Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

Other than Brewing => The Pub => Topic started by: phillamb168 on June 21, 2011, 11:31:29 am

Title: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 21, 2011, 11:31:29 am
There's that old brewpub bug again... I've got the cash, and at the very least could rent it as an office for my company while I got things together. The town has about 10,000 people, the canton (county, ~23 sq mi) has about 40k, the arrondisment (177 sq mi) has more than half a million people, and there are only a few nice restaurants and zero brewpubs.

http://www.leboncoin.fr/bureaux_commerces/210068817.htm?ca=12_s

I love the windows, very english pub.

If any of you have experience running or opening a brewpub, I would really, really be interested in hearing your comments.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: MDixon on June 21, 2011, 01:01:09 pm
Neat looking, but my question would be what do you need to be successful in France? Would it take architecture or the beer/food?

My biggest concern would be how to get your equipment inside...
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: ccarlson on June 21, 2011, 01:20:22 pm
MDixon brings up some good points, but what about when you get it inside?

My first thoughts are available energy to run the brewery. Is it wired for the required power? Is the available power at least run to the building? If not is it in the neighborhood? Same questions apply to gas.

Of course an even bigger question is the available market. Would the locals frequent a brewpub?

Good luck. Sounds like a lot of fun and hard work. Just do your homework, because opinions around here are like, well you know,  and none of us really have all of the specific answers you need.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 21, 2011, 01:34:24 pm
Re electricity, should be ok. The space used to be a restaurant/brewery and has a full kitchen, so I know natural gas is an option. We're not looking to do this right now, of course, so this thread is more of a ping to you guys with experience and ideas. With the retail real estate market the way it is right now, I figure this will be on the market for a while, and if it's not, no big deal, there's always somewhere.

Our plan for the next 6 months or so is to do the following:
Go to a few markets on saturday with a BBQ and a keg and give out free samples of food and beer, with the stipulation that people fill out a quick survey (how much do you like the beer, how often do you go out for dinner, what price would you consider reasonable for a pint, etc).
Following that, I'm gonna buy some of those sankey kegs from sabco that you can open up (tri-clamp fittings) and approach the bars near me, offering to give them the first keg free (they don't do very high volumes, these are probably 15-30 covers per day) as a market trial. One of the pubs is known for being a 'bar a bieres' and has a concert season just about to kick into gear.
Following that, well, we'll see. At the very, very least I can start something small and provide a keg or two to the local pub.

All of this is done very conservatively, of course. The sabco kegs are a pricey way to do market research but if all else fails they'll be good fermenters.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: MDixon on June 21, 2011, 01:45:34 pm
Maybe it's just me, but free ain't the kind of research I would do right now. I'd go ask why the other business failed. Find the owner of it and simply ask or ask the businesses in the area.

In most of the US you must have either great food or great beer. If you don't have either, even a great location won't sustain your business forever. The best brewpubs, IMO, have good food and excellent beer. However in France I can imagine you must have excellent food to sustain since the country is known for it's food. Food adds a layer of complexity to the mix that most of us probably aren't skilled enough to handle on our own.

Whatever you do, get equipment which is larger than you think you will need. No one ever said they have too much capacity.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: a10t2 on June 21, 2011, 02:21:26 pm
Phil, I actually love the look of the building and wouldn't change a thing on that front. My concern would be space. 180 m2 is already borderline too small for a brewpub, and I'm assuming the upper story wouldn't accommodate heavy equipment and that there's no elevator to easily move supplies up and down. (Take it from someone who has to haul sacks of malt down a flight of stairs - you don't want to do it.) So you'd be left with trying to shoehorn a brewhouse, kitchen, and the front of the restaurant into 120 m2. I just don't see you being able to get enough seatings to turn a profit.

Whatever you do, get equipment which is larger than you think you will need. No one ever said they have too much capacity.

That depends on the capitalization structure and planned expansion. Quite a few breweries have failed because they started out with a 50 or 100 bbl system and didn't have enough demand to be able to amortize the startup costs.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 21, 2011, 02:48:58 pm
Maybe it's just me, but free ain't the kind of research I would do right now. I'd go ask why the other business failed. Find the owner of it and simply ask or ask the businesses in the area.

