Going semi pro

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greenacarina

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Hi everyone!
First, please forgive me if this is in the wrong forum.
I am looking for input....
My soul-sucking job has kept me away from brewing (and other fun things) for too long. I am trying to find a path to my dream job...working for myself in my own shop with (among other things) my own beer.
I know there are "micro" breweries and "nano" breweries...but i am curious how nano i can get away with, without being completely absurd.
I have been a 5 gallon brewer forever. I am looking to scale up to a 10 gallon HERMS system. I am not wanting to build a beer empire...multiple locations, bottling, distribution, etc...
Just beers that can only be had at my little place.
I am wondering if this has been done? Is it feasible? Am i insane?
Would like to hear your thoughts.

Thanks!
Chris
 

RPh_Guy

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What is "semi pro"?
There's a local "brewery" that's like some guy's house with about 5 beers on tap that's only open for a couple hours one day a week for tastings and growler fills. They appear at local craft beer festivals and I think they do sell some kegs to some local bars/restaurants. No other distribution AFAIK, not even a website.
I'm guessing the brewers have other occupations.
... So, feasible? Sure, I guess. Starting a business isn't exactly easy though, especially by yourself. Quitting your day job requires a certain profitability obviously and getting there will be a significant investment in time and money, as well as a steep learning curve. So if you have to ask the question, you probably aren't ready.

Do you have a local homebrew club? Probably has some local brewery owners that you can consult with more details in your area. Collaboration happens; maybe they would even let you brew some batches on their systems.

Brew on!
 

radwizard

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I would imagine it would come down to licensing and what not. I'm not sure it would be realistic to pay for, and deal with all that if you were just trying to see bottles at a farmers market and a few festivals. Having your own taproom would be even more licensing and fees.

I'm not really sure the costs of all that, but that is what I would look at first.

I have thought about how feasible it would be to have a group of home brewers start a co-op brewery, where each guy had a couple taps. I thought it would be a cool idea but never looked into to.

Good luck on the plan!! Keep us posted with what you learn!
 
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greenacarina

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Thanks guys.
So, to give a clearer picture of what i have in mind...
Renting a small storefront, being open 2 or 3 days a week (to start), keeping my day job.
Offering coffee, tea, beer (some of it mine, a few other local offerings), wine (local).
Some pinball machines (another hobby of mine), possibly live music. My significant other runs a cake pop business from home and she will be expanding that into this space as well.
It doesn't need to be profitable...hitting the break even point would be great.
 
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greenacarina

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Great info here!! Thank you!!
Well...after reading that tale of bureaucratic nighmares. ..maybe i am better off selling plastic solo cups at a kegger in the park in the middle of the night. 😞
I will keep doing my homework. Maybe Washington state isn't as bad as Massachusetts....
 

grampamark

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You might try contacting the folks at Dunluce Brewing. They're about as nano, or sub-nano, as a brewery can get.

Adam, the owner, was a high school classmate of my daughter. His family's farm is near our farm. I haven't had the chance to try any of their beer (it's only available at a handful of bars on the other side of the state, about 400 miles away) but have been told it's pretty decent.

Mark
 

shoreman

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It doesn't need to be profitable...hitting the break even point would be great.
It’s gonna be a ton of work to just stay open a couple days and also brew some beer for the biz. I’d want to try to at least turn a profit 5-10 years from now so work that into a biz plan.

It’s certainly possible...anything is. There’s a lot more nano type equipment these days.

Listen to the latest beersmith podcast they have a 2bbl Brewery just serving pints to a local community.

MA would be a challenge, if you could move to say VT your expenses might be less.
 

jalc6927

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The main issue I read about with nano's is making a profit. Since that's not your primary goal, you should go for it

Do your research for licensing and restrictions.

In Texas you can get a brewpub license which means you can only sell your own beer and can't distribute. Or brewery which means you can distribute but can't sell on premises? Stupid laws

Not sure what Mass had in place

My goal is to open a pub just like you're wanting too

A few days a week in a small location with a food truck or two for eats

Will probably cost $8000 to license and liability insurance, plus rent equipment etc

Not a small investment but one that will be worth it
 

don_bran321

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We gave a local brewer in our area called Mad Prince brewery in Doylestown PA.

Super nice guys (two brothers) who brew on a 15gal system one of the already put together ones.
They said the most difficult part of doing it was getting the license. It's not overwhelming expensive in PA! only around $3000. Their problem was getting the paperwork signed off. Said Noone would answer emails or phone calls for about a year and had to contact our congressman to get it started but the good new is that they gave been quite successful.
They said they brew back to back everyday and can't keep up with demand.
The takeaway from this is that it is very possible! dream man dream! I'm on my way there myself (at current soul sucking job.... currently)
 

Greytop

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The main hurdles you'll encounter are regulatory, and they are at every level from city/county up to the feds. My go-to source in California is the California Craft Brewers Association. They work on legislation and education, even sponsoring seminars for folks looking to go pro. I attended one in Sept. and learned a heck of a lot from the state and federal overseers who presented. I see Washington state has the Washington Brewer's Guild. I don't know how strong they are, but they might be a good resource. Good luck!
 

