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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: bbump22 on April 13, 2010, 10:46:13 PM

Title: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bbump22 on April 13, 2010, 10:46:13 PM
I've always wondered why more homebrewer's don't decide to pursue their dream of having their own micro or nano brewery.  With all the great beers that Homebrewer's can make, why haven't you decided to take that leap?  Do some brewers really like their day jobs that much?  Is it $$ related? Is it the Risk factor?  Families to Support?  The paperwork?  If you're willing to share, I am curious to hear your reason for not making that leap from Home Brewer to Production Brewer. 

Cheers and happy brewing!
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: darvyle on April 14, 2010, 12:00:38 AM
bbump22,

For me its 2 fold. first i do enjoy my day job being a Quality Representative for Motorola is engaging. helping identify new processes and procedures to help make things easier, cheaper, faster is fun.   Secondly it is a hobby, a hobby to me is something i do in my free time.  I do have to admit i make free time to brew every month but it's all fun.  I'm brewing for me and no one else.  Their is a sort of anxiety around brewing something specifically for someone else.  In my mind that is what you do when you want to turn your hobby into a business, all of a sudden your not just brewing for the taste but brewing for what will sell.

I'll admit i've only been brewing for 2 years but i brew what i want, when I want, and enjoy every drop.  There is something empowering about that.

just to note i'm married (10 years in June), 3 kids, 2 car payents, 1 dog and a 1 house payment.  So you can understand how a lot of my time is devoted to other things and the security of a Day to Day helps make my life a little less stressful.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: weithman5 on April 14, 2010, 12:34:31 AM
i am still toying with the idea but i am already on second career. from submarine officer to physician.  i am still paying a lot of student loans for myself and have two in college (go buckeyes) and one yet in high school.  maybe soon.....
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: Hokerer on April 14, 2010, 01:28:36 AM
Once you make a hobby into a job, it seems it would lose most of it's appeal.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: denny on April 14, 2010, 01:38:33 AM
Once you make a hobby into a job, it seems it would lose most of it's appeal.

That's what I found.  I followed my dream and opened a recording studio 28 years ago.  It was great for a while, but eventually it became a job.  I'm in the process of closing it, and truthfully I'm looking forward to it being over.

That being said, I'd be a totally different person if I hadn't gone for it.  If you want to make a hobby into a job, go into it with your eyes open.  Be realistic about the bad things as well as the good things, and you'll enrich yourself with the time you spend doing it.  Then get the hell out when it stops being fun!   ;D
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: yugamrap on April 14, 2010, 02:28:40 AM
$$$$$.  Oh, and $$$$$ - and a little of what Hokerer and Denny said, too.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: boulderbrewer on April 14, 2010, 04:26:19 AM
Sometimes doing your dream takes time or never happens. For me it is just taking a bit more time than I thought.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: euge on April 14, 2010, 05:38:57 AM
There's a saying: "make your hobby your job and never work another day in your life."

This could be viewed positively or negatively. ;) LOL

Brewing as business is more complicated and fraught with bankruptcy than it looks but I say go for it if you want. Denny's correct of course: know what you're involving yourself in. Apprentice yourself to a Master and learn the ropes intimately. One day you might be known nation-wide.

Myself? I'm paid very well to perform my duties & responsibilities. And I'm always watching the old dogs. Those that have been doing it for 25-35 years. Maybe in my retirement if I'm still interested I'll start by sweeping floors in a brewery. But not now.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: MDixon on April 14, 2010, 12:00:51 PM
While we love it as a hobby, I'll wager most of us hate the cleaning and sanitizing process and in a production facility that is the majority of the work. If you think bottling at home is a pain, you should try to handle a filler and a labeling machine while bottles are coming off at 50-200 per minute.

For me it boils down to the labor and cleaning involved and the $ reward. Even as a micro owner the $ wouldn't be there for years and at this point in my life I really don't desire a pay cut.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: akr71 on April 14, 2010, 12:37:37 PM
1. $$$ and lots of it (which I don't have)
2. mortgage and a young family (which I do have)
3. its my hobby - I can postpone brewday for family or weather or illness and its no big deal.  I don't worry about how fast I get the brew session done, I try to stay relaxed and enjoy the day.  When I start to rush, I make mistakes and get forgetful - RDWHAHB!
4. While I don't always love my day job, its a Monday to Friday job with a pension and good benefits - I'd have neither of those and less time with my family if I had my own business.

