microbrewery course, microbrewery courses

Start Up A Microbrewery

How to start a microbrewery?  There are many things you need to think about when starting up a successful microbrewery. We have asked our panel of  expert brewing tutors to compile their 10 top tips for starting up a microbrewery. 

Microbrewery start up checklist

Included in our essential microbrewery start up checklist are the essential things you should condiser and then build into your start up microbrewery business plan before setting up your own microbrewery:


Microbrewery start up course



1.   Have enough funding for your microbrewery

2.   Ensure you have sufficient expansion space

3.   Include time for 'slippage'

4.   Carry out a proper market analysis

5.   Have a long-term plan for your microbrewery

6.   Packaging formats & route to market

7.   Do you have all the skills?

8.   Understand your key financial metrics

9.   Equip your brewery with a refractometer

10. Get some experience & do a course


All sounds too daunting - what about setting up a nanobrewery?

Funding your own microbrewery

Brew-School helping to expand the microbrewing sector


1. Have enough funding for your microbrewery

Make sure you have enough funding.  Setting up a microbrewery is not cheap but equally it doesn’t have to cost the earth.  You can start very small if you don’t need to rely on your brewery as your main source of income by setting up a nanonbrewery.  If you do decide to set up a microbrewery  you could start with say a 2.5 bbl (600 pints) plant as part of a brew pub then the entire brewing kit could be brought for as little as £10,000.  At this sort of price you are not going to get a high quality piece of kit even if it does the job.  

What type of brewing kit for your microbrewery?

Reliability, quality and technical support for your brewery you will pay for but may be worth the extra cost.  There will be other start up costs such as the fit out of your premises, the cost of casks and other incidental brewing and business equipment.  Where you do not have a ready route to market through a pub or bar then to make the brewery viable then you will need to look at a larger brewing plant. Our expert tutors suggest a size of 10 bbl minimum to produce economically viable amounts of cask-conditioned beer and a decent profit.  

For many brewers in the brewing industry the name synonymous with brewing supplies and service is Brupaks. Many people outside the brewing industry will not have heard of them but Clive Donald and now Paul Evans have been quietly supplying microbreweries small and large and homebrewers over the last 25 years with essential brewing ingredients and brewing equipment.

Scale matters in microbrewing

Bigger is always better in that it affords your brewery economies of scale but obviously this extra brewing capacity costs.  Once you have all your expensive brewery in place make sure you protect it from theft or damage along with your valuable beer stocks with specialist microbrewery insurance.Vital to your finances is that you understand the taxes surrounding the production of beer and critical to this is Excise Notice 226 Beer Duty



2. Have sufficient expansion space


Looking at point 1 the thing that anybody setting up their own microbrewery will need to ensure is that they can expand.  It may be the furthest thing from your mind when you are struggling to get your brewery off the ground, but very soon most microbreweries will have outgrown their original plant.  Make sure that your premises have sufficient space to expand the brewery unless you are prepared to set up from scratch again.

How much space do I need for my microbrewery?

A 2.5 bbl plant will function with as little as 250 sqft for a 10 bbl plant you are looking at least 4 times this.  Moving a brewery is expensive and very time consuming not to mention the interruption in beer production which will not go down well will your regular pub customers.


3. Include time for 'slippage'


Factor in delays to your initial set up.  You hope that the process of getting your microbrewery off the ground goes smoothly, but you need to factor in a little bit of slippage.  Perhaps planning permission to get your change of use to a B2 use class required by most breweries is delayed, or your grant application takes longer to approve than your thought. Consent to discharge from the environment agency will not be granted immediately.


4. Carry out a proper market analysis


Know your market and be aware of your competition. Brewing is a pretty friendly business to be involved in.  There is a ‘band of brothers’ relationship between microbrewers and it is not uncommon for microbreweries to help each other out.  However, despite this cordial relationship with your fellow brewers they are nonetheless your competition.  Is your local market already saturated with other micros? If your business plan involves producing and selling mainly cask conditioned ales then remember that your market initially will largely be local.  

