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Opening a Brewery #1: Location, Location, Location

This is the first article in a series of articles about opening a small brewery in Hyattsville, MD a stone’s throw from DC If you’d like me to answer a specific question about opening a small brewery, tweet @JonCetrano or shoot me an email at jon.cetrano@streetcar82.com, and I’ll do my best to write about it.

I’m opening Streetcar 82 Brewing Co with two other partners, Mark and Sam. After we decided to open a brewery, our next decision was: where? We initially thought DC would be a good location for us and toured the city. Everywhere we looked, the rent was too damn high! One industrial building we looked at in Ivy City was $14,000 a month. For us to be able to do that, we’d need at least a few million dollars to open up, jump right into a 30 barrel production system, and have distribution ready to go to make it financially feasible.

“But what about investors?” you ask. “With investors you can get more capital and access!” Eh,  that is true, but the problem with outside dollars is that it comes with a corresponding loss of control over your vision. For example, we did go through a Shark Tank-type thing, and the money came with a 25 percent ownership stake attached. If we accepted then that means that they’d be equal partners with the three of us. It also means we’d lose independent brewery status right off the bat. So we decided to pass on the money, scale down, and reformat our vision for our brewery.       

Mark convinced us to take a look at Hyattsville, MD, where he lives. It’s an up and coming small town right next to DC with a growing hub of creatives, a city hall that enthusiastically supports small businesses, and a truly welcoming community. I even started playing beer league ice hockey with the guys that own the bike shop in town! Economically, it also made sense as the rent is just about a fourth the price of the DC locations we looked at. Location, economics, community. All those boxes were checked off; so we decided on Hyattsville and haven’t looked back.

We’re working toward opening sometime in the spring of 2018 at 4824 Rhode Island Ave. Right now, plumbing and two new bathrooms are going in, which is a major upgrade for our space,  formerly a garage. Our 3.5-barrel brewhouse, four 7-barrel fermenting vessels, and a brite tank are on order from Blichmann Engineering and should be shipped by late February. Meanwhile we’re creating test batches on our pilot system, getting our recipes in order, and figuring out our opening lineup of Belgian-inspired beers, which I’ll dive into more in a future article.

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