I wanted to add a second article covering starting a brewery follow-up questions. After feedback on the original article, I wrote last week. Where I listed the 9 questions I ask potential new clients. People asked…
“So, Neil what comes next?” …
Well, each project is different; the initial questions with answers gives me an outline and leads for a follow-up chat. In this article we look at the elements which are applicable to most brewing projects and covered in the next round of discussions.
So, let’s get started…
1. What vessels for the brewhouse?
With the initial questions we discussed how many brewhouse vessels you want. If it’s a 4-vessel system, then it’ll be a separate mash mixer, lauter tun, kettle and whirlpool.
For a 3-vessel system there’s a choice. Whether to choose a combined mash/lauter or combined kettle/whirlpool? Each has their pros and cons:
Brewers often see quicker brew days with this set up, when back-to-back brewing. Having a separate kettle and whirlpool means you can begin the second lauter as soon as the first brew is in the whirlpool.
Also, you can have a mini heat exchanger between the kettle and the whirlpool. To bring the temperature of the wort down easily for the aroma hop additions. Brewers see better results with aroma hops added to cooler wort in the whirlpool.
If you want to step mash, having a separate mash mixer means you have a more even homogenous mash temperature. With a combined mash lauter you tend to get temperature stratification.
Furthermore, heating up the mash for mash out is easier. Then you transfer the mash across to the lauter tun. The lauter tun can be the proper dimensions for a thinner bed, better run-off and efficiency too.
It’s personal preference but when using steam for heating, having a separate mash and lauter does make sense.
We lock in brewhouse vessel choice in the follow-up discussions. Even with a 2-vessel system we have choices to make. We can use a “German system” where the two tanks are actually 3:
Option 1 – Three tank for mashing/boiling, lauter and whirlpool
Option 2 – Three tanks for mash/lauter, HLT and kettle/whirlpool
For example, with option 1 the lauter tun is above the whirlpool and so the footprint is for 2-vessels but actually you have three tanks.
2. Do you want a grain delivery system? Starting a Brewery Follow-up Questions
This often comes down to the size of the brewhouse and budget too. If the system is at 800 liters or below, I’d generally advise against a grain delivery system.
If you’re above 1,500 liters, it definitely becomes a more suitable option having a grain delivery system. It can save man hours, prevent injury and leads to a better mix of the mash depending on overall brewhouse design.
Also on bigger systems, the type of mill you choose to purchase becomes a consideration. When planning a production brewery, overall brewhouse efficiency becomes key.
Having a consistent crush is vital, meaning you might upgrade the mill. Which will pay for itself over time.
3. Fermentation Vessel (FV) and Unitank design
Not so much a question, however these days people use unitanks more than dedicated FV’s. This means you’ll want a carbonation stone for those unitanks. This is usually placed just above the cone in the tank.
To lean more about the different types of tanks in a brewery please read our dedicated article here.
Also, if space is precious, then the tanks might need to be “skinnier”. So, you can fit the number of tanks you need in a tight space to achieve volumes needs from sales predictions.
If you’re making a lot of heavy hopped beers, then a dedicated and large enough hop port is needed. Next, we discuss where you’d like your manways, do you want side or top manways. If you have a top manway then a hop port isn’t always necessary.
Also, we need to discuss the working pressure of the tank and spunding. In modern breweries most tanks will come with a spunding valves and Chinese made tanks generally have a working pressure of 30 PSI. Don’t forget those PRV (pressure release) valves!
4. Do you want brite beer tanks (BBT’s)? Starting a Brewery Follow-up Questions
There are some breweries now opting to forgo the use of a BBT. They use only FV’s and package from there. If you are a brewpub and sell everything in keg, this might work for you.
If you do prefer BBT’s, then a rule of thumb is one BBT for every 5 FV’s you have. This is just a guide and the reality, depending on the styles you brew may mean you need just one BBT for say 8 to 10 FV’s.
5. What are the regulations like in your country?
Some countries are stricter than others when it comes to steam. If you were to open a brewpub in a built-up area, you might not be able to install a steam machine due health and safety regulations.
We need to discuss this in follow-up plus, make sure any chosen manufacturer is aware of the situation as well.
6. Do you want a pilot system? Starting a Brewery Follow-up Questions
Having a pilot brewery will allow you to experiment with a recipe or ingredients. Helping you decide if scaling up to the big systems is worthwhile.
Having a pilot allows you to have fun and make some super niche beers to keep your “crafthead” customers happy, without doing large volumes.
7. Can you have off-site storage?
Many of my clients want to do some small-scale canning from a taproom location. When you get into canning, the actual empty can may take up a lot of space. With a taproom you want maximize the floor space for customers.
I often ask clients, if off-site storage is possible. Usually, the storage is close by but in a less expensive rental area.
If you’re canning, then you’re likely hiring a delivery driver. Meaning you can transport goods to the brewery for production when needed too.
8. Do you want filtration? Starting a Brewery Follow-up Questions
A smaller brewpub might opt against filtering their beer. In a production brewery the chances are you need some form of separation technology.
Depending on the brewery size and budget; we’ll explore all available options and pick the one most suited to your needs and finances.
9. Production and Operations
Many clients often ask me if I can be there for the installation, get the brewery operational and train a team. I’ve done this before at Humdinger Brewery in Kunming, China.
Right now, with Covid-19, I can’t leave China, as I might not be able to get back in. I do have other brewers who I can call upon to help, depending on the location of the project.
–> I do offer other services though, like recipe development. Plus, I can be on call remotely to help if there any issues. I can also create:
- Brew sheets
- Production schedule templates
- Help with beer costings if needed too
Starting a Brewery Follow-up Questions Conclusions
The initial 9 questions as I said in the last article, help me get an outline of the brewery. With the starting a brewery follow-up questions I begin to fill in some of the key details. There are many elements to opening a brewery so, it’s a process which takes time.
It usually takes around 30 days from initial contact till someone is in a position to place an order, having locked in their equipment list. To learn more about brewhouse buying timelines please click here.
If you need help with the process, then please feel free to message me. My email is:
Or you scan one of the QR codes to add me to your preferred network and message me from there directly.
Let me help you source your brewing equipment and be sure it suits your needs. I’ve been brewing for 25 years on a number of systems from brewpub to production brewery. I’ve been there, made the mistakes and learnt from them so you don’t have to.