WHY IS THERE AN “EXPLOSION” OF SMALL CRAFT BREWERIES?

  • Beer historian and author Jordan St. John believes breweries are starting up outside of cities, in small towns, because PEOPLE WANT TO CARVE OUT SMALL NICHES FOR THEMSELVES. It’s practical and relatively easy to sell only to nearby bars and restaurants. NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO GO BIG.

DO WE NEED SO MANY SMALL BREWERIES?

  • Lots and lots of small local breweries is not a new idea – far from it. In the 21st century, North America is only now approaching the number of local breweries that were open in the 1800s. Then, as now, small local brewers served their local communities. So it’s new … and it’s old.

WHAT IS THE COST OF STARTING A CRAFT BREWERY?

  • Michael Gurr of Kensington Brewing Company says on www.blogto.com “Your brewhouse is likely your biggest expense. 10 years ago you might have found suitable used equipment, but today it’s hard to come by.
    Be prepared to shell out for an expensive made-to-order brewhouse.”
  • Gurr estimates KBC spent another $200,000 on a glycol chiller, steam boiler, piping installation and construction. “A bottling line can run you $30k–$65k and then you need to buy all those kegs you want to fill.” Costs for converting a suitable place to open to the public can range from modest to massive, but you do have control over that.
  • Legal fees, consulting fees, building permit fees, engineering fees, vehicles, office equipment, security systems + unexpected costs. Doesn’t take long to be within bottle throwing distance of a million dollars.

NAVIGATING THE BUREAUCRACY

Those who have been through the startup phase generally agree that
STAFF AT PLACES LIKE AGCO AND IN CITY CLERKS’ OFFICES CAN BE AMAZINGLY HELPFUL.
If you’re professional with them, they can be really helpful  in navigating the bureaucracy.
Mandie Murphy, co-owner of Left Field Brewery, agrees. “It’s pretty straightforward to build a brewery – actually licensing it is more involved. You need 4 different licenses and it can take 3 months to get the first one, the Manufacturer’s License. Then comes the Excise License. If you have a tap room you need a By The Glass License which requires community council approval by way of a municipal resolution of support.
Finally the Retail Store Authorization, for which you must write letters to churches, schools, public parks, playgrounds, community centers and libraries within a one kilometer radius of the brewery, and they can notify the AGCO if they have objections to your opening.”

IF YOU DO FIND HELPFUL AND KNOWLEDGEABLE BUREAUCRATS …. TREAT THEM VERY WELL!
With patience and ability to fill out paperwork you can navigate the red tape but, as with any business,
it helps enormously to know people who know the ropes.

CONCLUSION …. straight talking from beer blogger Ben Johnson.
“In addition to business acumen, sufficient funding, a knack for paperwork and politics, and some construction know-how – you should REALLY WANT TO MAKE BEER for a living.
If you don’t, it’s unlikely that your beer will be great.
And if your beer isn’t that great, you likely won’t succeed and you will just be taking up space in a crowded market that could be used by someone who is really, definitely passionate about beer.”

ONE MORE THING
If you are dreaming of starting a small craft brewery, you are not alone. Dream on!
It’s a noble undertaking, it’s damned hard work, and if you succeed you’ll be greatly appreciated by
­­­the growing ranks of craft beer drinkers in Ontario – and in particular in your own community.