How To Start Your Own Fully Licensed Bedroom Brewery

According to a few people, like Rich at the BeerCast, (http://thebeercast.com/2014/04/carbon-smith-brewing.html)
what I started in my bedroom is “game changing” and a little bit exciting. I would go with ‘necessary’ and ‘all-that-I-could-afford’ but I take the compliment all the same! This had got me thinking though, wouldn’t it be great if this started a wave of tiny micro-breweries (pico-breweries?). They wouldn’t be in it for the money, so would be purely driven by the quality of the beer. Beer for the people BY the people – a wee bit more punk than BrewDog was perhaps?

Starting your own ‘game changing’ brewery in a bedroom, kitchen, garage or shed is surprisingly easy. There is minimal paper work, only a few hoops to jump through and most importantly – It’s entirely free.

There are two main bodies you need to contact, HMRC for Duty purposes and your local Environmental Health Organisation (EHO). HMRC is the easy one, the EHO are a little bit trickier but you can still get all the work done in a few hours. The entire process took me 4 weeks.

UPDATE (09/03/2017)

As of April 2017 you will also need  to enrol on the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/alcohol-wholesaler-registration-scheme-awrs-apply-to-register

Straight forward to apply for,  just lots of bureaucracy. But you will need it if you plan to sell it to bars or wholesalers. 

Also, from huge demand here is a link for a basic HACCP plan. You can probably tell I lost the will to live towards the end. Edit it to suit your processes and systems.  Click Here to Download 

PART ONE: HMRC.

The entire beery duty code is online:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/excise-notice-226-beer-duty/

Everything you need to know about your obligations as a small brewery is in this. I would heavily recommend reading through all of it as there are some things you will need to do – for example calculating %ABV with an approved equation and using a hydrometer that is duty-approved.

What’s important here for starting up is Section 3.3, 4 and 33.

Section 33 is the form you need to fill in. If you are just brewing and packaging at your brewery you can tick A & B on part 11, and tick No on part 12 and 13. You can entirely ignore 14-17. You also now have to think entirely in Hectolitres which is 100 Litres. Roughly 176 pints.

The other thing HMRC need is a plan of where you intend to brew and what areas inside that building will be used for brewing. This can be as simple as a neat floor-plan of your house with ‘BREWING HAPPENS HERE’ in big red letters in the intended room (Word of caution however, a HMRC officer can now just walk into the rooms you list without warrant if they believe you are doing dodgy things).

This is the actual plan I sent them:

layoutedit

Send all this off to the address on the duty code and you should hear back from them within a couple of weeks. They will probably say yes, as their only concern is duty and not the health and safety, that comes under the watchful eye of your local EHO.

PART TWO: EHO

This is much trickier to apply to as it varies between you local EHO office. It is against the law not to register with your local EHO if you are starting a food business and can result in nasty penalties. They will visit where you intend to brew and will be highly critical of it but if you follow what they say and can show them that enough precautions are being taken they just might sign you off.

Firstly you have to register with them. If you go to:
https://www.gov.uk/browse/business/licences
You can click on ‘Food Premises Approval’ for which UK country you’re in, then enter your postcode to find out exactly what you need to do.

For Edinburgh it was just a simple form with no hard questions. Just name, address etc. EHO will be quite quick with your application and will arrange an inspection.

To prepare for this I would heavily recommend:
Completing an online Level 2 food hygiene certificate – Costs £15ish and can be done very quickly in under an hour.
Writing a detailed HACCP plan – Can be done on excel, took me only a couple of hours.
Show them adequate cleaning systems you use, have it in writing on the wall.
Adequate hand wash facilities.

These things may not be ultimately necessary but the EHO inspector will want to see initiative. After the visit they may sign you off, or you will get a list of things you need to do so they can sign you off when they reinspect. Listen to the EHO officer’s advice and comply with everything they say. It ensures public safety, and the higher the hygiene the higher the quality of the beer – It really is in your interest to be as hygienic as you possibly can. You never know, you might spot your EHO officer down the pub drinking your beer.

Additionally you are obligated to have a waste contract being a business. The levels of waste you’ll be producing will probably be no greater than an avid home brewer so this may seem a bit over-kill. However, it is only enforced by an EHO warden and not the inspector so you can probably get away with it, particularly if you’re in a residential area. If you are re-using it for feeding chickens or composting and you keep a record of how much you throw away, you may be able to successfully argue your case. However, as a MASSIVE DISCLAIMER, I would recommend against it – You can get waste contracts for as little as £5 a week.

