How to Take Your Brewing Operation to the Next Level
So, you’ve been brewing beer for a while now and everyone agrees; you’ve gotten really, really good.
You’re confident in your ability and have decided it’s time to turn your beloved pastime into a full-blown business venture. This venture, of course, is starting a brewery. As many will attest, operating a brewery is a business experience unlike anything else.
The craft beer industry in the United States is booming. As of last year, the market for craft beer was over $23 billion – a number that is on the rise.
Being from the craft beer haven of San Diego, it seems there is a new brewery popping up every day. Some stick around longer than others. As a business development strategist, casual brewer, and critical beer connoisseur, I’ve noticed a distinct pattern in what makes a successful brewery, versus the ones that close up shop sooner than they would like.
If you’ve decided to turn your love of craft brewing into a career, here are several points to keep in mind.
Make a Budget and Stick to It
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When you are brewing craft beer as a hobby, a few lost dollars here and there is no big deal, as long as the final product is tasty and gets the job done, right?
Unfortunately, this casual attitude does not translate when you decide to take your hobby to the next level. Just getting a brewery up and running requires A LOT of time and premeditation. Rough estimates and eyeballing won’t do the trick. As commercial equipment is certainly not cheap, your startup costs and budget need to depend on many key factors.
These include things like the size of your brewery, projected revenue, location, business structure, ect. Similar to any other business venture, you need to put in the proper research, map out your growth plan backed with data, determine your market, and allocate your budget accordingly.
A big mistake I see in San Diego is business owners assume that since they are in a proud craft beer city, they will automatically see huge amounts of growth in a short timeframe. When this is the case, the concept of sticking to a defined budget takes a backseat, and a nosedive is likely.
Staying true to a budget is never easy, especially in the craft beer industry. If you are new to this unique business landscape, keeping your records and projections on notebook paper and spreadsheets might not be enough. Fortunately, there are plenty of user-friendly tools out there to help with the tough process of budgeting. BeerRun is a fantastic program specifically designed for brewers to easily manage their operations and inventory – without the dreaded feeling that you are in over your head.
Eliminate Guesswork During Cleaning and Sanitation
If you are starting a brewery and plan on being the brewmaster, the reality of the job is you will be spending a huge chunk of your time cleaning and sanitizing equipment. When you’re brewing as a hobby, there is no worse feeling than cracking open the first brew of the batch and realizing your beer is infected.
As demoralizing as it is to dump a bad batch down the drain, doing so in a commercial setting is a thousand times worse! Not only are you wasting much more product and budget, you are losing huge amounts of revenue.
Even more, it’s a bad indicator for the future of your operations – as there are all kinds of FDA sanitation regulations breweries must abide by.
With this in mind, you cannot leave ANY part of your cleaning and sanitation practices up to guesswork. If you do, it’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong. With each piece of equipment you clean, you need guarantees.
For this purpose, tools like the Hygenia EnSure ATP Test Luminometer use bio-luminescence technology to test levels of microorganisms in all equipment that comes in contact with your consumable product.
Whether it’s testing your barrels, lines, bottles, kegs, ect. all sample data is compiled into a single system for quality indicators to eliminate the unknown.
Plain and simple, cleaning and sanitation need to be your top priority when running a brewery. A single lapse in judgment can spell disaster quicker than anything else. Investing in the right tools should be step one.
Study the Local Beer Culture
One of the most important pieces of the puzzle in starting your own brewery is knowing exactly how your niche is going to fit into the community. Using San Diego as an example, the local beer culture loves IPAs. The big name breweries in the area, like Stone and Ballast Point, understand this to a tee and are well known for their hoppy variations.
Given your location, you’ll want to do some digging to understand what the locals are into. Fortunately, you can do a lot of this field work with some good Google searches.
Start by Googling things like “Most popular beers in (Your City).” Be sure you are looking at reliable sources. Also, routinely check out local food and drink publications on social media for insights.
You’ll want to keep a close eye on the patterns.
What types of beers are getting acclaimed by critics?
For example, if it looks like pale ales and IPAs are getting a good deal of attention, make them a prominent part of your production plans – with your own special spin on it, of course.
At the end of the day, craft beer is all about culture. Your ability to sew yourself into the community of consumers is a significant factor in determining the life or death of your operation.
Starting a brewery is an exciting time. You are finally turning your passion for craft beer into a full-time job!
Even though it’s a casual and happy industry for consumers, being successful from a business standpoint is not nearly as easy as it may seem. With the proper research, budgeting, and commitment to quality, carving out a name for yourself in the community will happen before you know it!
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- How to Take Your Brewing Operation to the Next Level - 12/28/2017