Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => Going Pro => Topic started by: nateo on February 04, 2012, 12:49:18 AM

Title: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on February 04, 2012, 12:49:18 AM
This sounds like a stupid question, but I'm serious. Specifically, what sorts of skills and knowledge do you need to be a brewer?

My father-in-law wants to buy a brewpub (5-10bbl) in the next couple of years and wants me and my wife to run it. As far as the business end of it goes, he's good at that sort of stuff. He used to own/run a bar, among other things. My wife used to work as a sous-chef, so she can run a kitchen. Being into brewing, he wants me to run the brewery.

Is it realistic for me to gain the knowledge to run a pro brewing system in that time? I've been on the probrewer forums and have seen how many brewers are looking for work. Would it be wiser to hire a brewer?

I've read through a lot of threads on here and elsewhere about running a brewpub, and it seems like the brewing part is the least important part, with the restaurant and the "business" part of it being where most people struggle. 

I don't really have time to do an internship anywhere, and there isn't really anywhere close to me where I could. I've seen things like the Siebel institute online courses, but I'm leery of that. They seem to be just like the culinary institute, and I've worked with some graduates from culinary school that couldn't even dice an onion properly.

I've got a good handle on science and a bachelors, and I think I can learn things pretty easily. We're currently running a retail store / campground together, so I'm used to running a business and the whole "always on-the-clock, married to your job, crazy long hours" thing.

Any advice on how/where to get the skills I'll need? I've been reading some technical brewing books, but anything else?
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: a10t2 on February 04, 2012, 12:59:37 AM
I'll go out on a limb here and say that it's almost impossible to run a brewhouse without prior experience. The actual brewing is more or less identical to home brewing, of course, but the equipment and most of the non-brewing tasks don't really translate. On top of which, you don't really know if you'll even like the job at this point.

My advice would be to hire a brewer to open the place and brew for the first few months on a contract basis, with you as assistant brewer. That will get you up to speed and also give you an idea of whether or not you even want the job.

In the meantime, start thinking of your home brewing as if you have a production schedule to maintain. Keep a budget. Manage your supply chain - no trips to the LHBS the day before you brew. Start refining a dozen recipes at most. Pare your yeast strains down to three or four and learn to manipulate them as best you can. Keep a calendar and make sure that when you rack out of a fermenter there's a brew session scheduled to fill it. The non-brewing aspects of operating a brewery are the hard parts.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on February 04, 2012, 01:43:27 AM
From my experience brewing is the easy part.
We as a homebrewers know the mechanics of brewing.

Where the challenge is is the size of brewing equipment.
Thing like that you can not put 15 feet of 1.5" brewing hose in sanatizing bucket.
Shake your fermenter with sanitiser to sanitise it...
Mill 400 lb of grain a pop.

You will go thru "holy crap it is large" stage.
Then you get used to the size of vessels, amount of grain and you will get more comfortable.

Each brewing equipment has to be learned and that takes time.
Practise make perfect.

I agree that you have to work on schedule.
Once you build expectation you have to meet that expectation.
If you do not you will be in trouble.
People will stop coming to your place.

I run production brewery.
I have done it.
I did not have prior experience.
I produce about the same amount of beer as small brewpub.

Think about it long and hard.
Brewpub is VERY expensive proposition.
In general you make about 11% of sales from your beers.
Rest is the food.

Good Luck.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: speed on February 04, 2012, 02:59:33 AM
and may i add, you better have damn good food or they won't come back even if the beer is good.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: beersk on February 08, 2012, 03:57:23 PM
and may i add, you better have damn good food or they won't come back even if the beer is good.
I don't think that's true at all, not everyone goes out to eat AND drink.  Some people just want to stop somewhere after work for a couple beers and head home for dinner.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: denny on February 08, 2012, 04:14:02 PM
and may i add, you better have damn good food or they won't come back even if the beer is good.
I don't think that's true at all, not everyone goes out to eat AND drink.  Some people just want to stop somewhere after work for a couple beers and head home for dinner.

Based on my own actions and what I've seen and heard from others, I think you're underestimating the importance of food.  Most people who go to a brewpub, including myself, won't go back if the food isn't top notch.  Sure you get some who go there only to drink, but most of the $$ is made from the food, not the beer.  As much of a beer geek as i am, I won't be there just for the beer.  There are too many other choices, at least around here.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on February 08, 2012, 04:19:58 PM
I'm not sure about all, but in many instances food is really the driving force of a brewpub. The beer is more a novelty. I'm sure you can make it work if you have a business model where the food is secondary, but it is a lot of money to open a kitchen and hrie a wait staff only to have the food suck and no one come.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: narvin on February 08, 2012, 04:21:01 PM
You'll figure it out.  Someone is buying you a brewery.  Go for it!

Just make sure you're ready for a LOT of work.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: tschmidlin on February 08, 2012, 05:33:50 PM
There is a brewery near me with a "tasting room" that is as nice as any brewpub I've been to.  Their food consists of pretzels, but you are welcome to bring your own food and there is a pizza place nearby that delivers to the brewery all of the time (and has theme pizzas to go with beers - they have a great relationship).  The brewery is always packed, and will give you plates/napkins/utensils if you need them.

Just like you don't want to serve crappy beer, don't serve crappy food.  If you can't do it right, save the money on the kitchen and just let people bring their own food.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on February 08, 2012, 05:47:28 PM
There is a production lager brewery in Ann Arbor that has a tasting room, but no food.  They have great beer and are usually packed.  You can bring in, call for pizza, or whatever.  It is not uncommon to see a food cart parked near the entrance.  If there are a number of food carts in the area of the brewery, you could even have them have a rotation set up, so the food varies.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: anthony on February 08, 2012, 05:54:51 PM
When I was visiting my folks in Colorado around the holidays, there were quite a few breweries that had tasting rooms with no food of their own but allowed you to bring in food. They were all pretty popular (Oskar Blues, Left Hand, Odells, Grimm Brothers, etc.)

Oskar Blues seems to keep a food truck specializing in BBQ parked outside their new production brewery in Longmont.. I didn't try any but it looked pretty nice.

I absolutely agree with the other posters, if you can't or don't want to do food, you shouldn't do a brewpub.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: jeffy on February 08, 2012, 06:41:03 PM
Here in Tampa we seem to be having a food truck fad.  Cigar City calls on one every Friday afternoon to park outside the entrance to the no-food served tasting room.  It's actually pretty cool.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on February 08, 2012, 07:14:32 PM
We visited a brewery in Indianapolis right before Thanksgiving,  Flat 12.  Pretty good beer, nice area to drink. They had a pizza cart outside then. Now they have teamed up with the artisan meat producer that is across the steet.  We might have to visit Flat 12 next time we go to see family.

