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Starting a brewery in an old pub

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Cwrw666

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Something worth considering is that a closed down or unproffitable pub can often be bought for a similar price to an equivalent house. You've got to live somewhere, right? So think of it in terms of buying a house but it comes with a free business opportunity.
 
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robbym123

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Your plan sounds like great fun.

My thoughts as follows;

- there are 2000 breweries in the UK, it is highly competitive. Definitely not a case of 'brew the beer and they will come drink it's. A poorly thought out offer will get lost in a crowded market.t

- An existing brewery would give you a head start, saving the time that would be spent on start up. Of course it would, to an extent mean you are tied in to the niche/style of beer/branding of the previous owners.

- There is a clear distinction between food led pubs, and beer led pubs. Many drinkers will actively seek out and travel to a pub with a great range of beers. Most will sell some form of bar snacks, pies, nachos etc.

Food trucks are a good compromise.

Think carefully about the niche you want to occupy, what will make your beers special enough to make people travel.

What size business do you want, or put bluntly how much income do you need to earn to meet your lifestyle. Brewing needs some scale to be profitable. A micropub, with attached brewery will likely only be a lifestyle business. If you want a reasonably large income you will need to sell wholesale as well to other bars

Don't plan to only sell your own beers, many drinkers would also want to see a well thought out range of guest beers.

Before doing anything i would visit a range of successful breweries and see for yourself what it is they are doing that make them successful, I would list the following;
- Interesting range of beers brewed ( Bitter, European, Craft and increasingly good quality lager).
- Well thought out rotating guest beers.
- Mid size town location, with decent public transport links
- A 'nice' building, whether that means old and historic with oak beams, or a more modern quirky/industrial set up.

- A good drinking environment, that means something different to everyone, but often means stripped wood bench seating, no fruit machines, no music or well chosen music at the right volume (for some reason I associate this kind of bar with Paul Weller/The Jam). Remember, customers are buying 30p worth of beer and £4+ worth of environment.

- Something to eat, pork pies, cornish pasties etc are plenty.

Don't think Covid is all gloom, I live in Reigate, Surrey, our local brewery is called Pilgrim. When I popped in there during the last lockdown they said they were busier than ever with in person off sales and Web orders. They were doing a lot of 'fill your own container' bottle and 5l keg sales.

They are an interesting template for what you might want to do.

The brewery was about 30 years old, I would actively avoid their beers if I saw them for sale as they were a bit dull ( and as a result sold badly, meaning a stale pint!).

New owners took over about 4-5 years ago, revamped the beer range (updating the recipe for existing brews and launching new ones).

They also converted office space into a tap room and erected a marquee for extra space.

Pre covid the seating would be set up around wood burning braziers and was very communal.

The business is booming, with people travelling 10+ miles to have great beer in a great atmosphere.

It is busy there even when the other 8+ pubs in Reigate are empty.

They are friendly people, I'd suggest you drop them a line and arrange to have a chat, I'm sure they would give you good advice.
 

Leon103

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Something worth considering is that a closed down or unproffitable pub can often be bought for a similar price to an equivalent house. You've got to live somewhere, right? So think of it in terms of buying a house but it comes with a free business opportunity.
I would tread carefully. Although they are planning on running a pub, if they later decided to knock it on the head it can be extremely difficult to get change of use on pubs, so they are dwellings.
 

jeg3

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I've got a local which has the brewery behind it, they serve limited food, bar snacks, scotch eggs, that sort of thing, and in normal times it is extremely busy.

Where I used to live my local was the same sort of thing. A small pub but always had 8 pulls on and a massive collection of bottles. Plus 5 draughts. They were light on meals but used to do the odd chilli night and things like that. The town was full of ale pubs, so lots of competition but it was always rammed.

Obviously if the brewery is the main thing, then food may need to be an option to broaden the appeal.
 
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Lex

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Something worth considering is that a closed down or unproffitable pub can often be bought for a similar price to an equivalent house. You've got to live somewhere, right? So think of it in terms of buying a house but it comes with a free business opportunity.
Definitely. That’s the plan.
 

Lex

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I've got a local which has the brewery behind it, they serve limited food, bar snacks, scotch eggs, that sort of thing, and in normal times it is extremely busy.

Where I used to live my local was the same sort of thing. A small pub but always had 8 pulls on and a massive collection of bottles. Plus 5 draughts. They were light on meals but used to do the odd chilli night and things like that. The town was full of ale pubs, so lots of competition but it was always rammed.

Obviously if the brewery is the main thing, then food may need to be an option to broaden the appeal.
Thanks, yea, it looks like we need to consider at least the basics. Pies and scotch eggs, even fryer food is doable. We want to start small at the beginning and build up.
Since I first posted this thread we have put an offer in on a pub, fingers crossed! I’ll have more to say on this forum once the papers are signed.
 

Cestrian

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I saw a programme on the telly a while back of a couple who set up a brewery in the countryside somewhere. There was a series on about people jacking in their jobs in places like London, selling up, and starting new lives.

