How to Start Your Own Brewery Company in the UK: A Step-by-Step Guide

Recognising the growth of micro breweries and craft beer, more people than ever are considering launching their own brewery business.

The UK beer market is worth an estimated £19 billion annually, with craft beer accounting for just £1 billion of this figure. However, there are more than 700 micro breweries in the country - and they’re growing at a rate of up to 20% every year. But getting your own brewery off the ground isn’t easy: starting a business on your own can be a risky investment with high costs and potential pitfalls along the way.

To help you understand exactly what it takes to set up your own brewery company, we have put together this step-by-step guide to launching your own company if you’re thinking about doing so.

Know the basics of how to start a brewery company

The basic structure of a brewery company is simple: like every other company you will have one or more shareholders who put up the capital to fund the business, and one or more directors who lead the business. Brewery companies are also very different from normal businesses, though, in that they’re regulated by special laws - different to those in any other type of business, and will need to meet these regulations in order to operate legally.

Brewery companies are different from normal businesses in that they’re regulated by special laws - different to those in any other type of business. For example, you will nee the permission of HM Revenue and Customs to brew beer commercially, if what you produce contains more than 1.2% ABV (alcohol by volume) and then pay duty onit.

If you only produce a small amount this duty is reduced; but you need to make a fairly accurate guess at what the volume will be at the outset; if you actually produce less your duty will be higher than it should have been, if more then you could face penalties.

Check you’re meeting your legal requirements

Breweries are regulated by a piece of legislation called the Brewing Standards Regulations (BSR). In order to be sure that you meet these legal requirements, you will need to apply for and be granted a Brewery License under the BSR. There are two types of license that you may qualify for, which are dependent on the scale of your brewery operation: firstly a Standard Brewery License (SBL) if you’re producing less than 1,000 hectolitres of beer annually - equivalent to roughly 6.6 million pints or an Intermediate Brewery License (IBL) if you’re producing between 1,000 and 50,000 hectolitres of beer annually.

Find the right location for your brewery

Finding the right location for your brewery is crucial to the success of your business. The main considerations when choosing a location are transport links, the type of customers you want to attract, and the space available for your brewery operations.

As microbreweries are typically small (with most producing fewer than 10,000 pints of beer annually), you may have the option of choosing a smaller location with less footfall than larger breweries. This can mean you have a higher chance of getting a lease on a space with lower rent.

Transport links are also important: a brewery on the outskirts of a city may be cheaper than an urban location, but getting beer to customers could be more challenging. It’s important to think about the type of clientele that you want your business to attract too. A central location will attract more footfall, but this may not be the type of clientele that you want.

Do bear in mind, too, that you will need planning permission; this may be more difficult to get if you are planning on retail sales.

Decide on your equipment and beer flavours

This is the fun part - once you’ve got your equipment in place you can start experimenting with different beer recipes. There’s no right or wrong recipe, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, is the type of beer you want to produce. There are two main types of beer: ales and lagers. Ales are typically brewed with top-fermenting yeast, which is more susceptible to contamination if the conditions aren’t controlled. Lagers, however, are a bottom-fermenting yeast, and the conditions are kept at a colder temperature - which makes them less susceptible to contamination.

The second thing to consider is flavour. Craft beers come in a wide range of flavours, and you can choose any flavour you like. Some breweries have even released limited edition brews with flavour combinations as outlandish as peanut butter and jelly.

Get the branding and marketing right

Once you’ve got the recipe sorted, it’s time to think about branding. Your logo will be the first thing customers see, so it’s important to get this right.

There are a few things to consider when branding your business.

  • What are you calling your business? Perhaps the most important decision is choosing your name. This will be the first thing customers see, so it’s important to get this right.
  • What is your brand personality? Another important decision is how you want your brand to be perceived by customers. For example, are you a craft brewery that wants to be seen as edgy and urban? Or would a more relaxed, homely feel be better?
  • Who is your target audience? - Your brand personality and the way you want to be perceived will help you decide who your target audience is. For example, if you want to be seen as a craft brewery that serves a younger, edgier crowd, you may want to choose an edgy font for your logo.

Final Thoughts

There are many challenges when it comes to opening a brewery, but there are also many rewards. Beyond the obvious benefits of creating your own beer recipes, there are other benefits to opening your own microbrewery. These include the ability to experiment with different ingredients and flavour combinations, as well as the opportunity to work on a smaller scale that is less capital intensive than larger operations.