If you have something similar nearby making good cured and smoked meats, it would be a good match.

http://flat12.me/blog/
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: euge on February 08, 2012, 07:31:38 PM
I've been fantasizing a bit too. ;)

If I were to do it- the choice would be for a production brewery. A tasting room? Yes. But all I'd want to do is concentrate on the beer. That's it. Have bread- pretzels are a good idea and/or peanuts in the shell to soak up some of the alcohol. No messing with any other than the beer, the packaging, selling and distribution.

And if someone, say a relative wants to open a food truck/cart outside that would be just fine. Doing bbq sandwiches like chopped beef and brisket or smoked chicken.

But also, I've been thinking a small-scale artisan distillery would be more profitable. That's where I'm leaning to. But nuff said about that! 8)
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: Slowbrew on February 08, 2012, 07:47:49 PM
I've been fantasizing a bit too. ;)

If I were to do it- the choice would be for a production brewery. A tasting room? Yes. But all I'd want to do is concentrate on the beer. That's it. Have bread- pretzels are a good idea and/or peanuts in the shell to soak up some of the alcohol. No messing with any other than the beer, the packaging, selling and distribution.

And if someone, say a relative wants to open a food truck/cart outside that would be just fine. Doing bbq sandwiches like chopped beef and brisket or smoked chicken.

But also, I've been thinking a small-scale artisan distillery would be more profitable. That's where I'm leaning to. But nuff said about that! 8)

It's like you read my mind.

My wife and I are managing a couple of concession stands at the men and women's home games for a certain university here in Des Moines this season.  It's a fund raiser for our kid's high school band.  That's all the closer I ever want to get to food service management.

I've been thinking a decent sized production brewery or a small batch distillery would be the way to go. 

I'm only half joking when I tell my friends and family that Iowa is going to be the largest producer of distilled spirits anywhere in the world in about 10 years.  You can't spit without hitting an ethanol production facility in this state right now.  Once the government stops propping up 10% ethanol in gasoline the whole market will collapse.  There should be quite a few high volume, food grade, production facilities available on the cheap.  Stop adding gasoline to the alcohol and start aging it in barrels and you're all set.   Should be easy, right?  8)

Paul
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on February 08, 2012, 07:57:28 PM
Agreed re:food carts. I actually suggested the same thing to someone in another thread. I lived in Denver for about 5 years, and Great Divide has been partnering with food trucks at their taproom for a while now.

We're looking for breweries or pubs in the Caribbean. There are a handful for sale right now in our price range, but we're not really close to being able to pull the trigger. I'm leaning more towards a brewpub. I've only been to a few places in the Caribbean, but the beer was bad and the food was worse. With how many fancy white guys go there on vacation, I'm surprised there isn't better food and drink.

My wife would be running the kitchen if we go that route, so I'm not concerned about the food at all. She's way better at cooking than I am at brewing, and she has experience running kitchens.

I've thought about distilling a few times, but I don't know much about that. Is it easier/cheaper to make money distilling?
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: richardt on February 08, 2012, 08:56:19 PM
We're looking for breweries or pubs in the Caribbean. There are a handful for sale right now in our price range, but we're not really close to being able to pull the trigger. I'm leaning more towards a brewpub. I've only been to a few places in the Caribbean, but the beer was bad and the food was worse. With how many fancy white guys go there on vacation, I'm surprised there isn't better food and drink.

Do your due diligence.
It is often difficult, if not impossible, for foreigners (i.e., US citizens) to set up a brewery or alcohol-related business in a different country.
You can't in Belize, for example.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on February 08, 2012, 09:23:13 PM
Do your due diligence.
It is often difficult, if not impossible, for foreigners (i.e., US citizens) to set up a brewery or alcohol-related business in a different country.
You can't in Belize, for example.

That's interesting. Where did you find that out? Do you know any resources to look for that sort of thing?

The breweries we found for sale are owned by foreigners, but none of them are in Belize.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: beersk on February 09, 2012, 06:12:54 PM
There is a brewery near me with a "tasting room" that is as nice as any brewpub I've been to.  Their food consists of pretzels, but you are welcome to bring your own food and there is a pizza place nearby that delivers to the brewery all of the time (and has theme pizzas to go with beers - they have a great relationship).  The brewery is always packed, and will give you plates/napkins/utensils if you need them.

Just like you don't want to serve crappy beer, don't serve crappy food.  If you can't do it right, save the money on the kitchen and just let people bring their own food.
I like this business model.  The brewpub I go to most often around here is like that.  They just have popcorn.  They also have guest beers every Thursday from Midwest breweries.  There's several places to get food from around there.  Kinda sucks that you can't just have someone bring it to you, like your waiting staff, but whatever.  They still draw a good crowd. 
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: richardt on February 09, 2012, 07:56:14 PM
http://belize.com/belikin-beer-belize (http://belize.com/belikin-beer-belize)

the Bowden estate owns over 1/6th of all the land in Belize.
they have the monopoly on both Coca-cola (no Pepsi in Belize) and beer (Belikin).

A craft brewer is still unable to brew his own beers legally in Belize--I recently met a nice young American couple in San Pedro, Ambergis Caye, Belize, C.A.  As I understand it, they had some money and a dream to open Ambergis Brewing Company selling coffee, pastries, light meals, and craft beer.  They're able to do everything but the craft beer, approval for which are still going through appeals and reviews...i.e., stonewalling.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ambergris-Brewing-Company/183617811648761 (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ambergris-Brewing-Company/183617811648761)

Just a cautionary tale.



Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: phunhog on February 11, 2012, 06:22:09 AM
My dream is too have a very small brewery when I retire.  Pints and growler fills only, no onsite food. It seems like a big hassle(kitchen, employees, health department). My local brewery is pints and growlers only and they are doing very well. People bring in their own food, get food delivered, and of course they have food trucks on weekends. I really think this might become the wave of the future for breweries.....actually it sounds like it already is.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bob on February 20, 2012, 05:56:21 PM
We will be having a corner BREWERY on every street corner by the time all us boomers retire!
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: boulderbrewer on February 22, 2012, 04:01:04 AM
Food trucks and serving local breweries best beers along with your beer is what you maybe banking on.  A tap room should not compete with the local bars, you are selling kegs to them (if a package brewery) . Close early and hand out drink chips. I never knew you could get NG Belgian Red on tap until I went to a friends brewery and tap room.

