A Brew on Premise is an interesting business model. It's essentially homebrewing away from home.
You visit the BOP, brew a recipe of your choosing, return to bottle the beer, then take it home and drink it. The benefit of this model is that you don't need to have your own equipment or deal with the hassles of cleaning up – two of the main deterrents for would-be homebrewers.
I've been fascinated by these places for quite some time and have even had thoughts of opening my own.
I recently met Josh Jeffi who actually works at a BOP called The Brew Kettle in Ohio. He generously agreed to write a guest post that sheds some light on a successful BOP and gives us some info on how the business operates.
I used to brew beer every six months at The Brew Kettle. Knowing that I wanted to start home brewing, I figured I would see if TBK was hiring thinking it would teach me more about the brewing process.
I have been working in the BOP for six months as a Brewery Assistant and in that time I have learned so much more about brewing not only from doing it, but talking to my coworkers who all home brew and interacting with customers.
How The Brew Kettle system works
The Brew Kettle BOP is open Monday through Saturday and brews 96 customer batches a week or twice daily. Each kettle is 15 gallons and gives the customer 72 22-ounze bottles. The process is easy to say the least, even for a beginner.
It begins by picking a recipe. Customers have over 70 different beers to choose from, each ranging from $120-$150 per batch.
Once they decide on the recipe, customers then go to the grain station and measure out all the whole grains the recipe calls for. From there, the customer will measure out the unhopped malt extracts needed and gather either whole hops or hop pellets depending on the recipe.
The Brew Kettle uses malt extract simply because of the ease and the amount of time it saves for the customer. They proceed to add the ingredients when the recipe calls for it and after about two and a half hours the beer is pumped through a heat exchanger and into a fermenter for storage.
Once in storage, the staff adds the specific yeast to the fermenter. The customer will then come back in two to four weeks to bottle the beer. Customers buy their bottles the first time for 60 cents apiece and bring them back every time they bottle. There is a bottle sanitation station which customers use before they bottle their beer.
Customers can also make and purchase their own custom waterproof labels for $20. If you go to the BOP, you can see some of the various customers labels on display above the bottling machines. In some case, customers come to brew for a special occasion like a wedding or graduation ceremony. For that very occasion, customers can bypass the bottling and just have their beer kegged. The only additional cost is the deposit for the keg.
In the past six months, I have really gotten to know a lot of the customer base. TBK has a large number of repeat brewers. Some just come by themselves while others come in large groups. There are birthday parties that brew, bachelor parties, and even wedding anniversary brew sessions. They all love coming to TBK to brew.
I really enjoy hearing from first timers on how easy they thought brewing beer was and how they can’t wait to do it again.
The only complaint I hear is not from bad beer or customer service, it’s because of the wait list to get a kettle. As of now, the earliest available openings are in February of 2012. I personally contribute that to the recent increase in popularity of craft beer and home brewing. I get asked all the time if TBK plans to expand to BOP and the truth is, I don’t know. Right now things are going so well and with a lack of competition in the area, I doubt any expansion to the BOP is in the works.
I have an enormous amount of fun working, if you can call it work, at TBK. I am only there on Tuesday nights and the occasional Saturday because I only work there part time. When I am working, I enjoy talking to customers about beer and the process that is brewing.
Brewing at TBK is a relaxing experience where you can enjoy some of the award winning TBK beer while you make a batch of your own. Check out the website for a list of all the beers you can make along with other information like the food menu, production beers, and brewing information.
Billy: I'll close with a local video Josh showed me about The Brew Kettle. Thanks for the post, Josh. It looks like TBK is doing well and with the increased popularity of craft beer and homebrewing, I wouldn't be surprised to see more of these venues open.