MicroBrewr 004: Craft Beer Quality Control and Bottling w/ 3 Sheeps Brewery

 The MicroBrewr Podcast is Going Weekly!!

The success of this podcast within the first three episodes has been so awesome and the personal connections that I’ve already made have pushed me to take the next step with this podcast.  From now on, I’ll be releasing a new MicroBrewr podcast weekly for your listening enjoyment.  I’ve been going back and forth on this for a few weeks but I have to give a special thanks to my friend, Nathan Pierce for pushing me to commit to the weekly podcast.  In the next podcast, you’ll get to meet Nathan and hear about his project that he’s currently working on (more info to come).  If there’s any specific topics that you’d like to hear more about in future podcasts, let me know on Facebook or Twitter.  Finally, I just have to say it means so much to me for listening so if there’s anything that I can do to return the favor, let me know what I can do!

Meet Grant from 3 Sheeps Brewing Company

Grant Pauly started out in working in his family’s concrete business where he had a good, stable job but found that it wasn’t where his passions truly lied.  After homebrewing, Grant decided to switch paths and start a brewery in Sheboygan, WI.   After the first year and a half of brewing, 3 Sheeps has already gone through multiple expansions and won the award of “Best New Wisconsin Brewery” by RateBeer.  As a distribution brewery, Grant has some great pointers to share about craft beer quality control and the bottling process to make sure their great beer tastes the same, every time.  Grant also digs into his decision of taking a risk to start the brewery by chasing those “really cool waterslides” and not taking it for granted.

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In this podcast we’ll cover:

  • Where to start after deciding that you want to start a brewery
  • Deciding between a distribution brewery or a brew pub
  • A deep dive through brewing equipment and the bottling process.
  • Creating a theme or a “vision” for your brewery to guide the beers that you produce
  • The craft beer growth and how it blew apart Grant’s initial projections
  • How to make sure you beer tastes the same every time and monitoring throughout the process
  • What’s working for Grant right now

Brewery-QCHere are links that we talked about during the podcast.  Make sure to connect with 3 Sheeps and find their beer at your local liquor store or baaaaar (you’ll get this more once you listen to the podcast:)

3 Sheeps Website

Connect on Facebook

Connect on Twitter

Siebel Institute in Chicago – Brewing Sciences

Your Free Audio Book

Like This Podcast and Want to Give Baaaaack?

If you like this podcast and all of the free info that I’ve been working to get out to help the brewing community, I would really appreciate it if you would give me a rating in iTunes and share this podcast with your friends.  All you need to do is search for MicroBrewr in the iTunes store or you can use this link.  Giving a rating in iTunes will continue to push the podcast up in the rankings which help get the word out to more people.  Thanks in advance!

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You might also like:

MicroBrewr 024: Real ale in the mountain bike capital of the Northwest, with Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge, Oregon.

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Top Four Tips For Using Social Media To Promote Your Brewery

Social Media and The Conversion of a Non-Believer

Over the last few years, I’ve talked about deleting my Facebook account.  People would get mad at me since they’d send me a Facebook message and I wouldn’t get back to them for three months because I wouldn’t ever check my notifications.   After I found my beautiful wife after college, Facebook just didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose for me anymore and I lost interest.  I got my first personal Twitter account around a year ago and had tweeted a total of 4 times.  Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat were things that my sister or wife would try to explain to me what they were and what purpose they served.  To sum it up, I was a non-believer of social media and didn’t really get the point.

As I was in the process of starting up MicroBrewr, I created a token Twitter and Facebook account just because I thought that having those pages would make the site look more “professional”.  I wasn’t planning on putting much effort into those pages because I didn’t think I’d get that much return for all the time that was required.  When I finally launched the site, I had a couple of Facebook likes and maybe a handful of followers on Twitter.  Then, something crazy happened that instantly turned me into a believer in social media.

Some Shares of the MicroBrewr Article on Twitter

Some Shares of the MicroBrewr Article on Twitter

When I launched MicroBrewr, I was hoping for maybe a couple of hundred people to visit within the first week.  After all, MicroBrewr was a brand new site out there that no one had ever heard of. I figured that I should send out a post to the few followers that I had about the articles that I was including in the launch.  The morning of the launch, I sent out a tweet and Facebook post on one of articles which was called 61 Brewers Speak Out: What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Brewery.  Suddenly, my phone started buzzing with a number of people who had shared the link.  This post took off and lead to hundreds of tweets and over 3000 page likes on Facebook.  The sharing took on a life of its own and led to 25,125 unique visitors within the first week of having the site launched.