Ever try that?
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bo on February 29, 2012, 04:01:40 AM
You may already be a pro. You don't have to sell or produce mass quantities to be a professional.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: morticaixavier on February 29, 2012, 04:27:56 AM
You may already be a pro. You don't have to sell or produce mass quantities to be a professional.

you do however have to get paid for it. otherwise you are an amatuer
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bo on February 29, 2012, 04:32:06 AM
You may already be a pro. You don't have to sell or produce mass quantities to be a professional.

you do however have to get paid for it. otherwise you are an amatuer

Money doesn't make you a better brewer, nor does it make you a pro. I know many people that are hobbyists in various fields, that I'd put up against most "pros" in a minute.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: morticaixavier on February 29, 2012, 04:33:13 AM
You may already be a pro. You don't have to sell or produce mass quantities to be a professional.

you do however have to get paid for it. otherwise you are an amatuer

Money doesn't make you a better brewer, nor does it make you a pro. I know many people that are hobbyists in various fields, that I'd put up against most "pros" in a minute.

yeah that's true. I also know lots of people who could go up against pros but the definition of professional is that you get paid for it. amateur means you do it for the love of the thing.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bo on February 29, 2012, 04:44:37 AM
A registered professional engineer can get certified as such and never make a penny doing it.  He's still very much a pro. There are many certifications that this applies to. Maybe a buddy gives me a dollar for a homebrew. Am I a pro? Not in my book.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: morticaixavier on February 29, 2012, 05:09:55 AM
A registered professional engineer can get certified as such and never make a penny doing it.  He's still very much a pro. There are many certifications that this applies to. Maybe a buddy gives me a dollar for a homebrew. Am I a pro? Not in my book.

"pro·fes·sion·al   [pruh-fesh-uh-nl]  Show IPA
adjective
1. following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder.
2. of, pertaining to, or connected with a profession: professional studies.
3. appropriate to a profession: professional objectivity.
4. engaged in one of the learned professions: A lawyer is a professional person.
5. following as a business an occupation ordinarily engaged in as a pastime: a professional golfer."

and

"am·a·teur   [am-uh-choor, -cher, -ter, am-uh-tur] Show IPA
noun
1. a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons. Compare professional.
2. an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize."
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: phunhog on February 29, 2012, 06:05:58 AM
I don't know about this whole amateur vs. pro thing... ::)  I like to see brewing as more of an art form than a "profession". That being said I have friends who play in bar bands on weekends. They get paid but they definetly don't consider themselves "professional".  They do it because they love it, but I am sure it is nice to make a little on the side.  Kinda sad but ultimately it is the government who decides who is professional.....
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: boulderbrewer on February 29, 2012, 06:45:03 AM
Arguing about sematics? Why would you want to do that, when we all have plenty to learn.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on February 29, 2012, 02:21:48 PM
Instead of "pro-brewing" I have been calling it "commercial brewing" to avoid people getting their feeling hurt/dander up, whatever. I know some homebrewers who know more about brewing than some pro - ahhh, I mean commercial brewers.  ;) And I have found the homebrew community rich with creative ideas. Some of the best beer you will ever taste without question is homebrewed.

OTOH I would para-phrase Steven King who says a "professional writer is one who writes something, gets paid for it and pays the utility bill with it." I think the same thing applies here. Also, I will point out that most commercial brewers (myself included) brew several times a week (I brew 3 - 4 times a week now) and we eat, breath and sleep brewing all day, every day and often well on into the night. I don't have many times during the day when I am not thinking about something regarding the brewery, often I fall asleep wondering if my yeast shipment will arrive or wake up worrying if the glycol pump is still functioning. So there is a "pro" aspect to it that goes beyond just an "art form". And, FWIW I am a trained artist and I consider brewing a "craft" not an art form but boulder is right - enough of semantics already.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on February 29, 2012, 07:22:28 PM
Re: Pro v amateur. Glad we got that sorted out. Anyway, I'm going to start brewing on a schedule like some of you suggested.

I'm also looking into opening a nanobrewery in the meantime. I know it's not a great business decision, but it's cheaper than Siebel or UC Davis (since we already have a building that could work, and wouldn't have to pay rent/utilities), and should be a great learning experience for when we buy a "proper" brewery.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: tschmidlin on February 29, 2012, 07:30:36 PM
Re: Pro v amateur. Glad we got that sorted out. Anyway, I'm going to start brewing on a schedule like some of you suggested.

I'm also looking into opening a nanobrewery in the meantime. I know it's not a great business decision, but it's cheaper than Siebel or UC Davis (since we already have a building that could work, and wouldn't have to pay rent/utilities), and should be a great learning experience for when we buy a "proper" brewery.
Obviously you can do whatever you like but, financial things aside, this seems like a questionable decision to me.  Learn by homebrewing and giving it away, as soon as you start selling there is an expectation of higher quality and you will get a reputation.  If you're not sure that reputation is going to be positive, you might not want to sell the beer.  Once you get a rep as a bad brewer it can be hard to overcome, and you don't want that following you into the next venture.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 01, 2012, 03:29:13 AM
Learn by homebrewing and giving it away, as soon as you start selling there is an expectation of higher quality and you will get a reputation.

Oh man, I wish that were true. I've drank so much awful beer at so many profitable brewpubs I can't count them all. I would never count on the general public to have good taste.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: phunhog on March 01, 2012, 06:01:19 AM
Learn by homebrewing and giving it away, as soon as you start selling there is an expectation of higher quality and you will get a reputation.

Oh man, I wish that were true. I've drank so much awful beer at so many profitable brewpubs I can't count them all. I would never count on the general public to have good taste.

I have often wondered how places with bad or even marginal beer stay in business.  I agree with Nateo...the general beer drinking public doesn't really have much taste.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 01, 2012, 12:00:14 PM
I have often wondered how places with bad or even marginal beer stay in business.  I agree with Nateo...the general beer drinking public doesn't really have much taste.

I read an article about blind tastings. Expert sommeliers can't tell the difference between a red and a white if they're served at the same temperature and in an opaque glass. Most people can't tell the difference between pate and dog food. Enjoyment of a product is largely about context. That's why breweries put little stories on their bottles, and go to the trouble of corking and caging, and applying foil to tops.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 01, 2012, 12:40:13 PM
I've read and listened to the stories of sommeliers but it wasn't that they couldn't tell the difference between red and white wine but rather they couldn't tell the difference between an $8 bottle and a $50 bottle. I'm pretty sure most of us could tell the difference between Amber Bock and Celebrator. ;)

Regardless, not sure how many of you were beer drinkers in the early 90's but a very similar situation was happening then that is happening now. Lots of breweries popping up here there and everywhere. Lot's of these people had the dream first of opening a brewery and then learning how to make beer. That bubble burst and most of those breweries that were making sh!tty beer went down the toilette and drug a bunch of the good ones down with them.

