Fulfilling a Lifelong Dream in Retirement—Opening a Community Brewpub

Kevin Greenaae of Oak Street Brewery in New Orleans, Louisiana reviews the BREWHA BIAC brewing system and discusses why he started his brewery in retirement, and how he builds community at his microbrewery taproom. 

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The best thing about owning a brewery is I don't run out of beer.

People say, 'Oh you're not retired, you own a brewery'. I'm like, no, that's my hobby,  I've been doing it for 30 years, and standing behind a bar talking with my customers, I enjoy talking with people, this is my retirement, this is my fun.

California is where I met my wife, she wanted to come back to  New Orleans so she came up with a plan of retiring and moving to New Orleans, and as a consolation prize we got to open a brewery, so that's a good reason to move. My brother and I got into home brewing about 30 years ago. We won multiple awards in California and Washington. Over the years we probably brewed thousands of batches of beer. The whole neighborhood came to my house for a party, we were smoking meat, brewing beer, drinking beer, we had root beer for the kids, so it was more or less a whole neighborhood event...every month! That was the one thing about having a five tap fridge in the garage, we actually had to go out with pitchers or send people out to go get their own pints. In a brewery it's easy, they just belly up to the counter and we can serve it right there for them. We have really large tasting room and because of the BREWHA BIAC 5BBL brewing system we can have a really small brewery it's the perfect space.

I really like the New Orleans Community because of the culture and the food. People like to eat and drink, they like to have a good time. Pretty much every weekend there's a festival and people enjoy it. Oak Street itself is its own microcosm, we pretty much got everything on the streets—bars,  restaurants, bookstores, Sushi, Jamaican, and we got Oak St Brewery. So we've got a nice collection of businesses to just support the whole neighborhood.

So I know the area, I know what they're looking for, and it comes down to hospitality.

New Orleans is definitely a destination spot, Jacque-imo's is one of the tourist restaurant stops you want to hit when you come to New Orleans, and they're right down the street. Jacque-imo's might have an hour and a half hour to hour and 45 minute wait and they'll send you down to Oak Street Brewery. 'Yah, go down the brewery, have a couple beers, we'll text you when your table opens up'.  I'm trying to help them out because when you go to a restaurant you want a cocktail, a glass of wine, or a local craft beer. How much more local can you get them down the street. So it is a big community, we're all trying to help each other out.

Our next batch of coffee that we're going to use in our next Stout is going to be Zatz. They're a local coffee shop, they have their own custom roast from right across the street. So once again we're trying to stay in the neighborhood, we're trying to help everybody out. We're enjoying our beer styles, we're staying in classic categories and styles, and yeah we're having fun, this is my hobby remember! I'm more in it for the quality not the quantity — we listen to our customers, that's why I came up with the ESB recipe because we had customers, like 'ESBs, I'd like to try one', okay well we'll come up with that. That's why we went into hard seltzers; the neighborhood wanted hard seltzer so we brewed them. Because we're kid and dog friendly we have our own in-house root beer we make with wildflower honey and sparkling mineral water for Italian sodas. We're trying to rotate different things through that our customers want.

This is my retirement so I don't have the funds like most breweries would start up with. Most of the guides showed anywhere from 1.2 to 1.5 million dollars to open a small brewery. I didn't have that. That was not part of my retirement. 

I was looking at getting more of a frugal, open space, less-is-more system.

And because of its affordability I was able to  open a complete running brewery in the middle of a pandemic. Because of the size efficiency and modularity of the BREWHA BIAC brewing system, it is more cost effective. The size of a standard brew system is just huge! You can add some more fermenters and then of course you've got to add more bright tanks or go with larger fermenters and larger bright tanks.

The BREWHA BIAC system is very modular, if you have the space and you want to add more you add another tank, you don't have to add two tanks a fermenter and a bright tank just add one tank and that is of course a complete Brewery system in its own and it's just so easy to do.

We still get brewers that come in here that brew on a traditional system, they're amazed that what we make with this system because the footprint is so small.

You pretty much design your system with what's already there so you're not starting from scratch.

Compared with the rest of your brewery layout that's all custom, but the BREWHA BIAC system it's easy, it's there, you pick what you want it's already tried and true tested and working it makes it a really easy system to work with, and it's fun! My work day is my hobby; it's like hanging out in the garage all day long brewing beer talking with customers letting them know about our system and how it works.

We are still changing, we're still growing, we're going to start distributing beer to local bars and restaurants in our area because we're a community brewery. We try and stay in our community I'm not looking at growing to be a national chain, this is my retirement, I don't want to work that hard!

The most fulfilling thing about owning a brewery is the smile on people's faces. They come up, they sample your beer that you personally make, or your brother personally makes, and they enjoy it, they like it, they love it, they want more! We're here to have fun!

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1 comment

Kevin!! I’m so proud of you and your brother!!! It’s nice to see you happy and living your dream!!! One day I will pop in for a beer! Miss u! Cathy

Cathy Powers

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