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Custom-built systems mean flexibility.

Custom-Built Systems Mean Flexibility

Planning a microbrewery or brewpub start-up is a time-consuming chore. In the past, short cuts have been sought and implemented, often resulting in unfortunate poor beer quality. But with the entry of so many businesses in the micro category in just the last few years has come the realization that small-scale brewing start-ups involve more than just locating a site and marketing beer.

One of the most important decisions which must be made during the crucial developmental stage is the selection of the type of brewing system that will be right for the operation, not just at start-up time, but for the years to come.

I began my professional career as a brewer in 1985. At that time, there weren't any equipment manufacturers of small-scale breweries nor consultants to advise and guide on the construction and operations of a microbrewery. After several design variations, I devised and fabricated my own seven-barrel system. While the fabrication in use at The Saxton Brewery has proven quite effective, I don't necessarily recommend this exact method to all micro start-ups. Significant time was involved and various engineering and structural angles had be mastered.

Today, however, in addition to the many fabricated brewing systems available, a wonderful option exists for new microbrewers and brewpub operators. The custom-designed brewing system can work in virtually any location, as it takes advantage of the various attributes and dimensions of the existing site. The custom-designed method differs from pre-fabricated systems which often involve building above, below and around.

Designed uniquely for a particular location in a particular city, custom-made brewing systems are formulated with the applicable codes and regulations in mind. Once the microbrewery/brewpub owner(s) organize their objectives and identify priorities, with the assistance of a brewing consultant plans can be made to obtain licensing. Agencies which must be contacted include the federal government; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and state, county and city planning departments. Additional approval often must be obtained concerning zoning conformity and particular codes, notably health.

More times than not, it is in the licensing and permit stage that start-up plans are delayed. With the proper information, however, and through close contact with agency officials, long, unnecessary delays can be eliminated.

Custom-designed brewery manufacturers encourage clients to stay involved in pre-construction, construction and post-construction phases. It is important that microbrewers and most particularly, brewpub operators -- who may be more skilled in the restaurant business than in brewing -- understand how brewing equipment is assembled and properly functions. There is more to running a microbrewery or brewpub than just simply ordering the equipment.

Familiarity proves to be a vital asset when brewing equipment malfunctions. And all brewing equipment malfunctions at some time. By being involved in the installation of the brewing apparatus, micro and brewpub operators can usually trace or locate the problem, thus, aiding in servicing and leading to a savings in service costs.

Beyond installation, custom-designed brewery manufacturers insist that representatives "work through" the first and second brews before actual sales begin. This ensures that the two parties agree on the quality and consistency of the beer being produced and that the beer is always of a consistent quality.

Unlike most fabricated brewing systems, custom-designed operations are constructed to meet the particular demands of the brewer. An all-grain mash is possible, as is an all-extract mash or a combination grain/extract mash. Other equipment which can be specially designed include wort coolers and glycol jackets. Whatever the particular equipment specs, the choice is up to the brewer.

Another benefit of the customed-designed-brewery approach is the all-important cost. A quote is usually all inclusive, accounting for every last nut, bolt and clamp. There are no hidden costs nor added consulting fees. Usually, custom-designed systems can be installed for 35 percent less than fabricated systems.

Dewayne L. Saxton is the owner and brewmaster of The Saxton Brewery and general partner and brewmaster of the Sherwood Brewing Co., both in Chico, CA. He is also a microbrewery and brewpub consultant for C.D.C. Brewing Systems in Chico and Porterville, CA.
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Title Annotation:microbrewery/brewpub equipment
Author:Saxton, Dewayne L.
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Jul 10, 1989
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