Well, the exact same thing is happening again now. People should not start with idea of a brewery but with the passion for crafting beer. way too many people are enamored by the stainless steel tanks and equipment and volume and not enough about the yeast and fermentation and malt and hops.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 01, 2012, 01:06:18 PM
I've read and listened to the stories of sommeliers but it wasn't that they couldn't tell the difference between red and white wine but rather they couldn't tell the difference between an $8 bottle and a $50 bottle. I'm pretty sure most of us could tell the difference between Amber Bock and Celebrator. ;)

Regardless, not sure how many of you were beer drinkers in the early 90's but a very similar situation was happening then that is happening now. Lots of breweries popping up here there and everywhere. Lot's of these people had the dream first of opening a brewery and then learning how to make beer. That bubble burst and most of those breweries that were making sh!tty beer went down the toilette and drug a bunch of the good ones down with them.

Well, the exact same thing is happening again now. People should not start with idea of a brewery but with the passion for crafting beer. way too many people are enamored by the stainless steel tanks and equipment and volume and not enough about the yeast and fermentation and malt and hops.

This has been clear to me for the last year or so.  There are people out there that have brewed some beer, think it is great, and want to open a brewery.  The beer is flat out bad, and they don't have a clue.

On the other side of the coin, just because you make good, or even really good beer, it does not mean you will be successful.

There are places springing up all around here.  Some will not last. Some of the established breweries are expanding, but they have a handle on quality, and will grow more.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 01, 2012, 01:15:46 PM


On the other side of the coin, just because you make good, or even really good beer, it does not mean you will be successful.

Agree. Just like any business there is a chance you will fail no matter how good you are. Perhaps the fail rate is even greater with breweries.

When I first planned to open my brewery there was one other local brewery making pretty bad beer, and one other brewery in Alabama that had just started up making good beer a couple hours away. By the time I opened my doors two other breweries sprung up locally and two more in state. The one making "pretty bad beer" failed. Two of the other breweries had deep pockets and have expanded rapidly. Just last month another "brewery" opened it's doors (I use quotes because they contract brew but they are calling themselves "local") and I know of another brewery in development and two others at least in planning.

There is no way that all of us will be able to survive. I feel lucky that we got started when we did because tap space is going to start filling up but expanding is going to be quite a challenge.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bo on March 01, 2012, 01:17:57 PM
Be sure you love to brew, because there are many other ways to make better money.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 01, 2012, 04:50:45 PM
I studied audio engineering in college before I switched programs. I knew a lot of people graduating ahead of me with plenty of skill and talent who couldn't find jobs. Even internships were hard to impossible without being friends with someone who owned a studio. One of my friends told me to just drop out and spend my tuition money on my own studio, because he learned more in one year working for himself than he did in four years in school.

When I got interested in brewing, I ran into a similar situation with brewers. Even when I lived in Denver, I couldn't find breweries who were willing to take on interns or volunteers. Most of the breweries I talked to either had their friends volunteering already, or didn't want to deal with the hassle of volunteers. Like in audio, I think brewers are looking at the kids trying to get started and thinking about how that'll slice into their piece of pie, so I don't blame them for not training new people.

I know finding a way into the brewing industry is something a lot of people struggle with, even people with brewing degrees and lots of internship experience. If nepotism and money can get me into the brewing industry, I'll take it.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: dcbc on March 01, 2012, 05:15:14 PM
Can't recall if this was mentioned yet, but consider going the Brewer's Guild Program.  My friend that just opened a 15 barrel production brewery took the time to take that course and got a ton out of it.  We can all make beer.  But there are so many little things that he was on top of from the get go when he was getting his shop setup that I know he would have never thought of had he not delayed the business to get the education.  I know there's a waiting list; he was on it, too.  But people drop out and it wasn't nearly as long as it was originally supposed to be.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 01, 2012, 06:43:16 PM
Can't recall if this was mentioned yet, but consider going the Brewer's Guild Program. 

I would love to do that program, but at this point it's cost-prohibitive. We would have to hire at least a full time and part time employee, or two full time people, to replace me at our current business for 6 months. I think it might be cheaper to hire an out-of-work brewer to train me, as Sean suggested.

If there ends up being enough time between when we sell this place and buy the brewpub, the program might be feasible. Or maybe another tornado will come through and wipe out our whole operation. Then I'd have plenty of free time.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: phunhog on March 02, 2012, 12:55:54 AM
Lots of good advice around here! I think ultimately it all depends on what YOU want out of the deal. All I want out of owning a small brewery is the ability to brew more than 200 gallons a year,  having local people stop by for a pint or growler, and the ability to donate beer for local charity fundraisers. These are all things that are currently illegal for homebrewers to do, at least in my state.  I am not quitting my job nor looking for a second career. You could even look at it as an extension of homebrewing but with the chance to make a little money, which is more than I make homebrewing ;)
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on March 02, 2012, 01:04:30 AM
Lots of good advice around here! I think ultimately it all depends on what YOU want out of the deal. All I want out of owning a small brewery is the ability to brew more than 200 gallons a year,  having local people stop by for a pint or growler, and the ability to donate beer for local charity fundraisers. These are all things that are currently illegal for homebrewers to do, at least in my state.  I am not quitting my job nor looking for a second career. You could even look at it as an extension of homebrewing but with the chance to make a little money, which is more than I make homebrewing ;)
The only issue with your plan is that you can not brew commercially from place of your residence.
That mean that you will have to pay rent and other expenses that you do not accrued when you brew at home.
When you homebrew you brew at will.
When you brew commercially you have to meet expectations.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 02, 2012, 01:26:00 AM
You could even look at it as an extension of homebrewing but with the chance to make a little money, which is more than I make homebrewing ;)

Just be aware that you will most likely need to brew on at least a 3 bbl scale to make any money to compensate your time. Also, as Thirsty has mentioned - it may not be legal to brew on your premises (but it might depending where you live.)

When I was homebrewing on my 12 gallon system I was downright greedy with my beer. I never gave away growlers and I would not have entertained selling either even if it was legal simply because no one would have wanted to pay what it was worth to my time. If you came over to my house I would gladly drink the beer with you, because that was part of the fun. But 12 gallons, let alone 5 gallons, of homebrew is some of the most expensive beer in the world if you look at the time involved.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 02, 2012, 03:16:16 AM
Just be aware that you will most likely need to brew on at least a 3 bbl scale to make any money to compensate your time.

