Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container

I wanted to write about making a brewery in a shipping container, as the subject is gaining a lot of interest. Plus, I’m currently working on such a project, for a client in Scandinavia.

Furthermore, I posted about container breweries in a Facebook group I’m part of. I wanted to other peoples’ thoughts about the concept, within the brewing group.

It really caught the groups imagination, garnering a lot of interest. As you can see in the picture below. By the way, this wasn’t all the comments.

Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container - Facebook Group Post On Breweries in Shipping Containers
Lots of interest in the idea of a shipping container

Having a complete brewery in a container is something I’d heard about before. However, working on such a project, is personally new to me.

A lot of the principles we’ll use on this project, are similar to those I shared in another post on my site about “Commercial Small Space Brewing”.

Having a limited space to work with, presents challenges when designing a brewery.

Furthermore, this particular project also has pretty tight budget as well. My services were paid for, to work with a brewing equipment manufacturer.

To bring the project to reality, from the brief and budget given. The project is still on-going, but I wanted to share what we’ve learnt so far. Starting with the brewhouse.

Please note: For this project we went with two shipping containers, one for the brewhouse and one for cellar tanks.

Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container – The Brewhouse

We need to start with the dimensions of a shipping container. We will be using two 40-foot shipping containers for this project. For one container the internal dimensions are:

Interior Dimensions (in feet): 39’ 6” long x 7’ 9” wide x 7’ 10” high

Internal Dimensions (in meters): 12.025m long x 2.352m wide x 2.393m high

Usable Capacity (in meters): 67.7m 3

As space is a priority, we opted for a two-vessel system. I would advise anyone wanting to do such a project, to go with two-vessel brewhouse as well.

This means having both a combined mash/lauter tun and kettle/whirlpool. The maximum size the brewhouse can be is 500-liters, due to space restrictions.

The set-up has a two-stage heat exchanger, so uses both glycol and mains water, to flash cool the hot wort down.

The HLT (hot liquor tank), has a 1,000-liter volume capacity. There’s the option to go with a tankless hot water system to save further space. However, for this project, we decided on an HLT, at the client’s behest.

Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container - Brewhouse Layout
This was the original brewhouse design

Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container – The Rest of the Brewhouse Container

In the rest of the brewery container, we housed:

  • The glycol holding tank
  • RO machine and treated water holding tank
  • Brewhouse control panel
  • Steam generator – We are using an electric steam generator on this project
  • As well as the brewhouse working platform and heat exchanger
  • Plus, the compressor/chiller was outside – due to noise and heat dumping

The drawing above for the brewhouse container, was the first iteration of the project. Ideally the glycol holding tanks, would be in the cellar container, along with the fermentation vessels and brite beer tank.

If the glycol holding tank is in the cellar area, it would mean less pipework to connect all the FV’s and BBT to the glycol system.

The longest length would be the send and return for the heat exchanger. However, the client wanted 6 FV’s and BBT so, there was no space for the holding tank there.

RO Setup

I managed to source a small RO unit, which was capable of producing the output needed. Plus, it’ll not take up too much space, as seen in the picture below.

Mini RO Machines - 200 Gallons per Day - Small Brewery Equipment List

For the treated water buffer tank, we did look at using IBC totes mounted on the roof. As this would save space and money. However, the weather would be too cold in winter time, and the water would of froze.

We decided to go with a stainless-steel, single skin tank inside the brewhouse container. As prices for such a vessel sourced is China, will be cheap.

Plus, in winter time, the client will have air-conditioning on, to keep the brewhouse warm enough. So, the water doesn’t freeze, both for the HLT and RO holding tank.

Finally, the RO holding tanks has an on-demand pump, which turns on when you open the valve to fill the HLT. Also, this pump will transfer RO water to the water mixing station for brewing needs.

HLT – Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container

In most brewing system, the HLT should be a minimum of twice the size of the brewhouse. Our brewhouse is a 500-liter system, and we could luckily fit in a 1,000-liter HLT.

So, all in all it was ideal. As it was the biggest tank we could put inside anyway. The HLT will also be hard piped to the cellar container too. As we needed to pump hot water there for cellar tank CIP’s (clean in place).

We opted against a CIP system or cart, to save space. Honestly for a small system, it’s not entirely needed anyway. As we noted in our article on “Brewery Equipment Options – Deep Dive”.

