Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Brewery Measurements

I’m doing another all-nighter to catch up on the things (like this blog) that I’ve not had a chance to get to with the day-to-day brewery, moving into my new apt., and general stuff going on. I finally got a chance to read my Dad’s blog entry at 4:57 am and, as always, you notice weird things when you’ve been up all night thinking (notice that word started with “th” and not “dr”).

What caught my attention was the line “The whole system was in pristine condition, albeit slightly smaller than we wanted (15 bbl)”. Having been working in the beer industry for a full 6 months now, I’m a seasoned veteran when it comes to measurements like 15bbl, but it dawned on me that not too long ago, I would have scratched my head for a long time trying to figure that one out…big bottles of lager?…barometric bubble lengths?…Bavarian Bag Legs?

So, for all of you who’ve been wondering about pints, kegs, barrels, etc., this blog’s for you:

U.S. breweries still work off imperial measurements and although most equipment is made elsewhere, it ends up being sold to the States – which means that a lot of beer related measurements are still based on that crazy system.

So, when talking about the size of your brewery, most people refer to how much beer your system can produce in one batch of beer.

Imperial measurements actually include the measure of barrels. Our new brewery can theoretically produce 15 barrels at one shot, so it’s called a 15 barrel system (bbl is the abrev). Here’s where this starts to get confusing:

1 barrel = 1.17 hectoliters (the rest of the world outside of the U.S. uses hectolitres to measure beer)
1 hectolitre = 100 litres, so
1 barrel = 1.17 hectolitres = 117 litres of beer

Our system is a 15 barrel system, so we can make 1,755 litres of beer in one batch.(117 x 15 = 1,755 litres)

But if you are like me, a figure like 1,755 litres doesn’t mean much…So, how many kegs does that make?

Well, not surprisingly it doesn’t get any less confusing. The imperial keg size is ½ barrel, or 58.6 litres. The big breweries still use these kegs, but many of the craft brewers, like ourselves have moved away from using such a confusing size and have moved to easy numbers, like 50 litres.

So if we’re talking old-school keg size, we can produce 30 kegs in one batch – if we’re talking about the 50 litre kegs that we actually use, then we can produce 35.1. (if you are wondering what happens to the .1; well, at our brewery, we drink it.)

Things get more confusing because, for whatever reason, pubs still use pints instead of litres. And it gets even more confusing, because one pint in the U.S. is 16 ounces, but one pint in Canada is 20 ounces [insert joke about how Canadians are cooler beer-drinkers here]. Not that we sell our beer in the states, but trying to figure this crap out when you are making your glassware decisions is a pain in the pint.

Back to figuring this out…There are 30mL to every ounce, so one Canadian-sized 20 ounce pint has 600mL of yummy beer inside. 1,000mL to one litre, so our 50 litre keg has 50,000mL in it, which works out to 83 and-a-bit pints in one keg of beer.

So, if one batch produces 35 kegs of beer (forget about the 0.1, cause I already told you we drank it), then that works out to 2905 pints of beer in one batch.

And what about bottles? We’re not bottling yet, mainly ’cause the math is mind-boggling.

In Ontario, the Beer Store (which is owned by Molson’s and Labatt’s) charges a huge premium if you don’t put your beer in the industry standard bottle (which is used by Molson’s and Labatt’s). This bottle is 341mL, which doesn’t convert to anything useful whatsoever. In the U.S., most bottles are 12 ounces, which is 355mL and is the size that most cans of beer come in.

So again, if you are wondering how much beer we can make in one batch, it would work out to 5,146 bottles of beer, which works out to 214 two-fours of Ontario industry standard beer bottles.

Here’s a handy reference chart:

1 bbl (barell)
= 1.17 hl (hectoliters)
= 117 litres
= 2 beer store sized kegs
= 2.34 50 litre kegs
= 344 bottles of beer
= 3907 ounces
= 195 Canadian pints
= 244 U.S. pints


Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve,

that was great info.

Mark ( FrostyTheBeerMan )

Steve B said...


I'm trying to think of a cool way to turn that into a conversion wheel chart.

Anonymous said...

you are the man, thanks, now a 15bbl sytem can produce how many liters a month? , or how many batches you can put through in a 30 day period thanks

Steve Beauchesne said...

This was one of the toughest parts for me to understand getting into the business...I'd ask our brewmaster how much can we produce and he'd say "it depends"...I'd ask our consultant, and he'd say "it depends"...here is what they meant:

From a brewhouse-only perspective, if you run 1 brew a day, 5 days a week, you are brewing 35,000 litres a month (350 hL or 300bbl). If you are brewing 2 batches a day, you can double those numbers.

The bottle neck though isn't your brewhouse typically, its your cellar.

Hypothetically speaking, lets say you were brewing a standard ale, 1 week fermenting, 1 week aging, kick it out the door.

If you were doing one batch a day each one going into a seperate unitank (ferment and age in same tank), then you would need to have a minimum of 10 unitanks to be able to produce that beer.

We are producing a kolsch-style beer that takes about 5 weeks to get out of the system, so its the aging tanks that really give us a pinch.

Another huge thing to consider is labour...if you have one person brewing 5 days a week, someone else needs to be filtering, doing maintenance, etc. So that if you were starting out thinking of brewing 5 days a week on a 15 bbl system, you might want to reconsider spending a bit more on a 30bbl system and brewing half as much.

Thanks for question, I look forward to killing you later. Ooops, watching too much Ask a Ninja these days...

Anonymous said...

Thanks steve! I almost had it all figured out last night before stumbled across your blog. Now the measurements are much more clear. I tend to think in terms of Cornie Kegs so I had an extra math calc in there (converting the 5 gallons to approx. 2.5 cases) and it was all still in my head which tends to be a bit cloudy. I sure hope you will be doing more blogging soon.

newly formed Shephardi Brewery No. CA