In most of the US you must have either great food or great beer. If you don't have either, even a great location won't sustain your business forever. The best brewpubs, IMO, have good food and excellent beer. However in France I can imagine you must have excellent food to sustain since the country is known for it's food. Food adds a layer of complexity to the mix that most of us probably aren't skilled enough to handle on our own.

Whatever you do, get equipment which is larger than you think you will need. No one ever said they have too much capacity.

As I said we're not set at all on a location, I posted the photo as more of a conversation booster which seems to have worked :-)

France is known for food for sure, but most restaurants are pretty meh around here. Paris of course has its share of excellent restaurants, and of course they all have impeccable wine caves, but you never see excellent food with excellent beer. What I don't see anywhere (at least not executed correctly) is a good brewpub. That includes Paris - there are a couple of the Frog pub chain but the food is horrible and the beer is not very interesting. In Lyon, where Ninkasi has opened five brewpubs, they're doing killer business, but it hasn't made it this far up the A6 yet.

The challenge (and the reason for doing the free research {the cost of brewing a few kegs of beer is negligible at the moment}) is to convince the French people to accept beer as an acceptable substitute for wine. That's the real crux of whether or not the business succeeds or fails, in my opinion...
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 21, 2011, 02:52:05 pm
Phil, I actually love the look of the building and wouldn't change a thing on that front. My concern would be space. 180 m2 is already borderline too small for a brewpub, and I'm assuming the upper story wouldn't accommodate heavy equipment and that there's no elevator to easily move supplies up and down. (Take it from someone who has to haul sacks of malt down a flight of stairs - you don't want to do it.) So you'd be left with trying to shoehorn a brewhouse, kitchen, and the front of the restaurant into 120 m2. I just don't see you being able to get enough seatings to turn a profit.

Whatever you do, get equipment which is larger than you think you will need. No one ever said they have too much capacity.

That depends on the capitalization structure and planned expansion. Quite a few breweries have failed because they started out with a 50 or 100 bbl system and didn't have enough demand to be able to amortize the startup costs.

Yeah, exactly - I actually didn't see the 180m2 until now.

In terms of the size of the brewery, I was going to buy a Sabco Brew-Magic. Yes it's turnkey, and yes I could probably make something for a lot cheaper, but I'm not an electrician and parts are much, much, much harder to find here than they are in the US. I've yet to find anything in France or Europe equivalent to, say, McMasterCarr, and if they do exist, they have nothing like the online ordering system. 15 gallons per session does seem like a lot, but the upside to that is that I'd buy the system outright and not have any payments at all. If things were to succeed, that's when I'd invest in something a bit pricier.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: morticaixavier on June 21, 2011, 03:00:35 pm
It does seem small. I would also worry about the possibility that nikasi will continue to expand and if they hit your market while you are still vulnerable you wouldn't be able to compete against their economy of scale. Course in france I guess all bets are off if you can brand your self as the 'local' option. Maybe think organic as well. That's big in France right now, just watched a doc about that called 'Food Beware' that's worth a watch.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 21, 2011, 03:10:13 pm
It does seem small. I would also worry about the possibility that nikasi will continue to expand and if they hit your market while you are still vulnerable you wouldn't be able to compete against their economy of scale. Course in france I guess all bets are off if you can brand your self as the 'local' option. Maybe think organic as well. That's big in France right now, just watched a doc about that called 'Food Beware' that's worth a watch.

I have talked with the head brewer at Ninkasi, who has told me that they're focusing on their own region right now. He said he'd love to be able to go to Paris, but they want to keep things hands-on, and if they go out that far (3.5 -4 hour drive) it makes it hard to have the same level of control.

Organic is another option, but I think focusing more on terroir (the whole 'local' thing) is what's going to appeal to my target audience. The level to which terroir is important to people with discretionary income is very, very high here.

