Monday, December 17, 2007

Brewing Equipment: Getting By

As a continuation of the last thread, Nicholas asked: "Right now I'm looking for info on prices for new/used equipment so I can price out potential setups. I can find books upon books about beer, but nothing on equipment. Also, I'm a little spotty on what equipment/tanks do what and how many are necessary as a bare minimum, but I can't find any such reference."

For finding used equipment, I'd stay away from books as numbers will be outdated. Stainless steel prices change all the time, and used equipment isn't immune from stainless steel commodity prices. Instead, contact Brewing Equipment dealers such as Ian Day at North American Brewing Services, Vince Cottone at Sound Brewing Systems, or Jason Ager at Ager Tank & Equipment. Last year around this time I was looking for a used system and was finding it difficult to make an offer on one as they were usually sold within a few days of being offered for sale. I doubt that's the climate today with malt and hop shortages. Also, check ProBrewer Classified Forums. Sometimes used systems are listed on the Brewers Association Forum, but you'll have to sign up to the Brewers Association as a Brewery in Planning (around $300) to get on the list, plus you get a subscription for New Brewer magazine and get a better rate for the Great American Beer Festival and Craft Brewers Conference. Speaking of the Craft Brewers Conference, it's coming up this April in San Diego, and I'd recommend any prospective brewery startup to attend the seminars and get to know your suppliers.

The cost of brewing systems vary widely based on brew length (how much wort is being made at a time), how many vessels, what's included (pumps, hard piping, heat exchanger, etc.), steam or direct fire, whether the steam boiler (for a steam powered system), fermenters and a glycol chiller are included, and so on. For a 2-3 vessel 15-20 bbl system with everything you need, plus an acceptable amount of fermentation/cellar capacity (let's say 60-90 BBL's worth) will run around $150,000 - $200,000. A new system with everything you need will run around $300,000 from the value conscious suppliers. I'm sure there are better deals to be had, but this is just a general number you could expect.

The lowest amount you could expect with everything you need would be $50,000 for a bare bones 2 vessel system of 5 BBL or less. You can expect to use hose to connect your vessels during brewing, and you probably wouldn't need to spend too much on malt handling (augers, large mill, etc.) for this size of system. I wouldn't recommend a system under 15 BBL as you'll find making a profit in this industry is not easy. Having to brew 5 times a week on a 4 BBL system is a lot less efficient use of your time than brewing once on a 20 BBL system.  If that's all that can be afforded, and it's just a starter system, then it might work for you.  Just don't expect to make any money, and prepare to lose a bunch.

You could spend less on a single vessel malt extract kettle, but I'd stay away if your goal is to make great beer. If you're looking to spend less than $50,000 on equipment, I'd consider mead making as you'll only need a boil kettle and fermentation space.  Plus, mead is increasing in popularity and there are very few commercial mead makers today.

As for what the vessels are used for-- I'd recommend getting into homebrewing and visiting breweries! I'll give a basic overview from what you need from the beginning of a brew to the end:

Malt-- You'll need a way to crush the malt, unless you intend to buy pre-milled malt. A 2 roller mill is what is used for a smaller system (under 30 BBL). You want to size the mill so you can mill enough malt to dough in within 30-45 minutes. If your batches used 2000 lbs. of malt, you'd want to get a mill that could handle 3000-4000 lbs. of malt per hour, or get a grist case to receive and hold milled malt prior to mashing.

Water-- At a minimum, you'd have an activated carbon filter to remove chlorine, organic compounds, and some hardness from your water.

Mash tun / lauter tun-- The mash tun is used for mixing malt and hot water in order to aid in conversion of starch (in malt) to sugars through the use of naturally occurring enzymes contained in the malt. Brewers yeast mainly metabolizes simple sugar, so this is why the conversion of starch to sugar is critical in brewing. The lauter tun is a vessel for separating the solid malt particles from the liquid wort. Smaller systems have a combined mash tun / lauter tun, meaning the same vessel is used for starch conversion and for drawing the wort from the grain.

Boil kettle-- Once the wort is drawn off from the lauter tun, it is brought to a boil. Hops are added at different intervals in the boil for bitterness, aroma, and flavor. If you had a malt extract system, you would skip to this step. You'd add malt syrup or malt powder to filtered water, mix, bring to a boil, and add hops as usual. There are even no-boil extract systems where the extract is already hopped, but expect the beer to be pretty nasty. A typical boil is 60-90 minutes.

