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Craft Beer Times | Could contract brewing be the savior of craft beer businesses?

Could contract brewing be the savior of craft beer businesses?

Could contract brewing be the savior of craft beer businesses?

Is Contract Brewing the Craft Beer Savior?

The Rise of Craft Beer

In recent years, craft beer has taken the alcoholic beverage market by storm. Independent breweries crafting unique and flavorful beers have gained a loyal following among beer enthusiasts worldwide. The craft beer movement has allowed for a renaissance of creativity and choice in an industry that was once dominated by large-scale, mass production.

The Struggles of Independent Breweries

However, the craft beer landscape is not without its challenges. Many independent breweries face significant hurdles in production scalability, distribution networks, and establishing a competitive edge in the market. These obstacles can be overwhelming, especially for small, local breweries with limited resources.

What is Contract Brewing?

Contract brewing is a potential solution for craft beer businesses looking to overcome these obstacles. In a contract brewing arrangement, a brewery outsources the production of its beer to another facility, often a larger brewery equipped with the necessary infrastructure and resources. The brewery that owns the recipe and brand still maintains control over the creative process and quality standards.

Benefits of Contract Brewing

1. Cost Efficiency and Scalability

One of the primary advantages of contract brewing is the ability to produce beer at a larger scale without requiring significant capital investment. By utilizing an existing brewery’s facilities, craft beer businesses can save on costs related to infrastructure, equipment, and staffing. This cost efficiency enables smaller breweries to increase production, meet growing demand, and expand their reach without crippling financial burdens.

2. Access to Professional Expertise

Contract brewing allows breweries to tap into the knowledge and experience of seasoned professionals. Established breweries that offer contract brewing services often have talented brewmasters and lab technicians who can provide invaluable guidance in terms of recipe formulation, brewing techniques, and quality control. This access to expertise can help craft beer businesses refine their products and elevate their brews to new heights.

3. Enhanced Distribution Opportunities

One major struggle for craft breweries is establishing a robust distribution network to reach a broader consumer base. Contract brewing partnerships can provide access to an existing distribution network, allowing craft beers to be distributed alongside mass-market brands. This newfound accessibility can significantly increase the visibility of craft beers in retail stores, bars, and restaurants, giving them a fighting chance in a competitive marketplace.

Considerations and Potential Drawbacks

1. Loss of Control and Identity

While contract brewing offers numerous benefits, it does come with some potential downsides. One of the primary concerns for craft beer businesses is the loss of control over the production process. When outsourcing brewing to another facility, there is a risk that the brew may not perfectly align with the brewer’s vision or desired quality. Additionally, some argue that contract brewing can dilute a brewery’s brand identity, as it becomes less associated with the traditional notions of small-batch, independent brewing.

2. Finding the Right Partner

Finding the right partner for contract brewing is crucial for a successful collaboration. It is essential to carefully vet potential contract brewing facilities and ensure that they align with the brewery’s values, quality standards, and commitment to craft brewing. Building a strong partnership with open communication and shared vision is essential to maintain the integrity of the brand throughout the contract brewing process.


Contract brewing presents an attractive option for craft beer businesses seeking to overcome the challenges of production scalability and distribution. By tapping into the resources, expertise, and distribution networks of established breweries, independent breweries can continue to focus on their craft, produce high-quality beers, and expand their market presence without losing their unique character.


Dustin is a writer about craft beer and a professional brewer in the city of Chicago. He has written for several magazines and has over a decade of experience in the beer industry. He is currently working on a book about the history of beer in Chicago.

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