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Nanobrewery - The Lessons I've Learned

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  • Junkyard
    replied
    Yes, we can crash cool the fermenters, only to about 45 degrees though. You gotta have temp controlled fermenters unless you make only Belgian beers. We take the spears out of our kegs, clean the kegs with a pressure washer and brush, then rack beer through a 3/4 inch silicon hose into each keg after sanitizing, adding bio fine at te same time. After they are filled we seal them up with the spears. To carbonate we hook them up to co2 turn the pressure up to 50 psi, and gently shake them for 3 minutes, 1.5 minutes for a 1/6 bbl. after that's done stick them in the fridge and let them equalize and you should have well carbed beer.

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  • DasBrauer
    replied
    Originally posted by Junkyard View Post
    We don't have brite tanks either, from fermenter to keg, if you do this there will be sediment in the kegs so if they are moved in between pours the beer will be cloudy for a while. We know never to move them when hooked up and our beer is delicious and crystal clear.
    Junkyard -Do you have the ability to crash in your fermentor or are your pulling off the racking arm and crashing in your kegs? And how are you going about carbonating your beer?

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  • Junkyard
    replied
    We don't have brite tanks either, from fermenter to keg, if you do this there will be sediment in the kegs so if they are moved in between pours the beer will be cloudy for a while. We know never to move them when hooked up and our beer is delicious and crystal clear.

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  • Brewsuf
    replied
    Since there seems to be a lot of nano brewers on this thread I was hoping I could ask- If I were to use a nanobrewery as a stepping stone to learn the ropes before risking a lot of money, how many people would I need around to help keep things under control? I see a lot of people asking about running a nano on a part-time basis and it sounds like it's not really feasible for one person (if you want to stay sane). So, let's say you have a few people that are willing to operate at a loss (consider it an educational expense) for a while before ramping up. Could 2-3 people successfully run a nano part-time?

    DasBrauer- in my opinion a nanopub would be a cool idea. I'm sure there are lot of other people out there that would have pros/cons but if you ask me the future of beer is at the local level.

    As for your carbonating question, I recall a thread about this topic and the guy from Barrier Brewing in NYC shared his method for skipping the brite tank. I don't have a link but if you search around you should be able find it.

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  • DasBrauer
    replied
    Has anyone ever considered growing from a nano into a brewpub? The mrs. has a passion for hospitality and I have a burning love for brewing. We would love to be able to run our own brewpub one day but obviously we understand the risks and financial requirements to jump straight in. Just curious if anyone has started a nano with the plans to eventually grow their annual production and find a means to expand and add on a small restaurant.

    Now I know that these businesses are very different beasts, and we know that running a brewpub is basically running a restaurant with your own taps. We figured with my background in the brewing and marketing (my previous life) and her's in restaurant management, we thought we might have a small fighting chance with a brewpub but we need a starting point.

    To anyone with a successful nano currently running: how long were you operating before you had needed to start expanding beyond your start up equipment? What was your starting annual production and what did you move up to? Brewhouse size?

    We had thought about starting out with a 3bbl brewhouse, four 7bbl FVs, two 7bbl BBTs. The brights would only serve for carbonating and we would keg everything, I don't want to invest in a huge walk-in to house a bunch of serving tanks, I would rather get a glycol system in place, but I have entertained the idea of a dedicated temperature room for single-walled FV's and BBT's in a walk in. We plan to have 5 core beers and a 6th rotating tap, for seasonal brews and others of the sort. With 1 of the cores being a lager, I would need a dedicated FV for just that.

    Originally posted by gointomexico View Post
    I just wanted to mention that I have a 1.5 bbl nano, and pretty much everything here is true about the amount of work, etc. I constantly make decisions on which beer not to serve, and we have 8 tap handles now. I'm usually out of three. 80% is on site sales.

