Author Topic: Starting a brewery  (Read 8139 times)

Offline tonyp

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #60 on: March 04, 2013, 02:22:53 PM »
I've been in the Graphic Design/Marketing/Branding Industry for over 20 years and I can tell you that no matter how good your product is or how much business management experience you have, without an interesting story or theme you will never be as successful as the next guy with a great idea.

I'm absolutely positive that 90% of the people on this forum, given the chance, could make excellent beer on a professional system, but if you can't sell it, it makes no difference.

What most people forget is that breweries aren't in the beer making business, they are in the beer selling business and that requires more than just a good recipe or being a good business manager.

Dogfish is actually a great example of this. Not only did he start with a 10gal system but he started with a great idea. Their motto "Off-centered ales for off-centered people" is absolutely brilliant. In one sentence he describes the company philosophy and the market which they serve. When you hear the name Dogfish Head what's the first thing that comes to mind?  I instantly think "uncommon or over-the-top beers with uncommon ingredients". Mission accomplished.

I believe when you have the notion of starting a brewery just saying "I wanna start a brewery" isn't enough. Having a business plan isn't enough. Making a good product isn't enough. I believe that anyone starting a business, any business, needs to atleast answer the following questions before you pull the trigger:

Who are we? What's our "story"?
What do we stand for?
Why are we doing this?
Who are our customers?
Does our product fit our theme?

If you don't have a solid, well-thought out answer for these questions you are doing yourself a huge disservice before you even begin.

tl;dr
1) Make a great product.
2) Have a good business plan/management.
3) Have a solid marketing/branding concept.

Just my 2 cents...
Tonyp
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Offline majorvices

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Starting a brewery
« Reply #61 on: March 04, 2013, 04:40:29 PM »
Agree, you have to have strong marketing. don't know that I agree that "any brewer on this board could make great commercial beer... Just sayin'. ;)
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Offline a10t2

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #62 on: March 04, 2013, 04:59:02 PM »
The first thing I think of when I hear the name Dogfish Head IS "marketing".  ;)
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Offline tonyp

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #63 on: March 04, 2013, 05:37:40 PM »
Agree, you have to have strong marketing. don't know that I agree that "any brewer on this board could make great commercial beer... Just sayin'. ;)

hehe that's why i said 90%!! :D
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Offline richardt

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #64 on: March 04, 2013, 08:56:11 PM »
I loaned "brewing up a business" by Sam C. to a friend and never got it back. http://www.google.com/imgres?q=sam+calagione+brewing+up+a+business&hl=en&sa=X&rlz=1T4ADSA_enUS358US458&biw=1212&bih=648&tbm=isch&tbnid=ixRFYjxLDV7-YM:&imgrefurl=http://www.amazon.com/Sam-Calagione-Brewing-Business-Entrepreneurship/dp/B004M1K8UU&docid=H33yYThV0bAF-M&itg=1&imgurl=http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AmvtaZuTL._SL500_SS500_.jpg&w=500&h=500&ei=lms1UYmqH4aw8ASy54GYCQ&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:2,s:0,i:88&iact=rc&dur=419&sig=115239486528409948087&page=1&tbnh=201&tbnw=201&start=0&ndsp=20&tx=83&ty=102 But, I digress.
In that book, I recall him recounting the fact that his "board of directors", which included his father and other experienced businessmen, basically telling him that he wasn't making money as a brewer, and that the restaurant, which, along with his friend/chef, he used to fund his business during the early days, basically funded his brewery venture for quite a while.  The BOD called him on that.  Eventually, his Sam and his friend parted company.  A friendship was lost.  Business is brutal.

Offline mpietropaoli

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #65 on: March 05, 2013, 05:23:59 AM »
Bottling Success at The Brooklyn Brewery is another great account.  Alluded to it in my earlier 4 page post.  Combo of legendary marketing/branding, luck and hard work.
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Offline majorvices

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Starting a brewery
« Reply #66 on: March 05, 2013, 06:51:19 AM »
Agree, you have to have strong marketing. don't know that I agree that "any brewer on this board could make great commercial beer... Just sayin'. ;)

hehe that's why i said 90%!! :D

There's some damn good brewers on the forum, don't get me wrong, but I don't even believe 90% of commercial breweries out there are making "great commercial beer"....
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Offline nateo

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #67 on: March 05, 2013, 07:20:56 AM »
There's some damn good brewers on the forum, don't get me wrong, but I don't even believe 90% of commercial breweries out there are making "great commercial beer"....

It's like how 90% of people who work at music stores aren't virtuosos.
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Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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Starting a brewery
« Reply #68 on: March 05, 2013, 07:25:52 AM »
There's some damn good brewers on the forum, don't get me wrong, but I don't even believe 90% of commercial breweries out there are making "great commercial beer"....

It's like how 90% of people who work at music stores aren't virtuosos.

You've obviously never set foot in Guitar Center on a Saturday afternoon!  #bigtimesarcasm #wankfest
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Offline nateo

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #69 on: March 05, 2013, 07:29:10 AM »
You've obviously never set foot in Guitar Center on a Saturday afternoon!  #bigtimesarcasm #wankfest

Are you saying you don't like hearing 12 different people fumbling through "Stairway to Heaven" on out-of-tune electric guitars?
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Online micsager

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #70 on: March 05, 2013, 08:38:39 AM »
Hi everyone,

I have been home brewing for over 15 years and have been competing with great success for the last 4. I love it. I want to go pro but I am running into a capital fund issue. How does one raise the capital in such a tough lending market that we are in? By the way I have no money to put into the business at the end.

