The Road Goes on Forever...


This morning at 10am, Caitlin Johnson, aka Big World, Small Girl, and I embark on 9 day-52 brewery Texas Brewery adventure. It’s ambitious, a bit daunting, definitely exciting and a long overdue opportunity for me to better get to know the Houston and Dallas Brewing communities as well as all the stops we can hit along the way. The feedback we’ve been getting from some of the Brewers has been awesome already. Looking forward to seeing many new faces, hearing all the brewery stories and learning even more about Texas Craft Beer! Stay tuned at and let the fun begin!

Brewery Permitting Hurdles

NLand Brewery - OPA Design Studio

NLand Brewery - OPA Design Studio

As more and more breweries are reviewed by cities, the aggregated experience of these officials is being incrementally and increasingly applied in each community. Sometimes it’s for the betterment of the overall facility with realistic and appreciable steps for health safety and public welfare. Other times it feels more like annoying red tape from ineffective or unnecessary policies being misapplied to projects of different scales or context.

As the rules to follow slowly (or quickly) shift in each municipality, it becomes imperative for the design and engineering teams to be in tune with the most recent regulations.  Ideally this knowledge is built into the design conversations early to avoid last minute changes (hopefully without losing necessary space or too much increased cost); or even better, the design team is aware of reasonable arguments that can be in explaining what makes a brewery different than a bar, restaurant, distillery, etc. We often see misunderstood measures applied to a new project that can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. This is all the more reason to develop a relationship with code officials before submitting for permit because there are degrees of subjectivity and there are key words to avoid in plans and applications.

Every jurisdiction maybe a little different but they are all, for the most part, using similar versions of the same code with some local layers put in top. Here’s some common examples where confusion occurs:

  • Most people know by now what not to call the mill room...”the mill room”. Grain Crush or even better, Grain Cracking, are better and more appropriate terms.

  • We’ve seen a community require a grease trap for a brewery. There was no kitchen. I won’t get started on that logic.

  • Process waste is becoming a much bigger deal for industrial waste departments. Having a professional and brewer seasoned in the best practices of how to handle and describe what is cleaned, how it’s cleaned, release protocols, etc, can save considerable construction and equipment costs. In addition it can save potentially wasted space before containment systems may ever be truly necessary. When a city has issues at the treatment plant they are going to be quick to universally apply, possibly good intentioned, but ineffective standards on your brewery.

  • Health department and state health codes require washable and cleanable surfaces around, and more specifically above, areas you wouldn’t expect such as the canning line and production area 3 comp sinks. Yes...many breweries are required to have 3 comp sinks potentially redundant to anything in a lab area.  Failure to plan for these hard surfaces potentially high above these areas can be annoying “adds” and might be in conflict with process piping or other features. Also, the color of these surfaces matters as well.

  • RPZ’s are required at many glass rinse stations and can add a couple $1000 to a budget. There are simple cost saving measures here for $75/each with adjustable stand off depressors.

  • “Required” spacing between tanks or between tanks and walls for fire department access.

The list of areas that regulations (even the necessary ones) can add in cost continues to grow even when the construction budgets stay the same. Working thru a list of cost saving measures related to these type of items early can focus the design team’s efforts in what’s truly necessary and build trust as well with the code officials.

Nobody is trying to be the bad apple that causes increased standards for everyone that follows. It’s important to share best practice to make sure we are helping cities better understand the brewery process. In addition it’s equally as important for local guilds to work and advocate with city officials on being up to date with forthcoming code changes as no one needs or wants surprises at the end. This knowledge could then be proactively shared with the brewing community and code officials know they have willing partners in protecting the public.