As we all know I often question whether I have made the right decision in opening our brewery commercially and quitting gainful employment to pursue the endeavour. However, in August I was reassured that if I fail at this, I can always go into second-hand brewery wheeling and dealing.
Now, for context, we were already way under our brewing capacity as in order to achieve a full fermenter of the good stuff, I have to brew twice in one day on my 400-litre kit. A kit I famously cobbled together with the help of John and the welding skills of my mum's partner Jason. Double brewing consists of 12-15 hour days (depending on the water pressure or if I flooded the place) down at the unit, leaving late at night knowing I still have to come back the next day to clean up!
I know something needs to change eventually as it just isn’t sustainable, but we also don’t have the capital to go out and get a big shiny kit.. or any kit for that matter.
Or do we?
That’s right everyone… we have yet another new (to me) brewery.
One night, while refreshing eBay for a part for the truck (another story for another blog), I came across the most wonderful thing.. a 5.5 BBL Dave Porter brewhouse and it was listed at a starting bid of £1,000. At this point I fully expected there was one of many potential things going to happen.
- There was an error and the seller would update the price to £10,000. After all these breweries are £25,000 + VAT brand new.
- There would be a flurry of bids that would drive the price upward to £10,000.
- I would buy it for the “buy it now” price of £3,500, stretching myself and the brewery financially and therefore having buyer's remorse off the charts!
- I would do number 3, bring it back and find it needed to be scrapped.
Such is my life these days, I had been too busy to keep an eye on eBay, so I stuck it on my watchlist and had pretty much forgotten about it until the night before when a notification popped up on my phone reminding me the auction was to end in 24 hours. I was with our good mate Dave at our local, the Chester Tavern, and Dave, ever the bad influence, pretty much egged me on to buy it. However, I restrained my urge to, reminding myself that the money could go towards better things in the short term, such as paying for food!!!
The next day came and I was lying in bed with 15 minutes to go on the auction. I thought to myself.. “no one has bid on it, I may as well stick a bid of £1,000 down and leave the rest to fate”, convinced the eBay snipers were going to shark me right at the last second.
When the clock hit 0 and I refreshed the app, it suddenly dawned on me that I had in fact won the brewery for the modest sum of £1,000. Now, at this point the seller could still pull out of the deal somehow and I was fully expecting this to happen, but it didn’t!
Normally a brewery this size would sell for £10,000 - £12,000 on the second-hand market, so I was still a bit dubious about what I should expect when collecting it.
So I rallied the troops (John and Dave), hired a Luton and we headed down to Bedford in a Copper Beech convoy.
When we arrived we were met by the seller who explained that they were merely downsizing and going into contract brewing due to the costs and time associated with producing your own beer. Their plan was to do this for the short to medium term, then look to move the brewery into a football ground, which would include potentially getting a new kit. When looking into storing the existing kit, it didn’t make sense due to cost and therefore they wanted it gone as soon as possible as they were leaving their existing premises.
This left me a little more relieved . . . but then came the shock at the size of the kit. How the hell was I going to get this into our tiny 600 square foot unit, bearing in mind we already have a much smaller brewery in it and we needed to maintain production.
Side note: for a couple of hours we legitimately thought this was Bewdley Brewery's old kit as they had sold theirs to a brewery from the same area. We thought this was going to be a great story of how we brought it home . . . unfortunately, it turns out it wasn’t!
John was obviously concerned due to the fact it required three-phase electrics, but I reassured him we would have plenty of time as we wouldn’t be commissioning it until January, as we couldn’t possibly afford any brewing downtime with all that we have going on. Everyone was feeling a lot more relaxed about the situation,
We got back to base, managed to manoeuvre everything in the unit so it all fit, then stood back to look at the two kits in comparison . . . this was going to be a huge leap. I laughed both hysterically and nervously as I measured it all up in my head. On one hand I had got the bargain of the century, but had I really thought this all through? Don’t worry though, we have plenty of time to assess the situation and get everything in place.
Wrong!Less than a week later a friend of mine tagged us in a post on a Facebook brewing forum. A brewer was looking for a 400-litre brewery as an upgrade from their existing one. I sent a speculative message with some photos and the deal was done, with him wanting to pick it up in a couple of weeks. I had not been planning for this to happen.
Cue mass hysteria and a double-brewing frenzy to ensure all the tanks were full before the kit was to be sold. I just about managed it.
I sold our previous brewery for around ten per cent less than I originally purchased it for. That gave us the money to modify the new brewery, fit the electrics and upgrade the elements.
We also had a nice shiny chimney stack fabricated by Big S Brewing and Engineering Services (who is highly recommended to any brewers reading this) and rebuilt the kit expecting to find numerous problems along the way.
But there were none, just our own schedules holding up the pace of the build, but nonetheless it is now in place and I can’t tell you how pleased I am to finally have a “proper” brewery that can help us grow and sustain that growth. It’s also weird how it somehow fits into the unit much better than our previous kit.
To summarise the importance of this and why I wanted to talk about it in my latest blog - the net spend on this new brewery was approximately £750. To us that is the biggest achievement as we don’t have lots of money to throw at big shiny stuff. We will always look to grow organically and the timing could not have been more perfect for us. The stars really did align on this one! We will now be far more efficient, meaning more beer and quicker turnarounds, plus I might be able to have the odd lie-in watching Bluey with DeDe!!
I just want to say a massive thanks to:
John - for all the work done on the control panel side of things. Just when he thinks I’m done changing stuff around, I go and do this to him!
Dave - not that he would miss out on an opportunity to see another brewery and to document yet another milestone for the brewery, but I cannot thank him enough for giving up his time to help us get it back.
Jason - my mum's partner is a fabricator by trade and spent most of his lunchtimes through August and September doing various pieces of work for me to upgrade the kit. Genuinely pleased with all the work he’s done and the money it has saved me!
James - our sparky is a good one and he turned the job round in quick time as always. If you ever need an electrician , I can recommend one!
My family and friends - it’s been a hectic few weeks putting this all together, while still trying to manage events, orders and packaging. I had help from everywhere and am eternally grateful as always.
Onwards and upwards for us now. Excited for the next chapters.
Now, where can I find a couple of 1,000 litre Unitanks for a couple of hundred quid? (Opens eBay app)