So you’ve decided on joining the ranks of America’s finest craft brewers and create your very own handcrafted, completely original product from the ground up. Good for you! It’s a big first step to take for any small business or venture, especially when it comes to the intricate and detail-intensive process of brewing alcohol for consumption.
Obviously a lot goes into making beer, but even more goes into making a good one. Think about the last six or seven glasses or cans you’ve drank and really decide if any of them actually hit the spot, quenched your thirst, or tickled your pallet. Probably not. That’s because most commercial alcohol is absolutely garbage compared to even the smallest craft brewery’s offering, these days.
Alcohol has been fermented and drunk for recreational, medicinal, and religious purposes since the literal beginning of recorded time. The early cavemen gathered grain, fruit, vegetables, and other food in large clay jars and let them ferment under the hot sun for days or weeks until delectable nectar was produced from the slurry. Click here if you want to know more about the history of beer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_beer
However, in modern times, the process has gotten a bit more complicated; and for good reason. Health and safety standards take precedence in food and alcohol-making facilities as these areas are prime for bacteria outbreaks like e-coli, swine flu, etc. Because of our advances in science, we’ve never before had facilities as safe and compliant in history as the ones that exist in most large-scale and craft brew houses alike.
But enough about the grandiose stage stuff. We’re here to focus on the approachable, beginner’s stages, and “I’m interested but kind of nervous and scared” level of commitment in the process. Don’t worry, though. This is where absolutely everyone starts, so there’s no shame in being nervous. You want to impress your friends and clients, not gross them out!
Brewing in 5 Steps
- The Dream
- The Equipment
- The Ingredients
- The Staff
- The Process
1. The Dream
If you’re not starting here then you’re not doing it right. You should be passionate about brewing and you should have the dream always in your heart and at the front of your mind. It’s an intense, life-consuming process and should be respected.
Outside of that, creating alcohol is in essence creating drugs. Not only is alcohol a drug, it’s one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. Follow this link for strategies on how to avoid impaired driving. You can both enjoy your business and also ensure the safety of your clientele, especially if you have a tasting room or area.
Most people give up after this stage once they get to the next step. If that’s true for you then maybe creating your own alcohol was never truly in the cards for you. Everyone has their own destiny and you’ll find yours eventually.
2. The Equipment
Now here’s where things get tricky. Here is where you’ll need to decide on the style and scale of your establishment. Is this a small, homey-style craft brewery with a few barrels at a time? Or is this the kind of place you see expanding into a factory setting with metal tanks, electrical monitoring equipment, and automated machinery?
Depending on what state you live in there are different permitting requirements for creating your own food and alcohol from your home or small business for the purposes of human consumption. Call your local county clerk’s office for more information and make sure to check the federal regulations on the sale of alcohol.
For larger, more industrial projects, you’re going to need a lot more than permits. You’re going to need large scale infrastructure or machinery like what ABS Commercial deals with. Brew masters all over the country have their preferred methods, but everyone needs to be using certified, food-grade surfaces, machinery, and materials for their production.
3. The Ingredients
Here’s where the game gets fun and interesting. This stage should be the whole reason you’re doing this to begin with. Perhaps you’ve had one-too-many glasses of beer that tastes like old dishwater rung out of a used rag into a cold glass, or maybe you’re just craving a profile that doesn’t exist to your knowledge in the general market.
For some easy, small batch stuff, check out these home brew recipes and see if there’s something you’d like to try out. They’re perfect for beginners. Otherwise, all you need to do to start is simply Google a base-profile beer you want to create. Is it a lager, an ale, an IPA, etc.? Once you’ve got the base figured out, you can start playing with things like your own ingredients.
Ideas and recommendations: try cinnamon and apple in a batch for a nice, Christmas-style beer that’s sure to appease the masses. You could also try pumpkin and nutmeg for another holiday-inspired alcoholic beverage that’s sure to delight.
4. The Staff
Once you’ve gotten to this stage, it’s time to decide the scale of the help you’ll need. Is this the sort of process you think you’ll be able to take care of yourself or is it something you’ll need to outsource some help from. Most breweries and alcohol businesses have teams of people working round the clock as most of the machinery is sensitive and dangerous, and thus shouldn’t be left unattended.
If you’re planning on hiring and training a small staff, legally you will be required to pay them and establish your business as a corporation. This opens up a whole different can of worms that can only be figured out depending on what the state’s laws that you are in are. Unfortunately the United States differs greatly from state-to-state on these issues, further confusing the matter.
5. The Process
The process can be long and difficult, even for professionals in the industry. Every new type of beverage will be a different and new process for the team, or you, to learn. Remember, yeast is a living thing and can be temperamental. You and your team need to respect it for the life that it creates.
The Brewers Association of America has an up-to-date list of safety tips and guidelines to follow in your taproom or brewpub. These things need to be followed in order to ensure the safety of not only you and your team, but your clients and the public as well.
Craft breweries are springing up everywhere and the market is opening up for new entrepreneurs every day, so don’t miss out on the achievable opportunity of making a name for yourself in the beer world and start today!