In this post we look the pros and cons, of using a small affordable skid-mounted brewhouse for nano-brewery projects. I’m seeing a trend towards hyperlocal breweries, with people contacting me about sourcing equipment.
Just today I had a enquiry from someone in from Madagascar, asking about nano-systems. Enquires for brewhouses in the 200-to-300-liter range are increasing.
Yes, many brewing professionals advise against starting a brewery with a system smaller than 500 liters. However, there are people with hyperlocal setups doing well. You have to have tight operations, with minimal staff, but it can work.
These breweries are opening in new craft beer markets (like Madagascar) or built to serve the population of a small town (5,000 population and under).
Case Study for Starting Small
I posted about small brewing systems on LinkedIn (see the picture below) and a lovely Nigerian brewing friend of mine got in touch.
He told me the story of Bature Brewery out of Nigeria. He said an I quote:
“I agree with you completely. The first and only craft brewery in Nigeria, Bature Brewery started with a tiny system in 2016 barely producing 2000-liters a month in Abuja. In February 2021, they opened their Lagos brewery with a 10HL brewery and seem to have taken off nicely.”From Oladapo. my Nigerian Brewing Friend
Starting with a small system allowed Bature Brewery to prove their concept. Plus, as a bonus they won several international awards, brewing on the system too.
As they expanded to the 10HL system. I’ve no doubt the small system is still being used as their pilot/experimental system. So, still providing value, even though they’ve moved on to the bigger system.
The Benefits of a Skid-Mounted Brewery
There are several situations when having a small affordable skid-mounted brewhouse makes sense including:
Adding to An Existing Restaurant
If you own a restaurant and know the local market is interested in craft beer. Serving in-house brewed beer, offers an attractive selling point. You can develop beers which can pair well with an existing menu.
Also, smaller volumes allows you to experiment and develop new recipes easily, without large volume commitments. Getting feedback from your customers and tweaking recipes, will be a breeze.
Having the brewhouse on wheels, means it can be stored away, when not in use. So, not taking up valuable restaurant space at peak times.
Small Town or New Markets
I’m seeing a lot of interest in Australia and South American markets for these small affordable skid-mounted brewhouses. In Australia/South American small towns are often be isolated, with small populations.
The throughput of beer isn’t too much. So, you can have a small bar with minimal staff. Maybe two or three people working.
The owner can make the beer plus, be front of house too. Maybe with one or two extra staff helping out, depending on whether you’ve a small kitchen or not.
Furthermore, the costs of opening and running such an operation isn’t going to break the bank. It’s possible to run such an operation and make money from it. People already are…
The Benefits of a Smaller Brewery
With small batch brewing, you give up on some of the economies of scale. But you get a lot in return too, such as:
- A lifestyle you can enjoy
- Contribute to your local community
- Offer a cozier/at home atmosphere
- Be an owner/operator without having to placate business partners (example: offer better salaries/benefits for your small staff)
- People value local products and support local businesses
The appeal of being small, is the ability to become an integral part of a small community. As well as the financial rewards it can bring. Plus, you get to follow your passion for making beer.
Proof of Concept
As we mentioned earlier, Bature Brewery started with a tiny system; won international awards and then 5 years later invested in a larger system. Even, BrewDog started small, as Martin Dickie (one of the founders) put it:
“We were selling their US-style craft beers at farmers’ markets from the back of their van.”Martin Dickie, Co-Founder BrewDog
Starting with a nano system and a smaller outlay, allows a potential brewery owner to achieve proof of concept. This is how Dogfish Head started, their initial system was a nano-brewery (300 liters).
You start with a smaller brewery, with plans for a larger scale brewery later. Starting small allows you to prove there’s a market for your beer, without risking the extensive capital needed for a full-sized brewery.
Hobby Taking Off or Second Income
This is the ideal gateway for passionate home brewers with a great career, they’re not willing to abandon. These brewers can keep their day jobs and brew at nights and/or weekends.
This often ties into proof of concept too, with many breweries starting like this. Seeing demand for their beer and eventually going pro.
Leaving their old job behind. I’m brewing in China where many of the craft breweries here, started as a part time projects.
Why opt for A Small Affordable Skid-Mounted Brewhouse?
There are a few reasons to choose this particular design:
Ease of Set Up
With a skid mounted brewery everything comes ready to brew. Your brewery is “plug and play”. So, all the vessels, pumps and pipework are in place. Depending on size of the equipment, you may need access to three-phase electricity.
You literally just need to hook up the water plus electricity, and you can begin brewing. I’d suggest doing water test brew first; to make sure the vessels, heating, pumps and pipework are good to go.
Can Move the Brewery Around
When the brewhouse isn’t in use, it can be stored away. If you’re in a place with limited space, it can be a great advantage to wheel the brewery out the way, to make more room.
Pilot Brewery When You Scale Up
If you achieve proof on concept and move onto to a larger system. The small brewhouse you started on, can be used for experimental brews. As well to produce small niche/slow selling beers plus for your brewing team, to have fun on.
Furthermore, the pilot system can be used to prop up yeast for a bigger system. We use our 150-liter pilot brewery to prepare yeast for the 2,500-liter big batches we do.
Can Be Dynamic
Being small allows you to rotate beers regularly, to have different beers on tap consistently. Sam Harriman of Sisyphus Brewing in Minneapolis speak about this a lot when discussing starting on a 200-liter system. Being small leads to creativity
Time Commitment Is Up to You
Your nano brewery can become your life, you brew by day and run a small bar by night. It can be your work and social life. Or you can, like some breweries open a few days a week. So, you can still have a life outside the nano-brewery. It’s up to you.
Everyone Likes the Little Guy
As we said earlier, people like supporting local operations. Also, being small, if you’re creative doing many different beers, there’s an incentive for customers to drop by a lot, to try new stuff.
If you doing 200 to 300 liters of beer at a time, it can quickly run out. People don’t like to miss out a new brews. With a good marketing/social media strategy, the hype can be real.
Costs of a Small Affordable Skid-Mounted Brewhouse
Here’s are two quotes from January 14th 2022. They are for a 300 and 200L system. See the pictures below for price breakdown for both systems. As I’ve said before, the pricing isn’t logarithmic, when it comes to brewing equipment.
A 200-Liter system isn’t twice the price of a 100-Liter system. The work to make them is the similar, you’re paying for the extra materials. If on the fence, I’d always advise going for the bigger option.
These are brewhouses from a Chinese manufacturer. To read more about Chinese brewing equipment and pricing, please read our dedicated post here.
The prices are reasonable for a compact system on wheels. As we say it is a plug and play system; making set up easy. It all runs on electricity; including the heating and cooling of the fermentation vessels.
Skid-Mounted Brewhouse – Conclusions
Having your own small brewhouse on wheels, as you can see has many benefits for those looking for a cheaper and easier route into the brewing industry.
It’s a path successful brewery’s such as the mighty Dogfish Head have walked in the past. People root for the smaller guy; it gives you the opportunity to be dynamic, creative and prove your concept.
If you would like help sourcing the right small affordable skid-mounted brewhouse; then feel free to reach out by emailing me at:
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If you would like to discuss any brewing project further or have any follow-up questions. Please know my inbox is always open.
Have a great day and thanks for reading.