Maybe when I'm drawing that pension (17 years left), I'll join euge and sweep the floor at a local brew pub or micro, but I'd prefer to have a chunk of land outside of town and run a hopyard!
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bluesman on April 14, 2010, 01:33:48 PM
+1

If you do go for it...just be prepared in every sense of the word and remember that the odds of success are against it.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bbump22 on April 14, 2010, 03:16:51 PM
Great responses folks, thanks for your reasonings and point of views.  All great points.  I

 have recently done some research by meeting and talking with brewmasters from nanonbreweries and "macro/micro Breweries" (ie. Redhook).  It was interesting to see the difference.  It felt like the brewmaster at the nanobrewery was approaching it where he obviously wanted to make $ from brewing, but was still brewing beers he liked and wasn't tailoring his product to the tastes of the general public.  You could see he still had the passion for brewing and its been great following his success to date.  I am not going to go so far to say that he has "made it" though, as the potential for fall out is greater because his beers tend to be of a more specialty variety (using s***ake and other unique ingredients), and there is no real sessionable beer that I could see patrons at a bar buying more than 1 or 2 pints of.  But that might not be his intended Market either...

As for the Brewmaster at Redhook, it was obviously more about them making money than the brewing.  They brew great beers and like many of you pointed out, they brew beers to sell to the public and make lots of money.  He did not understand why people open Nanobreweries on a 1 bbl system and said that the smallest one should go is a 7 bbl.  Mainly because you want to be able to have enough supply on hand to support the handles you have at any bars.  If a keg gets kicked at one bar and takes you 2 weeks to get them another keg, most likely you would lose the client.  He made some great points and don't get me wrong the brewmaster still enjoyed his job and was about 5 years away from retirement after 21 years in the industry.  His reason for not pursuing a dream was that he didn't want to take on the risk of ownership and potential failure since someone else was willing to do it for him (the owner of the brewery he was working at). 

I guess if you can get past the risk of failure, find one or two investors, and have a family behind you that supports you, it might be worth it to pursue the dream.  For me, the first step to failure, is not trying.  I am a realist and I know I can't just quit my day job tomorrow and open up shop, but if I keep brewing beers I like and in the mean time find a knowledgeable person to put together a business plan, find some investors, and scope out a location that supports its local businesses, enjoys craft beers, and is low cost of living, then, for me, it could be possible....Granted, it will take a lot of luck and time, but I know I don't like my current career path enough to not take the risk.

My situation...Married with no kids, Wife is an architect, I work in the accounting department of a Real Estate Developer, both college grads (Virginia Tech '03), Renters, no car payment, just my wifes out-of-state student loan payments (which is enough for both of us)... our 2 boxers are the only ones dependent on us.

Cheers everyone and thanks for the feedback!
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 14, 2010, 03:34:16 PM
I am in the process of opening a nano brewery right now and I'll let you know if it was worth it or not in about a year. ;) I can tell you right now, it's been a big PITA thus far just dealing with all the bureaucratic bulls***. There are literally hundreds of hurdles to jump through and thousands of dollars that must be laid out before you can even brew your first pint of beer. For instance, before you can submit your TTB application you must provide a layout and before you provide a layout you must have a place to brew so you must lease or buy a facility before you can even submit your application, and the application can take 2-4+ months to be processed, so you will be paying rent while you are just sitting there waiting to brew. Also, if you make just one mistake on the application (eg: you don't use BLUE ink) you have to file again. And that doesn't even begin to include the local regulations (we have to have a trap at the street so the city can come by whenever they want to see what we are dumping in their sewer system.)

I suppose that if it would be easy damn near every one would do it.

That said, I am super excited about actually getting to brew for (what I hope will be) a living. I do agree with the 7bbl system necessity. You really need a 7bbl system before you can really make any money.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: denny on April 14, 2010, 03:38:00 PM
Thanks for the "from the trenches" report, Keith.  I wish you guys the best of luck.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bbump22 on April 14, 2010, 03:51:45 PM
Keith,

Absolutely correct on the facility nuances...that was something the nanobrewery guy told me too - he had to pay rent for about a year before he could open the doors for business...He was lucky enough to have his parents nearby so he could live with them and only have one rent.  But you're right and I think that is where most of the upfront costs go towards.

Thanks for sharing that!
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 14, 2010, 04:03:17 PM
And, it's like it never ends. This is an email I got from one of my partners today....

".... I will bring the app to our meeting, but basically we will all have to do an FBI and ABI background check. There is a $1000 manufacturers fee, as well as a $400 warehouse fee, and $100 worth of application fees..."

And FBI background check. Now I hope they don't need to know about that time at Ocean City, Maryland!  ::)
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bbump22 on April 14, 2010, 04:08:49 PM
What state are you applying in?
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 14, 2010, 04:58:29 PM
Huntsville, AL
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bbump22 on April 14, 2010, 05:05:20 PM
Are the federal laws the same across the US?  Have you found that you are jumping through more hoops with the TTB or State and District groups?  TTB requirements are the same regardless of which state you are in, correct? 
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: Hokerer on April 14, 2010, 05:05:39 PM
both college grads (Virginia Tech '03)

Well, at least you got that going for you.  Myself (EE) and wifey (IEOR) are both VT '82
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: euge on April 14, 2010, 05:37:00 PM
Are the federal laws the same across the US?  Have you found that you are jumping through more hoops with the TTB or State and District groups?  TTB requirements are the same regardless of which state you are in, correct? 