Also to note, perhaps: there are basically no sanitation laws when it comes to breweries in France - they're under the same laws as wine, and you can imagine the sort of pitchfork-wielding uproar that would come if the government told people they had to clean up their 500-year-old barn that they ferment their wine in. So brewing at a different location (my basement at home) is an option when looking at space requirements.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: ccarlson on June 21, 2011, 03:12:55 pm
15 gallons per session seems awful small to support a brewpub. I think you'd be spending all of your time brewing and there's a lot more to be done in a restaurant environment than just brewing.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: denny on June 21, 2011, 03:13:33 pm
15 gallons per session seems awful small to support a brewpub. I think you'd be spending all of your time brewing and there's a lot more to be done in a restaurant environment than just brewing.

Yeah, that was my first thought, too.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 21, 2011, 03:16:01 pm
15 gallons per session seems awful small to support a brewpub. I think you'd be spending all of your time brewing and there's a lot more to be done in a restaurant environment than just brewing.

I agree, but at least with 15 gallons I have something I can re-use if things don't work out. That's also the reason for renting a place as opposed to purchasing outright.

Another important aspect about this location is that it is NOT contracted to a brewery. In France and other parts of Europe, breweries will basically open a bar for you, but you have to agree to only, only serve their beers. They do this not only with a contract between the two of you, but also by buying the space and making payoff very difficult. If you do decide to pay it off and change the beers, they'll spend the money to buy the place next door and charge half of whatever you're charging for beer. So, not having a contract is a very big plus.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this won't necessarily be "All Phil All the Time" - I'd like to carry kegs from other local breweries as well, which would ideally significantly reduce the brewing time needed.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: tumarkin on June 21, 2011, 03:53:44 pm
if you get really serious about this, I'd suggest joining the BA (pro side of our AHA organization). there is a lot of info, and their forum is all folks on the brewpub & packaging micro side of things. it'd be worth the small cost.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: ccarlson on June 21, 2011, 04:21:14 pm
Since you are only looking at brewing 15 gallons and plan to offer other beer, it sounds to me like you should concentrate on a restaurant that serves beer. The brewing aspect can be something that might happen in the future, given enough space. Although, you already have that worked out since you can legally brew at home. Brewing, right off the bat, will only complicate the business.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: MDixon on June 21, 2011, 08:26:51 pm
Let's run some math...15 gallon Sabco = 12 gallon finished batch size, just a little over 2 corny kegs. 96 pints of beer which is takes 2 weeks to a month to turn - same exact amount many of us make. Now think about how many styles do you plan to have? 4?

Most brewpubs find a 3 bbl system (~100gallons) is too small to fit their needs. 7bbl is more the norm and nowadays 15 bbl is what most desire. You could do a Sabco, but it would take a similar amount of effort to brew on it as it would a 3bbl system and you would make 8X the beer.

A SABCO would be $6K per their website (only giving you a brewhouse with an extremely limited capacity) while you could purchase a full 3.5bbl brewery for $45K
http://www.nabrewing.com/complete/0512103_5bbleconobrewerysys.shtml
7bbl for $60K
http://www.nabrewing.com/complete/0423107bblbrewerysys.shtml

Before I spent the money on a Sabco, I'd just get some kettles and burners find a good welder and build your own - but I am a cobble it together kinda guy.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 22, 2011, 06:37:54 am
Let's run some math...15 gallon Sabco = 12 gallon finished batch size, just a little over 2 corny kegs. 96 pints of beer which is takes 2 weeks to a month to turn - same exact amount many of us make. Now think about how many styles do you plan to have? 4?

Most brewpubs find a 3 bbl system (~100gallons) is too small to fit their needs. 7bbl is more the norm and nowadays 15 bbl is what most desire. You could do a Sabco, but it would take a similar amount of effort to brew on it as it would a 3bbl system and you would make 8X the beer.

A SABCO would be $6K per their website (only giving you a brewhouse with an extremely limited capacity) while you could purchase a full 3.5bbl brewery for $45K
http://www.nabrewing.com/complete/0512103_5bbleconobrewerysys.shtml
7bbl for $60K
http://www.nabrewing.com/complete/0423107bblbrewerysys.shtml

Before I spent the money on a Sabco, I'd just get some kettles and burners find a good welder and build your own - but I am a cobble it together kinda guy.

