A Guide to Choosing Brewing Equipment

So, you’ve decided to open a new brewery, huzzah!

Making the decision to open a brewery is an exciting one, but moving from home brewing to production brewing can be a daunting task when trying to figure out what type of equipment and setup will work best for your brewery.

Well have no fear, a tool is here! We’ve come up with useful flowcharts and diagrams to help guide you in the right direction in choosing the best equipment configuration, setup, and size.


Minnetonka Brewing & Equipment Company Brewhouse


Minnetonka brewing & Equipment Company Brewing Equipment


Minnetonka Brewing & Equipment Company Brewhouse Heating

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GABF 2014 Reflection: Competition With A Capital C!

By Dan Kahn

I recently had the honor and pleasure of judging at the GABF again this year.  I have had a lot of brewers ask about the judging process and wonder what exactly happens to their beers when they are entered, so I thought it might be helpful to write a little about my experiences as a judge.

After starting to attend the GABF as a brewer and entrant about 20 years ago, and beginning to judge at it a dozen years ago, the growth and changes What I have witnessed have been amazing. With about 5700 entries in the competition, even with 90 categories there are over 60 entries per category on average.  The largest category, American India Pale Ale, had 279 entries.  That’s a lot of beers to be competing against!  With this many beers entered, there is no question that every beer that wins a medal is a top quality beer that deserves a medal.  However, not every really good beer wins a medal, which can be frustrating to a lot of brewers making excellent beer.

So, for brewers that are hoping to increase their chances to medal, a few observations and words of advice:

  1. Have lots of people taste your beer, and train your tasters. Most categories have at least 3 rounds of tasting, usually with 9-12 beers in each flight for groups of 3 or 4 judges.  The goal in each of the early rounds is to select the 3 best beers to pass forward to the next round.  The easiest way to whittle down to those 3 is get rid of the beers with obvious flaws.  Keep in mind that obvious flaws have a different threshold at a table full of judges than at a taproom, but also that different people, even trained tasters, have different taste thresholds for specific flavors.  This is why it is critical to have multiple tasters provide feedback for your beer.  You may be highly sensitive to diacetyl, and less so to DMS, for example, but if any one of the judges at a table picks up a significant flaw, that beer goes out.  By the time any beer goes through 3 or 4 rounds of judging, it’s going to have to pass judges that are sensitive to anything, essentially.

Want to give your tastebuds a workout? Head to the Food and Wine guide on how to become a better beer taster.

  1. Pay close attention to the style guidelines.Years ago, it was often thought that beers did better in competitions by being more dramatic, pushing the boundaries of styles, that just being stronger, hoppier and more intense would automatically make more of an impression.  If that ever was true, it certainly isn’t any more.  For one thing, there are so many more styles now, especially for stronger beers, that there really is no excuse for having an entry too big for its category.  I saw number of entries rejected for being “too hoppy for the style,” so if the guidelines limit a given flavor to “low,” make sure your beer reflects that.  That said, the guidelines don’t cover every conceivable combination of ingredients and process, and there can still be well balanced and enjoyable beers that don’t quite fit any of the styles well.  There is no reason that every beer you make has to be for competition; just don’t expect an entry to do well in a traditional category unless it fits the description.
  1. Aside from avoiding mistakes and staying within the parameters, give the beers depth of flavor, balance and interest. There are more beers than ever before, and they are better than ever, too.  This is the first year I have had multiple first round flights where every single beer (out of 10 or 11) was pretty good, and nothing was obviously sour, buttery or oxidized.  Once a beer gets out of the first round, there is probably a couple more rounds to go through to get to medals, each time being compared to other beers that were among the best 3 in their flight.  It used to be that entering a well made beer would almost guarantee getting passed into the second round at least, but I saw some first round flights where there really were more than 3 beers that were truly quite good. In order to stand out among a flight full of quality beers, beers do need layers of flavor.  Even among light bodied styles, malt flavor can be smooth, crisp and apparent.  Even in styles with low bitterness, multiple hop varieties and additions can provide complexity, freshness and depth.  Use balance and nuance to make beers memorable.

