Going Pro...whose got what it takes?

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Jason Horlacher

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I know we all have the dream of being a Micro brewery/brew pub, but is there anyone here that has taken the steps toward going Pro?

Has anyone researched? Acquried the means? Gone out and looked at real estate? DOES ANYONE HERE THINK THEIR BEER IS GOOD ENOUGH??

My wife and I have talked about opening a brew pub when we retire from the military...I figure we will have our retirement to live on while the place starts up...I have done some pricing of equipment. I have a few books on the subject too. I know I have a long way to go, but I dream about it daily...
just seeing if anyone else does...

:mug:

Jason
 

the_bird

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Brewtopia's in the middle of this process, and a couple other folks have done some exploratory studies. Take a gander at BrewPastor's "Don't Try This At Home" series of threads for his experiences working on the commercial side.
 

Brewtopia

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As Bird stated above, my brewing partner and I are in the process of opening a Brewery/Taphouse in the Seattle area.

We think we found the perfect spot after months of searching and are currently drafting our letter of intent.

I recently had the opportunity to brew one of our recipes at a local brewpub and we rolled the beer out just this last Friday. The response was tremendous with a little over 50 people coming out for the occasion. Including several local professional brewers and beer writers.

We've changed our business plan in light of the recent hop shortage. The original plan was for a 15bbl production brewhouse with a taproom serving beers and light food. We are now looking at opening a taphouse with 18-20 guest taps, installing a much smaller brew system and brewing a few rotating house beers while we wait for the hop situation to correct itself. 2-3 years down the road, we'll look at scaling up the brewing operation.

I also want to second the suggestion to read Brewpastor's posts on the subject. He's been there, done that and there is a wealth of information in his story.

Good luck!
 

inkslinger82

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Just wanted to quickly chime in on this one. Im new to brewing, but have my own business. Here is what I learned BEFORE I started mine. There is a HUGE difference between being an artisan/craftsman...and being an entrepreneur. Very few people possess the ambition, personality, and devotion to both be the artisan and the businessman. In my situation, I made a decision up front that I was going to be the main artisan in my business...therefore I needed to hire somebody to actually RUN the business. I guess if I was to relate the experience to Brewing...I would say either make a decision to RUN the business and make the decisions that will lead your company to success...or go the other route and HIRE somebody to run the business while you focus on creating a solid, marketable product. Doing both is not efficient for time or product quality. Im not saying it cannot be done, but any business consultant might tell you that the creator of a company MUST be willing to relinquish some control of the company in order to achieve steady growth.....this goes for any business. Just have sound hiring and training procedures to make sure that it runs like a machine. Just my thoughts.
Chris
 

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I'm on the path myself. Good advice so far. I would add, work for someone else before you open your own place. You can learn a lot more by doing it than imagining doing it, and you get to learn and get paid. Get an assistant brewer's job before you attend one of the schools (Davis or Siebel). It seems to me that the Brewer's Guild's on-line course with the internship is the best of the programs for homebrewer's looking to go pro. For now, brew, read, study, experiment, repeat.
 

TexLaw

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Bernie Brewer said:
I don't dream of that. Why ruin a great hobby by turning it into work??
A-men. As my chemical engineer, brewing friend once said: "If I brewed for a living, what I do for a hobby? Make plastic?"


TL
 

Reverend JC

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TexLaw said:
A-men. As my chemical engineer, brewing friend once said: "If I brewed for a living, what I do for a hobby? Make plastic?"


TL


Yes, and i go to homeplastictalk.com for fellow minded people!
 

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inkslinger82 said:
Just wanted to quickly chime in on this one. Im new to brewing, but have my own business. Here is what I learned BEFORE I started mine. There is a HUGE difference between being an artisan/craftsman...and being an entrepreneur. Very few people possess the ambition, personality, and devotion to both be the artisan and the businessman. In my situation, I made a decision up front that I was going to be the main artisan in my business...therefore I needed to hire somebody to actually RUN the business. I guess if I was to relate the experience to Brewing...I would say either make a decision to RUN the business and make the decisions that will lead your company to success...or go the other route and HIRE somebody to run the business while you focus on creating a solid, marketable product. Doing both is not efficient for time or product quality. Im not saying it cannot be done, but any business consultant might tell you that the creator of a company MUST be willing to relinquish some control of the company in order to achieve steady growth.....this goes for any business. Just have sound hiring and training procedures to make sure that it runs like a machine. Just my thoughts.
Chris
Sounds about right. My wife and I run a photography business... I do the photography (for the most part) and shes runs the business.
 

Hopleaf

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Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.

