For this month’s Session we are asked to give advice to someone opening a brewery.
When I think about someone another brewery I have two words, good luck. I mean it, it’s not that the industry isn’t doing well, of course it is. But with all the new brewers coming online the shelf space may get scarce soon, especially for the unknown quantity.
In terms of advice for these folks I’ll stick to the basics.
It’s a good idea to advance promotion, but wait until you have a site established and working on construction. Promoting too early leaves people questioning if you will ever going to open. I understand it’s a long, slow process, but in my experience the beergeeks and public are far less patient.
Then there is the classic advice “Gather more money than you think you will need”. But even more importantly once you have that money make sure you focus on the right things. I heard a new brewer tell me that they weren’t going to bother getting a Zahm because they would check carbonation by taste. Have the right equipment to ensure your quality. People will only give your beer one chance if you are lucky in this busy market and the only way to ensure you put your best foot forward is to have the facts about the quality of your beer.
Last be sure to establish good safety practices. To me this is the first and most important thing for a brewery to do. Everyone needs to go home and enjoy a good pint at the end of the day. So many people are getting into this field who haven’t worked in a brewery before, they need to be mindful of the pressures, hot liquids, and harsh chemicals we deal with on a daily basis. This is a simple job, but it remains a dangerous one, so be careful.
It is the one thing I have learned the last few years of brewing. If my gut reads something is wrong when I check invariably there is a problem that needs to be corrected.
Case in point I brewed a beer last week and a few minor things stick out in my mind looking back. That pump is running a little louder-harder than normal. The grain bed seemed to settling higher and odd position to normal. My gravity during mash out was lower than normal. Looking back at all these little things they clued me in there was a problem but I didn’t know exactly what until it was too late. We get our grain pre-milled, a shipment didn’t get milled, or crushed, properly so when I went to empty the mash tun I discovered that fact. From now on I will double-check each bag of grain to make sure it has been milled. Thankfully it was the first of a two batch session so I was able to compensate on my next wort and even them out.
If you didn’t clean it, assume it dirty.
If you didn’t check it, assume it didn’t get done.
In the end you have to remain mindful of your surroundings not just to get the job done right, but also safely.
It was a day of transit for me so not much of note. I started at the brewery in Raleigh fussing about as a mother hen looking over things one last time, making sure the brewery was in good order before coming to DC. The train ride up was slow, late, but wifi and reports of others heading the same direction kept me in good cheer.
I managed to see old coworkers, local friends, and friends from the other side of the country, but not run into my boss at the opening reception. Funny too as everyone had just spoke with him, but I never managed to catch up. Receptions at the Air and Space Museum are always impressive with the aircraft lit up at night, but it always evolves into people having conversations while ignoring their surroundings. And getting kicked out of galleries with drinks, The beer food pairings with local breweries were particularly mentioning, they had paired a dish with a local beer. The duck sausage and Belgian ale was really amazing.
Today the conference starts in earnest.
My post about A Sense of Place has been in my mind for a while. What brought it back to my attention was this recent article on BrewHub. The idea that 5 ‘craft breweries’ would combine an operations space. Admittedly it takes my idea and pushes it to a test, can breweries keep their individual sense of place if you are in a multi-use facility? I think it will dampen potential for unique personality to shine through, to show the personality of the brewers and their art.
Or perhaps they will all shine through and my idea on place is worthless?
Time will tell.
I will say that brewpubs looking to expand into the production space this will be a potentially attractive route. The test case is already been made in the form of the 21st Amendment Brewery, while they have their home in San Francisco they have a partner brewery in Minnesota.
For smaller regional breweries, it might be a way to expand production when in a pinch waiting on a new or expansion of a facility, but I don’t think many brands will be successful on this model.