Winterlong Brewing: Should I Stay or Should I Grow?

winterlong brewing co.

One of the top discussions among up-and-coming breweries is the best size to start, and whether it’s better to start big and grow into the system, or continually update.

Truthfully there are pros and cons to each case, and every brewery starting out has its own circumstances. For Winterlong Brewing Co., in Whitehorse, Yukon, they estimated the need of their brewhouse based on the sale of 175 growlers a week.

“Originally, we calculated how many growlers of beer we could probably sell in a week (175 growlers), and figured that if we brewed once per week, a 3 bbl brewhouse would be the right size,” explained Marko Marjanovic, the owner of Winterlong Brewing. “When we were ordering our brewing equipment we had discussed ordering additional fermenters, but decided that we would wait to see how our beer was received.”

Marjanovic and his wife and co-owner Meghan watched sales over the first two weeks. “After two weeks it was apparent that we needed more capacity, and we placed our order right away,” he said. “So, our projections did indeed match up with reality.”

Owning a large brewhouse from the start wasn’t an option for Winterlong Brewing. “My wife and I both had full-time jobs, a new mortgage, had never really owned a business before and had never commercially brewed,” said Marjanovic. “It seemed wildly ambitious to us to even start with a 3 bbl brewhouse. We were able to purchase a 3 bbl brewhouse with personal savings and lines of credit. Had we wanted anything larger, we would have had to look for investors, which was something we had never done before, and again, seemed ambitious and too risky.”

The small brewhouse allowed Marjanovic and Meghan to learn quickly with minor loss when something went ary. “Had we started with a larger brewhouse, we probably would have made many mistakes that would have been exponentially more costly,” he said. “But we know continual expansion at our brewhouse size is not efficient and will have to step it up in order to really grow.”

For only being open for four months, Winterlong Brewing has made strides that a lot of breweries experience in the beginning. “Our original plan was to only sell Party Pigs, an 8.5 liter home draft system,” said Marjanovic. “A few months into getting our brewery started, the company that makes Party Pigs stopped making them. We quickly changed the business plan to be growler only sales.”

While this wasn’t in the equation, it was close enough for only slight adjustments to be made to get a grasp of reality in the business plan. “However, keg sales and bottles started creeping into the equation quickly, so we doubled up on cellar capacity and ordered a small bottling machine,” explained Marjanovic. “We are already way ahead of our latest business plan.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *