Thoughtful Taproom Design Enhances Sales at Craft Breweries

With more than a decade of experience specializing in working closely with craft brewers, the professional architectural designers at OPA Design Studio outline the most important ways effective taproom design can contribute to your brewery’s success.

OPA Design Studio (Sponsored) Jun 27, 2024 - 12 min read

Thoughtful Taproom Design Enhances Sales at Craft Breweries Primary Image

Pinthouse Brewing. Photo Credit: Chase Daniel

Craft breweries have become more than just places to enjoy a good beer. They have evolved into destinations where people seek unique experiences. A key element in creating this type of engaging atmosphere lies in the design of the taproom. Crafting an inviting and immersive space not only enhances the customer experience but also drives on-site sales.

In an increasingly competitive market, a stand-out taproom experience serves to attract customers and fosters a long-term connection that draws them back for repeat visits. On-site sales produce healthier profit margins because serving your beers in-house doesn’t require the packaging, transporting, warehousing, and retailing cost factors that distribution entails. Here, based on our experience as brewery architects, are a few of the most important ways effective taproom design can contribute to your brewery’s success.

Balancing with the Brewing Process

Taproom design often incorporates elements that showcase the brewing process, such as exposed brewing equipment or viewing windows into the brewery. This transparency not only educates visitors about the brewing process but also fosters a deeper connection to the beer they’ve come to enjoy. It adds authenticity to the experience, promoting customer loyalty and encouraging visitors to explore different offerings. We have identified three levels of connection between the spaces where the beer is made and where it’s enjoyed.

The direct option brings the brewing equipment into the taproom space. This approach provides the highest level of immersion for guests because they can experience all the sights, sounds, and smells that come along with the brewing process. An added amenity to the brewery production crew is that the entire space is likely air-conditioned. When OPA designed On Rotation Brewery in Dallas, we were careful to blend their production area with their taproom to create one cohesive experience for staff and patrons.

On Rotation Brewing. Photo Credit: Andrea Calo

The visual option uses an intermediate approach that opens a portal into the brewery production space by creating a physical separation using a transparent material, such as glass, that allows for viewing from the taproom. Using this method allows for the intentional framing of the production space to enhance or draw attention to its most visually appealing aspects while minimizing how much of the potentially less attractive aspects customers see.

In this situation, the production space and employees have more privacy and security from the public-facing spaces of the building, and two differently conditioned spaces can be formed, leading to operating cost savings. When OPA designed Deadwords Brewing in Orlando, we worked closely with the client to shape a dramatic view into their brewing space, blending the industrial look and feel of their production area with the warm ambience of their carefully branded taproom.

Deadwords Brewing. Photo Credit: Andrea Calo

The external option offers the most separation by housing the production space in a separate building from the taproom. This method allows the taproom to fully breathe as its own entity away from the more industrial-feeling production area and could potentially help to resolve fire separation and sprinkler requirements, leading to substantial cost savings. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the production space can’t still feel connected and integral to the experience. When OPA designed Vista Brewing in Dripping Springs, Texas, we put the production and taproom spaces in separate buildings facing each other across a walking path with large windows opening onto the path to enable a special connection between the spaces.

Vista Brewing. Photo Credit: Mark Adams Media

Regardless which approach is best suited to your unique taproom connectivity, it is critical to keep a healthy balance between the safety and productivity required on the production side of the facility and the enjoyment of patrons in the front of house. You need to give special consideration to areas where circulation of goods and people occur (e.g., transportation of kegs, deliveries, etc.). These movements of the inputs and outputs of production should be thoughtfully laid out to facilitate ease of use for production workers, and you will likely want to keep them out of the walking paths and lines of sight of visitors.

Instead, a compelling taproom layout will draw visitors’ eyes to exciting visual moments such as activity at the brewhouse or the mesmerizing appeal of a row of stainless-steel tanks in the cellar. Here, you want to strike a balance to prevent production staff from feeling as if they’re stuck in a fishbowl, while providing exciting glimpses into the production area sure to captivate guests.

LEFT Pinthouse Brewing. Photo Credit: Chase Daniel; RIGHT Pinthouse Pizza Round Rock. Photo Credit: Mark Adams Media

Connecting with the Brand

Effective taproom design extends beyond the physical space to include merchandising and branding opportunities. A display section showcasing brewery merchandise, branded glassware, and custom apparel opens complementary revenue streams while reinforcing brand identity. Well-designed signage and artwork further enhance the brewery's aesthetic and help tell its story, leaving a lasting impression on visitors. Some examples of strong, effectively branded taprooms OPA has had the pleasure to help design include Senza Maeso in Austin, Sedona Beer Co. in Arizona, and Pint House Pizza in Round Rock, Texas.

