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How to Open a Brewery in 10 Easy Steps

“So what does it take to open a brewery? I mean, what do you have to do?” These are the questions that we get asked the most. In this post I’ll oversimplify things to make it fit into ten easy steps. Ten steps seems like a doable number, right?

Step 1: Make Big Plans. If you’re like us, you’ll spend forever and a day on step one. You’ll need to figure out all the particulars of what you want your brewery to look like. For us, this was defined and re-defined by making a business plan. A business plan is an essential piece for banks and people who might want to give you money, but we found that it was extremely helpful in determining what we actually wanted. In the end, we had about 3 versions of a business plan, tailored to a few different sites for Trek Brewing. Each plan was between 35 and 50 pages, and it included a whole lot of research about market segments, demographics, cost analysis, etc. Our business plan became our guide, and helped us make a bunch of decisions throughout the process.

Step 2: Establish a Location: In order to get licensing/loans/everything else needed for your brewery, you’ll need a location. You can read all about our awesome location and how we chose it in last week’s blog post.

Step 3: Establish Funding: It’s been said that to make a large fortune in craft brewing you have to start with a small fortune. In case you’re like us, and you don’t have a fortune to start with, you’ll need to find a source of funding before you can submit paperwork to the powers that be.

Step 4: Paperwork Extravaganza: At this point in the process you get to apply for your TTB permit. The TTB is the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau, which oversees breweries. There are a lot of phases to this paperwork, and once you finally make it to the end, you submit it and you’ll go into a queue. In general, the TTB takes about 6 months to approve a new brewery application. We were incredibly lucky, and surprised, but Trek’s application sailed through in under 3 months. This is also when you might begin paperwork for your state as well.

Step 5: Order equipment: The fun really begins when you get to order your brewhouse and fermenters. Sometimes these take several months to manufacture, so ordering equipment is fairly early in the process. We’ve said before that our main brewhouse is coming from the Seventh Son brewery in Columbus, and we’ve ordered some brand new fermenters from Systech. This is also the point in the process where it all becomes very real, because the down payment for this equipment is a serious chunk of change. We happened to close on selling our home in Seattle the same day that we put in our down payment on our brew house. Easy come, easy go.

Step 6: Construction: This is the phase we’re in now. It’s kind of out of order to put it here, as we actually signed on with our awesome construction team right after Step 2. But, this is when the real work is beginning for us. You may not be as lucky as we are; but we happened to graduate from High School with one of the best brewery builders in the Columbus area, Blake Compton from Compton Construction. This made choosing our construction team a no brainer… when you’ve known the CEO since kindergarten, it’s pretty easy to trust that they’ll do a great job. Construction for us up until this point been about pre-planning. We’ve done about a billion preliminary drawings, and we think we’ve finally got the dream taproom all figured out. The next phase of construction begins shortly, we’ll be demo-ing and changing the space to fit our vision.

Step 7: Permits: We’re working on permits for construction, food service, permits from the state to sell alcohol … you name it, there’s probably a permit for it.

Step 8: Brewing!: Here is the part we can not wait to get to. Before we can open the doors, we’ve got to have some excellent beer for you to drink. But before we can brew, we’ve got to have a permit. John will be brewing around the clock for a few weeks as soon as our permits come through.

Step 9: Hiring: We’ll be hiring taproom staff before we open Trek Brewing Company to the public. We’re pretty amazing, but we’re just two people so we’ll need some help. If you’re interested in working in the taproom, sit tight, we’ll advertise when we’re ready to hire. During this hiring step we’re also putting the finishing touches on everything in the taproom space.

Step 10: Grand Opening: This is where we finally get to sit back with you all and enjoy. We are anxiously awaiting this grand opening, and we know you are too.