Freight & Logistics Management of Your Brewery Equipment

Shipping – Sea, Air and Inland Freight

Freight & Logistics Management of Your Brewery Equipment. What you see written below is an extract of knowledge, based on my own experiences with shipping equipment, primarily out of China and the USA, and into Australia, including the inland component on both sides of the journey. I am by no means an expert on shipping and freight, nor do I want to be. I have an expert shipping agent for that! So let’s get you some insight into what happens when you need to get your gear from there to here.

Got the Basics Sorted – Now What?

So, you’ve decided to go ahead with that new toy of yours – the brewery. Right?

  • Business plan; check
  • I have my eye on premises; check
  • DA submitted; check
  • Equipment sized up and priced; check
  • Finance; check. Maybe…

Hey, what about getting the gear from wherever it’s being manufactured, to your new premises? Oh yes; we will ship bits from China, the USA, Italy, maybe the UK. When it comes, we’ll grab the forklift, unpack it all and place it where we need it.

Okay let’s have a closer look at those ideas. Thera are some things you should know.

  1. MOST IMPORTANT! Shipping begins at the factory and ends at your premises
    1. When a supplier gives you a shipping price, it is usually accompanied by an abbreviation: have a look at the shipping term they use on their quotation (commonly called “Incoterms”). Some of the common Incoterms we use are FOB, CIF, EXW
  2. So what do these terms mean?
    1. The Incoterms® are a set of 11 individual rules issued by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) which define the responsibilities of sellers and buyers for the sale of goods in international transactions. Of primary importance is that each Incoterms rule clarifies the tasks, costs and risks to be borne by buyers and sellers in these transactions. Familiarizing yourself with Incoterms will help improve smoother transaction by clearly defining who is responsible for what and each step of the transaction.
    2. DHL has a great explanation with explicit graphics; see here

As you can see in the DHL incoterms model, the Incoterms® 2020 rules are grouped into two categories reflecting modes of transport. Of the 11 rules, there are seven for ANY mode(s) of transport and four for SEA or LAND or INLAND WATERWAY transport.

Brewery Equipment

The seven Incoterms® 2020 rules for any mode(s) of transport are:

EXW – Ex Works (insert place of delivery)

FCA  – Free Carrier (Insert named place of delivery)

CPT  – Carriage Paid to (insert place of destination)

CIP –  Carriage and Insurance Paid To (insert place of destination)

DAP – Delivered at Place (insert named place of destination)

DPU – Delivered at Place Unloaded (insert of place of destination)

DDP – Delivered Duty Paid (Insert place of destination).

The four Incoterms® 2020 rules for Sea and Inland Waterway Transport are:

FAS – Free Alongside Ship (insert name of port of loading)

FOB – Free on Board (insert named port of loading)

CFR – Cost and Freight (insert named port of destination)

CIF –  Cost Insurance and Freight (insert named port of destination)

In practical terms, you need to be sure you’re getting the full picture of how your new toys (and rather large investment!) are going to get from the manufacturer to your doorstep. One way is to simply ask the person quoting whether their shipping quote is door to door, all paperwork, everything.

Is my quote a “locked-in” price? – Freight & Logistics Management of Brewery Equipment

In the shipping game, each quote is an estimate. There are many moving parts that make up the journey between the manufacturer and your premises, and each moving part is subject to seasonal events (Christmas, Easter and other major holiday-type events etc.) environmental, economic and political changes. These changes reflect back on the consumer in the form of price changes (mostly increases!)

The parts of the journey which are most likely NOT to change, or to change very little are generally:

  • Government fees and charges
  • Local shipping agent’s fees and charges
  • Local freight rates
  • Demurrage / storage rates

What we have no control over are the costs that are affected by international events. These can be very volatile:

  • Sea freight –
    • affected by Covid outbreaks, dock strikes, fuel prices, outbreaks of violence, etc. there is no way to predict what is going to happen between the time you get your first shipping quote, and the day you have to pay the final invoice
    • Peak periods, much the same as holiday peak periods, can in some cases, double or even triple the cost of your sea freight. Major peak periods are normally October till around February, and Easter
  • Air freight
    • Much the same as Sea Freight
  • Local fuel charges – where inland freight is concerned

Sea Freight

Freight & Logistics Management

First off, sea freight as you would probably guess, is a slower mode of shipping than air freight. Both have their pros and cons.