RELATED: My #1 tool for growing an email list

With most craft breweries, advertising budgets are tight (if they even exist) and social media gives you a great way to create loyal fans for free.  As we discussed in the post How Small Craft Brewers Continue to Dominate the Corporate Giants, one of the key drivers of the craft beer movement is people wanting to buy local and know who is brewing their beer.  Social media gives you an easy connection to build those lasting relationships which translates into loyal fans.  If you’re running a brewery or are thinking of starting one, there’s no doubt that time is also tight so here’s some quick tips on how to get the most return out of your precious time.

Top Four Tips When Using Social Media For Your Brewery

You Can’t Do It All – One thing that kept getting me stuck is that I was overwhelmed by the number of social media sites that were out there.  I figured that if I was going to do one, I had to do them all.  After some soul searching I decided that I needed to focus on just a couple and do them well.  Since this arena is constantly changing, I’m continually looking for changes in demographics and trends to see which ones will give the best response (here’s a great update of 2013 social media demographics).  For breweries, Facebook and Twitter are still key but there are a couple of others that seem to be emerging.  Instagram has potential since users have very high levels of engagement and is very skewed towards younger users that are very supportive of the craft beer industry (as long as they are drinking age).  The other one that I believe is key is Untappd since I don’t know how you could get a much more targeted audience than that.  The key is to pick a few social media platforms to focus on and do them well.

No One Likes Someone Who Talks About Themselves All the Time – While you should be sending out reminders of the next brewery event or new beer you’re releasing, these should not be the only thing that you’re sending.  With the bombardment of content that our society gets especially now with social media, people are very reluctant at being sold to.  While talking about that happy hour special is great, make sure you’re also actually connecting with people rather than trying to just sell to them.  Once people get to know you through social media, when you do send out those posts promoting your new small batch beer, people will be much more willing to listen.  Gary Vaynerchuk wrote a great book about this called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook which I’d highly recommend checking out if you get a chance.

Each Social Network Has Its Own Rules That You Don’t Want To Break  If you started out like me and didn’t use social media much before, it takes a bit to learn the “rules” of each platform.  People communicate differently on each platform and if you don’t take the time to learn the right way to share, prepare to be ignored.  Some examples that I see every day are people who automatically share copy their Twitter posts to Facebook.  If I see you talking about “@someone” on Facebook like you’d reference a person in Twitter, I know that you automatically updated your Facebook page and I immediately lose that personal connection with you.  If you’re new to a social network, Gary V’s book that I referenced above is a great way to get you quickly up to speed.

Honestly Ask Yourself If You’d Share What You’re About To Post if It Came Across Your Feed – Social media can have amazing returns if you put out content worth sharing.  The beauty of social media is that if you send out good content, the sharing can take on a life of its own and reach so many more people that you could have yourself.  Think of how you scan through your feed on Facebook or Twitter and how little time you spend looking at each individual post.  If you’re like me, you’ll probably scroll though quite a few posts before stopping to take a closer look at a picture or headline that catches your eye.  Taking the extra few minutes to make that content stand out can really make a difference on the engagement and ultimately new fans that you get for your brewery.

Since time and money is tight, I’ve put together an e-book with six free social media tools that you can use to build your presence online and get your beer into the hands of more people.  As my thanks for visiting MicroBrewr, simply click the button below and I’ll send you the e-book free to your email.


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MicroBrewr 003: The Power of A Story w/ Adelbert’s Brewery

Welcome to Another MicroBrewr Podcast!

I’ve just got to say that I am having a blast doing this podcast and there are many more to come.  If you’re new to MicroBrewr, I’m here to help out if you’re looking at starting up a craft brewery or want to take your brewery to the next level.  For the podcast, I get the pleasure of talking with a number of people in the craft beer industry to spread the knowledge to the rest of the community.  If you’re thinking of starting a brewery, I’d also check out the 12 question guide you can use to help figure out the financials when in the planning stages.  Welcome and if you get a chance, I’d love to connect with you through Facebook or Twitter (you can always use my contact page too!).

