I often get asked by clients, about brewery schedule planning. It’s a great subject, which I’m happy to help with. It shows a person is on the ball and thinking ahead…my favorite type of client.
If you’re starting a new brewery; even with research, predicted sales is at a best a “guestimate”. However, some givens, depending on styles brewed, are often true.
Lager – Will generally be a good seller, but takes time to brew.
IPA – A session IPA from 4.5 to 5.5% will sell well.
Stout – Always good to have a dark beer in you lineup, but often they sell slowly.
Wheat beers – If you brew in China, it’ll be minimum 40% of your sales (I’m not kidding)
Yes, I know most reading this, aren’t in China. However, I am; and it blows my mind how popular wheat beer is all over the country, where craft beer is concerned.
One thing to note is wheat beers (especially hefeweizens), are generally cheap to make plus, have quick turnaround times too. Making hefeweizen an ideal beer, to have in your core range.
Whatever you plan to brew, you’ll have beers which’ll sell greater volumes. These beers are the engine of your brewery, bringing in the majority of the income.
Brewery Schedule Planning – Thinking Ahead
All breweries need to plan ahead. From making sure you’ve the raw materials you need, to which beers to brew when. Some beers take longer from grain to glass than others, having extended tank residency.
Lager which comes from the German “to store”, depending on your processes, can take 4 to 6 weeks from brew day, till it’s ready to package.
Lagers are fermented at lower temperatures taking longer to ferment than ales. Plus, they should be matured for a minimum of two weeks, before packaging.
Depending on where you’re brewing, ales take roughly three weeks from brew day, till they are ready to package. In the UK, when brewing cask ales, the timings can be shorter.
As I say, every brewery is different, having its own methodology.
If the brewery is big, or has multiple locations; then brewing software like Ekos, may be the best option for brewery schedule planning.
This post however, is for smaller breweries. Those with 25HL (21.3 US Beer Barrels) brew lengths or under and, those just starting out…which is 85% of my client base.
For these breweries, I like to recommend creating two different spread sheets and using a whiteboard.
Work Sheet are Your Friend
A smaller scale brewery can use Excel or similar software to manage their brewery inventory. When it comes to brewery schedule planning, I have two excel files. One is for beer inventory and brewery schedule planning, whilst the other is for raw materials.
The one above is my beer inventory; I take beer stock twice a week usually. Once at the start of the work week and again at the end of the week.
I’ve uploaded a blank version of this excel sheet here (It’ll ask you to save the Excel file) for people to use and adapt for themselves. It also has designated areas to write on your monthly brewery schedule planning.
So, if you’d like a copy yourself, feel free to download from the Dropbox link. With the addition of a couple of columns, you can add other packaging options like cans to the table too.
For example, if you use 330ml cans, use the formula [=SUM (number of cans) *0.33] to get the number of liters packaged in can, for each beer. You can add a row for predicted can sales as well.
I adapt this sheet tweaking formulas depending on the needs of the brewery. The one linked is for an all-draft brewery, where they’ve 20- and 50-liter kegs.
Having this sheet allows me to see at a glance what beer is in stock and what needs to be brewed according to current sales.
The sales are generally updated monthly, as they tend to go up in the summer and around Christmas time (in Western Europe).
Factoring Beer Losses – Brewery Schedule Planning
These figures also take into account beer losses. For example; if I brew say 2,500 liters of lager. I might get around 2,250 liters of packageable beer when losses are taken in to account.
From wort collection to FV, yeast dumping, filtering and packaging (especially canning and bottling) you will lose beer.
If you’re brewing a heavy hopped beer and static dry-hopping, your losses may even be higher. This needs to be taken into account when doing forward planning.
You break the stock, into beer already packaged, be it in keg, bottle or can and what’s in tank too. You then input your sales, and how much of each format sells per month.
In the chart above, it shows pilsner sales are 275 liters per week, meaning total sales of 1,100 liter for the month.
There is currently 4,400 liters of pilsner in tank; with 790 liters in keg. Meaning approximately 13 weeks of pilsner in stock, at the current sales levels.
This means I don’t need to brew a pilsner in the next month. My pilsner takes around 6-weeks from grain to glass. I like to give it four weeks to mature, if possible, after primary fermentation.
