Your craft beer—there’s always room for more
The Definitive Brewery & Distillery Business Guide
By the time it’s brewed, it’s more than a beer. It’s your dedication, spirit and story. To your customer, it’s a little break, a conversation with a friend and something special at the end of the day.
Behind the artistry of every new offering is hard work, collaboration and education. And when it comes to brewing the perfect craft beer, there’s always room to learn more. So turn to Boelter, your resource for insights and ideas that will help you run a better brewing business. From craft beer ingredients to barware and custom glassware that builds your brand, Boelter has your back.
It’s more than a pour. It’s a story. And there’s always room for another story!
Brewery Basics 101
So you’re opening a brewery! You love your hobby enough to strike out on your own with the encouragement of family and friends. It’s easy to be wide-eyed when the dream is out in front of you. But there are basics behind every business and it’s better to focus on them before you even get out of the gate.
1. Capital is King. Like any business, opening a brewery is replete with the challenges and risks of owning and running any business. The fact is, you can’t have too much cash or other resources at the ready to finance your endeavor. Undercapitalized businesses simply collapse under the strain of getting the business off the ground. Remember, in the beginning there’s a lot of cash going out and very little—if anything—coming in. Equipment, facilities, wages, marketing and let’s be frank—honest mistakes—will consume cash while you get your brewing machine running. Remember, you can always give money back that’s not used or accessed. But you can’t repay creditors, family and friends if you can’t make your brew fast enough—and sell enough of it.
2. Learn the Ropes. There’s nothing like observing a business that works and using that knowledge to develop your plan. So don’t dive in before seeing what a well-run brewery looks like first hand. You have to think of everything, every detail, with the same level of commitment you give to your brew. This includes everything from facility layout, location, parking, production goals, distribution, branding, marketing, staffing, proper labeling, permits, taxes and a few hundred more line items down to the coasters on the tables. You know this deep down already, so get the plan in place, knowing it can and will always be altered. Then there’s the math behind the volume you brew and the prices you’ll charge. In the end, that’s cash flow as we talked about above. Your hobby just got real, and the realities of it becoming a business start with learning.
3. Going to Market. So you’re making the best beer on the planet, but who wants it? Do you handle distribution yourself? Can you self-distribute in your state? Or, do you bring in a distributor who has instant connections to the marketplace? Remember, your distributor has to care about your product as much as you do, but understand that they are in business to generate revenue and they’ll do it where they believe they have a real chance of winning. As much as they will sell for you, you have to sell them. There are contractual details to resolve as well, so always consider professional legal assistance. Protect yourself first.
4. Accounting and Compliance. We get it—you just want to brew a great beer and have your customers enjoy it. But a good accounting person and a sharp CPA will help ensure you’re actually making money. It’s not mandatory, but accounting professionals who understand the food and beverage business will be able to guide you with their experiences. Tap into that! Mistakes avoided means money is saved. After all, that’s the only way you’ll survive to see another day and keep doing what you love to do. And of course, monitoring how you operate will be your friends at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB.gov). Get to know their expectations from startup through ongoing compliance. As a government entity, everything is clearly spelled out so you just need to stay within the guidelines. Their online resources will help you answer the questions you have, and more important, enumerate the things you need to know that never crossed your mind.
5. Know Your Buyer Persona. You have a unique personality. Your brew will have its own character. Your brand will be a balance of both. And it all has to suit your customer base. So spend some time thinking about who they are, what they want, how to communicate with them. What makes them tick? What makes them want more? What makes them become an advocate for your establishment and your product? That personal appeal is probably the best form of marketing you could imagine. So get to know your customer, and you’ll get to know their friends along the way as well.
Business, Tax and TTB Compliance Considerations
So you’re getting out of hobby mode and into brewery mode. You’re a full-fledged business now, and operating like one is mandatory. Millions of other businesses have done it so you can do it too.
