Monday 9 March 2020

Announcing SIBA1000

It's been a while since I've posted here and logging into blogger for the first time in forever, I was amazed to see that the So you wanna open a brewery? series of posts has accumulated almost 30K views. I still get emails from folk asking follow up questions and, no, I never did get a chance to write Part IV!

The brewery landscape has changed a lot since we started Elusive Brewing in 2016, even within the small county of Berkshire. There doesn't seem to be a single, authoritative source telling us how many breweries are now active in the UK (i.e. the number of non-null Beer Duty Returns HMRC receive each month) but the number is commonly believed to be over 2,000. This report by by Edith Hancock, citing UHY Hacker Young’s data in early 2019, had it over 2,200 - an increase of over 400 since 2016.

More significant than that number, however, is the acquisitions we've seen since we opened - also discussed in Edith's article and more recently, Matt Curtis, writing about Sam McMeekin’s (Gypsy Hill Brewing Co.) talk at Brewers Congress, noted that "since 2015 the production volume of what you would ostensibly define as “craft beer” within London has gone from 100% independent to being just 27%. This is due to the sale, in full or in part, of Meantime, Camden Town, London Fields, Brixton, Beavertown, Fourpure, Fuller’s and Hop Stuff to Asahi, AB-InBev, Carlsberg, Heineken, Lion and Molson Coors, respectively.".

That's worth repeating. McMeekin's data showed that London's beer production was 100% independently owned in 2015, but only 27% in 2019. It's a damning statistic and once we should all take notice of. 

Small breweries need SIBA, The Society of Independent Brewers (our trade body), now more than ever to help fight our corner - in lobbying government on policy issues, especially. And we need it to be representing an undisputed majority of independent breweries to give it the gravitas and weight to be even more effective in doing so. SIBA's membership is, at time of writing, around 770 breweries. This number simply has not climbed inline with the growth described above. 

Elusive Brewing joined SIBA in late 2019. Although we'd inquired about joining a couple of times before that, an undercurrent of member dissatisfaction with SIBA's direction put us off biting the bullet. I believe that SIBA ideally needs to operate entirely in the interests of its members, with no commercial interests, and some decisions it took (for example the acquisition of beer wholesaler Flying Firkin) seemed take it further away from that. 

SIBA recognises the need for change and under its new Chief Executive James Calder, has started to re-engage and rebuild relations with its members. SIBA is listening and 2020 is the year we as independent breweries need to get behind them. It can only operate outwith any commercial interests if it has more members, as those interests are needed to cover its operating costs at current levels of membership.

SIBA1000 is an unaffiliated initiative aimed at increasing membership to 1000 members in 2020. In the coming weeks, Elusive and other SIBA members will be reaching out to our peers to encourage them to join and get involved in their regional meetings. SIBA isn't perfect but it's ours. We need to be shaping it from within rather than bemoaning its shortcomings. The current SIBA leadership is energised and demonstrably ready to engage. We've been helped directly twice since we joined, including a short notice visit from Barry Watts (SIBA's Head of Public Affairs & Policy) to support a meeting with our MP to discuss the importance of protecting Small Brewers Duty Relief. Our feedback has been listened to and acted upon. Phone calls have been answered and support has been offered without hesitation. 

Let's work together to give more power to our trade body's elbow this year!

Monday 9 July 2018

On acquisitions

[This was written in October 2017 but previously unpublished] 

We’re flying home to London having spent ten days in Southern California. It’s been a pretty eventful day so far. We arrived early for our flight, stood in line at check-in and got to the front a few moments later. Just as we were called forward, we saw the police move in to our left - alerted to a suspicious package. They assessed the risk as our check-in agent processed us and decided to evacuate the terminal. We left calmly and walked outside, the decision to shove a couple of beers we had no checked baggage room for into our hand luggage delivered immediate pay off as we enjoyed more of the endless Los Angeles sunshine. 