    We have 6 1.5 bbl fermenters, and 3 4.5 bbl fermenters. I'm only using one of the larger ones currently. I wish I had bigger ones, and a system twice the size. 10 times the size would be better.

    We don't have a bright tank. We typically brew five or six times a week. I work about oh, 72 ish hours a week, six to seven days. We have 45 corny kegs, and 24 sankeys.

    Life as a nano brewer is not what I planned to be honest. I still love it, but its a significantly larger endeavor than what I planned.

    I have a 3.5bbl system sitting int he brewery, working on how to shoehorn that sucker in there. I cant WAIT until its running, phew!
    Having no bright tank, how do you go about carbonating your brew? Force carb in the kegs?

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  • gointomexico
    replied
    1.5 bbl nano

    I just wanted to mention that I have a 1.5 bbl nano, and pretty much everything here is true about the amount of work, etc. I constantly make decisions on which beer not to serve, and we have 8 tap handles now. I'm usually out of three. 80% is on site sales.

    We have 6 1.5 bbl fermenters, and 3 4.5 bbl fermenters. I'm only using one of the larger ones currently. I wish I had bigger ones, and a system twice the size. 10 times the size would be better.

    We don't have a bright tank. We typically brew five or six times a week. I work about oh, 72 ish hours a week, six to seven days. We have 45 corny kegs, and 24 sankeys.

    Life as a nano brewer is not what I planned to be honest. I still love it, but its a significantly larger endeavor than what I planned.

    I have a 3.5bbl system sitting int he brewery, working on how to shoehorn that sucker in there. I cant WAIT until its running, phew!

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  • SB Brewer
    replied
    Great points...

    Both of you have good points. Thanks for these, cause I am learning or confirming every day. Awesome!

    Originally posted by Bainbridge View Post
    You're not crazy, but it is a little more complicated than that.

    For example, most two-head semi auto keg washers can handle about 10-12 kegs an hour, and manual ones usually 8-10. So to clean 8bbls worth of kegs takes about an hour and a half, two hours maybe. But of course you're likely doing sixtels as well, which take just as long to clean for 1/3 the volume. So it takes us, including setup, heating caustic, washing and scrubbing the outside of the kegs, restacking them, etc., about 5-6 hours a week to wash a week's worth of dirty kegs, longer in the summer. At a certain production level you have to hire a kegwasher monkey to do it, because it starts to take a lot of your valuable time. Or you could spend an hour or so per brite every couple weeks.

    The second consideration is space. Kegs take up more space. Full ones. Empty ones. Clean ones waiting to be filled. The keg washer takes up space. Has to be setup somewhere near co2, water, drain, 220v electricity, and don't forget air. You'll need a good sized aircompressor too. Which is loud, and has to go somewhere. Or you can jury-rig up some kind of valve setup using your kettle, HLT etc which people do because it's cheap, but that's even more work and you're not brewing or doing anything else while you're doing it.

    So really, it's a balance of $ vs. Time. Like most things.

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  • Bainbridge
    replied
    You're not crazy, but it is a little more complicated than that.

    For example, most two-head semi auto keg washers can handle about 10-12 kegs an hour, and manual ones usually 8-10. So to clean 8bbls worth of kegs takes about an hour and a half, two hours maybe. But of course you're likely doing sixtels as well, which take just as long to clean for 1/3 the volume. So it takes us, including setup, heating caustic, washing and scrubbing the outside of the kegs, restacking them, etc., about 5-6 hours a week to wash a week's worth of dirty kegs, longer in the summer. At a certain production level you have to hire a kegwasher monkey to do it, because it starts to take a lot of your valuable time. Or you could spend an hour or so per brite every couple weeks.

    The second consideration is space. Kegs take up more space. Full ones. Empty ones. Clean ones waiting to be filled. The keg washer takes up space. Has to be setup somewhere near co2, water, drain, 220v electricity, and don't forget air. You'll need a good sized aircompressor too. Which is loud, and has to go somewhere. Or you can jury-rig up some kind of valve setup using your kettle, HLT etc which people do because it's cheap, but that's even more work and you're not brewing or doing anything else while you're doing it.

