BERLIN — For those who fantasize about being a craft brewer or winemaker, Brews Up in Berlin offers a practical way to live the dream.
With the rise of craft beverages, home brewing and winemaking have become incredibly popular pastimes in America over the last few years. But a lot of people who might be interested in the hobby will hesitate because of a perceived steep learning curve.
“It’s relatively simple but at first it can be overwhelming,” said Tony Hilligoss, owner of Brews Up. “A lot of the process, it’s just like cooking.”
Brews Up aims to take some of the labor and all of the intimidation out of self-brewing and winemaking. Hilligoss, a chef with more than three decades of experience as well as years spent as a culinary instructor, started Brews Up as a place where an amateur brewer can create their own batch with help from experts.
Patrons walk into the store, select a basic beer or winemaking kit, make their batch and then return several weeks later to bottle what they have created. The batches are left in the store while they ferment and are monitored by Hilligoss and his crew. People are able to check in on their creations whenever they want but don’t have to go through the tedious and labor intense act of weeks of monitor duty.
While a variety of basic kits are available, Hilligoss is also able to duplicate beer or wine recipes that his customers come up with. Brews Up has dozens of unique grains, hops and other ingredients and also offers classes in brewing and wine making every week.
“In general, the population is after a better product … and they also want to be educated about what they consume and what they eat,” said Hilligoss.
That education about craft beer and wine is one of the most appealing facets of Brews Up. Hilligoss acknowledged that it’s easy for people to turn to the Internet for brewing kits and recipes, but believes being able to call on real experts while you are brewing is invaluable. Combined with the classes and convenience of a controlled and monitored fermentation environment, Hilligoss hopes his small business can cut a slice out of the online market.
“When we created our marketing of our product pricing, we used online as our up and down because that’s who we’re competing with because there’s nobody else around here,” he said.
While Brews Up will be an introduction to the craft world for many customers, even experienced brewers and professionals have seen the benefit in what Hilligoss and his team are doing.
“Some of our better business right now is the local brewers coming in here,” he said, adding that it’s a fun and controlled environment for anyone to test out new flavors and recipes.
Hilligoss is approaching Brews Up with a lot of ambition. Within five years, he would like to make some initial moves toward franchising. Brewing on premise shops like Brews Up have the potential to open up new interests for people who might otherwise have deemed it too much work or too difficult to pick up.
“In this case, you get not only a product,” said Hilligoss, “but you get a service and you’re building relationships with the hopes of getting people addicted to the hobby because it is an addiction.”
Once someone becomes addicted to brewing, Hilligoss promises that he and his team will always be a resource.
“The customer experience doesn’t end when they leave that door,” he said. “It’s an endless relationship.”
For more information on Brews Up, visit www.brewsup.net