I absolutely agree that DIY is the best way to go here, but I've already tried to contact a few TIG/MIG welders I've found in the classifieds, not a single one of the six I contacted got back to me. But, I'm going to visit a microbrewery on Saturday, I'll ask him how much volume he does.

For whatever silly reason, I was thinking that the sabco system had an OUTPUT volume of 15 gal... fail.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: akr71 on June 22, 2011, 12:45:21 pm
If you can legally brew at home and sell it, why not find a couple of bars and/or restoraunts that are not under contract to a brewery and supply them with a keg or two.  Develop a reputation and brand recogintion and go from there.  No mortgage, no restoraunt to manage and you could probably do it with the Sabco system and a bunch of fementers.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 22, 2011, 01:03:43 pm
If you can legally brew at home and sell it, why not find a couple of bars and/or restoraunts that are not under contract to a brewery and supply them with a keg or two.  Develop a reputation and brand recogintion and go from there.  No mortgage, no restoraunt to manage and you could probably do it with the Sabco system and a bunch of fementers.

I think that's a good direction to go in for right now. I've already had one store (an American grocery store) say they're interested in carrying the beer.

What's the best way to do labeling? Nothing fancy, just something nice.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 22, 2011, 01:10:13 pm
if you get really serious about this, I'd suggest joining the BA (pro side of our AHA organization). there is a lot of info, and their forum is all folks on the brewpub & packaging micro side of things. it'd be worth the small cost.

Mark, good idea. I've just paid for a one-year membership. Let's see how things go.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: richardt on June 22, 2011, 01:25:11 pm
I realize you're just in the "brainstorming" mode right now so I don't want to shoot down any ideas prematurely, but...

at some point you need to look at the impact that the overhead has on some of these ideas.

IMO,running a kitchen or restaurant is high cost, high risk.

You may want to just get an industrial-type building (lower rent and larger space) and just focus on brewing, putting it into kegs, and distributing it to regional bars as well as having your own "taproom" right there at the brewery.  Someone else can partner with you to supply the food to the patrons (but they take the risk and the time, not you) for the first few years.  You can always expand and add your own restaurant later.

I also agree with the 7 bbl to 15 bbl start size.  You may still want to have the pilot brewery 15-30 gallons for test batches, then scale up to the 7 bbl-15 bbl for production.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 22, 2011, 02:07:19 pm
I realize you're just in the "brainstorming" mode right now so I don't want to shoot down any ideas prematurely, but...

at some point you need to look at the impact that the overhead has on some of these ideas.

IMO,running a kitchen or restaurant is high cost, high risk.

You may want to just get an industrial-type building (lower rent and larger space) and just focus on brewing, putting it into kegs, and distributing it to regional bars as well as having your own "taproom" right there at the brewery.  Someone else can partner with you to supply the food to the patrons (but they take the risk and the time, not you) for the first few years.  You can always expand and add your own restaurant later.

I also agree with the 7 bbl to 15 bbl start size.  You may still want to have the pilot brewery 15-30 gallons for test batches, then scale up to the 7 bbl-15 bbl for production.

How would you suggest I handle distribution? Bottles are certainly easier and while requiring a lot more effort, require much less $$$ for equipment, but kegs are easier to fill, clean and ship.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: a10t2 on June 22, 2011, 03:06:21 pm
What's the best way to do labeling? Nothing fancy, just something nice.

We just buy stickers (3x5 in) from an online print shop. It's time-consuming to apply them, but for low production volumes it's cheaper than a labeling machine. Of course, you may need to get someone to do the graphics, but that's a one-time expense.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: richardt on June 22, 2011, 05:08:32 pm
How would you suggest I handle distribution? Bottles are certainly easier and while requiring a lot more effort, require much less $$$ for equipment, but kegs are easier to fill, clean and ship.

Honestly, I don't know--since we're talking about France. 
In the USA, it depends on the distributorship laws of the state in which you're doing business.
You may find it more or less restrictive there in France.

