MicroBrewr 081: An R&D laboratory for craft beer
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The guys at Portland Kettle Works had the idea to start a nanobrewery. They needed one of their employees to run it, so Chris Sears stepped up and took charge of Labrewatory in Portland, Oregon.
“If Portland is anywhere close to being saturated, the rest of the U.S. has a long way to go.” [Tweet This]
Labrewatory won’t be just a nanobrewery. It will be part R&D and showroom for Portland Kettle Works, part collaboration brew lab, pilot brewhouse for hire, a brewing classroom, and who knows what else they’ll think of.
Chris hopes Labrewatory will be a “craft beer geek haven” and a “hub for creative new beer.” He’s been working on the project since the beginning. Now that it’s almost open to the public, he has some lessons to share.
In hindsight, Chris feels they could have spent less time on architecture and design. But he cautions that the plans entail not only what facilities you will have in the building, but also where in the building they will be located. He recommends that you check with the permit inspectors early on and go over your plans with a “fine-toothed comb” to make sure everything follows the codes.
They don’t have to advertise this new nanobrewery too much. They’re raising interest by word-of-mouth and social media. Collaboration beers with other breweries will also be key to their advertising and marketing plan.
Chris iterates a sentiment shared throughout the craft beer industry: community, not competition.
“Collaborations,” he says, “are the definition of community involvement.”
RELATED: MicroBrewr 078: Around the world and back with the craft beer industry
Before doing this project, Chris had been homebrewing for about 5 years. For any homebrewer wanting to go pro, he recommends just starting.
“Just go out there and do it!” he exclaims.
“There’s a lot of money out there. Go out and find that money,” says Chris. “The biggest hurdle right now is finding money. I think it’s just either they are scared to ask or they don’t know the avenues to go and find it. There are definitely investors out there.”
About the potential of a “bubble” or a decreasing demand in craft beer, Chris says: “Portland definitely shows the industry that a neighborhood can support a brewery. Are you going to be the next Sam Adams? Probably not. But are you going to be able to support your family and support employees? Definitely, definitely. So as far as a bubble goes, I don’t see really one in sight.”
Kettle size: 3.5 BBL, but we can do 4 BBL.
Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: A mix of 7-BBL and 3.5-BBL fermenters. Capacity for up to 12 fermenters.
Size and quantity of bright tanks: We will be mostly kegging after conditioning, so around 4.
Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: Approx. 1,000 BBL.
Square footage: Approx. 5,000 sq. ft. including brewery, tap room, and mezzanine.
Years in operation: Comnig soon (opening October 2015).
From Old Louisville Brew: If the bubble does exist, where and when will it hit? For example, shelf space, tap space, customer saturation, etc.
Pump on a cart, with variable frequency drive (VFD).
- Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink by Randy Mosher.
Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.
An upcoming beer style:
- Portland Kettle Works, craft brewery equipment made in America.
- Tomatoes, apples and a cold brew – California farmers market beer law OK’d by John Verive, Los Angeles Times, October 10, 2014.
- BTU Brasserie, Portland, Oregon.
- Craft Brewers Conference, Brewers Association.
- Ohio Craft Brewers Association.
- Texas Craft Brewers Guild.
You can reach Chris Sears and Labrewatory at:
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