Steam Generator

Having a steam heated brewery is a slightly larger up-front cost. However, I’d always opt for steam, if it’s viable at your brewery location.

To learn why it’s my preferred heating method please, see my in-depth article on steam. Steam is a much more even heating method. Plus, makes it easy to heat the mash tun, if you want to step-mash too.

Electric Steam Generator - Small Brewery Equipment List
This is an electric steam generator

-> Click here to get our brewery heating guide <-

In our container brewery set-up, steam heating is possible. As the plan is to use electric steam generation.

With the size of the brewhouse only being 500-liters, along with a 1,000-liter HLT. The electric steam generator needed, won’t take up too much space.

Glycol System – Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container

The glycol system will control the temperature of the cellar tanks, both FV’s and BBT (brite beer tank). As well as be used for chilling wort via the heat exchanger too.

Please note: The glycol holding tank must in the container too, due to the cold winter weather. But the chilling compressor unit will be placed outside.

As we said before, ideally the holding tank would be in the cellar container. It would mean less pipework as the cellar tanks would be close by. The longest pipework would be to and from the heat exchanger.

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The Brewhouse Container Conclusions

There are other smaller pieces of equipment in brewery container. Such as the working platform, which helps brewers see inside the brewhouse vessels, and makes mashing-in easier.

Also, there’s the control cabinet, used to control brewhouse pumps and temperature settings of the brewhouse vessels.

The Cellar Room Container – Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container

So, the second container is for the fermentation vessels (FV’s) and BBT. The biggest size we can go is 1,000-liters for the FV’s. Which is ideal as we have a 500-liter brewhouse, meaning double batches into all FV’s.

The client initially wanted 6 x 1,000-liter FV’s and a single 1,000-liter BBT. Which takes up all the room in the second container, as shown in the image below.

Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container - Cellar Container Layout
This was the original cellar container design

So, all in all there’s not much to write about here. The control cabinet for temperature setting of the cellar vessels is stuck in the corner, as you can see. It’s manual system with LCD displays and push buttons, for the temperatures control of the tanks.

Brewery Equipment List Options - Brewery Cellar Control Panel
An Example of a Brewery Cellar Control Panel

The Third Container and The Second Iteration of the Plan

The initial plan was to have a third container, off-site but close to the brewery. This would house the mobile canning unit, the materials needed for canning and some other stuff.

However, plans had to change to the new idea below. The 3rd container was no longer feasible. The changes made below, was the best use of the available space, but we lost a couple of cellar tanks.

Furthermore, it meant the glycol tank would now be in the cellar container, which is far better for the project anyway.

Being able to source the small RO machine was a godsend. As it doesn’t take up so much space, leaving room to fulfil other demands of the client.

As for the cellar container, having the BBT at one end, with the can filling line. Makes a lot of sense, when it comes to packaging.

Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container - Second Iteration of the Set-up
This is the second iteration of the plan

The Canning Line

The canning line is this one, it’s a small on wheels which many of my friends are using. The DO levels on it are great, with levels under 30ppb in tests, checked with an Anton Parr CboxQ.

The machine can do around 400 cans per hours. It’s can be run by two people, with one person putting cans on. The other person will take the cans off and keep the can lids feed full.

Small Scale Canning for Breweries - For One of My Clients
The canning line we will use. This is one purchased by another client of mine

Between the client, the manufacturer and myself we’re slowly getting there, to provide the brewery layout to fulfil the needs of the project. There’s still more work to do however, on the layout and design.

We will get there…

Making A Brewery in A Shipping Container – Conclusions

We’re still refining many aspects, with plenty of discussions ahead of us. It’s been a fun challenge so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing this project develop.

I’ve not shared all we’ve done. As well…there’s some trade secrets. Plus, to cover every aspect of the project, would require me to write a short novella…

For now, I think what’s already been shared, gives a solid base on which to plan a container brewery. If you want to learn more about putting a container brewery project together, feel free to reach out.

My email address is: neil@asianbeernetwork.com

Furthermore, depending on the needs of a project, it’s possible for a brewhouse and some FV’s to fit in one container. It’d take some re-configurations and some concessions.

Finally, if you’ve any brewery project you’d like to discuss. Then again feel free to email me or message me directly on your preferred network.

Simple scan the QR code of the relevant network, add me and message me directly. For now, thanks for reading and have a good 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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