Opening a nano-brewery is really nothing more than an ever-unfolding series of problem-solving exercises in construction, design, plumbing, electricity, logistics, engineering, budgeting, paperwork and (finally) beermaking. Solving each problem helps define the character of the brewery as we brought our punk rock, low-budget aesthetic to each one.
We built a brewery in a gallery/apartment that was previously a nail salon that was previously an alleyway between two buildings. The space is 100 feet long by 11 feet wide, and consequently we’ve done everything with an eye towards maximizing the efficient use of space and breaking up long horizontal stretches of wall. Here’s the narrowest part, the hallway that leads to the coolers, the brewhouse, the restroom and the office (in the back).
The actual “bar” portion of the brewhouse. 80% of the wood comes from a guy in Bonne Terre who cuts excellent cedar fence posts. The rest was scavenged from a closed lumber mill. The chalkboard is painted onto the side of our keg cooler/lagering chamber, which we built by hand out of insulated ceiling panels from the Sigma Aldrich facility downtown. The mirrors were $10 a piece from ReFab and aren’t even close to the same size. One’s not even a rectangle. We mounted them to the wall and then built a large frame around them to obscure the corners.
Two of our six fermenters, covered with St Louis and Cherokee Street flags. Given how limited our space and budget are, we chose to go with plastic conical induction tanks rather than their prettier cousins, stainless steel conical fermenters. Our total cost on the six fermenters was $1500 shipped, and they need about another $900 in parts to finish them up. Consequently we have six 1.5BBL (roughly 55 gallon) fermenters for about $400 a piece. One 1.5BBL stainless steel conical costs about $1100 plus shipping and accessories.
In the background you can see another attempt at breaking up large amounts of horizontal space, featuring more cedar from Bonne Terre.
Somebody left an apple sitting on a table and somebody else left a bearskin rug sitting on a bench. We built the tables and benches. We did not build the apple or the bearskin rug.
A view of one of our seating “bays”. The space is divided with 30″x20″ columns every 11 feet or so, these hide the steel pillars holding up the roof. We built benches and tables (using bases bought at a restaurant auction) to fit each bay perfectly. Then we got tired of building benches, so we called our guy in Bonne Terre and asked him to cut us 19″ long cedar stumps of 12″-14″ diameter. A little (lot) of work with a pressure washer, a rasp, and a palm sander and we have rustic stools. These await two coats of polyurethane.
A 6″x6″ cedar log (also from Bonne Terre) serves as our footrail. We did the leading edge of the bar with raw-edge cedar planks and actually shelled out for tall bar stools because we didn’t trust our ability to make tall furniture–the bar is 47″ high and the stools are 36″ tall.
A beer from our starting lineup. A bready ESB that smells sweet but packs a formidable hop bitterness in with the sweet-tart nutty notes added by the pits of St. Lucie cherries.
The color of the cedar, along with the color scheme and the walls, evokes the primary ingredients in beer–malt, hops and water.
The room in the back was supposed to be a rentable private drinking area (for playing Dungeons and Dragons or plotting your next business move) but we ended up with a double-jacketed 300lb liquid CO2 tank in the back corner, which is too much fun to play with. So now it’s an office and secondary fermentation space. We have restricted our mess to this area, here are the remaining stools, awaiting some quality time with a palm sander.
The guts of our electric brewhouse setup. The system uses 5500W ultra-low-density heaters (designed for heating water with high mineral content), a tankless water heater booster (designed for sanitizing lab equipment) and some PIDs, which serve as the brains behind the operation. The PIDs were developed as automatic calculus machines that could perform tasks that have a high amount of overshoot, like steering huge battleships or cooking rice. Basically they constantly take the derivative of the rise or fall in temperature and modulate the on-off state of the heating elements accordingly. They’re superb for keeping mash water at a specific temperature and then raising that temperature without overshooting (a problem with which every brewer is familiar).
Our two final systems problems: balancing the tap system so that we can simultaneously force-carbonate and dispense beer and wiring the brain for the brewhouse–those cool future dagger looking things are the heating elements, wired to dryer power cords inside special tri-clamp housings.
We’ve paid a lot of attention to the overall experience inside the bar, which means we’ve not only put in warm glow drop lights to create the appropriate mood and atmosphere, we’ve also wrapped the drop light fixtures in twine (because they are very ugly). If you’re eight feet tall you’ll appreciate our attention to detail.
We hope you enjoyed the tour, come on in and talk beer with us!
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