You may have noticed that when you speak to someone about sea freight (or “shipping” in general), one thing that is almost always mentioned is “containers”. Containers come in various sizes and configurations. What we would be mostly concerned with for shipping equipment via sea freight are things like:

  • How large the piece of equipment is that we’re transporting (dimensions)
  • How many items there are

These will determine the size and quantity of the containers to use to find the most cost efficient method of transporting your goods between origin and destination ports.

For instance, a larger brewery could quite easily take up one or more 40’ containers. Each container will be costed at the going price on the day we get the quote. Consequently, a 40’ container costs more to ship than a 20’ container – it comes down to space on the ship and how many containers the shipping line can fit on board.

There are various configurations of containers for loads that may for instance be more bulky than others.

If the load is small enough, it may require only some space inside a container. In other words, you can share space in a container with other goods destined for someone else. This would commonly be referred to as a LCL or loose Container Load. It follows that this is a cheaper way of transporting goods by sea than hiring a full container for something that doesn’t need all the space (within reason).

Generally, if you fill a 20’ or 40’ft container with your equipment, the dimensions and weight of the equipment is of no consequence. The pricing is done by container size and configuration.

If you equipment is too large for even a 40’ or 45’ container, the shipping agent will source a frame. The frame is basically a container without a roof – or sides – or both. It’s a skeleton to which the equipment is secured. Frames are typically more expensive than regular enclosed containers, due to several factors – the frame handling equipment may differ from regular container handling equipment at different ports; frames take up more space n the ship than regular containers; when goods are removed at different ports, the frames may have to be taken off then replaced n the ship in order to get other containers offloaded – the ports would need the necessary equipment to do this.

Air Freight

Brewery Equipment

Air freight is mostly costed by dimensions and weight. Cubic meters and Kilograms. There is also a height consideration that affects goods transported by air. If the packaged goods are too tall for say the loading door of the aircraft, it may have to be loaded in another section of the aircraft, and that could result in higher costs. Generally, air freight is more costly than sea freight. The obvious advantage of air freight is shorter delivery time. – a week as compared to several weeks at sea.

Inland Freight

Trucks and trailers are a common and effective method of getting your equipment from the destination port to your premises. If the final destination is a rural area, an inspection is most likely to be mandated. This is called a tailgate inspection. It attracts a fee.

The alternative is to put the goods on a train; however some container companies are reluctant to send a truck somewhere just to collect their container/s. It is far more cost effective to use a trucking company to take the goods to a site, offload the goods, then return the container as part of a round trip.

Freight & Logistics Management

There are a few methods of delivering inland freight by truck; these are what we commonly use:

  • Truck arrives at premises; customer offloads the container while it’s still on the truck. Driver waits one hour (typically) before returning the container to depot. If the load is not out of the container within the first hour, the trucking company will charge the end user a nominal rate per hour for the extra time taken to offload
  • Truck arrives at premises, offloads the container on the ground, leaves the premises (perhaps to deliver other loads). Customer has more time to offload the goods – sometimes a couple of days. Truck returns at a predetermined time to collect the container and return it to depot. Again, if the container is not unloaded by the time the truck arrives to collect it, the trucking company will charge a nominal rate per hour for the extra time taken.
  • Goods are offloaded from the container at the destination port and loaded onto the truck (loose load – secured of course!). Truck delivers the loose items, which the end user has to unload on premises. The one-hour timeframe limit and penalties apply here too, as above.

Between Factory and Destination – Freight & Logistics Management of Brewery Equipment

After your equipment has been manufactured, the various components need to get to the nearest port so they can be loaded onto a ship. In the case of air freight, the same applies to get your goods to the nearest airport.

When your equipment arrives at the airport, it will have to be transported to your premises after being cleared by customs.

In both cases, there is documentation to be completed by the sender (manufacturer) and fees paid to get the goods onto the transport and off on its journey.

When the goods arrive at the destination seaport or airport, again there is paperwork to be completed, customs clearance, perhaps customs (Border Patrol) wants to inspect the load for their own reasons. Everything here attracts a fee.

Once your new toys have cleared customs, they will need to be transported to your premises. In Australia this is normally conducted using a truck or several trucks as described above.


When you spend a good sum of money on investing in your future business, you’d want to be sure it is in good order when it arrives. If something happens along the way, you would want the problem resolved, right? This is where transit insurance comes into its own. For the relatively low cost of transit insurance, if say your container falls off a ship (yes, we know this is known to happen!), you’re covered. Dents; covered; breakages, covered. You probably know all of this, but it’s worth noting, because this is often a forgotten factor when budgeting for your business.

