Building a brewery

Our top priority is (and always has been) making awesome beer for awesome people, but creating a cool and comfortable environment where those awesome people can enjoy our brews is pretty high up there too. The Monday Night Brewing tasting room has been a beer-lovers’ mecca since we opened our own brewery just over two years ago, and while a lot of thought was put into the design of the space before we ever opened our doors, there’s always room for improvement. So, if you haven’t been by recently, here’s what we’ve done to make our tasting room even better.

New Chalkboards

Shortly after we opened up, we put once-intern-but-now-sales-gal Zoe to work decorating two giant chalkboards to hang above the bar to tell people about our four beers. It wasn’t long before four beers turned to five, which quickly grew to ten, and soon those two chalkboards were falling down on the job (not literally though, that would be dangerous). And as we’ve been getting busier, we realized that there needed to be a better way to let you guys know which beers were on tap, and where. So to make it easier to figure out which line to get in at the bar, we’ve drawn new chalkboards (thanks, Zoe!) for each beer that hang over whichever tap that beer is being poured from. Less confusion, faster lines, better experience! Plus, it’s pretty.

outdoor bar

The guys really thought out the design of the tasting room when they renovated our old warehouse into the functional space it is today. Building the main bar to open up to the patio in addition to the indoor part of the tasting room is an awesome (and super useful) feature of the space. But with the recent upswing in temperatures, our patio has become busier than ever, so to help alleviate the lines at our main bar, we’ve added a custom-built outdoor bar with eight more taps. It’s not up and running quite yet, but will be very very soon.

outdoor heaters

gas starter fire pitOur patio is amazing during the warm months, but our guests (and employees, if we’re being real here) want to be able to enjoy it during the cooler months too. We noticed over the last two winters that a couple of fire pits that needed constant tending weren’t cutting it during the winter, so we’ve run gas lines the length of the patio. We added a gas starter to one of the fire pits, and we have hook ups for standing propane heaters. We’re sure they’ll be a welcome addition once the temperatures drop.

 

We now have four new 120bbl fermenters (and one 120 bbl brite tank) taking up space in our brewery. These shiny new toys will allow us to add more than 5,000 barrels of annual capacity. What does this mean for you?  It means you need to start drinking more Monday Night. Immediately.

The new tanks are the ones without any plumbing to them in the picture below, so realistically you have about 2 weeks before you need to ramp up your beer consumption. Better buy some sweatpants.

tanks-new

One of the most common questions we get on the brewery tour is:

What are the steps you took to move from homebrewing to this?

As you might imagine, this is an impossibly complex question to answer. Still, as 2013 wraps up, I’d like to recap what has been the most significant year for us thus far. As our long-time readers are aware (thanks mom!), we used to blog more regularly, chronicling our journey as we opened our own brewery. We still want to do that. The truth is, 2013 has simply been too crazy to sit down for any length of time and collect our thoughts. Lucky for you, I’m feeling sentimental today. Before we get into how to start a brewery, I’d like to recap our year – paying special attention to the most meaningful events in our eyes:

Whoa. It’s notoriously difficult to survive as a brewery. The margins are slim, competition for taps and shelf space is becoming fierce, and capitalization is key. We entered 2013 with a lot of uncertainty, only knowing that we had to try to make work what we’d been investing our time, money, and efforts in for 6 years. We will enter 2014 with a more defined plan, an ever-growing appreciation for our city and the folks that make Atlanta great, and a desire to produce even better beers in the coming year.

So, what are the steps one takes from homebrewing to starting a brewery? First, one must name each of their fermenters after a Bryan Adams song.

have-you-ever-really-loved

Once you’ve done that, the rest is easy. All you have to do is…

  1. Raise enough money. But in order to raise enough money, you have to know what you are spending it on. Which means you have to decide what size brewery to invest it, what part of town you want to be in, and what style of beers you want to brew. Which means you have to develop a business plan, with completely naive sales projections, utility costs, ingredient costs, marketing costs, labor costs, keg costs, etc.
  2. Develop your recipes. You can’t build a business plan with accurate costs and volume projections without having recipes finalized.
  3. Gain distribution. But in order to gain distribution, you need to understand the distribution laws in your state, talk to distributors, convince distributors that you are going to be the most culturally significant thing since Kanye West, and negotiate contracts. Oh, do you know a lawyer you can convince to work for back rubs and IOU’s?
  4. Convince your significant other and family that you aren’t crazy. You’re on your own here… good luck.
  5. Build out a brewery. You’ve got to get that thing licensed before you build it out, however. And licensing depends a lot on where your brewery is located, so good luck with that too. Do you have enough cold storage? Dry storage? Room for expansion? Are you going to use silos for grain, either now or in the future? Will you be open to the public at all? Are you prepared to spend money for 9 months without a cent coming in the door?
  6. Sell your beer. Which is harder than you might think. Even if your beer is great, there are more and more good options these days, and if you make the sale, you’re usually taking the sale away from another brewery. It’s sad, but true.
  7. Repeat. And along the way, relax and have a homebrew.

In all seriousness, it’s been an insane, white-knuckled roller-coaster ride so far. But we wouldn’t trade it for the world. We love what we do, we love pouring ourselves into a product that enables community. And heck, it’s still fun to talk about.

Here’s to an even better 2014!

So. Y’all have been buying all the beer we have been brewing. Which is cool, but that means we need to brew more beer. So we bought some more tanks. And for allowing us to supply you with some Monday Night beers, we tank you from the bottom of our heart. Here are a few pictures of our new tanks in construction. They’ll be the biggest fermenters and brite tanks we have, at 120bbl’s each. Coming in July. ROCKETSHIPS!!!!

Our tasting room didn’t start out looking cool and hip. It look a lot of work. We started with a shell of a room, and it took 4 months start to finish. Check out all 4 months of construction in less than 2 minutes, courtesy of OxBlue, leading up to our grand opening. OxBlue, our fine neighbors up the street, specialize in construction cameras and wireless outdoor cameras. Also beer cameras. WOOHOO!