A pub and/ or a taproom is vital

This means that you need to ensure that there are enough pubs in your local area who will be prepared to take your beer. Start your research early by talking to local publicans to see whether they are prepared to take your beer and at a reasonable price (depending on the area this could be anything from £65 -100+ per 72-pint cask.)  Do consider signing up and selling your beer through SIBA's Beerflex scheme. Factor in at the beginning creating your own tap room or leasing a pub.  This route to market is going to be vital for your long-term profitablity but in the early days double margins on your beer is going to be the difference between surviving and going under.


Microbrewery start up course


5. Have a long-term plan for your microbrewery


Have a long-term plan for your beer brand & microbrewery.  You need to start with a long-term vision for your brewery business. Is it that you want your brewery to be mainly a local cask ale producer?  Do you want to be an export led beer brand?  

Small can be 'beautiful'

Are you happy with a lifestyle microbrewery producing small quantities for bottling and selling as craft beers at farmers markets.  There are numerous business models out there for microbreweries but have a plan.  Having said that you must always remain flexible and responsive to changes in the market place.  All successful businesses exhibit the trait of a long term vision but with the ability to adapt and take opportunities along the way.


6. Consider carefully your packaging formats & route to market


Consider the full range of routes to your market for your beer and which ones is most appropriate for your microbrewery.  The main forms of packaging options for your beer are: cask, bottled (filtered), bottle conditioned, can, keg.  Each has potential attractions, drawbacks and cost implications so make sure you choose the right combination for your brewery and beer brand.

For microbreweries looking at maximising their profit by selling direct to beer consumers then getting their packaging right is a must.  For years bottling was the “go to” packaging choice for home beer consumption. Now more and more microbreweries are moving into beer canning. There are a couple of advantages in canning your beer. Firstly, they are an opaque vessel so protect your beers from light strike. The other massive advantage to breweries is that cans don’t break in the post. With more craft beers being posted or couriered then cans are lighter and the ideal packaging for sending your craft beer through the post.


7. Do you have all the skills?


Essential for setting up a microbrewery like any new business is the right skill sets.  Do you have all the skills you need to brew brilliant beer and then sell it profitably.  Take an honest look and if you don’t you may want to consider going into business with someone with complimentary skill sets.  Remember with brewing beer that one of the old adages is that brewing is 80% cleaning.  This is also true with commercial brewing too;  you just have more of it!  

Think about business interruption planning- there is only one of you!

Also, consider that if you only have one or two members of staff that they can fulfill each others roles.  What would happen if your head brewer goes off sick or leaves? Do you have a plan?  Is there somebody in your microbrewery that can take over.  Otherwise a brewery without a brewer is a pretty pointless and loss making operation.  Obvious… but make sure you have a strategy in place.


8. Understand your key financial metrics


Running a microbrewery even a small brewery there are certain key financial concepts that are paramount.  Cashflow is king.  You make be making money, but if you have no cash to pay your overheads you will very quickly be at the mercy of banks or creditors.  You don’t want that.  So ensure that you get paid promptly for your beer.  Don’t let pubs or bars particularly ones you haven’t dealt with before run up long lines of credit or you may have a nasty shock down the line.  

Turnover is vanity but 'profit' is sanity

The other point to remember is that turnover is vanity but profit is sanity.  You may think that you are selling lots of beer but if you are not making any or enough profit on each pint then it’s only a matter of time before your microbrewery goes bust.  Our expert brewing tutors will show you how to price your beers to account for all the costs including beer duty and VAT.


9. Equip your brewery with a refractometer


Get yourself a refractometer to measure the specific gravity of your beer.  A good refractometer can be purchased for less than £100 and is useful for both commercial and home brewers.  It is easier to use in a microbrewery setting than the traditional hydrometer even though you will need to use a conversion table to derive your specific gravity.


