an idea from nh
almost every microbrewery im sure starts as a twinkle in a hombrewers eye. im also sure that after many failures, obstacles, insults and other undesirables that twinke becomes a cynical, jaded, distant stare of exhaustion. well let the fun begin.
i have been in the food service industry for some time now (too long), and a home brewer for a little less, and i have an idea. luckily i enjoy reading because there is certainly a lot of it to do and i feel i have done a fair amount of pre-planning research to begin to seriously pursue the development of a professional brewing endeavor.
i find myself here in new hampshire, with a great desire to open a microbrewery, not a brewpub. There are far too many greatly successful pubs and bars and restaurants and not enough people to consider that a healthy investment. But that saturation of bars/pubs/restaurants brought me to the idea of a microbrewery. if i have read the laws correctly new hampshire allows for self-distribution under a certain amount. (15,000bbl total and 5,000 in-state direct retail sales). which im pretty certain not to eclipse any time too soon. My desired location is in a pretty centralized location in the state allowing for future expansion to state-wide distribution but i would like to focus on the winnipesauke lake area (of american express fame). Which features over 60 alcohol serving establishments within 25 miles driving distance. The area demographic has a wide range of peoples but there is a large concentration of an affluent population which is increased exponentially by a burgeoning summer-time rush of vacationers and less so in the winter by ski-snowmobile enthusiasts. My competition is limited due to the fact that there are only five in-state distributing brewerys. One being the A-B plant in Merrimack, another being the Red-Hook brewery in Portsmouth along with Smuttynose and Nutfield in southern NH and Tuckermans in northern New Hampshire. It seems to me that Smuttynose, while extremely successful focuses greatly on the seacoast area. Likewise with Tuckermans and the Ski-Towns up north and not to belittle Nutfield im sure they make great beer but until my recent research i had never heard of them. It is rare to find one of these locally brewed micro's on tap at lake area bars. Im not sure if this is a good thing because of the absence of competition or the attitude of local bars toward micros.
I feel that a extremely fresh, premium product whose brand strives to identify with just the local community can be quite successful here. My questions to you fine folks are...
what size brewery would be best suited in the spectrum of initial cost and future expansion?
with the large number of bars/pubs locally can i afford to forgo bottling initially and simply focus on tap accounts? (the real question may be can i afford the equipment to bottle)
i am rather interesting in the microbrewery canning systems available and along the same lines as the previous question: would it be economical to use a small canning line for small runs of canning for the limited initial non-keg sales?
and for the new hampshire folks out there... i havent been able to find any laws that specifically refer to tap rooms/tasting rooms that deal with the capacity and nature. I had always thought that in new hampshire, to serve alcohol a large percentage of your sales needed to be foods, does this apply to a tap room at a brewery? I've been making food for years and if possible would like to avoid anything resembling a restaurant but i understand the importance of having on-premise tasting rooms, both in introducing the product to potential customers and in pure economical sense that three dollars a pint is a much larger margin than a hundred bucks a keg.
all in all i would like to hear people responses to this idea. is it feasible, am i missing some huge piece of the puzzle, should i go forward and start serious work into this? do you have experience in similar small-market, self-distribution situations? even if you just want to say hi and make fun of me that's okay too.
Get a job in a brewery-paid or not. You will learn all the answers first hand in a way that is more valuable that what people could tell you.
RE: ["even if you just want to say hi and make fun of me that's okay too."]
I don't think anyone here would make fun of you, but I will offer the same advice as above. Nothing beats working in the industry for experience and building knowledge. It is not the quick route but it prepares you for what you propose to do. I would not think about opening a business in a field I have never worked in unless I was going to hire a professional to be involved. In your case, hiring an experienced brewer with the ability to develop and execute your product and facility. At the very least, a consultant should be involved. I am building a new brewery right now and even with 6-7 years of professional experience, brewing school, and a business degree, I am using consultants on certain aspects and help from other brewers with more experience (excuse the run-on sentence). I am not saying you can't do it, but I would advise being realistic. I guess it would be like me opening a small fleet of fishing boats. Sure I can drive a boat and I like fish but can I make the right decisions, buy the right equipment, and catch fish on any reliable basis? Probally not, I would hire an experienced captian first!
Just my thoughts,