What do I find when I look inside the typical brewery?

I have visited breweries all over the U.S.

More than I can count, or really remember.

What I do know is they span the whole country, east to west, north to south.  

While most look and smell the same…

Under the hood, they are different, very different.

For the most part, they all have the basic amenities you’d expect.

A clean environment.

Smiling faces.

Organized workspaces. 

A serious, furrowed-brow work ethic in the production area

A lax, hipster-friendly work ethic in the taproom.

So when I first walk in, all is quiet on the Western Front.

But then…

It only takes about 4 minutes until…

My brain starts running like John Nash in A Beautiful Mind:

Where’s the low-ABV option? No way I could take the wife here.

Dragon fruit DIPA… how are they making any money on it at this price?

Why isn’t the left side of the cooler stocked… and why are the cans turned the wrong way so I can’t see them?

Too many people standing around… are they overstaffed? When are peak hours? 

Do they ever pack out this space, or is there underutilized real estate here?

Then I grab a beer and relax.

Now with the anxiety-free enjoyment of whatever liquid in front of me… 

I start making mental notes in five areas: Finance, Taproom, Distribution, Operations, Leadership –  the key pillars of any brewery.

Just observations for now.

Because that rabbit hole can quickly turn into a bottomless pit.

Contain yourself, Chris.

What’s under the hood?

For most of us who have been in the game for any significant period of time, the scenario I just described will sound familiar.

We have all visited a ton of breweries.

We have all traded pleasantries at guild events and beerfests.

“Oh yea, things are going great!”

“Market’s a bit tough, but we’re doing just fine.”

“About to buy another tank, thinking of going with a 30 BBL.”

But how often do you get to see what’s under the hood?

How often do you get to see what, and how, the typical brewery is actually doing?

The answer, obviously, is that you don’t.

So let’s work on that.

We’re going to take you on a tour through those five pillars, and show you what we see inside a typical brewery. Here’s what’s on the agenda:

  • Part 1: Finance. The place where most owners “fake it” the most at the start, we’ll walk you through what we typically find when we open up the books for the first time… and what the implications are for the make-or-break decisions that get made as a result.
  • Part 2: Taproom. We’ll revisit the honey hole yet again, this time under a new light. What’s really happening inside the typical taproom? Are most breweries maximizing their gains, or woefully short of their potential? What about can releases, food, events? We’ll spell it all out.
  • Part 3: Distribution and Operations. Whether it’s capacity and capital planning, pricing and costing options, or sending reps out into the field… the typical brewery is actually not so “typical,” but instead all over the map. We’ll explore why that is, and what most stand to gain or lose if they continue on their current path.
  • Part 4: Leadership. Where’s the brewery headed? Who’s steering the ship? Who keeps the engine running? How are decisions made? We’ll uncover what usually happens with the least tangible, but arguably most important function within the brewery.

As we go through this process, I want you to ask yourself:

Do I see our brewery in these scenarios?

How do we stack up against the “typical” example: positive or negative?

What does that say about who we are, where we are, and where we’re headed?

Maybe you’re doing better, the same, worse, something entirely different.

Whatever it is, don’t be too hard on yourself.

You’re in business, shipping products, providing jobs, and making the economy go round…

There are no simple answers in entrepreneurship, and certainly not within craft.

So whatever you find as we walk through this journey, use it to your advantage.

Use it as fuel to keep pressing forward.

And as you do, we’ll be right alongside you doing the same.


You can jump in with Part 1: Finance here.

You can subscribe and follow along as we go here.

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