Here’s a list business and compliance considerations so the state and the Feds know who you are and what you’re doing. These are things that we commonly hear and this isn’t legal advice. Rather, it’s the beginning of a checklist for you to enhance as you get rolling.
1. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number). Obtaining an EIN from the IRS is one of your very first steps in becoming a business. You’ll need it for everything from taxes to permits to TTB compliance.
2. Organize your business. There are many different ways to organize a business: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, S-Corporation, C-Corporation, Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each of these structures has benefits and drawbacks but all of them affect the way your business—or you personally—are taxed. Do a little online research and be sure to ask your tax professional to step you through them. One may be better suited for you today and others as your business changes in the future.
3. How are you doing business? You will have to complete a “Doing Business As” (or “DBA”) registration if you are not using your personal name. Here’s an example: Red Hawk Brewing would be a DBA name operated by “Frank Jones,” if operating as a sole proprietorship. Register the DBA name your state government or local county clerk, depending on your business location.
4. File your business documents. Articles of Incorporation, Articles of Organization, etc. need to be filed with your state government, and kept up to date. Permits will depend on this so don’t delay. If there are business ownership changes, be prepared to amend your legal documents immediately.
5. Are you bonded? A bond is needed to ensure tax payments are covered. You will need to secure a bond for permit applications, and for your state license application. Bond amounts may vary between state and federal permits. Federal bonds are issued by a surety, in cash, or through a treasury note/bond. State bond requirements generally vary by state.
6. Submit your federal TTB distillery permit application. Get started early because obtaining these permits can take a number of months.
7. State licensing. If you are doing business in more than one state, know that you’ll need to be licensed there. And of course, it will come with a “fee.” It’s just the cost of doing business.
8. Formula approvals. Recipes may need FDA approval, so be sure to investigate this before production begins.
9. Label and FDA approvals. Most food product and beverage labels need federal government approval. Food safety is critical. Once submitted plan on a good month and a half before you hear anything. Also, breweries located in the U.S.A. must register with the FDA. The point is, get the administrative stuff like this out of the way sooner rather than later.
5 Steps for Becoming a Better Beer Bar
Making your beer bar stand out against the competition starts with providing an exceptional customer experience. Here are 5 ways you can impress the craft connoisseur and keep them coming back.
1. Ensure your waitstaff has basic beer knowledge.
When customers are faced with unfamiliar brews, having a server who can make proper recommendations is crucial for building your reputation as a quality beer bar. Equip your waitstaff with the right tools and information needed to understand your menu and basic beer terms so they can sell more, build trust and keep your patrons happy.
2. Keep your beer menu updated.
It’s not uncommon to run out of a beer—especially if it’s a rare brew. But while it happens, there’s nothing more frustrating for a beer enthusiast than placing their order and finding out none of their top brews on the menu are available. Keep your in-house craft beer menu updated—whether it be on a chalkboard or digital display. And let customers know what to expect before they walk in the door by keeping an updated tap list online.
3. Maintain cleanliness from the front to the back.
Cleanliness in a beer bar goes far beyond the dining area. Glassware, kegs, taps and draught systems need to be continually sanitized and maintained. Proper draught etiquette should also be utilized, which requires a glass always be rinsed before filling and the tap faucet should never come in contact with it.
4. Don’t freeze glassware or packaged beer.
Unlike a mainstream brew, most craft beers are meant to be served at warmer temperatures. If your glassware is frozen, the cold glass will inhibit the drinker’s ability to properly taste the beer. Glass also gets brittle in cold environments, so packaged beer should not be stored at freezing temperatures.
5. The right glass for the right beer. If you want to stand out as a quality beer bar, you need to perfect each detail. Correctly pairing each beer style with the proper glass is a big expectation of the craft connoisseur. After all—it greatly affects the brews appearance and aroma.
Check out our guide to pairing beer with glassware.