10. Get some experience & do a course


Setting up a new microbrewery is a big undertaking, particularly if you have not brewed commercially before. If you have never worked in a brewery or had direct experience then it’s worth getting some experience of the industry by working alongside a brewer.  Also get expert advice and do a course with experts who can take you through all the things you need to consider before taking the plunge.  Brewing is a great industry to get involved in but make sure you go into it with your eyes wide open!


Microbrewery start up course


 Microbrewery start up course set up brewing


All sounds too daunting!


What about setting up a nanobrewery?


It is possible to start producing beer commercially on a small scale without out jacking in your full time job or to run alongside other aspects of your life by setting up a nanobrewery.  A nanobrewery is a micro - microbrewery.  There is no definitive definition of a nanobrewery but suffice to say it's too small to produce sufficient beer to make a full time living off so size wise this is generally less than a 1.5 bbl plant.  Nanobreweries can go down to as small as 50 litres but largely will sit in the 100 - 240 litres area size.

You can set up your own nanobrewery in your garage

The advantages of nanobrewing are numberous.  For one you take up much less space particularly if you get your beers straight into bottles or cans (no space hungry casks).  Nanobreweries can be ideal for : brew pubs, restaurants, retirees, as a stepping stone to a full microbrewery set up.


Funding your own microbrewery


Brew-school is looking at developing innovative and flexible methods for funding the set up and development of your microbrewery.  We are working with a number of funding sources to provide seed and project funding for your microbrewery.  Brew-School has an ever expanding number of successful microbrewery start ups that have attended our courses.

If you have a microbrewery that needs funding to set up or develop then please get in touch.

The best way is always to email your proposals to: funding@brew-school.com.  If we don't respond straight away don't worry we will get back to you.

Our mission is to make the UK microbrewery market the best, the most innovative and the most successful in the world.  We want more people drinking and appreciating great beer what ever their taste and together we can achieve it.


Brew-School helping to expand the microbrewing sector


Here at Brew-School we don't like blowing our own trumpet but we have inspired and helped an ever expanding number of new and existing microbreweries on their brewing journey.  I've included just a snapshot of brewers and breweries that have been on our courses and the intention is to keep it updated.  If we have missed you out and you want a shout, then please feel free to post your details of your brewery below in the comments section or just email us with a link to your breweries website or Facebook page and I'll get your details included.

Help us by giving us a shout out

If you could provide a link to our Brew-School website then this keeps the nice people at Google happy and means more brewers and microbreweries will find us and hopefully gain something from our increasing range of beer brewing courses and microbrewery training courses.


Microbrewery start up course


How to get brewery insurance?

Are you looking to start brewing commercially?  Ask our expert brewers about insuring their microbrewery or nanobrewery equipment and what cover you need for your commercial brewery operation.  Have a look at our FREE guide on brewery insurance.


Microbrewery Start Up Hall of Fame


Tinshed Brewery - Cambridgshire

Three mates got together in Cambridge to make this brewery happen.  Unsurprisingly, this unique brewery has a a lovely tin shed as well as some intriguing sounding ales.  How about a smoked beer to wet your appetite?


Farr Brew


Nick an enthusiastic producer and consumer of alcohol for many years was inspired by attending our one day all grain beer brewing course to go the next stage and setting up his own microbrewery using the Braumeister system of brewing allowing him to produce about 400 pints a day.  Nick has successfully sold a number of beers at a very 'good price' into local hosteleries and funded much of his initial set up by selling his bottled beers at a number of local farmers markets.  We are expecting big things from Nick after coming along on our 3 day Setting Up A Microbrewery Course in March 2015.  Nick has already established that he doesn't want to grow too big, as long as he can expand enough to finally give up his day job. 


Nick has also recently started a kickstarter campaign for funding to establish the first Microbrewery in Harpenden in a 100 years.

Interesting to see how far Farr Brew can go.


