Behind the Scenes at a Brewery

by | Oct 25, 2016

In part two of our series looking at breweries and their relationship with community development departments, this article looks at how building codes impact breweries.

What is the first thing you think about when walking into a local microbrewery?  What’s on tap?  Is it happy hour?  Do they have good wings?

All important questions to ask yourself, but the next time you walk into your local brewery, take a minute to look around.  Not just to see how many big screen TVs are hanging on the wall or what fine craftsmanship the finish carpenters had, but for what it took to build a microbrewery that meets the standards and best intent of the code.

As you take a sip of your fine craft beer and talk about the good ol’ days with some old friends, do you ever wonder how they made all that beer?  A lot of breweries have large glass partitions between the restaurant and the brewing area, so the public can see the brewing process.  But even further behind the scenes, there is some very important components that must meet standards of the code.

First off, if they grind their own grain, instead of having it brought in sealed in bags, there are requirements for ventilation and the type of materials used in venting the grinding room.  For instance, “Parts of fans in contact with explosive or flammable vapors, fumes or dusts shall be of nonferrous or non-sparking materials or their casing shall be lined or constructed of such material. When the size and hardness of materials passing through a fan are capable of producing a spark, both the fan and the casing shall be of non-sparking materials. When fans are required to be spark resistant, their bearings shall not be within the airstream, and all parts of the fan shall be grounded.”

Second, a safety or explosion relief vent shall be provided on all systems that convey combustible refuse or stock of an explosive nature, in accordance with the requirements of the International Building Code.

The equipment used in the making of and the actual brewing of the cold beer in your pint glass that is in excess of 500 gallons, is controlled by the Liquor Control Commission, Department of Health, and the state in which the brewery is built.

Also, most of the stainless steel piping that carries fresh water to the tanks and then removes discharged waste from the building is regulated by the Plumbing Code.  Power to make the equipment run is regulated by the Electrical Code.  The heat, air conditioning and ventilation are covered by the Mechanical Code and the actual building and accessibility can be found in the Building Code and ANSI Standards.

On March 25th,  2014 in Lansing,  Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder signed bipartisan legislation that meant to create jobs and increase tourism by helping expand the state’s booming craft beer industry.  “Michigan-made beer is award winning and world renowned,” Snyder said. “We have the fifth-largest number of microbreweries and brewpubs in the nation”.

The nine-bill package doubles the amount of beer microbrewers may produce, from 30,000 barrels per year to 60,000. It also allows brewpub owners to now have interest in five other pubs, up from the previous two, so long as the combined barrel production does not exceed 18,000 barrels per year. Additionally, small microbreweries that produce less than 1,000 barrels of beer per year are now able to distribute their product directly to retailers under certain conditions.

So the next time you’re at your local brewery, order your favorite beverage and wings, and while you’re waiting, take a look around and appreciate the fact that your local building department has conducted all the necessary inspections to ensure that code compliance was achieved at the highest level so you can safely enjoy your beer.

SAFEbuilt reminds everyone to enjoy responsibly!


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