Project Brewery Part 2

So we’ve bought all the kit we need to make beer. Brewhouse, FV’s/CT’s, pumps, heat exchangers and bottling line. All we need to do now is wait for it all to arrive and plug it in! Happy days! What, wait..we need a different type of power supply? And drained flooring? And a glycol cooling system? And permission for all this from the landlord? Aw jeez…

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Part 2 of this blog is all about the infrastructure and planning required to turn our warehouse into a brewery. Honestly when we began the process of planning this out our expectation was that finding the kit was the big job. In reality it’s the preparation of the space that’s taken the most time, and almost as much money!

So, what have we needed to do?

Planning:

Check and sign off on planning use of warehouse.

Receive permission from landlord for improvements to flooring

Receive permission from local water company to drop commercial waste into drains

Amend brewery license to increase production and change layout


Building works:

Install 3 phase electrics

Install required wiring to effectively power all equipment

Install brewery control panel

Install drained flooring with resin non slip covering

Install full glycol cooling system to effectively temperature control all vessels

Install new cooling system for cold room

Reconfigure entire layout of both buildings

Our first job was planning our brewery out, both in size of production and layout. Really I can’t believe how much of what we’ve done has had to depend on utter guess work. The question ‘how big a kit do we need?’ had to be decided before we did anything. How much more beer will we need/do we want to produce..our 15bbl kit with 6 FV’s (2500L tank capacity) will allow us to brew around 50% more than we currently are able to brew as gypsy brewers. Is that the right size? Only time will tell….

So, 15bbl it is, with 6 FV’s. We were then able to draw out a plan for the brewery. Annoyingly that’s not a rough sketch, but the plan we needed to submit to HMRC as our new brewery plan to allow that to be processed  in time. So no last minute change of minds then. We also needed to submit an application to Bristol Water and Wessex Water to ask for permission to draw large quantities of water from the system and also to put trade effluent back into the system. Both required litres per hour and per year estimates. Now we had our brewery size that was a little easier to calculate but again, the numbers are based on guess work. It’s pretty scary submitting all these official documents when we feel like we’re just sticking a finger in the air!

Planning use for our warehouse luckily was no bother, after a quick phone call to the local planning department they confirmed that our current use permission covers use as a small brewery, so we were able to sign that off with no stress.

We’ve had a great relationship with our landlord since day 1. They’ve been really communicative and friendly towards us and generally excited to have a beer producer on the site. We’d discussed improvements and amendments to the building and had verbal confirmation everything we were planning to do was going to be cool with them. Then in February we received a letter telling us that our landlord had gone bankrupt and that the property had been repossessed by the bank. Our lease is fine and we retain our right to be there, but it’s meant that rather than communicating with a person that has a connection to us and to the property, we’re communicating with an agent for a financial institution who has no interest other than receiving our cash. To say this has caused a hassle would be putting it lightly. Slow communications and blunt refusals, plus outrageous increases to our service charges have been the norm so far. On the flip side we’ve been able to do everything we required to do, it’s just taken an awful lot more work to get there than I believe was necessary. We got there though, and that’s the main thing. So what have we had to do to the building?

Electrics:

Cost of Materials: £5500

Cost of Labour: £2000

Supplier: Handy Electrical (www.handyelectrical.co.uk)

We’ve had to change the entire fuse box from a 1 phase to a 3 phase (essentially making it larger and more robust to carry more power to the kit) and then run new cabling and install new sockets for all equipment. We’ve went heavy on the equipment and set it up to be able to handle loads above our max capacity to ensure we don’t get caught out. While this squeezed our budget heavily we all felt it was well worth the investment at the beginning of the project to put in a robust and professional electrical supply.

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Glycol Chilling For Fermenters and Cold Liquor Tank:

Cost of Chiller: £8500

Supplier: ICS Cooling (www.icscoolenergy.com)

Cost in internal materials: £7500

Cost of Labour: £3500

Supplier: Handy Electrical (www.handyelectrical.co.uk)

This was a sore one as the install was more than the chiller itself. On the other hand effective cooling and temperature control is utterly critical when fermenting wort so to cut corners at this stage would be to utterly undermine the investments into every other part of the project. We’ve got a glycol cooling system that is totally capable of dealing with our brewery requirements and (fingers crossed) won’t let us down!

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Drained Flooring

Cost of Drained Floor: £8500

Supplier: Polydeck Resin (www.polydeckgroup.co.uk)

These guys were superstars of the highest degree. After Harzfloor took our deposit and ran for the hills (court case ongoing) Polydeck stepped in and were on site within the week. They recognised we’d been left in an extremely difficult spot both financially and our project timeline  and put their full efforts behind making sure the floor was down before our brewery arrived. It’s rare you see large companies taking a personal approach, but these guys did. I will genuinely be eternally grateful to Joe at Polydeck for the efforts he made making it happen. Plus, the floor looks epic!

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Water Pipework

Cost of Materials: £1500

Cost of Labour: £800

Supplier: Handy Electrical (www.handyelectrical.co.uk)

You’d think that running extra water pipes from the mains into the brewery area would be easy….not with the specifications that our water suppliers require it’s not! Double check valves at every point, filters, more filters, increased pipe diameters from the mains inlet, all adds up to quite a job. I’d budgeted a few hundred pounds for this section and it escalated badly!

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Total costs of internal work to the building are detailed below:

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When we began putting the project together my estimations were far less for this part of the project than we ended up spending. By the time the project plans had been been finalised we felt we had a better understanding and had increased our budget for internal works to to around £30000. I really feel that we did everything we could to maintain low costs while  doing everything we had to to install a professional system that would do the job the require from it. My advice to anyone going into to a brewery build project would be to take the numbers we’ve spent as realistic and ensure they have the budget to cover this side. While it’s added on a huge amount to our overall costs, I firmly believe the investment into the internal infrastructure will pay back  hugely in both brewery functionality (and by extension on going costs and team moral) and quality of beer produced.