This was initially going to be one monster blog, but it’s turned into several thousand words so to avoid ‘TLDR’ in the comments below I’ve split it up into several parts. I wrote another blog a few months ago about how to license a microbrewery, so combine both and you might just be able to quit your day job. Once it’s all set up the entire thing should cost you under £5,000 and be able to bring in £20,000-£30,000 a year turn over.
In this part I’m going to give the plans on how you can spend under £500 to turn a shed into the perfect brewing space that someone from The Environmental Health Organisation will be happy for you to use. The next few parts will then give forensic detail into how to build the actual kit from scratch.
First of all you need space, but not much, we were inside a 8’x16′ shed. If you’re lucky you might be in a garage that already has insulation, water, and power. If so you can probably just skip this part and get straight to the actual kit. However, beginning with a literal empty shell allowed us to really customise what the inside had in it. I think it’s important to show how we built the actual brewery for the kit to go into.
This is where things start to look hard very quickly – but it really is not. B&Q and IKEA sold 99% of everything we used. YouTube is also your friend here; there are sooooo many videos showing you how to do things. If you want to do this cheaply, DIY is an absolute must.
The Brewery itself consisted of 4 main parts:
- Water Source.
- Electrical Source
- Insulation, plasterboard, shelving and storage.
- Drainage and ventilation.
1. Water Source
To brew you will need a water source. We had to dig a ditch and put a small water pipe in ourselves. (Some of these pictures will just have my dad doing work, this is not because I am lazy and didn’t help but because I had to stop to take the photo, honest.)
Putting in the water was actually fairly simple, if not labour intensive from digging the ditch. We used 20mm MDPE piping, and joined it onto the mains water inside using a pipe tapping kit.Then drilled an identical sized hole into the bottom corner of the shed and fed it in. Plan where you want your taps. Initially we just had one cold water tap above a bath. We drilled a few more holes through the joists and ran 15mm polypipe up to the point where the tap was going to be.
This is much harder to put in. If you do it wrong it can result in all sorts of nasty bad things. For us, there was already a security light outside with a fairly chunky 40A cable connecting it to the main fusebox inside. We drilled a small hole into the back of the shed and poked the wire through. We then put on a small fuse box. Luckily my dad is skilled and could do it but if you aren’t 100% sure on what you’re doing get an electrician in – one of the few things that isn’t worth trying yourself. We had two RCD fuses, one for the ring main and one for the lights, so if we pull too much juice while brewing and it trips an RCD we won’t be flung into darkness too.
To put in a ring-main we drilled a hole through all the joists and ran a loop of 23A Twin & Earth cable around the shed. This is where you want to decide where to put the sockets. We decided to put all ours up high, around eye level (You’ll see exactly in later pictures), so if you look in the second picture everywhere we want to put a socket we’ve put a big twist of cable so we have ample to play with once we put the walls up.
The Lights were the cheapest strip lighting we could get in IKEA, joined up in parallel and hung from the central roof joist. 3 of them fitted exactly along the centre – happy days!
3. Insulation, plasterboard, shelving and storage
This was the most time consuming bit, but ultimately the most worthwhile. You can get a really cool looking professional brew space with a fair amount of effort.
First thing to do once the major electrics are in is to insulate the place. A shed without insulation is bloody cold and being heat efficient reduces bills. We just got the cheapest stuff we could find in B&Q that was on offer. A little trick to cutting it to the right width is to saw off what you don’t need while it’s still rolled up – saves hours mucking about with the stuff. To keep it in place we used string and a staple gun, even effective on the ceiling. Cutting a slit for the wire to go through saves rummaging through it later.
Next, the plasterboard. Get a friend involved or you’ll probably expand your repertoire of vulgarities. We got B&Q to deliver enough sheets to go all around the room and do the ceiling. Sounds obvious, but cut it to widths to fit exactly between joists so you can screw it down properly. Use plasterboard screws, and once it’s all up use Polyfiller to fill in all the tiny gaps and cover the screws. We painted it a couple of times with standard white paint afterwards to get that perfect lab-effect white box.
