What These Breweries Would Have Done Different to Open Their Taprooms

A long-time member of the Bent Paddle staff, Pepin Young has seen changes to the Duluth, Minnesota brewery’s taproom. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but having the ability to look back and help design positive changes to the brewery’s taproom was vital to help growth. 

“Building in a space where you know that you have a population and a workforce is pretty important,” he told Brewer. “If you’re thinking about putting yourself up in a sleeper community or a farm community you have to think about how many people are going to be there. 

“You may be able to get the customers but will you be able to draw the staffing in order to staff the business is a thing too.”

Before you open that next taproom or make an update to the one you have, spend a lot of time traveling to other places and not just look for what places doing things right, but look for places that aren’t working. 

“Then just make sure you’re not making the same missteps,” Young said.

For Mother Road’s Dylan Prater, the most important aspect when he came aboard was food service. Prior to the pandemic, there was no food service and the Flagstaff, Arizona brewery relied on carry-in from a neighboring restaurant.

In order to reopen for dine-in services, they bought their own food truck. 

“This really marked the point where we began to see ourselves as a restaurant, rather than the tasting room of a regional brewery,” Prater said. “We knew that our growth in the hospitality sector would depend on us expanding our food and beverage options alongside the fantastic product that was coming from our production facility.”

Young also shared with Brewer some of the key changes that Bent Paddle made over the years, or things that he shared for breweries making that change to a new property to think about.

HIRE RIGHT: Young said they pride themselves on having an incredibly low turnover rate. 

“That’s because of the philosophy of having a “life inside of the life outside of a life,” he said. “We want to draw people to us that have things going on in their lives that really fulfill them. 

“It’s a balance of having enough going on outside of the taproom in the brewery that fulfills you as much as what can fulfill you from the inside.”

UNDERSTAND YOUR AREA: Know, your municipality, Young said.

“There’s cities and counties that are more friendly,” he said. “When you’re thinking about where you’re going … really look at who it is you are working with as a partner.

“Your city is your partner, and what you want to do, and what they want you to do, might be very different. I’ve definitely have heard of stories where people have propped themselves up in what was originally a really super brewery friendly municipality. Then you have some change, elections … all these different things. So, maintaining those relationships are super, super important. Know what city you’re gonna be in and what is their appetite for supporting small business.”

MOVE? … OR REBUILD? If you have a great space, think about rebuilding inside it instead.

“If your location’s not great, that’s really when you want to talk about what you can do to find a location that’s going to fit you best,” he said. 

Photo courtesy Bent Paddle Brewing

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