Phunhog

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Since you are in Washington.....check out Foggy Noggin Brewing. Full nano with tasting room.
 

madscientist451

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Thanks guys.

It doesn't need to be profitable...hitting the break even point would be great.
Take it from someone who has run a business: You need to make a profit.
You can't work for free or subsidize a business with other income, its just not sustainable, its not going to work, you'll ruin your relationships and have numerous other problems.
On the bright side, if you want to set up a 1/2 bbl brewery, sell growlers, maybe have some keg accounts, you can actually do that and make a profit.
If you don't have much start up money, work like hell to get it, don't borrow everything. Keep costs and debt load as low as possible. Focus your attention on putting money in YOUR pocket. Good Luck.
 
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greenacarina

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Take it from someone who has run a business: You need to make a profit.
You can't work for free or subsidize a business with other income, its just not sustainable, its not going to work, you'll ruin your relationships and have numerous other problems.
On the bright side, if you want to set up a 1/2 bbl brewery, sell growlers, maybe have some keg accounts, you can actually do that and make a profit.
If you don't have much start up money, work like hell to get it, don't borrow everything. Keep costs and debt load as low as possible. Focus your attention on putting money in YOUR pocket. Good Luck.

Well, i do plan to make a profit at some point. I am trying to ease into this thing and learn as i go...not expecting to profit for a while and keeping my expectations realistic.
No debt here...i own all my stuff and trying to keep overhead as low as possible as well as keeping my day job.
The big goal is to figure out how to form this into a long term sustainable business that i can transition into full time...maybe restore some of my sanity.
 
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greenacarina

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Thanks everyone for all these great replies! Tons of good info and leads here.
Foggy noggin brewing is my next stop! ��
 

jalc6927

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There are many start up business that are financed by full time job incomes, it happens all the time

It's a good plan and it's far better than borrowed money

I own/ run a business and fully expect that income to sustain me while my brewpub established itself
 

madscientist451

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The big goal is to figure out how to form this into a long term sustainable business that i can transition into full time...maybe restore some of my sanity.
You have to decide (for you) what the #1 reason of opening a business is.
To restore sanity? To have more fun in your life? For some other reason?
A commercial brewery doesn't exist only to make beer or provide a fun atmosphere for its owner. A commercial brewery PRIMARILY exists to make money.
That's why they sell "pints" at the ridiculous price of $6 and then only give you 12oz of actual beer in the glass. If, on paper, you can't make a profit from day one, your are doomed. Even your best estimates will likely be wrong, your costs will be higher than expected. Without a profit, your bills will outrun your resources and you'll eventually close down. Breweries close all the time, even well established ones.
A local guy brewed on a 1/2 bbl keggle system out of a rented garage and only sold growlers and kegs, his volume was about 12 bbl/month. Eventually he got some financing and now has a brew pub/restaurant. So it can be done.
 

Cevan65

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http://www.redbarnbrewingvt.com

I got a tour of this place just as they were beginning to brew their test batches on a one barrel set up. The barn is next to their house. They are making a profit while still having a day job so it is possible.
 

jalc6927

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Not only is running a business while working a full time job possible, it's a great plan
 

TheDylster

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More importantly.....what pinball machines will be there!?

Also one of my other hobbies.
 

Qhrumphf

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The issue with small is cost of labor. A 10 gal batch (homebrew or pilot) takes me 6 hours, setup to cleanup. An 11bbl full batch takes me 7 hours, 8 if I run full CIP afterwards. I've run 60-90 bbls via multiple turns on bigger systems in 10-12 hours.

Point is that the labor cost is exponentially more in smaller batches. And the sweet spot of making enough to grow is hard with smaller volumes. So if you're brewing 10gal at a time, doing growlers and limited tap room, you can probably break even. But I don't see it easily being enough to turn into a full time job without significantly further investment. At which point just make that investment from the start so it's already built in for. Adding more tanks later is a pain in the ass.
 

MaryB

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Town issues will depend on the town... local bar has asked me to brew for them as a micro brewery, town is easy, any new business is an automatic yes because we need new businesses. I am disabled so I am saying no for now. I told the bar owner she has to learn to brew and I would teach and offer assistance in the afternoons only and that could depend on if I can move(bad back/knees/hips/shoulders/wrists... pain is an old friend). Granted I could get her started on a brew at 2pm and she could finish cleanup around 9pm in a 2bbl system. Just have to workout what would line my pocket properly as an advisor because I am not going in debt to buy the equipment. She gets my house ale(strong English style brown ale) recipe everyone loves and that one recipe would make a profit. Slowly sneak in an IPA that is at the low end of the bitter scale because the BMC drinkers around here would be doing imitations of that bitter beer commercial! Craft beer is slowly making inroads up at the bar with more and more being offered in the bottle or can... teach her to pair some beers with the typical bar menu she serves...
 

Zimm9

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@MaryB If I lived near you I'd be begging to be your apprentice. Sounds like you just need to find someone who wants to learn and do the grunt work while you orchestrate the chaos. :) Sorry you're unable to do more brewing etc but having an assistant would let you enjoy most of the process.
 
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