Sunday, April 5, 2015

Going Semi-Pro

So this is not exactly news, but I'm in the process of opening a nano-brewery.  I've been working on this for a couple months now, preparing the space and getting all our paperwork in order.  Despite the fact that it's a rather small undertaking, it's still no small undertaking.

You can see the space we're working with above.  It's going to be a nice upgrade from working in the driveway, but certainly smaller than your local brewpub.  In the next couple weeks, we'll be building the 1 bbl brewhouse, based around kettles and fermenters from Stout Tanks and assembling the control and automation systems myself.

With all that equipment squeezed in here, there won't be room for a tasting room.  If you've ever looked at brewery business models, you know that you either have to have a busy taproom or produce orders of magnitude more beer than this to have any hope of turning a profit.

So why bother?  Well to start off I can't keep brewing beer the way I've been doing it for the last two years.  You may have noticed that I'm constantly wrestling with my equipment (and also wasting tons of time), praying that the mishaps don't completely ruin my beer.  Now only a shoddy craftsman blames his shoddy tools, but I think in this case it's on the craftsman to just scrap that way of doing things and invest in better tools.

With that decision made, I might as well get some top of the line equipment and start selling some beer to pay it off.  The system is designed to make it as easy as possible to brew two or three batches in a single brewday, with volumes ranging from 5 gal to 35 gal.  That way I can continue to brew experiments with new ingredients and processes, with only marginally more effort required to brew production batches.  Which is a good thing, because I don't have a single recipe ready to sell yet.

This whole thing will require some significant changes in the way I do things--improved recordkeeping, more precise brewing practices, and a thorough QC program--but these are all good things anyway.  This nano-brewery will be a great way to get my feet wet, understanding all the ins and outs of running a brewery, without a million dollars in start-up capital or having to quit my day job.  Either it will go well and I'll learn what I need to open a larger brewery, or I'll get over this obsession and move onto something worthwhile!

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