I forget where now but the husband did all the 'commercial' stuff and the wife was the one doing all the physical graft, and I mean all of it.

Anyway, the point I was going to make was that they knew no one so their idea, which was very successful from what they said, was to knock up a bit of a tap room kind of area in the barn and invite all the locals over for beer and some food. That way they made friends, people liked to be able to see the plant and equipment, and they got feedback on their beer and then from that word of mouth were able to spread to expand their customer base.

Good luck anyway!
I remember this show it was Ben Fogle: Make A New Life in the Country. Definitely worth a watch if your thinking of starting a new brew pub. One of my local micro-breweries has been very successful by canning his beer. He doesn't do it himself. Another company collects the beer in 1m3 IBCs and brings back a pallet of canned beer. He ships it all over the world. Said it's very popular in Japan!

Couple leave the London rat race to start a brewery in Worcestershire
 

Cestrian

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Thanks, yea, it looks like we need to consider at least the basics. Pies and scotch eggs, even fryer food is doable. We want to start small at the beginning and build up.
Since I first posted this thread we have put an offer in on a pub, fingers crossed! I’ll have more to say on this forum once the papers are signed.
Sounds exciting! I think a lot of pubs these days make their money on the food. Don't think you make much profit on a pint after the tax man has taken his cut.
 

Thonbi

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Hi all,

This is a continuation of my previous post really. We are getting closer to making a decision on our future dream brewery that we have been saving towards for years and I really appreciate any and all feedback.

We want to run a commercial brewery and my other half had been brewing for nearly 30 years and in that time has worked for a number of big breweries in the USA. Our current UK options are to buy an existing business, or to start our own brewery in an old closed up pub which we could buy. This topic pertains to the second of the two options.

We had considered this approach before and kind of put it to the side but enough people on the last thread mentioned it as a possibility that we are reconsidering. Let me tell you why I doubted it...

1) Lots of UK rules I am unfamiliar with about being tied to existing breweries and having staff come along with the purchase. Not a no-go but we are starting small and don’t want a lot of staff, especially any kitchen staff.

2) This is a biggie - in the US where I have lived the past 16 years, people don’t expect anything other than beer in a brewery/tasting room. Although a few do offer something to eat. Food is a staple here in Blighty. Talking to my friends and family they can’t imagine going to a pub style brewery without getting food (industrial units may be different). We really don’t want to deal with meals.
-So what do we do to get around that?
-Is there a way to advertise a beer only experience which Brits will accept?
-Should we just buy cheese and pies or something which I’m still adverse to but as long as there’s no cooking and we *have to* have food it could be doable?

3) A continuation of the previous point - if the place we buy was previously very food-led and a known destination for its meals, will we just get bad reviews when folks find no hot dinners?

4) Covid issues - take away beer. How common is this? Again, in California we have “growler” clubs. You purchase a glass growler and drop by the brewery en route home and get it filled (usually around 4 pints) at a discount and enjoy it at home. All breweries do it and lots of people enjoy fresh beer at home this way. This doesn’t seem to be a thing here in England, and drinking in pubs is one of the first things to shut down while we are in a pandemic. Can we hav a thriving “to go” beer business or don’t Brits really do this? It’s a bit cheaper than cans or bottles which we could also do.

Our plan really involves selling as much out of the tap room as possible, although we can also sell kegs to pubs etc, but we prefer the actual customer base.
Again, all input appreciated as you don’t know us and you all know lots about beer, beer drinkers and what does and doesn’t go in England. Much as I’m a Brit I’ve been a way a long time and only just got back (just finishing up my mandatory 2 weeks of quarantine).

Cheers!
1) Personally, I wouldn't get involved with any business purchase that includes TUPE (essentially, you acquire the staff and it can take huge payouts or managing them out of the business.

2) Even if you didn't want to do hot food, I'd really suggest increasing your revenue with something chilled like scotch eggs, sandwiches and the like. You'd need to speak to your local council about the licensing of this, but you could start off speaking to local suppliers that you could profit share with. You could consider some fairly simple American dishes too. There's a fair old amount of profit to be had for a reasonable startup fee.

4) Though not a tap room, some of the local brewreys close to me have done reasonably well in spite of COVID. I'd suggest doing some work looking at the local populace you're interested in, and really consider if they'd support a business. Say, if it was around London, I'd put it at a <1% chance, somewhere like a Welsh city, I'd have a much higher hope. You'd also need to consider your personal connection to the area. It's a mix of research and a marketing play. You'd need to heavily form and control a narritive.

> Our plan really involves selling as much out of the tap room as possible, although we can also sell kegs to pubs etc, but we prefer the actual customer base.

Don't shy away from selling to pubs when you can. A punter enjoying one of your brews away from your tap room could motivate them to visit. You could however stick to a reasonable range to ensure you could camputure these additional taproom visitors though. Maybe15km radius?
 
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