Getting A Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K

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I’m probably going to get hate for writing an article on getting a turnkey brewery for under $50K. However, I’m getting a lot enquiries on this very subject, like the message below.

Getting a Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K - Customer on a Budget

So, I thought why not write this out, as I know some people will find it useful. Which is the basis for every article I write.

I’ll caveat this article by saying the budget of $50K is purely equipment for a basic small brewery set-up. Not extra items, like a walk-in cooler or a small canning line.

In this article we’ll look at getting a 300-liter system or under, simple brewhouse. With all the equipment needed to get the beer into a keg, Plus, be sourced from China, where I’m based.

Please note: Brew length = Size of the brewhouse e.g., 200-liters (2.55 US Bbl.)

The Malt Mill

The mill is going to be pretty simple. It’s worth getting a set of malt sieves, to check the crush and consistency. As a brewer should aim to get the best efficiency from the brewhouse.

Getting a Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K - Malt Sieves
Malt Sieves for Checking the Crush of the Grain

Therefore, having a good crush, is where it starts. The malt mill should allow a brewer to crush the malt needed, in a reasonable timeframe.

Being able to crush the total grain needed for a brew in under 30-minutes, is ideal. So, if you’ve 100Kg (220 lbs.) of malt to crush. You’d want a mill able to process 300Kg (661 lbs.)  per hour, for example.

On a budget, you can’t have any form of malt delivery. You’ll need to mill the malt back into the same bags they’ve come out of.

Additionally, you could use some other form of practical container. This shouldn’t be a problem as the brew length is going to be small.

Hot Liquor Tank (HLT)

Ideally, a brewery has a double-sized sized HLT. So, if the brewhouse is 200-liters (1.7 US Bbl.), then the HLT should be 400-liters (3.4 US Bbl.).

However, depending on the brew length, a project may have to go with a smaller vessel to keep it under the $50K budget.

A 300-liter (2.55 US Bbl.) HLT for the same sized system, isn’t a deal breaker and entirely viable. There are several options and work around for this. Which, I’m happy to discuss, if you’d like to get in touch.

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The Brewhouse – Getting A Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K

A simple two-vessel system is the only real option here.  So, a combined mash/lauter tun with a KWT (a combined kettle/whirlpool).

The cheapest heating option for a brewhouse is electric, for upfront costs. Direct-fire or electric steam, may also be viable too (within budget). However, this would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

There should be enough in the budget to add rakes to the mash/lauter tun. Although heating of the mash tun will be unlikely.

Steam heated jackets are only really viable option for mash heating, in my opinion. I’m not a fan of HERMS or RIMS on commercial systems.

Although some brewer may argue differently. Direct fire and mash heating, is something I’d avoid as well.

With today’s modern malts, step mashing isn’t strictly needed. Furthermore, there are processes and aids a brewer can use, to get the final beer they desire. Without the need to step mash.

Furthermore, the brew kettle will be a fairly basic/classic design. You’ll just need to check if the final drawing and vessel design suits your needs. Which is dependent on the beer styles being brewed.

Again, if someone requires assistance or has some follow-up questions. Please, send me a message or comment below.

Getting A Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K - Small Brewing System
A Small 100-liter 3-Vessel Brewhouse – Costs $8,900

Heat Exchanger (Commonly Shortened to HX)

The heat-exchanger will be a two-stage HX. Meaning it cools the wort first with mains water, with the final temp drop made using glycol.

Having good water pressure helps, and one thing to check when preparing a building for a brewery. With a smaller budget, there’ll not be funds for a CLT (cold liquor tank).

Also, with a smaller brewery, space is a premium too, as it’s likely part of a taproom. Ensure there’s a hop filter before the HX and wort aeration after it.

Unitanks – Getting A Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K

I’ll start with a quick explanation of what unitanks are. These are essentially cylindroconical FV’s which have a working pressure up to 30 Psi (2-Bar).

They are jacketed, meaning their temperature can be regulated. So, they can be used for beer maturation too. Unitanks should also come with spunding valves, for greater flexibility.

The number and size of the vessels to order will be based on a case-by-case basis. I always suggest to my clients, get at least one double sized unitank.

As every brewery generally has one beer, which sells a lot more than the others. Being able to brew, ferment and mature double batches, will lead to time and labour savings.

