Starting A New Brewery – A Consultants Perspective

So you’re thinking about starting a new brewery?

The brewing installation I have been working on recently went operational and the first brews are in the fermentation vessels. The brews went well and were in the parameters set.

The client is happy and looking forward to what the future brings. Which I am pleased about as it means the services, I provided in some small part has left them confident that their new project will succeed.

How to start a new brewery

It has been a long journey to get to this point with Covid-19 happened during the planning of this brewery. Also, the client had issues with landlords when choosing a building

When it comes to planning a brewery there are many facets to consider. It’s an expensive capital outlay…it can definitely be stressful for sure. There will be anger at times, compromises will have to made, but the completion of a project can be a truly rewarding experience.

Starting a New Brewery – Some Background

I was approached about helping set up a brewery by someone who I had met during my brewing career. The client had a successful 500-liter brewery with 1000-liter tanks. They had been maxed out capacity wise for a while and looking to take the next step and open a small production brewery.

They wanted someone with experience brewing in production facilities to help them with this process. The remit was to work with them throughout the whole process from equipment purchase to spending two months setting up operations with their brewing team once the brewhouse was operational.

It worked out for me as I had recently left another brewing job and weighing up my options. I was going back to a country in which I had brewed before but where the craft brewing scene had moved on.

I still had many contacts in the brewing industry, including with multiple equipment suppliers. It seems prudent to point out that the country was China. A country where much of the world’s brewing equipment is now made.

How Does A Brewery Installation Come Together?

When it comes to building a new brewery; where to you start? Well you need to size your brewery. I have written a good guide about this which you can view by clicking here (opens in a new tab).

I will try and keep it brief and break down what needs to be considered. However, for a more complete guide on starting a brewery please click here.

  • What type of brewery are you? Production, brewpub, farm brewery…
  • Sizing your brewery
  • Budget – utilities, salaries, materials, insurance and marketing
  • Picking your equipment manufacturer
  • Finding your building and getting it ready
  • Reaching out to potential customers
  • Building your new team

There are many elements to consider with the above the most obvious. These elements often all tie in together. For instance, when it comes to your building…

The quicker you can find your building and work with your equipment manufacture the better. You’ll be able to optimize the space for the equipment you require; thus, saving you money, lead to greater efficiencies and avoiding later heartache.

Respect your Equipment Supplier

If you find the right equipment supplier, they’ll want to work with you to produce the best possible project. As a matter of fact the equipment manufacturing business is a fierce one; with a number of Chinese manufactures now in business.

To tell you the truth many manufactures now get a large chunk of their clients through word of mouth. So, if you’re respectful, work together and communicate properly you can get equipment that is tailored to your needs that will be a great long-term investment.

10 Brewing Commandments
Good communication with your supplier is key

I see many clients always trying to “hard ball” their supplier and get everything as cheap as possible. As they are bringing business to the client. Yes, everyone wants to save money but many of the Chinese suppliers are working in tight margins as it is (as I say competition is tough).

These manufacturers are in business too, they want to have a good relationship and help you get what you want for a reasonable price. However, they also have their limits and pushing them too much will sour a relationship even if things remain cordial on the surface.

Furthermore a good supplier can be a long-term help to your brewery. As you grow, they will help provide what you need. It can be a mutually beneficial relationship. They know your brewery and want you to succeed and will work with you to meet your expanding needs.

Starting a New Brewery – Who Are Your Clients?

In Bull Durham the movie the quote is “build it and they will come”. Yeah, well that doesn’t happen in brewing. I have seen many breweries expand as they outgrow their brewpub. They build a production facility, brew beer and then say “right, who do we sell it too?”

In many cases they don’t sell half as much as they think they do. Before building a production brewery of any size you need an idea of your potential clients. The best-case scenario is to have people waiting to take you beer.

If you’re expanding from a brewpub, selling beer off-trade is a different beast. Bringing on a sales person with experience in the trade is a good option or as I said before, have people in place ready to take your beer.

I’ve seen too many breweries try and make “the jump” and fail within two years.

Starting a New Brewery – Building a Brand

The brewery market is getting fierce the world over as more craft breweries open up. You open your brewery, you’re on budget and meet the targets set, however; unless your brewery catches the interest of craft beer enthusiasts it will all count for naught.

Breweries need to put time and effort into building a brand. Having a strong story and sharing your brand values effectively will allow you to stand out from the crowd.

So, when, planning a brewery please make branding one the keystones of your overall strategy.

Include your Customers in the R&D Process

This isn’t new and many craft breweries have successfully incorporated their customers in the development decision making process. Actually Dogfish Head are well-known for taking such a lead at their Delaware brewpub.

If you have a pilot system and make one-off brews. Make sure your customers aware of these plus get feedback from them. Leaning on you customer for feedback can be useful.

Using Brewing Salts - How To
Getting feedback from customers can help your business

As a matter of fact giving people already drinking your product a voice in how the company grows, it can help a brewery avoid missteps and loss of future business.

Furthermore, including customers in the R&D process is great way to build loyalty (as they feel part of the decision) and they can become natural ambassadors for your beer.

Understanding the Profession

In China, but also a trend elsewhere I believe. People see brewpubs make money and want a piece of the pie. All they see is profit; not the long hard slog that got brewpub to the point it was successful.

They have no idea about what brewing and running a successful brewery entail. If you’ve never worked in a brewery before and decide you want top open a place; having some experience in a professional brewery would be beneficial.

You’ll have many pro-brews give this advice. Want to open a brewery? Go work in one first, as it might change your mind.

Starting a New Brewery – Conclusions from a Brewing Consultant

The above is just my perspective from 25 years in the brewing trade. Am I an expert in all I suggested? Hell no. But I’ve seen a fair number of breweries come and go in my career noting how they have failed from afar.

Asian Brewing Consultant - Neil Playfoot Mashing In
Me Helping Put On A Brewpub System in Wuxi, China

Starting e new brewery can be a rewarding and pleasant experience however, it isn’t for the faint-hearted. Understanding what it takes so; being properly prepared, funded, planned, branded and having someone previous experience in the trade will go a long way.

As a brewing consultant I help people open up new breweries and happy to talk to anyone who wants has follow-up questions about this article. Feel free to comment below or email me at:

[email protected]

Other articles you might be interested in if you like this article:

  1. Costs of setting a brewery – click here (a breakdown of costs)
  2. Sizing a microbrewery – click here (PDF guide)
  3. What brewing equipment do I need? – click here (a guide to choosing the right equipment for you)
  4. How to start a brewery – click here (The basics to build off)
  5. Types of breweries – click here (There are several types of brewery – which is right for you?)

Neil Playfoot

Neil is a brewer with 25 years international brewing experience. Based out of China (first came in 2010) he works as a brewing consultant helping brewers with their projects and brewing processes. To find out what services Neil can provide your brewery please click here. If you'd like to contact Neil you can email at [email protected].
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