That being said, I'd have to have someone run the business and let me just make beer.. then I'd be happy. If you really have a good product, it will sell itself. imho
 
OP
J

Jason Horlacher

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Well then I guess I just feel different than most...I cant work the 9-5 like most...sitting in an office...cant make "WAR" my hobby

...but thats cool...when my place opens, I'll be glad to take Bernie and Tex's money.
 

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I think you have to prove to yourself that you can make good beer 99% of the time. Literally, one bad batch will put the business in jeopardy for the month (I think).

I think my beers are mediocre at best (the ones I make up myself). Sometimes I really wonder if they're better or worse than my impression. Blind taste tests between your own beers and good commercial examples of the style is the only way. Even when you're tasting them blindly, one would hope your homebrew is picked as the favorite almost always.
 
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Bobby_M said:
I think you have to prove to yourself that you can make good beer 99% of the time. Literally, one bad batch will put the business in jeopardy for the month (I think).

I think my beers are mediocre at best (the ones I make up myself). Sometimes I really wonder if they're better or worse than my impression. Blind taste tests between your own beers and good commercial examples of the style is the only way. Even when you're tasting them blindly, one would hope your homebrew is picked as the favorite almost always.
Regarding taste...
I think that to be more true if you are strictly a brewery.

IMO: If you are a brewpub, you live and die on your food, atmosphere amd service and make money on the beer (sadly).

Great points.
 

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olllllo said:
Regarding taste...
I think that to be more true if you are strictly a brewery.
And that is not actually true for all breweries. You can do your own thing and be successful as a brewer, there is nothing I know of that you can do a blind testing on for the DFH 120 or Port, just like when Vinnie more less was the first to release an IIPA. It is all about the 4 p's (product, place, price and people) they teach that in business 101 (actually in high school business). If you can offer something people want you can be successful. The craft bre market is flooded with pale ales, ambers, porters and bock's so saying a blind testing is the definitive test is a bit narrow sighted. There is a spectrum of tastes within each of these styles, each has fans so it is impossible to have 100% consensus. That said, I hope to one day brew a dopplebock as good as Salvator.

If you can do it, and afford to loose everything you put in, you should do it. You never know till you try. Look at this for inspiration: (scroll half way down) http://www.worthbrewing.com/brewery.html
 

FlyingHorse

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No matter which way you go (brewpub/restaurant, or distributing brewery), brewing good beer is going to be about #4 or #5 on the list of things you need to be good at, and will probably get 10% of your attention.

If you're a brewpub, you're a restaurant first...one of the most fickle, high-failure-rate businesses you can get into. Even places that do everything right don't make it.

If you're just going to be a brewery, then you need distribution...in most places, this means dealing with someone who has a lot more power than you, if you want any tap or shelf space.

Did anyone mention regulation? Insurance? Finding and keeping good people?

I admire people who go up against these odds, but it seems to me that "I like to brew, so I'll open a brewery" is a little like "I like riding my bike...I think I'll enter the Tour de France"
 

EdWort

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Jason Horlacher said:
DOES ANYONE HERE THINK THEIR BEER IS GOOD ENOUGH??
Yes, but the Tri-Lateral Commission (Bud, Miller, Coors) has conspired with the politicians in Texas to make it almost impossible for any startup that does not have multi 7 figures to burn. They have all the state politicians in their pocket and force a 3 tier distribution system on brewers with their arcane laws.

I would have to leave Texas to open a brewpub (out of principle).
 

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heh heh... these day's it gets harder and harder to compete. I think like 20 years ago it would have been much easier to run a business. Because if vast improvements in distribution, marketing, and mega corporations... a lot of small time operations are getting the squeeze. Big companies have the payroll and staff numbers to put politicians in their pocket. They have enough money to flood advertising out over TV, radio, internet, billboards (Ex. Vonage). They are big enough to buy up supply to force general price increases (ex. Sierra Nevade pwning the cascade market). Its nothin new... ma and pa hardware stores are a thing of the past, Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowes crushed them.
 

Brewpastor

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I still find myself thinking about jumping back into the game. I know I can make the beer and I even have the equipment for a little neighborhood establishment, but then reality sets in and my fear of poverty takes over. In the end I don't want the hassle. But I still dream from time to time.
 

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I came to a conclusion a while ago. The only way I would have my own brewpub is if I found someone with a million to spend and doesn't mind ever seeing a penny back.
 

the_bird

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Brewpastor said:
I still find myself thinking about jumping back into the game. I know I can make the beer and I even have the equipment for a little neighborhood establishment, but then reality sets in and my fear of poverty takes over. In the end I don't want the hassle. But I still dream from time to time.
Afraid of giving up the high lifestyle of the Presbyterian ministry, eh?
 

