Everyone has a different starting point. Some are expanding from brewing to distilling, which gives them a good foundation. Others have worked at another winery and are ready to take the leap and start their own. And then there are those who are just beginning their winemaking journey and need help every step of the way. These are the main topics to consider in the decision-making process. Let’s get started.
1. What types of distilled spirits do you want to produce? Examples include whiskey, moonshine, bourbon, gin, vodka, brandy, absinthe, etc.
2. How much of each spirit do you plan to make? Specify in terms of gallons or barrels per day, week, month, or year.
3. Are you currently involved in distilling or brewing?
4. Is this your first winery?
5. How much work are you willing to put in? This question is more complex than it seems. Consider the following factors:
– How many days a week will you be distilling?
– How many shifts will there be? One, two, or three?
– How long will each shift be?
– What is the production volume? For example, 100,000 proof gallons per year for four different products.
6. Will you be producing bourbon or whisky?
– How many barrels per day?
– A 1,000-gallon tank can produce approximately 2 barrels of beer per day. However, if the beer has an ABV (Alcohol By Volume) higher than average, a continuous run of 1,000 gallons can produce 2.3 barrels per day.
– If you plan to produce more than 2 barrels per day, consider using continuous column stills instead of batch pot stills.
– If you plan to produce 1 to 2 barrels per day, stick with batch pots.
– If you plan to produce more than 2 barrels per day, consider transitioning to a continuous column.
7. Will you be using a sweet or sour mash process?
– Nowadays, creating an experience for visitors is important in winery tourism. Equipment appearance matters. Customers want to see bubbling mash and a well-maintained steam still in the fermenter.
– Do you prefer copper or stainless steel equipment? Copper develops a natural luster over time, while stainless steel can be polished to a mirror-like finish. Consider factors such as whether your winery is located in a historic area or an urban setting targeting social media users.
– “If you’re not putting on a show every day for visitors, you can switch from a pot still operating 5 days a week to a 12-inch column operating 1 day a week. This will result in better consistency and allow you to fill all your containers in just one or two days.”
8. Have you already chosen a site?
9. Do you own the property and buildings or will you be renting them?
– If you anticipate moving in the near future, setup costs can be significant.
– Is this a long-term or short-term position?
– Are you planning to start production and then relocate?
– If mobility is important, consider a portable system built on a skateboard that can be easily moved.
10. Buildings – What type of buildings will house your winery?
– Will you use an existing structure?
– Which floor will you occupy?
– Can the building support the weight of fully loaded equipment? A 10,000-gallon mash tank can weigh over 40 tons when full.
– Are there any restrictions on ceiling height or equipment height?
– Can the roof be modified to accommodate a continuous column still?
– How will the still be accessed? Through the roof or by using a forklift?
– Will delivery trucks have direct access during construction and daily operations? Consider neighbors and their need for access.
– If the winery is considered a National Historic Site, there may be limitations on modifying existing structures.
– Local regulations vary depending on your location.
– Is the winery a stand-alone building or part of a larger complex with other retail outlets?
– Fire detection and suppression systems should be considered in all cases.
– Import and export of dry goods is also a consideration.
– If you’re considering a new building, consider factors such as size and room for expansion. Can the design be customized based on distillation equipment recommendations?
Copper beer brewing equipment on display
11. What utilities are available?
– Water sources: city, river, creek, well, geothermal
– What is the flow rate? It should be at least 6 gallons per minute.
– What is the average temperature? Water plays a vital role in the distillation process for heating and cooling purposes.
– Energy sources: natural gas, propane, electricity (single-phase, three-phase, 230V, 460V), firewood, or coal?
12. Will you mill the grain or buy pre-milled grain?
13. What will you do with the used grain and water?
– Can the sewage be directly discharged into the urban sewer system?
– Will there be charges for waste discharge?
– Can you provide the used grain to local farmers? How long can you store residual oil before you have to halt production? What happens if the farmer doesn’t show up?
– Should the grain be partially dried before delivery?