And of course, if you are lucky enough to be able to attend, give yourself the chance to taste a lot of other beers, see what other people are doing with new and traditional styles!

It is a fun event with lots of learning opportunities as well.

And if you do have suggestions for any changes to make in the festival itself, or specific style guidelines, let the Brewers Association know. We are privileged as an industry to have such a responsive professional organization to work with, so make sure you take advantage of that.

Cheers!

Craft Brewers Conference Recap!

Another Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America ™ has come and gone, can you believe it?  Everyone here at MBEC can’t believe how quickly it came and went, but have been reveling on having an amazing show!  Being our sophomore year at the show, the jitters weren’t quite as high (though still present none the less!) and had experience on our side, and had a great time meeting and talking with people from all walks of the craft brewing industry again. Nothing quite like the atmosphere of the CBC. Although no show goes without a few hiccups, we were extremely pleased with how the show went, and can’t wait to travel to Portland next year! With the CBC and BrewExpo growing so rapidly, there is never a dull moment while you are there – and it’s exciting to watch the growth!

Even though the show ended a couple weeks ago, our team is still working hard to follow-up with everyone we met and getting information, quotes, and feedback out.  The buzz of the CBC has a lasting ripple effect for us, as well as I am sure for other exhibitors, to reconnect with those we met – and we want to make sure we are both efficient and thorough getting to each and everyone.

Minnetonka Brewing & Equipment Company 2014 CBC Booth

MBEC BrewExpo America Booth

Weren’t able to head out to the show? Don’t worry, we went walking around the floor of the BrewExpo tradeshow, and you can live through our video!

Was fun to see how vast and far reaching the Craft industry goes just by walking the floor.  We had the chance to meet and talk with those across the brewing industry to talk business and form collaborations, which was a definite highlight of the show.

A special shout out to MBEC customers Mispillion River Brewing and Red Leg Brewing Company for their 2014 World Beer Cup wins, which were presented at this years Craft Brewers Conference.  A major congratulations to them, well deserved!

 

We can’t wait until next year, see you in Portland!

What Makes A Good Beer?

Beer is the second more popular drink in the world, considered one of the oldest created beverages, and the craft beer industry is currently going through a boom within the United States.  So with all the craze, often the question comes up of ‘What Makes a Good Beer?”, especially when nowadays there are numerous options available to consumers.  Every beer fanatic and enthusiast knows that not all beers are created equal, some are amazing, while others not so much, so, what really does make a beer good? It may sounds like a simple question at first glance, but a loaded one indeedGood Beer

Most would attribute recipe and recipe formulation as the sole factor to what makes a beer go from bad to great, but au contraire, there is so much more! What does a beer maker need to do to create a great beer?

Let’s explore what goes into making a great beer…

  1. Let’s start with the obvious…
    • A great recipe will be the first hurdle to ensure your brew will be spectacular.  Some combination of ingredients, time, and prep will work better than others, and will produce something amazing, while other combos may not.  Knowing what ingredients go well with others, and knowing how to cook/ferment/produce that combo will ensure your beer will turn out great.  Experiment, don’t be afraid to try new recipes and perfect them! You will also never understand what truly great beers are out there or can be produced until you test and try all different types of recipes. Once you find something you know works, go with what you know and perfect – that will make a great beer!
  2. Knowledge is Power!
    • Understanding the chemistry of beer, how the magic of beer happens, and all that jazz will only help you in creating a good beer.  Not knowing how the main ingredients interact with each other to create beer will make it extra hard to know what could produce a good beer.  Most people have tasted beer from a first time homebrewer where it wasn’t that great, and you wonder how much understanding of the beer chemistry they have (not saying that all who try out beer making for the first time don’t make something good). Beer is a complex chemistry masterpiece, and the more you understand that process, the better your beer will be!
  3. Only The Best
    • Don’t skimp on your ingredients; get the best you can get.  Bad quality of ingredients will certainly make it harder to create a good beer.  Also not having a plentiful supply of those top ingredients will ensure you make a great beer.  Always have full stock of the best of the best, hard to make beer with crappy ingredients!
  4. Great Team for Great Beer
    • Having a great team of brewers who both love beer and understand the inner workings of beer, best practices and procedures, and understand the recipe they are creating is essential to ensure your beer will be great, and have great quality.
  5. Keep it Clean!
    1. Not having a clean and sanitary brewing area will not bode well for brews.  Keeping both sanitation and cleanliness at the top of your priorities will lay the way for you to create great brews.  So remember, keep it clean!
  6. Great Equipment, duh!
    1. Having state of the art, well-made and maintained equipment will help ensure your beers won’t fail.  You want equipment that you can rely on, easy to work with, and easy to upkeep to make sure your beers will hold up to ‘great beer’ status.  Luckily for us, we can help you out with this stage!  (we aren’t ashamed of selfish plugging).  Great equipment makes for beer, duh! Working to get the best equipment for your needs to make sure you can keep producing a great product is something we completely understand, and getting the best equipment can be the first biggest step in creating exceptional beer! Head to our website www.mtka-bec.com to see what equipment would fit your needs!

