top of page

Important Accounting Concepts for the Start-Up Brewery, Part II

In the start-up phase, everything feels possible. You make really good beer/cider/spirits. All your friends are telling you that you should mass produce this really good beer/cider/spirit. So, you begin to dream. Is it fun to work in the beverage industry? Absolutely. The people are cool and the perks are excellent. But in the end, this is still a business. You have to make payroll and pay the bank back so it is important to know what you are doing and how you are going to open that taproom, production facility, brew pub, cocktail room, etc. This means that you have to create a kick-ass business plan and get all the components together before you open for business.

Note: This article is a continuation of Important Accounting Concepts for the Start Up Brewery - Part 1, which covers Accounting Systems, Cash Forecasting, Cash/Accrual Basis, and Taxing Authorities.

Cost - What Does it Really Cost to do Something?

That is one of the first questions that you will get and one of the last questions that you will try to answer. There is an inherent conflict between the need to fully cost a process and to obtain the lowest tax bill. That’s because a fully costed product will move some costs from the income statement to the balance sheet. That is, if you include all of the direct and indirect costs in production as part of your inventory asset, then at the end of every reporting period there is a ‘layer of cost’ that will be trapped in inventory and hence the balance sheet. This is particularly true in the case of barrel-aging. Because a barrel can age for several years, several years of cost can be attributed to that work in process inventory. The best answer can be to create a standard cost of direct and indirect costs and, if you are not subject to UNICAP, then move those costs back to the income statement for tax purposes. Then leave them there for book purposes. It really helps the reader understand the cost of production.

Insurance - How and What Are We Really Insuring?

Insurance companies will regularly want to know what the company has in its possession. It’s easy to export an inventory or fixed asset listing. The trick is to understand that the insurance company may value assets using a different formula than GAAP, tax, or cash. If that’s the case, keep that value in a custom field in the accounting system. Then when you need to produce a report, you can report it with the correct basis.

Who Are the Readers of Your Financials and What Do They Expect?

All systems start the same way with a basic chart of accounts. It is important to understand who the readers of your financials are and what they need from the system. It’s important to take each reader’s needs into consideration when drafting financials and corresponding reports.

  • Ownership: Owners tend to have the most operational questions top of mind. Their reports are time sensitive. This allows for the company to make course corrections as needed.

  • Investors: Investors take a longer-term view of the company. They want to see if the company is on track and is doing well. They are usually not involved in the day-to-day decision making, but they are very careful reviewers of the financial statements.

  • Bankers: Bankers have a keen interest in the financials. They want to make sure that the company has the ability to repay loans and to stay in business. They also want to make sure that the company can produce according to a forecast.

Accounting and Tax Concepts
Accounting systems are built upon a foundation of accounting and tax concepts. It’s important to understand the building blocks of both. Often one choice has two different answers depending upon your subject matter.

Will someone review your work one day? One result of growth is typically a larger investment. As the investment level grows, so does the level of accountability. As the accountability grows, so does the need for an outside party to review the work of management. This is why banks and some investors ask for a restatement of financials by an independent party (a CPA). There are levels of assurance. A compilation is a restatement of management’s financials. Oftentimes you will see a consolidation of all related entities along with a summarized financial statement. A review is the next level of statement. It requires the CPA to do certain tests on key accounts in the financial statements. Now the CPA is giving some level of assurance to the reader that the financials were prepared according to GAAP. An audit is the highest level of assurance. The CPA states that the financials are materially correct according to GAAP. That is the highest level of assurance that an outside party will give.

If you (or your investors or bank) are planning on presenting these reports, it’s important to plan early. There are levels of infrastructure that the CPA will need in order to issue these kinds of reports. Working with a CPA for at least six months before the close of the first period will greatly lower your stress level.

Timeline of Accounting Milestones

Everyone’s journey is different, but typically I see the following:

  • Simply Cash (auto-match the bank and credit card feed)

  • Periodic Accrual (correct things at the date of the financials)

  • Perpetual Accrual (there are levels of accrual)

  • Standard Costing

  • Variance Analysis

  • Benchmarking/KPIs (key-performance indicators)

Once your company gets to the benchmarking point, then the goal of every manager is to manage by exception. We know what should happen and the discussion changes to why something happened out of the ordinary. That allows all managers (financial and operational) to take a wider view of the process and see the forest though the trees. Spotting trends is critical to future success.


Contributing Author

Mary Brettmann                                                                                      President, Beverage Business Builders

 Beverage Business Builders, established in 2015, offers financial and operational services for craft breweries and distilleries. President Mary Brettmann assists with everything from accounting software implementation, to long-range strategic planning.


What to Look for When Choosing Point of Service

Nancy Trigg

As with all the decisions you make for your taproom or brewpub, selecting the right tools should always begin with questions. What is the experience I want for my guest? Is the experience of my taproom going to be consistent every day or do I expect to host events or have seasonal traffic that will impact day to day operations? Do I want my guests to go to the bar to order and pay or do I want my staff to have the flexibility to go to our guests? What will my taproom experience look like day 1, day 30, and day 365?

Accounting Image

The Accounting Perspective, Part I

Mary Brettmann

You have arrived! People keep asking for your product, and distributors are romancing you, telling you that there’s a ready market for your beer in some far off territory. You begin to think that maybe you can be a regional or even a national player. What does that mean from a capital standpoint? Do you have the stomach to increase the bank loan by THAT much? How many people do you need to hire? How does that change the company culture?


Welcome to the phase of expanding company; expanding issues.

Tablet Graphs

Monitor Your Patient, Part II

Tom Hennessy

So we have covered the first part of the scoreboard - sales and sales pace. Everything else is moot if you are not meeting this first thing. But, as long as I've been in this business, I am still amazed at how many people do not track cost of sales on a monthly basis - if ever. Remember you can't manage it unless you can measure it.

I had a friend some years back who complained that the restaurant business sucked! He had good sales but just kept squeaking by, hardly even getting paid. I asked him about inventories and what his food, 

Growth Graph

Accounting: Taking Action
Mary Brettmann

Moving right along! You have put your plans in place and now it’s time to act. You’ll want to ask yourself questions such as, how should we manage the taproom? What should our website provide? What’s our Strategic Vision?


Taproom (Tasting Room) Management


Proper taproom management is the difference between sort of making money and making a lot of money. 




  • Understand Cash Forecasting

  • Determine Cash vs. Accrual Basis

  • Evaluate Your Costs

  • Understand Asset Reporting

  • Set up Financials/Reports

  • Coordinate with Tax Accountant


  • Research service models

  • Consider curbside/to-go

  • Determine staff tipping model

  • Consider online sales

  • Determine data needed from POS (consult with Acct)

  • Contactless payment options?

  • Research POS options that fit




  • Set up Forecasting & Budgets

  • Create/Evaluate a Strategic Vision

  • Integrate POS System

  • Determine Taproom Mgt Approach

  • Establish Webstore


  • Decide on POS provider

  • Build out POS with provider

  • Integrate POS system

  • Staff training!!



SaB Accounting Icon
SaB Point of Sale Icon
Grow Icon




  • Audit Preparation

  • Evaluate Logistics Costs

  • Materials Resource Planning

  • Coordinated Forecasting

  • Long-range Planning

  • Ensure access to Retail Data

  • Sales Data Collection & Analysis

  • Establish CRM System

  • Refine HR Practices


  • Review POS data

  • Identify data trends

  • Respond to data trends

  • Consider loyalty programs

  • Increase contact points with guests

  • Consider expanding ordering stations

bottom of page