ENTREPRENEURSHIP / JUL. 25, 2016
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A Hoppy Life: Tips for Opening a Craft Beer Brewery

The idea of having your own craft brewery sounds great doesn't it! But, do you know how much hard work it requires? Would you start your own brewery! 

Pale or porter, stout or bitter - there's a lot to love about craft beer. As far as jovial camaraderie is concerned, few get-togethers are as delightful as hanging out with good friends at a local craft beer brewery.

1. What Is a Craft Brewer?

Male group clinking glasses of dark and light beer
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A craft brewer generally produces innovative, flavorful beers in small batches and brews fewer than 6 million barrels annually. Craft brewers are known to put their own special twist on traditional beers, lagers and ales, often incorporating unexpected, albeit delicious, ingredients into their small-batch craft brew.

Craft breweries are a welcomed addition to most communities, especially those that are overrun with typical, franchise style beer bars. The Brewers Association says that the majority of Americans live within a ten-mile radius of a local craft beer brewery.

Craft brewers are often involved with their local community; sponsoring events, donating products to good causes, and other sorts of local philanthropy. The owners of local craft breweries tend to establish friendly relationships with their patrons, as opposed to faceless corporate breweries who never get to know their customers at all.

2. Do You Dream of Owning Your Own Craft Brewery?

Many people do. The Brewing Association notes that as of 2015, more than 12 percent of all American beer sales were craft brews. That's an amazing 24,076,864 barrels of frosty and refreshing, hand-crafted domestic brew every year, and the numbers are growing exponentially.

If you are completely dedicated to the notion of opening a craft brewery of your own, you can probably do it. In addition to a knack for brewing beer, you will also need patience, planning and a pile of cash. Breweries are quite capital-intensive, especially when just starting out. Breweries also carry a heavier burden of legal regulations and requirements than most other small start-up businesses.

3. Craft Brew 101

Brewery holding keg and testing beer at brewery
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To start your own craft brewery, you will need a number of things besides tenacity, cash, and determination. You'll also need to find a way to get your hands on kegs, kettles, bottling lines, boilers, cooling systems and conveyors, as well as storage tanks, fermentation tanks, and filters. You'll need piping and tubing, refrigeration equipment, cleaning equipment, tap handles and a beer-labeling machine.

Fortunately, you may be able to cut costs by purchasing used brewing equipment. You can shave expenses even further by decorating your tasting room or craft brew pub with interesting, funky, one-of-a-kind, found or salvaged objects. Funky Junk Interiors offers a fun pictorial of some fabulously funky craft brew pubs.

You will also need to scout around to find the ideal location for your local craft brewery. Expect to shell out first and last months' rent along with a hefty security deposit. Be prepared to pay for renovations, too, because breweries need high ceilings as well as proper plumbing and drainage. Don't forget to install composite flooring at a cost of around $10 per square foot in your brewing room before you start bringing in the tanks and barrels. Typical concrete floors are easily damaged by the weight of heavy brewing gear, and the last thing you want is for your big tank of fermenting brew to topple over and spill its golden contents.

Experts say to anticipate paying double the cost of your brewing equipment to renovate your building before opening your own craft brewery.

Obtaining a brewing permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau won't cost you anything but time. Typically, it takes four months or more for the bureau to process and approve craft brewery applications. Want to serve your brew in a pub at your brewing facility? You will need local and state licenses for that, too.

If you were blessed with handyman skills or have a friend who can build bar furniture, create your own tasting tables from reclaimed barn siding or other salvaged wood. Add chrome legs from TableLegsOnline.com for style, and you'll be seating happy customers in no time.

4. Types of Craft Beer You May Wish to Produce

CraftBeer.com describes nearly 80 different kinds of American-made and imported craft brews. Ranging from classic pilsners to coffee-colored chocolate stouts, the variety of craft brews is nothing less than astounding. All true craft beers are barley-based, although they may comprise other ingredients, as well. In case you're wondering, flavored malt beverages are never considered true craft brews.

Have you ever dreamt of opening your own craft brewery? Do you think you might try now?

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