Walk, Don't Run

Fermentation Tank

This week, we were asked (not for the first time) if we had any plans to open a brewery.

Who doesn’t have plans? Plans are exciting. When we’re wandering the clifftops, we spend hours talking about possible brewpubs, breweries and business models.

Will any of them ever be realised? Probably not.

We’ve tasted too many beers brewed by people running before they can walk — sour, chalky, nasty-smelling concoctions that we’d have poured down the drain if they’d come out of our plastic homebrew fermenting bucket, but which people have had the nerve to bottle and sell. For real money.

Either they know it’s crap and they’re selling it anyway (cynical) or, worse, they really can’t tell how bad it is. No-one who’s not fussy about beer ought to be brewing.

When we brew at home, although our beer is increasingly drinkable, it’s rarely the strength or colour we were expecting, and we’ve never successfully replicated a recipe. In the unlikely event that we suddenly find ourselves in possession of the kind of capital necessary to start even a modest-sized brewery, we wouldn’t want to. Not yet.

Two of our best idle dreams c.2007: getting the then disused brewery at the back of the William IV in Leyton going again, and buying the rights to the Truman name to take advantage of the free advertising all over London. Heh.

19 thoughts on “Walk, Don't Run”

  1. Likewise. I have sat in pubs and thought that my beer would fit right in, but that’s not to say that it should, or that I would be proud of it. The feelings of pride from selling my beer would soon wear thin and would be left with a legacy of shat beer that nobody drinks unless it’s the only beer on the bar. I have my plans and they spur me on, and like you I would give commercial brewing a shot if the money was available to me, but only when I was happy with the beer I’d be producing. In the meantime, I enjoy homebrewing, the people associated with brewing and beer in general and that’s enough for me at the moment.

  2. Would never want to brew but would like to own a brewery with a good brewer and then put in loads of ideas (English gueuze, Ice Brown Ale, dry hopped mild etc etc), bit like a pub, never wanted to run one but yes to owning one and shaping in my own image (so to speak).

  3. Someone has beaten you to the Truman’s name. They sell a Truman beer in my local and has a cheeky “East London since 1666″ byline, despite being brewed in Suffolk. There is an implication of continuity there that I think is slightly misleading. I support what they are trying to do, just not how they are going abut it.

    1. That was our point — we had the idea but not the capital or the brass neck to give it a go…

  4. “We’ve tasted too many beers brewed by people running before they can walk — sour, chalky, nasty-smelling concoctions that we’d have poured down the drain if they’d come out of our plastic homebrew fermenting bucket, but which people have had the nerve to bottle and sell. For real money.”

    Some of the worst beers I have ever had, and in my shame I admit to going through a Bud Ice phase at college, were from small “artisan” breweries which were glorified homebrew setups. I was talking with one such brewer at Christmas and his batch size was only 5 times bigger than mine, and each beer was nasty, though if I were in a more generous mood you could term it a “house taste”.

    I have thought many times about the possibility of starting a brewery, and to be honest a nano-brewery is still quite interesting, especially given Virginia’s law change which will allow breweries to sells pints on the premises.

    I think a lot of startups come in and want to make loads of different, and usually weird, beers rather than getting their core brand down pat and pushing out from there. Sure it’s not a sexy business model, but having a solid core brand is essential for cash flow.

  5. I think many people are excited by the idea of owning a brewery but are unprepared for what it actually entails. Its’s probably not that you don’t have the brass neck for it, rather you’re a realist as you know what it entails. Then again, having the money would change your perspective I suppose.

  6. I think most of is have thought about it at one time or another – or people have said “you’re a fussy git when it comes to beer, why don’t you brew?”.

    Too much like hard work and like B&B, if my wares turned out crap then I couldn’t drink them and wouldn’t expect others to.

    There are already enough good brewers out there and there isn’t enough time as it is to get through them all. I know what I’m best at and that is drinking.

