Former Brew it Up! owner seeking investment for comeback

File photo. The former Brew it Up! location on its last day of operation.

Will Brew it Up! return? The answer is a resounding "maybe."

The brewpub and restaurant that featured a brew-your-own-beer aspect in addition to its selection of craft beers closed last year after a 15-year run. Now, owner Mike Costello said he’s got a new business plan in place to resurrect some of the successful aspects of the former business, and build upon them.

He’s only missing one thing.

“It all comes down to money,” he said, adding that while he has pledges of about $300,000, the potential investors don’t have quick access to the money, and he’s looking for something more solid in the next month.

“Basically, the long and the short of it is that the concept of Brew it Up! worked,” Costello said. “We just pushed the finer dining aspect of it too hard.”

Costello said he will not own the next business, Brewhouse Concepts Land & Management, but will be an employee. Any new business will likely be run by a board of directors made up of investors.

The business itself will be markedly different as well. Instead of focusing on a brewery and restaurant concept, Costello said, the plan will be to focus on larger-scale manufacturing of the beers that already have a name in the local market and expand to other parts of the state and region. A tasting room and individual brewing facilities will still be included.

“We have a strong portfolio of beers people like,” Costello said.

Beers that were popular at Brew it Up! and will return if the new business is funded include the Vienna Lager, Oatmeal Stout, Engine 2 Pale Ale, Nordendorf Pilsner and Captain Ron’s Double IPA.

Despite using Brew it Up! recipes and having the name associated with the new business, there is a solid barrier between the two, and Costello said it is too early to say whether existing gift cards, Groupons or the like that were for Brew it Up! will be honored by the new business.

Until money is invested, Costello said, there won’t be serious talks about a location, but somewhere in Sacramento, West Sacramento or Roseville will be a priority.

“It makes sense to start in Sacramento because we already have a market here,” he said. “We’re going to be in a place with lower overhead, and we won’t serve food, initially.”

The setting could be a warehouse or other more industrial space than the downtown corner of 14th and H streets, where Brew it Up! was located, and though there will be a tasting room, food will be handled by outside sources such as food trucks.

“I took what worked, and I focused on that,” Costello said, referencing the new business plan. “Now we’re looking at what else is strong, and we’re focusing there.”

Since the closure of Brew it Up!, local craft beers have become more popular, and breweries such as Track 7 Brewing Co. and Ruhstaller Beer have opened and expanded their operations.

“Hyper-optimistically, if I am able to get the funding by the end of the month, I could open three months from then, so by Oct. 1,” he said.

Sonny Mayugba, executive vice president of the marketing and communications firm Augustine Ideas and a partner at Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar, said he’s seen Costello’s business plan, and he thinks it can be “wildly successful.”

“He learned a lot from failure,” Mayugba said. “He had a pretty good success for years, but he’s learned a lot from the old place and is applying it to the new one.”

Mayugba said he was a fan of Brew it Up!, and he liked the aspect of indvidual brewing.

“I not only used it personally, but it was a great thing for company gifts and employee team-building and things like that,” he said. “I thought it was very cool that you could do that in Sacramento.”

Despite his praise for the private brewing aspect, Mayugba said he thinks it’s secondary to the distribution angle of the new venture.

“The part that has me most excited is the manufacturing aspect,” he said. “Beer is seeing a huge resurgence, especially in craft brews. My thought is to keep it eminently local and really own a small region. He’s not going to come out and be where Sierra Nevada or Lagunitas is right away.”

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

June 14, 2012 | 10:03 AM

As I wrote in a blog post:
Brew It Up introduced thousands of northern Californians to craft beers and home brewing. I’m very excited to see them open again!

June 17, 2012 | 12:20 PM

The beer was good but the food was offensive. For an investment from me he would need to hire a real Chef. He now has to compete with the food revolution that is Midtown Sacramento. That’s not an easy task for today’s eateries. They are lucky if 25% will last more than one year and I have predicted ALL of them. Does Sacramento need another over-priced bistro or a gun shop? Goodbye, Cornerstone, Hello… WTF?? Mikuni.. are you listening? You are next.

June 19, 2012 | 10:19 AM

hmm, it sounds to me like he is forgoing the chef and focusing on beer without food. It’s all up there in the article.

June 20, 2012 | 10:13 AM

food will come into play down the road; I’m one of the founding members of the SacTown Dining Collective; very aware of the “food revolution” and doing my part to support and encourage it. “food was offensive”… whatever. We get good feedback every day about what people loved about BIU, and those are the elements that we’ll strive to keep. Yes, even some of the food. The absolute core focus though will be beer and brewing; everything else will need to complement those two things directly.

June 20, 2012 | 3:49 PM

We had nothing but good meals there, so there.

September 21, 2012 | 12:30 AM

Why would anyone invest with someone that promised all his employees pay,and end it up not paying them,asking all his employees to help him pull it out all the way till the end,employees working ten twelve hours without a break just to have him keep all the cash for the last four five day of sales and not paying a single employee their pay. Does anyone want to invest with someone like that, someone who has no word or conscience on how his employees end it up not paying their bills due to not receiving a final paycheck.

November 10, 2012 | 2:48 PM

Sorry… but as a regular and neighbor of BIU, the food was not good. I tried 15-20 entrees on the menu between 2005 and 2011 and there weren’t any worth talking about afterwards. We came for the beer and avoided the food, except for a couple of decent appetizers. I often brought friends since BIU was 2 blocks away and none of them liked the food either. So, if you can’t handle the truth about your food and the fact that it likely contributed to to the downturn of the business, you really might want to rethink your approach this time around if you add food.

Take a gander at your 188 reviews on yelp “The food didn’t really stand out much and it was basically your typical bar food,” “Overpriced and not that great. “The food is OK, but I’ve definitely had a better burger at Carl’s Jr.” “The food is pretty typical. Nothing super special about it” – And, those are just 4 out of the last 8 reviews.

On a positive note: I loved the beer and the micro-brewing in house option. And, I really look forward to your return to the Sacramento area!

June 18, 2013 | 9:01 PM

I learned to brew at the old BIU when it was a storefront operation in the Davis Marketplace on Covell. It was bare-bones and fun, esp. since we were allowed to bring in our own food from other venues while we brewed beer on the premises. I do agree that the food at the 14th & H St venue was mediocre; we ordered food there since be were hungry while brewing our kettles and were a captive audience. I always thought that a reincarnated BIU should bring in food trucks in the parking lot–what a concept! Low overhead for BIU; split the take. How about an open kitchen; mercenary cook, food-theme of the day, whatever.

December 4, 2013 | 12:24 PM

I have to agree with realestone415. I was one of those whose check was cashed just before Michael Costello and Brew it Up closed shop without notice. Now he has the nerve to use my contact info from the ill-fated ‘brew our own’ debacle to try and get me to come out and try his new venture! I mean, that takes some balls! “sorry I took your money and good faith…why don’t you come out and do it again!”. Michael Costello claims to be just an employee of the newly founded Brewhouse Concepts Land & Management Inc. but to me it is the same player in a new game, and I won’t play until he makes good on the 6 cases I paid for, but did not receive.

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