Toronto has its fair share of amazing breweries, spanning all different styles and geared towards all different palates. From Belgian styles, sours, IPAs and the good ol’ classic lager, it’s never been a better time to be a beer connoisseur in the six. But what if you were to want to throw your name in the proverbial ring – what if you wanted to open up a brewery?
Well, it’s actually not as hard as you think. With some initial investment, some solid recipe testing, grassroots marketing and brand-building, as well as bar partnerships, you can make your dream become a reality. Here are some key questions to ask yourself when you open up a brewery in Toronto.
Do I Have The Money?
Financing a brewery is the first, and often the most difficult, step in the process. Because of high taxes and regulations on alcohol, costs can be high, and equipment can be just as pricey. Develop a business plan, look for partners and investors, take out a small business loan, buy used equipment whenever possible and ensure that you’ve got money leftover for marketing. After all, if a beer is brewed in the forest and no one drinks it… you get the point.
What Do People Want?
Two words to live by – market research. Even in its informal form – simply asking friends and acquaintances what they prefer – market research can be a great help. It doesn’t even have to be as simple as “Do you like x kind of beer?”. You should also probe people with questions like “Do you like to try unfamiliar styles?”, or “How important is sessionability to you?”, or “Do you drink different kinds of beer seasonally?”. The more complete a picture you have, the better off you’ll be.
Are My Recipes Any Good?
Test and test again. Test your beer on your friends, your family, your family’s friends – everyone. Research unheard of styles from abroad and see if you can fold those into your repertoire. Most beer people enjoy being on the frontier of a new trend, so keep your ears open.
Have I Marketed Myself Properly?
The perfect marriage for any brewery is the “beer t-shirt”. It’s simultaneously the best way to market your brewery and the best way to add additional revenue. It’s also incredibly easy to do – just take your logo (professionally made, of course) to a screen printer in Toronto and get custom t shirts made, to either sell at your brewery or give away at a marketing event.
Are My Beers Being Seen?
Here’s a handy article about craft beer distribution that you’re encouraged to read as you open up your brewery. Although it’s primarily about the American craft brewing market, it has a lot of crossover relevance here in Canada. Essentially, do your research, reach out to as many bars as you possibly can, and check out this article about how craft beers get on LCBO shelves.
Ask yourself these questions, and you’ll be well on your way to running a successful brewery. Toronto can’t possibly turn up the chance to have more good beer kicking around, so follow your heart and go for it. Cheers!