I would also get the facts about bottling.  Without the data in front of me, I don't think it is cheaper as there's more supplies (bottles, crowns, labels, bottle carriers, etc.) and handling issues with bottles than kegs.

Plastic kegs may be both cheaper and easier for you than stainless steel kegs.  Look into these.
http://www.globalpolymersolutions.co.uk/plastic-kegs/greenkeg.html (http://www.globalpolymersolutions.co.uk/plastic-kegs/greenkeg.html)
http://www.plastickegsamerica.com/content/section_kegs/index.html (http://www.plastickegsamerica.com/content/section_kegs/index.html)
http://www.zimbio.com/Beer/articles/x1DfZJkJ288/Are+you+ready+for+plastic+kegs (http://www.zimbio.com/Beer/articles/x1DfZJkJ288/Are+you+ready+for+plastic+kegs)
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: euge on June 22, 2011, 06:31:40 pm
Phil you already have a lucrative profession that allows you to indulge in your pursuits. Is this to be a money making operation on the side?

I don't have much to add except $115k is pretty cheap for a property of that nature, at least in the States. I could see it as having potential for a retirement business, where one could be on premises most of the time brewing or at least keeping a beady eye on affairs.

Then for food I'd do just a couple of simple dishes so badass the place be known for it besides the beer. Like buffalo wings or meat-pies.

And how about brewing off premises? The apparent laxity of the regulations is very attractive to an American businessman...
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: hopfenundmalz on June 22, 2011, 10:42:20 pm
MsStart by looking at the floors and drains for any property.  The floors should slope to the drains.  The drains should drain!

I know of several breweries that went into production, and realized there floors and drains were inadequate.  Hard to fix once you are in production.

The floors also need to be thick enough to support larger systems as you grow the capacity.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: jaybeerman on June 22, 2011, 10:54:02 pm
The floors should slope to the drains.  The drains should drain!

Oh don't worry about it.  That's what squeegees are for.  ;)
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: maxieboy on June 23, 2011, 01:00:35 am
The floors should slope to the drains.  The drains should drain!

Oh don't worry about it.  That's what squeegees are for.  ;)

Yeah. Michigan's now largest microbrewery has floors like that. A former automotive parts factory with a polished concrete floor. Bummer.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: phillamb168 on June 23, 2011, 09:30:01 am
Phil you already have a lucrative profession that allows you to indulge in your pursuits. Is this to be a money making operation on the side?

I don't have much to add except $115k is pretty cheap for a property of that nature, at least in the States. I could see it as having potential for a retirement business, where one could be on premises most of the time brewing or at least keeping a beady eye on affairs.

Then for food I'd do just a couple of simple dishes so badass the place be known for it besides the beer. Like buffalo wings or meat-pies.

And how about brewing off premises? The apparent laxity of the regulations is very attractive to an American businessman...

Euge, yeah, basically. One thing I'd like to do is continue consulting, but do it from the brewery/restaurant/whatever I end up doing. If I hire an employee or two, we can use the area as an office and basically brew and code during the same day. There's nothing like that in the US or Europe as far as I know, and I think it'd be pretty durn neat. The open source community has a saying, "free as in beer, free as in speech" and if we make our own beer... Well you see where it's going.

Also I think I have a problem where I do one thing for a bit, and then get tired of it and want to experience something new. I've been doing coding for nearly 7 years now, so maybe it's just the 'seven year itch' of jobs.
Title: Re: Potential brewpub location
Post by: morticaixavier on June 23, 2011, 03:12:50 pm
[Also I think I have a problem where I do one thing for a bit, and then get tired of it and want to experience something new. I've been doing coding for nearly 7 years now, so maybe it's just the 'seven year itch' of jobs.

This is a very real thing. The average adult in the developed world changes careers every 7 years. I've been coding/designing databases for 12 years now and keep wanting to do something else but it's hard to walk away from the paycheck. I say if you can afford it and it's what you want to do, do it! Starting with just the brewing and useing others to distribute sounds like a great idea, and a tap room could be really good to, I imagine, without the expense of government licensure the profit margin on selling your own beer by the pint would be pretty large.