3 Ways to Refresh your Brewery
You did it. You opened a brewpub, honed your microbrews and menu and developed a loyal customer base. But now the “buzz” surrounding your brand has potentially died down and you worry your logo could be outdated.
Here are 3 ways to keep your brand as fresh as your beer.
1. Collaborate on what you don’t know.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking outside expertise for branding and design. After all, you’re in the business of brewing beer and creating all-American fare, not design. And this doesn’t mean you leave the interpretation of your brewery to the design firm or service provider. No one knows your brand better than you. Stick to that, and you’ll avoid a number of headaches in the rebranding process.
2. Think big and long term.
It starts with a simple, consistent brand message that’s integrated into every consumer touch point. Refresh your brand and brewpubs to better reflect your marketplace position. This could include refreshing your brewery and product identities, along with glass and barware, merchandise and sponsored events in order to think big and long term.
3. Let the creative process work its course.
Refreshing your brand is nothing to fear, but finding the right design partner makes all the difference. When you do, in the end you’ll be presented with ideas and design solutions you wouldn’t have considered. Some so dead on, in fact, they’ll feel as though it’s what you were thinking all along!
How to Gain a Competitive Advantage
Did you know there are now over 6,000 operating craft breweries in the U.S.? And that’s up 16% from last year. Staying competitive in this rapidly growing market is crucial now more than ever.
Here’s a few ways you can gain a competitive advantage.
Leverage new technology.
Technology has become a huge part of this industry due to its retail integration. Consolidating various tools, spreadsheets and systems into a brewery-specific solution can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. This could include automating processes such as warehouse management, keg tracking or compliance. Or an automated restaurant marketing app that extends your restaurant’s reach through custom targeting, right-time/right-fit messages and photo pushes to your patrons and a digital loyalty program.
Build a reputation on quality.
There’s no doubt quality brew is the basis of your business—and it goes beyond customer loyalty. Today’s beer production comes with a strict set of quality control protocols, weeding out the inconsistent brewers. Retail chains’ shelf set policies are also making it harder to compete, so improve those relationships and build a quality reputation to gain coveted shelf space.
Differentiate your brews.
Beer enthusiasts go to brewpubs for their exclusive varieties—so don’t be afraid to experiment with creating new, exclusive brands. Releasing a rare, unique brew will keep your brewery an industry hot-topic.
Hone your business side.
It’s no surprise the market continues to become saturated—there are a lot of brewers making great beer. That makes focusing on the business side extremely crucial. Analyze your current business strategies—can your procurement process be streamlined? Are you able to adapt to local markets?
Tap into product sourcing expertise.
Sourcing is an indispensable asset to your brand marketing. Understanding your customer’s lifestyle is essential when it comes to finding the right merchandise.
Whether you’re just breaking into the brewing industry or have been tapping your homemade kegs for a while now, we can help you take it one step further with our sourcing services. Boelter is indispensable to your brand marketing, delivering fresh product options, accountable cost savings, and execution through our extensive network of suppliers and decorators.
Here’s all the benefits of working with Boelter’s sourcing service.
- More product options
- Innovative product solutions
- Leveraged buying power
- New global resources
- Industry-best suppliers and decorators
Manage Your Inventory
Finding the right inventory management solution.
As your brewery grows, so will your need for more inventory. And while growth is great, finding enough space to store all of your supplies can be a challenge. Having an inventory management service that helps you juggle your space without sacrificing how much you’re able to carry in-stock can make all the difference. After all, your main focus should be brewing—let your supplier handle the other work.
Here’s what to look for in an inventory management service:
1. Delivery right when you need it.
You shouldn’t have to dedicate storage space for new products before you’re ready for them. At Boelter, you can place an order for your customized glassware and other POS products and we’ll set it into motion. Once completed, the order will be sent to an established warehouse and stored until you’re prepared for us to ship it—and when you need it, it’ll be shipped within 48 to 72 hours.