We opened our brewery with very little capital. Almost none.  But, of course it's jsut a hobby brewery.  But we are selling beer faster than we can brew it, and after just 6 months, will be tripling capacity soon. 

We did enjoy a confluance of good things though.  Already had a building.  We are not in an incorporated city, and had a fairly decent homebrew system.  (Blichmann Top Tier)

Sure, we may never really compete with the Hale's, Black Raven's, Fremont, or Georgetown, but we are having fun and making money.  (not enough to quit our day jobs though, LOL)   

Offline mpietropaoli

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #71 on: March 27, 2013, 04:34:03 PM »
Debt is cheaper on paper than equity.  However debt has its dangers too. . .  Banks (despite their ad campaigns) are NOT your business partner.  They are banks and they need to protect their depositors' dollars. 

Let's say you have very little money to invest, like many of the other posters here. You get investors to fund 90%+ of the brewery. You run the brewery. The brewery doesn't do well under your leadership. How long will your business partners keep you in charge of the brewery, before they force you out?

The craft brewing industry in the US is mature. Sam Calagione and Larry Bell were like Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak in the '70s. There was no personal computing industry, so they made one. In a nascent industry you can start in your garage. In a mature industry, the barriers to entry are much higher and the potential profits are much smaller.

If you really want to start a craft brewery on the cheap, I'd look at doing it in a dynamic economy with a lot of room to grow, but not much of a craft beer industry, like Brazil. I've seen a few guys on the German homebrew forums do that, because the liquor laws there are very friendly to start-ups, and $20k USD goes a long way.

I agree with your point about dilution.  If you have nothing other than passion to bring, you have to be the guy that is the spirit and heart of the business.  When the other partners want to know what you bring, it is converting that Miller Lite drinker at a local bar to try your beer.  And getting that drinker to like you.  And tell his friends about you. 

Re: Wozniak.  I agree.  However, Google was not the first search engine.  Altavista.  Webcrawler.  YAHOO.  Why did Google win?  Because they were more creative, innovative, and could execute better than the competition. 

BTW, just got back from Italy.  Craft beer is on fire over there.  Not sure about regs/raw mat pricing/lease rates, etc.  But if you opened a REALLY cool place in one of the college towns (Florence, maybe Siena), and executed well, you could absolutely kill it.
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Offline newrocset

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #72 on: April 06, 2013, 12:10:18 AM »
I'm about to jump in to an offer to operate the brewing end of a brewpub, which I'm both apprehensive and excited to do.

This venue is going to seat 125.  It will be in a college town.   We will only be able to serve 3.2ABW beers due to our current statutes.

I am thinking we will need a 7 barrel system to keep 4-5 different beers on tap.  Is this sufficient?  Can I do it with less?  Approximately, how much space would I need for a system this size?

Also, the location is about an hour from my house, but I get 7 straight days off of work per month, plus a few days scattered throughout.  Does it seem realistic for me to manage the brewing operations given my work schedule?

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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #73 on: April 06, 2013, 01:34:29 AM »
I'm about to jump in to an offer to operate the brewing end of a brewpub, which I'm both apprehensive and excited to do.

This venue is going to seat 125.  It will be in a college town.   We will only be able to serve 3.2ABW beers due to our current statutes.

I am thinking we will need a 7 barrel system to keep 4-5 different beers on tap.  Is this sufficient?  Can I do it with less?  Approximately, how much space would I need for a system this size?

Also, the location is about an hour from my house, but I get 7 straight days off of work per month, plus a few days scattered throughout.  Does it seem realistic for me to manage the brewing operations given my work schedule?
It's really hard to say.  Do you have any sales projections?  A 7 bbl system is "big enough" for huge sales, given enough fermenters and the desire to brew a lot, but sales drive those requirements.

Also, how will it be packaged?  Are you serving from kegs or brights?  If kegs, what is the throughput on the keg washer?  How fast can you transfer to kegs/brights?  Cleaning/filling kegs is a huge time suck.

With your work schedule it might be hard to manage, it all depends on what you mean by "manage the brewing operations".  Brewing a batch of beer is only a small part of that job.  Who will monitor fermentation?  Package the beer?  Clean everything?  Fix stuff when it breaks and you are at your other job?  Order stuff?  Fill out the proper forms?  Pay taxes and bills?

I don't know all of the details obviously, but I'm leaning towards "not realistic" unless you have dependable help.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline a10t2

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Re: Starting a brewery
« Reply #74 on: April 06, 2013, 08:20:49 AM »
Also, the location is about an hour from my house, but I get 7 straight days off of work per month, plus a few days scattered throughout.  Does it seem realistic for me to manage the brewing operations given my work schedule?

This isn't a judgment of your abilities at all, but if your partner(s) are considering running a 125-seat pub without a full-time brewer, I would question how well they know the industry. By "full-time" I mean 8-12 hours a day, 5-7 days a week. If you're doing any filtering and/or packaging, you'll probably need a second employee, at least part-time. So I guess the short answer is that while there may be enough raw hours available in your schedule, you can't bend the brewing to your schedule. Doing a one-month turnaround on 10°P beers means moving not much product through a lot of very expensive stainless. And the two-hour commute just sounds painful. What if you need to crash a fermenter? Will you drive two hours to push a button? Just an example.

This sounds like it could be a great opportunity, but I don't see any way to be successful without quitting your day job.
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