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Cornelius News

At Lost Worlds Brewing, it’s all about building community

Dave Hamme, founder of Lost Worlds Brewing / Photo by Tripp Liles

Nov. 10. By Tripp Liles. Starting a new business in the best of times is challenging but imagine starting a craft beer business during the onset of a global pandemic. That was the task faced by Dave Hamme, founder of Lost Worlds Brewing in Cornelius, who with a dedicated staff managed to not only survive but thrive in these trying times.

The original idea of starting a local brewery was natural to Hamme who. as a home brewer and business consultant, had a feel for the ever-growing craft beer industry.

Business proposition

His business instincts knew the local economy would support a product dedicated to quality and innovation so he invested with his heart and his head.

“I thought we could do something different, we can innovate this industry,” Hamme said. “First you’ve got to have great beer. And being a home brewer I knew I had to hire one of the best brewers around and the proof is we have 17 medals on our walls.”

Dave Hamme with Dave Gonzalez, head brewer for Lost Worlds / Photo by Tripp Liles

The man responsible for those medals is craft beer industry veteran Dave Gonzalez who serves as director of brewing and head brewer. Together these two are forging a new path in the ever growing craft beer movement.

And then COVID hit

The initial business model, however, did not have a pandemic “how-to guide” so the adventurous mantra of Lost Worlds was put to the test immediately.

As they opened in the spring of 2020, COVID interrupted our lives, making in-person taproom sales nearly impossible. So Hamme and his staff made a quick pivot to establish off-site retail sales.

Initially that part of the business plan was to begin in year two, but due to COVID, it became a priority in the first week.

Getting creative

“So [because of COVID] our taproom is shut and we had to get creative. A lot goes into this. You have can designs, label approval, bar codes…there are a lot of pieces that have to come together,” Hamme said. “In a week I had to learn all of that. This accelerated us a year and a half. We canned immediately two of our beers. I found grocery chains and someone to buy our beer. That was the first thing that kept us afloat. Boom, we have some revenue coming in the door.”

That revenue was forthcoming due to production innovation and the overall quality of the beer. The Lost Worlds beers are rapidly carving out a local market share with their unique flavors and hip branding.

Lost Worlds basecamp beers are served year round / Photo by Jason Benavides

“We have two groups of beers. One we call our basecamp beers that are year around and our adventure beers come in and out. We are building our cadence to what those are over time depending on what people like,” Hamme said. “At the end of the day we want people to come in here and have conversations. Our names are a way to start conversations. They are named after historical events, locations or individuals. We want our beers to have not just a name behind them but a feel.”

Billion-dollar industry

This passionate philosophy is a core theme running throughout the craft beer industry. In a year of unprecedented challenges, the industry contributed over $62 billion to the United States economy. In the state of North Carolina, the industry is ranked ninth nationally and contributed over $1.8 billion in 2020 to the state economy according to Brewers Association.

“Even in a challenging year craft breweries are a powerful economic force at the local, state and national level. As consumers continue to demand a wide range of high quality, full-flavored beers, small and independent craft brewers are meeting this growing demand with innovative offerings, creating high levels of economic value in the process,” said Bart Watson, Brewers Association chief economist.

Staying local

However, it’s not all business. The craft beer industry is unique in that it serves a local community and building close ties to non-profit and advocacy groups is essential to the overall success.

Lost Worlds Brewing has strong community partners such as Pat’s Place Advocacy Center, Carolina Raptor Center, Big Hearts Big Barks and American Foreign Academic Research. They also support local yoga and run clubs and feature music and even trivia in their open air biergarten.

“You can’t do this on your own. We’ve created a brand through Facebook, Instagram and newsletters and our logo is on everything. People know us and they know what we look like,” Hamme said. “If you get out there and have conversations and dialogue that goes back and forth, people will tell you what they want. ‘We want a run club, we want to have trivia’ and we’ve had a lot of things that have popped up. And we have a great group of regulars coming in. And I’m thankful for them because during Covid they were the backbone that kept us going.”