I found this on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbrewery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbrewery)

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/31/Craft_Breweries_Per_Capita_%28US%29.png/800px-Craft_Breweries_Per_Capita_%28US%29.png)


Look at the South. Almost the entire region is woefully lacking. Willing to bet it has in part something to do with the PITA laws.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 14, 2010, 05:56:16 PM
Are the federal laws the same across the US?  Have you found that you are jumping through more hoops with the TTB or State and District groups?  TTB requirements are the same regardless of which state you are in, correct? 

TTB is the same across the nation. All they care about is collecting their money and they want to make sure they understand your output so that you aren't going to fudge any #s. The reason it takes so long or can be so difficult is because, simply, they can.

Our local regulations are pretty strict. There are some laws on the books that are unbelievably stupid. For instance, if you want to open a brew pub in Alabama it has to be on a location that once produced beer legally before. Which is why there are only 3 operating brew pubs in Alabama.

We are trying to change some of these antiquated laws now through the Free The Hops (http://www.freethehops.org/blog/2010/04/brewery-modernization-act-passes-the-senate/) organization.

I can't tell you exactly how much more difficult the local officials are going to be because we just started dealing with this stuff. We are using an architect to design the layout of the brewery to fend of changes from the Health Dept. and Building Inspector. Not cheap, but worth it in the long run.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: glitterbug on April 14, 2010, 07:30:18 PM
Look at the South. Almost the entire region is woefully lacking. Willing to bet it has in part something to do with the PITA laws.

Just one more reason to avoid the south  ;)
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: thirsty on April 14, 2010, 08:03:38 PM
My relatives used to tell me the same thing. My beer is great. I should open a brewery. My response was always:

1. I don't want to borrow that kind of money from anyone. Those big fermenters look expensive.

2. While the actual making of the beer would be relatively do-able, it's all the marketing & sales b.s. that I have zero desire to deal with.


Thankfully not everyone feels the way I do, otherwise we would have no amazing craft beer.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: BrewingRover on April 14, 2010, 10:53:30 PM
Wow, FBI background check to run a 7bbl system. Do you know if that's a TTB or local requirement?

I sure hope this story has a happy ending.  :)
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: MDixon on April 15, 2010, 12:46:50 AM
glitter - take a better look at that map, you're in one of the pitiful states. While TX might not be considered the South, in terms of that map it is... ;)

Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: glitterbug on April 15, 2010, 03:31:51 AM
glitter - take a better look at that map, you're in one of the pitiful states. While TX might not be considered the South, in terms of that map it is... ;)



I can read a map, but I don't need it to tell me how bad the local beer options are  :)




Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 15, 2010, 03:37:12 AM
All the more reason to open a brewery, see?  ;)
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: sienabrewer on April 15, 2010, 07:01:35 PM
My guess would be people have not taken the plunge for reasons not far off from any other person starting a business in general:  money, risk, and fear of the unknown (in that order).  I'd be willing to bet that on average a homebrewer would much rather jump at the chance to brew professional, than open their own brewpub/brewery.  The latter takes much more than just wanting to brew.  I love homebrewing and I have been exploring the possibility of opening a brewpub in my area.  However, I am aiming more to be a brewpub and business owner, than a brewer.  If I was to get serious about it I would hire a brewer with experience.  One, because I have no idea how to operate a large scale brewery (or even a 7bbl one for that matter).  And two, I think it is asking a bit of oneself to be a brewpub owner and brewer.  That's not saying I wouldn't be involved in creating the beers I want served at my place, I just think it's too much for someone to take on.  I think owning strictly a brewery and being the brewer is different however, but each poses their own set of unique difficulties. 
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 15, 2010, 08:34:52 PM
Yeah, the risk is pretty big. You need to have at least several thousand dollars you don't mind pissing away. Not a big question mark there; most people are not going to risk actual capital to turn a hobby into a career. I could have invested this money into a different business with much greater chance of success and much less risk. But, damnit - I want to brew beer! :)
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bbump22 on April 15, 2010, 10:21:58 PM
Yeah, the risk is pretty big. You need to have at least several thousand dollars you don't mind pissing away. Not a big question mark there; most people are not going to risk actual capital to turn a hobby into a career. I could have invested this money into a different business with much greater chance of success and much less risk. But, damnit - I want to brew beer! :)

im with you keith, if im going to spend time, money, and effort on running a business, I am going to put everything I got into something I am already passionate about, brewing in my case.  It will make all the time, money and effort worth it.  Even if the brewery only stays in business, say 3 years, those would still be considered the best 3 years of my career...im very greatful for all the successful breweries out there who took the risk, put the money in, and managed their way through the laws and regulations.  Craft Breweries are still popping up all over the country and I hope they continue to do so for years!!!