If this all goes to plan you can be operating in a couple of weeks. It is also weird that through all of this no one actually cares if you can brew or not.

Any questions just comment or email me.

 

41 thoughts on “How To Start Your Own Fully Licensed Bedroom Brewery

  1. carbonsmithbrewing says:

    I did indeed have a little extractor fan. In the picture of the kit in my bedroom, I used to shut the boiler in the middle cupboard. On the back was a cheap bathroom extractor fan than just pumped it out the window.

    Like

  2. Dan says:

    Great little blog! Quick question on planning submission, did you not have to register a change of use with the local council?
    And also, did you have to be specific with the equipment you were using?

    Like

    • carbonsmithbrewing says:

      I submitted no change of use with the council and nothing ever happened. This kit was tiny, so no different I suppose to someone who makes jams and chutneys to sell at a village fayre. I was still using it as a bedroom too, so technically not changing it.

      Worst case scenario is that the council oblige you to apply for change of use. This is definitely a case where being a bit cheeky and bending the rules is the only way to get off the ground.

      In regards to the Equipment, you only have to be specific if it’s a distillery. All you need to do is just literally what is in this blog.

      Like

  3. Jo says:

    Oh my god this is exactly the advise I have been looking for! Every other arrival is on marketing etc and it looks like your in a shared house too. It’s spurred me on to think it’s possible with out tons of money to start it off!

    Thank you and good luck to you.

    Like

  4. Chris Buxton says:

    I’m just filling in the registration form and am slightly confused about the guarantor section? Not totally sure If i’m required to do this or not…..

    Like

  5. Trev says:

    Thanks for the blog, very useful to anyone who, like myself has considered taking the the plunge but one thing I have never been able to get an answer on is this; once you register with HMRC, does everything that you brew have to be declared and duty paid on it, even if it is still home brew rather than for commercially selling? I.E. can you still be a duty free home brewer some times and a commercial, duty paying brewer at other times? Thanks, Trev

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    • carbonsmithbrewing says:

      You can still homebrew duty free!

      What this license from HMRC does is make the area you specify a duty-suspension zone. So duty is only payable on beer once it leaves, and this only applies to beer that is either intended to be sold or is going to a licensed premises. Any beer intended for personal use, recipe experimentation or spoilt batches does not have any duty payable on it. Hope that helps!

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  6. Trev says:

    thanks for that. when I’ve read the details on HMRC etc I’ve always picked up on the element that says that once fermentation has occurred, i.e. it’s alcohol then duty is due regardless of whether it is not sold or thrown away etc.maybe I’ve misunderstood it, I’ll have another look at it. Thanks Trev

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  7. Ben says:

    Great post just the info that I’ve been looking for.

    What I’d like to know is did you need any specialist food equipment (stainless steel worktops, separate hand wash sink etc) to be installed in the spare bedroom?

    How viable is it for a one man ‘bedroom’ operation brewing a few batches of beer a month to get a license?

    Also are there any legal implications surrounding the property? Like registering it as commercial premises?

    Like

    • carbonsmithbrewing says:

      I didnt need any specialist food equipment at all really. Just a well thought out HACCP plan (I’ll post my one very soon) and a level 2 food hygiene certificate (which you can do online for about £20 in a couple of hours). My bedroom was directly opposite the bathroom so I said I used the hand wash basin in there.
      In terms of getting a licence from HMRC, they don’t care how much you brew as long as you declare what you do. You have to state how much you roughly plan on brewing within a year, but that’s more for them to work out if you get the 50% small brewery duty discount.

      I didn’t register my property as a commercial premise, HMRC and the EHO (environmental health organisation) didn’t ask. I did do it without the permission (or knowledge) of my landlord too. the saying “Don’t ask permission, beg for forgiveness.” is definitely valid here. You have to be a bit cheeky sometimes to get something off the ground. Nothing happened and I was in a shed with several months anyway.

      Like

  8. Brook says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. It’s gold and has made my life far easier! Two things; can you share your HACCP plan please? Not sure how detail I should go into. Secondly, I’ve just registered as a limited company – did you do this also? Hope it’s all going well bud

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    • carbonsmithbrewing says:

      Registering as a limited company isn’t really needed when you’re tiny as you now have to submit full company accounts to HMRC every year. Needless red tape for a bedroom brewery.

