The rise of craft breweries continues to change the economic landscape in the United States. The Brewers Association estimates that craft brewers contributed more than $72 billion dollars and about 460,000 jobs to the U.S. economy in 2022. Many breweries still rely on spreadsheets and clipboards and other outdated methods to manage sales and inventory. As breweries scale their businesses, the need for more and better software solutions is undeniable.

Startup breweries and those choosing to upgrade their brewery management tools have revolutionized their business operations and reaped the benefits of cost and time savings by implementing the right technology—the kind that helps to streamline multiple processes throughout the business, making it easier to boost profit margins off of your current production volume or to scale your production. 

In addition, brewery management tech solutions provide valuable insights—from sales metrics to inventory forecasts—that are difficult to get right without technology. Brewers with solid data can make data-powered, timely decisions as they manage their breweries.

In 2022, Ekos released their annual report, Building a Tech Stack: An Analysis of Breweries & Cideries. The report offers a thorough investigation of software solutions that craft beverage businesses have invested in along with real stories of how breweries and cideries have built their tech stacks. It’s the culmination of data gathered from a survey of 450 breweries and cideries.

Below, we provide a broad overview of recommendations for software solutions that emerged from our investigation. If you would like to read the report in its entirety, download it here. Before we provide recommendations, let’s look at the aspects of managing a brewery and the challenges that brewers face.

If you own and/or manage a brewery, you are all too familiar with the responsibilities that fall on your shoulders. In addition to managing daily operations, you need to be concerned with short-term and long-term goals related to profits and growth. Managerial tasks related to running a brewery, many of which can benefit from the right technology, include:

The Challenges of Managing a Brewery

Brewery owners who haven’t implemented a tech solution face various struggles related to management. Human error is inevitable, and manual record-keeping methods can easily become unreliable. Paper logs, whiteboards, and notebooks make it more difficult for owners to manage inventory, schedule production, maintain quality control, manage distribution, and track sales. 

Even those who have tech solutions sometimes have inadequate programs. Digital notetaking and spreadsheets often come with broken links or formulas and missing data, making it difficult to extract value from the collected information. In either case, their breweries are not running as efficiently as they could. Incomplete data and the inability to draw accurate conclusions and predictions cost breweries both time and money.

Using the right technology, on the other hand, facilitates open communication in real-time by allowing multiple team members to evaluate data from anywhere. The right software solution can also automate operations to help your team function more efficiently. With increased traceability and reduced human error, you can proactively make reliable, data-powered decisions with the insights you gain from your efforts.

Key Software Solutions for Brewery Management

Brewery owners and managers can streamline their brewery management with various types of technology. Our report includes notable software solutions, most of which fall into one of the following categories.

Inventory Management Systems

Think about the various types of inventory you need to keep on hand for your brewery. Not only do you need raw ingredients like grain, hops, and yeast, but you also need the tools, materials, and equipment for the brewing process—kegs, cans, labels, pac-tech tops, and more. You even need office supplies. Regardless of which aspect of your business needs inventory, you can use an inventory management system to track all the supplies you order—and your final products.

Inventory management systems allow managers to streamline ordering, storage, usage, and sales. Waste reduction is one of the most notable benefits of using an inventory management system. You know that brewing is a time-sensitive endeavor. The right software prevents brewers from ordering too much or not enough, which can ultimately lead to waste during the brewing process.

Quality Control Technologies

As mentioned above, automated brewing systems typically have quality control elements that provide consistent final products. However, breweries who aren’t ready to take the plunge into brewing automation can rely on quality control software solutions. Consistent monitoring of temperature, pH levels, and other important brewing metrics ensures consistent product quality. 

Our report revealed that most breweries use business management software for their brewery to track quality control data. We recommend this as a best practice because, with the right platform, you can keep all your data—like production data, inventory records, reports, and more— all in one place.

Sales and Distribution Software

Several types of software solutions exist to help breweries manage sales and track distribution. Some also integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems that businesses use to understand customer behavior. For breweries with a taproom or other location that sells directly to consumers, a point-of-sale (POS) system will interact with CRM software to store customer information and track buying habits and trends.

Those who only sell wholesale need e-commerce software, at the very least, for online ordering. We discovered that the majority of breweries received wholesale order requests through texts, emails, and phone calls. This takes up a lot of time and leaves considerable room for errors. Some of the respondents reported using a digital order portal to manage sales and invoices.  Regardless of the situation, sales and distribution software that easily flows into an inventory management system is key for streamlining brewery management.

Accounting Software

Advanced software like QuickBooks and Xero remain the industry standard when it comes to the accounting needs of your business. However, we remain surprised that almost 20 percent of breweries we surveyed for our report rely on the desktop version rather than the cloud-based QuickBooks online. Regardless of whether you’re using a desktop or cloud-based accounting program, accounting software is a must.

Accounting software helps prevent double-entry accounting and allows owners and managers to view real-time financial data to inform their business decisions. Accurate financial data helps make life easier during tax season and makes it less likely that your brewery undergoes an audit. If your business does get audited, having the data you need aggregated in one place will make the audit process go more smoothly.

Data Analytics and Business Intelligence Software

Few breweries use dedicated analytics of BI software and instead rely on spreadsheets to look at data. The key difference between basic software solutions and top-of-the-line technology is the ability to aggregate data and run sophisticated reports that include forecasts and predictions for every aspect of the supply chain. Breweries can use software to analyze data, allowing them to gain insights into production efficiency, sales trends, customer preferences, and more. 

Software Integration: The Key to Mastering Brewery Management

You’re likely already using some software to manage your brewery, even if it’s only rudimentary. Some breweries are still using spreadsheets for the majority of their management needs. Others have moved on to point solutions for managing different areas, using separate platforms for accounting, POS, CRM, etc. 

Without integrations, these solutions are simply not enough. You can build your tech stack with multiple software solutions, but if they aren’t speaking to each other, you aren’t realizing the full benefit of the right technology. Today’s breweries need fully integrated ecosystems with data and numbers that flow throughout.

For example, if you plan on purchasing a POS system because you’re about to open a taproom, you probably have a long list of features you’re looking for, such as contactless ordering, tip-pooling capabilities, and robust reporting. The best software solutions allow you to get these features while integrating your POS system and its reporting with other parts of your business.

Generally speaking, software integration refers to connecting two or more pieces of technology in a way that allows a seamless flow of information between them. The exact way a connection functions depends on various factors, especially the use of each software component and the way it was built. 

In a perfect world, your brewery management software—which manages your inventory and production information—serves as the central hub of your tech stack. Then, you can choose additional software components, such as POS, e-commerce, accounting, etc., that easily integrate with that central hub.

While technology can save time and money, finding solutions that seamlessly integrate takes headache-free brewery management to the next level. Integrations allow you and your employees to spend time on revenue-producing activities instead of spending hours entering various types of data on multiple platforms, or on paper logs. 

Additionally, integrated software solutions make it so you only have to enter data in one location, drastically reducing discrepancies between different systems. Finally, software integrations help you get the information you need more rapidly, allowing you to make quick financial decisions for your brewery when they matter most.

Get Started with the Right Technology

Managing a brewery is hard work—with a lot of moving parts. You can make it easier by implementing the right technology to streamline your operations. Ekos is the leading platform for breweries and other craft beverage businesses. Our cloud-based brewery business management solution offers a comprehensive design that can help breweries with every aspect of running a successful business. And Ekos integrates directly with multiple platforms, like VIP, Quickbooks, Xero, Square, Shopify, and more. See how Ekos software solutions can help you master managing your brewery today by booking a demo.