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Old 10-15-2012, 08:00 PM   #1
mverkruyse
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Default Nano nano brewery question?

So, I have a question for all you experienced brewers out there:

Nearly every brewery has a flagship beer, the one which they sell and produce in high quantities, whether it be a full fledged brewery, a pubhouse, a microbrewery, etc...

My question though, is could it be possible to, instead of brewing one type of beer in massive quantities, to produce tons of different types of beer in super small quantities (i.e., sell 50 different types of beer made in 5 gal batches, rather than making 2 different kinds in massive bbl batches). I know there's the whole economies of scale argument, but you could still buy the hops, yeast, etc... in bulk couldn't you?

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Old 10-15-2012, 08:08 PM   #2
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I don't think there'd be anyway to run a business like that, consider the amount of time you put into one 5 gallon brew... And to get 50 beers out of it, you'd have to sell it at a premium to pay for your time, licenses, building, equipment, ingredients, bottles. Not to mention the logistics of selling beer like that.

A brew pub would be the only way, and still, i would think you'd want to make bigger batches. If it takes 6 hours of labor for one 5 gallon batch and 10 hours for one 50 gallon batch, which would you do?

Not to mention the time it takes to build up a clientele for your beer... It has to be recognized, and talked about before you'll get many customers.

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Old 10-15-2012, 08:17 PM   #3
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Having a 'flagship' brew is just one of many brews produced by so many breweries. They sell a LOT of that, so they make a lot in order to keep people supplied. They also brew other beers, to flesh out their line.

IMO, having '50 different types of beer' is a nightmare in the making. It's not so much the ingredients cost, as the time it takes and fermenters you'll need to have on hand. Once you get to the nano scale, you're brewing in barrel increments, not 5 gallon batches. This is so that you can keep the cost per unit (bottle or keg) more reasonable both for you and the people buying it.

Check around at your area/local brewpubs and small breweries to see just how many brews they produce. I'm sure they'll have some seasonal recipes, but chances are they'll also have several that are produced year round. Just as likely, if a recipe doesn't sell well, they [probably] won't brew it again, or all that often.

BTW, breweries very often make test batches of recipes before committing their full size fermenters to it. A test batch can be almost any size, as long as they can scale it up. Some still have either a 1bbl or even .5bbl system to use for this. That way they can provide a taste to enough people to get a wide range of feedback on it. At least this is done while developing a new recipe. Once it's decided that it's going into production, they don't need to produce test batches.

Also, from conversations I've had with people at brew pubs, a batch (for them it's in the 10-13bbl range) takes maybe 6-8 hours from crush to pitch.

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Old 10-15-2012, 08:26 PM   #4
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So it's about time and space for that many fermenters that makes it implausible? I realize that there aren't any breweries that realistically make 50 different types, but I guess I was just wondering if it was possible. Also, does brewing in larger batches keep costs down on a per unit basis because of the distribution of overhead costs; because theoretically if you bought in bulk for ingredients, the supplies would cost the same on a per unit basis regardless of batch size, right?

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Old 10-15-2012, 08:27 PM   #5
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It's not a bad idea. I would just make one batch, no matter the size, of different beers. That is the way a lot of brewpubs/small breweries run. I always think of "flagship" beers as something mid and large sized breweries have. As a brewer who wants to make the same beer over and over and over again?

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Old 10-15-2012, 08:28 PM   #6
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Also, I guess I'd mean rather than brewing one 5 gal batch at a time, brewing multiple 5 gal batches at once, to achieve volume required. I realize that commercial breweries use BBL not gal size batches, but I'm hashing theoreticals right now ha.

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Old 10-15-2012, 08:41 PM   #7
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Smaller breweries (and probably the big ones too) tend to do one batch/recipe per day. They have enough fermenters so that by the time they need an empty one, a batch has already moved out of it.

Overhead costs will be a huge factor in the cost per glass/bottle. It's going to cost you the same for labor (you and your assistant), lights, heating, etc. You might save some on what's used to heat, and chill, the wort but that's about all.

I'm hoping to progress from batches that are 6 gallons into serving kegs (I use two 3 gallon kegs per batch, typically) to larger batch sizes. Right now, I'm limited by where I am and brewing alone. I have a big brew planned for the weekend of the 27th that will require some assistance. Mostly to get the mash tun off the burner (it's going to be full with almost 30# of grain), and probably lift the boil keggle to that burner. I plan on doing a caramelizing boil for the batch, in another pot, so I might draw some of the wort off before lifting it to the burner.

Next place I move to, I plan on getting/making a dedicated brewing structure/area where I'll be able to have a stand, or system, to make it easier on me.

BTW, I have a recipe (my MO SMaSH) that I want to keep a supply of at all times. So, I'm brewing it often. Probably 2-4 batches between times when I brew that recipe again. I brewed it on the 6th, so I should be ok for a bit. I also have three beer fermenters to use, so I'm setting my brewing schedule according to when those are available. I can normally stagger different batches so that I'll have one available, or becoming available, by the time I want to brew again. Right now two of them are empty, which is why I'm brewing this weekend (or around then) and then again the following weekend. By the time that third batch goes into fermenter, the batch from the 6th will either be in keg, or will be going into keg.

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Old 10-15-2012, 08:49 PM   #8
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I think the biggest challenge would be selling 50 different beers. For a nano, bottling is a pretty innefficient means of distribution although the margin on bottles is a bit higher. Kegs are a ton easier.... either you would have to sell those beers... or else why bother?

So the question isn't entirely "can you make em?"... it's "can you sell em?" I think it is difficult enough to get one or two really good selling beers... or at least good enough to make your money back... you're talking about trying to hit the nail on the head 50 out of 50 times.

Then... what if you DO find a handul of beers that people like? You won't be able to remotely keep up that kind of production schedule and supply folks with the beer they like. Now you're stuck making a bunch of beers people don't want and no where near enough of the ones they do.

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Old 10-15-2012, 09:19 PM   #9
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Wouldn't you just be able to stop making the ones that people didn't like though, and use the now available capacity towards making the ones that they do? Thank you also for everyone who has been giving input, I enjoy hearing all the opinions.

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Old 10-15-2012, 09:21 PM   #10
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of course... but why go through the hassle in the first place and waste all of the time and resources?

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