Building Your Brand with Contract Brewing

Sten Sellier was like many aspiring brewery owners, he wanted to start his own brand and sell beer to the public.

But as he was working through that plan in 2011, he noticed a hole in the market and capitalized on it. Instead of having his Beltway Brewing make beer under that branding, he has worked at helping others since opening in Virginia in 2013.

That means Sellier has loads of tips to share for breweries that are looking to grow through contract brewing.

Although contract brewing usually conjures up large beverage production facilities, Sellier has positioned Beltway to cater to start-ups that may not have a brewhouse or breweries looking for help in a larger amount of a certain brand.

Having answers to questions before getting going into a decision like this is a key, Sellier said.

“We do have to ask a lot of questions about about funding,” he pointed out. “Do you have a license? Do you know how to sell beer? Do you have a distributor lined up? Do you have reasonable forecasts.

“Do you understand what your margin is going to be in this equation where we make all the beer and you market and sell it? Where’s your piece and have you really thought that through? Those tend to be our early questions to weed out the people that know what they’re doing or have a good plan and those that don’t.”

Now, after helping multiple clients grow, the brewery has seen a shift in what is needed for it and is adjusting accordingly. The increase of a brewery’s need for one-offs or smaller batches has meant halting Beltway’s growth in ways by instead of adding 120-barrels tanks to the facility for the 30-bbl brewhouse, Sellier is thinking of adding some 30s instead. Being able to be more flexible for clients is a key while also opening up room to work with non-brewing venues to create white/private label beers with the same personal touch that they have given to contract partners.

Grimm Artisanal Ales has been our biggest client over the the years,” Sellier said. “They finally opened the brewery and phased us down. We’ve been so dedicated to contract brewing that we haven’t really done many of our brands. But that is something that we are on looking to do a little bit more of. Not for widespread distribution but to really showcase our abilities and our diverse skills that have been acquired through all the styles that we’ve made.

“We can give people an opportunity to try some of the brands we’ve developed and this is going to be our business card to represent what we can do for clients.”

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