Major, how big is your system? I've been crunching the numbers for a 3bbl system, and I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how guys make any money on a 3bbl system. It looks like you could break even, which would be fine for what I'm wanting to do, but I'm having a hard time seeing how some brewers can support themselves on systems that small. Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic?
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 02, 2012, 03:32:26 AM
perhaps you didn't see my "brewery update" thread, but I have a 15 bbl system up and running now. I'm only currently filling 7 bbl fermenters though. I'm also running the "pilot" system full time. Hoping to add some larger fermenters this year. I seriously doubt you could ever make money on a 3 bbl system. You could break even though, as long as you don;t mind working 30-40+ hours a week for free.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on March 02, 2012, 03:34:12 AM
Just be aware that you will most likely need to brew on at least a 3 bbl scale to make any money to compensate your time.

Major, how big is your system? I've been crunching the numbers for a 3bbl system, and I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how guys make any money on a 3bbl system. It looks like you could break even, which would be fine for what I'm wanting to do, but I'm having a hard time seeing how some brewers can support themselves on systems that small. Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic?

Remember that 3 BBL brewhous can make a lot of beer.
If you brew double batch 4 days a week that is 24 BBL a week (a lot of work thou).
Tanks are the most expensive equipment in the brewery.

It also depend if you sell beer in house or wholesale.
You generate 3 times as much sales when you sell in house.
Then of course there is more expense with in house sales.

I brew 20 to 30 BBL a month (I could brew up to 60 BBL a month).
I double brew and I brew 2 to 3 day a month.
I self distribute and I spend a lot of time talking to my customers and making deliveries.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: boulderbrewer on March 02, 2012, 04:19:33 AM
You could even look at it as an extension of homebrewing but with the chance to make a little money, which is more than I make homebrewing ;)

Just be aware that you will most likely need to brew on at least a 3 bbl scale to make any money to compensate your time. Also, as Thirsty has mentioned - it may not be legal to brew on your premises (but it might depending where you live.)

When I was homebrewing on my 12 gallon system I was downright greedy with my beer. I never gave away growlers and I would not have entertained selling either even if it was legal simply because no one would have wanted to pay what it was worth to my time. If you came over to my house I would gladly drink the beer with you, because that was part of the fun. But 12 gallons, let alone 5 gallons, of homebrew is some of the most expensive beer in the world if you look at the time involved.

That is why I never had your beer! I have to go to your house. Makes sense now. LOL!
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: phunhog on March 02, 2012, 05:51:21 AM
Just be aware that you will most likely need to brew on at least a 3 bbl scale to make any money to compensate your time.

Major, how big is your system? I've been crunching the numbers for a 3bbl system, and I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how guys make any money on a 3bbl system. It looks like you could break even, which would be fine for what I'm wanting to do, but I'm having a hard time seeing how some brewers can support themselves on systems that small. Maybe I'm being overly pessimistic?

Thanks for all advice...maybe I am being overly optimistic. Now I know we aren't supposed to talk about price on this forum so I won't. I see a bbl though as just a little over 250 pints. Now times that by the "going rate" for a pint of craft beer.  If you were to sell 3-4 bbls a month, via a tap room, I "should" be able to pretty easily cover my costs i.e. (rent, utilities, taxes, grain, etc..). Of course, like I said earlier, I am not looking at this as a career change. It doesn't have to make a lot of money, but it can't lose money.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: anthony on March 02, 2012, 06:11:16 AM
It will depend on your rent, how much utilities are you in your area, what sort of improvements you have to do to the facility, how much your various insurance premiums are, etc. If you pay yourself absolutely nothing, it will be easier to break even as well, at least on paper.

A BBL is definitely not over 250 pints though.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: boulderbrewer on March 02, 2012, 06:41:51 AM
a half barrel at $450 per served as a pint is optimistic. How many pints can you sell at 3.75. How many hours are you open, what are you paying for that?
Who is pouring and are you making the local bars(customers) mad because you are cutting them out with your tap house, cut your hours (less money) and sell to bars cut your margin. The story is, it is a tough business, It will take a full time job to get the part time pay. If you can do it all the better and when we meet I will toast a pint with you.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 02, 2012, 12:15:27 PM
You might could make it work on a 3 bbl system if you served most of it out of your own door. I've never run the numbers for that. I am thinking production brewery only. I am not set up right now to open a tap room, but one of the local breweries who has is making enough to cover their lease and then some - and I know their lease ain't cheap because they are leasing the quipment as well.

But think about the other problem of liability insurance, hiring help to serve and clean (unless you plan on doing all the brewing and serving and cleaning).
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 02, 2012, 01:00:45 PM
The logistics of selling 750 pints in-house at a taproom would depend a lot on location. A lot of people don't like to drink a lot without eating something, and a lot people don't like to drink a lot and then drive home (far too many probably do). If your taproom is open 30 hours a week, you'd need to sell 25 pints/hour to sell 3bbl in a week. You'd probably always need about a dozen people in your taproom to make that work. You'd probably need capacity for two or three times that during peak business. Serving and seating that many becomes an issue at that point, and a 3bbl system in a brewpub/restaurant starts to make a lot more sense.

Great Divide taproom in Denver was crazy busy on ballgame nights because it was walking distance from the field, but a lot of the time there are only one or two people drinking there.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on March 02, 2012, 08:26:29 PM
I am opening a tap room in spring. I am hoping to start selling package beer in cases too.
I am not sure if I cover rent with it. Most likely not. We will see.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: phunhog on March 02, 2012, 10:59:56 PM
You know the more and more I think about it.. I should really consider Plan B for now.  Give away the beer to local's and sell brewery merchandise.  A lot less potential headaches....plus who doesn't like free beer ;)
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 02, 2012, 11:55:34 PM
I've been crunching more numbers, and reading up on liquor laws in Missouri. Thanks to direct-to-consumer wine shipping laws, a 2bbl nano-meadery would be between 2-7x more profitable (depending on how much I could sell direct and how much wholesale) than a 3bbl nanobrewery. It would also require a lot less time and effort brewing, and a lot less equipment.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 03, 2012, 12:52:24 AM
I've been crunching more numbers, and reading up on liquor laws in Missouri. Thanks to direct-to-consumer wine shipping laws, a 2bbl nano-meadery would be between 2-7x more profitable (depending on how much I could sell direct and how much wholesale) than a 3bbl nanobrewery. It would also require a lot less time and effort brewing, and a lot less equipment.

