Thursday, July 12, 2007

ABC Visit, Didn't Submit Plans to City

Just a quick update on what's been going on. Yesterday I had a site visit from the ABC. They checked the measurements of the building, and confirmed I was running a production brewery for sales to retailers, not direct sales at this time. They were cheerful and seemed to be happy to be dealing with a brewery. They told me that they were just about ready to issue the license. They are going to hold off on issuing it until I tell them I'm a few weeks away from production beginning, as production (or sales, for other types of alcohol licenses) is supposed to begin within 30 days of the license being issued.

Earlier that morning, I met with Dan Stromberg from George Fisher. They manufacture pre-fabricated insulated ABS plastic glycol lines, pretty nice stuff. I'll probably go with their insulated lines, as my glycol run is relatively short and having them done right could save a lot of money in the long run from cooling loss. The building I'm in is very warm, especially towards the ceiling, so the more insulation, the better.

On Tuesday, I was supposed to go with my contractor to the city. At the last moment, I remembered I never had structural calculations done on the glycol chiller being mounted on the roof. We figured it's pretty important to get calculations for putting a 1,400 lb. unit on the roof of a relatively old building, so we're working on that now. If the structural calculations were completed, I wouldn't have submitted anyway. The inspector who would review the plans over the counter is on vacation for two weeks. We could have submitted through another inspector, but that could have been problematic, as we would be dealing with more than one inspector in that case. We just want to deal with one inspector so there aren't any conflicts between what the two inspectors require of us. My plans also are not very good, so I'm improving those to the best of my abilities. I wish I hired an architect right now.

As a side note, my strategy for opening a brewery on a tight budget is that I am doing many of the tasks to keep my labor costs low. I don't have talent or experience in many of these areas, so I'm learning quickly, but now is really not the time to learn. If you are considering opening a business, either learn before you start paying rent, or hire someone who knows what they are doing. Don't plan to pay people in beer. That might work for family and friends, but it doesn't fly for other people. Perhaps when I start cranking out beer, it'll work, but promises of beer in a few months hasn't worked so far.

I did go to the city to get a permit for putting in a 200 amp, 3 phase power service. I signed the lease based on a building with three phase power, which most of my equipment requires. It turned out I only had single phase, so I've been dealing with Edison in bringing in three phase to this part of the building. Luckily, they approved it and now my electrician can start on bringing in that power. I'm able to keep the single phase service also, so that will help out quite a bit.


Jeremy said...

This is a great blog, thank you for informing all of us of what it takes to open up a craft brewery in Orange County. I live in south Orange County and I can't wait to try your beer and check out your facility when it is up and running.

Quick question; I didn't see anything about your history or experience with brewing. How did you get started, and what did it take to get you to the point that you are ready to open your own brewery? Did you learn everything by research and experimentation, or did you take any classes to help you learn the art of brewing?

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

- Jeremy

Patrick Rue said...

Hey Jeremy,

Thanks for reading the blog. I hope you'll stop by in a few months.

I got started homebrewing around four years ago, and took a lot of interest in it. Not too long after homebrewing, I decided that I wanted to be involved in the brewing industry. I looked into being a brewer, but it didn't pay enough. I looked into being a corporate lawyer at a brewery, and thank god, there are few craft breweries who have in-house counsel. So I decided the only way I could possibly make the money I needed to earn to support my family to be, I'd have to start a brewery from scratch.

I've volunteered at a few breweries, so I'm familiar with how brewing on a larger system goes. I've done a lot of research, and I'd like to think I have a good handle on what I'll be doing. Much of it is unfamiliar and it's pretty much new territory. I'll be doing everything from making the recipes, brewing the beer, packaging the beer, finding places willing to buy the beer, delivering the beer, serving accounts, marketing the beer (festivals / beer dinners / making more contacts), managing finances, dealing with investors (hopefully not!) and cleaning the toilet, mopping the floors, and so on.

There's more to it than just making the beer, but that's the fun part.