Brewing Consultant for Chinese Brewing Equipment

I’ve been a brewing consultant for Chinese brewing equipment for some time now. It was a natural progression for me, as I’d been part of the Chinese craft beer since the early days.

I first came to brew in China in 2010, where I worked for a brewery called Bad Monkey in Dali, Yunnan. Back in 2010 craft brewing was in its infancy. I’d guess there were less than 30 craft breweries in the whole country.

A lot has happened since then, now there’s an established craft beer scene with hundreds of craft breweries in China and more popping up every month.

A few of which, I’ve assisted on myself. Like the 2,000L semi-automatic brewery I helped commission plus, get operational for Humdinger Brewery at the end of last year.

China isn’t the first country I’ve brewed in; I’ve been making beer for 25 years, all over the world. My last stop before China was Yerevan, Armenia. My role there was to get a 3,500-liter semi-automatic brewery operational, and train a team from scratch.

See some pictures from the project below.

My Brewing Background


My beer education began back in 1995, when I was an assistant brewer in London. The brewery was making a traditional pilsner, using yeast shipped over from Germany. Hence my first love has always been pilsner beer.

My brewing career has taken me to Paris, Lisbon, Bermuda, China, Hong Kong and of course Armenia. I missed Asia so, came back to China after my Armenian sojourn to base myself in the Middle Kingdom.

When I got back, people started to ask me for help with Chinese brewing equipment, as they knew of my brewing experience and knowledge of China.

I’ve done my fair share of installs and brewed on many systems in the last 25 years. From brewing on a small 300L pub system to dry hopping the first ever Goose Island IPA brewed in China. When I was working for AB InBev in Wuhan.

This was the biggest dry-hop ever done in China at the time. I’ve had an interesting and well-travelled brewing career…I know I’ve been lucky.

As I said, it was a natural progression to become a consultant for Chinese brewing equipment. Using my brewing experience and knowledge of China plus the fact I’m based here.

So, What Does a Brewing Consultant Do?

Well, I help with the following, mostly:

  1. Solidify the scope of the project – including brewhouse, if a pilot system is needed, set out the core beer range and understand the level of automation wanted.
  2. Agree on an equipment list – including all auxiliary equipment like a keg washer.
  3. Get a minimum of 3 quotes from manufacturers – from only reputable fabricators I know, or recommended by people I trust in my brewing network.
  4. Break down, assess and compare the quotes – see how they compare in price, design and extras.
  5. Have discussions with each supplier; asking about layouts and diving deeper into equipment specifications– get a feel for each manufacturer
  6. Choose a manufacture, sign a contract and put a deposit on the equipment – lock in your order, understand their service and agree a timeline plus payment structure.

Now the above may seem quite simple. However, it involves a lot of correspondence. The main aim is for me to understand the scope of the project so, I ask these 9 questions.

The answers clients give, allows me to put together a proposal like this:

This document lays out the key elements of the project. Plus having a written document to share with the client, allows us to be on the same page. Plus, provides the framework for ongoing to discussions.

At this point clients review the above document adding any notes or comments they see fit. We then begin to lock in the project, during the follow-up conversations.

Brewing Consultant for Chinese Brewing Equipment – Follow-Up Questions

With follow-up conversation, we lock in the details of the project on a deeper level. Click here for a detailed look at the follow-up questions, but here’s a summary of the article:

1. Locking in brewhouse vessels – do you want a 2, 3 or 4-vessel system?

2. Do you need a grain delivery system? If you’re brewery planned is over 1,500 liters, it’s recommended.

3. Fermentation/Unitank design – Need carbonation stones and different size vessels? To learn more about tank design click here.

4. Do you need a brite beer tanks? Depends on beer styles you choose to brew. Plan to brew hoppy beers, the learn more about hop cannons here.

5. What are the regulations like in your country? Can you have a steam generator for instance?

6. Do you need a pilot system? Many brewers like to have one for experimentation and small batch brewing.

7. Off-site storage – If the brewing space is small, is off-site storage an option?

8. Do you need filtration? Again, it depends on beer styles you’re brewing. To learn more about sheet filters click here.

