Because equipment selection is one of the most important decisions made by a new brewery (although obviously not the only major decision), we spent a large percentage of our time researching equipment manufacturers and making calculations re: optimal size.
We considered everything from a 1 barrel (BBL) nano brewery system (bootstrap strategy) up to a 15BBL microbrewery system (go big or go home strategy). In the end, we decided to purchase a 10 BBL direct fired gas brewhouse with 7 BBL tanks. 1 US BBL of beer is equal to 31 gallons (haven’t been able to figure out why it’s 31 BBL). This will give us the flexibility to expand in the future with 10 or 20 BBL tanks if we need to (we hope so!). The decision to go with 7 BBL tanks instead of 10 BBL tanks was so that we could focus on taproom sales and smaller batch brewing to bring customers more variety, i.e. turn over the tanks faster. Additionally, having an “oversized” brewhouse lets us build super high gravity beers (e.g. quadruple IPA… just kidding [sort of]) in reasonable quantity. And we’ll pretty much be married to our brewhouse, whereas the tanks are a little easier to trade out for bigger ones if we want to do that. The cost difference between 7 and 10 BBL tanks is not huge, but for a startup every penny counts, so there were some financial calculations to be made as well, especially since we are purchasing seven tanks to begin with.
The other important decision aside from brewery size, was what manufacturer to go with. Our brewer and co-founder, Kevin, visited several breweries around the state to look at some of the different options available. Ultimately, we chose Alpha Brewing Operations, out of Nebraska, to furnish our brewhouse and tanks.
Above is a photo of an Alpha brewhouse (not the exact one we are getting, but similar).
We are still finalizing our equipment selections for the malt mill, glycol chiller, and other accessories.
Here is a picture of a 7 bbl tank, the size that ours will be. We have a lot of work to do before the tanks arrive in February followed by the brewhouse soon after.