How to open a brew pub or microbrewery

Written by gail cohen
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The public's appetite for fresh beer served up in microbreweries is growing as fast as the fields of hops that provide the "secret ingredient" to all great beer recipes. Some say these pubs remind them of days gone by when people didn't need an excuse to gather with friends. If you're longing to put your personal stamp on such a pub, be prepared to jump through hoops before you tap that first batch of brew.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Business plan
  • Resource books
  • Feasibility study
  • Funding
  • Licenses and permits
  • Brewing equipment
  • Furniture
  • Kitchen equipment
  • Insurance
  • Marketing and promotional strategies

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  1. 1

    Your business plan must describe how you will finance, market, operate and promote your microbrewery. Start with a feasibility study to determine whether your community can support your pub--particularly if your target neighbourhood already has several pubs in operation.

  2. 2

    Locate articles and books on starting a business and, specifically, opening a brew pub as such guides offer invaluable tips from those who have been in the trenches and made the mistakes you want to avoid. Consider the questionnaire (link below) aimed at focusing your attention on the critical aspects of your microbrewery start-up to see if you're ready to juggle all that's required of you.

  3. 3

    Find venture capitalists looking to invest in microbreweries by pitching your vision to them with business plan in hand. Check with local and state authorities (for example, Alcohol Control Board) to obtain an application for a license to brew and serve beer and file for a separate license for the food service arm of your pub.

  4. 4

    Bring a lawyer and an accountant into the mix to oversee legal and accounting fundamentals. File for articles of incorporation. Invest in a sophisticated accounting system able to do everything from ringing up beverage sales to pulling profit-and-loss statements, posting employee wages, collecting taxes and more.

  5. 5

    Build from scratch, rent or purchase property for your pub; alternately, locate an eating establishment that's on the market with enough room to accommodate your brewing needs when you renovate the property. Seek out neighbourhoods with heavy foot traffic and a low crime rate so patrons feel comfortable coming and going at night. Seek grant money for your microbrewery if you'll be opening your pub in a historic district.

  6. 6

    Put your purchasing talent to work by locating the right mix of equipment and furniture needed to make your beers and ales, prepare menu items and accommodate patrons in a welcoming, well-designed environment. Don't forget to purchase liability insurance on your microbrewery business so you're not legally exposed in the event of an accident or injury.

  7. 7

    Make it a priority to market your microbrewery for all it's worth and hire the right kind of staff--friendly, patient, personality-driven and smart. Try out promotional strategies to attract new business from the get-go and if you've appropriated cash for advertising, choose your demographic wisely. Remember that pubs have distinct personalities, so once you find yours do all you can to maintain it.

Tips and warnings

  • Work to attain the profit margin set by the National Restaurant Association for brew pubs: Strive for 30 per cent of your sales from house beer, 60 per cent from food and 10 per cent from the sale of pub-related merchandise that shouts your brand loud and clear.

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