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Start-up brewery equipment question - numbers and types of vessels

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  • Start-up brewery equipment question - numbers and types of vessels


    I am looking for a sanity-check on my proposed start-up brewery equipment needs for a 100-seat brewpub. Our plan is to produce a variety of rotating tap offerings (as opposed to producing large quantities of specific flagships). We are looking at a 10-BBL, 2-vessel brewhouse and anticipate that most of our sales will be across-the-bar in the first year or two with increasing distribution over the first five years (starting with self-distribution until we outgrow that model). We expect to sell 400 to 500 BBL in the first year and grow to upwards of 1000 BBL or more, following the success of in-house, take-away, and distribution sales. My start-up equipment proposal includes only 10-BBL sized cellar vessels instead of double brew-length vessels becuase we want to focus on variety at the tap with many offerings and rotation of the offerings. In fact, early on we may produce 5-BBL runs of the slower selling styles of beer. However, we intend to have room in the brewpub to add one additional 20-BBL FV and one 20-BBL BBT for when distribution sales increase and we introduce proper flagships.

    I plan to install 15 taps with the intention of eventually having 12 or 13 taps of house beers plus a couple of taps of guest ciders or guest sours. I would like to serve a variety of American ales (IPA, pale ale, ect), Belgian ales (saisons, triples, wits), and german wheats and lagers. I realize that the extent of the variety will be based on practical brewing constraints, the cost of yeast, and how we intend to propagate and re-use yeast. Ultimately, that will be decided by my headbrewer and myself during the build-out phase of the brewery.

    My overarching question is if the following proposed brewhouse and cellar would be satisfactory to produce 500 - 1000 BBL/year with a focus on variety both in terms of style but also in that we will continually rotate the beers with new hops combos, malt combos, local ingredients, ect. Here is what I have proposed right now:

    2-vessel 10-BBL brewhouse (brewing 2 - 3 times per week and brewing either 10- or 5-BBL batches depending on how fast we expect to move that particular beer)
    One 20-BBL HLT
    One 20-BBL CLT (still undecided if I need the CLT or not)
    Four 10-BBL FV
    One 10-BBL BBT
    Ten 10-BBL serving tanks (single-wall, inside cold room)
    35 Barrels of keg capacity (both 1/2 and 1/6 barrel kegs) for overflow and distribution
    Plate & Frame Filter - to be used for beer that we want filtered but not necessarily used for all beers

    If there is a glaring problem with my plan, by all means call me out. I can handle the criticism.

    Here are some more specific questions that I have:

    1. Will producing 25 to 35% of our beers as lagers cause roadblocks with four FV? I think it will be OK at 500 BBL per year but it will become a problem if I am producing 1000 BBL.

    2. Is one BBT sufficient for four FV? I estimated getting away with just one based on 2 brews/week with 2 week fermentation schedules and the transfer from FV--> BBT (carbonate) --> serving tank happening in 1 working day. That would be ~ 1000 BBL/year assuming a 50 week, well-planed brew schedule. I can see how it may be problematic to do 1000 BBL if Lagers are in the mix; but I think it would be sufficient for my start up years where I'm selling 500 - 750 BBL/year. Thoughts?

    3. I have considered adding a dedicated 10-BBL unitank or FV just for lagers. Is that necessary or even a good idea?

    4. Could I just as easily go with five unitanks instead of four FV and one BBT? In other words, would I be able to produce the same volume of beer (and variety) over a given period of time and will I get similar enough results using a unitank versus using FVs and BBT. I am assuming it will take one working day for transfer to BBT, carbonation, and then transfer to serving tanks or kegs.

    5. Would I actually be better off going with a 5- or 7-BBL brewhouse and 10-BBL FV/BBT/Serving Tanks and just double batch the really popular beers?

    Thanks for any answers, comments, or suggestions!


  • #2
    Hi Chris, i am by no means expert, but all of your thoughts and questions have run through my head and notebook in the last 2 years.

    First off, you have clearly thought this through and done your research. Well done.

    This is what Iíll add from my observations and reading.