Skunkyhops

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WOW! A lot of you guys are doom and gloomers saying there is a slim to none chance of opening a brewery brew pub whatever. Im sure that people told the wright brothers that they could never make a flying machine too! Guess what they DID! I guess what im saying is there are always going to be nay sayers in life and you can let them make decisions for you or you can follow your dreams and make your own **** happen! Lance Armstrong obviously loved to ride his bike so he did go ride the tour de france and won!! Career councilors ask you to pick something that you like so much you would do it for free, then go make money at it! If a brewery or brew pub is your dream no matter what the size I say go for it, the sky truly is the limit for most of us!
 

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Skunkyhops said:
WOW! A lot of you guys are doom and gloomers saying there is a slim to none chance of opening a brewery brew pub whatever. Im sure that people told the wright brothers that they could never make a flying machine too! Guess what they DID! I guess what im saying is there are always going to be nay sayers in life and you can let them make decisions for you or you can follow your dreams and make your own **** happen! Lance Armstrong obviously loved to ride his bike so he did go ride the tour de france and won!! Career councilors ask you to pick something that you like so much you would do it for free, then go make money at it! If a brewery or brew pub is your dream no matter what the size I say go for it, the sky truly is the limit for most of us!
You're right. Now print that out and take it to investors to raise the $300,000-$1,000,000 you need for start up.
Reality is no fun sometimes. Malt prices are doubling, hop prices are tripling, stainless steel, glass, cardboard are all up, not to mention oil. There are many obstacles that you could over come if you are lucky and skilled.
Just because the Wright brothers flew doesn't mean that hundreds of optimistic guys with paper wings didn't crash.
 

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Skunkyhops said:
WOW! A lot of you guys are doom and gloomers saying there is a slim to none chance of opening a brewery brew pub whatever. Im sure that people told the wright brothers that they could never make a flying machine too! Guess what they DID! I guess what im saying is there are always going to be nay sayers in life and you can let them make decisions for you or you can follow your dreams and make your own **** happen! Lance Armstrong obviously loved to ride his bike so he did go ride the tour de france and won!! Career councilors ask you to pick something that you like so much you would do it for free, then go make money at it! If a brewery or brew pub is your dream no matter what the size I say go for it, the sky truly is the limit for most of us!
You only hear about the Wright Bros because they made it work. They don't write books about the hundreds of douches that throw themselves off a cliff with a canvas wing strapped to their backs. Edit...I just realized that wasn't witty now because catfish already said it.. oops.
 

Bobby_M

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olllllo said:
Regarding taste...
I think that to be more true if you are strictly a brewery.

IMO: If you are a brewpub, you live and die on your food, atmosphere amd service and make money on the beer (sadly).

Great points.
Word... but the question started out asking if the beer was good enough. Then again, you can read it two ways.. The beer might be good enough, but the beer isn't enough.

I couldn't sell my beer in a restaraunt with great food either though.
 
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Bobby_M said:
You only hear about the Wright Bros because they made it work. They don't write books about the hundreds of douches that throw themselves off a cliff with a canvas wing strapped to their backs.

What about their fabulously successful airframe multinational?
 

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I would love the opportunity to run a brewery. I love brewing, and know enough about it to be able to run the business side of it. Strangely, I think I would like that better than making the beer 150 barrels at a time. 5 gallons I can handle. Supply and distribution I can handle. 5000 gallons and the business's reputation riding on a fickle yeast strain? I'll leave that to the professionals.

As someone said before: why turn a hobby into a job? I'll enjoy my homebrew (immensely, as it were), but I won't be selling it anytime soon.

On the other hand, when I make my millions, which one of you guys will be my head brewer?

:D
 

inkslinger82

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I wasn't trying to be doomy gloomy. Just realistic. Business is not fun sometimes. Its not impossible to start...just takes LOTS of planning and a really strong team around you to make it work. Oh...little hint if you are ever going to try it....in your business plan do a marketing plan and allocate at LEAST 10% of your entire budget to marketing otherwise a lender might not even look at you. You could have the best beer in the world...but it costs time/money/ and any combination of the two to get your name out.
 

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EdWort said:
Yes, but the Tri-Lateral Commission (Bud, Miller, Coors) has conspired with the politicians in Texas to make it almost impossible for any startup that does not have multi 7 figures to burn. They have all the state politicians in their pocket and force a 3 tier distribution system on brewers with their arcane laws.
That's not a new item. Anhueser-Busch, Pabst (Best Brewery) and Miller were doing that in the 1800's.

Read, Ambitious Beer, The Story of American Beer, by Maureen Ogle (One hundred fifty years of American beer, from the German immigrants of the 1840s to the microbrewers of the 1980s.)