9. Production and Operations – Depending on where the project is, I might be able to help with installation and getting the brewery operational.

10. Will you bottle or can the beer? What are your preferred pack options?

The above follow-up question with the answers given by the client allows me understand the scope of the project. So, I can put an equipment list together. This will be agreed upon with the client, then we move on to the next part.

Brewery Floor Plan Example

Getting Quotes from Brewing Equipment Manufacturers in China

So now we know the following regarding the brewing project:

  • Accepted budget range
  • The level of automation wanted
  • Have an agreed equipment list
  • Scope of the project
  • Ideal timeline

The next step is to approach Chinese brewing equipment manufacturers.  As you now know, I’ve brewed for many years in China working on many Chinese made systems. I know what has worked for me and which Chinese fabricators I trust.

Plus, I’ve many brewers in my network who’ve used Chinese equipment for their brewhouses and given me feedback. So, have recommendations from brewers I trust and respect, when it comes to equipment made in China.

Only Contacting Trusted Equipment Suppliers

I can go to reputable suppliers with real world testimonials. I’ll get a minimum of 3 quotes and then work with the client to go through the quotes, break them down and assess them.

We’ll then go back to the manufacturers with questions about the quotes and begin to lock them down. Usually during this part of the project, the client gets a feel for a manufacturer they prefer. Although sometimes clients leave the choice of fabricator entirely up to me.

If the client has a location, some drawings can be made plotting out the equipment for the site. Layouts go through several iterations between the client, myself and the manufacturer to best use the available space.

After thorough discussion; with drawings reviewed, it’s at this point a manufacturer is chosen. A deposit for the equipment is placed by the client so, fabrication can begin. Furthermore, a payment structures is agreed upon as well.

It can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, the deposit is usually between 25 and 30% of total cost. There’s another payment before shipping for the rest, although some suppliers ask for the last 10% after the installation.

During the fabrication phase, the client is usually preparing the building. For the brewing space it usually means preparing the following:
  • Putting in trench drains
  • Having a slightly slopped for drainage
  • Installing the utility points placed where agreed from layout plans

For more brewery building preparation tips please click here to read our dedicated article. So, as the brewery is being fabricated, the client is preparing the building. Fabrication of equipment usually takes around 90 days.

Free Brewing Consultation Service
Pictures taken from the project I did in Kunming for Humdinger Brewery

This ends the first stage of most brewing project. As a brewing consultant for Chinese brewing equipment the main work is completed for now. Whilst the equipment is fabricated, the client is preparing the building.

Clients will often reach out to me for bits of advice or guidance, which I’m happy to provide. The next task would be a factory visit to check the equipment being manufactured or to sign off before shipment. This part of the process will be covered in a later article.

Brewing Consultant for Chinese Brewing Equipment – Conclusions

Thanks for taking time to read our article on” brewing consultant for Chinese brewing equipment”. I get asked a lot how I can help on a brewing project. So, I thought I’d make an article to explain it.

This is the “first stage” where I can help with a brewing project. It’s up until the equipment has been agreed and deposit paid. As I say the next stage, I can help with is checking the equipment during the fabrication process.

If you’d like some help with your upcoming brewing project, then please feel free to get in touch. My email is:

neil@asianbeernetwork.com

Or you can scan the QR code of your preferred network below, add me and then message me directly there. We can chat via email or messaging.

Then if you’d like, I’m happy to jump on a call and delve a little deeper into your project. I’m happy to do a FREE 45-minute introductory call. So, please feel free to reach out.

Thanks again and happy brewing!

Contact Asian Beer Network QR Codes

Neil Playfoot

Neil is a brewer with 25 years international brewing experience. Based out of China (first came in 2010) he works as a brewing consultant helping brewers with their projects and brewing processes. To find out what services Neil can provide your brewery please click here. If you'd like to contact Neil you can email at neil@asianbeernetwork.com.
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