    Never, EVER, start small with plans to go bigger. Brewery equipment and infrastructure is like buying pizza bites. 6 are 1$. 12 are 1.50$. 96 are 2.50$. Youíll be upgrading and posting 7BBL gear on the PB classifieds within 12 months, and trying to store vessels in your uncles shed at the family farm until they sell...

    Number second, there is literally a million ways to skin this cat. There is no magic number or equation for a brewery. The bottom line is first and foremost, make great beer. Without that? Youíre ruined. Second, have a great pub/taproom so people really really wanna pay you a premium dollar value per ounce from your taps, then worry about distribution in kegs or cans.

    Again, you clearly have put a lot of thought into this. Youíre on the right track. Donít fret about 60:40 vs 70:30 ales:lagers. Fret about the quality and cost of your equipment and your build out. Fret about your social media and marketing. If you smell double brew days coming, plan for it. Get FVís that are x2 (or 3x) your brewhouse.

    Get all of your vessels glycol jacketed, and make sure your chiller is expandable. We considered single walled in a cold room - donít do it!! Jacketed vessels cost more up front, but are way better for resale, and mobility as you grow. Perhaps consider small fvís For small batches, but also consider fermenting a 5 bbl batch in a 20bbl FV with just the cone and lower jacket on, and having that big-Ish vessel ready for you summer lager rush...

    Cheers man, best of luck. Happy to help if I can.

    Jeremy Reed
    Co-Founder and President, assistant brewer, amateur electrician, plumber, welder, refrigeration tech, and intermediately swell fella
    The North of 48 Brewing Company
    Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada


    • #3

      Looking at what you have, you clearly have put some thought into it. I would say if you are doing a steady volume, you are probably a little light on the fermenter side. I have 8 brights and 5 fermenters and if you are trying to do lagers you get backed up. I personally would not want to start with less than 5 fermenters 6 if you can afford it. If you are looking at turning most of you ales around in 14 days, there is no way you can brew more than twice a week with any regularity.

      Jim Lieb


      • #4
        Re question 3/4 - avoid dedicated tanks (BBT's you can't ferment in, a lager FV you can't do ales in in a pinch) if you can afford to! It sounds like you want to operate at pretty darn near full capacity, your planning process is going to look like one of those puzzles where you have to rearrange the whole thing by moving just one empty space around Ė nothing worse than realizing the plan you just spent an hour or two banging your head against won't actually work, not because you can't get a tank empty when you need one, but because you can't get the right tank empty. Stuff changes, we are all at the mercy of sometimes-unpredictable yeast, more flexibility is better!

        This isn't to say you shouldn't get another tank to make sure you can hit your volume goals with lagers, though. Sounds like hitting your goal of 1000 BBL/year with your initial build-out depends on everything going right with all those beers, please don't take this personally, but, when is the last time anybody here had everything go as planned for a whole year in a row? Just make sure that lager fermentor is something you can sneak that flagship IPA into between your pils and your mšrzen when the fermentor you'd meant to to use for the IPA is still full of that dang barleywine that's dragging its feet on those last couple gravity points.


        • #5
          We strive to be "Your Most Reliable Brewing Partner"-Carolina BrewTech

          Hi Chris,

          Carolina BrewTech here.

          We are an American founded company based in Shanghai with workshops in Ningbo where we manufacture all of our equipment in-house. I just came up a quote for your needs, let me know if you are interested to take a look.

          2-vessel 10-BBL brewhouse
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          One 20-BBL HLT/One 20-BBL CLT
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          Four 10-BBL FV
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          One 10-BBL BBT & Ten 10-BBL serving tanks (single-wall)
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          Please feel free to drop an email to for any further information you may need, let's discuss how Carolina Brewtech can earn your business and become Your Most Reliable Brewing Partner!

          Shine & Henry
          Sales Manager
          Carolina Micro Brewing
          O: (443) 854-5742

          Carolina Micro Brewing Technology


          • #6
            Thanks for all of the excellent and helpful responses. Your responses confirm my concerns that I was not planning for enough cellar equipment. Based on your comments I am going to increase my plan's fermentation capacity and also consider having at least some of the vessels at start-up being double sized.