Ted Bruning, leading beer author, guides you through all the practicalities of starting up your own microbrewery; everything from how to brew right through to finding a place of your own.
The Brewing Industry in the UK has changed dramatically during the nearly 30 years that I have had the pleasure of being part of it. My brewing career started when I left school, during the summer holidays after I had completed my “A” levels, and whilst waiting to take up a post as a civil servant, I saw an advert in the local paper for a job as a “brewer”. With no qualifications other than a little bit of home brewing and a lot of product analysis I applied, and much to my mothers consternation, got the job. Working for a small company who had decided to open a microbrewery gave me my first access to the friendliest industry in the world. Tasked with learning how to brew I just phoned up and asked all the other breweries in the area if they would teach me. All welcomed me with open arms accepting my free labour in return for a whistle stop guide to commercial brewing and one of those I visited was the newly formed Titanic Brewery. When my original brewery decided to call it a day after only four brews, I called Titanic and became their assistant brewer. Without doubt it was the camaraderie of brewing that led to me to have the opportunity of taking over the brewery 3 years later.
Maybe if this guide had been available then my original employer would have stuck at it and life may have taken a different course. Now the UK brewing industry has over a 1,000 breweries across the country all producing fantastic local beer for local people using, where possible, local ingredients. The beer drinker has fallen back in love with knowing where their beer has come from and delights in a connection to what they perceive as “their” brewery.
If you are reading this book it probably means you are considering joining the ranks of those who have chosen to set up a brewery, whilst incredibly welcoming, most already in the industry will, almost without exception, advise you against doing so. I would also caution against rushing headlong into it. The last 30 years is littered with those who have not carefully planned their business. You will not just need to be a great brewer but will need to understand business, sales, purchasing, retailing, design, engineering, HR, health and safety, floor scrubbing and drain unblocking. The list of what you are expected to know seems endless but if you have buckets of entrepreneurial spirit and a love of learning something new every day you will succeed and love every minute of it. If you think it will be easy, make you filthy rich or that you know everything there is to know about it I would heartily propose googling “other idea.”
This guide will undoubtedly provide you with a fabulous reference document and sets out clearly how to go about taking your acorns and moving towards treedom, but never be afraid to ask. Advice is freely available from many different sources, and as chairman of SIBA and with 20 years as a member of Council it would not be surprising if I recommended joining. This connects you to a network of people who have all been in the same position as yourself. It also gives you access to technical, legal, training, commercial and political assistance. That said don’t ignore other sources of advice, from the local Chamber of Commerce to the local branch of CAMRA, all will assist to build a picture of where your business will fit in.
Finally when you have grafted your way towards your dream, never forget why you are doing it. It is the pleasure of tasting your own produce, or even better seeing your customers nods of approval as they taste your wares that makes everything seem worthwhile.
Happy brewing, Yours forever thirsty.
Keith Bott. Titanic Brewery. www.titanicbrewery.co.uk
By Keith Bott, Chairman of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) and Managing Director of Titanic Brewery