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Going Pro

I’m wrapping up a few weeks of high-intensity work load, and planning on starting my next batch shortly after. All things considered, I get anywhere from 2-4 batches brewed a year, with consideration to limited time, space and funding. Oh yeah, and patience. I hate waiting.

That all said, a buddy of mine asked me, in all seriousness, what it would take for me to open my own sake brewery. I realized, upon attempting to reply half-inebriated, I had no idea. After sobering, I considered the question further, and came to most of the following; a solid recipe and process, location to brew and store, proper licensing and permits, capital for supplies and equipment, a good marketing plan and customer base, and what else…?

I live in Nashville, where the local craft brew beer scene is very friendly, and surprisingly supportive of each other. They seem to get the concept that small business can be a support group of similar business, more than it needs to be competitors in the same race. This produces a LOT of fine beers, and beer related events year round. It’s getting hard to go to a new restaurant that DOESN’T have a local brew on tap or in bottle. Add that to a historic whiskey (and moonshine) scene, with a handful of uniquely “southern” wines, and…

I guess the question I’m asking is, has anyone here gone from home-brew to local sales, or even further? Does anyone have any insight on this?

I would check over on the AHA website, and on Probrewer.com if you are more interested in the production side, or distribution/retail side.

If you are talking about hanging your own shingle, that’s another matter…

You might try asking the guys (and gals) at
http://www.bluekudzusake.com
(in Asheville, NC) and
https://twitter.com/oktopusake/
(in New Haven, CT) – both of whom made the jump recently.

also has a good thing going and did reply to me when I asked them a question or two. LIke Pietro said, the AHA and Probrewer.com are awesome resources.

I too am traveling this path but I have months to go yet before I open the doors. Here’s what I know so far:

  1. Know what kind of business you want to start: brewery, brewery with a tasting room, or brewpub?
  2. Find out if your state thinks Sake is a beer or a wine. You may discover, like me, that you are actually opening a winery.
  3. Find out where your city will allow you to put your brewery or brewpub. In San Marcos I must place my kura in an industrial area, not a commercial area, without a special-use permit. If I were opening a brewpub the opposite would be required. (industrial is cheaper, I’m not interested in running a restaurant.)
  4. figure out where you are going to get your rice. Are you going to do ginjo-grade sake? Can you get it pre-milled in sufficient quantities? What kind of rice are you going to use? Talk to your local rice-grower cooperative, discover that they only ship on 2,000 lb bags and you have to convince them to give you less than a whole 22-pallet truck-load…
  5. Decide on structure for your business. Partnership? LLC? S-Corp? C-Corp?
  6. Determine how much money you have to spend to get things going, and how long you can keep spending money until the business starts making (some) money.
  7. Take a deep breath. Reconsider.
  8. Do it anyway.

If you like you can see my efforts so far at
http://blog.kuracali.com
and you can peek in on the current state of the Kura at
http://kuracali.com/status.html
(I am usually there at least on Saturday, whether I have permits to do anything yet or not… because, on any given Saturday, wouldn’t you rather be at the brewery?

Charles of Kuracali brings to light some great points as he is one of the few who have actually taken the leap into this industry. His blog is quite informative and he has shared some very innovative and insightful information with us all.

Someone else to watch is Yoshikai Kasugai at YK3

. He has a nice small operation going up there in Canada. His updates are fairly frequent. I think he gives a good overview of what life as a Toji is like.

You might also check out Jeff James’ page at

. I believe he is the newest micro-kura on the block.

Listed below are some crucial marketing questions to address before deciding to proceed. Determine if it is the right time and place to be staring a new kura.

How much market share do you intend to capture in years 1-5? How are you going to do that?
How much sake is consumed within a 10, 20, and 30 mile radius of your location?
Are sake sales increasing or decreasing in your area?
What are the gross sales of sake in your area currently?
Where is sake being sold in your area?
Who distributes sake in your area?
What is the top selling sake brand in your area and how much does it cost?

I believe these questions are important because, If you don’t know the market, you will have a hard time scaling and aiming your operation properly.

Hope this helps you out a bit as I’ve been thinking this stuff over for a while too :smiley:

-MPFbrewer

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