Half an hour or so later, we were air-side. Suspect package dispatched with impressive efficiency and TSA in uncharacteristically good spirits as they checked our bags. We rock up the the first bar we find, scan the small beer list and order pints of Golden Road IPA with a side of nachos. The beer is fresh, crisp and delicious with a resinous finish that keeps on delivering. The nachos fill a hungry hole. A second round follows soon after. And there's time for a third before our flight is called. 

I recalled reading how Golden Road sold out to AB-InBev a couple of years ago but at that point I couldn’t care less. I could be facing Bud as my only choice and this is a decent IPA given the context of an airport lounge. 

A few days earlier, I was sat at the bar at Ballast Point. Sculpin was tasting the best I’d ever tasted it in five visits to the brewery in as many years. Their new tap room is positioned to the side of their (huge) new brew house a mile or two away from the original site. Service is efficient and polite. The beer is of exceptional quality, so far showing no signs of billion dollar big business moving in to throw their craft to the wind. 

I cast my mind back to the can of Camden Pale I’d had the night before we departed on this trip - I’ve never tasted it better. It had the same bright freshness as the Golden Road IPA. An incredibly accomplished brew that delivers remarkable consistency these days. 

Around the same time Golden Road were acquired, I decided to invest a few pounds in Camden Town Brewery as they were crowd funding. I had to overcome some internal conflict to make that decision. I had friends who worked there (and still do) and a lot of admiration for what they’d achieved in a few short years but their fierce protection of the "Camden" trademark in one case had come across as over-zealous. 

Despite that initial internal conflict, I was engaged with their brand and even had my Dad trying Hells over his preferred macro lager. A few weeks after deciding to invest, I was handed my money back, with a sizeable percentage return, as Camden Town ditched the crowd funding in favour of being acquired by AB-InBev. In effect, they'd been made an offer they couldn't refuse which made their crowd funding target look like pocket money. 

"Your stake just got a HELLS of a lot bigger!" read the snappy e-mail which was soon followed by legal documents talking about drag along notices - the legalese telling me that Camden had sold my tiny share on. 

I should’ve been happy right? 

But it felt like being unfriended on Facebook. 

I’ve no issue with small breweries (or any business) getting bigger through investment. That's the right of their owners to do what they believe is the best thing for their business and its long-term objectives. I’ve no issue with the staff at Golden Road, Ballast Point or Camden Town Brewery - they’re clearly doing great things as they always have. 

However, what are the intentions of AB-InBev and the other big beer corporations acquiring smaller breweries? Did they purchase these brands as as side-project? Can they be like, "keep on brewing the fantastic beer you’re brewing and let’s see how far we can support you (and maybe distribute it) as we fuel your independent growth with you in full control” whilst they simultaneously continue to aggressively acquire lines and stifle all competition at the volume end of the market? 

I’m not so sure about that. 

They're diversifying their portfolio in an increasingly competitive market. When one global brand in that portfolio starts to decline, another will be thrust forward ready to take its place. That's just business. 

Tuesday 16 August 2016

On splitting KeyKegs

I had a few 30L slimline KeyKegs split on me after filling which, especially for our first kegged gyle, cost us a lot in lost revenue just when we needed it least. After tweeting about the problem I had a whole heap of helpful advice from other brewers who had been through the same, and on seeing these tweets, further advice directly from the manufacturer. This post captures that advice for the benefit of others as it helped me to (so far, at least!) eliminate the problem.

First, to be clear on 'the problem', the photo below shows a KeyKeg where beer has leaked into the space between the bag containing the beer and the plastic outer. KeyKegs are dispensed by pushing gas into this space to force the pre-conditioned beer out of the bag. Technically the keg is still useable in the state shown but you'll probably struggle to get all of the beer our and of course, they can't be sold to trade looking like that. The problem seems specific to the newer slimline kegs. The old round ones don't seem to exhibit the same, at least based on feedback I've had.

