instead of email for the most part and to avoid people messaging on other platforms. Most staff don’t have email accounts.
Our company Slack has grown into a bit of a monster since then with over 100 channels, 30+ people, lots of integrations and automations and much more. It’s an awesome tool but can get a bit overwhelming sometimes with the amount of messages flying back and forth on there. On any given day there could be over 1,000 messages sent on Slack.
G Suite Email and Calendars
For email, calendars and documents we use the business version of Gmail called G Suite. It’s super easy to use, no IT people are required and is very cheap and powerful.
Other Messaging Apps
We also use other messaging apps from time to time when communicating with others outside the company like Whatsapp, SMS and FB Messenger.
We use Zoom for multi-person calls and some of our online initiatives like our online GABS Revival call with our Ambassadors. It works flawlessly and is very easy to use. Slack can also be used for calls but we don’t tend to use it too much for that.
Point Of Sale
We now use Square at both taprooms for point of sale. We also use it for our taproom membership system and at events. It’s very simple to use and does a great job.
Our website is the same one we’ve had since 2014, built on WordPress and upgraded and extended many times over the past years. We use X Theme as the main theme which is a powerful drag and drop editor and theme that lets you do almost anything visually on the site without code. We also use 30+ plugins for various things including WooCommerce for our online store, Gravity Forms for online forms, PowerPress for the podcast and many more.
We also have a few custom scripts on the website, a few tweaks to enable us to use WooCommerce as a mobile ordering system for our Supply Drop app and a custom script that we wrote for our Beer Finder.
We use a white label version of Good Barber for our Supply Drop app. You can read about how we built the Supply Drop app here. We also have a custom script in WordPress that our drivers use to mark deliveries as delivered and to get order details etc.
The website doesn’t require too much more than that. I use Photoshop for images and very occasionally use Filezilla for uploading specific files and even more occasionally Dreamweaver for code. The site is hosted with Cloudways, which is an awesome service that gives you a nice interface for managing servers on some of the major wholesale hosting providers like Digital Ocean, Amazon AWS etc. Our is hosted on Amazon AWS who have servers in Australia.
For social media we mainly use the native apps; for the platforms we use Instagram, Facebook Pages app, Twitter (a lot less) and Untappd. We use the Repost app for re-sharing Instagram posts.
We use Pipedrive as our CRM and have done so since the beginning. It’s an awesome platform but not specifically designed for beer sales. So we have configured it quite a bit throughout the years to do what we need it to do.
We also have a lot of double entry getting deals from Pipedrive into Beer30 (they don’t talk to each other). This is something we are working on with a new system we’ve just built called Pipe30. We’ve worked with our developer and the Beer30 guys to keep the fields across both systems synced. This means deals get added by the sales reps in Pipedrive and then the Chair Force just needs to review them and tweak them slightly to get them into Beer30 and Xero. In the past they were manually entered 3 times, once this is live they will only be entered once.
Deputy can do many other things, currently we use it exclusively for rostering. It’s an improvement from spreadsheets and enables you to easily monitor attendance and drill down to specific employees’ shifts etc. It can also work as a tool for staff to clock on and off and it can also sync to Xero but we currently don’t use those features.
Xero For Payroll
We use our accounting system Xero to manage Payroll and leave and other high level HR matters. We’ve been using Xero since we first formed the company back in 2015.
Design And Marketing
Our marketing is mostly done via word of mouth or organic content channels, so we don’t have too much fancy software. However we do occasionally use a few tools for doing a small amount of brand activations and for creating beer labels / brochures etc.
Adobe Suite: Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign
Any time we get any design work done (through a whole bunch of different designers) we insist if possible that the designer use the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite and that editable source files are included with the project handover. We have in-house licenses for these tools, so once the project is finished we can edit them, re-purpose them or modify them down the track for other products, or even use them and work with different designers.
Most of the design work we do is vector based so we generally use Illustrator. Examples are beer labels and decals. For non vector projects (or for some quick internal things like small A5 signs for the taproom) we use Photoshop. An example could be a corflute sign with an image of a can on it and a price. For most print applications, in particular multi-page projects, we use InDesign. Examples are our investor prospectus documents.