So after a hard day of brewing you pour yourself a tall glass of .... mead. Bleach. Mead sucks. I don;t see why anyone would want to drink it let alone make it.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 03, 2012, 12:59:57 AM
So after a hard day of brewing you pour yourself a tall glass of .... mead. Bleach. Mead sucks. I don;t see why anyone would want to drink it let alone make it.
Come on Keith, tell us what you REALLY think. :)
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: The Professor on March 03, 2012, 02:10:45 AM
I've been crunching more numbers, and reading up on liquor laws in Missouri. Thanks to direct-to-consumer wine shipping laws, a 2bbl nano-meadery would be between 2-7x more profitable (depending on how much I could sell direct and how much wholesale) than a 3bbl nanobrewery. It would also require a lot less time and effort brewing, and a lot less equipment.

I could believe it.  Mead is more expensive to produce due to the cost of honey (although the process takes considerably less effort than brewing beer), but then again, you could sell it for more.  And if you make a very high quality, well aged one, you can sell it for considerably more. 
A good mead is as good as the finest of fine wines.  But the very best meads do definitely benefit from a long aging.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 03, 2012, 02:46:10 AM
I'm a very recent mead enthusiast. Schlafly Brewing in St Louis made a sparkling mead for their taproom. AFAIK it was just a one-off thing, but it was really, really good. Mead doesn't have to taste like cheap white wine, but it usually does. The mead world just needs some beer brewers to show them how it's done. That's part of why I think selling a good mead might be a relatively untapped market, whereas good beer is fairly abundant and doesn't sell for much.

The biggest downside would be having to have a lot more cellaring space for all the stuff while it ages.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 03, 2012, 02:40:16 PM
I certainly don't hate wine but I only drink it maybe 3 or 4 times a year. I certainly don't get jazzed up about drinking it. I can honestly say I've never had a mead I really liked, but I understand not all people have the same taste as me. But brewing jazzes me up. I love drinking beer and I love making beer. If I could not make a brewery work and had to open a meadery/winery up it would be like a consolation prize. I'd personally rather go back to graphic design the to have to dick around with something I don't truly love. Obviously that's just me talking. But dig deep down because it may be you too.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: euge on March 03, 2012, 06:00:48 PM
Hmmm.

There's good and bad mead. From what I've learned it is at least if not more as complicated to make excellent mead as beer.




Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 03, 2012, 08:07:25 PM
One of the things I really enjoy about homebrewing is being able to brew to taste, not to style, and being able to try a lot of different flavor combinations. I think the attitude with craft beer is changing, and I'm seeing a lot more small batch, one-off brews from breweries, but the bread and butter is the "regular" lineup. I think beer drinkers in general expect a lot of consistency from one batch to the next. Wine drinkers seem to enjoy the fact that different vintages taste different.

Ideally I'd like to have a brewery that only makes small-batch, one-off beers and gets like $40 a bottle for them, but ideally I'd have a draft system built into my rocket car. I'm not holding my breath for either one.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: phunhog on March 03, 2012, 08:31:05 PM
I think the hardest part of opening a meadery is getting people to try the product.  Most people have no idea what it is and fewer people like it enough to actually buy it.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 03, 2012, 09:00:04 PM
Hmmm.

There's good and bad mead. From what I've learned it is at least if not more as complicated to make excellent mead as beer.

Maybe there's good and bad for you, but I just don't really like it. It's the honey flavor I don't care for. I love honey on biscuits but I don't like to drink it.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: dcbc on March 03, 2012, 09:21:53 PM
Can't recall if this was mentioned yet, but consider going the Brewer's Guild Program. 

I would love to do that program, but at this point it's cost-prohibitive. We would have to hire at least a full time and part time employee, or two full time people, to replace me at our current business for 6 months. I think it might be cheaper to hire an out-of-work brewer to train me, as Sean suggested.

If there ends up being enough time between when we sell this place and buy the brewpub, the program might be feasible. Or maybe another tornado will come through and wipe out our whole operation. Then I'd have plenty of free time.

I hear you.  It is a good chunk of cash. Still, I would bet he has saved as much as he spent on the course in being able to set the brewery up right the first time. There is so much he did that he said he would not have thought to do had he not taken the course.  He was running a law practice while he was taking the course by correspondence, mostly late at night after putting his three kids to bed.  I don't know how he did it all.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 03, 2012, 09:47:14 PM
He was running a law practice while he was taking the course by correspondence, mostly late at night after putting his three kids to bed.  I don't know how he did it all.

Huh, I didn't look closely enough at their website. I didn't know they did correspondence courses. I thought I was going to have to go to VT or CA for the course.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: a10t2 on March 06, 2012, 04:55:34 PM
I think it might be cheaper to hire an out-of-work brewer to train me, as Sean suggested.

I'm REAL cheap! ;)
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 06, 2012, 06:12:21 PM
I'm a very recent mead enthusiast. Schlafly Brewing in St Louis made a sparkling mead for their taproom. AFAIK it was just a one-off thing, but it was really, really good. Mead doesn't have to taste like cheap white wine, but it usually does. The mead world just needs some beer brewers to show them how it's done. That's part of why I think selling a good mead might be a relatively untapped market, whereas good beer is fairly abundant and doesn't sell for much.

The biggest downside would be having to have a lot more cellaring space for all the stuff while it ages.

You can make good mead that is ready to drink in excellent condition in less time than it take to make a lager.  It doesn't have to take a long time.  Ken Schramm has shown the world how.  He started making homebrewed beer, became fascinated with mead, and wrote the book on mead making.  So yeah, he showed the world how its done.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 06, 2012, 06:26:10 PM
Beer brewers really get the short end of the stick in this country.  I'm sure this varies by state, but in Missouri it seems way easier to get a winery up and running than a brewery.

State Winery license fee- $5/500gal - includes being able to make, distribute, and sell retail by the bottle and by the glass on the same premises.
State microbrewery license - $5/100bbl - may not distribute, or own a distribution company.
State 22%-and-under alcohol manufacturer license - $200/year, requires you to buy separate wholesale license for $200 to distribute, additional $300 retail-by-drink license if you want a tasting room.

The winery license allows you to ship direct-to-consumer. For any type of malt beverage, you have to go through the 3-tier system. Even if you go the route where you're technically a "manufacturer" and own your own distro company, you still have to pay the taxes for selling it to yourself. Wineries also have more lax regulation, more like an agricultural product, than breweries, which are more like a food manufacturer. As far as I've found, wineries are not regulated by the FDA, while malt breweries are.

Hopfen: I actually ordered Ken's book. It should get here tomorrow. I can't wait to read it.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 06, 2012, 06:45:30 PM
Ken had a Zymurgy article published after the book where he talks about staged nutrient additions. 

