Registration will open for the 2020 Spare Keys Homebrew Contest next Spring! This contest will act as the qualifying round for the 5th session of our brewery incubator program.

***Note from the SKB crew: The Spare Keys Program is on hiatus in 2019 as we prepare for our upcoming taproom expansion. We didn’t feel we would be able to provide the appropriate time and attention to program participants while we tackle this new challenge, so we thank you for understanding. We will update this page with registration information and announce on FB as soon as we have a new date. We encourage you to sign up for our newsletter, as that is always the first place we announce things like this! Thanks, emily, paul and john ***


Though Skeleton Key Brewery produces its own awesome brews, our other goal is to help experienced, passionate homebrewers minimize the risk associated with bringing their award-winning brews to market.

As homebrewing continues to increase in popularity, more and more people are looking to gain commercial brewing experience. Yet breweries, understandably, prefer to hire brewers who already have experience. This catch-22 prevents the majority of motivated homebrewers from being able to take the leap to commercial brewing. Some simply seek employment in a large brewery, but many dream of opening a brewery of their own — and few are able to get the support and training they need to make it happen. That’s where our incubator program comes in.

12 weeks hands-on learning
Over the course of 12 weeks, we will immerse a talented, passionate homebrewer in the everyday realities of a commercial brewery and share everything we learned during our own startup process, from recipe scaling, formulation and production to branding, licensing, business plan development, financing and scouting locations.

Get early market exposure
It will be a one-on-one program, at the end of which the apprentice will have the opportunity to gain an early foothold in the market by producing their flagship beer on our system and selling it in our taproom and at local bars under the banner of our apprentice series. The beer name will be whatever they choose and they’ll take both the recipe and the name with them once they’ve finished the program. We simply want to be the springboard for future brewers’ success; we’re not interested in poaching recipes. Once they’ve secured licensing, we are working to accommodate contract brewing for their beer so they can package it under their own label and grow their brand equity further while building out their facility.

Selection process

To qualify for consideration, register for the Spare Keys Homebrew Contest once registration opens June 2019. All participants who advance to the Best of Show round in the contest will be considered for participation in Skeleton Key Brewery’s Spare Keys Incubator Program. Final selection of program participant will be based on additional criteria (essay/interview), separate from the homebrew competition.

If you’re interested in the incubator program, we encourage you to register for the Spare Keys Homebrew Contest. The selection process will heavily favor experienced homebrewers looking to go pro and those who have already done some homework regarding what that would entail. If you’re new to brewing, we recommend taking a few of our classes and then checking out more formal programs such as those offered by the College of DuPage or the Siebel Institute. Our program is more about experiencing and being a part of the day-to-day operations of a brewery.

Want to learn more? Drop us a line!

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