With every new brewery that opens in my area, someone asks me “this can’t keep going, can it?” I keep saying, I think it can. Someone cites a brewery or two that has closed along the way as evidence that it can’t, and maybe I’m wrong. Obviously closings are on the rise and growth has slowed — but one brewery opening and another closing isn’t tied to some optimal formula or secret number etched in the cosmos. There is room for a lot of breweries, but they cannot all be shooting for the same level of size and growth. Each is its own entity and succeeds or fails like any business plan.
One miscalculation startup breweries make is investing a ton of money in equipment that is not the correct size. For those looking to avoid that pitfall — maybe a homebrewer wanting to leap into the professional ranks and become a neighborhood staple — Blichmann Engineering equipment is a solid solution.
You may recognize that name because it is one of the most prominent names in the homebrewing equipment scene, but it recently launched a Pro Series specifically tailored for nanobrewering operations and to ease that transition many make from homebrewing to professional brewing with manageable, simplified equipment ranging from 5 gal up to 10 bbl.
“Our typical pro brewer uses a 1 bbl to 5 bbl system as most of our pro customer base comes from our home brewing customer base or knowledge,” says Jamie Gordon, marketing and customer service manager for Blichmann. “They typically start out with a small taproom or even a small brewery as part of a restaurant. We do not typically deal with breweries large enough for distribution.”
The Blichmann Hybrid Series is a simplified brewhouse so that it is familiar to a homebrewer with three separate kettles with hoses that are moved to transfer. They are open top, and legit look like a large homebrew setup, which was intentional.
“Somebody starting a brewery with a homebrewing background can instantly walk up and understand how the system works,” Gordon said. “If you start with a large skidded system, it is hard to get a good variety of beer in your brewery and it may take a while to get through the beer you make. So, you end up not brewing on the system very often and having a much smaller variety of beer to offer customers. Those systems are also very expensive and take up more room.”
The strengths of the Blichmann system are in the low starting costs and the flexibility it has to grow with the brewery. Blichmann can help these brewers plan out the size they need and even the number of cellaring tanks they will need so as to not spend a ton of money. The equipment is simple.
“If they want to start with our 3.5-bbl system, it is versatile. They can brew 2-bbl batches to start, and as they grow they can brew 3.5-bbl batches and then double batch up to 7 bbls if need be,” Gordon said. “A lot of breweries find that they can use our system specifically as a stepping stone to get started and determine the final brewhouse size they need, and because of the price it allows them to get the brewery up and running without a sizeable amount of debt.”
Blichmann has included many of the necessities such as sanitary pressure gauge, stand pipe for Bright Tanks, dial thermometer and CIP arm with spray ball and valves and piping. Its cellaring equipment is backed by a five-year warranty.