All this talk is making me thirsty!

Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: sienabrewer on April 15, 2010, 11:31:35 PM
.im very greatful for all the successful breweries out there who took the risk, put the money in, and managed their way through the laws and regulations.  Craft Breweries are still popping up all over the country and I hope they continue to do so for years!!!

That's the second point I wanted to make, but left it out.  People are opening up craft breweries/brewpubs...and they are succeeding.  Sure some are closing, but we have no idea why and that is just natural in economics.  Every time I start turning away from my idea of starting a pub it's usually because I think about the risk.  However, I am a firm believer that success, especially in the brewing industry, is about the proper planning and constant perseverance.  You have to remember that it is always a business first, hobby second.  But, when you're business is your hobby it can be more rewarding.  Some people have the perspective that turning a hobby into a career is the worst decision ever.  For some people that is probably true and a very valid statement.  However, I would love to see a survey done (hint, hint AHA) of brewers who went from homebrewers to pros (most likely near 100%) and either love or hate it, or who would either do it again or never do it again.  I have to admit, I envy you Major.  You're living the dream and are either going to succeed or fail, but regardless you have the balls to do it and will never have to ask yourself...what would of happened if I did go ahead with those plans?
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: kgs on April 16, 2010, 12:40:34 PM
I have a demanding day job I really enjoy, a family I love, and I also have a side avocation (writing) that is fairly exacting and sometimes disappointing. Homebrewing is a hobby/craft/art-form that allows me some room for failure without huge disappointment, camaraderie with other homebrewers at all skill levels, and the zen-like relaxation of the occasional "brew day." I think I almost get more out of planning the brew day than the experience itself... endless tinkering with recipes, mulling over ingredients, etc. It's a nice escape.

Kudos to those who want to move into brewing as a business... I like knowing I can pour out a bad batch and sleep well that night.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: thirsty on April 16, 2010, 02:56:37 PM
Just let us know when you're up and running so we can buy some beer.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bluesman on April 17, 2010, 03:11:18 AM
The bottom line is "big risks for big rewards" and that is the hope.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 17, 2010, 01:05:21 PM
I'd be happy for just little rewards as long as it gave me enough money to eat (and drink!)

One thing to consider, though, that I meant to bring up but forgot. Any beer consumed off the premises you have to pay taxes on. So, when you go pro, it won't be like you can just bring a keg home. You will have to pay Uncle Sam for your beer. I am hoping to have the energy to continue homebrewing. I don't like the idea of having to pay taxes on my personal beer.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: maxieboy on April 17, 2010, 01:22:56 PM
I'd be happy for just little rewards as long as it gave me enough money to eat (and drink!)

 Any beer consumed off the premises you have to pay taxes on. So, when you go pro, it won't be like you can just bring a keg home. You will have to pay Uncle Sam for your beer. I don't like the idea of having to pay taxes on my personal beer.

What Uncle Sam doesn't know won't hurt him...I say take home all the beer you want.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: denny on April 17, 2010, 03:46:59 PM
What Uncle Sam doesn't know won't hurt him...I say take home all the beer you want.

I doubt anybody would want to risk their licensing for a free keg of beer.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: euge on April 17, 2010, 08:15:43 PM
What Uncle Sam doesn't know won't hurt him...I say take home all the beer you want.

I doubt anybody would want to risk their licensing for a free keg of beer.

There'd be plenty to drink at work. I suspect growlers would go home though ;) from time to time...
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: a10t2 on April 17, 2010, 10:00:06 PM
I doubt anybody would want to risk their licensing for a free keg of beer.

We're talking about $7 a barrel too. Not exactly going to break the bank.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 17, 2010, 11:56:04 PM
I doubt anybody would want to risk their licensing for a free keg of beer.

We're talking about $7 a barrel too. Not exactly going to break the bank.

Agree. It's just the principle of the thing for me. I'd rather sneak the grain, yeast and hops out of the facility and brew rogue. Plus, here homebrewing is still illegal. Feels good to be a gangsta! 8)
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: sienabrewer on April 18, 2010, 03:01:46 PM
I doubt anybody would want to risk their licensing for a free keg of beer.

We're talking about $7 a barrel too. Not exactly going to break the bank.

Yeah, but $7 per barrel can add up when you consider the smallest system is usually 7 barrels and you have pn average at least 5 different beers. 
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: a10t2 on April 18, 2010, 06:26:29 PM
Yeah, but $7 per barrel can add up when you consider the smallest system is usually 7 barrels and you have pn average at least 5 different beers.