One cause of this problem is reported to be under-filling although apparently there are other causes too (not covered here). KeyKegs are filled upside down then turned the right way up once full. The theory is that if even slightly under-filled, once turned the right way up, the beer in the keg will pull down on the top of the bag as the beer fills the space that was at the top of the keg when it was upside down. I found that the ones I had split did so a day or two after filling whilst sat on a pallet undisturbed.

I'm filling the kegs by gravity. I'm doing that as we have open fermenters with lids rather than cylindro-conical models which can deal with pressurised gas in the headspace to 'push' the beer out of the tank. My method is to pump the finished chilled beer into an IBC sat at around 2 metres above the floor, then batch prime it to the desired carbonation level before filling the kegs.  The advice I got was as follows:

  • Ideally fill under pressure to ensure some force behind the beer as its pushed into the keg. That's KeyKeg's recommendation from the outset. Not an option for us without buying another tank, though.
  • Ensure the filling head is fully engaged into the keg shaft before opening the fill valve and apply the head carefully being sure not to 'tug' at the head to engage it as the top of the bag can move within the keg. Food grade lube was suggested to assist this but I think as long as the head is fully 'open' before rotating it, it usually goes into place with almost no resistance. I was still getting splits after confirming good head engagement, however (although reduced)
  • Ensure the keg really is full after filling. I played around with this a bit and found that I could get a few more grammes (or ml) by re-applying the head after turning the keg the right way up. They should weigh 31.4Kg when full, or thereabouts. The bag should be visibly 'full' with no gaps (other than small creases, this is expected) visible from outside the keg. 
  • Use a pump to assist when filling by gravity, to help ensure the keg really is full. Again, I played around with this by filling through a small pump (that was off) until the bag stopped visibly and audibly expanding then turning the pump on. This really helped get more beer into the keg and on turning the pump on I saw the bag visibly expand further to fill any remaining space. Since doing this, kegs are filled reliably to 31.4Kg and I've experienced no further issues with splitting.

A photo of my filler setup is shown below. It uses a small DC mag pump (this one) in-line before the filling head. I turn the pump on after opening the filler valve and turn it off again after closing the valve after filling. This has the added bonus of filling the kegs about 2-3 times faster than by gravity alone.

If anyone has any other tips or findings, feel free to share them in the comments below. 

I should note that some breweries have reported occasional failures both when filling under pressure or by gravity, even if the keg is entirely full. This should of course be referred to your supplier or the manufacturer directly. I'm only writing about my own experiences here which appeared to be caused by under-filling.

Sunday 5 June 2016

So you wanna open a brewery? Part III

The first two instalments of this series of posts covered investment, products, branding, premises and the various permissions and registrations required to set up a brewery in the UK. This third and penultimate post will cover the build out with the final post of the series covering pricing, sales and administration along with a few things I've learned along the way so far.

The long gap between those first posts and this one are perhaps an indication of how busy we've been for the past three or so months. Having finally got the keys to the unit on 18th February, we set a target of having the first brew fermenting on or around April 20th (it was actually the 27th, so not a bad result). The unit we have is tiny at approximately 10x6 metres and at the point we took occupancy was a pretty much a blank canvas, so we had lots to do. In terms of the 'big ticket' items, the list looked something like this:

  • Deep clean (unit had been empty for quite some time) and painting of exposed surfaces 
  • Removal of old domestic electrical runs (unit used to be a set of small offices - the false ceilings and partition walls were thankfully removed before we got the keys)
  • Fitting of hygienic wall cladding in wet area
  • Plumbing in of water connections and filtration system for filling CLT, HLT for top-up and connection for hose/pressure wash
  • Installation of electrical system throughout unit and connection to kettle and HLT
  • Installation of additional lighting
  • Cutting and laying drainage channel and connection to foul waste egress point
  • Installation of hygienic resin flooring
  • Installation of pallet shelving and wooden shelving as required
  • Installation of work area to include stainless sink and tables
  • Cutting of hole for steam egress and installation of and connection to chimney

Having spent a lot of time visiting other breweries and discussing the various pros and cons of their set ups across most or all of these items, it became clear that while there may be some 'best practices' such as having drainage points close to brewing vessels and using IP65+ rated electrical connections as high up as possible, the design and layout is ultimately dependent on the unit you'll be building into and how the vessels will be laid out within that. One of the best tips we received was to make life-sized paper templates of the brewing vessels and lay those out on the floor, moving them around until the layout worked best within the space. While I had done this electronically before we got the keys, being able to visualise up close was invaluable and ultimately led to the layout being changed. The vessel location really does govern everything else, so spend time getting that exactly right.

