"If you're not first, you're last" might be good enough for Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, but I say screw that!
I am sitting in Golden, Colorado's second largest brewery sipping a Mad Molly Brown Ale. There is a large difference between 1st and 2nd here in Golden. I understand being second....and last. I can attest, while having not exactly thrived, it isn't a bad place to be. I am the second son, and last child. I am often second best to whomever else, sometimes dead last. I have a great personality, and am a loyal companion....and my character is about as built as it can get.....The brewery does what it does in the shadow of that larger brewery across town.
The brewery itself is located in the back yard of the brewmaster who lives in the historic district of Golden. As I sit here, I can look out the window, into the neighbor's yard. I can't help feeling a little sorry for the neighbors, unless, they like beer and have an "agreement". Even I wouldn't want to live over there. Everything about the Golden City Brewery is second rate, second hand, and second .....well something....everything, except that is, their friendlieness and commitment to their craft. In the last few moments I have watched a number of people come in for growlers, kegs, and pints for the beer garden. I am alone inside listening to classic rock, and the sound of the breeze clinking the collection of World Beer Cup and GABF medals together as they hang unceremoniously on a hook next to the bar. Some are gold, (that is, not second). A few locals sit outside in the beer garden. This brewery has been around for years and years. It was here when I worked in Golden in the mid nineties. It is in the same location.
This is the brewery that I would build if (when?) I were to build a brewery. Nothing about it says "look at me!" It is the kind of brewery that should be tucked away every little cool neighborhood. The kind of place you go because you know to avoid the tourist and hipster crowds. The pints are $3 during happy hour (open-3pm), otherwise $4. They currently have 6 beers on tap, and the three that I have had are decent representatives of their styles.
I can't speak to their profitability, but, knowing that I am producing beers at $0.30-$0.60 cents a bottle (or $6 per gallon)....perhaps it is a workable business model. In the hour I have been sitting here, they have sold 1 keg ($115), 4 growler refills ($12.50), approximately 12 pints ($3), two pitchers ($11), one sampler flight of beers ($7), and two orders of pizza ($5 to $10 depending on what it was). Approximately, $230 per hour. If their expenses are in the ball park of mine *(they have labor, equipment, and rent to contend with, but brew in larger batches for volume discounts), their costs are $45-90 for the keg, $6-12 for the growlers, and $6-8 for the pints, and $2 for the flight of samples. $112 or less. One hour, off-peak. $100 profit.
I am not saying that brewing is an easy money proposition, but it doesn't seem like this is impossible. The hardest part is start up costs and actually doing the work before you make enough to hire some employees.