What do you think makes for a great beer?

Have a favorite recipe that you know never fails, know of a place to get the best ingredients to make sure the quality is always great in a brew? Share your wisdom!

Reference:

Steele, Mitch. “What Makes a Great Beer?”. Stone Brewing Blog,  http://blog.stonebrew.com/index.php/what-makes-great-beer/

Safety First!

Brewing is a tough, fun, and, although we don’t want to think about it, a dangerous business.  Dusts and particles can be flying everywhere, fluids spraying around, and you are working with large mechanical equipment – Things can go wrong very quickly, which is why safety should be a key component to any brewery.

Can Never Be To Safe!

Establishing a strong safety environment and procedure within your brewery isn’t only great for your brewery and employees, but it will create a better craft beer industry in whole.

There are many components to making a stronger safety environment within a brewery, and creating a better ‘Safety-Culture’ (as described in the Brewer Association’s New Brewery Safety issue that was released last year)    whether you are a brewery that has been around for years, or just opening your doors, is a critical part of being a strong operational brewery.  Remember, Safety first, then comes the fun!

Find your benchmark, aim higher

What are your safety regulations now? What could you do to make your brewery a model for brewery safety? Set a benchmark and aim higher for how safety is addressed, performed, and talked about in your brewery.

  • Enforce Cleanliness and Organization
  • Designate a brewery safety coordinator
  • Ensure your brewery is compliant with state and federal regulations
  • Form a safety board
  • Create prevention through the design of your facility
  • Identify critical employee behavior and create self-responsibility
  • Take a trip to other breweries, see what they do and how you can reach that level of safety
  • Identify employees who can set the stage of model safety behavior, and influence others to do the same

One Safe Does Not Fit All

For each portion of the brewing process, there are different safety concerns that may need to be addressed.  Be sure to walk through each process you perform, and create a procedure on how to do it safely.  Make sure the procedures are in a place that all employees can see or read, and make sure people know where they can go to ask for questions or demonstrations.  You may have your own safety measures, so just because someone performed something one way somewhere else does not mean they will know how to do the same at your brewery.  See someone doing something wrong or right? Ensure to talk to employees about something they should improve on, or something to exemplify so everyone on your teams is on the up and up.

Cleaning, Cleaning, Oh MY!

One area in particular to pay attention to how safety is addressed is cleaning.  Numerous areas and equipment of a brewery need to be cleaned, do you know how to do it safely?  There are confined spaces, chemicals used, and it can be a matter of life or death (don’t want to be to strict or harsh, but it’s true) if safety measures are not intact before performing any cleaning act.  Be sure know how to clean your brewery properly, and safely, so you can keep your brewery chugging along smoothly.

 

Safety is something quite important, so don’t feel you can take it to seriously. Changing your outlook and behavior in a brewery when it comes to safety can be tough at first, or can cause some confusion, but don’t be afraid to reach out to informative materials or people to ensure you are doing everything you should to keep your brewery safe for all you come in contact with it.

So, go forth and brew safely!

