Things started changing for me the minute the dream of starting a brewery turned into an overdraft facility.
It was then, and with every invoice that has landed on my doorstep with alarming regularity since then, that I began to realise why none of my friends own breweries. They are, to coin a money phrase, rather capital intensive.
It was also then that it started to dawn on me the crazy levels of determination, drive and devotion that are required to get into a business where hours are long and it is notoriously difficult to turn a decent profit. As someone once told me ”the best way to make a small fortune in the brewing business is to start off with a big one”.
And it’s not only the money that makes starting a brewery so daunting (I feel I should say exciting here but to be honest daunting is a more accurate description of what I’m feeling right now). It’s a million other things too.
This week alone I have become an expert in epoxy paint finishes, a master in underfloor heating and discovered that it requires 7 litres of freshly circulated air for every guest I invite into my adequately ventilated brewery.
I also started putting bars on windows, ordered a new alarm system, laid new flooring in the ‘tasting room’ and saw a man about installing a lift (yes, you read that right).
What I’m trying to get to here is that I’m pretty sure many of the people that have started breweries in this country before me have gone through the same processes (lift aside) and I’ll wager many struggled to find solutions and agonised over whether they made the right choices or not.
My experience so far has already given me a deeper understanding and respect for what it takes to start and operate a brewery.
So what has all this got to do with my opinion of flying brewers you may ask?
Actually very little.
My opinion of flying brewers remains pretty much the same as it was when I took my first sip of Mikkeller beer and when Jessica and Stefan first flew in and ruffled feathers in the Swedish beer scene.
I think flying brewers are responsible for some of the most imaginative beers I have drunk in recent years. I believe many to be pioneers in leveraging social media to promote their beers and that their creativity and vision gives the beer market a much sharper edge.
Beers such as Nebuchadnezzar, Reparationsbajer, Disco Beer and Beer Geek Breakfast are all fantastic examples of the uncompromising approach the very best flying brewers have. When I once asked Danish gypsy brewer Tore Gynther from To Øl why he had used so many hops in their First Frontier IPA he simply shrugged and replied: “because I can”.
We need flying brewers to continue taking risks and produce their selfish beers as much as we need ‘traditional’ breweries to carrying on evolving the craft of brewing in this country. Together they make beer a better drink.
So as I limp over the finishing line of this article I conclude that building a brewery has changed my feelings towards the men and women who run their own breweries radically.
These are the people who clean out the tanks, who wash the floors, who order the ingredients, who fill the bottles, who pay the electricity bills and who turn out the lights late in the evening after another long day looking after yeast.
They may not attract the glamour or adulation of some flying brewers but the risks they take in making their beers are far greater than any flying brewer’s will ever be.