Basically, every major decision that you make involving your start-up brewery project will be determined by WHO you are going to sell beer to; WHAT type of beer and package you are going to sell; WHERE you are going to sell beer; and HOW much beer you need to produce over the course of a year.
Brewing is a batch process. The actual brewing of a batch of beer takes 6-8 hours. That batch of unfermented beer, called wort, then goes to a fermentation tank, yeast is added, and that batch ferments for about a week, during which the simple sugars in the wort are turned into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. When fermentation is complete the new beer needs to condition for as period of time before it is ready to package or serve. This conditioning period varies, depending on the type of beer being made, with top-fermented ales generally requiring one week, while bottom-fermented lager beers take two to three weeks. So, a batch of ale will take about two weeks to process from brew to bottle/tap, while a lager will take 3-4 weeks to process.
What all of this means to you is that you could brew around the clock, but there is no point in doing so unless you have some place to physically put it. The production capacity of a brewery is therefore determined primarily by the number and size of its fermentation tanks, and is stated in terms of annual production capacity. Thus, if a brewery is described as a 30-barrel system that can produce 10,000 barrels per year, then that means that the batch size of the brewhouse vessels (the brewkettle, mash tun, lauter tun) is 30 U.S. barrels (one barrel = 31 gallons), and that the brewery has a sufficient number of tank to process 10,000 barrels per year.
For a start-up operation, you need to project your production requirements out for three years. Based on those numbers we will put in a brewhouse and ancillary support equipment (the production side of the brewery), that is large enough to handle your anticipated Year Three level of production. We would then start you out with only enough tanks to handle your anticipated Year One volume of production. Then, as time passes and your sales volume increases, we can expand the production capacity of the brewery by installing additional tanks. With this approach you are not spending more money upfront on tanks, than you need to do. But at the same time, three years into the future, you are not stuck with a brewhouse that is too small for your production requirements.
Until you can tell us how much beer you need to produce, we cannot tell you what sort of equipment you will need to produce it. If you need some help in determining how to proceed, we do offer consulting services. Upon request we can send you a copy of our consulting agreement for review.