With craft brewery numbers on the rise, this could be the time to open up a brewery of your very own.
Brewery opening & closing statistics
Over the past ten years there has been a rapid increase in craft beer breweries, especially in the form of microbreweries and brewpubs. With a 746% and 94% increase respectively in the past ten years, this trend is skyrocketing.
Source: Brewers Association
While the craft beer boom continues to keep numbers rising, the question of failure rates arises as well as market saturation.
With an 8% average annual closing rate, compared to the opening rate, microbreweries are proving to be more than a fad; they’re proving to be a good business as well.
Microbreweries have skyrocketed 746% in the past ten years. Many restaurant goers are passing on the more traditional dining experience to frequent their favorite local craft breweries. Should restaurants be worried?
Learn some cool bartender tricks to make your taproom stand out.
Craft brewery statistics
- 67% of craft beer goers want to drink locally brewed beer.
- In the past 10 years microbreweries have increased by 746%, according to the Brewers Association.
- The market is still expanding; 2 breweries open every day, according to the Washington Post.
- The top 5 States with the most breweries per capita are Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Vermont, and Maine, according to the Brewers Association.
Breweries are booming… but restaurant openings have decreased 2.6% since 2014. Why are breweries outperforming restaurants?
- Diversity: Breweries offer flights (or samples) of their products.
- Value: Millennials have less disposable income, so they crave value.
- Comfort: Customers feel less pressured to buy food in a more relaxed atmosphere. Plus, many offer games so customers can hang around for longer with friends.
New to the beer industry? We tapped experts in the craft beer community to weigh in on what they wish they knew before opening a brewery, and advice they have for newcomers.
We asked 3 founds what they’d tell someone opening a brewery for the first time:
1. Get to know the industry
Brad Cooper, founder and head brewer at Steam Bell Beer Works in Midlothian, Virginia: “Spend time beforehand getting to know other people in the craft beer community. Spend time at local breweries and pick the brains of anyone working there, from the guy scrubbing the toilets to the owner of the business.”
2. Have a plan
Steve Seto, founder of HolyCraft Brewery in San Francisco: “Have a really solid plan and try to factor as many bumps in the road as possible. Things never go exactly how you plan them to but having a really solid plan and sticking to it helps when problems do arise. When we first started our company we had tons of issues relating to timing, equipment failure, and technology issues. This occasionally translated to issues with our client base. I can’t stress how important it is to be ready for anything and to be prepared for the worst. Business for us today is much smoother operationally and it makes all the difference in the world.”
3. Get industry experience
Scott Roth, president and founder of Three Notch’d Brewing Company: “The number one thing I recommend to anyone who is starting a business is to make sure that they have experience in the industry first. Getting behind a bar at a tap room, spending time shadowing a pro-brewer, meeting with an executive at a brewery to understand the financials–the more hands-on experience you have as an owner, the quicker you can diagnose problems, gain the trust of your staff, and for those looking for capital a background in the space will be necessary to entice investors.”
What do you wish you knew before you opened your brewery?
Brad Cooper: “I wish I had gotten my own financial house in order. My previous career was in the mining industry and I knew I wanted to make the change. I was in the middle of getting some personal debt paid off while simultaneously planning to open a brewery. One day I was fired from my job (for bringing home brew to coworkers) and instead of seeking out another job, I chose to throw all of my efforts into opening a brewery. On several occasions during startup and opening I had to forego a salary to pay for something for the business and I began a game of ‘Which bill can I stretch out this month?’”
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Steve Seto: “There are many things I wish I knew before HolyCraft started, but the biggest thing would be the cost of distribution and packaging. Distribution in the beer world is pretty complex and costly, as is packaging. Having an idea of all these separate costs from just the beer making and sales alone would have been far helpful. As HolyCraft grew we could no longer self-distribute out of the personal cars, as demand was too much. The cost of a distributor and their willingness to help also plays a big role in one’s consideration. Not always are the results positive, and knowing that would have helped us better to plan around these situations.”
We made a ton of mistakes early on that could have been avoided if I had known what I know now.
Dan Schwarz, co-founder and CEO of Lift Bridge Brewery, in Stillwater, Minnesota: “Make sure you have a solid business plan and good corporate documents. They are important to properly set in place and complete so everyone involved knows what the road map is and how you handle any disagreements should they arise.”
Scott Roth: “This may not apply to many others, but we began our own distribution company and I wish I had spent more time in that space before getting into that business. We have ultimately grown that company very nicely, but we made a ton of mistakes early on that could have been avoided if I had known what I know now.”
5 Ways to Make Your Brewery Tasting Stand Out
One of the activities that is synonymous with fall is brewery tastings. All the different breweries are hyping their seasonal flavors while people are looking for activities to do – it’s a match made in heaven.
Now craft breweries are becoming a dime a dozen so you need to stand out. Here are five tips on how to make the most of your tasters and how to get them to bring their friends.
1. Get the best beertender
The real make or break of an entire tasting relies heavily on your “Beertender”. Guests come to your tastings purely to chat with this person and have them help pick out what one of your beers they should taste. This is a completely different crowd than a usual bar gang. Most likely they have tried a few of your brews before and have an idea of what types of beer they like. You want to make sure the person you have working your tastings knows every last thing about your beer, and a lot about the industry as a whole. A great conversation with a beertender will have people always reach for your stuff at the liquor store over a similar brand.
2. Have something special on tap
You have to have some sort of draw to your place and having a specialty selection that they can only try in the tasting room is key. Whether it’s a cask that you only have in a select few places, or it’s a new seasonal brew that you are trying there first before you roll it out, people love that stuff. Make sure you advertise whenever you have something new in the tasting room, and ask people what their favorite was so you know which is best to promote.
3. Let people try more if they want
Three tastings at a reasonable price may be enough for some people, but you want to make sure you’re giving your guests an opportunity to stay longer and try more without breaking the bank. Once people start trying different types they may realize their friend had a cool coffee milk stout that they didn’t get a chance to try, why not let them easily purchase another round of tastings? It’s less commitment to them than a full pour, and as long as that’s an option too, then you aren’t missing out on any opportunities.
4. Are you a Frat Party or Town and Country?
People come to tastings to fully experience who you are as a company. If they were just in it for the beer, they would pick up a six pack and call it a day. What they want is to try a bunch of what you have to offer, talk to someone who knows their stuff, all while being in a cool place. What you think is cool is completely up to you though, whether you want some kind of chill hangout basement spot, or more of a Ralph Lauren woodworking area is a personal choice. Just keep in mind that these are the vibes you’re setting for your beer, after this experience everyone that does your tasting is going to remember what kind of place you guys have.
5. What can they take home?
If what you’re banking on bringing people in is the cool limited edition stuff you have on tap, try and consider what they are going to bring home with them. Offering special growlers, mixed six-packs, or some sort of discount on buying your beer after their tasting is key. People love to have a special deal, and if they really enjoyed your seasonal IPA, they will want an opportunity to take some home and enjoy in larger quantities.