Want to Build Your Dream Home Brew Setup?
Once a person gets invested in this hobby, it’s not long before the gear lust kicks in. Some people go out and buy themselves a two-thousand dollar brewing sculpture off the shelf, but for some, that lacks panache, personality, or affordability. For those people, only a custom setup will do, a brewing space straight out of their dreams. It might be you want to design a whole pub around your brewing gear, or you might just want something you can easily pack up to brew with the club, but the first thing you need to do is start planning it out.
Whatever setup you decide to go with, remember one piece of advice given to us by a wizened old home brewer at Club Night: the brewing process hasn’t changed dramatically in hundreds of years, so don’t worry about being on the cutting edge. Instead, design your dream setup around your process and what you like or don’t like about it, because the more consistency you can maintain in the entire brewing process, the better your beer will be.
When you’re considering cost, also remember that there’s likely a trade-off of capacity and automation, so go with what makes more sense to you. There are people who’ve brewed for twenty years and never brewed more than five gallons at a time, and there are people who won’t get out of bed for less than twenty. Some people don’t like interacting with the mash process beyond adding their grain and pushing some buttons, some people prefer to get hands on with a mash paddle and a gravity-fed system. It all depends on what works for you.
Also remember that larger capacity setups are, by nature, more expensive to purchase and operate. There’s a big step up from boiling ten gallons to boiling twenty, and you may find the same burner won’t work for your purposes. Not only that, but you’ll quickly find yourself going from buying thirty dollars worth of grain at a time to buying a hundred bucks worth.
Automation has its price too. The slicker digital setups are either very expensive, or require a little bit of knowledge of electronics and coding. If you’re not a hacker by nature, you might decide to go with a pre-built system, but you’re going to pay for it.
You also always consider the space you’re building in, and how your brewing process works within it. Where will you store the equipment when it isn’t in use? Do you want to have a purpose-built brewing space? How would you design your workflow within that space to make the best, cleanest use of the room you have? From how you control fermentation temperatures, to whether you bottle or keg your beer, every part of the brewing process is going to change the space around it somehow. You can save a lot of cleaning and other post-brew headaches by just designing your space around it.
Lastly, think about what kind of style you’re looking for. Some on this list lean toward utility, with beauty found in the stainless steel connectors, or polished kettles. Some lean toward a more rugged aesthetic that reflects the history of our hobby. Remember that you don’t have to stop at just your home brewing setup, and it might be more important to have an amazing fermentation space, or a massive capacity for kegs. You can always use those to liven up the aesthetic…but that’s a whole different article, isn’t it?
Every hobby has those guys who give everyone gear envy, and brewing is no exception. We’ve trolled the internet for some of the coolest custom brewing setups around, here’s ten that really set the bar high.
Onto The 10 Crazy Home Brewing Setups
Brewing as Art
There are those who are happy with a simple 3-tier propane brewing tree, and then there are those who have to take it to the next level. Brewing as Art is what happens when a metal sculptor and a home brewer decide to create a crazy steampunk home brewing setup. Notable about this setup is that it includes a 13-gallon wine demijohn for fermentation, adding an interesting aesthetic, as well as the custom-built scaffolding that allows the kettle to be raised, making moving wort to the demijohn as easy as gravity.
The Electric Brewery
The Electric Brewery has long been one of the most informative voices about electric home brewing in the online community, especially for those who might not have the ability or inclination to brew outside. The home brewing setup they built was not only a great proof of concept, it was stylish and interesting to look at. They’ve gone one step further and turned a basement renovation into the ultimate home brewery/home theater setup, with up to 8 beers on tap. The brew is provided by an all-electric 10-gallon RIMS brewing system, powered by a custom-built control panel.
The Doghouse Brew Rig
Based on the often-imitated Brutus 10 home brewing setup http://www.alenuts.com/Alenuts/brutus.html this one caught our eye for a number of reasons. First, we like the utilitarian aesthetic – it would be at home next to a toolbox in the garage. It’s not as flashy, but it tells you with just a look it’ll get the job done right. Second, the custom control panel to run the pumps and burners is, as always, a giant bonus, because everyone likes hitting buttons and turning switches when they brew. Third, the whole thing is designed to be packed up in a truck, and anyone who has ever driven with a 3-tier brewing tree in the back of a pickup can appreciate that.
Hammersmith Brewery and Alehouse
This was one of the first brewing systems we saw that made us drop our jaws. Much like The Electric Brewery’s basement lounge, the guy who built this home brewery wasn’t satisfied with just a Brutus-style 10-gallon propane-powered HERMS brewing station, he needed an English-style pub to go around it. Oh, and he needed all of it to fit in a shed in his backyard. It all comes together, despite the ultra-modern home brewing setup sitting to one side of the bar.
Brewtronix Hosehead Brewing Systems
Another all-electric brewery, but this one takes it to the next level with the brewing controls. An all-electric HERMS system brews 10 gallons at a time, and it’s all controlled by a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, which allows you to control your brewing process remotely via a web application. Seriously, a home brewing setup you can use your iPhone to control, how much cooler can it get?
Jackie Boy Brewery
This one is another utilitarian setup, but the devil is in the details: nearly everything the wort touches is stainless steel, with acid-cleaned 15-gallon keggles for the kettle, hot liquor tank, and mash tun. While there’s only one pump to move the wort around, it’s all automated from the control panel, which lets you open and close valves with the turn of a switch. This one doesn’t have the fanciest control panel, but it looks like it would satisfy our inner child to punch those buttons and flick those switches on brew day.
AJ Ruby’s Brewery
Not every electric home brew setup has to look like a corner pub in the Blade Runner universe, and AJ Ruby’s wood and stainless steel brewing rig definitely proves that. This thing has a 20 gallon capacity, which, once again, is out of this world for an electric brewery. What really sets it off is the wood-clad keggle on top, which acts as the mash tun. How great would it be to come home and see this next to the washing machine every day after work?
Stillwater Home Brewery and Bar
Let’s get it back to home brew rigs that blur the line between amateur and professional, though. This electric home brew setup not only sports 20-gallon stainless steel Blichmann kettles, but also has plenty of fermenter space, thanks to three 14-gallon chilled conicals. Add in a basement bar that features all beers on tap monitored via a digital display, and you’ve got the kind of place your friends will be begging to clean up after brew day.
AleForce 1 Brewstation
Here’s one just because we haven’t yet intersected utilitarian looks with slick digital controls yet. This is what happens when you need all of your brewing gear to stay in one place (the sculpture also acts as a cart for equipment), but you also need a huge capacity – 20 gallons on the hot liqour tank and mash tun, 30 gallons on the kettle – and you want it all controllable from a touchscreen display. This is another one of those rigs that is accessible via the web, so you don’t even have to get up to make things work.
AlbatrossBrewer’s Crazy Amazing Brewshed
And we’re saving the best for last. This guy set the home brewing subreddit on fire when he posted his brewshed build. Yes, we’ve seen a lot of cool spaces built around home brew setups, but this one is really something special. Maybe it’s the all-electric stainless steel HERMS brewing setup. Maybe it’s the giant hardwood bar with plenty of room for friends. Maybe it’s the 5-keg capacity on tap. Or maybe that neon sign just sets it all off. Something about this one…it’s just special.