Resources:

BA: Material Safety Data Sheets – For all your safety regulation needs

Brewery Safety Courses.  This is just one, there are more out there, so don’t be afraid to do some research, or hire someone to come to your brewery for safety demonstrations

 

References:

The New brewer. January/February 2013, Vol.30, No.1. 46-74. Print

Great American Beer Festival, a reflection! – GABF Growing Up In a Big Way

BY Dan Kahn

Now that the Great American Beer Festival has come and gone, and excitement has died down, a reflection on the event has come!

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to judge at the GABF about 6 or 7 times over the past dozen years, and have attended as an exhibiting brewer off and on for 20 years, and a lot has changed over that time.  The most obvious from this year’s judging:  the GABF is BIG!, in every sense of the word.  Over 4800 beers judged, more than twice as many as a decade ago.  We thought 2000 beers was a lot then, but now there’s also twice as many judges, over 200.  The beers are big; the biggest category was American style IPAs, with over 250 entries.  There are more categories every year, as experiments become trends and then full-fledged new American styles (Rye beers!  Fresh hop beers! American-Belgo beers! Four different categories of barrel aged beers!)  There is also a lot of speculation about how the ever expanding scope can be handled.  Will the public tastings move from the Convention center to an even larger venue?  Could the judging be broken into regional qualifying rounds prior to the GABF?Image

Another interesting thing I notice now is the shift in attitude of the international judges.  Back in the early years of the festival, they helped lend credibility to America’s new fascination with the world’s favorite beverage.  While the great Michael Jackson was always gracious and an enthusiastic supporter of the American Craft beer scene, many of the other European judges were rather dismissive of American attempts to mimic and modify traditional British, German, and Belgian styles.  Now, the international judges feel honored to participate, and happily acknowledge the influence American craft beer has on energizing their own home beer markets.  We have transformed from the little brother tagging along after the big kids to the winner everyone else wants to be.  We have become the unquestioned world leader in beer quality, variety and innovation, now setting an aspirational standard for those countries we once hoped to emulate.

So, You Think You Can Brew? – Marketing Your Brewery

Many steps and processes go into starting a new brewery, and one component to opening a brewery that flows through the moment you decide to open your brewery, to having it open for business, is marketing.Marketing Your Brewery

A key factor to starting a brewery, marketing feeds momentum from the get-go.  Its fun, exciting, fuels both the business and creative sides of your brain, and developing this area of your business plan will help your brewery when it is both starting out and for the future.

Marketing is ever evolving, and understanding how to build a strong marketing plan and grow with the fast growing Craft Brewing market is both challenging and fun. But have no fear, MBEC is here to help cut through the brewery marketing fog with some marketing tips!

  • Who are you? Develop your brand, your name, your image.  Having a brewery is more than a logo on a bottle, or a sign on the door, create a story of who you are and what sets you apart, and weave that into your marketing plan. Take the time to sit down and discuss what you want your image and story to be – creating a captivating story of your brewery will grasp your patrons, and having your story at the heart of your marketing efforts will help people connect more with your brewery and beers. Creating a strong story behind your product will help cement your presence within not only your local craft beer scene, but throughout the market.
  • Knowledge is Power! Knowing your market is key.  Extremely key. Every market is different, and understanding what makes the Craft Beer Industry market tick will help your brewery tremendously for the future. Know your clients – who are the type of people who will drink your beer? Where are they drinking now? Where are they buying beer products currently? ALL key questions to ask and research.  The better you know your clients, the better you can reach out to them, and the more likely they will buy and enjoy your product!
  • Engage is the word – Engage, Engage, Engage! Engaging your customers, and getting them excited about your brand, story, and product is a critical point in marketing your new brewery. Getting people excited early and often will help create buzz and excitement for your brewery and products before you open (if done properly).  Nowadays there are seemingly unlimited paths to engaging new and existing customers, both online and ‘traditional’ methods. Utilizing your personal website, along with the multitude of social networks – including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn, are all great places to start.  There are numerous great, fun, and inventive ways to engage your customers based on our brewery’s story and brand – so get creative and use all assets to your own advantage! Try different things, and see what seems to engage your customers best. Engaging takes a lot of effort, and finding the right person to help maintain customer engagement is a full-time job – so be prepared to log many hours reaching out and engaging your customers.

