Create a Brewery Business Plan: Brewery Planning Tips (2023)

How do you turn a passion for brewing into a brewery business? Craft brewers across the country grapple with this question every day, with each brewer having to address regional challenges and seek new strategies to capitalize on opportunities. what makes you special? Does your production/sales ratio justify the existence of your company?

Take Spencer O'Bryan and Brennan Mann, for example. The two had been homebrewers for most of the past decade, studying beer brewing as a hobby, but then began taking their passion for beer to a wider audience in their area. Her home base also happens to be Denver, one of the most competitive craft brewing areas in the country. Launching a new craft brewery brand here required some serious strategic planning, which prompted it in the fall of 2012NxLeveleL for start-upscourse onDenver Metro Small Business Development Center(SBDC), a crash course in writing business plans.

“From the start, we knew we needed help writing the business plan,” said O'Bryancraft brewery. “Not because we couldn't put together the details or even format the plan properly, but our goal was to get to a well-thought-out plan as quickly as possible with the help of the courses. We hoped that the courses would give us a good foundation for writing the business plan and reveal details in the planning process that we would otherwise have missed. In addition, we used the course as a catalyst to complete the business plan.”

As O'Bryan and Mann went through the business details in class to create the business plan, they understood their brewery's goals and focus on a whole other level.

"It forced us to think about what we really wanted to achieve by opening a brewery," said O'Bryan. "We have learned that quality, community and transparency are at our core."

"The plan has also helped us as a team," said Mann. "In most cases, we brought the ideas to the table one by one and ended up with broader, better articulated ideas."

After the course, the business plans were submitted to a competition, and the team's plan took second place out of 29 entries in the Denver Metro Regional Business Plan Competition. From there, the business plan was submitted to the 2012 Leading Edge Statewide Business Plan Competition. Her plan again took second place, this time in the nationwide pool of 35 business plans.

According to the jury, the plan came in second place because of the level of detail of the plan. It showed a clear understanding of the elements to be addressed, including its summary, product description, market and marketing strategy, management and operations. Your assumptions were realistic and reasonable. The financial portion was presented in good order and followed generally accepted accounting principles that were consistent with the rest of the plan. Overall, the plan was clear and concise.

"The plan currently serves two purposes," O'Bryan said. “The first goal is to help us define our activities in the future and provide a reference for our activities. We are aware that plans need to be alive as constant change and adaptation are critical to success. Second, the plan helps communicate the baseline for the business and operations to investors and lenders.”

The plan behind the plan

Our goal is to make great beer that we love, not to make money. But the reality is that you can't brew a great beer for very long unless you have an extremely detailed way of tracking and forecasting finances. —Spencer O'BryanAs the jury noted, the business plan stood out for its level of detail, which also helped shape the brewery's concept, especially in terms of marketing and financing.

For example, the marketing portion of the plan not only focused on how the team plans to launch their new beers and establish themselves as part of the community, but also provided detailed statistics on which neighborhoods would be ready for a craft brewery . The financial section was similarly detailed. It included detailed cash flow forecasts, even down to the projected sales of individual beers based on current market trends.

"It also forced us to consider cycle time for fermenters and brewhouse time," said O'Bryan. “This is certainly part of the plan which will change once we start brewing and selling beer, but it gives us a good base to work from. Our goal is to make great beer that we love, not to make money. But the reality is you can't brew a great beer for very long unless you have a very granular way of tracking and forecasting finances.”

Other details the two laid down in the plan included the appearance of the tap room, examples of labels and faucet handles, and exactly what they plan to do to fulfill the "community involvement" aspect of their company credo.

“During our planning process, we had so many great ideas that the plan became a way to catalog everything,” said Mann.

Brewers, brewers everywhere

Many emerging companies enter the market to fill a perceived gap or market inefficiency. The United States is a big country and craft breweries now dominate the landscape with the goal of being the region's local brewer and possibly more. But what about a place like Denver, Colorado, where Mann and O'Bryan plan to open their business? It may seem oversaturated to some, but geography was another major focus of the business plan, as the two used research to prove their concept.

“Craft brewing in Colorado is definitely a competitive country, but competition breeds excellence,” said O'Bryan. We know how many breweries Denver already has and how many breweries are in the pipeline. That is why we consider the choice of location to be crucial for success. The plan also included a detailed spatial analysis of the locations, including market analysis, population density and proximity to other breweries. There are many breweries dedicated to a stylistic or regional niche. We prefer to remain agnostic when it comes to style and regional preferences.

“We intend to create a community-focused brewery that offers not only a stable menu of style choices, but also a rotating tap selection with some very creative beer styles. Whether a beer is one of our staples, a seasonal beer, a drinkable lager or a small batch experiment, it will have great flavor and body, encouraging the palette of true craft beer drinkers to expand.”

According to O'Bryan, the company's ethos is to create premium beer, not obscure beer for the sake of novelty.

"At the same time, we're not interested in creating beer that appeals to the masses," he continued. “We are interested in creating beer that captivates us as craft beer drinkers and constantly reminds us why we got into brewing in the first place. Second only to beer is our commitment to operating a brewery focused on serving our community, sourcing the highest quality ingredients from Colorado and becoming more sustainable every year.”

The four best business planning tips

O'Bryan and Mann recommended these four tips to other aspiring craft brewers trying to tackle their own detailed business plan.


  • Read read read.Read books, studies, polls, articles, and anything else you can get your hands on. And just because you're done with the plan doesn't mean you stop reading.

  • Be sure to make your plan as detailed as possible. It helps identify hidden costs, expose gaps in your ideas, and make all parts of the plan work together.

  • Don't be afraid to ask brewers and breweries questions.You will be surprised what information and tips you can get.

  • Do extensive brand research if your brewery name is an important part of your plan.Fortunately, we learned that lesson early on.

The best plans...

Mann and O'Bryan are still searching for the right location for their brewery and are in the process of reinventing the name, while even the best plans run into complications. Mann told us they had some branding issues with their original name, Halcyon Brewing.

“We were deeply disappointed to hear from the Trademark Office that our application had been rejected due to the risk of customers confusing it with the specific beer from another brewery,” said Mann. “As a result, we actually had to let go of everything we had been doing in the marketing field in the past year. This really made us wonder what to do, as it seemed like literally every name we could think of had already been gobbled up by a pre-existing brewery or winery.

But as you've read, Mann and O'Bryan did a lot of planning and research and didn't get to the point of launch where a rebrand would spell the end of the game. Soon the brewery, formerly known as Halcyon, will officially announce its new name and continue its detailed journey towards opening a craft brewery.

“Once we figured that out, we realized we had to make something essentially bulletproof to avoid the branding issues that so many breweries seem to be struggling with lately,” he continued. “With this in mind, we have created a name that combines two words that describe our brewery: FERMÆNTRA. Again, the moral of our story is to do some serious research on the hypothetical company name before spending money on things like marketing materials and job applications.”

This year, FERMÆNTRA hopes to open with a 7-drum system and produce about 300 kegs in the first year.

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