Tips to Find a Great Distilling Space

Starting a distillery is an exciting time! There’s market share to be had, profits to be made, your craft to master, and a passion for spirits. However, finding the right building for your distillery in today’s market can be a little difficult and frustrating! Before you dive deep into commercial reality, be sure to outline your must-haves and your deal breakers for a building.

Requirements for Distillery Equipment Spaces

Hopefully, before you start looking at distillery spaces, you already know how much you want to produce and what size of equipment you will need in order to produce your goal. This is an important thing to know, you don’t want to find a building that will hinder your production. Here are some things to know before you go visit buildings:

What footprint will my equipment occupy?

This is a big one to consider, and really spend some time planning the right building size for this. If you have equipment where the footprint is 500 square feet, you will probably want to add on a decent amount more to account for plumbing and electrical configurations. Squeezing the equipment into a space that is too small, you might have to put the equipment so close together that it is almost touching; now, how will you plumb it, get electrical to it, or how clean it?

When deciding the true square footage that you will need for your equipment, it is safe to space the equipment so that, at a minimum, a person can walk between the pieces without touching the equipment. This will allow the equipment to be connected and cleaned easily. Also, think about ceiling height, are you having a vodka column? If so, what ceiling height does it require?

What electricity will my equipment require?

Knowing exactly how much electricity your equipment will need to run will help narrow down the buildings you consider. If your equipment requires 3-Phase electricity, but the building only has a single phase, you will need (a possibly very costly) electrical upgrade unless you want to buy a converter. 

How much storage space will I need?

Chances are you’re not going to get a delivery of grains or molasses; the entire amount will go right into a mash tun or fermenter, so you will need somewhere to store it. You will also need somewhere to store your barrels and finished product. Having an estimated production schedule will help determine the raw material storage needed and give you a finished good amount. Having a bit of extra space for estimated storage is a better option than not enough.

Can I sell cocktails out of my tasting room?

Cocktails are a gold mine for craft distilleries! Check your state laws to find out if you are able to sell cocktails out of your tasting room. If you are allowed, finding a building in a population-dense area is beneficial, somewhere that has good foot traffic where people can get to easily enough. You don’t want a building that is in a bad neighborhood or so far away that people hesitate to visit. Set aside enough square footage in your building to create a welcoming and inviting tasting room. You want people to stay and spend some time sipping on cocktails. A decently sized tasting room also leaves room for extra activities that could create more revenue streams, i.e. event spaces and distilling classes

What are local zoning codes for a distillery?

Finding the best space for your distillery equipment will require you to know the local zoning laws. Check with your local zoning department to determine what the requirements are for a distillery, and make sure zoning allows the sale of cocktails in that location. You don’t want to find the perfect spot just to find out that you’re too close to a school or church to have a distillery. Even worse, you don’t want to be 10 months into building out your distillery and tasting room to find out that the area is overrun with bars, and you can’t sell cocktails out of your tasting room. Due diligence with the zoning and planning department is a must when looking into a building.

What is my budget?

Be realistic with this one, and do your best to stick to your budget because chances are the build-out will go over budget. Setting a proper budget for the building may take some research to see what real estate in your area is going for, and then you can decide how much you are willing to spend. If you’re not willing to spend the amount for your ideal location, you might have to find something a little further away. 

Once you’ve answered all of these questions, it is time to start looking for the best space for your distilling equipment.