Uber quick post. Last week I was approved for my small business loan which is HUGE! More investors on board (and room for a few more). Lease negotiations seem to be complete, contract being written up now. Will be ordering 20 BBL brew house, 40 BBL fermenters, 40 BBL bright tank, 40BBL hot liquor tank and accessories this week. So busy, lots to do in order to close on the loan. I'll go into great detail on loans, leases, and such when time allows.

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The brewery is finally happening!



Wandering About Equipment

Ha! See the title of this post? It's a pun! You'll see how in a second, but right now let's just talk about how incredibly inventive I am! I'm the goddamn Einstein of puns. Alright then.

I can't figure out why I'm the only bidder on this sweet, sweet deal. Who says used brewing equipment doesn't exist?

I've been collaborating a lot with my friend from brewing school, Chad, who is opening Wander Brewing in Bellingham, Washington. (See the punniness now?) Chad is one of the few people I've run into who's done as much if not more research than I have on opening a craft brewery. Quite frankly, Chad has me beat on several fronts, including brewing equipment quotes. I received quotes from the main players in the game, Premier Stainless, DME, JV Northwest, NSI (Newlands), and a few others. Chad has received quotes from pretty much every single domestic based brewery equipment manufacturer, including the aforementioned and quite a few I was not familiar with. The one that has really stood out for him is Marks Design and MetalWorks based in Washington state. Unlike Premier, DME, and others, who build some components in North America, but have some or most components built in China, particularly vessels, Marks is 100% built in Washington state. Chad visited the factory and was well impressed with everything and has placed an order. Because I trust Chad implicitly, I've received a quote from Marks as well and will be comparing it line by line to my other quotes this next week.

Chad also had a very smart idea that I will be using. He was able to put 10% down just to get into the manufacturing queue. See, these manufacturers have hellacious lead times right now. Anywhere from 6 months or more. So if you order today, you'll be waiting at least 6 months to take delivery. That's a long time, especially if you're paying for a lease. And usually manufacturers want 50% up front. By getting a place secured in line, Chad was able to remove a significant amount of waiting time as he secures his funding. I love that idea and will try to do the same in the next couple of weeks once I have a final price negotiated. That's a big step.

One thing you'll discover if you're publicizing your start up brewery is that you'll get lots of interest from Chinese manufacturers who will email you seeking your money. My advice: avoid like the plague. You'll have no service, huge language barriers, questionable quality at best, and little if any post purchase support.

Folks like Premiere Stainless have their fermentation vessels manufactured in China, but they have very high quality standards, provide plenty of support, and fit the vessels with top of the line valves and such. I have a very simple rule: if it has a moving part, make sure it's not made in China. I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions, but I'm not willing to seek them out.

Until next time.



Quickie: Progress This Week

Great scotts! As I mentioned last week, I'll be doing short and sweet blog posts just to let everyone know I'm still alive and moving along.  I spent a lot of time this week tweaking my cash flow and profit and loss spreadsheets and completed the break even analysis spreadsheet.  At this point, I'm pretty confident in my models for costing out everything and cash flow. I added some logic to account for buying an additional fermenter when production reaches a certain level as well.  Utilities were broken down more accurately to allocate the lions share to cost of goods sold based on production volume.  I'm really pleased with how far along all of this analysis has come.

I also created a quick timeline spreadsheet which back calculates when major milestones need to be completed based on an opening date.  These milestones include TTB Brewer's Notice, equipment ordering, lease signing, etc.  My current model says that the brewery will open 10 months from the day the business plan is completed.  Of course parts of the timeline are complete guesswork so who knows?  It could be 14 months, 16 months.  Depends on a lot of factors.

This week I received an updated quote from Premier Stainless for a 15 bbl brew house with 30 bbl fermenters instead of 20/40 bbl.  The price difference is about $40,000.  That's a small amount of money for what would be a 33% increase in production capacity, but I'd rather start up with a smaller loan (and loan payment) and be able to launch with a canning line.  The canning line will significantly lower packaging costs and I'm dead set on that path.  As I've mentioned a few times before, I'll have a very detailed post discussing canning costs when time allows.

All of this was completed while also preparing for the final push of finishing my giganto container vegetable garden project and finalizing the fill date for my group Templeton Rye barrel project with English barley wine.  I need 35 hours in a day. Working on very little sleep.

The next steps are to complete the opening balance sheet, which won't take long and then move to the written portions of the business plan.  My goal at this point is to have the entire business plan completed and off for review with a select few friends (including an MBA or two) by end of June.

Quickie: Brain Dump From Craft Beer Conference 2012

If you checked out my Panic Brewing Facebook page over the weekend now the Alarmist Brewing Facebook page, you probably saw some updates from the Craft Beer Conference. I was at the trade show portion on Friday only. I had a great time and learned a lot. Here are a few quick tidbits: I already knew Premier Stainless made excellent equipment, but it was great to get an up close look. Amazing stuff made incredibly well, despite the fact that most of the manufacturing occurs in China (which I'm never a fan of).  Once the equipment arrives from China, Premiere brings it into their Escondido facility and ensures that all fabrication is absolute world class. They also fit the finished equipment with very high quality tri-clamp valves, pumps, and motors. And the heat exchanger is made in Washington state. Nice. We visited the Pizza Port brew pub in Ocean Beach later that night and sure enough, there was a gorgeous Premier brew house and fermenters front and center.

Only takes 3 hours to wash one keg!

Premier makes a dual semi-automatic keg washer, meaning you have to lift the kegs, but the cleaning cycle is automatic. It's beautiful and will be in my brewery at launch.

