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Thursday, October 20, 2011

When Brewpubs (Don't) Expand

As prepartion for my trip to Europe heats up (T minus 16 days and counting), I've got little time to write meaty blog posts. Fortunately, others have no such constraints. A nice bit of accidental synchronicity today in posts from Ezra and the Beeronomist. (Hmm, that sounds like a potential sitcom on ABC.) First, riffing on an article in the Washington Post, Patrick writes:
The brewpub model is the escape, if you will, from the tyranny of economies of scale. From what I can glean, most brewpubs do about 75% of their business in food, can keep beer prices reasonable by cutting out the packaging, distributing, retailing and associated costs and margins. The brewpub is the model of choice, in my view, for the homebrewer-going-pro in that it allows for lots of flexibility and creativity. The problem with this business model is that you are in the business of a restaurant first, and the restaurant business is incredibly hard and tiring and easy to muck up. Smart owners (see, e.g., Block 15) get experienced restaurant managers to handle the food side and concentrate only on beer.
Patrick goes on to warn that expanding into production brewing may upset the innate equilibrium of a brewpub's business model. Right on cue, Ezra has a long post about Block 15's specialty line of barrel-aged beers that are in the works. But lest you worry (or in my case hope) that Block 15 is trying to expand by sending packaged beer to the Portland market, he reports:
Unfortunately after the Portland release party for La Ferme De Demons at Belmont Station on Wednesday, October 26th, the supply of Block 15 will dry up outside of the pub until sometime next year. Not that there is much of it in Portland to begin with. With the continuous stress of balancing the house year round production with bottles, seasonals, and a barrel program, rather than expanding or pushing more beer out, owner Nick Arzner plans to concentrate on keeping the high quality at the pub up to standards first and foremost.
You should click through to read both posts, because they contain much more info than I've mentioned here (and sort of bent to my will to bring into this post). Good stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Brewpubs enjoy freedom from
    - labeling,
    - packaging for retail sale,
    - marketing,
    - distribution
    freedom from the drudgery of producing the same beer style over and over and over again.
    Seems a great business model to me.

    Exploiting this freedom, two independent brewpubs in Boulder Country produce an impressive number of beers, more than two dozen different beer style annually.