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The 6 Biggest Challenges of Running a Craft Brewery (And How to Overcome Them)

It’s no secret that the craft beer industry has exploded over the last decade. Beer lovers everywhere are now spoiled for choice. It might even inspire you to open a craft brewery of your own. But how do you succeed in what has become a highly saturated market?

Before getting into the business of brewing beer, you need to have a plan to overcome the six biggest challenges of running a craft brewery. 

  1. Knowing How to Scale Up Operations
    Many craft breweries are started by people who have a passion for brewing but may not necessarily have a background in business. Growing your brewery demands a strategic approach that encompasses effective financial management, marketing strategy, and efficient distribution processes. That means recognizing your opportunities for product offering expansions as well as reaching a wider audience to accommodate for increased demand. By mastering these critical aspects, craft breweries can effectively transition from passionate brewing endeavors to successful and sustainable business ventures.
  2. Finding Skilled Brewmasters
    The labor market is tight across pretty much every industry. Hiring and retaining the right people will keep costs low and production high. However, finding these individuals can be challenging and you have to be willing to consider what your employees want to deliver. A solution to this challenge involves a multifaceted approach. Craft breweries must create a workplace culture that not only values brewing expertise but also prioritizes the well-being and professional growth of their employees. Offering competitive compensation, fostering a collaborative environment, and providing opportunities for skill development and advancement are key elements to attracting and retaining skilled brewmasters.
  3. Creating Buzz for Your Brewery
    Creating a buzz around your craft brewery can be challenging, particularly in a highly competitive market. Traditional forms of advertising may not be as effective as word-of-mouth marketing, which relies on delivering an excellent product consistently. To succeed, your brewery must establish a unique brand positioning, craft compelling messaging, and subsequently cultivate brand awareness through a multifaceted approach encompassing social media, blogging, a dynamic website, and engaging events.
  1. Investing in Your Vision
    Taking your business to the next level is hard even in the best of times. Whether you’re looking to expand by opening a taproom or exploring retail store sales, it can be a giant leap that needs consistent funding. Craft breweries need to take on a strategic approach to securing funding and garnering investor confidence by first, developing and communicating a compelling vision for your business and backing it up with a portfolio of high-quality products. By showcasing a combination of a strong track record in product quality and a well-defined vision for expansion, craft breweries can instill confidence in investors and secure the necessary funding to realize their growth aspirations.
  2. Distribution Across State Lines
    Expanding your distribution network to other states is a significant milestone for any brewery. However, navigating the complex regulatory landscape involved in inter-state distribution can present logistical challenges. There are two solutions to this problem. First, understanding and adhering to the legal restrictions and requirements associated with each state’s alcohol regulations is crucial. This means you’ll need to do thorough research on compliance and seamless cross-border operations, and even seek out legal consult to make sure you’re on the right track. Second, you have to ensure the quality and longevity of your products during transportation. This is where pasteurization comes in. Pasteurizing your beer can enhance its shelf life and retain its quality, preventing most potential problems in transit. And safeguarding your beer’s integrity not only protects consumers’ satisfaction but ultimately upholds your brand’s reputation. 
  1. Finding Originality in an Ever-Growing Industry
    Differentiating yourself in a crowded industry like craft brewing can be challenging. You need to be able to set your beer apart from other brands with subpar brewing standards. The #1 way to get there is to always prioritize the quality of your product — you can build a loyal customer base that loves your beer for its quality and consistency. But before you can do that, you have to find the one thing that sets your brewery apart from the rest. Whether it’s through unique flavor profiles, original designs, a compelling brand story, exclusive brewing techniques, and/or innovative marketing strategies. By intertwining exceptional quality with a distinctive brand identity, breweries can effectively break through the noise and make a mark in the craft beer industry.

How Pasteurization Can Help

Pasteurization can be a valuable tool for breweries to overcome some of the biggest challenges they face. Let’s explore some of the benefits of pasteurization and how the process can help to address some of these obstacles: 

  1. Extending the Shelf Life of Your Products
    Pasteurizing your beer can help to extend its shelf life. This allows breweries to produce larger batches without worrying about rapid spoilage. This is especially useful when trying to expand distribution and reach new markets.
  2. Ensuring Top Quality
    Pasteurization helps maintain the quality and consistency of beer. It prevents unwanted fermentation and off-flavors caused by residual yeast or bacteria, which can occur in unpasteurized beer. Consistency in taste and quality is vital for building a loyal customer base and gaining a positive reputation in the competitive craft brewing industry.
  3. Ability to Branch Out
    With pasteurization, breweries can experiment with a wider range of beer styles and ingredients. The process provides greater control over the final product, allowing brewers to explore new flavors and offerings. This flexibility can be appealing to customers who are always seeking unique and innovative brews.
  4. Distribution
    Pasteurization plays a crucial role in enabling breweries to distribute their products across state lines. Since pasteurized beer has an extended shelf life, it can travel longer distances without compromising quality. This is essential for expanding the market reach of a craft brewery and entering new territories.

The Takeaway

The dynamic landscape of craft brewing means aspiring entrepreneurs must tackle several key challenges to achieve success that range from mastering strategic growth, nurturing a skilled workforce, building a positive brand reputation, securing investor funding, and navigating the complexities of inter-state distribution. Ultimately, your brewery and its products have to stand out through unwavering commitment to product quality in order to thrive in this competitive and rapidly evolving market.

And while pasteurization can’t solve everything, it puts you in the best position to be able to share and distribute beer, allowing you to reach more customers. Otherwise, you’re restricted to the people that walk into your bar and sit on the stools in your taproom. Pasteurization offers craft breweries several significant benefits and by investing in pasteurization equipment and incorporating this process into their production methods, breweries can better position themselves to tackle the challenges of the craft beer industry and thrive in a competitive market.

With over 60 years of industry experience, Shelf Life Systems can help you sort out your pasteurization challenges. Check out our flash pasteurization page to learn more.

There is no magic formula, but with the right tools, processes, and partner on your side — you can brew excellent beer and share it with the world.