It turns out that song is not about the State licensing process. Who knew? Here’s how we did it and it seemed to go pretty smoothly.
We made a call to Van Nuys office to get their counter hours. Then we went down there during those hours to meet with one of the ABC reps. When it was our turn we asked for every piece of paperwork we would need to have to make a complete and easy to process file. We stayed friendly and made sure to smile a lot. It seems that they do not get a lot of this sort of interaction at the counter. We went on our way and took time to fill out the paperwork and complete all of the necessary steps. Once we filed with the TTB we called for our appointment with the ABC to turn in our paperwork. This is key; do not wait for your TTB approval before starting with the ABC. It’s just an unnecessary delay. Here’s another hint; all of the ABC forms are available online as PDF documents that can be filled in on a computer. Do this and print them. Also, when you make your premises drawings, use a ruler and draw it to scale…neatly. When we walked in and handed them the paperwork they actually asked if we paid a lawyer to do the application for us. They said this was the most complete and professional application they had seen in over a year. The woman was so happy to review our paperwork that she had us done in about 15 minutes. Evidently, they get some crazy stuff. She even had someone come in with their drawings written on a napkin. People, come on! She sent us our poster in a couple of days and we posted it on our front door. At some point during the 30 day posting period they checked to make sure our poster was up and visible, so do not cheat this. Once the 30 days was up, we were done- pending TTB approval. Once we finally get that TTB sign off we let the ABC know, they will flip a switch to make us approved and we are good to go. Come on TTB…any day now.
December 19th, 2014. This is the day we submitted our paperwork to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB website says 90-110 days for approval. We’ll see how well that goes… Before submitting our paperwork we spoke with a consultant to make sure we had all of our I’s dotted. It’s a giant pile of paperwork and with everything else going on it was nice to have a little help. The TTB paperwork is something you can absolutely do for yourself. If you are thinking of starting a brewery and have a question, feel free to reach out and ask.
Once our Minor Use Permit was approved, we were allowed to take possession of our new space. When you hear 5,000 square feet, you think it’s a pretty big space. It is amazing how fast you can use up the space you have. Moving in was pretty uneventful, just a lot of lifting and carrying. We will use the space to brew on the pilot system while we wait for our approvals.
Opening a brewery is a lengthy process. Wanting to make use of that time, we ordered our pilot batch brew system relatively early in the process. The system we purchased is the 1BBL Alpha Ruby from Ruby Street Brewing. It is a three vessel brewing system with a HLT, mash tun, and brew kettle. We have sight glasses on both the HLT and the brew kettle, false bottoms on the mash tun and brew kettle, and a whirlpool arm on the brew kettle. The system has three propane burners, two pumps, and a plate chiller. All of the connections on the vessels, pumps, and chiller are equipped with 1.5” tri-clamp fittings. We use a spare arm assembly from MoreBeer to vorlauf and sparge. Along with the brew system we have two 1BBL stainless steel conical fermenters and a 1BBL stainless steel brite tank from Stout Tanks & Kettles. The fermenters and brite tank are designed to fit inside a Frigidaire 20.5 cubic foot upright freezer. We have brewed close to 400 gallons on the system so far and it works great. We dialed in our efficiency by the second brew. If you happen to buy a 1BBL Alpha Ruby and need some guidance on adjusting your grain efficiency and hop utilization then shoot us an email and we will help you out, particularly if you use BeerSmith since we can send you our equipment profile.
If you are opening a production brewery and you want to have a tasting room open to the public you will have apply for either a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or a Minor Use Permit (MUP). Most breweries will have to go through the more extensive CUP, which involves a public hearing. Since the City of Santa Clarita only required us to go through the MUP process. We had to get signatures of approval from our landlord and we also had to have a letter of our intent to open a production brewery with a tasting room onsite to our neighboring businesses and property owners. The neighbors are given 30 days to respond to the city with any objections or concerns, in which case a hearing will be held to review the objections. If no complaints are made, then the city will grant approval of the permit. We made it through the process without any objections and we were granted our MUP. Receiving this permit also met the final stipulation of our lease agreement and meant that we were able to take possession of our space.
Right after the beginning there were a few months where we neglected to post anything about the progress of Pocock Brewing Company. We suck. We’re sorry. Let’s catch up.
Finding a location sounds like a relatively easy thing to do, but (and I’m sure many other breweries would tell you the same) it can be a bit of a challenge. We knew early on in planning that we wanted to open the brewery in Santa Clarita so our search began there.. The size of the space we needed along with the amount of money we wanted to spend further limited us. Thankfully, Todd is also a real estate broker which made searching out suitable locations slightly easier. Even with all of the industrial space available in Santa Clarita we really only found two spaces that fit, or could fit, our needs. Out of the two, one location was genuinely possible and the other was a bit of a reach. The latter, was a great space but it needed a huge amount of work and would have eaten away too much of our budget. After repeated delays trying to work out a deal on the more realistic choice we were very fortunate and found another space close by that had recently become available. We moved quickly to view the space and immediately found it to be a great fit. November 8th, 2014 we signed our lease for 24907 Avenue Tibbitts, Suite B. Santa Clarita, the new home of Pocock Brewing Company.