Telling a Story Through Beer and a Brewery w/ Adelbert’s Breweryadelberts

The craft brewing industry is full of amazing people and Sarah Zomper Haney from Adelbert’s Brewery is no exception!  Adelbert’s Brewery is located in Austin, TX and focuses on Belgian-style brewing and bottle-conditions their beers.  Sarah and I will discuss topics from marketing, distribution, branding, social media and everything in between.

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In this episode we’ll talk about:

  • How to use a story to name your brewery and create a personal connection with your customers
  • Using social media and word-of-mouth to promote your brewery
  • The power of the brewery tour
  • Bringing in food trucks and incorporating beer into food
  • How to make use of spare brewing capacity
  • Expanding distribution into other markets and educating distributors
  • Making your beer stand out and the importance of labeling
  • Converting people into the craft beer movement
  • Sarah’s outlook on the craft beer market

Check out the Adelbert’s Brewery or Enjoy Their Bottle-Conditioned Goodness!

Show your support to Sarah and Adelbert’s Brewery for all of the great information that they shared by going on a brewery tour or buying some Adelbert’s beer.  It’s a beautiful thing when you can give back by drinking beer:)  Here’s some of the ways you can connect with Adelberts!

Adelbert’s Website

Facebook – Connect with Adelbert’s Brewery

Twitter – Follow Adelbert’s

Find Adelbert’s Beer

Like This Podcast and Want to Give Back?

If you like this podcast and all of the free info that I’ve been working to get out to help the brewing community, I would really appreciate it if you would give me a rating in iTunes and share this podcast with your friends.  All you need to do is search for MicroBrewr in the iTunes store or you can use link this link here.  Giving a rating in iTunes will continue to push the podcast up in the rankings which help get the word out to more people.  The support I’ve had with three podcasts in has been so awesome and if there’s anything that I can do for your help promoting the podcast, let me know!

Share the MicroBrewr Podcast on Facebook

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You might also like:

MicroBrewr 028: Repaving the way for women in craft beer, with Scarlet Lane Brewing Company in McCordsville, Indiana.

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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The 12 Questions You Need To Ask to Plan Your Brewery

After I got a number of questions around how to get information about the money side of starting a brewery and doing the financial section of a business plan, I hope that this step-by-step guide can help out the aspiring brewer.  Truth be told, you can use the same process for a number of different businesses but in this guide, we’ll focus on the beer side of things.

While you can do all of the financial planning in the world, the quickest way to get the information you need to start a brewery is finding someone else who’s already gone through the process themselves.  As seen in our post “61 Brewers Speak Out: What I Wish I Would Have Known Before Starting a Brewery”, these guys and gals who are now running their own breweries are a wealth of information.  When you’re in the phase of looking for investments in business, showing that you’ve done your homework and having real life examples of start-up costs, sales and operating expenses will help to give you a leg up and add credibility to your financial section.

So How Do I Find A Brewer To Talk To and Will They Actually Help Me?

In the craft beer industry, we are very lucky to have a supportive community of brewers, many of whom are happy to share their experiences.  Odds are, they just went through the same process you’re about to embark on and they got help from others.  Like everything else in life, it feels great to many brewers to give back to the community that got them started.  That being said, just randomly sending them an email asking for detailed financial information probably isn’t going to get too many responses.  Here’s my advice to getting the best chance of finding people who are willing to help you out:

First, do a search in your local area of breweries that match the type of brewery that you’d like to start.  If you want to start a distribution brewery based out of an old industrial building, find other distribution breweries like that in your surrounding area.  If you want to start a brew pub in a strip mall, see if you can find ones like it.  While it would be great to find other breweries that are just like the one you’d like to start, you also have to be flexible if the number of breweries in your area is limited.  Since some people might not want to share their information with you if you’re planning on opening a new brewery across the street, take a look at other breweries in the surrounding areas that you can take a weekend road trip to visit.  Once you’ve found a few that seem to fit the bill of what you’re looking to start, you can usually find their contact information on their website.


