How to Start a Brewery: Insurance Edition

Breweries are quickly becoming commonplace in cities and towns across America. In fact, as of 2021, the number of breweries in the U.S. reached 9,247—an 8% increase compared to the year before.

If you, too, are considering starting your own brewery, there are a lot of steps you need to take from a business perspective before you can get it off the ground. One of the most important steps is to put your insurance plan in place.

In this article, we’ll review the common areas of hazard that come with breweries and taprooms and uncover the commercial insurance policies that can best protect you and your business. 

5 Common Areas of Hazard in Breweries

Alongside the most obvious areas of hazard, the lists below offer a glimpse at some of the most often overlooked—and yet perhaps most important—areas of hazard in a brewery production area.

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#1 Grain Dust

The dust formed by crushing grains can pose a problem for you and your customers when airborne. This dust is dangerous when inhaled and can lead to inflammatory diseases of the eyes, nose, and skin. If exposed to an ignition, grain dust is also known to explode when left to accumulate on equipment in a confined space. 

Central’s Suggestion: Have a designated area for grain crushing with good ventilation (or a dust collection system). Clean the area frequently to prevent buildup, and train employees on proper safety precautions.

#2 Pressure Vessels

During the brewing process, the conversion of wort into beer occurs within a pressure vessel—a container designed to hold materials at high temperatures. While these vessels are integral to the brewing process, it’s important to note the dangers that can occur if they’re not properly maintained.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, leaks or ruptures can occur due to cracks or other damage to the containers. These types of damages can result in short-term dangers such as poisoning, suffocation, fires, and explosion hazards, as well as long-term damage to life and property. 

#3 Cleaning Chemicals

Sanitation is a vital part of a successful brewing process, and many owners rely on cleaning chemicals to meet industry cleanliness standards. Common chemicals used in brewery cleaning include acid detergents, caustic cleaners, draught line cleaners, sanitizers, and additional specialty products. 

However, it can be unsafe to use these products in the wrong order or places, or in conjunction with one another. Be sure to maintain a safety data sheet (SDS) for each chemical and to train every employee on proper chemical cleaning practices. This includes correctly handling, storing, and disposing of cleaning products and waste materials.

#4 Lifting Injuries

By nature, breweries are home to a variety of heavy containers of liquids, malts, grain bags, and fruit. Avoid injuries related to heavy lifting by taking the proper precautions when you or your employees are transferring these items around your space. 

These precautions include proper training for handlers, bodily protections like braces, and lift aids such as two-wheel hand trucks, overhead keg hoists, or electric keg lifts. You can also help reduce the risk of injury by arranging your production facility with efficiency and employee safety in mind.

#5 Cleaning Practices

When cleaning draft lines and glassware, using the right cleaner can make a huge difference in both the safety of your customers and the taste of your brew. Consult your supplier to help identify what product is right for your brewery, and always remember that a rinse with hot water alone is not enough to kill germs and bacteria. 

5 Brewery-Specific Risks & How to Avoid Them

When it comes to launching any new business, there are specific liability risks to keep in mind. However, those risks tend to become more prevalent in establishments that are based around serving and consuming alcohol. 

Below, we explore five of the most common risks associated with breweries and offer tips on how to steer clear of potential liability.

Risk #1: Overserving Customers

Perhaps the most obvious risk with a brewery occurs when an employee overserves a patron. Depending on your state, specific laws will hold your establishment liable for continuing to serve alcohol to a patron who is visibly intoxicated if that individual causes property damage due to their inebriation. 

To avoid liquor liability, it’s crucial your servers are trained to spot the difference between customers simply enjoying themselves and those who have crossed a line.

The best course of action to prevent this kind of risk is proper training. It’s important that your team is trained to recognize both obvious and subtle signs of intoxication and supported by a culture that empowers everyone in the establishment to speak up if they witness something concerning.

