Part Three - Choosing Your Site

Every site choice will be a compromise in some way. I hope that this guide will help you consider the important factors and potential issues in site selection before they become a problem.

Talk to your equipment suppliers and a solicitor, make a list of needs (like the URS in the previous guide) and hand that to the estate agent to make sure that you’re not wasting time visiting unsuitable sites.

Remember, you’ll be signing up to a long contract and may even have to personally guarantee the lease, so it’s worth investing money to ensure that you choose the right option for you.

Location

Site location is always a judgement call. Areas develop quickly around great amenities, so you never know what the location will be like in ten years, but these two questions are important:

  1. Is the site within easy reach of distribution?

    • Consider how long it takes for your vans to reach customers and for your distributors to reach you. Seek to minimise this time to get the most units out per day.

  2. Is the site in a good location for retail sales?

    • Part one explored the higher margins brought by retail sales. In the early days following your expansion, cash flow will be tight and good retail sales will ease the stress

    • Look at what is around and visit the location at several times of day to make sure that enough of the target market are nearby

The Building

Floorplate

If you’re spending a fortune fitting out your brewery, you need to make sure that it suits you in the long term, so making sure that the right amount of space is available is key.

If you’re packaging into your own kegs, remember that you have to have a place to store:

  • Dirty (inside, outside or both) empty kegs

  • Clean empty kegs (unless you have a keg washer-filler which also washes the outside)

  • Full kegs

A good rule of thumb to determine necessary floor space is to take your process area (i.e. brewhouse, cellar, filter, centrifuge and packaging areas) and assume that you need this same space again for storage. Some of this space can be outside, but make sure that you have space

Remember - in some instances you can take space gradually, but this should not be assumed.

Head Height

  • Your supplier will be able to tell you the height of your tallest tank.

    • Allow at least 1.5m above this because you will need to take out the spray ball lance from time to time

  • Is there space to add a mezzanine?

  • How tall is the racking that you’ll be using for storage?

Construction

You will usually have to vent through a wall or a ceiling for your copper and your boiler / steam generator:

  • What is the roof made of? Remember that asbestos roofs are still commonplace and while they’re fine if undisturbed, you don’t want to have to put a vent through one

  • Are there any polycarbonate roof lights you could vent through instead

  • Are the walls brick / block construction or structurally insulated panels (SIPs) which can easily be punched through

Remember to look at the level of natural light. While not a utilities point, people are happier and more productive with daylight, so consider your employees’ quality of environment too.

Access

Calculate how many trucks per day will be arriving and leaving when your site is built-out and make sure that you have space:

  • Think about how neighbours may complain if you’re seeking a change of use

  • Make sure that you’re not forced to block roads if several trucks turn up at once?

  • Can the trucks easily turn around without having to reverse around a corner?

Google Earth is a useful tool as it allows you to measure spaces and look at access points without visiting site.

Utilities

This is the point most often missed by customers. It is very costly to change the level of supply from the mains to a unit, so pay close attention to this.

Water

  • You’ll use a lot more water than you anticipate, so plan for the worst and use the model of 10 litres of water consumed for every litre of beer made.

  • You may think this is crazy, but once you start considering RO systems then it may be conservative

Electricity

  • Ask your suppliers for the consumption of all elements of the system.

  • Remember that not everything will be running at once, so look at what a typical workflow should be and use this to calculate peak loading.

Gas

  • If you’re running on natural gas, remember to run the mains pressure and size by your boiler supplier to ensure that this is sufficient

Effluent

I know that this is not a fun topic, but it is vital. I once visited a brewery who hadn’t considered this at all and when they were making 30,000 hl of beer the head brewer and I calculated that they were spending nearly £200,000 per year on tankering away waste.

What can you take to drain?

  • Remember that this is not guaranteed to remain level, you could get your Trade Effluent Licence cut on renewal

  • Government agencies are increasingly being encouraged to become self funding, so the Environment Agency is likely to start cracking down and issuing fines on people to violate their TEL

Effluent treatment considerations:

  • Space and planning requirements

  • Settling tank to separate solids

  • pH correction tank to make sure what you are sending out is neutral?

  • Talk to a provider of upflow anaerobic sludge beds - these are the most commonly used systems in large breweries, so best to start there and work down to a suitable solution.

Hope that helped!

Ed