Contract Brewing: What’s the Deal, Yo?

Image by bookfinch via Flickr.
Image by bookfinch via Flickr.

As we mentioned earlier this week, we.ve been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about the different definitions and types of brewers. We believe that the same transparency that many are rooting for in the Craft vs. Crafty debate extends to contract brewing, too. The main reason being that as a retailer, we owe it to our customers to know as much as possible about the beer we sell and be facilitators of information. Knowing how much or little a brewer participates in the process of creating a beer, where it.s made, and who oversees the process from start to finish is of genuine interest to us.

So here are the definitions we.ve culled and collaborated on . and by no means are these set in stone. Like any word definition, we realize we have to start somewhere and tweak as necessary. And we want to be clear that we.re not trying to make any sort of hierarchy or distinction that any of these business models are better or worse than one another. We think that understanding the many different ways that beer is created will only help enthusiasts and the community to better understand where their beer comes from and how it.s made.

Full Contract Brewer With Record

  • This beer or brewing company does not have, or operate in, its own brewery or brewpub.
  • All recipe formulation, test-batches, etc., are done by this beer or brewing company, who are themselves valid and reputable home brewers who may have brewed on a commercial system.
  • Some of the time this model will operate a tasting room, touring facility, and company store on a premise that houses their test-batch equipment, as a place for people to visit.
  • The brewer chooses their own level of involvement with regard to the brewing process. However, they can never be entirely in control of the beer being brewed because the contract facilities do not allow them to use equipment or .get their hands dirty,. so to speak. The contracted facility is always working from a recipe provided to them by the contract brewer. Some brewers may show up and/or oversee the process from start to finish, while others may check in at various times throughout the fermentation process.

Full Contract Brewer Without Record

  • This beer or brewing company does not have or operate in its own brewery, brewpub, or facility.
  • Most or all of the recipe formulation is done by the head brewer at the contract brewing facility. This mode may also be referred to as a beer marketing company, where the people behind it may be craft beer lovers but have no practical experience in brewing, but instead are more focused on the business side of owning a brewery.

Partial Contract Brewer

  • This is a brewer who owns and operates from a facility, either a brewery or a brewpub, but moves part of their production to another brewing facility for the purpose of achieving or having access to increased production, canning and bottling lines, and/or special projects that require larger equipment.
  • The brewer chooses their own level of involvement with regard to the brewing process. However, they can never be entirely in control of the beer being brewed because the contract facilities do not allow them to use equipment or .get their hands dirty,. so to speak. The contracted facility is always working from a recipe provided to them by the contract brewer. Some brewers may show up and/or oversee the process from start to finish, while others may check in at various times throughout the fermentation process.

Tenant Brewer

  • Also known as .Alternating Proprietorship,. this beer or brewing company operates from a facility that is not their own, but is wholly or partially leased.
  • This brewer formulates their own recipes and brews their own beer without assistance from the location.s facilities. Sometimes the brewing facility may maintain a staff for receiving, cleaning, and bottling.duties that have no direct involvement in the beer being brewed.

Gypsy Brewer

  • Disclaimer: We think it.s important to note that the word .gypsy. itself when used in this context could probably be 86.d altogether and replaced with something more PC and less offensive.
  • As the term .gypsy. implies, this brewer is a wanderer. It’s also perhaps a figment of our imagination . a gypsy brewer spends much of their time traveling to different facilities to physically brew their beer, start to finish, with no real involvement from the facility.
  • The Gypsy Brewer should have some commercial brewing experience.
  • Though we believe we will see more gypsy brewers in the years to come, we don.t know of a true Gypsy Brewer at this time.
  • With the growth of the craft beer movement and investment in the industry, we think there will be breweries built to house gypsy brewers only, yet we assume there will be another tier added for the Tenant-Gypsy brewer, which we.ll tackle when that happens.
  • We assume that these brewing facilities would have an in-house staff for cleaning, organization, scheduling, receiving, and would offer standard access to base malts, hops, etc., with brewers being responsible for their own yeast and specialty ingredients.

What do you think of these definitions? Did we miss anything? How can we make them better?

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