    So really, it's a balance of $ vs. Time. Like most things.

    EDIT: Oh, and the the time spent filling them. Racked beer yesterday for several hours. Then filtered a different beer into the brite, which took about an hour and a half including setup and cleaning up the filter after. Moving 10bbls of unfiltered beer takes us about 5 minutes to set up, 10 minute sani loop, 10 minute transfer, 5-10 minutes cleanup. On a smaller scale though, it takes less time to fill kegs obviously, but not really any less to transfer, so again: balance based on your size.
    Last edited by Bainbridge; 03-06-2014, 11:39 AM.

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  • uptown brothers
    replied
    am I crazy? even a single wall Chinese 8 bbl brite runs in excess of $7k, I think. 16 half bbl kegs is only about $1800, right? Seems kegs vs 4 8 bbl brites (for four beers on tap) is therefore around $7200 vs $28k. Let's say this requires a solid keg washer/filler at about $15K, aren't you still ahead using kegs to dispense? One brite for carbonation purposes, from there directly into kegs?

    Oh and those single wall brites require a dedicated walk-in, same as serving from kegs, so that's a wash, isn't it?

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  • ChesterBrew
    replied
    Originally posted by SB Brewer View Post
    Am I just not thinking this one through? Basically I should skip this idea and do kegs instead? (probably off topic here but you brought up a good point about kegs)
    For all practical purposes, what you're describing is simply more brite tanks. Many brewpubs will serve directly from their brites. The reason for kegs is to draw off when the tank is almost empty and you want to fill the entire tank with something else.

    IMO, you're best off thinking of all of this in terms of # of fermenters, # of brite tanks, and # of kegs, taking into account whether you'll serve directly from the brites and use the kegs for the dregs, or fill the kegs from the brites as soon as final volumes of CO2 are obtained.

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  • SB Brewer
    replied
    Secondaries... Home brew only or not.. help me think this through?

    Sorry, I forgot to mention my plan on secondaries since you said those are for home brewers. Yes, I heard about that.

    Actually, I was thinking of buying 4 extra containers to hold the beer after fermentation. This way, I only need a few kegs. Basically the plan is to move the beer to the brights after cold crashing a week. Then when the next batch is ready to go, if the brights are still half full etc, I will move the beer to the 2ndary container to store while I brew another. Therefore, I always have some in the 2ndary containers to be moved to the brights as soon as needed. Using a carb stone after moving to the brights, I can get the beer ready within 8 hours right? And if the beer sits in the fermenters a little longer, that is fine cause I removed the trub and keep them clean and at a good temp.

    I am getting a glycol system to be able to cold crash the ferms and of coursed keep the brights at serving temp.

    Am I just not thinking this one through? Basically I should skip this idea and do kegs instead? (probably off topic here but you brought up a good point about kegs)

    I gotta say, you guys are awesome in helping others on these forums. I have read tons of things on this site.

    Leave a comment:


  • SB Brewer
    replied
    Thank you Very Very much...

    I really appreciate your reply. Thank you very much for the time you used to type all this out. Makes me feel better. I have pro forma sheets and have thought of what I will do in worst cases. I am on my 4th book. I am an over planner.

    I believe you are right. I will have to buy at least one 8 bbl ferm if not 2 just in case one beer is way more popular than the others. I will go back and do the math with this change.

