Something's Contract Brewing
December 21, 2009 12:22 PM   Subscribe

How much does contract brewing cost?

A friend of mine is an exceptional home-brewer. I am interested in helping him to start a business around his beer, and I want to know how much it would cost to have a brewery brew one of his beers on contract. I have had a hard time finding information on actual costs.

How much money would it cost, per keg or case, to brew a basic beer at a contract brewery? What is a typical minimum order? If it matters, we live in New York City.
posted by soy_renfield to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you plan to market the beer, I have heard that a small microbrewery usually has at least a full-time worker dedicated to paperwork, regulations, licensing, etc.
posted by goethean at 12:28 PM on December 21, 2009

Are you envisioning that a commercial brewery will brew up a 50-100 barrel batch of your friend's brew on consignment? Or that he would pay them for the space/ingredients/labor, and at the end of a month or so they would have a fermenter full of his beer ready to be offloaded into the containers of his choosing? What do you envision happening to the beer once it's brewed? Would your friend be distributing it himself?

Or are you thinking that his recipes would be picked up by a local brewery and sold under their name?
posted by craven_morhead at 12:36 PM on December 21, 2009

Take a look at this thread on ProBrewer. You might also just want to reach out to FX Matt, in Utica. They do a lot of contract brewing for east-coast microbrews.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:38 PM on December 21, 2009

Response by poster: @craven_motorhead: I envision handing a recipe and ingredients to the brewery and a month later showing up to pick up the final product. I think we will handle sales and distribution ourselves at the beginning, but that is why I need to know what a minimum order would be.
posted by soy_renfield at 1:00 PM on December 21, 2009

soy-- have you tried calling Sixpoint or Brooklyn or Schmaltz? I'm pretty sure one of the SP brewers told my friend that Sixpoint does contract brewing for some smaller beer labels, I keep thinking Kelso was mentioned but...that doesn't sound right. Maybe it was just when Kelso was starting out? Sixpoint also brews under a white-label arrangement for a bunch of restaurants that then sell the beer under their own label like "Spotted Pig Bitter".

Anyway, I realize this isn't that useful of an answer as I have no idea what it costs, but what I'm getting at is there must be someone who works at Sixpoint who's job it is to get on the phone and answer this question.

Sixpoint also might serve as a cautionary tale though because lots of people claim that the beers Sixpoint gets contract brewed to sell under its own name are way less tasty than the beers Sixpoint brews in-house. Like, if your friend's thing is that he's a great brewer, what value is he adding once he outsources the brewing? Recipe design?
posted by jeb at 3:45 PM on December 21, 2009

Something you need to bear in mind is that New York, like most states, operates on a three-tier system for alcohol distribution. That is, breweries sell to distributors, who sell to retailers, who sell to consumers. You can't really get a beer on the shelves until you find a distributor who's willing to carry the brand. Plus, before you can package the beer, you'll need to get label approval through the TTB.

As the saying goes, if you want to make a small fortune in the beer business, start with a large one.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 7:00 PM on January 5, 2010

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