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  • Andy @ Wellbrewd

How to Save Thousands When Choosing Your Brewery Site


Beer on mahogany bar next to stack of coins
Making smart choices early on can save you big in the longrun

Choosing the site where you will set up your brewery can be a daunting task. In fact, the decisions you make here can make or break your business. In this article we outline some of the key things you need to consider to help you make the right decision.


01/ Size of the site


Having a space that’s big enough to accommodate both production of beer and your hospitality offering is crucial. It basically comes down to the area that you need for production versus the bums on seats to make a good return on investment.

Depending on your business model and overhead costs this can vary greatly. We’ve seen businesses work well with 600-meter square, if you go down to a site that's 400-meter square, you might want something like a mezzanine or outdoor area to accommodate more people. The real consideration here is, can you comfortably service enough people in your busy times to cover your overheads and make up for the quiet mid-week times.



02/ Electrical and Power Requirements


People often overlook the electrics. They don't realize the power draw that you need to run all the three-phase motors and the peak loads of the brewery when you've got the cool room, chillers, everything firing at once. People can get a brewpub running quite comfortably on about a 3 phase supply with 100 amps per phase. The reality in Australia though, is that many commercial premises don’t have this amount of power available. A power upgrade can be very expensive so if your perfect site doesn’t have enough power available, we’d recommend truly understanding the cost of it and talking to your future landlord about potentially sharing the cost.



03/ Ceiling height


In our experience, some breweries go into sites with only 3 meter ceilings, the brewers can end up doing something crazy where you're standing on the brew deck and you're kind of tilting your head. This is not what you want to be doing.

” I do remember working on a brewery where you just had to stoop and it's not ideal.” – Anthony Clem, Founder of WellBrewd

Now ideally, we’d recommend a minimum of 5-meter ceilings, but this all depends on the size of the equipment you’re installing. If your ceiling height is sufficient, a good idea is to get your grist case above your mash tun which will save you thousands of dollars on a double auger setup.



04/ Water mains


Water being the main ingredient in beer, it's critical to make sure that you have enough water coming into your facility. An easy way to do it is to scurry around the site, look for the main pipe coming into the building, and note its diameter. A one-inch main that can supply a hundred liters a minute is the minimum requirement. A cheap and easy way to test this is to do the Bunnings Bucket Test.

To perform the “Bunnings Bucket Test” or “BBT” (not to be confused with a Bright Beer Tank) just grab a 9L bucket and the stopwatch on your smarty phone. Then open the tap full noise and time how long it takes to fill the bucket. 100L/min will take between 5-6 secs to fill a 9L bucket.

It also means that you need to size the equipment downstream of your water mains, like a carbon filter for example, at a reasonable rate to ensure that you're not reducing the flow rate into your brewery or if you're using a hose on the brew deck then you want it to be a bit more than a garden hose.



05/ Zoning


The other big one that you've really got to pay special attention to and do a fair bit of due diligence when you're inspecting and researching these properties is to check the zoning, the council zoning. If you don't have appropriate zoning, your DA could explode out to be several years long.

Now what zoning typically we're looking for in Australia?

Light Industrial, and

Mixed zoning

Having appropriate zoning could literally shave months and months off your DA and save you thousands and dollars of consulting. We’d suggest consulting a town planner regarding your zoning before committing to any site.



06/ Flooring ain’t boring


“Clemmy and I inspected a site a while back that had a wooden floor that was suspended. That's not going to hold the weight”. – Jake Banachak

When it comes to floors you might be inclined to say the well-known phrase “flooring is boring”, but in reality, without it, we’d just be standing on the ground. There are 2 important points to consider when looking at your floor.

Can it take weight of my brewery? And don’t forget this is the weight of your equipment once it’s full of mash, water and beer.

Is there sufficient fall on the floor to ensure water drains away.

Once you know the full weight of your brewery (ask your friendly brewery supplier) you can then speak to the architect who designed the site, find out what the space was used for previously (this will give you an indication) or if in doubt engage a civil engineer.

The fun yet messy way to check if the floor has fall is to fill up some buckets of water (preferably the ones you used to perform the “BBT”) and thrown them onto the floor and see where the water goes. The more sensible and mature way is to use a laser and a tape measure. Here you are looking for a min 1% but ideally a 2% fall. If you don’t have sufficient fall an effective way to create it is to employ a local concrete laying professional to pour a slab on top of your existing slab. We like to call this a “slab on slab”. To celebrate, you could buy a slab and drink it responsibly with friends at your slab on a slab on slab party, although this is not mandatory.

You are looking at quite a significant civil cost if you come across anything like that. But if this floor is concrete, even if it's just a suspended slab, normally you must make sure that the weights are all going to be kosher.

“The floor is definitely something you should be looking at before you sign any leases.” – Lachy Crothers, Commercial Director



07/ Trade waste


“The intent here is breweries are going to need a separate effluent system.” – Anthony Clem

If you can find a site that has an existing trade waste (which to be honest is pretty rare), you need to understand if a sufficient trade waste system can be installed at the site. Long gone are the times when breweries could get away with murder, pouring anything down the drain willy nilly. With the rise of craft brewing has been a lag, but the council’s are onto it now so if you don’t go in with quite a comprehensive trade waste plan then you will get found out and it will cost you a lot of money (probably). There are many consultants who can advise you on this and it’s also best to consult with your local council to understand what they require from you from a compliance perspective.

“It's going to have an impact on the local trade waste system. Eventually, as your volumes go up, it's going to get even worse”. – Anthony Clem



08/ Location, location, location!


Now at the risk of sounding like a pushy real estate agent, the location of your brewery is one of the things that will make or break your business. There are 2 option that we think work best for choosing a site for your brew pub.

Build your brewery where you can get as many walk-ins as you can. If you get good foot fall you are more likely to get more customers, simple as that.

Build a brewery that is so iconic and awesome that it becomes its own destination and people will travel to visit.

The best breweries in our opinion is one that is a combination 1 & 2. Not always practical but certainly a surefire way to success.



09/ Rent


Rent is one of the fixed costs for your business that is extremely hard or impossible to change once you’ve signed a lease agreement. You need to make sure that you’re not overpaying on rent because even successful businesses can fail if you are paying too much. As a general rule of thumb, you should be looking for your rent and outgoings to be around 10% or less of your annual revenue. This isn’t true of all businesses but use it as a guide to make sure you’re not signing up for something you can’t afford.



Conclusion


Finding the perfect site for your brewpub is difficult but if you find the right one it could save you thousands during your build phase and set you up longer for a successful business. Consider these key points to make sure you are on the right track:

Ensure your you can seat enough people in your busy times to cover your costs and your quiet times.

Make sure there is enough power available at your site, a 3 phase supply with at least 100amps per phase.

Make sure your ceiling is high enough, we recommend at least around 5m depending on your equipment.

Ensure your water main can supply at least 100L/min.

Ensure your property is zoned correctly, ideally light industrial or mixed use.

Make sure your floor can take the weight of your equipment and will drain away water.

Make sure you have the space and means to install a sufficient trade waste treatment system that will meet councils’ requirements.

Make sure you are in a location that has good foot traffic or is such a destination that people will travel.

Ensure your rent is ~10% of your projected annual revenue.

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