    Awsome man. Thanks,

    Leave a comment:


  • Brandjes
    replied
    The info from Bainbridge is right on. I'll add a my two cents as a nano. I double batch from a 2bbl brew house into 4bbl FVs. I have 2 FV and 1 BT. You will either need some kegs or more Brites (if you serve from the brites) in order to keep emptying the FVs. You want your fermenters to always be working.
    At my size my cost per keg (1/2bbl) is $75-$80. This includes grain, hops, yeast, water, labor from brew and clean to filling kegs, utilities for the brew (gas, electricity, sewer), cold storage, state and fed beer tax. All my costs per keg remain the same as I scale the size of the brew house except for labor. I could probably manage up to a 5bbl brewhouse and 10bbl FVs without adding more labor (a bit more for cleaning and filling a larger number of kegs).
    Figure out your other costs (rent, liability insurance, loan payments, phone, advertising, other bar and brew labor, sales tax, accountant, book keeping, anything else you can think of that you need and anything you can't do yourself) then start playing with the numbers. At $80 cost - how much do you make per keg selling pints, growlers, wholesale, mix of each? How much do you need to sell to cover your other costs?
    I just opened my tasting room (25 seats) a couple weeks ago. No advertising other than Facebook page, word of mouth and 1 tap at a local restaurant in a beer drinking town of about 10,000 - a Fri or Sat night ~50 pints in a couple of hours without really trying. I need more than this of course, but as a soft opening goes I was happy with the results.
    If you love what you do and aren't afraid to put in the work then you can probably make it fly. Good luck.
    And thank you Russell and the other ProBrewer posters... I wouldn't have made it this far without your wisdom.

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  • Bainbridge
    replied
    I already work 60 to 80 hour weeks for someone else. I have not seen a raise in over 5 years. I am tired of busting my ass, when my boss owns his own Jet and his kids drive a car worth more than my house. I was barely able to afford plastic buckets to make homebrew. But I have a way to raise enough money from family, for a system.

    Anyhow, I ran math on this Nano idea but want help shooting holes in it so I dont have to tell my family I was dead wrong. I am probably wrong somehow, but dead wrong? 60 seats in a high traffic area. Selling only pints. Growlers sometimes, but on only my beer. Pints on guest beers. 2 batches a week, 4 bbls each. 4 different 4 bbl fermenters. 4x 4-bbl brights to match. All SS. Full glycol system. Brew 2 batches every week, offering 4 different beers. Buy guest kegs from all the great breweries here in Colorado, where it is legal to have a brewery and tap room. And serve some food so people can stay for more than just one beer.
    Ok, going to be blunt. (But supportive!) You risk setting yourself up for being nearly out of beer, all the time. We do at least 30bbls a month in our taproom even when it's slow, and we have 49 seats, aren't in a super high-traffic area and don't do much in the way of food. I don't know any local nanos that aren't struggling to brew enough beer. (Fortunately we aren't a nano. We have a 10bbl, and currently 4x10's and 1x20 with another 20 on the way. We are by no means big though.) If you get some decent traffic, in a beer town in Colorado, your problem won't be selling the beer, it will be making enough of it. Oh and that will be 'Growlers Always'...

    Here's the problem. Four 4bbls fermenters on an average 2-week brewlength means you get at most 32bbls if you don't have large trub or dryhop losses. (And you will.) So that'd be 8bbls of each of four beers. But let's say one of your beers is twice as popular as the rest, because it will be. For us it is our IPA, and probably will be for you too. Any given week it outsells our next two closest beers 2/1 and the rest 4/1. So now you are having to brew twice as much of it. That's 16bbls of your monthly 32. Now, one fermenter is always making IPA. 24/7. Each week, a tank gets emptied, IPA goes in, repeat. So really you have, at any given week, one remaining free fermenter to brew one of the remaining three beers. The next week, same deal. One of three. But you have four beers on tap. Which means you get to pick which beer you run out of, because you can't brew it this week, can't brew it next week, can finally brew it the week after, then two weeks fermenting, meaning you can brew that beer once a month. And while it's going, you need to pick which of the other two is the new 'see you next month' beer, because the problem then shifts since that fermenter is full.

    Also, what is your plan for half-empty brites? Going to blend the old beer with the new one? Which absolutely had to get out of the fermenter, like, yesterday, because you need to brew IPA into it? So remember to set aside some $ for kegs.