Puts a lot of American beer history myths to rest and provides a thumping good read, as they say.
 
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Oh I am going there and doing that. I have decited to build a brewery and that is just exactly what I am going to do!!! California Brewing Company inc. Redding Brewhouse should be open for buisness early 2009. buisnesss plan is complete I have the DREAM TEAM on board, the marketing tools and lables are complete.... Here we go
JJ
make your dreams happen. cause nobody is gonna do it for ya!!!
 

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+1 for Inkslinger82's comments!

My parents owned a commercial nursery for 17 years, 13 of which it was the sole source of income for our family. In retrospect I don't know how they did it and am amazed and thankful!

I started a new job last month, left an awful situation after 7 torturous years of what would qualify as mental abuse if I had been married to my last job!!! NO I"M NOT KIDDING, it was that bad. My new job, like my old one, is a small business run by the owner/operator. It couldn't be more different than day is from night. How a business is run in all aspects are key. The product, placement, advertisement/promotion, work environment, talent pool of prospective employees, product awareness of clientel, realistic possibility of educating clientel, on and on and on! What's my point? To echo what others have said, it's hard and I haven't even mentioned financing. I myself would absolutely LOVE to go into bus. for myself, but lack the means and contacts to do so with any assurity of being able to keep my family clothed, fed, and properly housed.... so I work for someone else.

Too finish up and track back to the original purpose of this post, I'll relate what my new boss said too me as we were talking the other day. ( to understand this you have to know that I work for a Digital Graphics/Vehicle Wrap/Trade Graphics company as a graphic artist) He said about 3 years ago he had to make a decision to either be an artist or run his business the correct way. Well I was hired to take over much of his remaining design responsibilities. So like inkslinger82 said.... there are some tough decisions to be made when you run a business. Sorry to be so UNBRIEF... guess yall know why I'm an artist and not a writer!

Good luck and cheers to all you intrepid entrepaneurs,
Phillip

For anyone intrested check us out at www.imageonestudios.com


inkslinger82 said:
Just wanted to quickly chime in on this one. Im new to brewing, but have my own business. Here is what I learned BEFORE I started mine. There is a HUGE difference between being an artisan/craftsman...and being an entrepreneur. Very few people possess the ambition, personality, and devotion to both be the artisan and the businessman. In my situation, I made a decision up front that I was going to be the main artisan in my business...therefore I needed to hire somebody to actually RUN the business. I guess if I was to relate the experience to Brewing...I would say either make a decision to RUN the business and make the decisions that will lead your company to success...or go the other route and HIRE somebody to run the business while you focus on creating a solid, marketable product. Doing both is not efficient for time or product quality. Im not saying it cannot be done, but any business consultant might tell you that the creator of a company MUST be willing to relinquish some control of the company in order to achieve steady growth.....this goes for any business. Just have sound hiring and training procedures to make sure that it runs like a machine. Just my thoughts.
Chris
 

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I think location makes a big difference in whether you will be successful or not. Here in western mass there are a lot of micropubs and some really good regional breweries. It helps that we seem to have a culture that appreciates good beer around here. Some areas and some people just have the "I drink two types of beers, bud and free" attitude.
 

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Maybe a little late to this discussion, but there are a lot of books out there worth reading about restaurant / bar / foodservice ownership. All my life i've wanted to own a bar. I've worked in just about every aspect of food service and its a great deal of work and money obviously but if done right it can be quite rewarding.

My plan its to own an establishment for all audiences. Family food section as well as a seperate bar section. Now that i'm getting into brewing this is yet another angle that could potentially be an option. Obviously we'll hafta see how the brewing comes, but i've decided to hold on opening until i'm a little older, have some more money, and experience.

...but i digress....

definitely check into some of the books that are available. The first that I read was "Running a Bar for Dummies"
 

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Jaybird said:
Oh I am going there and doing that. I have decited to build a brewery and that is just exactly what I am going to do!!! California Brewing Company inc. Redding Brewhouse should be open for buisness early 2009. buisnesss plan is complete I have the DREAM TEAM on board, the marketing tools and lables are complete.... Here we go
JJ
make your dreams happen. cause nobody is gonna do it for ya!!!
I hope the dream team also "decited" to spell check the business plan before shopping it around. :cross:
 
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Bobby_M said:
I hope the dream team also "decited" to spell check the business plan before shopping it around. :cross:
spell check dweeb:mug: holy crap I would hate to think I sent some things out to the brew boys without spell checking first...there is more to life then spellcheck bobaloo:D but ya it was put together by a pro. loads of great feed back on the plan and generating $$$$$$$ thats the key
Cheers
JJ
 
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