Microbrewery equipment: How much does it cost?

Startups takes a look at microbrewery setup costs

When starting a brewery, important things to consider are:

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How much does it cost to start your own microbrewery?

“There isn’t a typical figure” Paddy Johnson from a Berkshire-based microbrewery explains: “Anything from £1,000 to £1m. How much do you need to make a living? I would say probably down for a quarter of a million quid.”

There are a myriad of factors that will dictate how much it costs to set up your microbrewery including how much you intend to produce, your location and what equipment you buy.

Equipment

After the building, this is one of the major costs involved with starting up a microbrewery. You don’t necessarily need the highest quality equipment from the outset, and there’s plenty of used but perfectly adequate kit available online.


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It may be worth considering seeing if you can get a Business Loan to help you with financing your startup idea.


Below is a list of the integral equipment you’ll need. It’s not a complete list but everything you’ll need to get started.

  • Mash System – Mash tank, lauter tun, electric stream generator, malt mill machine, wort pump, plat heat exchanger
  • Fermentation system – Fermentation tank, yeast adding equipment, cooling pump
  • Cooling system – Ice liquid tank, refrigeration machine
  • Filter system – Filter diameter tank, pump
  • Controlling system – Meter controlling board, refrigerator board, PLC control board
  • Cleaning system – sterilisation equipment, alkali liquor tank, washing pump

Ingredients

As a beer aficionado you’ll probably know there are just four basic ingredients to making beer: water, hops, malted barley and yeast. Within these four base ingredients however are a range of different combinations, which will impact the taste and quality of your beer.

  • Water – this is the liquid that makes up the vast quantity of beer by volume. Tap water is generally not considered ideal for home brewing, but will do just fine if you’re trying to be cost effective. Many brewers recommend purified or spring water, which don’t contain the high levels of sulphur that can affect the taste of your beer.
  • Hops – this little flower is what gives beer its distinctive bitterness. There are many different types of hops, which will affect the flavour and body of your product. It’s a good idea to do some research on different kinds and their properties.
  • Yeast – this is the agent that converts the sugars in the barley into alcohol, and wort into beer. Again, there are many different varieties, so you should do some research on how they will affect the finished product.
  • Malted Barley – although there are many different grains used in brewing such as wheat and rye, barley is most common. Barley can be roasted differently, which will affect the flavour, colour and body of your beer.

There are plenty of online and brick and mortar stores where you can buy these four main ingredients, and in most cases there should be someone on hand to give you advice and guidance should you require it.

Location

If you’re confident you’re ready to move into premises you need to find an adequate space and install a brewery. If you’ve got the capital there are a number of companies in the UK that will install a whole brewery for you for between £10,000 and £80,000 depending on your size requirements. Again, the variety of options and specialist equipment necessitates thorough research. A £10,000 kit will produce around 400 litres of beer with each cycle, while the largest 12-barrel brewery up to 2,000 litres.

Not just any building is suitable for housing a brewery, and it will need running water, electricity and drains at the very least. People are converting all sorts of empty old buildings now – from stables to schools and even dairy farms. You’ll want big open floors, and maybe consider finding somewhere a bit bigger than you need, to give you the option to expand. Having the correct flooring is a necessity in the interests of hygiene and safety. Wash down walls and a floor that is seamless, impact resistant, impervious and anti-slip will prevent you getting a poisoned environment or having accidents in the event of a spillage. There are a number of companies in the UK that will install polyurethane resin flooring, tailored to the needs of a modern brewery.

If you know how much beer you’re going to be producing it’s possible to work out exactly how much space you’re going to need. There are many considerations such as positions of windows and doors, roof height and drainage but just for the equipment a small 2.5-barrel brewery would need between 250-500 square feet and 240V of electricity. A medium 8-barrel brewery would need 800-11000 square feet and 415V, and a large 15 barrel brewery would need 1400-1600 square feet and 415V.

It’s vital that you properly clean and maintain the equipment. Stainless steel makes up a lot of the equipment, and given proper maintenance and care, can last for up to 30 years.

Once you’ve got everything set up and are ready to brew the cost of production will be determined by the batch size and how often you brew. You will have to adapt depending on demand. By some estimates you should be able to produce a 4.0% ABV for 33p a pint after duty – the government takes a significant percentage of every beer you sell, so beer duty will be responsible for around 60% of your costs.