What You Need to Open a Distillery: 3 Building Requirements

So you’ve got your business plan completed, your building is picked out, and you’re ready to buy equipment for your new distillery or expansion. But before you sign your lease or buy that shiny new equipment, there are a few easy-to-overlook building requirements for a distillery that may be worth double checking. It takes getting a million things correct to be a success, but often one tiny miscalculation can mean the difference in being up and running or facing more delays (and more costs) than you had anticipated.

What Do You Need from the Building Itself to Open a Distillery?

Think about the height restrictions in the existing structure. What about power – what kind do you have available? How easily can you change anything in the space without incurring extra costs that cut into your bottom line? It’s important to know what you have to work with in your space so that you can make informed decisions about your distillery equipment placement and configurations in order to avoid having to pay to change the building to accommodate the custom equipment you may have already ordered.

3 Key Building Requirements for a Distillery

  1. Ample ceiling height is a very easy factor to overlook when you’re selecting your facility but it can be the most difficult to work around. It may sound obvious, but many building owners don’t like their tenants to knock holes in the roof of their building. Normally it’s not a problem but what happens when you decide to add a vodka column to your system? Or worse, what happens when the inspector decides that everything needs to be 18 inches higher off the ground to minimize explosion risk? These scenarios may or may not apply to you directly but they are worth considering before you find yourself faced with some tough decisions. Our post on space requirements for a distillery is a great guide on this topic and floor space considerations.
  2. Available power is another potential bottleneck that can be easy to forget about until it becomes an issue. Does the building have enough power to run all of the equipment that you’re planning on using? Does it allow room for growth when demand exceeds your expectations? Single phase 120V power may be enough to get started but it would be wise to give yourself some wiggle room so that you can add on a chiller, upsize your boiler, or some other piece of equipment to help you run more efficiently in the future.
  3. Water availability and quality have always been on a distiller’s mind, there’s a reason certain world renowned spirits are from the areas they’re from. These days it can be as simple a hooking up a RO system to your water line to obtain a pure water source but there’s more water that goes into producing a quality spirit than what goes into your kettle and mash tun. You’ll likely need water for your heat exchangers, both for your steam and your coolant. The gallons can add up quickly if you’re not careful and the regulations for what to do with it after it’s been through your system can vary from municipality to municipality. Disposing of or treating these streams usually isn’t a big deal or much of a hassle but you’ll want to think about it so that you make sure you’re in compliance with your local ordinances.

So your building is as ready as you can make it, you’ve got your power and water sorted out and you’re ready to go from a facilities standpoint. You’re in the home stretch now but there are a few things to double check before you’re ready. It’ll be important to make sure that the area is clean and ready to stage the equipment and you have easy access to the tools you’ll need to make installing the distillery equipment as efficient and easy as possible. There are lots of nuances with big jobs like this and there’s no way to account for every contingency that could possibly happen. If you’ve read this far hopefully you’re asking yourself what else you need to think about and what could possibly go wrong, just being in that mindset will help you pivot when something unexpected comes up and make the task as painless as it can be.

> If you have questions about the process or what kind of equipment is best suited to your current resources, don’t hesitate to contact the team at StillDragon. We’ve helped people figure out workarounds for some unique restrictions and we’d love to help you as well!