A few months ago over a few beers, Eddie, Govs and I (Dan) decided to make our own Eggnog Stout. We made the beer, and 6 other beers as small pilot brews, as we worked towards doing a commercial batch.
Today we are happy to announce that it’s happening! We will be brewing our first commercial batch as a contract brew at Beard and Brau in Tamborine in October.
This post is for anyone who is interested in what we are doing, and also anyone interested in knowing what is involved in brewing your own beer.
It’s a long post. The TL;DR version is we are making beer. If you want to know how, read the first part. If you want to know what we are planning, read the next part. If you want the beer, sign up to our emails at the bottom of the page.
Part 1 – What do you need to brew your own beer
In the first part of this post I’ll break down what we’ve done to get to this point.
Here are the highlights.
Of course first and foremost you need to know how to make good beer. Luckily Govs has that well and truly covered. That probably sounds silly, but you can start a lot of businesses without specific domain expertise. I don’t think that would work here.
Govie’s knowledge is mind blowing. It’s not just making the weird and wonderful creations we’ve made so far on the home brew setup, it’s also scaling it to a full commercial size batch. That process is always going to be difficult, and probably a lot riskier without a solid knowledge and experience in making commercial beer.
You could be slightly less involved in the beer, particularly if you contract brew. However I think you need to create something unique to make a splash and that’s going to be difficult if you aren’t intimately involved in the process. I’ll chat about the contract brewing a bit more further down.
A great team
Again maybe this goes without saying but this business isn’t one for solo operators. There is a hell of a lot of work, with a really diverse range of skills that have gone into setting this up. Here are a few:
- Product design – Can’t think of a better word for it but Eddie and Govs have both contributed equally on coming up with a bunch of sometimes crazy / sometimes safe beer recipes. Govs has managed to nail it every time on our little pilot setup.
- Relationships – Eddie and Govs are both well known people in the craft beer community. They have done a great job at building the right relationships with people to a point where people pay attention to what we do and are keen to help.
- Design and printing – We’ve all worked to get the design together. I’ve managed to figure out Photoshop well enough to pull some of the main pieces together (logo, labels, decals, stickers, shirts, hats etc). It hasn’t cost us anything and the printing has been cheap.
- Merch – Eddie organised to have the shirt and hats done. Both have been great and we have had stacks of attention whenever we’ve headed out wearing them (particularly the hats for some reason).
- Web – I run a web support company and have been building sites for 7 years, so it was free and easy for us to set up a quick site and blog.
- Content and social media – We’ve done a pretty good job at putting some decent content on the site and building a following on social media. I think this will become a real asset for us if we can keep building on it.
- Legal / compliance – We’ve also had to get our head around some legal and compliance issues. Govs has been in contact with the ATO, Eddie has organised the banking, I’ve helped putting together a partnership agreement.
- Market research – Well let’s be honest. Going to events and drinking beer is hardly a skill. Well if it is, it’s one we’ve all been practicing. What’s that thing about 10,000 hours?
- General business experience – I’ve been in business for 8 years full time, so that probably helps a bit as well.
No doubt there’s more but I think you get the point. There is a lot that goes into something like this, particularly if you don’t have any funding and are hustling it together.
I think it was a good decision for us to have brewed a few pilot batches before going all in. Govs has a pretty decent home brew setup that was good enough for us to make some great beer.
We talk about the system a little bit in this post.
Somewhere to brew / license
There are essentially 3 options to brew your first beer.
- Do a co-lab brew. In that instance it’s generally released under the name of the place you brew at and it’s effectively their beer. It’s good to get your name out there and a cool place to start with not much barrier to entry. All you need to do is convince a brewery to do one with you.
- Contract brew. This is what we are doing. We’ve found a brewery where we can brew our own beer under the supervision of the head brewer. This could be quite hands off, but in our case we are very much involved. To sell beer under your own name you will need a producer / wholesale license. This can take 3-6 months to acquire and is a reasonable amount of the paperwork. In addition to the $1,200 for the license, you will also have to front up a decent amount of cash.
- Get your own setup and producer / wholesale license. This would be a lot of fun and you’d have complete control. But you’d be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars to get started.
For us, the contract brew stood out as the best balance between having a crack ourselves and not taking too much risk. From there, it was just a case of the best place to do it. Our decision to go with Chris and Beard and Brau came down to:
- The brewer – Chris is a top bloke and very knowledgeable. This is critical.