PRO TIP : Start early, the most you can market and create buzz before opening your brewery can help you get off on the right foot quickly. Develop a webpage (even a simple one) that allows people to find you easily online, setup a Facebook, and blog, and keep them updated frequently.

  • Got Promoting? – Having your product be noticed, tasted, and reviewed should be the ultimate goal for your brewery (d’uh, right?), but it can be easier said than done.  How will you get your beers, your brewery, and your image to stand out? There are a lot of details to think about when promoting your product, and many avenues to do so. You need to create a plan and strategy from promoting your brewery all the way from advertising down to beer packaging and t-shirt designs. There are a lot of great opportunities to also promote in person, including heading out to your local bars and talking to people and attending events as a spectator, exhibitor, and judge, in addition to talking with friends to spread the word and hype on your opening brewery.

PRO TIP : One great way to gain attention when first starting out is partnering with local businesses to promote your product. In addition to distributing your own product (in whichever way you choose), local food trucks, restaurants, bands, artists, and various people love to partner with up and coming breweries in this current craft brewery boom to promote both your product and theirs – talk around the town and see if that  could be a good option for you.

Whether you choose to tackle marketing internally, or have a company handle your marketing needs, take a deep breath, and know that when it comes to marketing for breweries, it is not only fun and exciting, but there are a lot of options available to you to ensure your brewery will be seen, be loved, and be successful.

RESOURCES:

TAPHANDLES – the only dedicated beer industry fully integrated marketing company.

CRAFT BREWERY MARKETING CONSULTANTS – Helps launch and grow your craft brewery through marketing

“Marketing in a Crowded, Thirsty Space: Lessons from Heavy Seas!” – Article outlining the successful marketing efforts of the Clipper City Brewing Company. Learn tips and tricks from a brewery itself.

MARKETING BEER – Website dedicated to news, treads, and insights into marketing beer

SO, YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW?’ is brought to you be Dan Kahn, MBEC’s resident brewery and all things beer consultant.  This segment was broken up into parts, and this is the end of PART 5 and concludes the series.  Hope you enjoyed tricks of the trade to aide you in your dream brewery!

SO, YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW? – PART 4: Opening the Brewery Doors!

Your brewery is coming into full form, and the dream is nearly bursting into a reality.

The technical skills have been toned, a business plan has been drawn up, you’ve found the perfect location, found the equipment you need (Which will be great, because it will be from MBEC of course!), you have your brewing materials squared away, millions of  forms have been filled out and sent, and you’ve found the key personnel to make a brewery family and bring your dream to life.  What’s left? Well opening your brewery of course!

Opening Your Facility – The Time has Finally Arrived!   MBEC - Beer Blog

Up until this point a lot of hard, pain-staking leg-work for having an operating brewery has been done, and now comes the fun part: opening the brewery doors for business!

Even though finally being able to move from “brewery in planning” to operating brewery is a great feeling, the new phase of work is only beginning. From here on out new sets of challenges, both fun and hard, are about to come, but have no fear, we have words of advice!

  1. Yes, something will go wrong: There will be issues, glitches, problems, and overall hiccups – nothing will be perfect. Accepting that and taking a deep breath will go a long way.  It’s okay to have problems, and learning as a company how you will work through them will be a huge factor for the success of your brewery and can actually be a good part of this whole process.
  2. Everything Up To Code?: Make sure you know of all regulations that need to be checked before opening. Double, triple, quadruple check the regulations for both federal and state level.  Do you have all the right permits, licenses, and everything up to code? Can’t open if you don’t go through the legal steps first, including building, hygiene, and safety regulations that could get you in trouble if you haven’t got those approved prior to opening.
  3. Who Does What, When, and How?: Establish a system for running operations at your brewery daily, weekly, monthly, and long-term.  Having an efficient method to the madness will make running your brewery much less stressful, and help ensure things chug along in the right direction. This applies to the beer making process, distribution, managing inventory, and also managing employees.

         PRO TIP!: Have a taproom? Be sure to factor in how operations will be effected by having hours dedicated to your    taproom, and come up with a plan on how you want to run your taproom.

