People always ask “how’s it going?” but they really want to know is when I’ll open. I know because I have had the conversation enough times from the other side of the table. Our initial location dropped out so I have been working with a real estate agent to find another property. You can put a brewery just about anywhere, if you get the right permits and deal with the hassles. Finding a location that will make a good brewery location though takes a little more thought.
Years ago it started for me I’d look at buildings and think could you put a brewery in there? The first building I did that in my head is now a social services building in Flagstaff. It sat unused for years, I am not sure now that the building had enough vertical height that it would have made a good brewery, but it could have been done.
Because of the way the business plan has developed the easiest property would be an industrial lot with a good amount of vertical space. The building having a dock door is border line a minimum requirement, because while it is not a necessity, it does make life a lot easier. In conversations with my equipment supplier they say it’s amazing how many people opening a brewery don’t have a dock door. Sufficient electricity into the building is a requirement because without that there will be costly upgrades required. Lastly are the location and aesthetic considerations.
While we will be a brewery with a restaurant, short term at opening it will be just a brewery and with the restaurant coming later. Ideally we will want to sell as much beer as possible on site. That means the location must have the right demographics as a customer base. Industrial close to residential or with good commuter numbers nearby has been the model of a number of successful breweries. I think we are dialing in on some locations with that potential.
Aesthetic I list last and while it definitely can be a component of success, it doesn’t require it. Fullsteam has a very community center feel and that vibe comes through in it’s design. I often liken it to a church built around beer with the brewery the grand cathedral showing through the glass. Counter that down the road in Raleigh with Big Boss which has a very industrial-blue collar feel because that was exactly what it was set up as, it calls more to the beginning of the craft beer movement and reflects the more roots. Is one better than the other, surely not Big Boss has been known to attract hundreds for it’s monthly tours and thousands for it’s big party events. Go to Fullsteam any given Saturday, you will see birthday parties, families and friends gathering for a quick pint so both serve their purpose.
Finding a building that can reflect Compass Rose aesthetic is part of my goal at the moment. I’d like to have enough space that we can have that community space feel, but allow for the industrial elements the brewery needs. It’s a delicate tightrope but I think we are getting to some promising sites.