    Here are some questions: assuming I can sell 3 bbls a week of my own beer. Pints for 5 bucks each on 2 bbls and $10 for a growler which has 4 pints in it.

    1. What are you considering a nano? I thought it depends on bbl production per year. Not brew house size. For example: I can have an 8 bbl fermenter and only brew one batch a week of 8 bbls.
    You will sell 3bbls a week. That's six kegs. We tapped six kegs last Saturday. For me, "nano" is a 5bbl or smaller brewhouse, that is NOT a full brewpub restaurant. But also annual production below 250bbls I've heard bandied about. To me 'nano' means replacing proper financing with sweat and headaches.

    But with 4x 4 bbl fermenters, and 4 more brights and 4 more secondaries, I can brew more than the 8 bbl system, using a 4 bbl system. 4 bbl at a time, but able to ferment 16 bbls of 4 different beers.
    There are no 'secondaries'. That's homebrewer talk. And yes you make more beer with 4x4bbls than 1x8bbls, 16 vs 8, that's just math. But you also make more beer with 4x8bbls. That's a potential 64bbls a month, albeit requiring eight double brewdays a month.

    2. With the above in mind, would it be better to use the money in getting a 7 bbl brew system and only 2 fermenters and 2 brights? Or a 4 bbl system with 4 fermenters and 4 brights. I like the 4 bbl because it seems like I can offer a better variety of beer this way and still brew the same amount. Maybe a little more work.
    Yes and no. 7bbl system? Yes. 2 fermenters and two brites? No. Four fermenters and ideally even more brites. But you could get the 4bbl, put 8bbl fermenters and brites in, and with a little more work make twice as much beer for only a little more tank cost. There are some breweries around me that have nano-sized 3-5bbl systems but more fermenters than we have and double batch in them. They can produce about the same amount of beer as we do. But they have to brew say, thirty-two times, to do it. While we have to brew twelve times.

    3. Is my math off? I show I can make a salary while paying another person to run the bar for me 25 hours a week. I of course will continue to work 60 to 80 hour weeks. This also includes me paying back family at around 700 dollars a month for years.
    You can probably make a salary. You will work those hours at a minimum. And you will find that running a business and a brewhouse at the same time will cause inevitable conflicts.

    4. Are most of the posts on this thread on some super nano system of 1 or 1.5 bbl production? The reason I ask, is cause I am not sure how you are defining Nano. Based on my numbers, that would be slavery instead of entrepreneurship. Even only selling pints, you end of having to brew at least 3 times a week. Transfer beer, carbonate beer. Work the bar etc... and then you make some money to live on. I don't need a lot to live on. But remember, you have other things to do beside brewing beer when you own a business. And the gov't takes money from you too.
    There are a lot of folks brewing on this scale. I don't know how they do it. From my experience it seems to have a lot to do with free labor supplied by friends. Which apart from being dubiously legal and an insurance nightmare, is not a long term strategy...

    I am not a business owner yet, so please shoot holes in my logic or tell me what you think. Be blunt, rude or anything you like. I don't need a lot to live on, but I do require some food and beer for fuel. And my wife likes when I buy her stuff on Christmas.
    I guess my advice (to anyone thinking about this) is plan it out really, really well. One thing I did that I found helpful was our pro forma/business plan was more of a spreadsheet that we could mess with, tweak costs, production estimates, best/worst case scenarios, etc.. Then I made a "Sanity Box" that translated those numbers into things like "Pints per guest." "Pints per hour." "Kegs wholesale per week." "Brews per week". "Tanks required". If I made a change and suddenly saw that we'd have to deliver 50 wholesale kegs a week ourselves (amidst everything else) or sell a pint every 5 seconds, than something was out of whack. Set up best, likely and conservative scenarios. Make sure you can find a conservative scenario that sets you up for a realistic chance of success. Then, and only then, pull the trigger. After that all bets are off, so toss that business plan out the window. If you planned well, you'll match your conservative estimate. If you're lucky, you'll exceed it.