Now here’s the trick.  Anyone starting a brewery is going to be super busy with all aspects of running their new business.  If you simply send them a long email asking for a bunch of info, your odds of getting a response back are very slim.  If you help out the brewery you’re looking to get info from and can demonstrate that you’re serious, you are going to have much better chance of them wanting to help you back.  Finding time to take a brewery tour or buying a couple of growlers for your friends will set the tone.  Tweet or share on Facebook different events that their brewery is having or how much you love the beer from their brewery (make sure to tag them so they can see it).  Volunteer to help them out with an upcoming event or say you’ll come in at bar close to help them clean up the place.  Anything that you can do to create a personal connection with the brewery owner and show that you’re serious will really help you out in the long run.  After you’ve established that personal connection, then you can contact them to see if they can take 15 minutes of their time to walk through the 12 key questions listed below.  I highly recommend doing this face to face or at least by phone since typing up an email takes longer for the brewery owner (and they are very busy!).

Now You’ve Got Your Connections, Here Are the 12 Key Questions to Ask

In this section, I’ll list out the 12 key questions that you need to ask another brewery owner to get a good idea about the financials of their brewery, and ultimately find out how much does it cost to start a brewery. Going along with the 12 questions, I’ve created a free Excel spreadsheet that you can use to put in the answers to all of these questions (the link is at the bottom of this post).  I know that Excel can be a little intimidating so I’ve done all of the calculations for you.  All you’ll need to do is enter in the numbers, select a couple of drop down boxes and you’re good to go.

  1. What was your original brewing capacity in barrels or gallons per batch? In the spreadsheet I’ve attached, I’ll do all the tough work for you to convert these values.
  2. How many batches of beer do you make in a typical month or year?
  3. How much money did it cost you to start the brewery? Make sure to get all of the costs included in the process to get the doors open for the brewery.
  4. What is the typical price you are able to sell the kegs and cans for?  You’ll just want to get an average of how much the brewery gets for each of the kegs it sells.  If the brewery sells beer in the tap room, count this as “selling” a keg (really you’re selling it to yourself) and incorporate this into the average price you get by selling a keg.  If the brewery sells cans or bottles to distributors, you’ll want to get the price that the brewery gets from the distributor.  This can get a little tricky so if you have any troubles with this, let me know and I’ll help you out on it.
  5. How many kegs do you sell and how many bottles or cans?  You can either get this as a percent of total sales (% of keg sales versus % of bottles/cans sales) or actual sales of bottles and kegs over a typical month or year.
  6. What’s the typical cost of brewing ingredients?  You can get this in the average cost of ingredients per batch, the average ingredient costs per month or the cost per year.
  7. How much does it typically cost to bottle your beer (including packaging, labeling, etc.)?  In this, you’ll want to include the cost of buying the bottles, labeling, packaging and any shipping to get it to the distributor.
  8. What is your typical rent or mortgage payment?  You can get this either as the payments per month or per year.
  9. How much do you do you have to pay per month or per year for salaries and benefits for brewers, bartenders, servers, etc?  You’ll want to get the average labor costs per month or per year and I would include any benefit payments since this will give you a better picture of the full costs of employing everyone.
  10. How much are utilities typically per month or per year?  I know this can vary throughout the year but you’ll want to get an estimation of a typical month’s utilities costs including water, sewer, heat, cooling, electricity and any other usual costs.
  11. How much do you have to pay for taxes on each beer that you sell?  This one can get a little tricky but you’ll want to find out how much the brewery has to pay on taxes for a keg that it sells and how much for each bottle (you can also get taxes per each 6-pack or case of beer).
  12. Are there any other costs or expenses that I should know about?

And that’s it!  In 12 questions, you can get all of the key information that you need to know to be able to get a good perspective of their business (and your prospective brewery).  Now all you need to do is go into the spreadsheet that I have linked at the bottom of the post and put in the numbers into the boxes that I have highlighted.

To start off, this template should work well if you’re looking at starting up a distribution brewery.  You can still get a lot of good information if you’re looking at starting up a brewpub but the costs and sales of the food can complicate the matter a bit.  If you’d like me to create a second version for brewpubs, let me know and I can incorporate these items and expand on this guide.  If you get this information and need some help figuring out what all the rest of the numbers mean, feel free to send me an email with the spreadsheet and I’ll help you out.

Disclaimer:  I have to put this in to protect myself and my family against a few bad apples.  This template was put together to give an approximation of the financials of a brewery while in the research state of a business plan.  While I will do all I can to make sure the information and calculations are correct, it is the responsibility of the user to verify these values and MicroBrewr is not liable for any use or decisions made from this template.

Download the MicroBrewr Brewery Financial Planning Excel Worksheet

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