The idea to start this brewery wasn’t one that was treated very lightly. Having come from working at a small production brewery for almost two years, as well as my time spent at Siebel, I was far from any delusion of the amount of time, money, and energy it was going to take to get this project off the ground. Here we are, nearly 18 months from the first time Rob and I began to actively work on this idea, and we couldn’t be any closer than we are now, yet I still feel like we’re a million miles away. The almost endless list of things that have to be done seems to never get smaller, but hopefully we’re only a few months out from seeing all of this come together.
In the next two weeks we’ll begin to see a lot of this project come together rather rapidly. All the electrical work, and there is a lot of it, will finally get off the ground this week. In the larger scope of this project, the amount of time that’s spent on the electrical necessities of our building and brewing equipment, as well as the large amount of plumbing (read: drainage) that needs to be taken care is rather small. Everything should wrap up on these almost as quickly as it started, relatively speaking, and that’s no small feat. Honestly, the hardest things to deal with in a project of this size are usually the ones you have the least amount of control over. After that, we’ve got a few other small details to sort out before the delivery of our 20 barrel brewhouse and 40 barrel fermentors at the end of the month. All of this, which goes without saying, could more or less hold true, but like most things, we’re planning for the worst, and hoping for the best.
Lately I’ve read a few articles online about other brewers and their adventures starting their own breweries, both big and small. There is one theme that a lot of these entrepreneurs and brewers are massively overlooking or misjudging, and that’s the amount of time they think it’ll take for them to get up and running. I can say with a lot of confidence that when we submitted our application to the federal government concerning our TTB Brewery Notice that we were well prepared. We weren’t required to submit any additional paperwork outside of what they normally require, nor did we have to make any changes to our original application. As far as I can tell, our state application has followed the same course. That being said, it took 131 days (over four months) to receive federal approval to operate a brewery. This approval is required for both brewpubs and production breweries. There is no distinction between the two on the federal level. The only distinction the feds make is based on annual production output, and of course, how that output is taxed. In the state of Pennsylvania you cannot be approved for a state manufacturing license without a federal TTB Brewery Notice approval. I can’t say for certain whether your able to actually apply for the state license while waiting for the TTB approval, but that’s another topic of discussion. I also can’t say how long it will take for us to receive our approval, but at the very least I can say that you can expect to wait no less than the 60 days we’ve already been waiting for ours. Most likely I see us waiting another 30-45 days. So, for all our brewing brethren out there, take these numbers to heart. No fancy lawyer on your side is going to be able to do much about it; maybe on the state level, but certainly not on the federal level. If you haven’t submitted your paperwork yet you’re no less than 7 months from being able to legally operate a brewery or brewpub, so take that to heart, and be prepared for the long wait.
Speaking of waiting, one of the things that takes a bit of time to deal with for all breweries is label approval and beer registration. The federal government requires all labels that will be used on packaged/bottled beer to go through a formal review and approval process. This takes some time as well. Let’s not forget about the registration laws at home here in Pennsylvania. These approvals take some time, so plan accordingly. In our case, we’ve got a few things to show you like this picture of a sample of the designs we’re looking at using for our first two year round offerings, Trauger Pilsner and County Line IPA.
What do you think? We’ve got our good friends over at Tricycle Design working on our six-pack holder and case designs right now as well, and should have something to show you for those very soon. Oh yeah, remember that earlier topic of waiting? How long do you think it takes to get some six-pack holders printed? Let’s just say, ‘Plan accordingly!’
So, of course, one of the first questions we’re asked whenever we’re discussing the brewery with those that do and don’t know what we’ve got going on is, “When will we be open?” Right now we’re trying our best to make September 1st a reality, but in all honesty, October 1st is looking more like a reliable date to work with. We should be completely operational well before October 1st, but remember the theme of this post? Wait for it….
I think we’ve said it a million times before, but “Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait.” I think that’s a good name to use for one of our beers in the future.