Once the vessel location was decided, the drainage and floor layout came into focus. We got quotes for different options from a specialist brewery flooring firm but in the end it worked out a lot cheaper (less than half the price) to using a local builder/drainage firm to cut and install the channel we wanted, then a specialist resin flooring company to lay the resin. Once those items were completed, we were in a position to move the vessels out of storage and start on the electrical work. The photo below shows the unit just after the resin flooring was laid. Note the two drainage points running in different directions.

Resin flooring laid up to two drainage channels, one in the centre of the 'wet area' and the other to the edge of the packaging area. The channel runs down to the front of the unit and connects to the foul waste egress point by going under the wall into the WC. You can also see the HLT and cleaning point connections to the right. 

With the flooring down, it was the turn of the electrical contractor. The paper templates were laid down again and connection points drawn in marker pen on the film that was covering the wall cladding. We had a separate breaker box installed that could be accessed easily between the HLT and mash tun. Two days later, work was complete bar wiring up the elements.

We installed the pallet shelving whilst the electricians were working. Next was moving the vessels into place, which was a fun day logistically. This involved using a local transport firm to drive the kit from where it was stored to the brewery. It was loaded and unloaded using a forklift (with me looking on nervously) then moved into place based on the design we'd set out with the paper templates. I had lots of help from friends that day, including Siren kindly lending us their forklift! The photo below shows the vessels in place.

The following week we set about completing the brew house installation and running in the final water connections. This shot was taken on a Friday evening and I think it was about 10am Monday morning when we decided the layout wasn't quite right, with hindsight. The reason being that connecting up to the heat exchanger (in the very far left corner, left of the kettle you can just about see) would've required a lot more copper and plumbing and from where it was located, tricky plumbing at that. So, we decided to swap the location of the CLT and FVs so the CLT was adjacent to the heat exchanger. We were lucky in that at 5BBL, FVs are light enough to be carried, dragged and persuaded into location and the pallet truck was able to get under the heavier CLT. The photo below shows the brewery at the end of that phase. 

The final week of the build out saw us installing the work area, cutting the chimney hole, installing and connecting up the chiller and temperature controls, frantically ordering chemicals and ingredients and generally fretting about the upcoming first brew and various couplers and connectors we were still missing. The photo below shows the completed installation.

On reflection, the installation went fairly smoothly. If I could pass on any tips, I think the key things are probably these:
  • Visit lots of breweries and observe. The question to ask is: "If you could start from scratch with the design and layout, what would you do differently?" - I guarantee you any brewer will merrily talk for hours on this topic!
  • Start with the vessel layout as everything really is dependent on that
  • From there, plan how the rest of the space will be used and mark that out on the floor
  • Don't be afraid to change things around if they're not right as you progress with the build. Once everything is in place, it's nigh on impossible to change it and will involve down time.

Part IV, the final piece in this series, should be up later this week. If you have any questions or comments, please do post them below!

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Announcing Open It! on 16th April

Open It was originally a joint effort between Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg, with the first one being held sometime in 2010. The idea was a simple one - to create an 'occasion' for opening one or more of those special bottles we all stash away for a rainy day, then either join in the chat on twitter or blog about it if you fancied. A fairly relaxed and casual affair, all told. The idea evolved over time and there were even live gatherings including one very memorable night in Leeds.

A few of us will be getting together at Burslem's Otter's Tears on Saturday April 16th to share some beers and we figured it'd be a great opportunity to bring back Open It for the night so others could join in and crack open something special to enjoy at home, or wherever they may be.

