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help a teeny tiny sub-micro brewpub start

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  • help a teeny tiny sub-micro brewpub start

    I work at and own a two year old pizza restaurant that is modestly successful. We are adding to and updating our expansion plan. This plan involves moving to a new location, increasing our hours and adding a brewpub component. We are trying to do the whole expansion for $125,000 or less if possible. I'm in charge of investigating and planning the brewpub part of the business plan and doing the start up and two year projections.

    Since we have an extremely tight budget I'm attempting to do the brewpub part of this very cheaply. I have read all the posts related to start-ups and Cost of Beer Sold that I could find on this sight. I'll summarize some key pieces of advice:

    1. get a consultant who has start up experience (but choose wisely)
    2. get a brewing system that's slightly larger than the one that you think you'll need
    3. get a job at a brewpub or a brewery for a year or more to get experience (and thereby save money)
    4. budget for 2 or 3 times the amount of start up capital you think you'll need
    5. don't go to a bank, get cash
    6. good service, good beer, good atmosphere

    It seems like the way that the business plan is headed we'll really only be able to follow #6. Let me tell you our idea and feel free to call us crazy but please say why and give us any other hints or help you can.

    the Plan:
    So we'd like to get a 1/2 barrel Sabco Brewmaster IV (about $4500) and 35 reconditioned kegs from Sabco that are fitted for use as both fermenting and serving vessels. We plan to brew on average once per day to start and do this in our commercial kitchen. The law in minnesota is that brewpubs are restricted to producing 500 barrels per year so this would put us well below that at about 180 barrels per year. Since we are relatively small, our main business is pizza, and our license would allow us to also sell wine we feel like this would be adequate. We want to buy only organic grains for brewing, and until we can figure out how to culture yeast, the yeast would be purchased continously. We plan to get a drinking water filtration system and we'd like to get one that is compatible with brewing as well.

    the Questions?
    1. Is this plan just crazy enough to work?
    2. What are we totally not thinking about or missing?

    Assuming that some version of this plan could work:
    3. What is a realistic start up inventory cost?
    4. I've seen Cost Of Beer Sold percentages range from 7% to 14% on these boards. I'm guessing that ours will be on the high end of that, espescially if labor is included. What do you think?
    5. I'm crudely calculating that our beer will take, from brewing to serving, 30 days. That is if we force carbonate. So if we keep the varieties that we serve to a minimum, say 3 to 5 roughly equally popular kinds, we can keep recycling the spent kegs as fermenting vessels. This is where the 35 kegs number comes from -- at any given time about 30 kegs will be tied up in fermentation and we'll be serving 3 to 5. Are there any problems with this part of the plan? Suggestions?
    6. What miscellaneous equipment would you suggest?: grain mill, pumps, refractometer, keq washing facilities, taps etc. etc.

    Thank you for any and all help you can give me on this. By the way we are Spokes Pizza Collective a worker-owned cooperative, vegetarian restaurant that offers bicycle delivery and we are based in Minneapolis. My name is John Langley.

  • #2

    You want this book. Sounds like it's right up your alley.


    • #3
      Look into used BOP (Brew on Premises) equipment. BOPs are often unprofitable, so the equipment is often available for very reasonable prices.

      I brewed for a year at a brewery that used 50-gallon steam-fired soup kettles, fermenting in 50-gallon food-grade plastic barrels (kept in a well-air-conditioned room), with surprisingly good results. I pumped out of the barrels, through a plate filter, into a carbonating stone fitting, then into a 50-foot hose (which gave the CO2 time to dissolve into the beer) into a manifold that fed three kegs.

      Totally Rube Goldberg, but (with a bit of tinkering to get everything right) it worked!

      Cheers, Tim


      • #4
        Help a tiny tiny....

        hi, that sounds like a kind my first plan to start a brewery, sell pizza and have a tastingroom - bar.well i dident have a pizza place going but i had a BBQ- foodtrailer and no money.i had a building even but i just wasent happy with the brewing part.see i was thinking it would be cheap but still it would cost some money and the same official steps as for a example a 3 bbl brewery .sure i am a brewmaster from bavaria i can make beer on a small scale but do i have the time brewing,cleaning,transfering,cleaning again ?no i also have to take care of my restaurant because if i fail there my moneyflow is gone,can i be consistent and brew every day ?365 days a year sometimes twice a day because i wanna make money and sell beer so i advertise also i am "arrogant" and say i make a real good beer and people will come then i cant satisfy them because my aging time gets to short beer starts getting crapy because its getting to young ,oh well i just get more kegs but hold now i have more work ok i get a assistant ,hold i cant afford one so what to do ,maybe i buy a bigger system no cant i spend all my money on the system i have should have waitet and thats exactly what i did ,worked hard saved money drank keystone light and saved more money worked my foodtrailer on the side and my dayjob was managing a 24 hour diner ,now 3 years later i opened up on feb.24 this year a 3bbl brewpub in a great location serving the best bavarian homecooking outside germany and call me crazy in the middel of far westtexas smalltown nothing around in a radius of 3 hour driving and do after my first 6 month really really well .whatever decission you make if you need any advice,or whatsoever contact me Harry Mois good luck america needs more good beer
        Harald Mois


