Give Yourself Lots of Time When Opening Brewery

Note – This story originally appeared in the January 4 edition of the Santa Barbara News Press.

Update: Pure Order’s electrical system is up and running and the brewhouse is fully functional. This article’s suggestion that the brewery could be up and serving beer sometime in February is still viable.

So, you want to open your own brewery? If you’re a home brewer like James Burge was, the thought probably crossed your mind more than once. Your friends probably tell you how great your beer is and that you could totally sell this stuff, man.

Back in August, this space proudly proclaimed that the Santa Barbara beer community was getting a new member in Pure Order Brewing Company. James, along with his cousin and business partner David Burge, were hoping to open their brewery in the coming months. Six months later, and the Burges are still in the process of opening their doors.

“I think we’re outside of what we hoped, but inside of what we realistically planned upon,” Dave said. “We hoped that it would be a smooth, straightforward process. But we’ve both done enough work in construction to have planned on running into a lot of different snags – and we ran into just about every one we planned for. At least we planned for it though.”

So the first lesson in building your own brewery – give yourself lots of time. James and David founded their company as an LLC in 2011, and instantly ran into snags. The first problem was the most obvious: where would they open? The one thing working in their favor was that Santa Barbara already allowed breweries in M1, or light manufacturing, zones. But finding the right building in an M1 zone took some patience.

“We needed a certain amount of square feet, we needed a certain height of the building, and so on and so forth,” James said. “That narrowed it down to about 10 buildings in the area – zero of which were for sale or for lease.”

The Burges finally found a location at 410 N. Quarantina St. that fit their needs, and they signed a lease in December 2012 – 18 months after forming the company. The next step was to get brewing permits. That meant a Brewing Notice from the federal Tax and Trade Bureau. That took a couple of months for James and Dave, who were then able to get their Type 23 brewing license from the California Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

This permit allows Pure Order to brew beer, sell it wholesale and serve it on site in their beer garden and tap room. But, there’s a catch. Remember – the first lesson is to give yourself plenty of time. In order for the brewing license to be finalized, the location must be capable of brewing. But Pure Order can’t brew yet, because it has no power.

While all you need to brew at home is a stove and a pot, a professional brewhouse requires upgraded plumbing and electrical services. Upgrading those systems would be easy enough, but it also takes approval from the city’s department of building and safety – approval that has been hard to come by.

“At no point did we consciously choose actions that would have ramifications, but they did,” Dave said. “We never tried to sneak anything by anybody. Everything we did was done out in the open, it just turned out that some things that were done were things they didn’t like.”

The technicalities and bureaucracies slowed Pure Order down, but James and Dave are much nearer opening now than they were in August. Their cautious estimate is now sometime in February.

The second lesson in building your own brewery – don’t forget why you’re going through it all.

James and David could have widened their search outside of Santa Barbara – they could have signed a lease in Goleta (they seriously considered doing exactly that). But ultimately, it was too important to stick with their plan of brewing in the American Riviera.

“It’s always been my belief, and continues to be even despite the time lost with working inside the Santa Barbara city limits rather than the Goleta city limits, that in the long run being within the Santa Barbara city limits will be better for our brand,” Dave said.

It’s important to remember that the first couple of years may be trying and difficult, but a business should be planned out a lot further in the future than a couple years. The final lesson in building your own brewery – keep practicing your craft. Pure Order’s brewhouse may not run on the 110-volt outlets already in the brewery, but their pilot system does (along with plenty of propane).

James and Dave have spent much of their time working on that system fine-tuning recipes. They’ve brewed on full-sized systems to get a feel for professional brewing, and they’ve done a good deal of research at other Santa Barbara breweries.

Ultimately, whether Pure Order opens this month, next month or sometime in 2020, it won’t matter much if James can’t brew a decent beer. He knows this as well as anybody, and if you plan on opening your own brewery, then you should, too.

Sean Lewis is a beer drinker, beer maker and beer writer. His column appears the first Thursday of the month in the Food section. Follow him on twitter @Sean_M_Lewis to see where he’s drinking in Santa Barbara County.


2 thoughts on “Give Yourself Lots of Time When Opening Brewery

  1. Pingback: Pure Order Has First Brewday | Santa Barbara Beer

  2. Pingback: Pure Order Brewing Company opens Saturday: Meet the Brewers | Santa Barbara Beer

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