Coincidentally, Mark will be running the London Marathon the following weekend and has organised a couple of events in London to help raise funds for his chosen charity, Evalina Children's Hospital. It would be great if we could raise a few quid to help him in his fundraising efforts, so if you feel like donating on the evening you can do that HERE.

So, to recap, on Saturday April 16th, have a rummage in the beer cupboard for one of those bottles you've been saving for a special occasion, crack it open, tweet about it and join in the chat using #openit and if you're able, stick a few pennies in Mark's charity fund. What could be simpler?

Tuesday 26 January 2016

All-grain brewing at home

In a slight diversion from the So you wanna open a brewery? series of posts (returning with Part III next week), I thought it might be helpful to potential home brewers out there to document the fairly simple process I use for all-grain brewing at home. It's possible to spend many hundreds or even thousands of pounds on equipment when you really don't need to do that in order to make good beer. That's not to say you won't do that once you've caught the bug, of course!

I have two separate setups at home - my original 20L setup which has a cool box mash tun and plastic HLT/kettle (shown below, total cost about £200) and a 100L gas-fired stainless setup which I use for larger brews. This will become my pilot kit at Elusive combined with a 0.5BBL conical fermentor. It's fair to say most of my home brewing is done in the kitchen on the smaller rig and that's the one I'll cover here.

The mash tun was purchased from The Home Brew Shop in Aldershot. It's the one shown here. It has probably cost me about £1 per brew by this stage and is still going strong. I use a Peco Electrim boiler as a combined HLT and Kettle. The one shown here is a bit more fancy than mine which doesn't have the external digital control, although I did add a hop filter and ball valve with barb to mine as shown here.

My basic process is as follows:

  • Heat the strike liquor in the kettle while cleaning the mash tun and weighing out the grains and any liquor treatment salts. I'll usually give the MT a rinse through with boiling water and check the outlet and false bottom are free of grain debris. I'll also prepare a bucket of StarSan by mixing 7ml of concentrated solution with 5L of the Tesco bottled water (about £1.20) in a small plastic flexi-tub. I'll use this throughout the day - if in doubt, dunk it in!
  • Once the liquor is up to temperature, I'll mash in and measure and adjust the temperature as needed using cold or very hot water until I'm at the desired mash temperature - usually around 65-66C. I use a kitchen thermometer for this which has an external probe I can safely leave in the mash as I stir. Something like this (you can get them cheaper). With practice, you'll probably be able to avoid the need to adjust the temperature by getting the liquor just right for your setup and the ambient grain temperature.
  • I'll then re-fill the kettle and leave the sparge liquor to warm while the mash is left to rest. This usually works out well time-wise so it'll be up to temperature by the time you start sparging.
  • After the desired mash rest time, I'll use a 2L plastic jug to recirculate until the wort runs clear. Basically opening the tap (initially only partially) and filling the jug with wort then slowly and carefully pouring the jug contents back over the mash being careful to not disturb the mash bed.
  • Once the wort is running clear, I'll run off into a plastic fermentation bucket, which I'll have cleaned thoroughly then rinsed with boiling water before rinsing with StarSan. From this point on (and especially post boil), sanitation is key and something I pay a lot of attention to!

Bagels - nom!
  • As the wort runs off, I'll slowly add sparge water using the same 2L plastic jug and gentle pouring method over the entire mash, again taking care not to disturb it too much. 
  • Once I've run off the right amount of wort, I'll empty the remainder of the sparge liquor from the kettle and use my trusty (cleaned, again!) jug to move the first few litres of wort into the kettle until I'm able to safely lift and pour the remainder in.
  • The wort will then be boiled as per the recipe and then allowed to cool slightly. I'll manually create a whirlpool with my mash paddle to encourage trub to drop below the tap and hop filter while the first few degrees are lost.
  • Once the trub has dropped and the wort looks clear in the kettle I'll run the hot wort off into the same plastic FV, which will have been fully sanitised for a second time, then stick the lid on with the airlock hole bunged up. Sanitisation is now hugely important!
  • The FV will then be sat in a cold bath until the wort has reached the desired pitching temperature, which usually takes a couple of hours depending on the water temperature. As it initially cools, you'll need to let the steam out of the FV or the lid will pop off. In summer I'll add ice to the bath to bring the ambient mains water temperature down. 
  • A sample for gravity measurement will be taken using a sanitised turkey baster and the yeast will then be pitched into the aerated wort and left to work its magic, after putting the airlock in place. These days I have a temperature controlled fridge (a fairly recent addition) but as long as you have a room that sits at a reasonably steady temperature and you're using a yeast which works well at that temperature you'll be fine. My first 30 odd fermentations were done in the dining room. In winter I used to wrap the FV in a blanket to help keep the warmth in and would use an external temperature strip stuck to the outside of the FV to be able to keep an eye on it without disturbing the fermentation

In summary, most of the beer I've produced at home has been made using only a mash tun, a combined HLT/kettle, a plastic bucket and a plastic jug. Learning and refining the overall process (and of course your recipes!) is far more important than spending lots of money on expensive kit. I would ideally use a wort chiller (my bigger kit has a plate chiller) but I've got an annoying tap in the kitchen which would mean having to run hoses about the place from the garden. I've managed fine without one though and they aren't especially cheap.

If you're really on a budget, have a look into the BIAB approach. You can achieve great results using that method and it won't cost as much as the kit shown here. Also, if you're the hands-on type, you can certainly save money by making or modifying your own kit, for example converting an existing cool box rather than buying a pre-converted one.

Monday 18 January 2016

So you wanna open a brewery? Part II

In the first part of this series of blog posts I covered a fairly broad range of subjects and ended with a question about addressing different markets. The response to that and other points raised in the post drew some incredibly helpful comments from the owners of a number of fantastically successful breweries, so I would recommend revisiting that post and having a read before continuing on here.

In wrapping up that post, I suggested this second part would cover premises build-out, layout, pricing and sales. However, I'm going to stray slightly from that and focus instead on the administrative/permission side of setting up a brewery in the UK first. I received a number of emails from others in a similar position (or considering starting a brewery) that suggested to me that this might prove a useful area to drill down further into and also received some advice offline that I'd like to share as part of that. I'll cover premises build-out, layout, pricing and sales in Part III.

Before we get into the detail of how to go about obtaining them, here are the things you'll need to cover as a minimum before you can operate a commercial brewery:
  • Obtaining planning permission, or obtaining premises that already have B1C or B2. I'm not going to re-cover this below - contact the local authority to see what they expect and go from there!
  • Setting up a limited company (or registering as a sole trader)
  • Opening a business banking account
  • Registering for VAT
  • Registering with HMRC for beer duty
  • Registering for Corporation Tax 
  • Informing the local Environmental Health department
  • Obtaining permission to discharge effluent
  • Registering under the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS)
  • Obtaining Insurance

Limited Company

The process of registering is actually pretty straightforward and is completed entirely online. You'll need to provide the registered address of the company, names and address of directors and the number of shares each has etc. The process may be simple but in following it, you're signing up to some legal obligations so would do well to read up on those (e.g. requirement to submit accounts by certain dates or face fines). The place to go is here. I received my company number by email a couple of days after applying followed by lots of bumph in the post. If you use your home address as the registered company address expect to receive your first junk mail a few days later! Also, be alert to spam callers from that point - I had one who sounded very convincing and timed it perfectly to try to deceptively obtain my electricity supply contract, no doubt with a nice commission for them.