Rob Soltys of Premier Stainless recommended 16 ft minimum height ceilings.  When I asked him how high you need for 30 bbl fermenters (and you always need extra height for the rigging equipment, remember that!), he said if you go with 16 ft minimum, you'll be able to fit 60 bbl fermenters in the future easily.  Good tip.  They can customize fermenters just about any way you need them, so smaller clearances would require short and squat fermenters which affect fermentation flavors (brewing school). Not a big deal, but you'd probably have to adjust your fermentation temperatures to deal with less hydrostatic pressure due to shallower depths.

Wild Goose Engineering's canning line is awesome AND they're not tied to Ball Canning like Cask is. That's a good thing. Their two head filler can package cans faster than Cask's five head filler. The secret? The seamer, which is the device that seals the lid onto the can. Both canning lines have only one seamer, but Wild Goose's is so damn fast, their line cans faster with less than half the fill heads! The people are awesome as well. When the need arises, you can easily add two fill heads to the machine for a total of four. Awesomesauce.

I spoke to the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), very nice people. Here's the gospel from the horse's mouth: If you fill out your TTB paperwork correctly AND submit it online, it currently requires about 51 days to get your Federal Brewer's Notice approved. If you submit your application via paper, it takes 90 days, but who would be that dumb anyway? I inquired what the biggest mistake people make that causes their application to be rejected. Answer: improper handling of the Brewer's Bond process. They have a phone number you can call to get all your questions answered and encouraged me to use that resource. I'll add that number to this post when I find it. I'll go into all the nitty gritty of dealing with the TTB and the State of Illinois once I begin that part of the process.

Great stuff, well worth the effort and money.

Equipment 101: Brewhouse Part I

This will be the first in a series of posts on the kinds of equipment you'll need to open a brewery and where to get it.  I won't claim to know a fraction of what there is to know on this stuff, but I'll share what I THINK I know and anything I learn along the way. My 20 BBL system! Minus 19.5 BBL.

We'll start the series with an obvious choice: the brewhouse.  The brewhouse is the system with which a brewery actually makes the wort (unfermented beer) which will be magically turned into beer after fermentation.  Unsurprisingly, brewhouses come in many different sizes, options, configurations, and prices.  Typically, for a start up brewery such as Panic Alarmist, the brewhouse is a two vessel system consisting of the mash/lauter tun (MLT) and the brew kettle/whirlpool.  If you are an all-grain homebrewer, this is very likely exactly what you already do.  As a brewery needs to expand production, a two vessel system can become a four or even five vessel system with separate vessels for mashing, lautering, boiling, and whirlpooling.  This allows for much faster production as it allows for parallel processes to take place in all vessels at once.

Alas, for us start ups with limited capital, two vessels is the way to go.  So what kinds of features does one look for in these vessels?  Well, as I mentioned earlier, I don't know a lot, but here's what I've learned thus far:

MLT's can be fitted with or without mash rakes.  These are stainless steel mixing arms that are turned by a drive motor (hopefully variable drive to control rotation speed).  Mash rakes are great because they ensure that the mash is thoroughly hydrated with no "dough balls", the temperature is consistent through out the mash tun, and they make cleaning ("grain out") much, much easier.

MLT's can also have active heating.  A heated mash tun is steam jacketed, just like the boil kettle, which allows a brewer to more easily control the heat of the mash and, more importantly, do multiple step infusion mashes.  With today's highly modified malts and the additional costs involved, few American craft breweries have steam jacketed mash tuns.  They definitely exist and I don't know how many there are, but they are much rarer than the standard, insulated mash tun where the heat is controlled simply by the mash water temperature.

This brings us to the boil kettle/whirlpool.  A boil kettle can either be heated via steam or direct fired much like many of us homebrewers do in the back yard with a turkey fryer burner.  Steam is usually preferred for a variety of reasons.  Steam is more efficient, provides a gentler and more homogenous heat transfer, and it doesn't scorch the bottom of the brew kettle.  Also, after a brew kettle gets to a certain size (maybe 20 bbl?), direct fire might not even be an option (I could be wrong on this).  Two disadvantages for steam heat are the cost for the steam boiler and its installation and maintenance costs.  A steam boiler (which I'll cover in another post) is a massive natural gas powered heating unit which heats water to steam.  The steam is then pumped via process pipe to the jackets surrounding the kettle.  As the heat is transferred from the steam to the boil kettle, some (or most?) of the steam goes back to its natural state of water, aka condensate, and is pumped back through the boiler.   This is a closed loop system but does require some maintenance including chemicals that must be added to the water to prevent corrosion or mineral build up inside the system.  The installation costs of a boiler are very high.  Steam boilers require the installation of water piping, steam piping, electrical, and venting.  And the boiler must be installed in a fire resistant room which local building codes will define for you.

Another component of a brewhouse is a grant, which is a reservoir tank that holds the run-off from the MLT.  A grant maintains a volume of liquid which can then be pumped to the boil kettle during run off.  It also allows the brewer to see and test the run-off during the entire lautering process.  Speaking of pumps, they are an important part of the brewhouse.  The brewhouse at Metropolitan Brewing has a pump to move liquid from the MLT to the kettle, and a pump for recirculating the wort during whirlpooling in the brew kettle.  The pumps are also used for things like vorlaufing, cleaning, and general water transfer such as heating mash water in the boil kettle, if needed,  and then pushing the heated water over to the MLT.

So that's a very general run down of a brewhouse.  I'll go into more details on features once I learn about them myself.  I'll also be talking about the different vendors and my experiences with working with them.  There is a lot of ground to cover with equipment, so hang on tight!