Welcome to the smallest and neatest brewery you’ll ever see. It’s called ‘The Brewery In a Box’, a four hundred litre a week craft brewery that can be put practically ANYWHERE and was designed specifically for use in places where huge expense and over-reliance on utilities like water and electricity make more conventional brewing kit impractical.
The Brewery in a Box requires minimal site preparation and, once delivered, takes just a day to unpack and set up. Once the LPG and electrical supplies have been connected and signed off then the brewery is ready to use. You can be selling fresh beer in less than a month.
The brewery is delivered to the site in its own building and is self contained. It takes just one person to operate in its basic form, though you always have the option of increasing capacity if needed.
Each Brewery in a Box is custom built to a design worked out by some of the industry’s most experienced craft brewers.
So what’s the concept?
A couple of years ago I took a holiday on a very small Pacific island. While out on a bus tour I was asked by the driver what I did back home. I told him I was a brewer and he came over all wistful. “I’d love to start a brewery here,” he said, “But I have no idea how it could be done.”
I sat and had a think about it and, to begin with, I had to admit I couldn’t see a practical way to make it work either. Even the smallest commercial brewpub systems need substantial amounts of power to run, usually requiring 3-phase electricity to get the brew house running and a fair bit to run the cold room as well. Looking around at the limited infrastructure I just couldn’t see how it could be made to work.
But the island certainly needed a brewery. They import all their beer from New Zealand in cans and then have the added difficulty of disposing of those cans later. The island had just enough bars and shops to make locally brewed beer a commercial reality but the quantities needed to be small batches with good regular turnover.
It took me a while to work it out, but I got there. Small systems capable of making four hundred litres or so a week certainly exist, but tend to be complex things involving electronics and fragile parts. Great for the urban enthusiast with access to full water and power utilities, but maybe not suited to the kind of out of the way spots I wanted this brewery to go.
The frills all went and the system was designed to operate regularly and efficiently without breaking down. It’s built from tough and simple parts and is as hands-on as any brewer could wish for.
The basic idea of The Brewery in a Box is to allow good quality beer to be produced in remote locations where a more standard commercial brewery installation would be difficult or impossible to achieve. In doing so, the project would produce side benefits in environmental impact and associated costs.
Many locations, such as Pacific islands, have strict controls over the importation of bottles and cans. Not only are they expensive to import but the local authorities are left with the difficulty of disposing of hundreds of thousands of one-use containers every year. Glass bottles require considerable handling to deal with, aluminium cans somewhat less. But both involve time and expense to dispose of properly.
By comparison, the Brewery in a Box produces nothing that can’t be disposed of safely and cheaply. The environmental impact of the ingredients looks something like this;
*Brewing malt. Malted barley is shipped in 25 kilo sacks. The sacks are sturdy, and useful for all sorts of things. The malt, once used in the brewery can be fed to animals such as pigs, cows, horses and goats. Basically, any animal that can eat grass will thrive on spent malt.
Spent hops. The hops are shipped in pellet form and are highly concentrated. Once used in a brew they can be washed out of the brew kettle and added straight to compost bins or worm farms.
Yeast begins as a tiny quantity of thin slurry that will grow exponentially as it is used. Each culture will run over eight generations, producing more excess yeast with each brew. Disposal can take various forms. Some can be given away as it is perfectly good for baking purposes. Some can be dried and used as a vitamin supplement or food ingredient. The rest can be pumped into the effluent tank for disposal along with pH adjusted cleaning and sanitising chemicals.
Chemicals used for cleaning and sanitising are capable of being blended after use to give a residue that is little more than salty water. The cleaning agent is highly alkaline and the sanitiser is acidic. If mixed together in a standard small water tank the resulting effluent can be pumped out just like a septic tank and taken away to be treated along with normal septic waste. A pH meter is supplied to ensure that this effluent is safe to handle.
IMPORTED BEER VERSUS LOCALLY PRODUCED BEER
Importing beer in bottles or cans to remote islands is a costly business. As discussed earlier, a pallet of beer cans weighing one metric tonne would contain just under a thousand litres. This would weigh the same as enough bagged malt to brew six times that quantity. Exact costings for each location would have to be worked out on a case by case basis as shipping costs to will vary depending on location and local excise and sales taxes.