  1. What To Brew: Know what you are going to brew.  Doesn’t have to be years in advance, but have a plan for what brews will be first when opening , and what could be done down the line – this will help to make sure you have the proper ingredients ordered and ready and mange equipment operations.  Plus, this will feed into your marketing, people like to know what’s coming and you’ll already be ready to let them know!
  2. Where’s the Beer?: Know where you are going to sell your beer and how it will get there? If you don’t already, find wholesalers around your area that you can sell your beer and/or determine how you can distribute through your facility, i.e. a taproom.  Retail stores (in some states), restaurant/bars, and liquor stores are you friends, but there are different ways to go about distributing your fabulous product. Take a look at Distribution 101 at ProBrewer.com for great tips on different methods of distribution, and be sure to not overlook this vital part of having a microbrewery.
  3. Hum, what to charge?: Do you know what you are going to charge for your product (both brews, and any food you may sell)? Something key to figure out. You want to make profit, so setting your product pricing correctly is a key step in doing that! Look at what other breweries in the area are charging, look at the cost of your materials, labor fees, etc, and test the waters. Play around with deals and promotions to help sell your fabulous brews and gain patron traction when you are first opening your doors, could be a great way to get  money flowing early.
  4. Taproom? Open softly: Are you going to have a tap room? Have a soft opening.  Invite friends, family, people who helped make the brewery a reality and test the waters for how things should be run for when real patrons walk into your brewery.  Helps shake off jitters too, and give you a glimpse into the fun future ahead! This is also a great way to get early buzz on your product, because who better to advertise than the people drinking your product ahead of time.

These are only a fraction of the many components to consider when opening your brewery, there are many factors and steps to take and remember to do when opening your brewery, and many other tips and tricks out there.  These should hopefully help reassure things you’ve already planned, or help expand your checklist – Share any tricks you have below too, share the wisdom for all!

Resources!

There are a ton of great books on hand that can be useful tools in opening your brewery, including The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery and Beer School by Brooklyn Brewery. Buy and embrace the words of the brewery gospel.

Also, ask fellow brewers. Don’t be shy, most are more than happy (and some really excited) to share words of wisdom and teach you tricks of the trade on opening your brewery smoothly.

SO, YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW?’ is brought to you be Dan Kahn, MBEC’s resident brewery and all things beer consultant.  This segment is going to be broken up into parts, and this is the end of PART 4.  Check back soon for PART 5, the final blog post of this series, to learn more tricks of the trade to aide you in your dream brewery!

SO, YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW? – PART 3

Key Personal Important When Starting a BrewerySo, you’ve toned your technical skills, have a solid business plan, figured out a perfect location, and have done research on what materials and equipment you plan to use.  Next, time to look into the people that will make up the backbone of your business, and determine who the key personnel people will be with your new brewery.

KEY PERSONNEL:

Making and selling beer is a complicated business, largely because of that “and selling” requirement.  If you are selling beer on site at a tasting room or brewpub, you need to have a clean, appealing location with competent, welcoming service.  If you are selling beer through stores and bars, you need to make a sales pitch to get an outlet to stock, and more to get customers to buy it, and enough to sell a lot more beer than if it was all at your own place.  Add to that the task of keeping track of and paying your payroll taxes, excise taxes, property taxes and all your other bills, not mention someone actually making the beer, and in no time you have way more work than any one person can hope to handle.  So, you need to put together a team to accomplish everything there is to do, and it better be a good one.

It is also true that one of the first things potential investors will look for is a quality, credible team that inspires their confidence.  While the performance of every employee is important, there are key positions that need to be involved in the planning stages of a project from early on:

for a brewpub, that includes a restaurant general manager, a chef or kitchen manager, and a brewmaster; a production brewery, will need at least a marketing/sales manager, office/administrative manager, and production manager/brewmaster.  These team members have distinct core responsibilities, but must work together to create a cohesive, complementary approach.  You can think of a brewpub as a business that sells 3 things: food, beer, and service/ambience.  While each manager has a field of expertise in one of these, they overlap and support each other: the food and beer menus must both be designed with the other in mind, and dishes can use beers in the recipes; servers must know, describe and recommend the beers and food items equally well; brewery tours and talks from the brewmaster are part of the special experience.

