The Pint: A Lesson in Brewery Startups with Peyton Mason

In the sixth episode of The Pint, Moye White attorney Billy Jones goes back to school with Peyton Meson, CFO of Laws Whiskey and professor in the Applied Craft Brewing program at Regis University.  Enjoy this socially distanced podcast discussing the business of founding a craft brewery. 

The Pint is a freewheeling discussion of craft beer, craft spirits, and the law. Listen to The Pint on Spotify, iTunes, or anywhere podcasts are available.

Colorado is home to over 400 craft breweries. Many people have the dream to one day own and operate a brewery. But what does it actually take to start a brewery and be successful?

We met with Peyton Mason of Law's Whiskey to discuss his experience. Peyton teaches the Business of Craft Brewing for Regis University's Applied Craft Brewing Certificate Program. He combines his experience in the industry with three years of teaching to break down the top five things you need to know about starting a craft brewing business.

First things first.  Just because you love brewing beer doesn't mean you'll be a great brewery owner. Owning any business is challenging, and it takes a unique set of skills to run a brewery and brew well.

So, here are Peyton's five things to consider before starting a brewery business:

  1. It's not just about brewing beer. It's obvious that those who make craft beer are passionate about what they do. A brewer's dedication and passion are showcased in their product. Sometimes students don't understand that when you're running a business, you aren't necessarily the one brewing beer. As a small business owner, you spend the majority of your time doing other things.
  2. You have to manage employees. When you're getting started, you need at least two to three, on the low end, part-time staff to run your taproom. This means you are dealing with managing schedules, different personalities, and systematic process preferences. In addition, you have to consider the personal and professional desires of your employees and utilize their skill sets appropriately.
  3. There are other skills needed to run a brewery. To ensure that your business is successful, you need a variety of skills. Your day to day could run from pouring beer and talking to customers, cleaning the brewhouse (a lot of janitorial work), or everyone's favorite - accounting (proper fund management). As an owner, you have many hats to wear.
  4. Don't be undercapitalized. Starting a brewery is a tough business. You may have the best business plan and the best beer, but not having enough money is going to cause problems. You need to be able to plan for growth, maneuver an economic downturn or a pandemic, or buy new equipment. So, you have to plan for these things and realize that something always comes up. Don't be cheap. Don't plan on what you expect is going to happen—plan for every possibility. You need to make sure you have a cushion in your budget or your operating model. Whatever new thing that comes your way may not put you out of business, but it will set you back. 
  5. Don't spread yourself too thin. The heyday of craft beers is past us, and the landscape is more competitive. And, your competitors are operating under a more mature business model. Now you are facing competition right out of the gate, and you have to find a better way to differentiate your beer and your brewery. Start with figuring out who you are going to be. Are you going to be a neighborhood brewery, a family-friendly brewery, or a distribution focused brewery? Whatever you decide, own it, build it out, and do it really really well. Then you can look at other avenues of income. 

Despite the upfront challenges, working in the craft brewing industry is an incredibly rewarding career. If you're interested in the Applied Craft Brewing Program at Regis, learn more here.

To learn insights from Peyton on craft brewing business, tune in to episode six of The Pint. Subscribe now, so you don't miss future episodes!

What We are Drinking: Laws Whiskey House, 4 Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey - Bonded

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