Wondering how to start a brewery? 3 things to know

Editorial Team

6 min read
Flight of beers

There’s nothing quite like a brewery. From the dawn of the microbrewery in the 1990s, to their steady rise in popularity from the early 2000s to today, the concept of drinking craft beer mere feet from where a new batch of it is being brewed has become commonplace.

According to the Brewers Association’s annual report, there were 9,500 breweries operating in the U.S. in 2022. While the pandemic presented a noticeable setback to the craft beer industry, it’s showing strong signs of recovery, with over 550 brewery openings in the U.S. in 2022 alone.

Once you experience a brewery, their popularity becomes easy to understand. Over the years, breweries have developed their own look, feel, and culture. It’s a decidedly different atmosphere than your local bar — frequently accompanied by board or lawn games, live music, beer tastings, local events, and an overall more elevated and serious environment for the beer fanatic. With their large tanks of bubbling barley and yeast, they even smell different.

Starting a brewery is an enticing and exciting prospect, to say the least. However, if you want to take the plunge into the big steel vat of craft brewing, here are a few key things to consider.

1. Start small

Like all of life’s big pursuits, business or otherwise, things become much more manageable when you start small. How small? Well, The Maine Beer company started with just two brothers and a homebrewing kit. Back in 2009, David and Daniel Kleban were working corporate jobs and homebrewing on the weekends. It was just a hobby they enjoyed years before they ever considered starting a microbrewery.

But as their beer got better, the two brothers started to explore the idea of turning their weekend operation into a brick-and-mortar business. Over time, they were able to grow the business into what it is today — a popular and profitable business that also engages in community action and raises money for the environment.

The advantages of starting small can be numerous and powerful. The Kleban’s were able to hone their skills in a risk-free environment, getting better and better at brewing until eventually they felt their beer was ready for prime time. It also allowed them to realize that their passion for craft brewing wasn’t going to fade away.

Sometimes hobbies come and go, and sometimes they turn into serious pursuits. By allowing some time to develop those skills and interests, you can ensure that when you finally take the plunge into business, your love for the art of craft brewing is able to keep you motivated and passionate.

2. It’s all about the brand

If you’re wondering how to open a brewery, presumably you’ve already nailed the beer, which will be the liquid backbone of your business. Now it’s time to seriously think about branding. A brewery isn’t just a big room to drink IPAs in, it’s a whole experience. Customers want to immerse themselves in an atmosphere that they can’t get anywhere else. That means some serious thought should go into things like décor, how you use your space, what (if any) events you might host, and how you’ll be engaging with the local community. Something as simple as the tables and chairs you choose can shift the vibe of a brewery drastically. Are you going for a casual wood-paneled taproom look with echoes of an Irish pub? Or are you embracing a minimalist, art-deco style for the more serious upscale beer drinker?

It’s also important to keep in mind that craft beer is famous for its quirky branding. With so many microbreweries around the world, craft beers have to make serious efforts in the branding realm in order to stand out. Hoptimus Prime, Geriatric Hipster Club, Hoppy Dragon… these are all real names of craft beers. So having a solid eye-catching and memorable brand is simply a must if you want to enter the world of craft brewing and make your mark.

3. Have fun on the outside, get serious on the inside

Since they provide such a loose and fun drinking environment, it can be too easy to think that starting a brewery is a more relaxed and carefree venture than starting any other business. That’s simply not true. Inside every successful brewery is a real small business that will face challenges managing inventory, cash flow, navigating licensing and zoning laws, and moving product. Like most small businesses, you will also have to be prepared not to make a profit or earn a salary for an extended period of time, perhaps several years

You may be having visions of cornhole tournaments, tasting events, and comedy shows, but none of that can happen unless you’re nailing the underlying fundamentals of how to open a bar or brewery. That means getting set up with a solid business plan, ensuring you’re able to accurately track and measure inventory, staying on top of cash flow, and forming relationships with various suppliers.

Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned staff. Brewery customers expect bartenders that do more than just pour drinks. Brewery bartenders are often experts in the beers they’re serving, and can tell you about flavor profile, brewing process, and even food pairings as they pour. They’re also famously charming. Are you able to offer a competitive salary that will attract the best local bartenders? These are all vitally important questions to consider before you jump into the highly competitive world of brewing.

In short, starting a brewery offers fun vibes for customers, and serious challenges for business owners. Before you start fermenting your first batch of liquid gold, you should be ready to navigate a difficult, yet highly rewarding business environment. Starting small will help you hone your skills, putting effort into branding will help you stand out, and sorting through the underlying financial and logistical challenges that make the business work will help ensure that your brewery exists not only for a good time, but a long time.

Are you interested in learning more about our POS systems for bars and breweries? Contact a Clover Business Consultant today!


This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

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