Equipping for a Brewpub: Setting the Bar

Get a taste of some newer equipment trends and opportunities at play in these beverage-forward operations.

019BEER POUR 59 (C)BREWERS ASSOCIATION
While most brewpub bars have typical areas, including one for draft beer, elevated bar stations can help bring ease to the operational flow. Courtesy of Brewers Association.

What does it take to equip a brewpub? That’s a challenge many are ready to entertain.

Along with chains like BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse and Rock Bottom, one newer brewpub debut is the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Chicago’s West Loop, which comprises a taproom, restaurant and the brand’s first bakery. Last summer, the Yuengling Draft Haus & Kitchen opened in Tampa, Fla., with cuisine that combines Pennsylvania and Florida influences.

Within brewpubs right now, those in vibrant economies seem to continually be planned, says David Hammersley, principal of Bradenton, Fla.-based TBCI Design, who consulted on Yuengling’s aforementioned operation.

Overall, the number of brewpubs is increasing slightly, adds Chuck Skypeck, technical brewing projects director at the Brewers Association. Though, people still are not going out as much as before COVID, he says. “They’re certainly facing the same challenges that a normal restaurant operation would.”

Most brewpubs keep large equipment for 20 to 30 years, he says. Brew kettles, for example, have “pretty long serviceable lives,” he says. “You probably wouldn’t find brewpubs replacing those very often unless they’re increasing capacity.”

Brewpub operators want manufacturers to provide equipment that meets their needs and innovations. For example, Skypeck says, today’s brewpubs are more commonly offering take-home beer. So newer equipment may include small-scale can seamers, as breweries produce to-go offerings. “You can effectively produce a small-scale product to go,” he says.

Hammersley says operators also are thinking about elevating bar stations, thinking through where certain equipment might be behind the bar to ensure communication and ease between clients and employees. A bar has the typical areas—draft beer, cocktail station(s), soda guns, glass storage—and designs may innovate upon where each is and how it appears.

“I think as the art of bartending has developed and been refined, the manufacturers are listening to these requests,” he says. “I really think it’s about the feel of the establishment and interaction with the staff and the clients.” Another item he noted recently is a liquid CO2 glass chiller that both chills and sanitizes glasses, something that’s impressed people. “It is very appealing,” Hammersley says, especially in a COVID-conscious atmosphere where people are happy to know glasses have been sanitized.

Krowne Liquid CO2 Glass Chiler

A liquid CO2 glass chiller, able to chill and sanitize drinkware, marks one equipment innovation for brewpubs. Courtesy of Krowne.

Another piece of equipment that’s been helpful to brewpubs, Hammersley says, is a glasswasher that condenses steam and recycles heat. When a bartender opens the glasswasher, their face is not suddenly filled with steam. “It’s pretty cool technology,” he says.

Skypeck noted the demand for CO2, which brewers need for part of their brewing processes, is expected to not be met amid current rates of expansion. He would love to see future beer brewing equipment that can capture and reuse CO2.

“That almost becomes a critical issue if our [brewers] can’t get CO2,” he says.

In the future, Hammersley sees the industry including more and more efficiencies and robotics. “I think overall our equipment is getting smarter, and it’s getting more efficient, and I do think the manufacturers are listening to the needs of the marketplace,” he says. “You’re going to see smarter and smarter equipment.”

Skypeck also is keeping an eye on the progression of the Creating Hospitality Economic Enhancement for Restaurants and Servers (CHEERS) Act, which could provide tax incentives for those who update or install energy-efficient systems like draft lines and keg equipment.

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