Australian GST

Once the shipment arrives in Australia, the ATO will determine the actual cost of the goods, according to their guidelines, and current rates of exchange. They will apply GST to this price. This is one of the reasons why a shipping quote is always an estimate, not a hard and fast quote.

What about Import Duty and GST on imports?

As our imports are mainly from countries like China and the USA, the free trade agreement between Australia and these countries means that you don’t pay import duty on new manufactured goods. A good place to find out information on what goods attract import duty and what doesn’t, start here:

Almost everything you can think of to import is classified into categories, and each item (or group of items in some cases) has a reference number attached to it. That number will tell you how much import duty (if any) you will have to pay on it when it hits our shores.

Synergy Custom Solutions Value-Add

At the end of the day, a shipping agent or freight forwarder is pretty hard at work most of the time conducting these tasks not only for Synergy, but for all their other clients too. It’s what they do.

Our value-add is looking after our customers’ interests by communicating frequently with them, telling them where their shipment is on its journey. We are well aware of the things in a customer’s world that a shipping agent wouldn’t need know about. Marketing plans for instance, launch plans, social media releases, supply deliveries and other expectations that all fit together like a puzzle to make a brewery opening, or launch a success. Any or all of these things could be affected by delivery delays for whatever reason that may occur, and no entrepreneur wants to disappoint their potential customers. We want our customers to be as prepared as possible, so they can plan around their equipment delivery.

We know that preparations for a delivery may include hiring lifting equipment and the scheduling involved with that task; ensuring that there is adequate staff on site to assist with offloading so that activity is completed in as short a timeframe as possible. Staff is not cheap, so payment for getting people in to help needs to be factored into the delivery/offloading exercise. So, we also make sure we stay close to the truck driver’s schedule, so we can predict reasonably well when the truck is likely to arrive on site.

There is so much more to shipping / freight than meets the eye. If you have any questions, or need clarification on anything written here, please contact us any time.

Further Content Related to the Topic

Gavin featured in Series 1 of the BMAB Podcast in the Brewery Equipment Sourcing Segment, where he talked in some detail on the important considerations brewery owners should be aware of in relation to freight and logistics management when sourcing equipment from overseas.


Minimum Brewing Equipment Needed

If you’re reading this, you’re looking to open a brewery, you may be wondering what is the minimum brewing equipment needed to commercially brew. You’ve discovered as many have before you, brewing requires a large capital investment. Hey, it’s a legitimate concern, many breweries have started with a barebones setup, begun brewing, sold beer and re-invested running capital to grow their operations. Don’t believe me?

Back in 2008, Brewdog was selling US-style craft beer at local markets from a back on van AND missing payments on a £20,000 bank loan. Well, we all know how the story is going with Brewdog now. Their mantra was to…

“Never lose faith in what they were doing”.

Now, I’m not saying you’re going to be the next Brewdog, but from humble beginnings they’ve thrived. There are other examples such as Balter, Stone & WoodBlack Hops etc. I just wanted to show it’s possible to start small, get operational and be successful. So, with that in mind, what do you need equipment wise, to have an operational brewery?

We’ll take a look at our preferred minimum equipment list below, as well as add some additional equipment we’d recommend if you budget stretches a little further. Items not necessarily needed but, we think worth the money to be more productive and/or more consistent brew to brew. So, let’s get started…

Minimum Brewing Equipment Needed – Grain Mill

Minimum Brewing Equipment Needed

Grain Mill

Mills are used to crush malt and other grains like wheat, in preparation to adding them to the mash. Having your own mill allows you to control the crush (coarse to fine). Most brewers like having this control so, opt to have their own mill.

Depending where your based, you don’t necessarily need a mill. As some malt companies sell pre-crushed malt and grains to brewers.

Please note: The price of pre-crushed grain is usually higher plus has a shorter shelf life (6 months or so) than non-crushed grains.

As long as you keep tight control of your stock this shouldn’t be an issue. Other reason for forgoing a mill is if space is really tight, and also if you don’t want malt dust everywhere.

Please bear in mind when you mill malt (on some mills) you create fine dust which isn’t good for your lungs. Appropriate PPE should be worn (face mask and eye protection with optional ear plugs too).

