How to start your own brewery

Craft a career in designing and brewing beer.

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If you have some experience of home-brewed beer, you'll know that crafting to the right taste requires a lot of patience and a deft hand. Apply the same skills to your own brewery business and you might make a barrel load.

Keep reading to learn what you need to know about starting your own brewery.

What skills, knowledge or requirements do I need to start a brewery business?

As mentioned, running a brewery requires skills in designing and brewing beer. Many of your days will also be spent managing accounts, interacting with the hospitality industry, working out transport and logistics, and marketing your brand. Some brewery owners even leave the actual brewing to their employees.

The brewery business is a tough one, and you will need to maximise efficiency and invest in tools that will help you brew the best product. Some skills you'll need include:

  • Communicating your brewer's story and mission effectively.
  • Attention to details such as mathematical measurements, recipes, time management, proofreading newsletters, tracking inventory and pulling bad beer.
  • Strict adherence to protocols and standards of practice.
  • Proficiency in computer skills and brewery management software.

Read more about how to market your small business.

Courses and qualifications to consider

man working at a brewery

You can find accredited courses from registered training organisations like The Institute of Brewing and Distilling and Brewery Training Australia. The typical cost of a course is around $3,500. The courses available include:

  • Certificate III in Food Processing (Micro-Brewery)
  • Certificate III in Food Processing (Brew Pub)
  • Certificate III in Hospitality
  • Certificate IV in Competitive Systems and Practices
  • Certificate IV in Food Processing (Brewery Operations).

TAFE NSW Ultimo offers a Certificate III in Food Processing (Micro Brewing) for 44 weeks. There's a NSW Smart & Skilled Fee-Free Traineeship available for this course. TAFE South Australia offers a similar course with the chance to become an apprentice for up to 12 months.

You may also want to consider an apprenticeship to gain hands-on skills in the industry. Or you could kick things off with an online course.

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    Equipment and software needed to start a brewery business

    The startup costs for a brewery business can get quite expensive. However, if this is a field you are certain about, you should invest in quality equipment. You will need:

    • Grain Mill
    • Brewhouse
    • Fermentation vessel
    • Bright beer tank
    • PDL bag filter unit
    • Glycol tank
    • Controlling unit
    • Mobile pump for CIP & transfer
    • Double station keg rinser
    • Bottling machine
    • Cooling systems or storage
    • Waste management system.

    Besides the equipment you will need to brew beer, you should also consider hiring a graphic artist for your brewery logo and labels, a photographer to help with marketing and even an accountant to help manage the business. Consider hiring a consultant to inform you of the current market and to conduct market research in advance of opening up in a new territory.

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    What business structures do I need to consider before starting a brewery business?

    If you are looking to protect your personal assets, you can choose to apply as a partnership business or a company. In a partnership, two or more people act as co-owners of the business. They share the income, losses and debts. The partners can act on behalf of each other in the business. If you want to limit your liability, you might consider a company structure. A company is a separate legal entity. Shareholders act as decision-makers who share in the company's financial responsibilities.

    Once you have established your business structure, you can register with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), get an Australian Company Number and apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN). You'll also want to trademark your beer brand and name, get permission from the Australian Tax Office to manufacture alcohol, apply for a local city planning permit or development approval and a building permit.

    Drawing up legal documents before you start operating will help your business run smoothly. Some of the key legal documents you'll typically need include:

    • Australian Government Brewery Licence. This licence is a prerequisite to manufacture beer for commercial purposes legally.
    • Liquor Licence. The kind of liquor licence you'll need depends on your business operation and how you sell the liquor. Some of the licences to consider are a commercial hotel licence if your brewery has an on-site tavern, a subsidiary on-premises licence if your brewery runs a cafe or restaurant as well, and a producer or wholesaler licence.
    • Brewery distributor agreement. This document outlines the terms and conditions between a brewery business and its distributor. The agreement states that the brewery agrees to brew beer and sell it to the wholesaler who pays for it. The brewery is obligated to make a saleable product and the wholesaler is obligated to sell it. It is essential to know your state laws before writing up this document.
    • Wastewater agreement. You will need to get written approval from your local or state council if your brewery business discharges trade wastewater.
    • Employment agreement. Having a legally-sound employment agreement in place is crucial to protecting your business. The employment agreement sets out the employee obligations, the term of employment, their working hours, remuneration review and benefits.
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    How much should I charge my customers?

    Your brewery business will have various avenues for selling your craft beer. Significant routes for sales include packaged beer sales, keg sales, taproom beer sales, taproom growlers and bottle or can sales, events, tours and merchandises. Each avenue has a price of its own. Selling beer through a taproom means considering the additional cost of it to the brewery set-up.

    When selling beer to distributors or retailers, take into account the core and special ingredients, staff per batch, canning per batch, and packaging and warehousing per batch. Then add to that the cost for tax and your overhead costs to arrive at a total cost, to which you can add a percentage for your profit margin. There are no set sales prices to fit every brewery business.

    Your running costs will include bank fees, wages, consulting and accounting, contractors, freight and equipment hire, delivery, business insurance, IT, software subscriptions, marketing, fuel, rent, maintenance and services.

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    How do I build my customer base?

    There are a number of effective ways you can win customers for your brewery. These include:

    • Create a website that produces quality content on crafting beer and the brewery business to appeal to your audience's curiosity.
    • Invest in learning SEO for your blog, as this is how people will find you.
    • Build awareness and your brand's image online via social media platforms.
    • Strategise the photos and videos you post so that you actively engage in personal relationships with clients.
    • Provide your social following with something that is uniquely your brand. For example, pairing recipes with the different beers you brew, pairing songs with drinks, or sharing advice for home brewers.
    • Take advantage of any ways to personalise how you engage with your audience. This can help to boost the loyalty of your clientele.

    You may also want to consider working with tour guide businesses. Provide tourists with an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the craft beer scene, and introduce them to the history and techniques in crafting locally made brews and beverages. Don't underestimate the power of word-of-mouth and short reviews on Google to help drive more business.

    Frequently asked questions

    What is beer brewing?

    Simply put, beer brewing is the practice of brewing water, starch, yeast, and hops in order to produce beer. This is not the entire process; you'll also need to ferment the end product, which is followed by a period of conditioning.

    How long does brewing beer take?

    Crafting beer is a process that typically takes one to two months. The beer will need to ferment in the beer brewing kit for at least two weeks or longer, depending on the type of beer, followed by two weeks of bottle conditioning. Production of barrel-aged and sour beers can take years.

    What's the difference between fermenting or bottling in plastic or glass?

    There is no difference in the quality or taste as the beer will ferment and carbonate the same way. Glass bottles will last a lifetime, excluding cases of breakage. Comparatively, plastic will last a long time if well cared for, but aggressive cleaning will scratch plastic surfaces and plastics left in harsh conditions will degrade.

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