the biggest mistakes new breweries make, a drinker’s perspective
Beyond just bad beer or poor service, there are some predictable pitfalls in the business of opening a new brewery. Launching any new business is rife with difficulties, but opening a taproom in the current climate is a particular challenge. There are certain expectations among Twin Cities drinkers which are not always easy to live up to (food trucks are not always easy to book, people), plus the average drinker is becoming more and more discerning. Furthermore, competition is becoming steeper each day and the numbers game doesn’t favor those taprooms without a fan base.
Imagine this: attempting to capture macro beer drinkers and Cicerones® alike, all while fitting in and also standing out. It’s not easy.
In fact, it is very difficult, and therefore I present this list of hazards, which are major problems within the industry, as cautionary tales rather than a grumble-fest.
First and foremost, the brewery that pushes beer out before it’s ready.
This is perhaps the most detrimental mistake a new brewery can make, and it may also be the most prevalent of the list. Beer that is not ready is not good. Have you ever visited a brewery and wondered why all the beers were too sweet? Not tripels or stouts, but the pilsner or pale ale? Moreover, beers that are acceptable – or even desirable – when sugary are that way because of the malt character, strain of yeast, and degree of fermentation, all of which are carefully orchestrated by the brewer. Their sweet character is different than the sweet notes of under-done beer.
Breweries that make this mistake offer selections that taste like wort- that sugary, beer-tea prior to the addition of yeast. It’s a sad pitfall because the potential beer is simply green, begging for more time fermenting or aging. The technical term for this problem is “under-attenuation”. It could have been wonderful if allowed to sit a bit longer. It doesn’t reach it’s target ABV (remember your chemistry, sugar is potential alcohol).
Beer that is served before it is ready isn’t always just sweet. It can also be hot, with alcoholic notes that were not allowed to mellow out through the aging process.
The offenders are far and wide in this case, but recently, the most notable culprit is Lakes & Legends, my own neighborhood brewery for which I had high hopes. When they opened their doors last month, over half of their beer tasted like wort in the worst way. Even more unfortunately, one part-owner admitted that he pushed the brewer to put kegs on in order to open their doors.
“We have more beer that’s just not ready yet,” he said, going on to explain that the four choices available were essentially the closest to ready. That was November 12th. Little has improved since then.
And that leads me to solidify my theory that brewery owners who are not brewers may be primarily responsible for this problem. It makes sense – open doors mean income. At the same time, first impressions are everything, and that is why this new brewery pitfall is the most problematic.
What strikes you as the biggest mistake new breweries, cocktail rooms, or new businesses make? What would prevent it?
Follow along next week for part two, the brewery that fails to stand out.