Whirlpool-- Some systems have a dedicated whirlpool, which is used for recirculating the hot wort in a centrifugal fashion, bringing the hop / protein solids to the middle of the vessel for easy separation of the liquid. Most systems just include a whirlpool port on the kettle to perform this function in one vessel. The advantage of having a separate vessel is when brewing multiple batches at a time, you can get the first batch out of the kettle and begin lautering / boiling your second batch. This would shave 1 to 2 hours from the total brew day if brewing two batches that day.

Heat Exchanger-- For sanitary and flavor purposes, you need to bring the wort down to 50-70 degrees fairly quickly once the boil is finished. A stainless steel plate heat exchanger is typically used. Cold water runs through one side, while the hot wort is pumped through the other side, resulting in a cooled wort once it makes its way through the heat exchanger. This is directly pumped into a fermenter.

Fermentation-- Typically cone shaped fermenters (cylindroconical) are used for fermentation, as their height takes up less of your valuable real estate, and the cone shape aids in yeast collection and trub dumping.  This is where the yeast is added, and the yeast converts most of the sugars in the wort into carbon dioxide and alcohol.  Fermenters should have jackets for running chilled glycol in order to control fermentation temperature.  Alternatively, you could have a temperature controlled room for regulating fermentation temperatures, but it'll be less precise and result in a higher electricity bill.

Cellar-- Once fermentation has ended, typically you'd have a brite beer tank for beer maturation, cooling, and carbonation addition. Beer is packaged (into kegs / bottles / cans) from this vessel.

Bottling / Kegging / Canning-- My numbers above didn't include this part of the brewing process. Kegging is usually the least expensive option, especially at the beginning when you don't need many kegs on hand. Bottling and canning lines can be very expensive. If you're looking to make a bottle conditioned beer, you can spend a lot less because your equipment doesn't have to deal with carbonated beer and reducing oxygen pickup is less of an issue. Of course, you could also use homebrew equipment for the bottling of carbonated beer, but don't expect to pay the bills by packaging that way (it's very slow).

I hope this info will help Nick and others!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Infrastructure Details

Nicholas posted a comment in my last post that I thought was a great question, and possibly where this blog could be most valuable to future brewery owners. His question: "Where did you find out about all the requirement equipment, gas lines, water lines, etc. Can you point me to any books, articles, etc.?"

When you are looking for a place to lease/buy, make sure the utilities are there. Gas, 3 phase electric with sufficient amperage, decent water pipe size/pressure, and an easily accessible sewer line should be requirements. Avoid historical buildings because while they are neat and interesting, you may have additional hurdles and increased costs to deal with associated with historical preservation. Also, one of the more important things to watch out for is sufficient ceiling height (at least 14' high).

When you've found a space, your best resource is a good architect and a brewing consultant. Architects should be aware of all building code issues you'll encounter, and probably know what you need to operate a brewery. A brewing consultant can advise you to size your utilities correctly so your brewery will work efficiently. You'll save a lot of money if your landlord can give you "as built" plans of your space. Otherwise, the architect will have to survey the space and draw plans from scratch, which can be very expensive. Contractors / subcontractors should also be aware of code requirements.

For a frame of reference, I didn't hire an architect, and I didn't use a brewing consultant as much as I should have. I researched many of the things I needed myself by looking at other breweries and talking with other brewery owners about what they did and what they wished they did. My contractor and his subcontractors have been a huge help in my selection on materials. Typically, you don't want to rely on your contractor and the subs, as this will cause deviations from the plan and you'll run into "Change Orders", meaning additional costs and the possibility of the contractor taking advantage of you. Luckily my contractor is an honest guy so I haven't had any problems with my change orders yet. Anyway, I've learned a lot in the process of figuring out things myself, but as you'll see I've made mistakes that I'll have to live with.

Here's a list of the utilities you need, and the sizing considerations:

Water-- One of the most critical resources is a decent flow of water. A 1" line at 60-80 PSI would be great for a small brewery. Mine is 3/4" at 75 PSI, which is decent but the building only has 3/4" at the connection. It's pretty pricy to upgrade a water line to a larger size, so try to find a place with a large water line at the outset. My plumbers have run 3/4" copper pipe to the brewing areas for water connections. Also, something obvious but important-- the longer the run of pipe (of the same diameter), the less pressure you'll have. This applies to natural gas as well.

