I recently had a client approach me about sourcing a small affordable skid-mounted brewhouse. The idea was to add it to a property next door to an existing restaurant to increase its appeal and draw in more customers.
I’m seeing more people looking at small brewing systems than ever before. Brewhouses in the 200-to-300-liter range and I like the idea. Even though many brewing professionals would advise against starting with a system smaller than 500 liters.
Their belief is it doesn’t help you when looking to scale up your brewery. However, there’s a new trend in the brewing industry; called the “hyper local” brewery.
These breweries are opening in new craft beer markets 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.”My Nigerian Brewing Friend
The small system Bature Brewery used for proof of concept and to win international awards on, is no doubt still being used as their pilot/experimental system. So, still provides value even though they’ve moved on to a 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, being able to offer in-house brewed beer can be a great selling point. You can develop beers which can pair well with an existing menu.
Also making smaller volumes allows you to play around and develop new recipes easily without large volume commitments. Getting feedback from your customers and tweaking recipes will be a breeze.
Having the actual 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 can be quite isolated with small populations
The throughput of beer isn’t going to be large; you can have a small bar with minimal staff, maybe 2 or 3 people working. The owner makes the beer is and is also front of house with one or two extra staff helping depending if you run a small simple kitchen too.
Furthermore, the outlay to open the place and have a small brewery isn’t going to be large plus, the running costs aren’t going to be big either. It’s possible to run such an operation and make a good living from it.
With small batch brewing you do give up some of the economies of scale but you get a lot in return 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 going small is becoming 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 small system, with a smaller outlay can allow a potential brewery owner to prove proof of concept. This is how Dogfish Head started, their initial system was a nano-brewery (300 liters or under).
You start with a smaller brewery with plans for a larger scale brewery. Starting small allows you to prove there is a market for your beer without risking 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 which they aren’t willing to abandon for the unknowns of a brewing project. These brewers keep their day job and brew at nights and/or weekends.
This often ties into proof of concept, with many breweries starting like this, seeing demand for their beer and eventually going pro.
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.
You literally just need to hook up the water and 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 prove proof on concept and move onto to a larger system; the small brewhouse you started on can be used for experimental brews. As well as for small niche/slow selling beers and for your brewing team to have fun on.
Can Be Dynamic
Being small can allows you to constantly rotate beers so, have different beers on tap every week. 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 and 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 on the small side; if you’re creative plus, always doing different beers there’s an incentive for customers to drop by a lot.
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 brew. With a good marketing/social media strategy the hype can be real.
Costs of a Small Affordable Skid-Mounted Brewhouse
As I said at the start of the post, I was asked to put together a quote for a client. This is the first quote I got for a 300-liter system (and the one pictured in this post):
Please be aware I’m still looking at other options from different equipment manufacturers. When I have those quotes, I will share them as well.
This is a brewhouse from a Chinese manufacturer. To read more about Chinese brewing equipment and pricing, please read our dedicated post here.
The price as you can see is reasonable for a compact system on wheels. As we say it is a plug and play system and making set up easy. It all runs on electricity; including the heating.
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 and 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:
Or you can add me to directly to your preferred network below by scanning the relevant QR code. Please also see PowerPoint presentation below this post too which you can download here.
If you would like to discuss any brewing project further who have any follow-up question, please know my inbox is always open.
Have a great day and thanks for reading.