        • #5
          Hello! I know someone in Upper Michigan who has done something almost identical. I think you are on the right track, especially if you have some homebrewing experience. I also have brewed on a Sabco pilot system with good results. Realize that you won't get nearly a full half barrel with this system, as you need kettle and fermenter freeboard. Maybe 11-12 gallons per batch without "high gravity" brewing. And I think that you should limit your styles to a very few unless you want to brew 12 hours/day. Please PM me if you would like to discuss this further. I think I could help you. Cheers!
          Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--


          • #6
            Just my two cents we have a 2 barrel system that we started with and cant keep up with production needs! We brew for a 49 seat pub and everyday wish we had a 7 barrel system we have 4 fermenters and cant keep up. My advise is to overkill we have lots of requests for our beer (resturants and casino's) but at keep up with the day to day stuff.
            Yes we are putting the plan together for the big one soon.
            We did all the work building the brewery ourselves and saved lots but its hard work.


            • #7
              Yeah, remember that it takes just as much time to brew a 10 gallon batch of beer as it does to brew a 10 barrel batch! Too small a system, and you're working all the time without necessarily making any money...

              Cheers, Tim


              • #8
                If you are going to go that small, look into at least getting 55Gallon Stainless drums for kettles. Brew high gravity with some good quality extract to boost your gravity over the grains. Then at least you could clear 1 barrel batches. I know there are homebrew clubs who brew with these setups. 15 gallon kettles are just too small. If you buy enough kettles you could run staggered brews and get two to three batches a day....but then you need more fermentation vessels. The 55 gallon drums could also work there.
                Big Willey
                "You are what you is." FZ


                • #9
                  Not quite so small, eh?

                  Hey thanks for all these replies so far. Most of you seem to be saying that I should consider going a little bigger than the plan I laid out. The budget for equipment for that plan is about $16,000. This price includes fermenters and assumes that only top fermenting ales are made (no lagers.) Can I come anywhere near that with a one or two barrel system? It is going to be tough to convince banks and others to lend us the total we're asking for as is. Under the current plan we expect to buy kegs of basic beers like pale ales, etc., from regular breweries. We'd reserve our system for people who were willing to try something slightly more unusual, like organic oatmeal stout for example. In addition we'd expect many customers to get wine or nonalcoholic beverages, especially before dinner. The seating capacity would probably be around 50. In our state we are legally barred from selling to liquor stores or other restaurants. Let me know what you think.

                  John Langley


                  • #10
                    I agree that you need to seek a larger system, at least a barrel. I have a sabco at home and you will not get a keg of beer from that thing unless you brew high grav and dilute downstream. I really question the financials on a system like this, even a one barrel. While your capital cost is low, your prime cost will be very high. This would be a labor of love for sure because I doubt it will put much to the bottom line. The smallest I would even consider for even a very small pub is 3 bbl. The hidden cost of labor and opportunity cost are high. Like was said before, it takes the same amount of time to brew one batch of beer 10 gallons or 100. When you break down your prime cost per bbl or keg, it is scary.

                    Not to say it can't be done, but it's going to cost you time away from running your business if you are brewing every day.

                    Good luck!


                    • #11
                      Nabs has a small system, has anyone evey used this? Should almost fit in your budget, but I don't have any experience with nabs

                      This website is for sale! is your first and best source for all of the information you’re looking for. From general topics to more of what you would expect to find here, has it all. We hope you find what you are searching for!

                      2 BBL Complete Brewery

                      1- 2 BBL Gas Fired Kettle single wall with gas burner or electric
                      1- 2 BBL Mash Lauter-Tun insulated and clad with perforated false bottom
                      1- Brazed plate heat exchanger
                      1- 5 gallon S.S. grant
                      1- LC Thompson pump
                      1- Little Giant high temperature pump
                      2- Uni- tank fermenters 60-degree cone jacketed insulated and clad
                      3- Brite beer tanks single wall
                      1- Lot of stainless steel fittings, transportable spray ball, pressure vacuum relief valves, pressure gauges, butterfly valves, clamps, carbonating stone, hoses. Renco temperature controllers and more

                      Price $14,900 New


                      • #12

                        I have bought and sold equipment thru NABS and have found them to be straight up. Give Ian Day a call, he may be able to help with a small system. NABS has a 4 bbl. Elliot Bay brewhouse listed here:
                        This website is for sale! is your first and best source for all of the information you’re looking for. From general topics to more of what you would expect to find here, has it all. We hope you find what you are searching for!
                        Last edited by beertje46; 10-26-2005, 09:58 AM.
                        Cheers & I'm out!
                        David R. Pierce
                        NABC & Bank Street Brewhouse
                        POB 343
                        New Albany, IN 47151


                        • #13
                          Installing a used brewery can be like restoring that old classic car. If you buy equipment for 16 grand there will be at least that much put into shipping, re-piping the glycol, maybe getting new solenoids, improving the floor where you are installing the tanks, fabricating something noone makes anymore for your particular model. Not to mention the licensing etc...$2000 for the federal brew pub license if I remember correctly. I think you might get away with 50K in the end if you are good, and lucky. Conviction is worth thousands of dollars too.


                          • #14
                            Sounds somewhat risky on quality of brew. Check with Vino's in Little Rock, Arkansas (501-375-8466). They originally attempted low budget brewing in a pizza place and had too much competition from the pizza yeast to keep quality where it needs to be. Good luck in the endeavor.