It’s no secret that freshly brewed local beer is currently one of the hottest trends in the industry. In fact, it’s such a phenomenon that a growing number of established on- and off-premise operators are getting into the act themselves and setting up their own brewing operations on site.
“We didn’t add a brewery to make a killing,” says Daphne Scholz, whose Bierkraft shop in Brooklyn, New York, installed a one-barrel brewing system earlier this year. “It adds value to our assortment of craft beers and provides our customers with the freshest beer possible.” An Bui, owner of Henrico, Virginia’s Mekong restaurant—often voted one of the best beer bars in the country—also says that the opportunity to offer his customers fresh beer was behind his decision to build a brewpub next door. “We carry so many beers at Mekong, but we felt something was missing. We wanted to brew fresh beer and serve it to our customers right away.” Bui’s brewpub, The Answer, opened in September and brewing is expected to commence this month.
Spare Time Inc., the operator of six Chicago-area bars and restaurants, ventured into brewing two years ago when it launched Atlas Brewing Co. “We’re glad we joined this growing sector,” says Spare Time director of operations Greg Lamacki, adding that the concept has received “excellent acceptance” from consumers. Indeed, Spare Time will expand into a larger 24,000-square-foot production brewery early next year.
Chain restaurant operators are also enthralled with the prospect of brewing their own beer. Twin Peaks, which operates more than 45 sports bars around the country, launched Twin Peaks Brewing Co. at its Irving, Texas, location in April. With a capacity to produce 10,000 barrels a year, the 30,000-square-foot brewery produces the chain’s signature Dirty Blonde, Knotty Brunette and Gold Digger draft beers for distribution to all Twin Peaks sites in Texas. CEO Randy DeWitt reports that the move has been successful and the facility was already brewing at 70 percent of its capacity by September. Meanwhile, The Brass Tap beer bar chain—which has around 20 locations—was expected at press time to unveil its two-barrel brewery at its Carrollwood, Florida, unit this month. According to COO Joe Uhl, The Brass Tap hopes to collaborate with brewers from around the country on special beers at the site, as well as host local home brewers for competitions and events. Uhl says that the brewery will enhance The Brass Tap’s credibility among beer lovers, provide the company with marketing and promotional opportunities, and serve as a great tool for customer education.
“In our search for authentic, local, artisanal beers, we decided there’s no better way to sell good, locally made beer than to brew it on site,” says Ken Lewis, the longtime operator of The Party Source liquor outlet in Bellevue, Kentucky. So he sold the store to employees and opened Ei8ht Ball Brewing on the same property. The foray into brewing was also an effort to “differentiate ourselves from the competition,” Lewis says. It’s certainly working: He reports the brewery is already at full capacity. Lewis has continued his venture into small-batch beverage alcohol production with the opening of New Riff Distilling in Newport, Kentucky, earlier this year. Among other retailers, Whole Foods Market recently added its first-ever microbrewery as part of a new store that opened in early November on Post Oak Boulevard in Houston.
The addition of brewing facilities to an existing retail or on-premise space can be challenging. Bierkraft’s Scholz points to a long licensing period, while Uhl notes that The Brass Tap spent upwards of $100,000 on the feature. But Uhl and DeWitt see continued opportunity down the road, with both chain operators considering the addition of more on-site brewing facilities to their properties.