The other option is to register as a sole trader. There are pros and cons to each, certainly, and it may depend on your personal circumstances as to which is best. This article outlines some of the differences. Consider consulting with an accountant if you're not sure which is the best path

Business Banking

Now, you'd think trying to give a bank some money would be easy but you can end up jumping through a few hoops to open a business account including being credit checked and providing a good amount of personal information, especially if you'd like an overdraft facility etc. I started out by reading through the information available on Martin Lewis' excellent Money Saving Expert site which listed a few deals for free business banking for a certain period etc. I ended up going with my own bank and it just happened to be offering free banking to new business for a period of 18 months. Do read through the charges you can expect after that period - nothing is really 'free' in business! It took me about five days to open an account and this included an interview with an advisor who asked me a few questions about the cashflow forecast I'd submitted and also pointed out that I'd used Andy as my name with Companies House and Andrew in my banking application. Changing it on the application would have meant resubmitting the whole thing (yep!) but fortunately changing the director details with Companies House can be done online.


For details of how and when (and if!) to register go here. You can elect to register voluntarily before you're required to but be aware that if you do, you're then automatically on the hook for the legal obligations as if you were required to register. I registered voluntarily once I'd paid for my brewery kit because VAT was charged and I'd like to claim it back along with any VAT paid out on during the build-out process. You'll be asked for the business bank account, company number, directors details and offered a number of options/schemes as part of the application process. Once you start, you can save your progress and come back so don't worry about reading up on something you're not sure about. Once the application was completed, I received my VAT number the next day. As part of applying you set up an account on a portal that you'll return to in order to submit returns etc. Tip: the login username is only shown once (a long number) so screenshot it!

Beer Duty

All breweries must be registered with HMRC by law and are required to pay duty on what's produced. The notice that covers this is Excise Notice 226: Beer Duty and reading that from top to bottom is a good place to start! The document covers the application process towards the end. You'll need to copy the questions into a new document and provide answers as required, attaching the required supporting information which includes a plan of the premises where duty suspended produce will be stored. I've had a few tips from others here including something relatively new whereby HMRC will visit you and interview you as a matter of course (this used to be at their discretion). They'll ask to see your brewery premises, the equipment and details of how you're planning to monitor and track the amount of duty you should be paying once you're up and running. I actually submitted my application today so can't write about my personal experience yet. The application also asks for your VAT number and company number so you should look to complete those processes first.

Corporation Tax

All limited companies must register for corporation tax. This is the tax you pay on profits of the company and requires you to submit audited accounts according to a schedule set based on your first accounting period (determined based on when you register). Everything you need to know is covered here. Again, there are legal obligations here. If you're not comfortable with them it's probably best to speak to a small business accountant.

Environmental Health

Breweries are now assessed under the same guidelines as food producers and you can expect to receive a visit from an Environmental Health Officer once you notify them that you're producing beer. When and how to do with this will vary depending on the local authority so contact the local council to discuss it with them. Most will assess under the Food Hygiene Rating scheme and you'll receive a rating like any food production facility might.

Effluent Discharge

You'll need to contact your water supplier to discuss their requirements here. Since breweries produce waste that requires treatment you'll need to register with your supplier and they'll charge you based on the volume you expect to discharge and the type of effluent you're discharging. Some breweries I've spoken to are visited periodically to have samples taken for analysis. The permit application process for Thames Water is covered here.


The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme introduces a requirement for anyone who sells, offers or exposes for sale or arranges to sell alcohol to other businesses on or after the point at which excise duty is payable, to be approved by HMRC. This is a new scheme which is covered by Excise Notice 2002. I plan to register for this once I've completed my duty registration. Note that in future, you'll be required to check that anyone you sell alcohol to is also registered, if they'll be selling on to others (e.g. distributors).


All small businesses should have insurance to protect them against theft, loss/damage and public liability. This isn't something I have in place yet but will look to do so before I start trading. It's also likely your building lease will be issued on a repairing basis - that is, you're liable for repairs to any damage that occurs during your tenancy. This may be worth considering as part of insurance coverage too.

So that's the end of Part II of this series of posts - perhaps duller than Part I but hopefully interesting and useful to some! 

Breweries - is there anything you can add to the above? Please do pitch in and share your experiences of the above processes and any tips you can offer!