How to Start a Great Beer Bar!

how to start a great beer bar

“Whether it’s a brewery or a great beer bar…it’s a craft. Everyone knows you have to work at honing your craft which means a commitment to excellence in all phases of the operation.”
Tomme Arthur, Director of Brewery Operations – Lost Abbey

There is a community behind craft beer bar owners. One of the first things you should consider when opening the next great beer bar, is to respect those who have paved the way. They have a lot to teach you about the right (and wrong) steps to take before you even open the doors. Here are a few pointers on How to Start a Great Beer Bar!

Establish a Culture
The craft beer industry is enriched in culture. Each brewery seems to have their own subculture to bring to the table, and your bar should reflect that. Owning a craft beer bar already makes you stand out, but why not choose a theme to center the atmosphere around?

Don’t be afraid to be different. Give patrons something memorable to take home with them. Three Aces in Little Italy, Chicago, holds a night of bondage bingo, while Milwaukee’s Romans’ Pub makes you feel like you’re in someone’s living room because, well… are. Owner Mike Romans’ bar is set up in part of his house. Of course you can always go with a common theme, like an Irish Pub, just make sure you are choosing something to set yourself apart from the rest.}

Respect the Quantity
Because there is a limited quantity of craft beer, it can make the industry somewhat of a private country club. If you pay your dues, respect others, and most of all, have a genuine affinity for beer, you’ll be “in like flynn.” Always pay the breweries what their beer is worth. After all, the opportunity to sell awesome beer is earned, not asked for.

When it comes to selling craft beer, just remember a few simple things.

  • Availability – Understand that when it comes to craft beer, there is only so much made per batch. When it comes to availability, you have better chances of discovering beers closer to home. Don’t stray too far, for so little.
  • Release – Once you get in good with a brewery, you may be offered a limited release beer. This is not available to just everyone, and you have to act fast. Most breweries will expect a little something in return, like carrying another seasonal beer for them.

Make sure if you get your hands on an opportunity like this, you’re using a program like TapHunter, which can list your new releases in seconds, with the click of a button, on a printed or digital menu.

  • Limits – There is generally a cap on the amount of locations a brewery wants to sell their beer in. They usually only have enough to go around for a certain number of bars, and you certainly want to be on that list. Get in line! When starting a craft beer bar, you have to earn your place.

Don’t be Shy
The only way you’re going to get in good with the local brewers, is by paying them a visit, and shaking their hands. Most breweries have touring hours, and getting to know the people in the business, prior to opening your craft beer bar, is a proactive idea. Not only that, it will help to build your knowledge of craft beer, and particularly, what you choose to sell in your bar.

Try and discover the next big brewery before anyone else has. You may have a difficult time getting in good with the “it” brewery in your area, but if you stroke the ego of the next up-and-coming, you’ll have a front row seat to future revenue.

Overall, integrity, respect, and patience, go a long way in this business. Although you may feel like you’re being “hazed” at first, the craft beer industry truly is like a family, and once you’re in…you’re in.