It's a big expense for the brewery, to be sure. (Which is why you should tell your representative to support HR 4278 (http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h4278/show).) But I can't imagine most owner(s) taking home even 7 barrels a *year*. It's a pretty trivial amount of money for an individual to pay.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: dougdever on April 21, 2010, 05:24:01 PM
Why not pursue a dream?  I think this line says it best: "Debt kills small breweries." 
http://www.soundbrew.com/projectnotes.html

If I had an extra $500,000 just sitting around, I'd be more than happy to pursue the dream.  That is sort of the problem with this industry... You can't just open a storefront and start making and selling small widgets.  There is significant capital required to acquire property, purchase a brewhouse, a mind bending amount of red-tape (although with the explosion of craft brewing, most state agencies are really good about getting you pointed in the correct direction and walking you through the process - unlike say 10-15 years ago when the people working there didn't know the process either), and you will be operating at a loss until you can build a distribution channel.  So, if you were leveraged with $450,000 of debt at 8% on a 10 year commercial business loan, you're looking at something like over $5400 in debt service each month.  If you are serious about doing this, you have to ask yourself, how long can you sustain that and draw a salary for yourself until you start turning a profit? 

So on a 15 bbl system, you're brewing about 35 kegs at a time.  Assuming you can sell those out regularly, you have a new problem: your choke point - how many fermentation vessels do you have and how long your beer is going to sit in them.  Should you have spent the money for a 30bbl system initially instead - instead of going through the whole capital improvement process again to upgrade your brewhouse.

Anyways... I might be rambling a bit - but you get the idea... lots of things to think about and a lot of risk. 
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: denny on April 21, 2010, 05:56:03 PM
Doug, that's a great, thoughtful analysis!  Thanks for chiming in and I'll bookmark your site for future reference.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: MDixon on April 22, 2010, 12:46:42 AM
IIRC Highland Brewing Co in Asheville, NC went 10 years before they finally saw the black. 10 YEARS!
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: dougdever on April 22, 2010, 01:53:29 AM
Doug, that's a great, thoughtful analysis!  Thanks for chiming in and I'll bookmark your site for future reference.

I can't take credit for the website... it is not my site.  I ran across it while investigating starting a brewery some time ago and this thread reminded me of it.  Thanks though!
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bbump22 on April 22, 2010, 05:51:35 PM
Why not pursue a dream?  I think this line says it best: "Debt kills small breweries." 
http://www.soundbrew.com/projectnotes.html

If I had an extra $500,000 just sitting around, I'd be more than happy to pursue the dream.  That is sort of the problem with this industry... You can't just open a storefront and start making and selling small widgets.  There is significant capital required to acquire property, purchase a brewhouse, a mind bending amount of red-tape (although with the explosion of craft brewing, most state agencies are really good about getting you pointed in the correct direction and walking you through the process - unlike say 10-15 years ago when the people working there didn't know the process either), and you will be operating at a loss until you can build a distribution channel.  So, if you were leveraged with $450,000 of debt at 8% on a 10 year commercial business loan, you're looking at something like over $5400 in debt service each month.  If you are serious about doing this, you have to ask yourself, how long can you sustain that and draw a salary for yourself until you start turning a profit? 

So on a 15 bbl system, you're brewing about 35 kegs at a time.  Assuming you can sell those out regularly, you have a new problem: your choke point - how many fermentation vessels do you have and how long your beer is going to sit in them.  Should you have spent the money for a 30bbl system initially instead - instead of going through the whole capital improvement process again to upgrade your brewhouse.

Anyways... I might be rambling a bit - but you get the idea... lots of things to think about and a lot of risk. 

I absolutely agree with you Doug.  Good, realistic info.  I would imagine that opening a production brewery or brewpub would require large amounts of equity, etc as you indicated.  The site provided was very informative as well. 

Even with this knowledge, I think folks looking to start small by opening a nano brewery would understand their production limitations and so forth.  Those opening a nanobrewery might have a different distribution strategy as well.  They might aim to bottle a majority of their beer and might only have one or 2 tap handles around town.  The timeline is the same though, regardless of the size.  But obviously the upfront Capital requirements will be less with a smaller brewery, but still required (min. $20k).  I know of a nanobrewery in the Northwest that broke black after being open just a few months (at least that's what he told us).  He also lives at home and still works part-time, but he is building a following and pursuing his dream. 

I know some folks would discourage opening a nanobrewery because of all the hard work that is involved without making any $ to show for it, but I know of several breweries in the Northwest that started off on 1/2 bbl systems and expanded to 10 bbl.  Off the top of my head I can think of Two Beers, Schooner Exact, and Big Al's.  But at some point in order for them to expand, I know they had to find more capital/investors, etc, etc. So it always will come back to $, no doubt about that.  But I think that for some nanobrewery entrepreneurs, their intent of starting a nano is to show future potential investors that you are committed to success, that there is a strong following of customers that like your beer, and that while the risk is still high, the payoff could be big.  Then they could perhaps expand from there. 

