Chapter 4: Buying Brewery Equipment

In this Chapter

  • Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
  • A Fool and His/Her Money Dept.
  • No Question is Too Dumb
  • Right Brain Vs. Left Brain
  • Buy the Most Quality You Can Afford
  • Get It In Writing
  • Oversize
  • Economize
  • Experiment With Sex, Not Brewery Equipment
  • 4 Magic Words Salespeople Love to Hear
  • Everything’s Negotiable
  • Don’t Squeeze the Last Nickel

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Buying brewing equipment shouldn’t be taken lightly. For most people, it may be the single largest purchase they’ll ever make. Know what you’re buying. Know exactly what is included in the purchase price. Know what the equipment can–and can’t–do. If you don’t have the experience to do this, find someone who does. A little money spent up front can save you a bunch down the line.

A Fool and His/Her Money Dept.

The huge turnout at the recent Boston Craft Brewers conference demonstrated that people now see a lot of money to be made from craft brewers. All kinds of manufacturers want a piece of the action and at least a few don’t have your best interests at heart. One tale from an extremely reliable source tells of someone who made a $17,000 payment for a fermenter which was never received–the money was used as a down payment on a Porsche! I personally know of two breweries who lost close to $20,000 for bottling lines that were never built. Another ‘manufacturer’ is attempting to build fermenters in his garage! Don’t be taken in by glossy magazine ads, rock-bottom prices, or even claims of companies serving the industry for decades.

No Question Is Too Dumb

Some of this may seem painfully obvious, but again and again, I’ve seen that people are just too trusting or don’t take the time to get all the information. Don’t be afraid to feel like an idiot. You’re easily spending over $100,000. Spend it wisely.

Right Brain Vs. Left Brain

When buying equipment, a brewer’s wet dream could be an owner’s nightmare–and vice versa. When selecting a manufacturer, talk to both brewers and brewery owners to get a full picture of the quality, service and follow-up.

Buy the Most Quality You Can Afford

In evaluating our equipment bids, the price spread between the highest and the lowest was only about 10%. This equipment has a useful life of decades, so don’t buy crap. A bright beer tank with rust spots or a kettle too small to get a full rolling boil is going to make your life miserable–and detract from the equipment’s resale value.

Get It In Writing

Good fences make good neighbors. Good contracts make good professional relationships. We’ve been asked to write checks for $25,000 based on a one line invoice. Unh, unh. Both vendor and buyer ‘know’ what the product is, the terms, the warranty, etc., but it benefits everybody to have it spelled out.


Ever try to merge onto an Interstate in a slug of a rental car? You can do it, but it ain’t fun. Where possible, and technically feasible, oversize you chiller and boiler. It doesn’t cost that much more initially and productivity gains will offset the cost pretty quickly.


Items like hot and cold liquor tanks and cold boxes are prime candidates for picking up as used equipment. They won’t be pretty and new, but the extra dollars can go to buying a better quality kegger or filler.

Experiment With Sex, Not Brewery Equipment

Unless you’re really, really rich or really, really brave, don’t be the first on the block to buy a new kind of anything.

4 Magic Words Salespeople Love to Hear

“I’m ready to buy.” Say those words (and mean them) and you’ll get your phone calls returned, things Fed-Exed and answers within an hour. Ask the people who are bidding to sharpen their pencils and give you their best price by a specific date that you set. Then it’s up to you to honor that timeline as well.

Everything’s Negotiable

Payment and down payment terms, help with installation are definite negotiating points. Even delivery dates may be flexible. You don’t know until you ask. Also, don’t push for something if it’s not important to you. If you just enjoy haggling for haggling’s sake, head to a flea market.

Don’t Squeeze the Last Nickel

Companies need to make a profit, and a good profit to keep good employees. Manufacturers may cut a little off the price, but with increased competition, margins are pretty tight. If you look hard, you’ll always find a better price, but what are you getting for it? If you’re really cost conscious, think in terms of quality construction and ease of operation–they’re the factors that will have big financial paybacks over the years.