Author Topic: Equipment Laws for Brewery  (Read 967 times)

Offline farmerbrewers

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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.

Offline bonjour

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2011, 01:58:57 PM »
Where to start is here.  Read Erin's post and go from there.  One of the roles of the BA is to help startups.
That said laws are different in different states.  Erin's post is a good place to start.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2011, 02:13:28 PM »
Laws vary quite a bit from place to place. I recommend talking to your local health department ASAP.

The inspectors I've talked to have a wealth of information, about the laws and regulations, but also advice about business in general. If your local inspectors doesn't have the answers, they should be able to refer you to a state inspector that does.

Some places have very strict regulation, some places have very lax rules. You need to know what the guy actually doing the inspection will be looking for. Also, he will like you a whole lot more if you bring him in at the beginning to try to do things by the book in the first place, and being on good terms with him/her could pay off down the road.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2011, 02:21:26 PM »
You need to check out the local laws, as Fred stated.

We visited Paw Paw brewing recently, in Paw Paw MI.  The brew in half barrels, and ferment in plastic inductor tanks.  It can be done in MI, but I don't know about IL.
http://www.pawpawbrewing.com/v/about.html

Paw Paw and another nano in MI, Odd Side Ales, are both going through capacity expansions, up to 7 barrel systems.  Everyone who starts out real small learns that you need to have a bigger system soon.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2011, 03:33:10 PM »
definitely check with your local health authorities first. For instance, I opened a brewery about a year ago. We were not allowed to use a mash paddle unless we had a three bay sink (one for soaking, another for rinsing, another for sanitizing) that was big enough to fit the paddle in. We had to spend $5,000 on food grade lights and another $5,000 for an interceptor out front to keep yeast, glass and grain from getting into city sewer. We also ended up hiring an architect to help get around all the city pit falls. By the time we were done with our facility we had dropped at least $50K and hadn't even brewed a batch of beer yet.

Also, just a warning from a guy who has been doing this for about a year now. Frankly, your just going to be pointlessly spinning your wheels on anything smaller than a 3 bbl system. I started with a 55 gallon kettle and that was foolish. I've now worked my way up to a hobbled together (nearly) 3 bbl system. I work about 40-50 hours a week basically for free - I take about $100 out of pettty cash to pay for gas and lunch. I am growing a business and we hope to have a 7bbl system installed by October but just realize how much work it is and ask yourself why you would want to basically brew for free so that others can drink it up.  ;)

Just be sure you know what you are getting into.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2011, 01:36:50 AM by majorvices »
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2011, 03:45:12 PM »
Oh yeah - one other thing to check is how much your lic. to sell is going to cost you. Depends on your state but it costs us $1000 per year just for the right to sell alcohol to our distributors. We can't sell our beer without that license.
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ccarlson

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2011, 06:02:25 PM »
If you are handy or no someone that it, used equpiment can be had for pennies on the doller, but restoration work will be required. Take someone along that knows equipment, if you aren't that familar with it yourself. Be patient, dilligent  and not afraid to offer much less. Cash helps..

Offline majorvices

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2011, 06:09:11 PM »
I certainly agree with the above, to a certain extent. Unfortunately you will find than much of the used market is either hard to come by or as expensive as new. Even the old used dairy equipment is going for a premium now. we started bidding for a used 7 bbl brewery and got outbid. We could buy it new for cheaper. OTOH we end up having to wait for the new equipment to be constructed. So you end up either paying a premium for used or paying for new and waiting 6+ months.
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Offline farmerbrewers

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #8 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?

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2011, 06:18:24 PM »
You weren't looking in the right places. You can also hire a broker that can help you locate equipment.

Offline majorvices

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Re: Equipment Laws for Brewery
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2011, 06:21:42 PM »

Are we allowed to brew in open top keg systems like we homebrew now?

Yes, open top system is not an issue, least not in my location - but indoor propane very well might be. But if you are on well water you are going to have a huge issue if you ever grow past the homebrew size batches. You use so much water that you would easily fill a septic system very, very quickly. Perhaps you could manage some type of run off system on you acreage, I dunno.

I strongly encourage you to start with the largest brewery you can afford. Even at a 50 gallon size batch you won't even come close to paying for your amount of effort. At the very least you need a 3 bbl brewery or you are just spinning your wheels.
Quote
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.  

I hate to sound like a pessimist but in my experience sooner or later you will have to either go in debt or crack into your life savings or both (or find an investor). The numbers simply don't work out any other way. You are not going to make enough money on a 12 gallon system to float the boat and save up for expansion unless you plan on brewing for 100 years. Professional brewing is a venture with super high overhead and low profit margin.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2011, 06:29:07 PM by majorvices »
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