Minimum Brewing Equipment Needed

Hot Liquor Tank (HLT)

Hot Liquor Tank (HLT)/Water on Demand

When you make beer, you need water. The temperature of your water is critical to the mash temperature. If the temperature isn’t right, you’ll end up with beer outside desired parameters. Most breweries have a hot liquor tank where they store hot water; used for brewing and cleaning, a HLT is a big stainless-steel tank with its own dedicated heating. They’re usually twice the size of the brewhouse. E.g., if you’ve a 500-litre brewery having a HLT at a minimum of 1,000 litres is recommended.

The brewing water in the HLT is heated the day before or on a timer. So, when the brewers come in to brew, the water is at desired temperature, allowing them to mash in straight away.

There is however another option…

Some smaller breweries opt for water-on-demand instead of an HLT. In these systems, water is heated almost instantly to the desired temperature needed. I don’t recommend water-on-demand unless space is severely limited. As most systems are limiting in capacity and temperature range. Furthermore, having a hot liquor tank, means hot water produced when cooling wort via a heat exchange can be reused for your next brew or for cleaning…very handy.

Minimum Brewing Equipment Needed – Brewhouse

Brewhouse System

The brewhouse is where wort is made, then sent to your fermentation vessels. You can have a one vessel system. However, I’d not recommend this option as it is very limiting for brewers. You mash in, on this one vessel, with the mash in a “basket” (see pics below) with strike water surrounding it. Once the mash stand is done you can lift the basket above the kettle for sparge and lautering. It can work well, making good beer, however it’s limiting when doing multiple batches per day. As you need to finish one batch completely before starting the next one. I’ve seen breweries up to 500 litres with a one-vessel set-up.

Most brewers on a budget have a two-vessel system, with a combined mash/lauter tun and separate brew kettle/whirlpool. You mash into the mash/lauter tun, do the mash rest and then sparge from this vessel to the kettle/whirlpool. You boil the wort in the kettle (adding hops, finings and other ingredients); then after flameout “whirlpool” it to form a “trub cone” in the middle of the vessel. Thus, allowing you to send clear wort to the FV. Having a two-vessel system makes double batching much easier, as you can mash in your second batch whilst the first one is boiling.

Heating System

If you’re on a budget and under 1,000 litres with your system, using electric is a decent option. It’s the cheapest brewery heating method, being less expensive than direct fire and steam to install. Furthermore, if you choose direct fire or steam, restrictions due to local laws or building code, can make your path to opening more troublesome.

Electric in most cases is more expensive to run on a day-to-day basis. Plus, extra money installing the electrical requirements to run the brewhouse maybe needed too You can go above 1,000 litres for an electrical brewhouse however, the power needed becomes expensive at these volumes.

Check out our 4-part article series on the differing heating options available and their pro’s & cons

open a brewery

Heat Exchanger

Heat Exchanger

A heat exchanger “flash cools” wort from the brew kettle as it’s been sent to the FV. Wort is taken from nearly boiling to 7-35°C depending on beer style. You’ll usually have a one or two stage heat exchanger (HXE). A one stage HXE uses cold water from a cold liquor tank to cool the wort down.

A two-stage HXE, uses both municipal water and glycol. The municipal/mains water does the majority of the cooling, with the glycol helping to hit target temp. If you’re on a budget go with a two-stage HXE, as it will mean one less tank needs to be ordered (cold liquor tank).

However, it’ll put more strain on your glycol meaning you may need to turn off cooling to FV’s whilst collecting wort. Plus, also wait for the glycol to get back down to temp before turning cooling back on. If you’ve a one-stage HXE, it’ll lead to more hot water being made. When multi-batch brewing, it’s a nice benefit having more ready mate hot water to work with.

Wort Aeration

After the wort has been cooled by the HXE, you usually aerate it. This helps the yeast leading to healthier fermentations.

The aeration point is usually just after the HXE. It’s not a huge cost to add the equipment to aerate wort and it’s worth the extra investment.

Minimum Brewing Equipment Needed – Fermentation Vessels (FV’s)/Unitanks

Minimum Brewing Equipment Needed

Fermentation Vessels (FV)

So, you’ve made your wort and it needs fermenting. The magic happens in the fermentation vessels where yeast is added. Yeast turns sugar into alcohol plus, oxygen present in the wort to CO2. An FV is usually “jacketed”, with a coil containing glycol between the inner and outer layers to help regulate FV’s temperature. It’s important to control FV’s temp, if you don’t, you’ll get undesirable off-flavours in your final beer. You can have FV’s of different sizes in the same brewery. Usually for one, two and three full batches. So, if you’ve a 500 litre brewhouse, have 500, 1,000 and 1,500 litre FV’s.