Gas-- Finding a building with a natural gas connection is essential, unless you want to start a brewery out in the middle of nowhere and all that's available is low pressure propane. The gas company is great about changing out the gas connection to your required size, so if the connection isn't sufficient, don't worry too much about it. Just make sure you're able to increase the gas line size on your end. I went with a 3" line, which is huge and probably overkill. For the equipment I currently have, I need around 2,000,000 BTU's. My gas line run is around 80 feet. A 3" line at 80 feet can deliver around 3,705,000 BTU's. If I ever want to add a larger kettle or more in-line water heaters, I have an extra 1,705,000 BTU's with my current gas line. The gas company is only giving me enough pressure at this point for 2,000,000 BTU's and will upgrade their end once I need more pressure.

Sewer-- It's important to check the depth of the sewer before leasing or buying a place, as this is something that is very expensive to change, if it's possible at all. I didn't check the depth of my sewer before signing a lease. Once I found out my sewer line was 17" below the ground, it was too late. I changed the configuration of where everything was to be placed to accommodate the short run to the sewer. There's a few ways to mitigate this problem if you come across it. The easiest is to upsize the sewer line you'll be installing for the floor drains. We went with a 4" line instead of a 3" line, which by code can have a lower slope to the main sewer. You can also pour concrete to raise the area to be drained, but this will cut into the ceiling height, which was a problem for me. The third option is using a sump pump for drainage. This can get pricy, and pumps aren't always reliable. If the pump fails, you'll be living in your own sewage until it gets fixed. Pneumatic pumps are the best option here as they are more reliable and if the power goes out, your air compressor tank will still have some air left in it. Also, if you're looking to start a brewery in a rural area, avoid septic systems at all costs. Waste water treatment for a small brewery is cost prohibitive, and without adequate waste treatment, you'll have to be very careful with what goes down the drain.

Concrete-- Most industrial / commercial buildings have 4-6" of concrete. The city will likely require a structural engineer to draw up plans for how these are going to be anchored, as well as calculations which support their recommendation. I found that my 15 BBL tanks could stay on the existing concrete slab and be anchored to it, but most of the brewhouse tanks as well as my 30 BBL tanks are too heavy and would have to be supported by separately poured footings. I decided to demo all of the concrete in the brewing area and pour a 12" slab. This allowed me to add floors sloped toward the drain, and the ability to add tanks in the future without pouring any new concrete. I also have 12" curbs that were poured monolithically (all as one piece), which have greater strength than curbs poured on top of an existing concrete slab that are simply anchored to the floor. I went with 3000 PSI concrete, which is fairly high strength and not that much more expensive than the standard 2500 PSI concrete.

Electricity-- The sizing all depends on the size of the operation, but my recommendation is at least 200 amps of 3 phase electricity. I leased the space thinking I had 200 amps of 3 phase, but it turned out I had 175 amps of single phase electricity. I had to add the 200 amp / 3 phase panel, and luckily I'll be able to keep the existing single phase electricity as well. I wish I had 400 amps of 3 phase, so I'd recommend that to you too. My glycol chiller requires 60 amps of 3 phase power by itself. When I'm in the middle of brewing and many other devices are also running, I'll be close to pulling all 200 amps at once.

Roof Weight Capacity or Side Yard-- You'll need a place to put your glycol chiller, and most of them emit a lot of heat (unless they are liquid cooled), so outside is the best place for them. Mine is going on the roof, and by the size of the platform my contractor is putting on the roof (3' x 18') I'm learning the roof can't handle too much weight. Make sure your city / landlord allows large machinery on the roof. If you're in an industrial area, there's a good chance there won't be a problem. If I had a locked side yard, I would have put the glycol chiller there, along with a malt silo and whatever I don't need to store indoors.

Venting-- I've had to make quite a few roof penetrations to vent all of the equipment I'm putting in. I have three water heaters, all with their own vent. My kettle needs 2 vents-- one for steam, one for combustion exhaust. If you choose a building with multiple stories, you will either have a long draw vent or a vent from the side of the building (both of which will probably require exhaust fans). Keep in mind your neighbors might be taking in air from the same area you are venting to, so plan carefully if you aren't venting straight to the roof. I'm in a single story building, so my vents are relatively short and don't need fans.

