Moving from Wimborne to Bournemouth was not an easy decision. There are a few things that you need from a space for a brewery to work such as high ceilings for fermenters and waterproof floors for the water. The perfect buildings that a lot of people choose are unused farm buildings as they normally come with all the right power needs and are designed as food production facilities so doesn’t take a lot of work to retro fit. A coat of floor paint and build an office and a lot of the time you’re kind of done. The down side in Dorset is quite hard to find unused spaces that are away from animal farms. Animals are messy and if you’ve read the previous posts you’ll know brewers are OCD by nature.
The other common choice is an industrial estate and for similar reasons that it’s relatively cheap to retrofit and cheap to rent However again there's the con that you’re normally stuck on an industrial estate with not a lot of chance for a tap room or immediate sales in the area and on a smaller note for 4 months of the year you’ll be freezing your **** off.
Our initial plan was pretty simple, with my mums permission we were going to knock through our tiny brewery to the next room and gain a bit of space, ramp up to 200 litre batches and brew really weird stuff. There’s a part of us that wishes we had done it but in reality we’d never have sold anything and would have outgrown the space in about 2 months if we had sold anything. Plus the fact that mum was already pretty pissed off at all the beer stuff in her house that would creep down from the ‘brewery’. There was a particular morning where are yeast spinner spilled over and covered the whole kitchen in a sugar yeast blend that is very hard to clean up.
It was about that time that Joel, see our friends of the brewery series on social media, was moving ahead with renovating what we now call the warehouse. Originally from what we know the warehouse was the Bournemouth fire station as far back as the 1800’s. In fact the room where the brewery was had some original wood with horse teeth marks on so we’re pretty sure our little room used to be a stable. We had to ditch the wood as it was rotten, unfortunately. It had then been Bournemouth tyres for a few years which we could have gotten from the near 500 tyres that still sat in the building at the start. Then it had been abandoned and essentially a squat for drug users.
When Joel came across the space it was up for destruction with a view to be turned into soulless flats and had fallen pretty far into disrepair. Hopefully from the galleries we’ve put up with this blog you can get a sense of how cool the warehouse is but it’s taken a huge amount of time, dedication and effort from Joel and his team to renovate it.
All of the work carried out has been done in the most environmentally conscious way possible as well. An example for the brewery was the frontage you see is only about 20% bought brick with the bulk of the bricks coming from other walls or structures we took down as the space was changed. Each brick has to be cleaned off by hand, cut and soaked to be effective again. They are also different sizes, material and finish before you get to the fact that it would be cheaper to work the hours and buy new bricks. HOWEVER, everyone who works at the warehouse in all the businesses believes in the same thing, a little effort for a more environmentally neutral building is always worth it.
For our space in particular when we found it is not a great brewing space. Low ceilings, semi permeable floors, no power supply, rotten joists, rotten walls, damp spots in 3 of the walls, rusted steel work, no fire safety, no lighting etc. etc. Instead of a 2 month refurb of an industrial estate or mums spare room this would be a major undertaking. The main appeal we had to the space was the potential for community. I had worked for Joel years ago and am friends with the whole Bad Hand Coffee crew so have to have a landlord that we know and respect was an amazing opportunity. At the time of writing this post there are 5 businesses operating from the warehouse. Each of those businesses is made of incredible people and we all support and like each other, which is rare for any work space. We are also very central in town so when we get the tap room open, hopefully next year, the functional setbacks of the brewery will have been worth it.
After we’d decided to take the space, Me and Nick spent the next 7 months working every weekend and evening we could building. We had to learn or be taught everything at every stage as other than a medium DIY skill set, we are not construction gurus. The first stage of the build was actually to tear the space back to the bare bones. The ceiling joists were too rotten so had to be completely cut away and redone. The walls were filled with damp spots and crumbled brick so had to ground back to the workable brick and then resealed and clad. We wanted to keep as much of the original structure in place as possible so that the original character wasn’t lost but in the end the only thing we have is the near brick wall at the back of the brewery.
During each step we also had to research what’s needed to pass health codes and building codes, then figure out if we could do the job ourselves and if we could figure out if we could afford it before doing it after our regular jobs. It wasn’t something that either of us would look to repeat. One of the biggest issues was going to be the floor. Breweries are naturally wet places and the material at the start was semi permeable which would mean constant damp. That lead to microbiological ‘blooms’ that are quite beautiful to see but can spoil a batch of beer with a tiny bit of exposure. Imagine a fluffy white mould carpet and you get the idea. There is a major sewerage junction point just outside the brewery so we planned to install a french drain and then resurface the floor and repaint so it would be a solid surface and any liquid would naturally drain away. Easy right?
After a bit of research and chatting to friends and family in construction this was going to be a job outside of our skill level and we’d have to hire someone to build the floor. Being such an integral part of the brewery we decided to go ahead with it and hired a friend of a friend who we won’t name here but it leads to a major bit of advice that we’d give to anyone starting any business. First off if you’re going to hire someone to do a job for your business avoid if possible using friends or favours. This sounds heartless and counter intuitive but trust me if you’re on mates rates or favours there is nothing that can be done when things don’t go the way you want. There are exceptions of course but every time we’ve done things that way round deadlines don’t get hit and work doesn’t get prioritised in the same way as if you pay. And why should it, your mates are going to put paying gigs above yours.
The other piece of advice relates to our floor story, make a contract. If you ever hire any contract based work you need a contract and it doesn’t matter how small the work is. We requested a hard wearing floor that drained into a french drain and was smooth. Doesn’t sound like a big ask but when the job was finished none of our markers were hit. The first wet test left 2 big puddles right in the area we’d be working in and chips started to appear after a couple of days. We asked for it to be redone which was refused and then as it was shoddy refused to pay. Eventually the issue put the entire project on hold as legal proceeding had to be undertaken which came dangerously close to sinking our business before we’d begun. It was a hard way to learn the lesson but we learned it, write a contract. Put down what you want to happen, when you want it done and how much it’ll cost and get everyone to sign.
After the floor was fixed and the walls sealed we decided to recycle a friends garage doors he was getting rid of and another friends left over tiles from her restaurant. The brick laying days were done at the same time as the tiling and you can probably tell from the pictures the project really started to come together quickly after that. Once the frontage to the brewery was finished off we could focus on the utilities. Neither of us knew anything about electrics or plumbing so were pretty freaked out by them.
For a supply line into the brewery the plumbing was actually pretty easy, we went for exposed copper pipe with a couple of T points to hook up jet washers or rinsers. The electrics was a tad different. With it being a wet space we had to get industrial tronking fitted which was also tricky with the weird shape of the room. We had to wire in super tightly in case any steam from the boiling kettle would trip the entire room. The waterproof fittings for everything are slightly more expensive of course so we took a while to do the electrics to make sure we got it right.
The rest of the build was spent painting and then filling the brewery with the kit and hopefully the pictures tell the whole story but at the end of the process we were so happy with the space we’ve ended up with. The hard work and doing most of it ourselves made the end product so much more rewarding and connected us to the brewery much more than if we’d chosen a different path. If anyone has any specific questions on the build feel free to contact us of course. We’ll always share the full details with anyone who asks.