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Old 11-30-2011, 08:00 PM   #1
philbert119
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Default Nanobrewery System

My brother and I are starting up a Kansas City nanobrewery specializing in
German beers. We have developed a logo and some recipes but were in the planning stages of designing the physical brewery itself. We have looked at
several turnkey systems online and have decided to save money by building
the system ourselves. We would ideally like a 3-barrel brewery and as
simple a system as possible so we can do most of the work ourselves, but we
also would like to use automation for batch consistency. The plan is to spark an interest in our product and get our brand name established before we invest in a bigger system. That is why saving money at this stage is critical so we can make the big push once interest has been established. We are a
German-style brewery, and step mashing will be critical to several of our
recipes, so we want a system that will accommodate that. I was curious to see if their were any nanobrewers out there (or informed/opinionated homebrewers) who could offer advice based on their experiences.

We want to do this as cheaply as possible, maybe getting the tanks fabricated by a welder experienced in sanitary welding. Here are a list of questions I've come up to get an idea of the sort of system we should construct:
1. How do you maintain a steady mash temperature? Do you use an
automated mixer or a recirculating system?

2. Are you able to do step mashes on your system?
3. How many vessels does your system have? Mash tun, lauter tun and
boil kettle, or just mash tun and boil kettle?
4. Does your system require a tankless water heater?
5. Where did you get your vessels? Did you fabricate them yourselves?
6. How many pumps in your setup? Could you describe the basic process?
7. Do you have an automated control panel? If so, which brand do you
recommend? Electrical requirements of the control panel?
8. How do you do the vorlauf? Do you have a false bottom on your mash
tun?
9. What sources did you use in brewery construction and are there available sources that have diagrams/detailed blueprints of a smaller brewing system?

Thanks so much. I have already heard back from several nanobrewers so far and have been really impressed with the support of this small but dedicated community. Any help/advice would be appreciated.

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Old 11-30-2011, 08:57 PM   #2
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Probrewer.com can probably help you better.

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Old 11-30-2011, 09:01 PM   #3
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Do a 7 BBL system. 3 BBL is like shooting yourself in the foot.

Read this, please:

THE SMALL BREWING SYSTEMS PAGEPlease read this if you are considering a system smaller than 7 barrels

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Old 12-01-2011, 02:23 PM   #4
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I agree that three barrels is too small. What I've been told is that you can't break even if you're smaller than 20, and I think that that's going to be REALLY true if you're interested in brewing german beers; you're going to incur high costs to store and lager a lot of beer, but then you'll be competing with imports and domestic craft lagers that sell for a dollar a bottle. Sours and belgians might be different - some of them go for $20 or even $50 a bottle. For anything else, I think three barrels is just not big enough.

Have you and your brother done anything with permitting yet? Do you have a location that's zoned appropriately? Have you considered the taxes you'll have to pay? I'm interested.

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Old 12-01-2011, 04:02 PM   #5
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a lot of the answers to your questions are dependant on your specific situation. what is the background/expertise of you and your partners? have any of you worked in a commercial brewery before? or only homebrewing (no offense to homebrewers, but its quite a different animal)?

if you are thinking about designing your own systems, or even piecing it together yourself from off the shelf parts, atleast someone with engineering and thermodynamic experience on your payroll is a must. its very easy to get all the pieces of the puzzle, but to get them all to work nicely together is entirely different. there is a lot of math that goes into calculating flow rates for your exhaust system, water and pump pressure and flow requirements, cooling power needed for your chillers and refrigerators, how to quantify how well your CIP system works... if you have to sub-contract out for all of these little things, or even if you plan on learning as you go, you might as well just pay one contractor to do the entire job; someone who has done it before, can get it done correctly and on time, and can make suggestions that you might not have thought about, is sometimes worth the money.

fabricating tanks yourself is not as simple as buying the raw materials and paying a welder. when you want glycol or steam jackets, all sanitary polished welds, shadowless manways, etc... it gets expensive quick. then you need the tanks NSF and pressure certified. what happens if your welder isnt as good as you thought and he burns a hole thru a $2k sheet of steel? or if he forgets to polish a 1/2" weld section around a fitting that is hard to see and you loose several 300 gallon batches to infection before you figure out the cause? if they are your tanks, there is no one to call and ask for help or suggestions...

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Old 12-01-2011, 04:36 PM   #6
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I saw a thread a few days ago here where a guy was starting his own nanobrewery in his backyard. Not sure on all the specifics as I've been to busy to continue reading the thread but I remember him saying he was doing 10 gallon batches, and would be breaking even at 15 gallons per month with his backyard brewery. I love reading threads like these! Good luck with it, your living out most of our dreams!

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Old 12-01-2011, 04:57 PM   #7
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We (myself and two friends/fellow homebrewers) are getting ready to sign a lease for a nano in the next week or so with us taking on the space as of 1/1. Our rig is a 55 gallon so... roughly 1.5 bbl system.

I've always been curious as to what exactly "break even" means when that guy on the equip sales page says you can't run a brewery for less than 7 bbls (which I've seen before).

what about Epic Brewing up in Seattle? 1 bbl in 180 sq feet.

The Brewery | Epic Ales

So is that guy losing his shirt on a monthly basis??

I think it really depends on what "breaking even" means. Are you planning on quiting your job and making the brewery your sole source of income? (we're not... we're doing it as a "hobby brewery" first).

I think you need to first think about what you really want to get out of it in terms of financial reward and then try to back into that under worst, expected and best case scenarios.

i would concentrate on flushing out a business plan first and then match the equipment to it.

Wow... that sounded kinda preachy... didn't mean it that way at all.

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Old 12-01-2011, 05:00 PM   #8
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I think it depends on how much you go crazy on the equipment and start up costs. I am quite sure there are folks breaking and making money even on small systems. It seems like when people make the jump , it's from 1 to 7 bbl. That seems overwhelming!!! There is a big difference in overhead and start-up for 0.5 or 1 bbl to 3 bbl and 7 bbl.

Have you checked Glacier tanks for 3bbl tanks...

Also of course depends on how much you can sell for. I am in a place where you pay $9 for a bomber of good local beer. $6 for a "pint" in a restaurant.

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Old 12-01-2011, 05:03 PM   #9
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Good luck Cape!

I have been playing with Excel myself. My break even is pretty low, but I could sell beer for a lot. Also would be turning out a beer quickly. There are a lot of factors.

I guess of course there is a big difference between a side job and a full time job that pays the bills....a lot of guys with small systems do it for love , a few bucks and get to make good beer for free.

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Old 12-01-2011, 07:52 PM   #10
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We have four 55 gallon fermentors so our back-of-the-envelope is that we'll have 9 1/6the kegs coming ready per week as we simply rotate fermentation on the four vessels.

You obviously can't fill a fermentor right to the top... with trub and other loss... we're assuming 45 gallons of beer per fermenter.

We already get 55 lb sacks of base malt for $29-$35 each... Hops, yeast, etc... say... I dunno... say $75 in "ingredients" per batch. Our total space cost on rent, untilities & insurance (don't underestimate your insurance costs) are going to run us about $550 a month.

You figure you can sell a 1/6th of "craft beer" for about $60 wholesale.

So... the way we are figuring it, we basically have to sell a little over one entire batch per month to "break even" and that is without any of the three of us taking out any cash. Anything we make will be put right back into the brewery. If we feel like we can sell more beer... we'll wait until the brewery can afford to expand itself... and we'll go from there.

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