Steve Piatz covers making mead under the meadmakers Panel. Find and open it, no direct link.

http://www.ahaconference.org/past-presentations/2010-presentations/

Some of the staged nutrient additions are in the recipes from Ken's talk at the 2011 NHC. Direct link here.

http://www.ahaconference.org/seminars/simple-to-advanced-meadmaking-friday/attachment/mead-making-basic-to-advanced-2/
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: weithman5 on March 06, 2012, 10:03:16 PM
and may i add, you better have damn good food or they won't come back even if the beer is good.
I don't think that's true at all, not everyone goes out to eat AND drink.  Some people just want to stop somewhere after work for a couple beers and head home for dinner.
but most of those people stop at bars and not restaurants
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: dcbc on March 08, 2012, 05:34:21 PM
He was running a law practice while he was taking the course by correspondence, mostly late at night after putting his three kids to bed.  I don't know how he did it all.

Huh, I didn't look closely enough at their website. I didn't know they did correspondence courses. I thought I was going to have to go to VT or CA for the course.

He spent a weak at Harpoon in VT as an internship after the course was complete, but did the rest of it in his living room in Texas.  Just got off the phone with him.  He said the cost of the course has paid for itself 10X in what he probably saved in setting up his brewery with the knowledge gained from it versus what he knew before.  That may be a mathematical exaggeration, but I get his point.

Here's a link to the "distance education" American Brewer's Guild course.  You need to be really focused to take this on by correspondence, but he certainly does vouch for its value.

http://www.abgbrew.com/distancedinfo.htm
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bbump22 on March 10, 2012, 12:37:34 AM
As a Pro Brewer...You would be very wise to hire a brewer who has experience with startups...There are brewing consultants out there for this particular purpose...but you said you would be buying a Brewpub, so that tells me it is already up and operating...if that is the case, keep the current brewer on staff, invest in a quality 10 gallon pilot system ($3k), and have him/her adjust the beers to what your vision is until you are up to the task.  Don't then drop the brewer who helped you get to where you are...Keep them and pay them well...it takes more than one person to run a brewhouse, even in a brewpub.   

My story, I started as a homebrewer, never went to Siebel (its intended for larger breweries, with more technical equipment, not brewpubs), got into the industry by volunteering at a 10 bbl startup on the West Coast, moved to the East Coast and now work for one of the top 10 CRAFT (under 50k bbls) breweries in the US.

Cheers and Goodluck!

Dont let the downers get to you, if you have a vision, believe and pursue!
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bbump22 on March 10, 2012, 12:46:09 AM
About the food...I interviewed at Portsmouth Brewing Co. and they run a 7 BBL system and have 15 BBL FVs.  What the Brewmaster, Todd Mott told me was that they make about $8k per tank.  Think about it man, it might cost ~ $800 (on the very high end) to brew 2 x 7 BBL batches Some people said you will make all your money off food...bogus and very wrong...you'll make about .30 cents a plate off food....but beer wise, if your charging about $4-$5 per pint and it cost $1 to produce that pint, your making 80% profit....and thats being conservative.  I worked at a 10 bbl Production brewery with a tasting room and we made about 90% profit margin on pint sales. 

Just do the math man...

And look up RePublic Brewing - they were in the planning stages, never got their funding together, but shared a lot of great resources with folks....

Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: a10t2 on March 10, 2012, 01:08:11 AM
Some people said you will make all your money off food...

I don't think anyone said that. Several people have pointed out that a brewpub will do most of its *sales* as food, though.

The rule of thumb for casual dining restaurants is an 80-85% margin. About the same as draft beer.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bbump22 on March 10, 2012, 01:56:50 AM
I saw one comment on the first page that said "you will make most of you $$ of food", (didnt read the 5 pgs in between) so I generalized...but I agree that food is an entirely different biz then just selling beer. 

As a craft beer enthusiast though, I could care less about the food as long as the beer is good and you have some decent apps.  I like having a few beers and a few different appetizers on a Friday or Saturday...Never have I have gone to a brewpub because of their food.  For me, its food second.  Its all about your money maker, the beer man!

 
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: boulderbrewer on March 10, 2012, 05:27:09 AM
Kieth think braggot and the 4x premium.


very good info bbump22
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 10, 2012, 12:44:44 PM
I saw one comment on the first page that said "you will make most of you $$ of food", (didnt read the 5 pgs in between) so I generalized...but I agree that food is an entirely different biz then just selling beer. 

As a craft beer enthusiast though, I could care less about the food as long as the beer is good and you have some decent apps.  I like having a few beers and a few different appetizers on a Friday or Saturday...Never have I have gone to a brewpub because of their food.  For me, its food second.  Its all about your money maker, the beer man!

 

Of course beer enthusiasts care about the beer. But their wives, and the 80% of the rest of the population, care about the food. It's a well known fact in the industry that the beer is really a novelty in a brewpub. Not in all instanced, but in a vast majority. If your food sucks you are not going to be in existence long in most cases. Not many people are going to be lining up at 11:30 am on a Tuesday to drink your beer for lunch, so how are you going to stay open? In any restaurant you need to keep people coming in the doors all week long, not just Friday and saturday nights or for a few hours a week during happy hour.

Again, there are exceptions, but not many.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: nateo on March 10, 2012, 02:34:59 PM
It seems to me the biggest factor in success of a brewpub is location, both having a high-traffic location in the town, and being in a town that cares about good food.

Good beer and good food are only appreciated in certain geographical pockets. Growing up in Colorado, I took good food and good beer for granted. Even the smallish/hickish town I grew up in (Fruita CO, FWIW) had a couple of Thai restaurants within driving distance. Being raised in a culture with an above-average appreciation for food and drink really skewed my perception of how much "average" people care about the quality of what they consume.

Living in Missouri, the situation is completely different. The closest town to me has a population of 14k, and probably 20 fast food restaurants. There are a few locally-owned restaurants I've found to be passable, one that's good but never has any customers, and all the rest are aggressively bad, yet very busy. The beer situation is similar. With a few exceptions, mostly in St. Louis and KC, you can't get good beer in restaurants here. There are a few small outfits trying to change things, but they've only started in the last couple of years, and who knows if they'll be successful or not.

Even if you make the best beer and best food, if your customers don't want that, you won't stay in business long.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bbump22 on March 10, 2012, 04:25:52 PM
Can you share with me where these great brewpubs are with great food you speak of?  Id like to try them out.
Title: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: denny on March 10, 2012, 04:49:15 PM
I saw one comment on the first page that said "you will make most of you $$ of food", (didnt read the 5 pgs in between) so I generalized...but I agree that food is an entirely different biz then just selling beer. 