Just some of my thoughts.  Now if I could only find that $20k I had. 
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: boulderbrewer on April 23, 2010, 03:25:33 AM
Thanks for some up front numbers. What everyone needs are numbers. You have to realistic about your numbers. Dreams are something, but anyone who has ideas has to be realistic. Good luck to all of you. You should also need to think out of the box,equipment wise that is a good way to do that. I hope to see all that try on the other end.

Great Luck Brothers and Sisters.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: gimmeales on April 23, 2010, 02:22:53 PM
Numbers are important, but with something like a brewery, there are so many variables they can only help in a very limited way until you actually start crunching them yourself (a friend and I are currently putting together a business plan for a Brewpub, just for a sanity check on the whole thing).  Doug's overall assessment is lucid and realistic from what we've been able to learn, but again, are you going Nano, larger Production Brewery, Brewpub?  All have vastly different considerations not just in general setup and expertise needed.  How easy will the local authorities be to work with?  Who are your customers?  What will your rent be?

These are all big questions leading me to not 'pursue the dream', because I have just enough age and responsibility (wife, kid, mortgage) under my belt that I am far more risk averse than I would have been ten years ago (of course, then I hadn't then stumbled into this fascinating and addicting world of brewing beer).  Yes, starting a brewery on a shoestring budget can and will continue to work, but they are by far the exceptions to the rule and generally succeed because of an uncommon blend of skills, personality, hard freakin' work AND good doses of luck along the way.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 23, 2010, 02:54:07 PM
I will say it is possible to open a brewery for a lot less than 500K (though 20K is no where near enough, either.) Staying in business .... well, I let you know in a year or two.  ;)

One thing I will say is that it helps to have good partners. There are lots of hurdles and, when taken in one chunk, they seem unmanageable. But if you divide the tasks up and take them one at a time you start to see that one by one the hurdles are able to be cleared. I wouldn't let anyone tell you that you can't do it, because that is simply BS. The odds may be against you, but that doesn't mean it is impossible. I wouldn't suggest, however, attempting it alone unless you are extremely resourceful.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bbump22 on April 23, 2010, 03:08:09 PM
I will say it is possible to open a brewery for a lot less than 500K (though 20K is no where near enough, either.) Staying in business .... well, I let you know in a year or two.  ;)

One thing I will say is that it helps to have good partners. There are lots of hurdles and, when taken in one chunk, they seem unmanageable. But if you divide the tasks up and take them one at a time you start to see that one by one the hurdles are able to be cleared. I wouldn't let anyone tell you that you can't do it, because that is simply BS. The odds may be against you, but that doesn't mean it is impossible. I wouldn't suggest, however, attempting it alone unless you are extremely resourceful.

Thanks Keith,

What's a realistic number for startup costs when opening a nanobrewery running on a 1 bbl system?
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: glitterbug on April 23, 2010, 03:25:53 PM
I will say it is possible to open a brewery for a lot less than 500K (though 20K is no where near enough, either.) Staying in business .... well, I let you know in a year or two.  ;)

One thing I will say is that it helps to have good partners. There are lots of hurdles and, when taken in one chunk, they seem unmanageable. But if you divide the tasks up and take them one at a time you start to see that one by one the hurdles are able to be cleared. I wouldn't let anyone tell you that you can't do it, because that is simply BS. The odds may be against you, but that doesn't mean it is impossible. I wouldn't suggest, however, attempting it alone unless you are extremely resourceful.

Thanks Keith,

What's a realistic number for startup costs when opening a nanobrewery running on a 1 bbl system?

$499,998  ;D
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on April 23, 2010, 04:23:11 PM

What's a realistic number for startup costs when opening a nanobrewery running on a 1 bbl system?

It's going to depend a lot on what kind of facility you get and what kind of improvements the local authorities impose on you. Our place is 500 bucks a month for the first year and then it will go up to 1000. We have to instal a wet area (with floor drains) and a catch at the street so that the city can see what we are dumping in their sewer. We also ended up hiring an architect to be sure we were building everything to code (wasn't cheap, but perhaps cheaper than doing all the work twice).  The great thing is most of these improvements will be able to role over into our larger system which we hope to start building within 6 months of starting up. I guess theoretically you could launch with around 20K but, keep in mind, you will only be spinning your wheels on a 1bbl system. The goal is to grow and I believe you really need a 7bbl system to be at all profitable. So any improvements you are forced to make might as well work for a larger capacity brewery or you will end up spending money twice and redoing your work. Our projection shows up spending around 40K for the first year but that number will most likely go up.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: bbump22 on April 23, 2010, 05:14:02 PM

What's a realistic number for startup costs when opening a nanobrewery running on a 1 bbl system?

