The Session (aka Beer Blogging Friday) is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.
This month’s session is hosted by Chuck Lenatti at Allbrews who is interested in hearing from “bloggers and others who have first-hand knowledge of the complexities and pitfalls of starting a commercial brewery”.
Now this is one I can get into, on ya Chuck. Well sort of at least, I’m not starting a brewery, more a brewing company. I’m not purchasing a whole brewery, but I am buying some stainless. I’m not quitting the day job, more a brewing company on top of my day job. I think I can call it going Semi Pro.
I also need to flag that I chose not to go the path of being a brewer for someone else first. I’ve got a farming background and have done labouring type jobs. Dont get me wrong I love them, but other people are prepared to pay me more to do other stuff. I guess this will leave some people thinking I havent “paid my dues” to get into brewing. Thats part true, but I like to think I’ve invested my time in other areas, experiences in beer, relationships and education. They all go hand in hand and have been part of my beer journey (oh fuck now this is sounding like one of those fucking singing or dancing reality shows. Fuck Fuck Fuck).
Basically I’ve been looking at trying to get into doing some beer at a commercial level for a number of years now. Finding a way to do it with out a heap of capital, or taking a huge risk, and giving up my day job, to start with anyway, has been a challenge. There are a range of really small systems that don’t fit with the time I have available. There are a range of contract bigger brewers available, but the scale and type of beers they could do didn’t really click with me. Also they somewhat limited how close I could be to the beers. I also found that the places that I’d like to have beer contract brewed either didn’t have space or didn’t want to know me.
So that left me back looking at small systems in a shed on my parents farm, something that I could afford, not an ideal setup for a number of reasons; distance from home, small brew length relative to brew time, and leave it at the farm someone could something or a possum would die in the tank or god knows wha other issues would happen. Basically the I felt compromised on it.
Or looking at commercial contract breweries where I could afford it but the batches were just to big for me to feel safe about. Getting 700 slabs of beer you don’t even really like yourself is a scary idea.
I was stuck. Little progress, frustration, lots of thinking about ideas that I knew weren’t really good for me right now.
Then shit happened. Not one but two small breweries said yes to me brewing in their facilities. Not perfect offers, but good ones. Progress, but hang on it gets better. An opportunity to own fermenting space in a new brew house where I could hands on make my own beer. Perfect. And thats what I’m doing, the offers from the two small breweries have been parked for the moment. A fermenter is being manufactured in China. I’ve completed my RSA and licensees first step course. I’m trying to figure out a company name and what the hell I’ll brew.
This is a story of good luck not good planning. Well sort of. The investment in relationships, education and beer experiences helped me figure out what I didn’t want, and realise when I’d found it. And to say YES. The timing wasnt perfect, my day job is mental right now and I’m getting married in 2 months, but its good to be busy right? The opportunity was right and I took it. A big part of this was right place right time.
Anyway I’m yet to make a beer, or even decide what my first beer will be. Thats a fun thought process, but one that makes you think a bit. Firstly I can make any beer I want, but I have to sell it. Also I need a company name. I had one, have had for about 4 years unfortunately someone else in the US already has that name (it seems for a year or so now). World wont end though, I’ll find another name.
One thing I didn’t expect was how excited everyone else is about this, my friends, family and even people I only know through social media. People are lining up to buy beer (or getting their friends lined up for it) and I havent even made a drop yet. And they want to invest in a company that doesnt exist! Blind faith?
I am also extremely lucky in the support that Jacqui, my fiance has given me on this. It is me chasing a dream, at perhaps a time when we have more than enough going on. Couldnt do it with out her support, and she is also my marketing department.
So there’s more paperwork ahead of me, label design, billing, logistics, websites, ordering, financials and then maybe I get to make some beer. The key thing about this is it’s not about making beer, it’s about running a business (well setting one up at this stage) and about selling beer (when I get to it). Being a good homebrewer doesn’t really add up to much when you go Semi Pro, time will tell how I go.
Final thoughts on doing this? figure out what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do. Surround yourself with the right people/info/environment and keep your ears/eyes open and be ready to jump on the opportunity when it pops its head up. Now who wants to buy some beer (in the future of course when I have my licence and have made some beer)
PS – on the Semi Pro thing, I’ve had people say you cant do it part-time. Cant comment if they are right or not just yet but I’m giving it a go anyway. I would say that you most definitely can do it part-time (fact) its more a matter of how well you can do it part-time, I guess thats up to me and how much sleep I need.