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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