It's going to depend a lot on what kind of facility you get and what kind of improvements the local authorities impose on you. Our place is 500 bucks a month for the first year and then it will go up to 1000. We have to instal a wet area (with floor drains) and a catch at the street so that the city can see what we are dumping in their sewer. We also ended up hiring an architect to be sure we were building everything to code (wasn't cheap, but perhaps cheaper than doing all the work twice).  The great thing is most of these improvements will be able to role over into our larger system which we hope to start building within 6 months of starting up. I guess theoretically you could launch with around 20K but, keep in mind, you will only be spinning your wheels on a 1bbl system. The goal is to grow and I believe you really need a 7bbl system to be at all profitable. So any improvements you are forced to make might as well work for a larger capacity brewery or you will end up spending money twice and redoing your work. Our projection shows up spending around 40K for the first year but that number will most likely go up.

I knew the investment in my wife would pay off one day!  She's an architect. haha.  Thanks for the good information -  I too have heard from a professional brewer that it would take a 7 bbl to be profitable.  But have also heard and seen folks start at 1 bbl, then work out deals with breweries that let them brew on their larger 7 bbl system and eventually move up to 10 bbl. But your right, growing is the goal.  I have seen the opposite happen to where brewers start out too big..
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: narvin on April 24, 2010, 03:14:58 AM
Pull a Mikkeller... brew on other people's systems. A friend of mine started doing this, and with some good contacts in the distributor (and local beer) business, his beer is appearing on tap in every good bar in the region.  He started local, but his next beer is a collaboration Saison with 't Hofbrouwerijke in Beerzel (Belgium).  Just goes to show you that there's a huge demand for good beer in a place like Baltimore : ).
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: richardt on June 01, 2010, 01:09:31 AM
Consider contract brewing.  Read this great article about Pete's Wicked Ale's history (FYI, article is 13 years old).
Simply, sell the best beer you have.  Going this route seems to cost less $$$ and has fewer hassles (e.g., no outlay for the brew pub, equipment, staff, HR issues).  Those can come later if you are successful and desire to proceed.

What I like about this option is that, in theory, it keeps the costs down (esp the overhead) and lessens the operational and HR headaches while pursuing the dream.  This is a big deal if your resources ($$ and/or partners/management) are limited.

I may do this one day--I do have the occasional daydream about it.  But, first, I need to be a better and more consistent brewer.  And my kids are more important than my desire to have a brewery.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: denny on June 01, 2010, 03:25:35 PM
Even with contract brewing, you still face the hardest part....getting the beer sold.  You have to convince distributors and wholesalers to take a chance on your unknown product when what they carry is already selling.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: tubercle on June 01, 2010, 04:24:54 PM
Here is one guy in my hometown that was able to pull off the contract brewing thing. This is probably the exception to the rule though.

http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=2093.msg24695#msg24695 (http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=2093.msg24695#msg24695)
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: richardt on June 01, 2010, 04:55:33 PM
Even with contract brewing, you still face the hardest part....getting the beer sold.  You have to convince distributors and wholesalers to take a chance on your unknown product when what they carry is already selling.

Shouldn't be hard for someone credible and reknown like you--when are you going to mass-produce the "Denny's RyePA"? ;)
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: denny on June 01, 2010, 05:42:51 PM
NEVER!!
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on June 02, 2010, 07:05:23 PM

This has been my dream since graduating from college. I had a business plan written, but I need to pay off that education!

Solution: Work at one of those big ol' breweries as an engineer until I make good enough beer to get people to pay for it. Thats what Dan Carey did...

Any AB or Miller-Coors employees out there need a damn good biochemical engineer? I'm your man...
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: tomsawyer on June 02, 2010, 07:38:35 PM
The episode on Worth Brewing in IA (on BrewingTV) seemed to be a way to go.  Open a small pub and just supply your beer using a small brewing system (I think his was 20gal).  I've thought about approaching one of the existing pubs in town, and seeing if they'd let me brew occasionally on premises and sell at their establishment.  It might be a decent part-time gig, as much for fun as for profit.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: majorvices on November 15, 2019, 01:11:10 PM
Funny watching this post from 10 years ago and how much things have changed. I managed to grow my nano brewery to a legitimate state wide brewery, won some awards and now, as of this past year, have resigned as head brewer (I'm still a share holder) and am currently about to work on another project, and this one possibly with even bigger ramifications. I can't talk about it just yet but it is extremely exciting. That said, leaving my previous, somewhat lucrative career over 10 years and learning the craft of brewing has basically forced me to leave my old career behind since I lost all my connections, have been out of practice and have grown old"ish" (I just turned 50). That's something I don't think a lot of people consider, depending how long you are out you may not be able to easily get back to your previous career. I am now a brewer and distiller and I am "stuck" in this career for the rest of my life. I'm not complaining I truly love the science and craft of brewing but I do think my liver would be much healthier had I stuck with my previous career. Anyway, whatever you do, choose wisely. ;)
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: goose on November 15, 2019, 02:13:44 PM
I think that 10 years ago it was a bit easier to get into the craft brewing scene than it is today.  Because of the number of breweries out that that put a strain on the supply chain of ingredients, you now have to contract for everything and might not be able to get things like the hops you want/need for a year or so.  Plus capitalizing a brewery, even a nano brewery. is pretty expensive as others have said.

