If you are looking to start a new brewery or expand your existing facility, there are a lot of choices in the type of equipment you can buy.
We work with businesses across a variety of beverage industries. From creation to storage, coffee to kombucha, MARKS has the knowledge and experience to take your business to the next level.
The first major consideration, here in the USA, is whether to buy American-made equipment or equipment made and imported from overseas. Depending on the size of the equipment you are looking for, the import choice may be more cost effective than the American-made option. For all kinds of reasons, political and otherwise, that we won’t get into in this article, the market now has significantly more import options than sources made in the U.S.
Unfortunately, there are few actual American brewery equipment manufacturers left. If you read the small print, many of the biggest names are outsourcing equipment manufacturing from overseas, so always read the fine print to see where the country of origin is for manufacturing and/or where the stainless steel used was made if that is important to you. Regardless, sometimes import is the right choice and here are some things to help you make the best decision.
You’re probably asking, “Why is MARKS, an American Equipment Fabricator, talking about buying imported brewery equipment? Is this just about undermining confidence in foreign imports?” Not at all. American brewers came to us with this dilemma. Most we talk to would prefer American-made stainless-steel equipment, but often the cost is more than they can afford, or the bank will loan them.
The reality is that stainless steel made in the U.S. is about twice the price as steel made in other countries. Tariffs and shipping prices have helped close the gap, but only when the equipment becomes large enough that the cost of shipping and labor becomes a significant factor for the importing country.
Brewers trying to piece together a system from components that were never engineered to work together isn’t optimal for best performance and a poorly operating system doesn’t reflect well on any of the components regardless of how well any individual piece is made.
We feel the option of a custom American-made brewhouse and cellar equipment is the best long-term solution, however sometimes a smaller brewery system can be difficult to finance. So, we embarked on a search for lower cost options that could be engineered to work seamlessly with the quality custom systems we built our brand on.
Our case study of a recent brewery system purchase illustrates the point where considering the purchase of imported equipment was the best solution.
Irrelevant Beer is an up and coming brewpub in the Portland area. They were looking for a brewing system consisting of a 10BBL 2 vessel direct fired brewhouse and cellar equipment made up of 10BBL fermenters and 10BBL and 20BBL Brite tanks. This initial package would support their current needs and allow for some production flexibility.
The brewery initially wanted all American-made equipment, but shopping around showed them the price for a front to back American-made system would exceed their budget. They brought their problem to MARKS and our team went to work. They didn’t want to sacrifice quality or reliability, and they needed the ability to customize the brewhouse, due to unique space and production requirements.
Our team offered a solution consisting of an American custom-made 10 bbl 2-vessel brewhouse, MARKS cellar controls, and an assortment of value-priced imported 10 and 20BBL cellar tanks. This hybrid configuration worked within their budget.
The key to success was putting the dollars in the most important part of the brewing process – the brewhouse and linking it to the value-priced cellar option. Having it designed and managed under one company was also a plus with the peace of mind that everything would match and work together.
One last point in the import journey. MARKS had, like almost all others, looked overseas for import options, but external factors such as rising tariffs, rapidly increasing shipping costs, extensive delays, and the inability to assure quality, caused us to look for an import alternative closer to home. We found it in a manufacturer in Mexico – Legacy Tanks. They build cellar tanks under the United States-Canada-Mexico (USCM) agreement and to MARKS specifications. Prices are competitive to overseas tanks, but are directly shipped via truck to the U.S. The tanks all receive a quality inspection at MARKS facility in Washington State. MARKS believes it is a better alternative when searching for a value-priced import tank.
When is buying imported brewing equipment right for you?
The answer is, when the equipment you are looking for is under 60bbl the cost benefit calculation often favors imports. Shipping and labor costs substantially increase as the equipment gets bigger, and the American-made option gains the cost benefit advantage.
Imports may also be right for equipment that is more standard and does not require much, if any, customization. Basic quality is easier to get from imports, particularly when it is a standard design. And of course, the decision to go to imports is based on the price and what your budget can afford. Ideally, when costs are a major consideration, blending quality American-made where it is most important, with value-priced imports where the need is more standard is worth considering.
MARKS Design and Metalworks is a manufacturer of American-made brewery equipment. We are proud to build equipment using stainless steel sheet goods manufactured in U.S. steel mills. Our highly skilled American welders and fabricators craft the finest brewery equipment on the market. We take pride in our craftsmanship.