      HACCP wise, I’ll post it soon. Or just drop me an email and I’ll fire over a pdf of it.

      Like

  9. geigercntr says:

    Great bit of guidance. Very inspiring! Thanks very much for sharing!
    I’d be really interested to see what goes into a HACCP plan too.

    Best of luck!

    Like

  10. Jamie Adams. says:

    Great blog. Thank you for the info and insights. Currently in the planning stages of turning my garage into a 1/2bbl brewery so will look forward to seeing any pointers you have on your HAACP in the future. Enjoying the site and all the best for the future plans.

    Like

  11. Zeki says:

    hello, thanks for the great blog. I am currently trying find my own brewery but as having issues with finding money for investments it is a bit tough. So, if I get the licence, with the equipments I have i can easily brew about 300x 330ml bottles which will help me to start up a business with no initial costs. Anyway, the thing is starting a fully licensed home-brewery in my kitchen or living room might be a great idea. I read you saying about hand wash facilities, I will have a sink as any kitchen has one, would it be enough for everything? if not what sort of solution would you advice? Of course, I am asking this for legal concerns.

    Like

  12. Edward Jones says:

    This is such great information. Would you be willing to share the HACCP plan? I would be happy to give a donation to yourself or a charity.

    Like

  13. cervezacaserasite says:

    Thanks for the info…well valuable…..one question… do you need to register as a sole trader (limited company or whatever form of business you want to) before getting approved by HMRC and EHO ???? Any sort of insurance required if brewing from your conservatory room and storing the beer in the garden shed?????? Many thanks in advance.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Richard Wiseman says:

    Well done for actually providing information for what a lot if people are aiming to start with! Many thanks!

    I have been try to find information regarding my licencing requirements to sell the beer I would brew at a similar scale to yours?

    Specifically, do I need a separate licence to sell alcohol?

    I would be grateful for any advice on this.

    Like

    • carbonsmithbrewing says:

      You don’t need a license to sell to other business, but do need a premises license if you intend to sell to the public from your brewery. As of April next year, you’ll also need to be registered on the AWRS (alcohol wholesaler registration scheme) – that in itself is another entire blog post.

      Like

  15. Michael Wilkin says:

    Hi, i’m wanting to start my own little brewing concern and came across this. Sounds priceless information which i will find very helpful.
    I would also be very interested as to what goes into a HACCP plan as well.

    Thanks

    Like

  16. Phil says:

    I think its about time you got that HACCP plan up here/linked to a download as well!!!

    Fantastic article too, thanks for the insight!

    Like

      • PHIL says:

        Brilliant, thanks for uploading that. Very in depth!

        The only thing I’d perhaps have anticipated seeing would have been a section on prep and a section on clean down, but I’m probably being unfairly critical there… It may not be a legally required section of the document (I wouldn’t know), but would perhaps enable the document to act like a thorough “sanitation checklist”, if you know what I mean?

        “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

        It really is an excellent document that I’m sure lot’s of people who have read this article will find incredibly useful, so thank you again.

        Like

  17. Brook says:

    This blog took me from bedroom brewer to commercial brewer. I owe you a beer(s)! Setting up a bigger site this summer with a 250l kit, a brand, some fans. Thanks again

    Like

  18. Lukasz says:

    I guess apart from enrolling on the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme you also need to get a personal alcohol licence to legally sell alcohol, is that right?

    Like

    • carbonsmithbrewing says:

      No-You don’t need a personal license to sell to other businesses. You only need one if you’re sell direct to the public for consumption; and even then you would also need a premises license or be operating under a temporary event license

      Like

  19. Huw Carey says:

    This is a fantastic site. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences as it has been extremely useful in helping me set up my microbrewery in my internal garage at home. It really is a great source of information for the inexperienced like me. Thanks again.

    Like

  20. B7 Brews (untappd) says:

    Hi there,
    Fantastic info and I’m going to beg/steal/borrow as much as I can to get cracking. Few questions that I hope you can quickly answer…
    Does this mean I cannot use the agreed room/premises for normal ‘homebrewing’ as I do just now? Or could that fall under experimental brewing?
    Also, when I did a brewday recently at a local Glasgow brewery, the label detail required for it to leave the premises. e.g. number of units of alcohol, pregnancy warnings, highlight the word “barley”, amongst others.. does that apply here?
    Finally, I don’t see any mention to the specific approved hydrometer and/or amounts used in sampling throughout the process. Is there anything explicit I should be looking for here

    Like

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