We also (obviously) had to take down the lights while doing the ceiling before putting them back up, just saying now before I get it as a question. Second picture shows the walls after painting/polyfilling but before we polyfilled the ceiling, all sockets are put in place by using a Stanley knife to cut level holes to which we put drywall electrical boxes in. Wiring up a plug is fairly simple – to YouTube! Also carefully mark where the tap is going to be and try to cut out a 15mm diameter hole that lines up with where you left it.
The walls are up, you have lighting and a good amount of sockets all where you want them, but it’s still an empty shell. Brewing on the floor is silly so next you’ll need all the shelving and units to make the best possible use of your space.
Go to your local IKEA, they usually have cupboard carcasses in the bargain corner for a fiver. We got three, plus a cheap heat-resistant work top. For the side shelving it was 12mm plywood with lots of CLS to act as joists. The lower shelf we raised up by 8cm so we could get easy access to the taps of any fermenters and so we could also have the floor as a wet area that we could just spill anything onto without worrying. We then used a water resistant and wood-sealing paint for any exposed timber If you’re very clever you can design in a tiny gradient onto the shelving that means any liquid spilt onto it wants to drain forwards onto the floor.
You may notice a bathtub in the following picture. We originally plumbed in a bath to act as an area to sterilise and rinse equipment but removed it after a few months to put in the tanks (as shown later)
Tiling hides a multitude of sins, makes wiping down your brewery easy, especially easy if using a pressure washer. However it is death by a thousand cuts. Choose life and buy or rent a tile cutting machine. Would also heavily recommend buying a wall-tile and grouting trowel. We went for the cheapest possible white tiles and grouting but if you spend a couple more pence per tile you can get a really funky looking brewery.
4. Plumbing and Ventilation
I will divulge more about the plumbing set up once I get onto the installation of the big tanks as diagrams will be needed. Initially we just needed a hot and cold water source, so had a single tap installed above the bath which had a hose connected that could reach the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT). All plumbing that couldn’t been seen was 15mm plastic polypipe with JohnGuest fittings. Anything that was visible was 15mm copper with solder ring fittings, as it looks so very shiny. Plastic pipe is amazingly easy to install, just cut then push together. Copper piping is much more labour intensive and you will probably burn yourself picking up hot bits of pipe forgetting you’ve just heated it to +1000C. Four bits of advice for copper piping:
- Use a chunky (and quite expensive) pipe cutter that has the cutting wheel as the moving part. We went through so many cheap ones.
- Use three times as much flux on the joints than you think is necessary. Yet again, YouTube provides fantastic videos on how to solder pipe together.
- Buy a heatproof soldering mat so you don’t set alight the shed like we nearly did.
- Use extra solder even on the solder-ring fittings. No fun fixing leaks behind sealed walls.
Drainage is very important, particularly to an Environmental Health Officer. He doesn’t want nasty chemicals draining to somewhere they shouldn’t be going. We luckily had the roof guttering drain into the main sewer. We ran the drainage of the bath down the side and out the bottom where we came up with an ingenious solution to connecting it to the rain-water waste pipe. Just get a hole-cutting drill bit and go in at the same angle the pipe is then silicon it in.
Next to the drain pipe you’ll notice the flu for the boiler. In the middle cupboard we installed a shower extractor fan. When boiling the beer we shut it in the cupboard and had the fan blow out all the steam. Stopped the brewery getting damp. Just make sure you line the inside of the cupboard with a heat and moisture resistant layer.
If you get all this done you’ll end up with a beautiful brewery that looks something like this. Like I said, the bath does come out and we put tanks there later on. That will be part 2 – Full detailed diagrams of the pro-level kit, with all the plumbing/wiring diagrams you could hope for.