- The size – 800L is a great size for us. That should get us around 13 kegs and we are confident of selling that many.
- The facility – Not all breweries are equal. So we checked out Chris’s setup a few weeks back and had a good look. It’s a clean and well designed setup.
- The location – This can impact on quite a bit, including the water used, transport to and from the brew day and transporting the kegs afterwards. Also for us we really wanted to be known as Gold Coast brewers and we think Tamborine just qualifies.
- Supporting services – Chris has helped out with a bunch of other related services like offsite storage, keg hire etc. There is a lot to think about when you make beer, so Chris’s help here was a real leg up.
- Price – Of course the price matters too.
A bit of cash
I probably can’t say how much it’s costing us to do the brew. But let’s say if we sold 15 kegs for $300, we wouldn’t have much left over.
That’s cool, particularly for our first brew. I’d almost pay that much just to go into a bar and drink my own beer ha.
There are a bunch of considerations to do with moving the beer around such as:
- Where the beer gets stored. In Qld it needs to be stored at a licensed premises.
- What kegs you use and who delivers and retrieves them.
We are still finalising the details on these issues but Chris has been a huge help here. If you have questions about this sort of stuff feel free to ask in the comments and we’ll reply when we know more.
ABN and business name
*Note this stuff is general, don’t take accounting or legal advice from me yikes.
You need an ABN and a business name. You can register both quite cheaply and easily:
It’s also sensible to register for GST however it’s not necessary at low revenues (the current cut off is $75,000 / year). This is hard to predict though so if you are serious it makes sense to do it.
A detailed recipe
Govs has worked back and forth with Chris on a detailed recipe for our beer. Chris uses his own system for recipes, however if you are a home brewer it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Beer Smith software.
The software is not completely necessary, particularly if you are working with a brewer who is heavily involved in the brew.
The craft beer community has been amazing to us so far. If you want to start a business in this space, cultivating support among the community is a must. I don’t really want to single people out in this post, because there are too many and I haven’t asked their permission. But we are very grateful to everyone who has taken the time to chat with us and give us a hand.
Hopefully we can repay the favour with great beer! I also hope this blog becomes a resource for others looking to do the same thing.
Once the beer is made, your job isn’t done. We’ve also arranged things like:
- Keg collars for the kegs. We are leaning towards making these ourselves because of the cost.
- Decals for the taps. We are leaning towards getting them printed on paper and laminating them and cutting them ourselves. Again because of cost issues.
We aren’t bottling this batch so we didn’t need the labels. But if you were, you’d need labels and there are a few extra considerations there. Chris does have a bottling facility so perhaps that’s an option for the future. For now we just wanted to keep it simple.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few points here, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind few months. If you have any more thoughts on this, feel free to add them in the comments.
Part 2 – What is Black Hops doing?
Here is a summary of what we are planning with our first beer.
Where we are brewing?
As mentioned, we are stoked to be brewing at Beard and Brau at Tamborine. Chris is a craft beer OG and he’s got a pretty wicked 800L setup. Plus he’s been really flexible in allowing us the control we are looking for in the brewing process. Not to mention patient with all of the back and forth associated with a first time agreement.
It’s great there are people and places like this to help out newcomers get into the industry. Maybe we can do the same one day, who knows?
What are we brewing?
The beer will be our first creation and the idea that brought us together, the Eggnog Stout. We had excellent feedback on the beer from the few people who got to try it on the pilot batch.
While we could have gone with a safer option, we know this beer is great and we are confident it will sell. It’s delicious, it’s a bit different and it will be ready in time for Christmas!
We are kegging all of the beer and will have around 13 kegs to sell.
When are we brewing?
We have locked in a tentative date of 6 October. We’ve already started prepping.
Assuming the ingredients arrive on time, we will be good to go on that date. This means the beer will be available early November.
Where are we sending the beer?
When we have some more definite dates, we’ll be emailing our list and chatting to the bars. We’ve had a few informal meetings so far and they have been very encouraging. Plus if we don’t sell any, I will buy 15 kegs for my office Kegerator.
Seriously though, if you want the beer please jump on our email list below and we will be in touch very soon. We are aiming to sell it just to Queensland bars for this first run.
More details to come
There are a few more announcements we will be making in the next few weeks. If you are keen to stay in the loop jump on the emails below or like us on Facebook. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.
Thanks for all of the amazing support so far.
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