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'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.