Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Training in Belgium

Just booked tickets for a trip to Belgium this April! I will spend a whole week on part 1 of a hands on, intense brewing training, on a large (25-30 barrel) brewhouse. Am very excited to have this opportunity to elevate my skills and experiences from the small homebrew batches to this professional level!
Part of the training is learning to brew on a large system, and another is getting used to making the recipes I will be using here in the US on such a scale. This whole learning process will, of course, require ample taste testing... Oh, the hard labor of studying! ;)


Monday, February 21, 2011

4 steps to your own brewery

How does one start a brewery? It is a long and involved process. To give myself some grip on this endeavor, I broke down the process in 4 steps.

I already passed the first stage: conceiving the idea, thinking about it, giving it shape, deciding a direction and plan. This is probably the most important, but least visible stage. Talking to different people, getting a feel for the business, the laws, the amount of funding needed... It bones out the specifics of that simple idea: let's make beer!

Now is the second stage, acting on that idea! It now comes to preparing to collect the necessary investment funds and laying the foundation. Right now I am, for instance, very busy setting up meetings with distributors, to negotiate a good distribution contract (what good to have a store house full of beer, if there is nowhere to ship it to?). Other steps include gathering or preparing the necessary permits and licenses, gathering more detailed plans for the actual brewery (size brew house, training with this brewer in Belgium, contacting suppliers,...), designing the 'image' of the company: logo, name, labels, marketing materials, etc. And, as you have noticed, starting our presence online: Facebook, Twitter, this blog! (Have I kindly asked you yet to pass this on to as many beer loving friends and people you know, and to ask them to do the same? ;)

Hopefully within 5-6 months I can then start the third stage: building up the structure of the brewery, both the physical infrastructure as the legal and internal structure and workings of the company: employees, operational standards and practices, marketing plans,... Ordering the brew house is an exciting part of this stage. Then the anxious waiting for the shipment, the installation... Once this is installed, the brewery will finally start to look like one: glittering stainless steel kettles and maturing vats, bottling line,... You bet I will proudly be posting pictures of all this as it arrives and gets installed!

And then, finally, the brewing stage. First the water brew, to check and fine tune the system. This will be so hard, almost there, but just not yet, yearning to get to the actual goal we by then will all be so thirsty for: making the beer. Being refreshed after the long hard work, we then need to get ready for more long hard work: bringing it out to you all and to a lot more of different people, and establishing, stabilizing and growing the business. Within a year, I think we should be able to get to this fourth stage.

Now you have, from this and the previous few posts, a sense of where we are at, and a glimpse of what is still ahead. Feel free to post comments with questions or stories, I think we will all love to share them and read them! In the meantime, next time you open or order a nice brew, toast to our success, that we might soon toast together with a fresh, delicious Saint William beer!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Online presence growing

Hi all!

The Saint William Brewery has just registered the appropriate domain names (, to ensure keeping our name free for use. Within 1 to 2 months, I plan to have a brand new website ready to post online, you will be the first to be notified!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where we are...

Good, so a brewery, huh?
Yes, that is the plan.

At this point I have a principle agreement with a Flemish craft brewer, to brew some of his beers under license here in the US. Part of that deal is that he will train me on his new 30 barrel brew house (1 barrel is about 117 liters, or 31 US gallons). The great thing about that is, that I will learn things you can never learn on small brew systems, or on home brew systems. The brewer and his brewing engineer will support my start-up all the way, as they want to see me succeed, proud as they are of the beer they are allowing me to brew.
These beers will become the flagship beers, but seasonal beers of my own making will add to the lineup.
But I am still far away from putting my first bottle of beer in front of a thirsty customer.

Now it comes to putting this idea into reality. A lot of small things, a lot of paperwork. Getting all the necessary licenses and permits is one fun part of this undertaking: the TTB Federal Brewers Notice, posting the Federal Brewers bond, New Jersey State Limited Brewery License, the State Brewery Bond, as soon as I get a location, the several environmental permits and licenses...

Second, the business plan with all the financial planning. Apart from the obvious necessity of this step, it is important to think things through and calculate the cost of every step. Just keeping a maturing room at a certain temperature will cost a certain amount, something that will determine the final cost of a unit of beer.

With this, I can calculate the price tag of the building, the brewing equipment, the office equipment, everything needed to start brewing. But that only leaves you with a nice set of stuff. Equally important is the running cost. Water, electricity, sewage (some brewing waste water is acidic, other is alkaline, some is heavy on sludge... and waste water treatment plants have you pay extra for water that requires extra treatment), the malt, hops, yeast needed, wages, loan payments, and not in the least the costs for marketing... When I try to find investors, I need to make sure I cover both the equipment and the running costs.

Then there is the need for employees. A dedicated sales person, to promote the beer, find new bars, restaurants and liquor stores to carry our beers, is a necessity. Then I’d need a brewing hand, and an administrative assistant. Figuring out all the regulations concerning hiring people, setting up the contracts, finding the people, holding interviews are the next step for me to bring me closer to completing this project.
This is the way ahead of me, all the preparation. I will keep you all posted about the progress. Some news will be dry statements: 'I finished filing 7 different forms to apply to have the labels for the bottles approved'. Not a lot of fun there. But other news will be more exciting. I look forward, for instance, to be able to let you know the new brew house is ordered and on it’s way. 

Stay tuned, and don’t forget to support my fellow brewers as we all wait for the first batches from Saint William Brewery to become available!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The brewery, a short history

Saint William was Duke of Aquitaine in the 800’s, who as a knight spent the first half of his life in battle in loyal service to Charlemagne (his feats of arms have been sung in several medieval romans de geste!). At some point, he realized he had done enough worldly battle, and that it was time for spiritual battle. So he started an abbey, and spent the rest of his life in prayer. Part of the original claustrum (covered gallery) of this abbey is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. One can define this Saint’s life in a simple phrase: ‘Live life to the full, but balanced’! This set the tone for a lot of other Williams to step up, and at the top of their game do great things. One of them was a Flemish writer, ‘William die Madocke maeckte’. He wrote the fabled animal stories about ‘Reynaert’, a rebel fox who outsmarts all the established powers in the land. William the conqueror was another, as was William Shakespeare, William Wallace,… the list goes on. Now the Saint William Brewery plans to step up in this illustrious line, to live life to the full, balanced, and to help others achieve that, by blending old world traditions together with new world innovation, creating beers of great flavor and depth. The perfect companion to meals, conversations, outings, books, movies,…. To help you balance busy life with a slice of heaven. Savor the legend!