Sedona Beer Co.

All the elements that combine to create the atmosphere of a taproom help form customers’ first impression. Thoughtful design elements such as lighting, decor, and layout shape the atmosphere. Comfortable seating arrangements encourage patrons to linger, fostering a sense of community, and lead to repeat visits.

One common misconception is that a neutral-looking space will attract the most people when, in fact, the opposite is often true. A bold, creative space with a strong sense of identity will get people talking, set the brand and space apart from others, and drive curious people to experience what is on offer.

Pinthouse Pizza Round Rock. Photo Credit: Mark Adams Media

Crafting the Experience

Craft breweries have become social hubs where people gather to connect over shared interests. To promote social interaction, taproom layouts can be strategically designed with communal tables, bar seating, drink rails, and open spaces that encourage conversation among patrons. By fostering a sense of togetherness, taprooms become gathering places where customers are more likely to stay longer. Providing dining options, such as the food trucks at Meanwhile Brewing in Austin, or through a small on-site kitchen, as at Deadwords Brewing, increases customer comfort levels, rounds out the overall experience, and keeps people in their seats for another round of what’s on tap.

LEFT Meanwhile Brewing. Photo Credit: Andrea Calo; RIGHT Deadwords Brewing. Photo Credit: Andrea Calo

Taprooms often host events such as live music performances, trivia nights, and new-release beer tastings. The design of the space should accommodate these activities, providing flexibility of potential uses. A stage for performances, a designated VIP tasting area for special releases, or outdoor seating for seasonal events all contribute to a dynamic and engaging experience that keeps customers coming back for more. Take, for example, the large stage OPA designed for Meanwhile Brewing that facilitates hosting highly attended events for the community. Even a smaller, more intimate stage area and/or supporting event spaces can add value and potential supplementary revenue streams.

Meanwhile Brewing

From the moment a customer enters the taproom to the last sip of their beer, you should carefully consider every aspect of the customer journey. Efficient bar layouts, clear signage, and intuitive flow contribute to a seamless experience. Staff customer-service training and product knowledge ensure that customers feel valued and well taken care of, increasing the likelihood of return visits and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.

One crucial aspect of the customer experience rests in assuring that points of service are plentiful and functional enough to provide timely, personal, and friendly attention. Bars should be designed to handle busy peak sales moments as well as slower periods. Multiple points of service can reduce wait times and can be pared back during times of reduced customer activity.

On Rotation Brewing. Photo Credit: Andrea Calo

As an example of thoughtful bar seating with an intentional point of service, allowing for clear flow of queuing without interrupting patrons from enjoying their place at the bar, consider the bar layout at On Rotation Brewing with its designated point of service where the bar rounds outward near the tap wall.

On the other hand, exterior points of service allow you to serve patrons in areas such as patios and beer gardens without negatively impacting the level of service in the taproom. A couple of examples include OPA’s exterior bar designs at Vista Brewing and NLand Brewing in Austin.

LEFT Vista Brewing. Photo Credit: Mark Adams Media; RIGHT NLand Brewing. Photo Credit: Mark Adams Media

Putting It All Together & Getting It Right

Taproom design plays a crucial role in driving on-site sales at craft breweries by enhancing the overall customer experience. By creating a welcoming atmosphere, showcasing the brewing process, promoting social interaction, curating engaging experiences, leveraging branding opportunities, and optimizing the customer journey, you can cultivate a following of loyal patrons who ultimately become ambassadors for your brand. Investing in thoughtful taproom design is not just about aesthetics; it also represents a strategic investment in the long-term success and sustainability of your business model.

Finding the right architect who possesses the experience to thoughtfully and intentionally combine and bring into harmony patron-facing spaces such as taprooms, event areas, patios, and beer gardens with production areas requires careful consideration. Not every designer has the right balance of expertise to foresee and understand the importance of the intimate interactions and cause-and-effect relationships between the way such specialized spaces are laid out, aligned with branding, shaped to fit a unique production process, and can be put into long-term action when grand openings give way to years of daily operations.

Getting the design of a taproom right to allow for the flexibility and future growth that you envisioned when you opened your brewery is key to its long-term success and potential. With more than a decade of experience specializing in working closely with craft brewers—and with dozens of breweries designed and built to date—the professional architectural designers at OPA Design Studio are pleased to continue to guide brewery owners and operators through the design process from start to finish. If you want to begin your journey of exceptional design for your own brewery, you can learn more at, call (512) 899-3100, or email the architects of OPA at [email protected].