HVAC-- This is a big issue I haven't addressed yet. The Health Department has required that I keep the doors closed at all times, so when I'm brewing on a 100 degree day, I can't open the place up to get a breeze through. I don't have enough power (or money) to add a huge air conditioning unit, so we'll probably be brewing early in the morning to avoid the hottest times of the day. I'll likely add intake fans to bring in filtered outside air in a few months as summer approaches, but I'm not giving this too much attention until it becomes a problem. I'm thinking of inventing glycol cooled clothing, but I have too much on my plate right now to get into that. If someone wants to run with that idea, feel free to do so! I'll be your first customer! Maybe I'll just buy these:

This is all I can think of for the moment. If anyone wants to read it, I could prepare something similar for how I've chosen my brewing equipment.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Just a Few More Weeks...

Sorry for not posting lately, but seeing that Rachel and Tyler have been doing a great job with their posts in my absence, why change a good thing? Well, because Rachel might not be posting for a few weeks. On Wednesday, she underwent emergency surgery due to an infected cyst on her tailbone that flared up in the past week. She is doing much better now, but it'll take some time before everything is back to normal. Her Mom and Barley have been taking very good care of her, and I'm trying to do my part and make sure everything at The Bruery is still getting accomplished.

Construction has been coming along nicely, and we're thinking completion should be in the next few weeks. The gas line, water lines, water heaters, etc. have been installed, power will finally be turned on this Tuesday, everything has been painted, and most of the equipment has been set in place. The few key things that remain are to have the glycol chiller placed on the roof, the glycol plumbing installed, Gas Company installation of a new meter and gas manifold, sealing the floors, some electrical work, welding, and the kettle flame system. Most of these items will be completed before New Years. I still need to order malt and yeast for the first few batches as well. Mid-January for the first batch seems like my best guess at this point.

I'm very happy I hired Tyler when I did-- he's been a huge asset in getting things to where they need to be so we can start brewing. My guess is it would have taken an extra month if I was doing all of this by myself.

On Monday I'll post some pictures of the progress.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My First Week

This is my first blog ever, so please go easy on me if it’s not that interesting. My last day at Bj’s was December 1st and it was surreal. I have been working there for so long and with so many great people that it had become a second home; leaving it couldn’t help but make me feel sad. I got over that pretty quickly. I know that Patrick is going to provide a great work environment that will allow me to continually learn about this great “hobby” that we call brewing. I feel that there is so much to learn about brewing that you always have to keep an open ear and mind to be able to brew great beer. The day that you think you know everything is the day that you fail as a brewer; it is our job, along with the home-brewing community, to continually expand beer as we know it.

My first day at The Bruery was definitely not what I’m used to; instead of doing laboratory work, racking, and etc… I was ordering safety and brewing equipment. Equipment that I have always taken for granted as just being in a brewery. We started putting the brew house in place Wednesday morning. I thought that we would easily place the brew house and fermenters in no time, I couldn’t have been more wrong. We placed the mash/lauter tun first, which should’ve have been an easy task but once it was in its place, it had to spin 90°. I don’t know if we picked the best or safest way to do this but let’s just say at one point I was trying to balance and spin it while it was floating in the air. We lubed up cardboard and set the mash tun on them so we could turn the mash tun ourselves; I wish someone was there to record it, what were we thinking! After we finished with the mash tun, we were able to place the boil kettle; having learned from the mash tun, we decided to attack the kettle like a crane would (I wish we had one.) It took about an hour to come up with a safe rigging to lift and transport the kettle over a foot high curb and it worked beyond my expectations! We placed the kettle inside the brewing area with almost no problems at all, if only the roof could have been 3 feet taller. Once inside the brewing area, we had to spin the kettle so the man-way would be facing our brewing platform. We re-did the rigging so it would hang from one central point allowing Patrick and I to physically spin the kettle while hanging from the forklift (if only we could’ve done that with the mash tun). We went on to move the whirlpool and cold liquor tank in place with almost no effort at all and by then the day had already ended.

What I thought would take only a few hours, ended up taking a full day. I know now why most breweries use a crane to move brewing vessels, size being one of them, but mostly because a forklift, a curb, and a ceiling make things very difficult to place the equipment where you envision it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Big Love- Bruery Edition

Hey Guys, it's Rachel here. I just realized my last post was about 4 months ago. I decided to write to dispel the rumor that Pat tried to sell me on the streets to get more capital. However, it was definitely talked about.

