Right after you decide to open up a brewery, you start fantasizing about the brewhouse. There are so many options, it's like a home brewer in an hops store that has every single hop. You want everything. But as you plan how to use all those hops, you realize that some hops don't go well with other, some provide more bitter characteristics than others, some are just for aroma. Selecting becomes quite overwhelming. You only have so much pocket money to spend. You don't want to buy something you aren't going to use.
It's the same with a brewhouse. I have sat on top of quotes since February. I have read, and reread every opinion on size, number of vessels, even mash tuns vs mash filters. You name it, I read it. It's just now that I have made my decision. It took a long time and it was a long road but well worth the final product.
Brewhouses are measured in barrel (bbl) sizes or in Hectoliters (hl). A 20 hl system is equivalent to a 17 bbl system. You will see brewhouse systems in 15 bbl, 25 bbl, 30 bbl, 50 bbl, and on up. Most new breweries buy the biggest system they can afford. What is important to grasp at this point is that it's a numbers game. When you get quotes for systems, you will quickly find that the 20 bbl system is NOT 2/3 the cost of the 30 bbl system. What?!? Here's why: The labor cost to make the 20 bbl tank is very close to the 30 bbl tank. It's just a little bigger. The labor cost increases a little. The increase in cost is mostly attributed to the additional cost of material. The system difference ends up being about a 15% increase. But the 15% additional cost will equate into 50% more production length (you can produce 50% more on the 30 bbl system than on the 20 bbl system).
Another factor to consider is the number of vessels your brewhouse will have. Many great beers are produced on a two vessel system (mash/lauter tun and Kettle/whirlpool). By separating the mash and lauter tuns and Kettle and whirlpool, you have a four vessel brewhouse. It allows back to back brewing in a more efficient timeframe (start a new brew every 3 hours). The separate mash and lauter tun also allows more complex decoction (for drier German Oktoberfest beers and lagers).
This is just the beginning of all the equipment needed to function as a brewery. Every brewhouse manufacturer makes their system different from the next. For Three Weavers, the brewhouse and its manufacturer had to meet the following:
Allows us to grow without growing pains or physical pains.
Allows us the opportunity to offer LA contract brewers a place in LA to brew.
Have excellent track record in their prior systems and customer service.
Have an incredible warranty.
Share our views that employees are family, and treat them so.
Many met the mark, but one stood out.
Three Weavers will be brewing on a 30 bbl 4 vessel system from Prospero
Why so big? Every successful brewer that I have asked has told me to go big, at least a 25-30 bbl system. The reasons are clear, it takes the same amount of time and effort to brew one batch on a 15 bbl system as it does on a 30 bbl system. But you end up with twice the amount of beer. These Big Boys are doing it right so I'm following their footprints.
I could go on and on about systems but will end here. Email me if you have questions.