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Messages - farmerbrewers

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Going Pro / Re: Rigging used dairy euipment for startup brewery
« on: August 30, 2011, 03:42:44 PM »
In answer to questions, we are planning to direct clean used water (no chemicals) onto the acreage.  We are growing organic specialty crops for sale (vegetables) and irrigation is always needed.  We can re-direct it to different crops & different areas of the farm as needed.  In winter, I don't know.  Perhaps some sort of holding tank for later farm use, or simply the ditch, which leads eventually to a creek (if we did this, we'd need to get it approved first).  We'll need to address that when we get deeper into all this.
As for chemical runoff (cleaning chemicals), depending upon how much of this there would be, this could be directed into the septic.  The building we are planning to use for the brewery is on it's own septic, separate from the farmhouse.
One thing we are becoming a bit concerned about is our well.  All the farm buildings and our farmhouse run off of one well.  Exactly how much water we'll end up using... may be cause for concern.  Don't want to dry up our well.  It's a deep one, nearly 200 feet, but still - something we need to talk to others about soon.
Someone mentioned Galena, IL, yes we're the next county over from Galena, it's about 45 minutes away from us.  A brewery just opened there this summer, downtown.  We visited last month.
Another cause for concern is the weight of the tanks.  We may need to brace up the floor of the farm building we want to use.  Again, another thing to think about.

Going Pro / Re: Rigging used dairy euipment for startup brewery
« on: August 30, 2011, 11:28:55 AM »
Ah, plastic kegs!  One of us mentioned that, but we wondered what the issues would be (leaking, as you mentioned), we wondered too if it would alter the taste?  But as many of you are already going the plastic route, I guess it's working.  It's a great idea, though, and we'll probably go that route.
Thanks much for the keg info.
Someone wanted to know where we were located - Northwest Illinois, right along the Wisconsin border, in Stephenson County.  There are no breweries currently located in our county, haven't been for almost 100 years.  As we're planning on only local county-wide sales, we're toying with the name "Stephenson County Brewing Company".  It's a mouthful, but it describes us - local beer, local people.
Okay, on to my next question.  Paperwork & government!
According to the TTB, the brewery equip needs to be in place & ready to operate before the paperwork starts.  Scary situation, that!   I read a posting by someone that said they did the paperwork first.  Anyone?
I've spoken to the IL health dept (coming in 2 weeks), the IL liquor commission, and the TTB.  All have their own inspectors, they say, that have to approve everything.  
Can I just say right off the bat that these agencies are already contradicting one another?!?!  The IL liquor commission says we have to be zoned commercial.  I say we're zoned agriculture, it's a farm.  She says well the TTB needs commercial zoning.  I speak to the TTB guy, who laughs and says it may not be an issue for us being on a farm.  He says the main reason for commercial zoning is that brewing smells.  Well, how about my 100 chickens?  Those are some smelly coops when they need cleaning.  How about the 200 cow dairy farm behind me, or the one down the road?  
Oh boy, this will be a fun ride.
So, paperwork first, everyone, before buying equipment & paying anything to the agencies??  I don't want to start plunking down money to agencies until the very end, when I'm 100% sure they are all going to allow us to open the brewery on the farm.
Next I have questions about bonding.  Insurance method?  Bank line credit option?  I personally would lean toward the surety insurance, from what I've read, but I haven't spoken with an insurance agent about this yet.

Going Pro / Re: Rigging used dairy euipment for startup brewery
« on: August 30, 2011, 05:36:55 AM »
One more question before I log off, I'm sure many of you will know...
We're having a hard time locating a source for kegs!?  We'll only be kegging to start, local county sales only, but can't find any kegs to use for filling.  Can you recommend a keg supplier, wholesaler, reseller, anything?

Going Pro / Re: Rigging used dairy euipment for startup brewery
« on: August 30, 2011, 05:19:47 AM »
Thanks, everyone, will post to probrewer as well.

As for modification, we'll need to remove the compressor used for cooling & hook up the steam / hot water (whatever we end up using through the coils to heat the water to a boil).  We'll be checking to make sure the coils are intact before purchasing, the brewers have plumbing experience, some welding experience, and we do know some welders as well if it gets beyond them.

As for cleaning, milk tanks have a spout at the bottom, where the milk truck driver connects his hose to pump it from the tank to the truck (we've connected to these ourselves in the past at a nearby farm when we buy our organic raw milk).  So a hose is simply connected to the bottom, we can clean it out in place & discharge through the hose connection (it's a big "hose", a couple inches in diameter).

