So You Want To Start A Brewery? Here’s How.

Written by | Beer, Food

Mastry's Brewing Co.

Image courtesy of Mastry’s Brewing Co. / Left: Matt Dahm Right: Micheil McElvey

What It Takes To Start A Brewery

Around the time that you’re transitioning from that college lifestyle to a more, well, grown up life, you’ll start to notice big changes in one particular area—your taste preferences in beer. Those Keystone Lights just aren’t fitting the bill anymore and you like saying things like, “Do you have anything barrel-aged on draft?” Or, “Mm, I can really detect the tannins in this one.”  Beer snob or not, many beer drinkers have thought about what it’d be like to start a brewery. According to Micheil McElvey, assistant brewer at Mastry’s Brewing Co., it’s not impossible to start a brewery, so long as you have passion and talk to the right people. Actually brewing beer is just one part of what it takes to start a brewery.

Mastry’s is a brewpub connected to CD Roma Restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida, but it’s not beachy. The family-owned restaurant and brewery keep their rich heritage in everything from the food to the beer to the style and their business mission. The Mastry family name comes from a Belize and Lebanese background which inspired flavors in their most unique brew, the Roma Ale Honey Basil Ale. “The Honey Basil Ale put us on the map,” said Micheil. Another favorite is the Rainy Season Honeydew Habanero Saison, inspired by Florida’s fickle weather.

In Florida, they say if you don’t like the weather wait ten minutes it’ll change. We here at Mastry’s like to think that if you’re waiting for the rain to stop, you might as well enjoy a great beer.

Matt Dahm, the brew master, founder and owner, is a third generation Mastry who first came up with the idea to start a brewery in 2014 in Asheville, North Carolina. The craft beer community’s passion is infectious in Asheville, as it is in places like Fort Collins, Colorado or Birmingham, Alabama where breweries are around every corner. Matt was determined to start a brewery and when approached, Micheil quit everything and decided to help Matt.

The team had dabbled in home brewing previously, but to many people’s surprise it’s not a prerequisite to start a brewery. Micheil is currently enrolled in the University of South Florida’s Brewing Arts Program where he’s studying the science, equipment, chemistry, marketing and operations that go into starting a brewery. While Micheil would suggest anyone interested in the brewing business to go through the same kind of educational experience, he also says, “If you can make oatmeal you can make beer.” Because brewing beer is simply following a recipe.

If you really want to start a brewery, get ready to devote eight plus hours to this “really expensive hobby.”

It’s an eight hour day no matter the quantity of beer or size of your brewery.

Micheil explains that part of the time commitment is simply to keep the brewery highly sanitized. A chemical provider must inspect the building and brewery space in order to inform you on the kind of sanitation process you’ll be required to carry out consistently.

If a brewery is unclean it shuts down.

Matt and Micheil 06

Image courtesy of Mastry’s Brewing Co. / Left: Micheil McElvey Right: Matt Dahm

What began as a brewpub is about to grow into a stand-alone brewery. Mastry’s will open a new location in St. Petersburg in June. They’ve got the property and their license, and they’re turning an old tire shop into a modern, clean brewery. The team will have to add new drains and practically rip up the space to make sure it’s squeaky clean and congruent with their style—aka not a beach town tiki bar. Mastry’s will keep Florida locals happy with an environment that feels like home, while also modernizing the space to “elevate the way people see and experience craft beer.”

So no matter how you start a brewery—whether a brewpub, micro brewing, or even home brewing, you just have to get started. Micheil said the most rewarding part of his brewing journey is to see the business mature and improve so significantly. How did they grow so quickly?

Breweries like to help people out. Just get out there and talk to people.

If you want to start a brewery, it’s as simple as that. Find your local breweries and learn their stories. You’ll find it’s a lot less intimidating than it seems to start a brewery, and…we could all use more beer.

Be sure to keep up with Mastry’s on Facebook for events and updates!

Last modified: May 12, 2016