The larger FV’s makes it easier to keep your biggest selling beers in stock by brewing multiple batches into one tank. Many FV’s are unitanks too, meaning you can ferment, mature, clear and package wort/beer in the same vessel. If you opt for unitanks over having a dedicated brite beer tanks (please see in the wrap-up), make sure they have carbonation stones included in the design.

Chilling and Glycol

Glycol is the liquid used to chill wort and beer in the brewery. It never comes into contact with beer but, used in the heat exchanger and jackets of your cellar tanks. A glycol system has its own tank, pump, pipework and dedicated chilling units to keep it cold.

Control Panels

To make beer, you need to have a minimum amount of control over the brewhouse and other systems like fermentation. In a brewery, you usually have separate control panels for the brewhouse and FV’s/cellaring tanks. Having one control panel for all vessels is an option, if you’re looking to save money. The downside is you’ll need to walk more on a day-to-day basis. A control panel can be simple push buttons, switches and LCD readouts to show temperatures for the relevant brewery vessels.

Open a brewery

Clean In Place (CIP) Unit

Transfer/CIP Pump or CIP Unit

If you’ve a lean budget, you can opt for a CIP (clean in place) pump with internal spray balls to clean tanks. You add water and chemicals inside the tank, then use the CIP pump to take liquid from the tank bottom, though the pump to a CIP arm and spray ball to clean it.

The other option is a CIP unit, where you store premixed cleaning chemicals and have their own pumps. In larger breweries, CIP units are recommended as you will have hot caustic on demand plus it will save you money on chemical costs too.

Let’s Start to Round-Up

So, there you have it, the minimum equipment needed to commercially brew. With the above equipment you can brew good beer. It’ll be quite labour intensive but you didn’t get into the industry because you thought it’d be easy.

As we said at the start of the article; there’s some equipment recommend to make life easier, the brewery more efficient and provides good ROI’s (return on investment) too. They aren’t necessary but preferred.

Brite Beer Tank (BBT)

We spoke about “unitanks” before, where you ferment through to package beer in the same vessel. You can opt for BBT’s as well. I like to have at least one BBT in a brewery for flexibility. A BBT is used to store clear beer before packaging. You can filter/centrifuge beer out of your FV or add finings on the way to the BBT. Once the beer is clear and at correct carbonation, beer can be packaged direct from tank. I’ve added adjuncts like puree to an FV and sent the beer to the BBT the day before packaging to ensure proper homogenisation before packing. A good guide is to have one 1 BBT for every 4 FV’s

Some people use BBT’s as serving tanks; keeping them in a cold store and then pouring beer direct from tank to the taps at the bar. The reason being, it’s less work serving your popular beers as you reduce the amount of kegging needed.

Cold Room and Keg Cleaner

Minimum Brewing Equipment Needed

Keg Cleaner

In a brewery with onsite taproom, you can use the BBT’s and FV’s as serving tanks too (as mentioned above). It doesn’t make sense to use a tank when it’s less than 35% full. This is when you keg off the beer and reuse the tank for a new brew. If you move beer to kegs, storing them cold will increase the beers shelf-life with most breweries having a walk-in cooler. Breweries will store other brewing material in a walk-in too like yeast and hops.

If you’re using more than 15 kegs a week, it makes sense to have a keg cleaner. Keg cleaners come in a number of sizes to fit brewery needs. You can even make your own simple keg cleaner if you’re on a budget (just be careful). Installing any form of keg cleaner will speed up the process plus lead to less chemicals being used.


The more automation you have in the brewery, the simpler your brewing life and consistency between batches. Automation is expensive but, I like having the ability to step mash for instance, having simple controls to stop the heating of the mash when desired temperature is reached makes life easier.

Minimum Brewing Equipment Needed – Conclusion

There you have it folks; our minimum equipment needed to commercially brew. If you’ve any follow-up questions then please feel free to comment below or email us at: If you’re smart, realistic and do you research, you can make good beer without all the bells and whistles. It’ll mean more manual labour but that’s the trade-off for having lower start-up costs. Also have a listen to our Brewery Equipment Sourcing segment in Series 1 of the podcast.