Move over, Bud: Czech firm makes DIY backyard breweries

By KAREL JANICEK Markets Associated Press

It has never been so easy to start your own beer company.

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A Czech firm is selling professional beer-making sets that fit in a backyard but can produce commercial quantities of brew.

The mobile breweries sold by Well Service are a far cry from the kits typically made for home use. They cost 120,000 euros ($143,500), weigh 3,000 kilograms (6,614 pounds) and can generate 525 hectoliters (11,550 gallons) of beer a year.

Pavel Pozivil, who started Well Service two years ago and delivered his first ready-to-go beer lab this year, says he wants to encourage the growth of craft beers in countries such as the United States, Britain, Italy and the Czech Republic.

"The whole world is flooded with these mainstream, large, industrial brewers," Pozivil said. "We wanted to go against it with a beer people can brew themselves, that is unfiltered, unpasteurized and fresh."

The equipment comes in a metal storage container that serves as a stand-alone workshop where a range of beers, from traditional lagers to wheat beer, ale and stout, can be brewed. The cost includes five weeks of training with a brew master.

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The typical owner, Pozivil says, would be a restaurant owner "who would like to brew decent beer and isn't in a position to build his own brewery."

But Well Service's first customer was a regular beer lover who thinks there's a gap in the market he can fill.

Vit Spacil joined forces with his brother Radek to start a backyard brewery on the outskirts of Prague. He wants to produce a light ale that does not have a high alcohol content, unlike many of the local brews.

"We said 'Let's do it,' even though we didn't plan to open a brewery in our garden," Spacil said.

The first batch is due this month, but he has orders already coming in and expects to make back the money he spent in about three years.

In Western Europe and the U.S., where beer is more expensive than in the Czech Republic, the system could be profitable more quickly, according to Pozivil.

Jan Suran who heads an association of Czech small brewers, says the growing demand for craft beer is likely to continue for several more years.

"There's a chance for the container breweries to succeed," he said.