Macclesfield Brewing Company

Dave  Harrison-Ward is a brewing blogger who 2 years on from attending our All Grain Beer Brewing Course is looking at scaling up and brewing on a semi commercial basis with his existing 100 litre kit much in the same way that Nick Farr above has.  At the moment they don't have their own website but you can keep up to speed through their twitter account.  Watch this space as they say....

Stubborn Mule Brewery Manchester

Ed Bright was a brew-school graduate from back in November 2014.  Ed like many commercial microbrewers has started producing commercially on a small scale and then bottling his beer and selling it through specialist beer shops, bars and restaurants.  Ed has now secured the funding he needs to get separate premises and his own commercial brew plant.  We love the branding and Ed I'm sure has the youthful enthusiasm to make his brewing dream go along way.  Ed is also featuring on our 1 day course looking how start up microbreweries put together the finance they need to get the brewing dream off the ground.


Musa Lisbon Portugal

A Recent extract from Paulo from Portugal - creating MUSA the largest craft brewery in Portugal following attendance of our 7 day course.

On my side, I partnered with some friends and we launched a brewery that should be the biggest craft brewery (so far) in Portugal. After a visit to Brawbevialle in 2015 and a struggle with the choice between a German, Italian or Chinese fabricator we ended up deciding to built our brewery locally. It was risky, as Portugal has no tradition in brewing, but we were sure that if we supplied the engineering, the quality would be very high. We are delighted with the results - a custom made 20 hL Brewhouse for a fraction of the cost of a similar equipment from Germany (or even Italy origin) with outstanding quality and features.

If you want to know more about the results or want to consider fabricating your brewhouse or fermentors in Portugal, just email me or call me and I would be very happy to help you with your project. Please feel free to let your friends know about this option and please share my contacts.


The Vine Brew Pub, Rugeley, Staffs

Both Chris and Ollie from the Vine Pub attended both the Setting Up A Microbrewery Course and the 5 day Practical Commercial Brewing Course.  Their aim was to put back the brewery in the historic Vine pub in Rugeley a market town in deepest Staffordshire.  This is exactly what they have done. The Brewery is installed and they are brewing.  Go try and see what you think.


Triple Point Brewing

Technically, Alex Barlow shouldn't qualify for entry in our Hall of Fame.  Not because he hasn't gone on to set up an award winning brewery.  Not because he doesn't produce cracking beers.  No because he is actually one of our tutors on the 4 day Setting Up A Microbrewery Course.  Alex has been a key part of our expert team delivering this cutting edge course since 2013 but has only recently set up his own microbrewery in 2016.  Despite Alex's light hearted jibes " so you want to set up a Microbrewery DON'T no really DON'T " he has clearly not taken his own advice and has gone on to raise the finance and set up this Sheffield brewing institution.

You need to try his:
Cologne-Style Kolsch 4.8%
Ar American Red 5.2%


Bridgewater Brewing

Not all our Brew-School graduates go on to set up their own Breweries. Ivor is a good example.  Having decided that he was not going to set up his own brewery he has gone forward with his microbrewery supply business with a clearer understanding of the challenges in the microbrewery market for new microbreweries.  In his own words:

I attended the four day course at Brew School wondering whether setting up a micro brewery was for me. The course was excellent; insightful, challenging and thought provoking. In the end I took on of the tutors advice “Don’t, No really don’t.

But the courses inspired me to continue developing my parts business - www.bridgewterbrewing.co.uk. We specialise in providing parts or complete breweries at the larger end of the domestic scale or for use as a pilot plant. We source all the components ourselves under the tightest of quality control.

Our most popular size is the 200 litre pilot plants. These are in use by several micros already, such as Fritz Takken at Bucklands and Les at Porthcawl. The 200litre plant makes a lot of sense; it is small enough to fit into a garage or shed but large enough to produce four nine gallon casks or 380-390 bottles. Some local micros use our 200litre plants for test brews and recipe formulation. We also build systems for gin distillers, and rather bizarrely beetroot and horseradish boilers for wholesale greengrocers in London.

