Top 5 Things to Consider when Planning a New Brewery


A couple of things to consider that are often overlooked and will have a huge impact on your new brewery and ultimately, your budget.

1.      Good Sites are difficult to find.  Good sites with decent buildings are even harder to find, especially in a city like Austin.  Add to that the difficulty of finding a site with the proper zoning and you have an often infuriating ordeal set before you.  Be prepared to think outside the box with respect to location and building types.  Ceiling heights and utilities are critical but even more important is understanding the relationship between zoning and your desired brewery business goals.  Local zoning dictates so many upfront obstacles and occasionally some opportunities.  Spend lots of time getting to know local regulations with respect to alcohol sales.

2.      Know that city zoning and state laws aren't in sync with respect to what they allow and the terminology they use.  Common terms like "brewpub" and "brewery" mean very different things.  Because alcohol sales are specific to local codes, aligning your early business projections with a site permissive of what you need to get out of the gates (and supported by local demographics), is critical.  Compare these zoning entitlements to state requirements and gaps will likely be evident.  It's easy to switch to "brewery" later for state regulations, yet it's also often hard to find a prototypical neighborhood "brewpub" site unless you want to sell food in many cities.

3.      Set aside a healthy contingency (at least 10-20%) into your cost projections.  We find most of our facilities (particularly those less than 10,000 SF) spend about 1/2 of their budget on equipment and 1/2 on buildout, once purchase or lease costs and associated project soft costs are separated out.  There will always be unexpected items and some can mess up a thinly spread budget. 

4.      Make a great experience for your beer and your patrons first.  More and more breweries/brewpubs will continue to open.  I don't think we are anywhere close to market saturation, but that doesn't mean there won't be winners and losers.  Those who focus on creating that memorable and authentic environment for their customers will stand a better chance at being continuously at the forefront of the craft beer boom thru each cycle of growth.  And yes that experience can cost more, though it doesn't mean you have to just throw money at it.  Basically don't build big first, build it right first.

5.      Know your equipment needs early and update often.  Having a strong relationship between Owner, Architect and Vendors increases the opportunities for aligning utility needs with equipment requirements, allocating proper spaces when hunting down sites/buildings, leaving proper space for expansion (if that's an early priority), and identifying potential conflicts between equipment, process piping and building systems such as Mechanical and Structural.  Leaving final selection till late in the design process increases the odds for redesign, delays and added costs.

If you have had these or other bad experiences shoot us a message.  We'd love to hear about our readers experiences in this area.

Happy Brewing,

Stephen O.