Microbrewed beer is a hot commodity these days--that's not news. What is news is that now there's a way to get in on this market without the expense of opening a full-scale microbrewery.
Entrepreneurs and beer connoisseurs alike are raising their glasses to custom breweries, which allow customers to brew their own beer on the premises. What's the advantage? For customers, it's the fun of brewing it themselves, right down to creating product names and designing labels. For entrepreneurs, it's the benefit of opening in a smaller space with less expensive equipment than is needed for a traditional microbrewery.
The initial capital outlay is smaller because there is no dining facility--you offer custom brewing and tasting only. That's one reason the number of custom breweries nationwide has grown from just eight in 1995 to more than 40 today.
"People are drinking less but drinking better," says Jeff Altvater, who opened Custom Brew Haus in St. Louis in 1994 after noticing a trend toward more personalized concoctions. "People really enjoy learning about beer and developing their own taste, trying to find a beer that is their style."
And for existing microbreweries, adding custom brewing to their operations is as natural a match as beer and pretzels--and a great way to pour on additional profits.