SYWTOABP 7: How much does commercial brewing equipment cost?
Another unsexy post listing equipment and costs associated with opening a brew pub. Unless, of course, you have some sort of fetish for stainless steel, in which case, have I got some pictures and links for you!
Unlike when I priced out the equipment necessary for a commercial kitchen and a bar at the front of the house, I didn’t have to go through numerous online catalogs and price everything out individually. Nor did I just bike down to the dominant vendor for musical equipment in the province. Nope, I was lucky in that when I reached out to suppliers of brew pub equipment, they actually got back to me with useful information.
BC already has a number of successful brew pubs. Vancouver and the surrounding area support many, but Victoria has far more per capita. As I always tell people, Victoria is the most British part of Canada. Outside of Victoria and Greater Vancouver, there are number of other brew pubs such as Longwood in Nanaimo. In fact, there are many brew pubs and craft breweries spread throughout the Pacific Northwest, AKA Cascadia. If you suspected there would be some specialty manufactures of brewing equipment also in this area, you’d be correct.
- Brooklyn Brewery
- Alley Kat Brewing
- Big River Brewpub
- Nelson Brewing Co.
- Spinnakers Brewpub
A rough estimate on how much the equipment necessary to brew beer in a pub is going to cost can be found online or in a book. $100,000, even $150,000, may be too low, depending on the size of your establishment, how many different beers you want to brew, how you store the beer, what your maximum production capacity is, whether you use kegs, or even do on-site bottling. Every installation is a little bit different in terms of floor space and ceiling height. Even the size of the doors you have available to you will affect what equipment you can install. It takes several months to build the equipment, so you need to have a system designed and ordered at a minimum of three, maybe closer to five, months before you plan on opening your brew pub.
One vendor broke the brewing system down into the following subsystems:
- Grain Handling: next to water, grain is the biggest ingredient in beer; you need to handle, mix, and manipulate a lot of grain.
- Brewhouse Platform: this is where all the ingredients go and get turned into beer.
- Process Control System: brewing beer involves heating, cooling, mixing, testing, measuring, etc.; electronic systems can simplify and standardize some of the process.
- Water Systems: water is the main ingredient in beer; to brew it on a large scale involves heating and moving a lot of water.
- Cellar Equipment: after you make your beer, you need to store it prior to consumption; the more beer you brew, the more storage equipment and space necessary.
- Brewery Accessories: everything else necessary to connect the equipment together and operate the brewing system in a brew pub.
One quote for a 10 bbl system was $173,923. This may actually be more brewing capacity than our hypothetical brew pub needs. A 5 bbl or 7 bbl system may be more than sufficient. Reducing brewing capacity by 20-25% should lead to a cost reduction of 20-25%. There isn’t a one-to-one correlation. Everything is manufactured to spec. Certain equipment is necessary, regardless of how large your brewing operation is. Here is a detailed list of recommended equipment for a brew pub or small craft brewery in Microsoft Excel format. Another vendor for a similar 10 bbl system came out to over $180,000 dollars. How many different beers you want to serve will also affect your costs, as every different kind of beer needs its own storage facility as well as hoses to transfer the beer to be served and cooled. Here is another detailed list of brewing equipment in another Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
A bbl is a brewer’s barrel which is 36 imperial gallons. A craft brewery is generally considered to have batch brewing capacity between 5-20 bbl, according to Wikipedia. It is more efficient to brew one 20 bbl batch than to brew four 5 bbl batches, even though you end up with the same amount of beer. Your cost per litre will be less brewing on a larger scale, which is why there is so much consolidation in the global brewing industry. Yaletown Brewing Company brews twice per week. That is more than sufficient for their brew pub operation, according to their brewmaster, Iain Hill:
That’s about 3,400 litres of beer we sell. So, that’s about 64 kegs of beer we sell per week.
I’ve got a lot of information queued up as we get closer to finishing the So You Want To Open A Brew Pub series. However, if you want to read more about brewing equipment, here are three more manufacturers that have useful information online. If you’re going to spend $150,000+ on brewing equipment, you owe it to yourself to get more than one bid.
At some point you’re going to want to learn more about brewing beer. The Siebel Institute offers a variety of courses. There are also consultants who specialize in helping set up brew pub operations. Teri Fahrendorf or First Key can help you out if your equipment vendor does not include sufficient training and consulting services or you want another opinion.
We’ve lined up an interview with a brew pub brewmaster (brewmistress?), so we will go into greater details on daily operations of a brew pub next time. Plus, I’ve created yet more spreadsheets to aid in the business planning process.