Expert Topic Understanding Online Brewery Auctions

Photo by John Holl

The emails seem to come a bit more frequently these days. Previously used brewery equipment going on the auction block. Get your bids ready. Own a piece of a brewery’s history and make it part of your future. Business auctions are nothing new, of course, but the last few years of trouble for the brewing industry couple with the sheer volume of brewers has meant that more stainless steel equipment than ever before is coming to the marketplace.

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Auctions have a different vibe than the normal sales of previously-used equipment. Often down by third parties, there is not always a relationship with the seller, or a chance to ask detailed equipment about usability and use.

Still, going into an auction with wide eyes and as much knowledge as possible can help your business core great equipment that can help your business sustain or grow volume and revenue.

Stay Within Budget
It is important know well in advance how much money you can spend on equipment. It is also important, when available, to comparison shop. Look for similar equipment outside of the auction on forums or classified to see if something similar is on the market. If you move ahead with the auction, keep a level head, and make sure you start at a place that will allow for negotiation. If possible, use automatic bidding. And if it goes beyond what you can comfortably spend, listen to the Kenny Rogers in your head, and know when to fold ‘em.

Understand the terms of the Auction.
If this is your first time involved in an auction or your 100th, it is beneficial to learn the rules and expectations around the sale. Understand the bid clock, and all of the financial considerations of the auction, including any fees or buyer expectations in the event of placing the winning bid.

What is the shape of the equipment?
It doesn’t always happen, but there are some horror stories from breweries that purchased equipment at an auction, only to find out that important parts had been compromised before the sale. It is not always possible to inspect the equipment beforehand, or to see a live demonstration for auction items. There is a certain risk that buyers take on when entering into an auction agreement.

When possible, ask questions of brewery employees or others who might have knowledge on previous use and its current state. Take any red flags that come from this research for exactly what they are.

Be ready to Receive.
Have a clear expectation on any costs associated with the removal and shipping of any winning bids. Be sure your brewery is ready to receive the equipment and that it has the ability and infrastructure to be installed in your desired location. Barring that, have a plan for where and how the equipment can be stored until its ready to be installed and consider those costs when placing a bid in the first place.

Do you need this?
Online auctions can be fun (for the prospective buyer) to look at. Is the item you’re thinking about really going to benefit your brewery? Is your existing equipment doing the job you need well, and would an auction purchase be an aesthetic or marginal productive upgrade? If so, maybe use the cash elsewhere at your brewery. Ask the hard questions about why this particular equipment is necessary for your business. Over leveraging on used equipment can lead to touch financial spots later.

Have reasonable expectations.

Like any purchase of previously used equipment, there are likely to be bumps in the process. Knowing as much as possible and even taking with original manufacturers in advance about maintenance, or inspections- both before the sale and following a winning auction – can provide piece of mind. But it’s important to be prepared that the equipment will take some calibrating and likely some work before it gets back to brewing.

Understanding Online Brewery Auctions posted in:
John Holl
John Holl

John Holl is a contributor to ProBrewer and the editor of All About Beer.

One Comment “Understanding Online Brewery Auctions”

  • J Porter

    J Porter


    Buying used equipment for a startup we have experienced a few auctions. Recently bought a couple more small items; however, with the 18% buyers premium plus the “rigging” fee and plus the Taxes… The final invoice ended up 43% higher because of all the add-on fees & taxes. Don’t forget your time and fuel expense to retrieve your bargain. Plus we were not able to inspect the item before the auction… so who knows. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
    In addition, machinery used in manufacturing is tax exempt in many states, and that includes food and beverage manufacturing. You have to follow your state requirements but can be a pain dealing with the auction company to remove the tax they put on the invoice. You might be able to deduct the equipment taxes on your tax return, but most of us could use the tax in our pocket right now instead of a little tax deduction next year.

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