2. Monthly planning and reporting.
With a growing business, accurately assessing current storage space can be challenge. A planning and reporting system gives you a better understanding of real-usage so you can plan better for future deliveries. Boelter offers a month-to-month inventory and reporting service that utilizes our advanced warehouse system.
3. Supply recommendations from specialists.
What are supply tips and trends in your industry you should know about? At Boelter, you’re able to work one-on-one with specialists who can recommend new supplies—from glassware, coasters, cups and tap handles—to help form a supply list perfect for you.
Create an Online Store
Meet your buyers right where they are.
Long gone are the days of traditional shopping. Currently 79% of U.S. consumers shop online, and that’s where 51% of all of their purchases are made. Giving your team, distributors and wholesalers 24/7 access to your branded products marks a clear pathway to growth.
Develop an online store without the hassle
There’s no doubt providing online access to your products is essential. But creating and managing an e-commerce site can be exhausting—from handling order processing, online purchasing, requests, quotes and more. At Boelter, we work directly with you to develop a personalized online store for your brand, train your employees and implement it within your company.
The benefits of partnering with Boelter:
- Gain access to outstanding technical support including online purchasing, requests, quotes, order processing and more.
- Stay focused on the customer with a site targeted towards either a B2B or B2C acquisition.
- Experience direct customer service with real live technical support when you need it.
- Track data with live reporting and metrics to help you optimize your operations and boost your bottom line.
Find a Freight Program
Identify your shipping needs.
Effectively managing your brewery freight costs, timing and regulations is challenging. We at Boelter know because we’ve been shipping products nationally since the 1970’s. Shipping products is a full-time job and finding the time to manage that is tough, if not unrealistic. With Boelter as your freight consultant, you’ll be able to optimize costs and time, allowing you to focus on what matters most—your craft.
A freight program that manages it all
Boelter will plan, assess and deliver a freight program for your shipping needs. We offer customizable freight programs, highly competitive rates and parcel, LTL and FTL capabilities.
Here’s how it works:
- Set up a consultation to determine how we can best assist your business.
- We’ll customize a shipping plan to meet your freight goals.
- Ensure highly competitive rates, as well as parcel, LTL and FTL capabilities.
Make & Ship Program
Solutions designed for small orders.
Our Make & Ship Program is designed specifically for smaller brands, as well as custom orders for promotions and special events. Whether you have a one-off custom design, or just do not need as many POS products created and shipped, like branded glassware, coasters or cups, this is the program for you. We have the right merchandise, at the right prices, shipped on time for your brewery’s brand, promotion, or special event.
How does it work?
- Boelter will help optimize the costs and time to put your seasonal, promotional, event or small brand order in the works.
- First, either send us your art or work with our creative team to come up with new designs for your point-of-sale products.
- Help us put together a production and shipping plan to ensure your products meet your budget and timeline.
Quick Turn: Custom Glassware in a Week
Tap Technology. Streamline Processes. Save time.
Brewing great beer and building a strong brand takes passion and patience. When it comes to decorating glassware however, the process should be quick and easy. We at Boelter understand that and our pros have created a Quick Turn custom printing program meant just for you.
Through Quick Turn you can receive your decorated glassware in 7 days or less!
Design Services That Get Your Brand Noticed
Craft breweries, brewpubs, and distilleries are popping up all over the place. Trying to get your brand noticed in this crowded marketplace can be a struggle—from designing a timeless logo worthy of your brand to memorable package designs that represent all the hard work put into your brew. Work in unison with Boelter’s professional team of marketers and designers who know what it takes to bring your brand’s image from concept to unforgettable.
Boost the creative momentum behind your brand.
Boelter offers creative and design services to put your worries to rest. Our team will walk you through services that are tailored to help you keep your business on track.
- Logo Design
- Strategic Branding or Rebranding
- Print-Ready Art
- Package Design
- Beer Label Development
- Custom Photography
- Mobile App Development with Boelter Blue