Translation: If most craft breweries are akin to spacious but modest homes, Bluejacket, when it opens in May or June, will be a small mansion with all the amenities. The quantity and variety of equipment, much more than a brewery of its size would usually have and all custom-built, will arguably make Bluejacket like no other small brewery in the country: a facility that NRG hopes will turn out a staggeringly diverse, constantly changing array of topnotch beers.
To understand why this strategy is so unusual, it is helpful to extend the real-estate analogy. Just as most home buyers differ from most property developers, most aspiring brewers don’t have NRG’s track record, management team and experience attracting outside financing. So like families on a budget, brewers start with the basics, moving into properties and improving them bit by bit.
Instead of building additions, they increase production volumes, and thus revenues and cash flow, by buying bigger brew kettles and more and larger fermentation tanks. Rather than renovating bathrooms, they replace grain mills, packaging lines or other essential equipment. Eventually they might add a wish-list item or two such as a lab, but like home fitness centers or movie theaters, expensive and specialized improvements are hard to afford and justify. Dream breweries, like dream homes, are often just that: dreams.
In addition, many brewers wouldn’t want a facility like Bluejacket’s even if they could afford it. Consider Eataly’s Birreria brewpub in New York and Dogfish Head’s Rehoboth Beach brewpub, both of which are affiliated with well-funded enterprises yet are much less ambitious than Bluejacket will be. Standalone breweries, too, are usually planned differently for reasons other than money — reasons that become clear when you consider that building a new brewery is a study in tradeoffs.
Should the brewery make large volumes of a few flagship beers and occasional one-offs, or small volumes of many beers, many of which will only be brewed once? Should it have relatively few large, all-purpose fermentation vessels, and thus a more efficient and streamlined production process, or many small, occasionally highly specialized vessels? Should it mostly brew beers that mature (and thus generate revenue) relatively quickly, such as pale ales and India pale ales, or devote much of its production to slower-maturing beers, such as cold-fermented lagers and sour ales fermented with wild yeasts and bacteria?