    There are mistakes we made, sure, but none were critical. Get yourself at least one fermenter that is at least twice your brewhouse size. On a brewhouse that small, personally I'd double batch everything. Think about what your goals are, what is the end game? If you grow, when you grow, do you want to be brewing double batches four days a week, while running the business and the taproom? In my mind, and yes this is a thread on nanobrewery lessons, disasters and successes, nanos exist to get you in the door without a huge investment, so that hopefully you can attract outside investment and get bigger, so that you can stop working like a dog and start working like a brewer. (Which is to say, slightly less!) Again, having brewed on a 5bbl I saw that it wasn't enough and we planned on a 7bbl at a minimum, analyzed it and went with a 10, and now I wish we had a 15. And more space. And more kegs. And more... I'm sure there are actual nanobrewers out there who agree with some of these points, and others who have advice I haven't thought of.

    Good lord I spent too long typing this; must be the coffee. Now back to the salt mines!

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  • SB Brewer
    replied
    What are you people calling a Nano? LOL but serious neebie question...

    I already work 60 to 80 hour weeks for someone else. I have not seen a raise in over 5 years. I am tired of busting my ass, when my boss owns his own Jet and his kids drive a car worth more than my house. I was barely able to afford plastic buckets to make homebrew. But I have a way to raise enough money from family, for a system.

    Anyhow, I ran math on this Nano idea but want help shooting holes in it so I dont have to tell my family I was dead wrong. I am probably wrong somehow, but dead wrong? 60 seats in a high traffic area. Selling only pints. Growlers sometimes, but on only my beer. Pints on guest beers. 2 batches a week, 4 bbls each. 4 different 4 bbl fermenters. 4x 4-bbl brights to match. All SS. Full glycol system. Brew 2 batches every week, offering 4 different beers. Buy guest kegs from all the great breweries here in Colorado, where it is legal to have a brewery and tap room. And serve some food so people can stay for more than just one beer.

    Here are some questions: assuming I can sell 3 bbls a week of my own beer. Pints for 5 bucks each on 2 bbls and $10 for a growler which has 4 pints in it.

    1. What are you considering a nano? I thought it depends on bbl production per year. Not brew house size. For example: I can have an 8 bbl fermenter and only brew one batch a week of 8 bbls. But with 4x 4 bbl fermenters, and 4 more brights and 4 more secondaries, I can brew more than the 8 bbl system, using a 4 bbl system. 4 bbl at a time, but able to ferment 16 bbls of 4 different beers.

    2. With the above in mind, would it be better to use the money in getting a 7 bbl brew system and only 2 fermenters and 2 brights? Or a 4 bbl system with 4 fermenters and 4 brights. I like the 4 bbl because it seems like I can offer a better variety of beer this way and still brew the same amount. Maybe a little more work.

    3. Is my math off? I show I can make a salary while paying another person to run the bar for me 25 hours a week. I of course will continue to work 60 to 80 hour weeks. This also includes me paying back family at around 700 dollars a month for years.

    4. Are most of the posts on this thread on some super nano system of 1 or 1.5 bbl production? The reason I ask, is cause I am not sure how you are defining Nano. Based on my numbers, that would be slavery instead of entrepreneurship. Even only selling pints, you end of having to brew at least 3 times a week. Transfer beer, carbonate beer. Work the bar etc... and then you make some money to live on. I don't need a lot to live on. But remember, you have other things to do beside brewing beer when you own a business. And the gov't takes money from you too.

    I am not a business owner yet, so please shoot holes in my logic or tell me what you think. Be blunt, rude or anything you like. I don't need a lot to live on, but I do require some food and beer for fuel. And my wife likes when I buy her stuff on Christmas.

    Kind Regards and Thanks,

    Leave a comment:

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