Planning this thing...

As the GrassHoppers’ reviews of Le Roi Rouge test batch #1 slowly trickle in, I find myself pondering what the next major steps will be for GrassLands. Obviously, I’ve committed to recipe formulation and perfection for the time being while things get themselves sorted out, but that still doesn’t stop me from putting pen to paper and working out details of the eventual brewery. The hard part is keeping myself grounded while being a “brewery-in-planning.” I’d love to get this thing going at 100 mph, but that’s not realistic, all things considered. As a result, I’ve got to be extremely methodical going forward. That can make the drive much, much slower.

While Le Roi Rouge Imperial Red test batch numbers 2 & 3 are happily fermenting away in my newly modified fermentation freezer, these are the top 5 things that are currently on my mind:

  • Brewhouse/Fermentation Capacity
  • (...subsequently) Space
  • Taproom design and layout
  • Financials

Concerning the last bulleted freakout item, there’s only so much I can control with that at the moment. This unknown aspect handcuffs my ability to really work on a solid business plan, as a significant part of the business plan is knowing your target market and community.  But all in good time. While the primary reason the majority of small businesses fail in their first five years of inception is low capital, almost just as important a reason is their poor planning. While I can’t go full throttle in my brewery’s launch, I can ensure that no detail is left untouched or under-researched. At least that’s how I’m spinning this into a beneficial situation :)

I’ve said before that I’d love for this brewery to launch in the state of Florida, where I’ve been a long-time resident. Florida isn’t quite where I’d like it to be with regard to its alcohol laws, but it’s getting there. The only way it can get to the level of the Pacific Northwest is by increasing its numbers of supporters as well as its overall breweries. Per the map below, the south is in dire need of more breweries and, subsequently, more support.


Though I’d like Florida to be GrassLands’ future home, I’ve got to accept the fact that things might change in the near future. Around December, I’ll have a much better idea of where GrassLands will ultimately reside, but for now, I’ll just assume that it’ll be somewhere in the great state of Florida.

With regard to Brewing/Fermentation capacity, I’ve been back & forth on this. The hip thing for new breweries is to start out at a small production capacity (nano) and build your brand and support from there, eventually going to the micro stages. I like this concept, but I don’t see any value in doing this unless you’ve got a market cornered or you’re just doing it to show future investors that your business has the potential to turn a profit with increased production – thereby making growth investment an easily decided option for financial backers. The problem with this model is that the labor-production-profit ratio isn’t viable (or desired, in my opinion). Here’s what I mean: it takes the same amount of labor to produce 3 bbls of beer as it takes to produce 10 bbls of beer. (BBL = barrel – or 31 gallons). Then take into consideration the multitude of factors that go into making, packaging, and selling your beer, and it doesn’t add up long-term. If I’m pouring my heart & soul (and savings) into something, I want it to be done in a viable way. I’ve been told that if your beer is even remotely drinkable, you’re going to need to expand to meet demand. We’ve already discussed my desire for quality over quantity and how I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my beers, so here we go…

So here’s my thought – start out with at least a 15 bbl brewing system combined with a pilot/test batch system (>1 bbl) and a tap room. This gives me the opportunity to fulfill contracts with a distributor through GrassLands’ flagship beers (should the brewery be in the 3-tier system state of Florida), appease my desire for experimental brewing, and connect personally with new and existing consumers. I want GrassLands to be an inviting place, even if it has to reside in a warehouse district like many new breweries do.  The availability of space will be an obvious factor in the brewery’s layout, but just as important, I want to be able to grow on site, as opposed to signing space leases left & right over the first few years of operation.

Regarding financials – well, why don't we just leave that for now. :)

As you can see, there’s much to think about when considering the launch of a brewery – and I’m really only scratching the surface layer. There’s a ton to take in over the next year or so, but one thing I’m happy to be doing is providing you, my dear readers, with real-world updates as to GrassLands’ progress and subsequently getting your feedback. Big things are ahead, but for now, I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got. I’m keeping my chin up and enjoying the ride.