Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A quick word on equipment...aka "used equipment dealers suck"

It's hard to tell if you could see it now, but the "bomb range" that I've been working in will start looking like a brewery in about another month or so.  Plumbers and electricians are hard at work and I've finally finished covering the ceiling (4+ days dangling 20 feet in the air and 18,000+ staples later).  As of now I've yet to get into the details of the equipment that will make it actually look (and hopefully work) like a brewery.

There's a couple of ways you can put together the equipment needed to start a brewery.  The first is to find a bunch of investors with more money than sense and order a nice shiny new system that is the equivalent of having a new Winnebago custom built to your exacting desires.  The second is to find a used complete system from a recently defunct brewery.  The first plan is great if you can find said investors and don't mind starting your business with at least $500,000 in capital debt on day 1 (it takes a lot of beer sales to re-coup those costs).  The second plan is nice, but (un)fortunately there aren't too many breweries going out of business these days, and when one does there are no less than twenty buyers lining up to buy the system at (almost) the same price as a new system.

Fear not, there is a third path; the "middle way" if you will.  If you're a little industrious, and a lot patient you can piece yourself together a "Frankenstein" system.  When smaller breweries begin to expand, often times they sell off pieces of their systems.  If you keep your eye out you can find all the pieces to put together a brewery for a fraction of a complete turnkey system.  I have been piecing together my 7 barrel system for about three years now.  Most if not all of this equipment will need some sort of modification to meet your specific needs, but if you're a little bit handy and make friends with a sanitary stainless welder you can pull it off.  Sure it's not a custom Winnebago, but it'll get you to the Grand Canyon nonetheless.  However, just like buying a used car, you have to be careful.  Sometimes that ad for a "like new mashtun" really means "we are tired of screwing with this piece of crap that gets 40% efficiency and are buying a new one so now its your problem".  Alternatively, there are used equipment dealers that specialize in brewing equipment.  Some are reputable and provide a great service, some are just worthless pieces of s*#t.  Which is better?  Depends on the situation, but in my experience buying from an expanding brewery beats the used dealers any day.  I may be a bit jaded though since I am currently dealing with a piece of s*#t used dealer.  Without going into specific details due to the potential for legal action (yes, I finally had to call in the lawyer) lets just say I bought some used tanks from a guy who apparently didn't "actually" own them and now he has my money and I have no tanks.  Fear not, I have found some replacement tanks and they are currently on their way from a brewery in Canada that has outgrown them.  I guess the moral of the story is "buyer beware".

Once construction is done and the equipment starts to go in, I'll document it all for you.  Until then everything will stay sleeping in a dark undisclosed location...waiting...