Thinking about starting a brewery? We can tell you that they’re a lot of fun and a ton of work. But you also probably want to know, how much does it cost to build a brewery? Well, that depends! If you’re smart and scrappy, you can build a brewery in your garage for only a few hundred dollars. If you’re looking for something bigger, you could spend a few hundred thousand dollars. Maybe a million. Inflation has been kind of crazy lately.
Building a Home Brewery System
Some people build a home brewery system hoping to save on buying beer at retail, but you’ll probably have to drink a whole lot of beer to make the numbers work. Brewing beer is just like a lot of hobbies; getting started has a fairly low cost to entry, but you can find yourself spending thousands if you really want to.
If you’re going to start home brewing, it's a good idea to create a budget, a list of items that you’ll need, and estimated expenses for each. You should also keep in mind the ongoing costs of ingredients, cleaning supplies, and other equipment. It’s possible to build a home brewery system for less than $200 if you keep your operation small, use some supplies from your kitchen, and are thrifty about what you buy.
A great way to start estimating the costs of your equipment is to talk with other brewers. The homebrewing scene fosters a great sense of community that creates opportunities for networking and support. Countless people have taken the same steps you have, and you’ll want to learn from their successes and their mistakes. We recommend going to craft beer festivals, events, and competitions, as well as joining online brewing communities.
A good list of items that you’ll need to start homebrewing include:
- A large pot or kettle
- Buckets for fermentation and sanitization
- Beverage lines, tubes, and a siphon
- An airlock
- Cleaning and sanitization products
- A hydrometer
- A thermometer
- A strainer
- Kegs, cans, or bottles
Building a Commercial Brewery
The difference in cost (and effort) between building a home brewery and a commercial one is pretty huge. You’re going to need to do a lot of research into the market, your competitors, and your potential customers. It’s possible to open a nanobrewery for about $50,000 when considering the cost of equipment and starting a new business. If you’re thinking about something bigger, you can spend between $250,000 to $1.5 million.
If you’re thinking about starting a commercial brewery, it's a good bet that you’ve already got some experience homebrewing or working at a commercial brewery, so we won’t tell you what you already know. The short version is: you’re going to need everything you needed for homebrewing, except a lot bigger, plus plenty more.
How Much Does Brewery Equipment Cost?
The brew kettle may be one of the most expensive purchases you make — and one of the most important. Choosing the size of the brewery will have ripple effects on the rest of the equipment that you purchase. It will determine the size and number of the heat exchangers, fermentation buckets, and other tanks that you need to buy.
It’s possible to purchase a 3.5 BBL kettle for about $5,000, though it won’t have all the bells and whistles you might like. Larger sizes and more accessories can cost up to $20,000–$40,000.
Heat Sources and Exchangers
The type of heat source you use will depend on the size of your kettle. Brewers frequently use gas heat for smaller kettles because they can be cost-effective. Large kettles are typically heated by steam because it can quickly transfer heat, and it can be used for other equipment. Heating systems can start at around $3,000 and go over $10,000 depending on their size and type. Heat exchangers can range from $1,000 to $3,000.
Fermentors and Tanks
The cost of fermentation tanks can vary widely depending on their size. We’ve seen small fermentation tanks sell for $1,000 to $2,000, while larger tanks can go for tens of thousands.
Once you’ve decided how you want to brew your beer, it's time to decide how you want people to drink it. You can always choose kegs or bottles, but we love cans for their portability, affordability, and versatility. If you decide to go with cans, you’ll need a great seamer, and Oktober Can Seamers can help you there. We have several models of affordable can seamers for both homebrew and commercial operations, as well as a range of options for cans.
Where to Buy Brewery Equipment
While we’ve given our best estimates on the cost of brewery equipment, keep in mind that costs are always in flux. The supply chain can be unpredictable and prices can vary widely depending on the brand, its availability, and even your location. Equipment for larger commercial breweries often won’t have a firm price posted online, and you’ll need to reach out to them for a quote.
These days, you’re probably going to do most of your shopping for brewery equipment online, though you might be able to find some home brew equipment in stores. You can find websites like brewbids.com that post listings and auctions for new and used brewery equipment. You can also ask people in your local brewing community where they bought their equipment and if they’re happy with it.
Can I Buy Used Brewery Equipment?
Yes! Every time somebody leaves the hobby, upgrades their equipment, or closes down shop, they have plenty of brewing equipment to get off their hands. Your best bet for finding used home brewing equipment for sale is to check sites like Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace. If you’re looking for commercial equipment, you can find online retailers selling used brewery equipment. Joining online craft beer forums and social media groups is a great way to find affordable equipment going up for sale.