DIY Equipment: Finding Ways to Save Substantially

Thrifty spending can be essential for a brewery in its early stages. Even as they grow, making cost-effective decisions is a key.

Brian Buckman, the founder and head brewer for Chicago’s Illuminated Brew Works called his brewery once all one big ‘life-hack,’ which can be true for many smaller-sized operations across the country.

Even installing a traditional walk-in cooler proved to be a cost challenge. So Buckman looked to ingenuity to create one.

“[We’re in the] model of finding as many places to dial back our overhead and only spend money where it has the most impact,” he told Brewer Magazine as he explained how he used a ‘CoolBot’ device to help create a 250 square foot cold room.

“It’s a cool little hack built by a farmer from Iowa that turns a window AC unit into a cooling element for our cold room,” he explained. “The device costs around $300, the window unit about the same. And then all you need to do is build your room and insulate it with panels from Home Depot. We were able to make a roughly 25×10 cool room that stays at 40 degrees for about $1,000, a substantial cost savings over a more traditional walk-in.”

Another newer upgrade that really has made life more amenable for Buckman is a Primera AP360 labeler.

“It works great, is easy to use and gets even, clean and repeatable results,” he said.

In Johnson City, Tennessee, Cris Ellenbecker said Yee-Haw Brewing had an old half-barrel pilot system that they were able to create into a new and helpful piece of equipment.

Once they were able to decommission it, Ellenbecker and his team turned it into a couple of CIP skids.

The brewery has recently been able to upgrade its speed by adding a centrifuge and canning line.

“With the Bristol Motor Speedway just down the road from us, we like to go fast,” he joked. Ellenbecker also noted that a ‘wish-list’ item would be a sour facility.

“With my strong German heritage, I have a huge passion for wild fermentation, but don’t want it in our production facility,” he said.

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