We use Adobe Audition to edit the files for our podcast. We could probably use a cheaper or free app for the job but we pay for the Adobe suite and Audition is awesome software. We have a Steinberg mixer and 4 Rode Procaster mics. It’s a setup that makes for great audio but was pretty cheap to set up, coming in at around $800.
We use ActiveCampaign for email marketing. It’s easy to use, pretty powerful with tagging and automated sequences etc and is reasonably priced. We’re on the lite plan which doesn’t allow integrations but we have other workarounds for that, specifically; ConvertBox for opt-in forms, WP Fusion for website integration and Zapier for CRM and POS integration. We send out a monthly newsletter and lots of different emails to multiple lists and tagged groups across different parts of the business (taproom, Black Hops Reserves, Online Store customers, Investors etc).
I use Lucid Chart for flowcharts. It’s a fully online tool that does things like org charts and floorplans etc. We use it for our org chart and I use it when designing the layouts of the taprooms.
We don’t have too much fancy delivery software, the drivers just use Google Maps and use the ‘Want to Go’ saved list to add in their deliveries each morning.
Supply Drop Drivers App
We built our own app for the drivers for Supply Drop that lets them select a zone, mark a delivery as ‘added to maps’, view all order information and then mark a delivery as completed (which will mark the order as complete in WordPress). It also enables us to manually send a non Supply Drop order through to the drivers app in case we want to deliver something ourselves and not via a courier.
I use this inbuilt Apple app personally to manage my reminders and tasks based loosely on the Getting Things Done method. If I get an email or Slack message or call that requires something done it goes into my task system. I leave Slack messages and emails unread until I’m in a position to translate anything that comes through into the task system. Email happens a few times a day, Slack happens way too much. The task lists I have are:
- Tasks – All current active tasks to do
- Reminders – Any future tasks
- Do but not at work – I have things that come in that I need to do but aren’t work related so I keep them in this list.
- Waiting for – Any time I ask someone for something and it’s someone who I’m not fully confident will get back to me without follow up, I put the task in this list and check it regularly.
- Someday / Maybe – Any tasks that aren’t that important but I don’t particularly want to forget about them.
Other Black Hops staff use different systems for tasks, some people use pen and paper, some use Trello. Some weirdos use their brain?
We sometimes use Trello for project planning and some people use it for tasks. We used it early on for Supply Drop deliveries until we built our own drivers app.
Accounting and Finance
We use Xero as our accounting software and for Payroll and find it ideal.
We use Hubdoc for expense invoices. Employees will Slack or email our accounts person receipts, who will then use Hubdock to make the process of getting it into Xero easier.
We use Futurli for forecasting. It connects with Xero and replaces forecast numbers with actuals as they come in. It’s very powerful and it enables me to have constant communication back and forth with our internal accounts person and our external accountant. We can build in assumptions for how numbers look as we grow and then modify them as the real numbers come in. We previously used a spreadsheet for this which was good but Futurli is way better.
We use Registry Direct for managing our shares with investors. Investors can log in themselves and see their shares, print share certificates etc. When we do new investment rounds, we load all of the information into Registry Direct. Before we did crowdfunding it wasn’t really necessary but with over 550 investors, you need some software for managing it all.
We use EziDebit for direct debits with wholesale customers. It’s not something we enforce but we do have a few customers on direct debit.
Other Financial Services
For taking payments on the website we use PayPal and Stripe. Stripe also has a feature that supports Google Wallet and Apple Pay. It means if you are on our site on a product page on chrome browser and you have a Google account, you can click the button to instantly check out (and skip the traditional checkout). The same applies with Apple pay on your phone.
We have a lot of reports that are done for managers and founders. These are mostly done manually in Google Docs. Examples are: weekly reports for production, Supply Drop and Online, Taproom, Sales etc and monthly reports for sales, production, Supply Drop and Online and Social media. Watch out for a dedicated post on this topic soon.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below.