I am writing to announce that Patrick and I have become polygamists- our second wife being The Bruery. She has recently tried aggressively to take over my position as first wife- demanding more and more of my husband's time and energy. First she was constantly complaining that she didn't get a ring, so Patrick insisted on buying her all this stainless brewing equipment to appease her, which is WAY more than any diamond. Then she was upset that we didn't take her on the honeymoon to GABF this fall, even though we wore her name on our t-shirts. Things escalated more and more, and her demands for a makeover were unrelenting. Pat finally gave in and agreed to give her a whole new look from the ground up, complete with a full staff. Man- he gets mad at me for getting my hair cut!!!

He has spent the last week at around 12 hours a day in her company. Even our dates on the weekend involve checking in on her. He has informed me that it will most likely remain that way for the rest of the month, and probably more so when he can actually start using her. My special qualities are overshadowed by her shininess- literally. I brought him lunch when he was with HER yesterday and I swear she just glared at me and showed off her new colors. And do you even know how many times Patrick has asked me "Why can't you be more like The Bruery?" As I see it, the only advantage is that since she is younger, she can be the one to have the babies- i don't think it would be so bad to push a child out of a mash tun. Bad picture there- sorry.

Our bruery dog Barley would like to be the 3rd wife, which is a possibility now that his two mounds of manliness have been removed. However, he refuses to sign the prenuptial agreement so things are at a stand still.

There is a lesson to this story- if you are going to consider polygamy, especially if it is with a brewery, make sure the wives will get along. Luckily I am in love with The Bruery, and fully support all that my husband does for her. Although if you ask me that again on x-mas morning- after the presents are opened and I have seen what she gets, you may get a different response.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

San Diego Strong Ale Fest

Nevermind the last post... They aren't done yet (it is 7:45 now). I spent the weekend at the festival and met lots of good people. I was surprised by the amount of people I didn't know personally who read this blog. I felt pretty good about that. It rained quite a bit the first night, but the true stong ale lovers seemed to manage in the wetness. Anyway, was a fun weekend serving other breweries beer and talking about my own. Thanks to my beautiful wife Rachel for letting me go. She hasn't seen much of me lately, and I fear that will be the case for the next month. Poor Rachel and Barley! Time to go back to asking WTF they are going to leave so I can go home, eat dinner, and sleep.

Posting From a Dark Spot in the Warehouse

Here's a different post. Not for the purpose of information or entertainment, but simply because I don't feel like doing anything else.

I'm sitting here, listening to the drywall guys chat and giggle in a language I can't understand (add to the to-do list: learn Spanish), and I'm thinking "When the hell are they going to be done so I can go home?" They framed the 'vestibule' last week. The vestibule is the box-like wall around my cargo door, designed to keep the vermin away. Now they are applying tape and some sort of paste to the joints of the drywall. They worked on this yesterday and they planned to finish up the job then. At 6 PM I decided I needed to go home since I had been at the brewery for 12 hours that day, and about 10 minutes later the circuit breaker blows at my neighbors (who are graciously providing a electrical cord for me so I have power), so they went home. That's why I'm hanging around until they finish-- because I really want them to finish.

Tyler started work on Monday. I didn't have too much work to give him as there's no equipment to setup until the flooring is in place. He took the initiative to order safety equipment from a catalog he had ordered the week before. We went to lunch at Hollingshead's, made a few friends with folks interested in "What the hell is 'The Bruery'?", and tried out some beers for the tasting tomorrow night. Tyler had school today, but has a nice full day ahead of him with moving the equipment to the brewing area. He promised he would post to the blog for the first time discussing equipment installation.

Speaking of the winter beer tasting at Hollingshead's, tomorrow's the night. Tickets have been sold out for awhile. I'll be speaking about all of the beers being poured except for Sam Adams Winter Lager, which will be presented by the local Sam Adams rep. A Chapman Grad student in the Food Sciences program will also be talking about the hops used in Belgian beers. Should be a good night, and I should really think about what I'm going to say!

Back to The Bruery, things are coming along quickly, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The next three weeks will be crazy busy, but I need to get open and make some beer so it's worth it.

Hell yes, the drywall guys just finished up, and now I can go home. Only 11.5 hours spent here today.

Is this the flooring used in slaughterhouses?

My beautiful (but very red) Stonhard flooring was completed today.
Tomorrow the equipment setup starts. Finally!!!