Furthermore, a 400-liter (3.4 US Bbl.) vessel isn’t double the price of a 200-liter unitank (1.7 US Bbl.). So, ordering bigger fermenters gives a brewery more tank capacity for less money.

300-Liter Brewery for Sale - 6 x 300-Liter FV's
300-Liter Unitanks

Brite Beer Tanks (BBT’s) and Clearing Beer

The general rule of thumb is, for every 4 or 5 unitanks, a brewery should also have a BBT. On a tight budget, opting to house a BBT may not be the best option.

It depends on the style of beers you’re brewing. If a brewery wants a series of clear beers and plan on using beer finings (or bag filter), then yes, a BBT becomes an option.

Other filtering options and equipment are potentially out of budget. Plus, a brewery should have their vessels full as much as possible. On a small system, a BBT might not be used enough to justify it.

Control Cabinet – Getting A Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K

When running a small brewhouse, unitanks and brewhouse are likely to close together. Combine to have one control cabinet for the brewhouse and the cellar, will save money.

Glycol System

The glycol system is needed for cooling wort, fermentation regulation and beer maturation.

The question should be, if there’s some wiggle room in the budget. Does a brewery order an oversized glycol system and extra controllers? To add more unitanks at a later date.

Keg Cleaner – Getting A Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K

Trying to manually clean kegs, is extremely time consuming. If there’s room in the budget, it makes sense to get a small semi-automatic keg cleaner.

Additionally if the budget isn;t enough, a quick Google will bring up some great designs for DIY keg cleaners. Which can be fairly easily built. If you can stretch to adding a factory built semi-automatic keg cleaner it’d always be my first choice.

Furthermore, you can make a very simple manual keg filler, using a keg coupler and some small diameter food grade pipe. As seen in this picture below, which shows how I filled kegs at a brewery I ran in Shanghai.

Brewery Equipment List Options - Manual Keg Filling
On Smaller Systems, It’s Easier Enough To Fill By Hand

Mobile CIP/Transfer Pump

Always have a pump with VDF (variable drive frequency) controls. VDF controls allows a brewer to easily regulate the pump speed.

This pump will also be used for cleaning cellar tanks. As I advise against having a CIP unit. A pump can also be used for transferring beer from one tank to another if needed.

Brewery Tri-Clamp Spare Parts - Cellar Transfer Pump
Mobile Pump with VDF controls

What You Don’t Need – Getting A Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K

When purchasing a brewery on a tight budget. There are some items I’d suggest dropping, to stay within budget.

CIP Unit

A mobile CIP unit can cost USD$2,000 and up. I find in the real world; a CIP unit isn’t practical or worth it, for small system.

Again, some brewers may disagree with me. I’m happy to pump some water from the HLT to the cellar tank in need of cleaning, add my chemicals and then recirculate in place.

Yeast Adding Vessel

For some reason every supplier tries to include a yeast adding vessel to a quote. I’d always opt to add yeast direct to the fermentation vessel, once you know the wort temperature has stabilized.

These vessels aren’t expensive, but every small saving helps. Given the choice and if the budget allows, a small yeast brink is a better investment than a yeast adding vessel.

Brewery Equipment List Options - Yeast Brink
Yeast Brink Are Often Made From Converted Kegs

Hopback

To learn what a hop back is follow this link (external site). There are better methods to add hop aroma to a beer these days, compared to using a hopback.

Conclusions – Getting A Turnkey Brewery for Under $50K

This is our basic breakdown on getting a turnkey brewery for under $50K. If you want more information or have any follow-up questions, please get in touch.

$50K isn’t getting you a big brewery. It’s likely to be 300-liters (2.55 US Bbl.) or under. How the system comes together for a specific brewery, depends on the needs of each project.

This is where I can help, answer my 13-questions in this questionnaire. Send the answers to me, and I’ll have an understanding of the scope of your project.

Furthermore, if you can’t answer all the questions, it’s okay, every piece of information helps. Send me your answers, and I can review them. I’ll likely have some more follow-up questions too.

Then we can arrange a call to discuss your project in more detail, and then take it from there. To get in touch via email, my address is:

neil@asianbeernetwork.com

Additionally, you can message me directly on your preferred network. Scan the relevant QR code below, add me and then send me a message.

I look forward to discussing your project soon.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

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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