Welcome to the new forum! We upgraded our forum software with a host of new boards, capabilities and features. It is also more secure. Jump in and join the conversation!
You can learn more about the upgrade and new features here.
There are brewing startup blogs all over the internet. A lot of trials and tribulations are shared on Probrewer.com. Some thoughts...
Becoming part of the production end of brewing is something you do because you can't imagine doing anything else. It's kind of like being a musician, that way.
If your passion is making beer, don't be an owner. Much more than 500 bbl/yr, and your time is spent on paperwork, sales and promotions. Most owners have to give up on being in the brewhouse.
If your passion is making beer, spend a year at a brewery learning what you're actually getting into. It's a lot more about cleaning and cellaring, than evaluating the newest hops or tasting barrels. Then, go to brewing school; it's become the minimum ticket.
If you want to make money, don't be a nano, or come in with a small budget.
If you want to make a lot of different beers, you'll be disappointed. Have you ever made the same beer twice? Not the same recipe, but had that recipe duplicate exactly? Then you're on the right track. Commercial brewing is endless repetition of the same tasks, recipes and goals. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Can you hand someone a beer without explaining it? Your beer will have to speak for itself. People have to be willing to buy it. Not just the first pint, anybody can do that. It's the second one that matters.
Homebrewing is a fun, rewarding hobby. But it's not the same as commercial brewing. Homebrewing is like a model railroad. No matter how much you emulate, it won't haul freight.
Seek and learn. I've allowed lots of homebrewers to intern with me and it's a huge eye opener. Find a local brewery that'll let you clean kegs for several months, just to see what really happens. It's a cool transition to make, and also easy to think of it as a mistake, down the road.
I'm very passionate about what I do. The best part is that beer is a constant learning curve. I still enjoy my homebrew roots by judging to maintain my lofty judge rank (Roman Numerals are involved) as well as grade Cicerone exams, host beer dinners, go to conferences, take classes, speak to groups.
Oh, and I make a lot of beer, too. I get as much satisfaction out of making my flagship Pilsner, as I do from creating a new seasonal.
Not my own story but an Australian guy and a New Zealander teamed up to found a brewery in Ballyhoura in the west of Ireland and things seem to be going really well for them. They've gone from home brewers to creating ales that have gotten excellent reviews in the New York Times. It's a nice change to the typical Guinness scene in Ireland - the craft beer industry is really coming on. It's called 8 degrees brewing company by the way. Keep it in mind if you're ever on the green island.
That's an excellent reply, brewfun! A very good summary of what it's about touching on several important points.
Your second line is important to me because I'm a professional musician in addition to being a brewer and it is very similar. You do have to be passionate about it and understand that it's not all about the "spotlight and the time on stage". There are endless hours of grunt work that go into getting to that point.
I think a lot of people get caught up in only the brewing aspect of starting a brewery or turning pro. In reality it's almost like that's only 5% of the job. Be ready to do EVERYTHING: cleaning, repairs, promotion, sales, retail, packaging, plumbing, millwright, delivery, and the list goes on!
To answer your original question about sharing insights: Knowing what I know now having "gone pro" and working as a brewer there's no way I would open my own brewery. It's not just the amount of work but in Canada and Ontario specifically the number of hoops you have to jump through just to be able to produce and sell your beer is unreal. I'm surprised anyone does it at all but then there are those who are extremely passionate about it that nothing will stop them. That's how it should be for those starting up.
Hi Mary - that sounds like an interesting idea. I love Trappist beer and I wish I could make some myself. Not sure exactly how to do it but there seems to be some information here: http://beersmith.com/blog/2010/09/01/trappist-dubbel-and-tripel-beer-recipes/