Connecting Brewing Production Space & Tasting Room - Or Not

The degree to which a brewery's production and customer spaces are connected can impact both production efficiency and customer experience.

The degree to which a brewery's production and customer spaces are connected can impact both production efficiency and customer experience.

In many of our brewery projects, there’s a reoccurring design conversation. It centers around “Are we showcasing the brewery production space from the tasting room?” or “Are we connecting the tasting room to the fermentation or brewhouse areas?”. In these early design discussions, there is a domino effect of layout decisions. Some decisions are for the betterment of the tasting room environment and others for production efficiency. Depending on the orientation of the bar/tap wall, we might wrestle with cooler placement as the brewhouse or jacketed fermentation tanks try to compete for valuable space nearby. The scale of the facility might necessitate a smaller back of bar keg cooler separate from the distribution cooler. It might mean managing the extension of beer lines to a more remote location so that stainless tanks have the desired impact near the tasting room. There are pros and cons to these layout considerations (and many other similar placement/flow scenarios). Many brewery components start competing for the same square footage and create some inefficiency to the rest of the production areas, particularly with respect to the layout of process piping lines. All these issues can be resolved, of course, but it might have an extra headache or two or some recognition that the trade-offs for architectural/aesthetic priorities might have sacrificed some functional efficiency.

Highlighting the trade-offs of a direct tasting room/production connection vs. a clear separation of tasting room from production is an important conversation for us to share.

Pros of direct (no wall floor-to-ceiling) connection and clear view of brewhouse/fermentation:

·         Impact on patrons of seeing the production space…everyone loves some stainless and the tanks influence the design aesthetic.

·         Visible appreciation and connection to craft process.

·         You feel like you’re enjoying the beer to some degree in the production space.

Cons of direct connection:

·         How much space are we conditioning? Or just big fans (in Texas) to move the air and get an acceptable comfort level. This can vary per climate. Works a lot better in the smaller true brewpub scale experience. In bigger production spaces this can be more problematic. That being said, many production brewery visitors aren’t necessarily expecting 72 degrees every day while hanging out on their brewery tour.

·         Displacement of key equipment near the bar. Depending on other decisions made for production flow, scale of the facility and site orientation, a direct connection may mean the cooler can’t be behind the bar for direct taps.

·         Can create a domino of less than ideal placement and lengths of process piping lines as well pinch points in an optimal arrangement and spacing of the mill to brewhouse to fermentation to canning/bottling to cold storage to loading dock.

·         In larger buildings, the proximity of the brewhouse or fermentation tanks might cause some extra and costly distance to the boiler or glycol chiller, respectively, if they can’t be placed nearby.

Pros of clear separation of tasting room and production spaces:

·         Easier to scale each space (especially height) to the needs of each side.

·         Equipment flow can be arranged independently of tasting room layout to provide the most efficient production space.

·         Each space can be conditioned (or not) to its own needs.

·         Clear separation of materials that are specific to the needs of a production space vs. the tasting room. This can impact aesthetic opportunities with greater flexibility for cost control.

·         Easier to have Keg Cooler directly behind tap wall reducing length of beer lines.

·         In some cities, this may present ease of compliance with local building and zoning codes.

Cons of clear separation:

·         Disconnection from the desire or feeling many patrons may be looking for in seeing stainless tanks in/around the tasting room or being close to the equipment/process.

Every building is unique as well as the needs and wants of the brewers. Either configuration can be done well. The key is to understand and enjoy the benefits of each and be willing to work thru the less desirable side effects so there are no surprises once operations are underway.