Our breweries are easy to build, I presented at the National Homebrew Festival in 2017 and built a complete 50litre brewery with HERMS system in 36 minutes! If building your own brewery seems daunting we offer build days where you can access our workshop and support.

We offer parts or complete packages. Our website has lots of useful build information on. Please get in touch if we can help further.

Eyam brewery

This microbrewery has just started brewing under the stewardship of Gievase Dawson.  Gievase came on both our 2 Day setting up a microbrewery course in 2016 and the 5 day Practical Commercial Brewing Course in that year.  Owner of the Eyam Real Ale Company.  This is another example that keeping brewing at a nano brewery scale and local rather than trying to compete with the big boys can be more fun, more interesting and ultimately more profitable.


Chapel On The Frith Brewing Co


Chapel on the Frith is a micro micro brewery or nanobrewery.  Set in the back of one of Tim Bootham's Post Office's in this High Peak town.  Tim has made a virtue out of his route to market through having 3000 potential customers through his doors each week.  Tim has set up a microbrewery in a set of out buildings and now generates £1000 net profit each month from brewing once a week on his Speidels Braumeister nanobrewery brewing original craft beers.  Tim is now sharing his expertise and knowledge on our one day Setting Up A Nanobrewery Course.




This microbrewery is set down in Devizes, Wiltshire.  Glen has faced a number of challenges to get his brewing dream to happen which are all detailed in his blog about his experiences of setting up his microbrewery. He now has his kit and his name and it looks like it's full brew ahead.


Spotlight Brewing


This is a start up brewery with the aim not only to brewing outstanding beers but also raise awareness of people with learning difficulties.  Rick and his team are building their brewery and brand in East Yorkshire and in their own words aim to 'build awareness one beer at a time.'


Leigh-On-Sea Brewery


Hi brew-school, just seeing your updates on some other previous course participants, I thought I’d let you know that just 10 months after we did the course, we’re now up and brewing at 10bbl (after starting on a 1bbl pilot kit in August). We brew 6 regular beers now and we’re focusing on getting those consistent, building up our customer base and operating our industrial estate Tap Room.

We’ve had some recent award success, getting first and third best beers at a large local CAMRA festival in November (for our 5.5% black IPA and our 9% strong stout).  We’ve used Tom Newman from Lines as our brewing/recipes consultant.

Altogether we needed to raise about £250,000 to get operating at our current scale, and we did this by issuing shares in our limited company, by raising asset finance (Mark Banks at Close Brothers!) - and by applying for EU funding (almost 10% of our finance came from that source).

You can see from the above development tale that the people you introduced us to on the course have proved valuable (Ed from Stubborn Mule also gave us some really helpful costing advice at the outset).
Just thought you’d like to be aware of another alumni story!


The Crafty Braumeister


Dedicated to brewing outstanding German Beers and based in Leiston in rural Suffolk Urli brews his beers on a Speidels Braumeister.  He uses a technique of step-infusion mashing and bottle conditions his beer.  If you want to try a genuine German beer pop along to The Crafty Braumeister and find out why Germany can still claim to be one of the homes of the brewing art.


Aldwark Artisan Ales


This brewery is based in the Peak District and set in an old diary.  There Nostrum Gold is there many beer having only just got brewing.  They originally came on our setting up a microbrewery course back in 2013 showing that some time great ideas take time to come to fruition.


71 Brewing


71 Brewing needs no introduction to anybody into craft beer in Scotland.  The brewery was set up in 2017 after Duncan Alexander attended our Setting Up A Microbrewery in 2015.  The brewery set in  the Blackness iron foundry in Dundee and is located over 3 floors taking in over 27,000 feet of this historic building.  It specialises in craft beers and producing a taste tingling range of beer flavours available on draught, bottle and can throughout Scotland.

We have also included some free  microbrewery advice on how to set up your own brewery business.




Setting up my own microbrewery courses - 2/4/7 days


Join our discussion group on Microbrewery Set Up

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