How to open a brewery

#1 – why you want to start a brewery, your brewing experience (if any), how much money you’re going to invest and where, who the ingredients are from, location of the property that will be used for your brewery, what kind of equipment you want/need can get financed or buy outright… *please note* This is not an exhaustive list. Add anything else that feels relevant.

#2 – how to find a good brewmaster, what they can do for you and the brewery if hired, where to find one or how to advertise

#3 – sources of brewing ingredients: hop contact information, malt suppliers/contractors contact information, yeast supplier info… this is important! because you don’t want your beer tasting bad. also list any ideas for new or different ingredients that could be used by BEERS “that are sold as more traditional styles but can be cranked up in terms of flavor.” i.e. using honey instead of crystal sugar in an Irish red ale

Beer barrel with beer glasses on table on wooden background

#4 – lists with contact info on it that would help run a successful business: government resources (business development services), distributors list (where to find what products), accounting firms, marketing agencies…. Also add more if it’s relevant

#5 – loans you can obtain to start a brewery: Small Business Association, micro-loans, commercial financing, SBA 504 loan program for small businesses… and anything else you can think of

##6 – this is pretty common knowledge but i’m going to re-iterate it anyway. EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT IN YOUR KITCHEN THAN IN A BREWERY. The same way sewage doesn’t pour into your bathtub at home like it does in the street, the same way your couch isn’t 10 feet tall because you’re sitting on 5″ stilts while watching TV… Your kitchen/house/apartment/whatever is not a brewery. ¬†Breweries have to be sterile, they need to lean towards having fewer bacteria than you would find at your house, the risk of contamination must be kept low or things are going to get messed up. You can use a food safety software to help you.¬†If you have a home kitchen (and a lot of people who want to start breweries don’t) then the process is going to be very different. Also, certain things are done at specific temperatures during the brewing process that will not work in your home kitchen!

#7 – Having an accurate scale can make or break your business when it comes time to brew [or sell] beer. I’m not just talking 5 pounds off here, i’m talking within 5 ounces of what your recipe/recipe calls for… You need to get Something You Can Trust (a good scale).  Get more than one if you’re doing extract batches and all-grain batches simultaneously. The cheapest option is probably one of those digital bathroom scales real quick.

#8 – how much money do i need? what should i set aside for insurance, taxes, business permits…. this is another question that is difficult to answer because it highly depends on your area and where you want your brewery located… The costs can vary wildly from region to region, remember! talking about them will help put any cost concerns into perspective. We know someone that got a really well paying yacht job to put enough money aside to open a brewery.

#9 – before we even talk about location of property (or space requirements), know that BREWPUBS are a thing and there are a lot of them out there. Open up your mind to the idea of where and what you want your brewery to be. Being stuck on the image of a small production brewery with no place for visitors is closing yourself off from the potential income that could be made by having other people in the brewery during business hours…

#10 – if you’re not set on being your own boss, brewpubs have much lower startup costs than microbreweries or production breweries do…. that’s an option. This article will focus on starting a microbrewery/production brewery because it requires more planning, research, organization and work. 

#11 – location: size requirements (how many square feet does your building need?), address zoning restrictions (are you in an area that allows alcohol production?), look at what your competition is doing/where they’re located (you don’t want to be within 5 minutes of another microbrewery), Get a HACCP plan, if you don’t know the HACCP meaning, you need to get on it as soon as possible.

#12 – space requirements vary widely.  It depends on how the brewery will be set up and if it’s a production brewery or not, which i’ll explain why very soon…. The equipment required for a brewpub is much smaller than that needed for even 100 barrels of annual brewing capacity, let alone over 1000+ as some larger breweries have… The size requirement needs to reflect YOUR brewery’s needs, not anyone else’s.  

#13 – equipment cost can get expensive, yo! Especially when you start adding extra stuff like: walk-in cooler/freezer, bottling machine, canning line, kegging equipment…. Does your brewery need all that? Maybe. maybe not. if you’re just getting started i’d say don’t get anything you don’t have to (small scale brewers will agree) – a tabletop or benchtop model is probably going to be fine for the first year-ish…

#14 – more equipment=more time and more money. Your brewing process has to stay consistent and it’s hard to do when technology changes every year and newer models are announced (every 3 minutes in some cases). I have no doubt that there is a great deal of pride in owning an older piece of equipment, but this isn’t something you want to take lightly: keeping your brewery equipment up-to-date can ensure smooth production processes.

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