As a craft beer enthusiast though, I could care less about the food as long as the beer is good and you have some decent apps.  I like having a few beers and a few different appetizers on a Friday or Saturday...Never have I have gone to a brewpub because of their food.  For me, its food second.  Its all about your money maker, the beer man!

 

I really think that you're in the minority.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 10, 2012, 05:04:15 PM
Can you share with me where these great brewpubs are with great food you speak of?  Id like to try them out.
Grizzly Peak in Ann Arbor.  Hop Cat in Grand Rapids (they brew 3 barrels at a time, but have about 40 guest taps so they are also a beer baar).  Those come to mind quickly.  Oh, yeah, Redwood Lodge in Flint.

Pelican Pub in Oregon.

Revolution in Chicago.

There are a few production breweries that have really good food, but you wanted brewpubs.



Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bbump22 on March 10, 2012, 05:13:11 PM
Most likely I am...Im not arguing Denny, it was just my 2 cents and by no means am I an expert.

Brewpubs are great and I love going to them, personally I have a tough time finding ones on the East Coast that I go to for the food.  When I lived in Seattle, my favorite place to go was Maritime Brewing Co and I went for the food!  But on the flip side, I would go to Pike Brewing Co for the beer/location and eat before I went.  Im in Portsmouth now and Portsmouth Brewing is a great brewpub but I go for the incredible beers...The food is average.  Again, just my 2 cents.  Regardless, Im still going to go to brewpubs, gotta support the local brewers. 

Working/owning a brewpub would  be a dream job though, all the freedom you would have to be creative is pretty tempting to want to start one.  Much higher risk and investment compared to opening a production brewery though.  Best of luck to everyone interested in starting one...Hope to visit one day. 
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bbump22 on March 10, 2012, 05:14:51 PM
Can you share with me where these great brewpubs are with great food you speak of?  Id like to try them out.
Grizzly Peak in Ann Arbor.  Hop Cat in Grand Rapids (they brew 3 barrels at a time, but have about 40 guest taps so they are also a beer baar).  Those come to mind quickly.  Oh, yeah, Redwood Lodge in Flint.

Pelican Pub in Oregon.

Revolution in Chicago.

There are a few production breweries that have really good food, but you wanted brewpubs.

Always wanted to go to Pelican Pub.  I have family in Chi-town so I will definitely check out Revolution, Thanks!
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 10, 2012, 06:03:25 PM
We made one of our beers at Grizzly Peak.  It is the biggest brewpub by volume in Michigan.  They have the head brewer Duncan, and his 2 assistants.  We hade to grab something from the kitchen, and as we were back there before the lunch rush, I noticed the line of chefs/cooks doing various tasks. There is also the front grill and pizza oven that are staffed.  This says nothing of the dishwashers, busers, and servers.  Lots of staff, many multiples of the brewers and bartenders (they have 2 bars in the place).

Here is another fun fact.  When we were at beer camp and asked how many people worked at Sierra Nevada, the number was big, but that included the Taproom/Kitchan staff which outnumbered the brewery staff at the second largest craft brewery.

Title: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: denny on March 10, 2012, 07:49:57 PM
Can you share with me where these great brewpubs are with great food you speak of?  Id like to try them out.
Grizzly Peak in Ann Arbor.  Hop Cat in Grand Rapids (they brew 3 barrels at a time, but have about 40 guest taps so they are also a beer baar).  Those come to mind quickly.  Oh, yeah, Redwood Lodge in Flint.

Pelican Pub in Oregon.

Revolution in Chicago.

There are a few production breweries that have really good food, but you wanted brewpubs.

Always wanted to go to Pelican Pub.  I have family in Chi-town so I will definitely check out Revolution, Thanks!

Here in OR great food at brewpubs is the norm.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: bluesman on March 11, 2012, 02:15:16 AM
Brewpubs are great and I love going to them, personally I have a tough time finding ones on the East Coast that I go to for the food. 

Another very fine brewpub with great food is Iron Hill Brewery. They are in the tri-state area DE/PA/NJ.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?Right now I'm not bringing her any f##king
Post by: majorvices on March 11, 2012, 05:05:12 AM
I'd like to hear from the brew pubs you folks are going too that have great beer but crappy food.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?Right now I'm not bringing her any f##king
Post by: bo on March 11, 2012, 01:34:32 PM
I'd like to hear from the brew pubs you folks are going too that have great beer but crappy food.

Oak Creek brewery should call you. It's good when you've had a few beers and it's food, but I wouldn't call it good food. Of course they distribute to local bars and I think that's where most of their business comes from.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on March 12, 2012, 01:18:38 AM
I saw one comment on the first page that said "you will make most of you $$ of food", (didnt read the 5 pgs in between) so I generalized...but I agree that food is an entirely different biz then just selling beer. 

I said that. If you run a brew pub you will have about 11% sales from beer.
I stands behind that.
If you have just a tap room and you do not serve a food then your sales are 100% from beer.

It depends what you want do do.
I also think your math is quite optimistic.

I still wish you a good luck.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: boulderbrewer on March 12, 2012, 02:48:01 AM
We are going to bring in food trucks(trailers) to provide food and encourage call ins at our tap room. This may be the way the "Garage Breweries" compete with the Brewpubs.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: majorvices on March 12, 2012, 03:29:20 AM
A distributing brewery with a tatsing room is a totally different story. You are supplementing your monetary percentage with the tasting room - maybe 5, 10, 15% or more (but doubt too much more). But it is not the primary source of your profit. A brewpub is mostly reliant on people coming to the establishment to consume the product. Totally different scenario. Food is usually a huge deal. Again, not always, but as far as the "model" goes, the primary incentive. Beer needs to be good too to truly be successful.

I'm not talking about gourmet food. Hell, most people think Appleby's is great. I'm just saying you have to have decent food and that as much as we like to think the beer is #1 it is really only a gimmick in most brew pub cases. certainly not saying that is cut and dry, just sayin' that it is the case for a vast majority.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?
Post by: kohlerbeer on March 20, 2012, 07:57:02 PM
Brewpubs are great and I love going to them, personally I have a tough time finding ones on the East Coast that I go to for the food. 

Another very fine brewpub with great food is Iron Hill Brewery. They are in the tri-state area DE/PA/NJ.

I work in West Chester PA, and I love Iron Hill.  Those guys run a great place.  Excellent food and great beer.  They started as homebrewers.
Title: Re: How hard is it to be a pro brewer?Right now I'm not bringing her any f##king
Post by: a10t2 on March 20, 2012, 08:02:01 PM
I'd like to hear from the brew pubs you folks are going too that have great beer but crappy food.

I used to work at one. Of course, they only had great beer while I was there... ;)