Similarly, in a distributing brewery, the beer styles, packaging and branding must all complement each other, and be appropriate for the target market.  The importance of the initial construction and installation phase can not be overlooked, although it is something of a one time ordeal.  Somebody on the team must be capable of overseeing and coordinating all the tasks that are involved with setting up and opening a brewery, and this is a different set of skills and experience than needed to operate a brewery.  So, you may have to hire a consultant or project manager to fill in the gaps for this temporary period.

Taking the time to assemble the right balance of skills and personalities at the beginning of your project will pay big dividends for years and beers to come!

 ‘SO, YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW?’ is brought to you be Dan Kahn, MBEC’s resident brewery and all things beer consultant.  This segment is going to be broken up into parts, and this is the end of PART 3.  Check back soon for PART 4 to learn more tricks of the trade to aide you in your dream brewery!

SO, YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW? – Part 2

MBEC_collage.fwNow that you have an idea of what types of beers you want to brew and how much of them you want to make, based on your recipes and business plan, you are ready to move forward with your brewery and business planning and begin the process of choosing your equipment and determine your material needs.

EQUIPMENT:

In order to pick out equipment to start out with (and possibly to grow into with future expansion) for your brewery, you’ll need to understand both your recipe and business plan fully.

For a brewpub, you may not have the space to add tanks later, since if you are busy you’ll need space for your customer’s just as much as brewing operations, so you want to start out with everything you need to reach your production goals.

Another factor to keep in mind is how many beers, and what kinds, you want too keep on tap at once.  You don’t want individual batches hanging around until they get stale, so the more taps you want to brew for, the smaller you want to keep your batch size.  Do you want to brew traditional lagers, or use unmalted adjuncts?  You may need a separate mash and lauter tun, to perform temperature program mashes.  Do you want to brew twice or more per day, to fill fermentors larger than your brew length?  You may want a whirlpool separate from the kettle, to shorten the time for multiple brew days.  How long do you want to mature your beer before serving? That will determine how many bbls of fermentation space you need.  There are other factors that play into what size and type of equipment you will need, but these questions are a great place to start as you move to the next stage of your brewery planning.

If you are opening a packaging brewery, you are probably planning to expand as you go, so you want to make sure your equipment is set up to allow you to do so easily.  Shelf space and tap handles are hard to come by, especially for a new brewery, so you need to choose a small number of beers to focus your efforts on initially. This may affect the decisions made on the size and numbers of fermentors needed, as well as the variety of packaging materials and label approvals.

MATERIALS:

Just as important as your equipment, determining the materials you’ll need for your brewery is vital. Even though you may have recipes developed with certain ingredients, keep in mind that the varieties of malt and hops available are constantly expanding.  New hop varieties, in particular, can offer dramatic and distinctive flavor elements, and many of the choice aroma hops can only be purchased by securing forward contracts for future harvest years.  This practice has the added benefit of guaranteeing acreage for some of those hop varieties we prize as craft brewers, but aren’t a priority for 80+% of the worlds hop purchasers.  Also, when selecting vendors to get ingredients and packaging supplies from, don’t forget to figure shipping costs into your decisions and projections.  Shipping can easily add more than 15% to the costs of items, and often obliterates the price difference of a few cents per pound from a more distant supplier.

The trade show at the Craft Brewers Conference is an unparalleled opportunity to check options and compare products from both equipment and material suppliers.  There are lots of samples to try of malts from different maltsters, new hop varieties, and usually some beers to taste featuring a specific hop variety.  It’s also a great chance to inspect equipment from different manufacturers, talk about your goals and ideas, and get quotes.  Additionally, there are tons of informative talks on all kinds of brewery and management topics.  The CBC is definitely an event that any prospective brewery owner can’t afford to miss.

 ‘SO, YOU THINK YOU CAN BREW?’ is brought to you be Dan Kahn, MBEC’s resident brewery and all things beer consultant.  This segment is going to be broken up into parts, and this is the end of PART 2.  Check back soon for PART 3 to learn more tricks of the trade to aide you in your dream brewery!

When your brewery is ready to purchase equipment, be sure to go to our website to see what Minnetonka Brewing and Equipment Company can provide for you!