I have recently worked on some brewery-building projects. Now, to be honest, my forte is not being a brewery engineer. Instead of being a brewery builder or engineer, I am just a guy who makes beer. However, when I do build a brewery, I have some very supportive colleagues to help me along the way.
It has been a lot of fun to plan these breweries, and I love seeing the excitement on the face of the future brewery owner as they watch their dream slowly turning into a reality.
However, on nearly every project that I have worked on, clients bring me the exact configurations for the brewery they want to have built.
Recently a client said to me, I need to have 5 x 20hL Unitanks and a 4 vessel, 20hL vessel brewhouse to comprise my complete brewing systems.
Although that is a considered configuration, quite often, the configuration given doesn’t meet their requirements.
What is the reason for that? Why does someone who maybe has some solid home brewing experience end up getting the engineering completely wrong when they want to scale things up?
Usually, it is because the person has not dug into brewery engineering very far.
In this article, I will be discussing 5 things that you should consider to ensure that you properly size your brewery, reduce your capital costs, and get the maximum output from it, all at once.
How Many Different Styles of Beer Are You Planning To Make At The Same Time?
It is important to consider the number of different SKUs or product variants you are intending to make.
When developing your business plan, that is something you should consider, which will include a product plan.
A SKU (stock keeping unit) is simply a style or brand of beer and its type of package.
For example, if I am planning on brewing a Lager and it sells in 24 x 375 mL cans and 50L kegs. Although they are the same type of beer, that is two different SKUs since the packages are different.
The more diverse of a lineup of beers that you are you planning on making, the more tanks that you will need to purchase for your brewery.
That is because a tank can only be filled with one kind of beer at once.
Some beers will sell better compared to others. Your top sellers can go into your larger tanks so that you have more of your popular beer available for sale.
Your brewery can be a combination of different sizes of tanks.
Although having 20 taps at your brewpub with 20 different beers might sound great, is that feasible?
Tanks And Not Your Brewhouse Measure Brewery Throughput
I common mistake that I often see being made by new brewery owners is they frequent purchase tanks that are the same size as the brew length of their brewhouse.
For example, they have a 10hL brewhouse, so they purchase 10hL tanks.
I often see this critical mistake being made, especially by new brewery owners.
So why is this such a big mistake?
Because it results in the brewery’s throughput being limited unnecessarily.
If you purchase a 10hL tank, only 10Hl of beer will fit into it.
However, 10hL of beer can be put inside of a 20hL tank when you are just getting started. Then you can add more when your demand increases (https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/craft-beer-production-industry/)!
Consider the difference between a 20hLtank and a 10hL tank. Usually, it is not a big difference.
Another thing related to throughput and tanks is referred to as the “residence time.” That is the total number of days that are between the day you brew your beer and the day you package it.
It takes into account the total amount of time that is needed for a product to be brewed, fermented, the diacetyl rest, chilled, transferred, carbonated, and packaged.
This is equivalent to the number of times that each tank can be filled and emptied in a year. This relates directly to your production capacity.
When you are first getting started, a fairly good residence, to begin with, is 21 days.
That means that a 10hL tank that has an average residence time of 21 days will be able to produce 10 x 365 / 21 liters of beer each year.
On a yearly basis, that is around 173hL of beer.
So when you purchase 20hL tanks for an addition $1,000 each, it allows you to double your yearly output.
You just need to brew twice to fill it.
Just do it. It’s a complete no-brainer.
It Is Rare For Brewhouse Size Alone To Be The Critical Production Metric
There are numerous suppliers of stainless steel products out there and of course, they all want you to purchase more stainless steel products from them.
However, when it comes to choosing equipment, it is very important to be objective to ensure you make the best decisions.
Does my client need to have 5 x 20hL Unitanks and a 20hL, 4 vessel brewhouse?
On the surface of things, my client above who asked for a 20hL brewhouse with production expectations of 3,400L per week needs to brew only 1.75 times a week.
You will have the option of producing more brews on a per shift basis if there are more vessels in your brewhouses such as Whirlpool, Kettle, Lauter, and Mash 4 vessel system versus a Whirlpool/Kettle & Mash/Lauter 2 vessel system.
However, in this situation, at a rate of 1.75 brews a week, it is not necessary for my client to have a 4 vessel brewhouse, and he also probably doesn’t need to brew 20hL at one time.
Therefore, my client should just purchase a 10hL, 2 vessel brewhouse. That will provide him with capital cost savings that are quite significant. To increase output more tanks can be purchased.
Another thing to consider in terms of the tanks is it is possible to brew 2, 3, 4, or however many times are necessary to fill a tank up.
I have brewed into tanks that needed 10 brews to fill them. Also, I have heard about breweries taking over 20 turns/cycles/brews to fill the tanks!
Keep in mind that you can also high-gravity brew. I have personally brewed with 20hL tanks and a 10hL brewhouse. We high-gravity brewed so we could fill up a 30hL tank in just 2 brews rather than in 3.
The efficiency and time savings here are incredible!
Another thing that played a major role in being able to achieve that outcome was my wort dilution calculation.
Briefly put, rarely is the bottleneck your brewhouse. Instead, it is the most expensive stainless steel you have so ensure you maximize the use of this asset and brews lots of cycles with it.
It is never easy trying to design a brewery and when first starting out most people do not have experience with brewery engineering.
Your business plan and sales should directly feed into the design of your brewery – and not the other way around.
When it comes to your assumptions, always question them. Keep in mind the number of tanks as well as their size far outweigh the brewhouse size that you may really need.
And although the stainless steel supplier that you are working with might have your best interests in mind, do not hesitate to get more independent advice to make sure you get the most for your hard-earned money.