Used dairy equipment is extremely plentiful in these parts, I asked 2 of my dairy farmer friends if they knew of any and within a day we were offered for purchase a 1,250 gallon tank, a 500 gallon tank, 250, and 100.  So far, we've only looked at the 250 and 100, sitting unused in an old dairy barn on a farm that no longer milks, the other tanks are too big for us right now.  I am thinking of asking around & finding out where the milk is pasteurized, as the plant doing that may have old kettles.

Yes, I agree that my business degree & experience will help out a lot, that's why I told the brewers I'm only doing this if they listen to me lol. It's relatives, we can talk like that.  :)

Going Pro / Rigging used dairy euipment for startup brewery
« on: August 29, 2011, 05:30:36 PM »
We are in the beginning stages of planning a brewery on our farm in an unused building (distribution only, we can self distribute here).
As in everything we do, baby steps & small investments.  Sorry, but my degree is in business & I am one seriously frugal farmer, this path has always worked for us with everything. I am the business manager, 2 others are the brewers.
So, before you begin yelling that we need to start big with big systems if we want to make money, let me tell you that this will be a part-time gig to start, as we grow we can upgrade.
Upgrade and equipment costs, you yell?!  Well, we are lucky enough to live in the middle of America's Dairyland & farming central, and as we are organic farmers ourselves we have lots of farmer friends & neighbors & access to lots of used dairy equipment.
We were in a nearby barn the other day looking over a farmer's old bulk milk tanks.  A 100-gallon and a 250-gallon stainless milk tanks that were used for refrigeration (compressors still attached).  They are double-walled stainless, coils running through inside were used for cooling the milk.  Okay, so sorry if this has been mentioned before, but why couldn't we just reverse the system and use the coils to run steam & use it as a boil kettle?  (Running water through them probably wouldn't get it hot enough...).   By the way, we can get these used milk tanks for about $1.25 per gallon (so, $125 for the 100 gallon tank).
Anyone?  Thoughts?
To those who read my past post about equipment & laws pertaining, I have spoken to our department of health, and we have an initial site inspection in 2 weeks, just to make sure the building we want to use on the farm is okay with them (it should be fine, has a kitchen, it's clean, etc.), she says we just need a handwashing station, which it already has.
So jump in with thoughts on dairy equip, much appreciated!

Going Pro / Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« on: August 09, 2011, 06:13:26 PM »
Thanks, all.  I actually started with our local Health Dept last year and they had absolutely no idea.  There is no other brewery in the county.  They sent me to state level, which led me on a wild goose chase to no end.  I even tried to get my local representative to assist me in tracking down info: another dead end.
It wasn't until I spoke with friends who run a local winery that I learned of the TTB & that's when I finally found some information.
Still, I will tell you that our county's health dept had no idea what to tell me - they were speechless, and told me to contact the people running the local winery and ask them!  Perhaps I'll go to the neighboring county health department, it's larger, and they are the county who oversees the inspection of canning foods (which we are involved in for our farm business).
Majorvices: I feel your pain.  We grow organic vegetables & raise pastured chickens for eggs, and sell at local farmers markets and through our CSA - the wife works about 30-40 hours per week at it plus raising our 3 young sons, the husband puts in another 10-20 hours plus his regular job and an hour commute each way.  The farming doesn't pay either, just as you are finding with brewing.  Any profit, small as it may be, goes right back into the farm.  However, the rewards are great - just not monetary.
As for the brewery, it would be located here on the farm in an already existing building. We are on well water, city water/sewer not an issue. We would be starting small with a brewery, just as we started farming small, because we believe it's better not to go into debt and rather build up slowly.  
This would be a part-time gig.  The husband's full-time job is our main source of income and supports our family of 5.
Back to equipment:
Are we allowed to brew in open top keg systems like we homebrew now?

Going Pro / Equipment Laws for Brewery
« on: August 09, 2011, 01:40:26 PM »
Been homebrewing for a couple of years, am ready to take the next step & begin selling our brew locally (distributing only to resellers to start, no brewpub).
We've been wading through the laws regarding running brewery & sale of beer for about a year now.  Have learned a lot, but there seems to be one gray area where we can find no real information:

-What equipment are we allowed to use?  Do we have to use commercial-grade equipment, or can we simply step up our homebrew system (used kegs with lids cut off, large thermos, glass & bucket fermenters, etc)?

-Where are we allowed to brew?  I have read that the home kitchen cannot be used.  Okay, no problem.  We have farm outbuildings that would be perfect.  However, do they need to be commercial grade kitchens for brewing?

-Can we re-use kegs for sale of beer?  I believe that we need to use fresh bottles each time, but don't know if I've read that about kegs.  Is there a process we need to follow for sterilization if we're allowed to re-use?

If anyone can point us in the proper direction, I appreciate it!
We're in Illinois.

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