I myself have turned two hobbies into careers.  First was ham radio which I turned into a 27 year career as a broadcast technical consultant and homebrewing that I turned into a 6 year parttime professional brewing career (I call the latter my "I flunked retirement career").  I did dream of striking out on my own with a brewery but at my age (39 with 28 years of experience because I haven't gotten 39 right yet  ;D) it is really not feasible for me anymore because of thee amount of physical labor involved.  I do, however, keep my fingers in the pro-brewing gig helping out at several breweries in Ohio and in Florida (when I am there in the winter months) which is rewarding enough for me now.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: ynotbrusum on November 15, 2019, 02:48:48 PM
My response when asked about going pro is something I once heard a pro brewer say -

“If you want to make a small fortune in brewing, just start with a large fortune!”
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: Visor on November 15, 2019, 04:18:31 PM
My response when asked about going pro is something I once heard a pro brewer say -

“If you want to make a small fortune in brewing, just start with a large fortune!”

   I've frequently heard that said about ranching, but it probably can be said about a great many businesses.
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: Slowbrew on November 15, 2019, 09:00:38 PM
My response when asked about going pro is something I once heard a pro brewer say -

“If you want to make a small fortune in brewing, just start with a large fortune!”

   I've frequently heard that said about ranching, but it probably can be said about a great many businesses.

I heard it about farming, ranching, brewing, cone computer companies (anyone remember buying PC's over the phone based on a add in Byte Magazine?), anything retail or manufacturing.  The sad reality is most new businesses fail.  I think I've heard that most entrepreneurs start and fail at 4 businesses, on average, before finding one that works.  The only people I've know who made a lot of money on their first try are doing, or have done, time in the pen (selling illicit medicinal items is a quick way to money but a road straight to jail). 8^)

If your dream is to run own business, you need patience, nerves of steel and family friends who will let you sleep on their floor when you have to close the doors a few times.

Paul
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: BrewBama on November 16, 2019, 12:43:21 AM
.... I am now a brewer and distiller and I am "stuck" in this career for the rest of my life. ...

They should have a distillation column for that new toy you have.

Fun to see your post from ‘10. Look forward to the official announcement of your new project.

Cheers!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: charlie on November 16, 2019, 01:43:39 AM
When I retired in 2012 I "Went Pro" as the QC guy for a startup brewery, and it didn't take long to figure out that I didn't want the job of head brewer. That's some hot sweaty dirty work if I've ever seen it, and I had my fill of that when I was 15! So my dream of starting a brewery or brew pub evaporated in a cloud of reality.

My considered opinion is that if you're going to start a brewery you will be fighting the market forever. Having three or four flagship brews doesn't hack it anymore. Now you have to be cutting edge, and that means making whatever bulls*** "style" the idiots at the next brewery came up with. I'm thinking "Hazy IPA" (which I really can't stand!), but it applies to a lot of the "Trendy" crap nowadays.

Charlie
Title: Re: From Hobby to Career...Why not pursue a dream?
Post by: goose on November 17, 2019, 04:05:05 PM
My response when asked about going pro is something I once heard a pro brewer say -

“If you want to make a small fortune in brewing, just start with a large fortune!”

Another comment I heard many years ago when I had the dream of starting my own brewery came from the owner/brewmaster of a brewery in Savannah, GA who I got to know when visiting there.  When I told him of my dream to start my own brewery and asked for advice, he said one word.
"Don't!"
His reasoning is not just the capital investment but the inordinate amount of time you spend at the brewery doing things other than brewing (book work, continuous cleaning, paying the liquor taxes, maintaining the brewing supplies, hiring and managing employees) . I can go on and on.  But I learned how much extra work there was when I did my 6 year pro-brewing gig at Hoppin' Frog in Akron, Ohio.  Obviously, you have to follow your dream and I am not trying to discourage you.  Just realize that you need to be prepared for the heavy work load.  It is not all glamour and  the potential for failure is way higher today than it was 10 years ago because of the intense competitiveness in the industry today.
I would suggest first hiring on as a brewer at a local brewery and experiencing this personally to get a feel for this before jumping in with both feet.