My main concern according to the table, is IPA, as I’ve only 3-weeks stock. I’m actually cutting it close, needing to brew this beer ASAP (as soon as possible).
With the fermentation, dry-hopping, VDK checks and clearing of the beer, it’ll take about three weeks till it’s ready.
So, this month I need to brew the IPA (#1 priority), my double IPA and a Hefeweizen. We’ve actually over-brewed recently, as we’ve some winter specials plus, several collabs planned.
Furthermore, we’ve recently launched a new brand (with different beers – called Fluffy Monsters). Which isn’t in the document/table shown above.
So, we needed to create some space in the schedule, during the upcoming month, for these other brews. Hence why we’ve a little more beer stock, than I’d usually like to have.
I usually plan my brews a minimum of two months in advance, on my production schedule spreadsheet.
As it makes raw material ordering easier and efficient. In a brewery, I don’t like to carry too much raw material stock. As it represents money tied up not being used.
As I say, different breweries have their own methods/processes. What I’m sharing with you is my take, from many years brewing at various breweries.
Raw Materials Ordering – Brewery Schedule Planning
As I said; I like to keep raw material stocks to the minimum. At most ordering for two months in advance. If you live on island, like when I brewed in Bermuda.
You might want to order raw materials; for several months of brewing, due to lead times and shipping costs.
This is where my second spread sheet comes in. I have a list of all the hops, malt, yeast, adjuncts and other ingredients we use. I put all the beers we brew in their own column, and add the amount of each raw material we use in each brew.
I can’t show the column for the materials we use (sorry). As the brewery doesn’t want to give away the recipes I have created.
Hence why I can’t share this file. However, it’s easy enough to create one from scratch.
I also add a column for the suppliers we use, and the price we pay. However, it’s not critical but makes ordering from multiple companies easier.
Ordering from multiple suppliers allows you, to make beer more cheaply. Yes, it can make logistics and ordering harder. However, the lower the cost per liter price to produce, the better.
In this sheet above we what we have:
- What we plan to brew
- How much of each beer we plan to brew – we make less of some of our slower sellers. Like cider for example (brewing 1,500 liters instead of 2,500 liters).
- The amount of each ingredient we need
- What we have in stock
- What we need to order – which is how much we need minus what we have in stock
It’s pretty easy to create this worksheet as you can see. Plus, the formulas are basic too. How often you buy raw materials, is up to each brewery.
We tend to do all our orders in one go so, it’s easier for our accountant to manage, organize and communicate with our suppliers.
Brewery Schedule Planning – The Last Part of the Puzzle
We have a whiteboard in the brewhouse. On this we have all of our FV’s and Brite tanks. As you can see in the picture, we have quite a few tanks. Some of them are for the pilot system or yeast handling.
The information we keep for each tank is:
- What beer is inside
- When it was brewed
- When it was transferred (for the BBT’s)
- If a tank is empty, we recorded when it was cleaned and what with (caustic or acid)
We also add some other information, such as when a beer has been dry-hopped or other information like, if a second yeast was added. If we’ve done sequential pitching.
The whiteboard allows us to see at a glance; what’s in each tank plus the stage/process the brew is at.
Also on the board is our weekly plan. As we have multiple people in production, the plan allows everyone to be on the same page for the upcoming week.
Brewery Schedule Planning – Conclusions
At the smaller craft level, if you make yourself a couple of spread sheets and update once a week. Keeping on top of the brewery schedule planning, can be relatively straight forward.
Furthermore, adding a weekly plan on a whiteboard, allows all the production crew to be on the same page. I hope this post and the downloadable file was helpful to you.
I’ve shared the file before, with a few select brewing friends. Most have found it useful. I did debate with myself, whether to share this file or not.
It’s something I’ve spent a long time putting together. As ever, if you’ve any questions of feedback, please feel free to comment below, or send me a message directly at:
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Likewise, if you’ve an upcoming brewery project and need help. Please, get in touch. I offer many services:
- Help putting an equipment list together
- Assist with equipment sourcing
- Recipe formulation
- Discussing improving brewing processes
And much more, so please feel free to reach out.