Craft Brewhouse Design Tips – 5 Considerations

I want to share with you some craft brewhouse design tips today, to ensure your money is well spent when opening a brewery. The biggest capital outlay of any brewery is the brewing equipment itself.

Choosing the right equipment and design for your brewhouse needs now, as well as for future growth, will set you up to be successful in the long-term.

I’ve 25 years of brewing experience and seen many different set-ups, some better than others. It’s led me to several conclusions when considering brewhouse design.

Craft Brewhouse Design Tips #1 – Modular Growth

If you’re planning a brewery, or making the jump from a nano-set after proof of concept. Thinking ahead can save you money in the long-term. As craft breweries continue to pop up around the world serving newer markets, budgets are often limited.

So, maybe there’s only allowance for a 2-vessel 1,000-liter system to begin with. However, for a little more outlay, you can design a brewhouse for extra vessels further down the line. It only takes a little forethought to design a brewdeck with valve locations and space for additional tanks. Such as a dedicated whirlpool or lauter tun for a time when brewery volume demands increase.

Craft Brewhouse Design Tips - Planning Ahead

Thinking ahead and having your architect, engineer and chosen equipment manufacturer plan for these vessel additions will reduce downtime. When time comes to bring these vessels online, plus you’ll save a lot of money. It could even help with financing too.

Growing capacity with additional vessels and running the brewhouse more often, is certainly more attractive to lenders than opting to increase brewhouse size and running it a few times a week. You also need to decommission plus sell your old equipment, wait for a brand-new system be fabricated and hope installation goes well too, with a full brewhouse upgrade.

Adding brewhouse vessels to an existing system, keeps your debts lower and downtime to a minimum. Adding additional tanks to your current system if planned correctly could take only week to come onstream. Yes, there are additional labour costs for more brewing shifts as well as costs (in time and capital) for extra fermenters. But it’s costs much less than upgrading to a whole new system.

Tip #2 – Oversized Mash Tuns

The craft brewing scene is ever-evolving, with some breweries concentrating on a few beer styles. We are seeing a move towards bigger beers like double IPA’s and imperial stouts. I’m getting more requests from clients looking at oversized mash tuns rather than bigger kettles.

When it comes to brewhouse efficiency, having the right grain depth is key. However, when considering your custom mash tun design, you need to consider the brewery’s entire beer range. If you’re making both a 12% abv imperial stout as well as a 4% abv lager, they’ve very different recipe dynamics and efficiency expectations.

It’s not a one-size fits all situation, if you go with a custom mash tun design, your beer portfolio has to be built with this strategy in mind. If you do, then the results can really work in your favor.

Craft Brewhouse Design Tips - Get Help Here

Sour Beers – Craft Brewhouse Design Tips #3

As sour beers become more popular, having them in your brewery offerings makes sense. In South Korea for example; Wild Waves Brewing, only makes sour/wild beers and are successful. Processes to make sour beer vary a lot, however many brewers opt for kettle souring.

Kettle souring can take 24 to 48 hours, tying up your brew kettle for so long is less than ideal. Furthermore, ensuring your kettle is the ideal anaerobic environment for souring isn’t easy as they’re designed to vent.

A dedicated souring vessel could be a great option for a new brewery. It could be a dedicated jacketed fermenter for your sour beers or one of a new generation of purpose-built souring vessels with built in electric elements for quicker souring.

These dedicated souring vessels are built for one purpose in mind and ensure a proper anaerobic environment. If you plan to have sour beers as a consistent part of the beer lineup, having a dedicated vessel for the purpose, leaves your brew kettle free for more conventional beers. Whilst the souring bacteria are doing their work elsewhere.

Catharina Sour Beers

Tip #4 – Planning for Expansion

One of the craft brewhouse design tips, people overlook. Factoring in expansion capacity into brewery plan? As your grow organically over time so, do your sales volume. Factoring in increased sales to your initial brewhouse design can save your money in the future.

Some of the key factors to consider are:

Brewhouse size – a size for now which is good for future growth

Fermentation capacity – cycle times for different beer styles

Keg numbers – kegs in the brewery and with customers

Cold room space – as demand grows so does need for more cold storage

Raw material stocks – as you grow need more room to store materials

Delivering – more beer means improved logistics

Floor space – for additional fermenters, cellar workflows and storage

Take a look at the table below for an example of what you can expect with sustained brewery growth. This is a simple example; and a lot will be decided by beer styles brewed amongst other factors.

Craft Brewhouse Design Tips

Other factors to consider for example is your glycol system. I recently had a brewery project in Peru, who gave me the sales forecast year on year for the first three years.

I advised my clients with the decision made to order an oversized glycol system to cover the initial cellar tank capacity, as well as the growth for phase two. You open a brewery to be successful, factoring in growth in your initial plans can lead to significant saving down the line.

Sizing up the glycol system for several additional tanks in the future wasn’t much more money than the original system they were considering. As with many brewhouse costings, prices increase for bigger equipment isn’t logarithmic. A glycol system for 10 tanks isn’t twice the price of one for 5.

Doubling Up Mash Tuns & Kettles – Craft Brewhouse Design Tips #5

Breweries are looking to be more dynamic; I know one brewery in China with a 2,000-liter brewhouse BUT 62 * 2,000-liter fermenters. This setup allows them to adapt to market trends and offer a large beer portfolio.

One practical way to have a dynamic brewhouse is with parallel mash and kettle functions utilizing additional vessels. It allows breweries to produce two brews simultaneously or slightly offset. You’re brew day becomes much quicker when filling a large fermenter or brewing two different beer styles simultaneously.

Look at the LinkedIn post below from one of my favorite breweries in China; Fat Fat Beer Horse. They were looking for ways for increase their brewhouse capacity so, added an extra mash tun. They’ve now got even more creative.

Craft Brewhouse Design Tips - Doubling Up

They can now brew multiple batches per day filling their new larger fermenters. The costs of expansion were affordable plus they still used their original small brewhouse for brewing greater volume per day. Thinking smart can save you money.

Craft Brewhouse Design Tips – Conclusions

When it comes to putting a brewhouse together there are many factors to consider. Thinking ahead can save you money down the line. If you’re new to the brewing industry or looking to scale and would like some assistance, I can help.

I’ve been a brewer for 25 years and now work as a consultant helping people with their brewing projects. Having worked on a number of systems and in various market around the world, I know my way around a brewery and brewhouse design.

For more information about my services please see the introduction deck below. You can reach me via email at:

neil@asianbeernetwork.com

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

Cheers

Neil

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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