    Although like ATJ, I’d love to have my own place – the beers I like, the food I like and a jukebox of my favourite stuff. Just so long as I was rich enough to not have to make a profit…

  7. The clue may be in the phrase “had the nerve to bottle.”

    If you’re selling beer in pubs, you should get some pretty quick feedback if it’s no good. It you’re selling it in bottles, especially at tourist-friendly venues rather than regular off-licences, you won’t get the same response.

    IME bottled beers from start-up breweries are invariably shite, even if their cask beers are OK.

    1. Instead of opening and running a brewery, my dream is to get a hobby bottler or novelty tourist beer brewer to sit with me, taste their bottle of sour yeast broth, and assure me its meant to taste like that.

      And then give me my money back. Its too easy to “brew and run” in Gift shops and attractions as you point out.

  8. Leigh — yes, dreams are a very good thing, and it’s always worth having something to work towards. Also good to know the difference between an inner voice of reason and the kind of anxiety that stopped George McFly asking Lorraine to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.

    Curmudgeon — well observed.

    Ted and ATJ — ah, yes, the fantasy pub is even more fun than the fantasy brewery.

    Al — hadn’t really registered this phrase “nano brewery” until this week! Tell us more?

    Brewbie and Broadford Brewer — see response to Leigh above but, yes, think we’re being realistic, and enjoying homebrewing too much to want to make money at it.

    1. A nano-brewery is essentially a glorified homebrew set up, perhaps as little as 50 gallon batches. The brewer would only brew once a week, for example, and rather than bottling beer, would produce 10 5 gallon kegs per batch for distribution in the immediate area around the brewery.

      There was an article about it in Zymurgy magazine recently. I can send you a scanned version if you wish.

  9. One thing is, speaking as someone who runs a 5 hectalitre brewery, that I don’t think that people who indulge in Fantasy Brewery as a day dream factor in how much sheer hard work is involved.
    It is parallel to the Fantasy Pub daydream – both involve a lot of commitment, often 7 days a week.

  10. Ted is spot on about his profitless pub – I’d love to be able to afford such an indulgence, which I suspect very few people would spend money in…

    In the real world, I was offered the chance to run a real ale pub when I was a child, i.e 26. I said no – I knew it would be horrendous hard work and I had little experience.

    The same would apply, but perhaps more so, if someone asked me to help them run a brewery. I know two brewers. They look tired and sound cranky….

  11. Years ago, my oldest mate and I used to talk about our ideal pub, and the fact we’d rather be owners instead of actually working in it. To a degree, many years later, I probably feel the same, much like ATJ.

    But the brewery… That’s a tough one. Having been brewing and relatively happy with the produce, for over five years (and I’m my own biggest critic, never fully happy) that seed of an idea is always there. I’ve got a great big barn now, which’d make a great brewery, but I don’t have the time, money or business gumption to do more than fulfill my own personal (and a few neighbours ;) ) brewing needs.

    Actually, one of my neighbours also brews, though he’s studying brewing in Munich and has a 300L stainless steel brewery in his Father’s house. He said I can use it whenever I want! I might align myself with him and try to dissuade him from adding yet another Helles to the German market ;)

  12. My fantasy pub involves owning a string of good pubs which don’t have table reservation policies and don’t allow anyone under the age of 21 into the bar. I actually did look into the prospect of becoming a landlady but sadly the amount of work and the fact of being (at the time) newly married put a stop to it.

  13. While we’re on the subject – I really can never understand how many people want to run their own restaurant. Huge amounts of work and stress. I recognise that feeling of wanting to create somewhere where people enjoy themselves, but the reality of running a place on a day to day basis is off-putting. Kudos to those that do.

  14. Where I live there’s a nightclub that opens at midnight on sunday and closes at 7am monday. Purely for pub and restaurant workers (you have to show a recent payslip to get in). Anyone who is still in there at 7am gets a free cooked breakfast.

    There’s got to be some benefits eh!

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