Try This: Consider enrolling in a program like Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) for providing cost effective training. Insurance companies often offer programs like these for their liquor liability policyholders to help mitigate these risks.

After general training has been completed, be sure to set and review your establishment’s personal code of conduct and your state’s overserving laws. Then be sure to communicate those rules to all members of the staff clearly and often.

Risk #2: Trip and Fall Hazards

The risk of a patron tripping and falling on your property dramatically increases when alcohol is involved. For this reason, it’s important you take extra precautions to prevent these types of accidents.

Regular inspection of publicly-accessible areas should be part of your daily checklist. Be sure to do a sweep of walkways both in the daylight and at night to ensure nothing poses an additional risk, and always verify that outdoor walkways and gathering areas are clearly lit and marked. 

If your brewery is located in a region of the country that gets snow or ice during the winter months, it’s also important that you consider your snow removal plan, as these common hazards can become extra dangerous when mixed with alcohol consumption.

Risk #3: Entertainment & Games

Many taprooms provide some form of gaming entertainment for patrons. Whether it’s a play area for kids, table games, lawn games, or arcade games, this is often an engaging and inexpensive way to attract guests and encourage them to extend their visit.

However, as straightforward as these games may seem, they can pose unique risks if not maintained properly. Be sure to inspect all items associated with the games frequently and repair or replace them as needed. Consider age restrictions on games that might pose a risk to younger children, and be sure to avoid offering attractions that become more dangerous when alcohol is involved, such as lawn darts or bocce balls.

Risk #4: Water and Fire Features

Some breweries offer access to fire pits, pools, hot tubs, or even things like bumper boats to keep guests entertained. Though these unique attractions can draw a crowd, each poses a unique set of risks, especially when combined with alcohol.

Activities involving water increase the potential for drowning, and should always be monitored by a trained lifeguard. Similarly, exposure to fire can result in burns and property damage.

If you plan to offer these types of features at your brewery, be sure to hire staff whose specific job it is to monitor and restrict access to these activities as necessary. Often, those under the influence cannot determine their own level of intoxication, so it’s vital that someone responsible is present and focused on safety.

Risk #5: Fighting on the Property

Physical acts of violence can occur when two patrons become inebriated. Ideally, the risk of a physical altercation can be avoided by not overserving customers (see Tip #1), however, even the best planning can’t guarantee you won’t ever have a fight between patrons. 

In these instances, the owner of the property can be held legally responsible for the cost of physical injuries and medical care if one of the involved parties decides to sue. 

For this reason, it’s critical that you take steps to prevent fights on your property. This includes hiring a bouncer or another form of security to stop altercations before they escalate.

Staying consistently aware of the general mood of the room is an important part in preventing fights before they start. If you sense a verbal altercation unfolding between two patrons, intercede as early and safely as possible to prevent things from becoming physical. Always call for backup help if and when needed.

Insuring Your Brewery with Central Insurance

Central Insurance has been helping small busineses and breweries protect themselves from risks like these for over 100 years. We recognize the risk you’re taking on financially simply by investing in a new business, and want to help protect you from any unexpected liability costs that arise from doing what you do. 

Some of the most common types of coverage our brewery policyholders choose include:

Commercial Property Insurance: Central’s various commercial property packages are designed to cover the costs of repairing damage that has occurred to your physical space. This is a common choice for brewers considering the risks associated with the brewing process and potential damage that can arise from it.

General Liability Insurance: This type of policy protects you against legal liabiity if someone gets hurt on your property. This coverage is crucial for slip-and-fall accidents or fights that occur in a brewery or on the property. 

Worker’s Compensation Insurance: This insurance is designed to keep your employees safe while simultaneously providing coverage in case of a workplace accident. Considering the high risk of injury attributed to the brewing process alone, many brewery owners opt for the peace of mind provided by this type of coverage. 

Take the Next Step

Already a Central insured? Get in touch with your agent today to learn about your coverage options. If you don’t already work with Central, find a Central agent in your area to get started. 


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