Azvex

🎉🍻Taproom Turns 2!🍻🎉

Join us on the last weekend of April to celebrate our Taproom's second anniversary!!
-New beer launches 🍻
-Peckish Fried Chicken 🍗
-Beer pong & more! 🔴🍺
NO BOOKING REQUIRED

Shipwrecked Bones & Seasick Heart

Shipwrecked Bones & Seasick Heart

We try to do everything we can to improve our beer here at Azvex and one good way to do that is to test things. We have been making small changes here and there to our hazy beers over the last 6 months or so and wanted to pull together a load of our findings. We are by no means finished on the quest for better beer, but we have hit a milestone where we couldn’t decide if a certain technique makes a beer better, worse or makes no difference at all and would love to hear your thoughts.

The Experiment

Shipwrecked Bones - Can

Shipwrecked Bones – 6.4% IPA with Citra, Mosaic & Amarillo

We brewed 2 identical IPAs – Shipwrecked Bones & Seasick Heart with one single difference. This difference is something that we have done a few times over the last 6 months and can’t decide if it is better or not than our normal process.

To try and not skew the results I will keep the difference under wraps for now and update this blog later. Until then please let us know if you can perceive a difference, which one you prefer, if any and why!

We can be less cryptic than the Surf Maps/Jump Maps combo and tell you that it is a process change. All the ingredients and target measurements are the same.

Shipwrecked Bones - Can

Seasick Heart – 6.4% IPA with Citra, Mosaic & Amarillo

Availability

  • Taproom from 4pm Thursday 6h Apr
  • Online shop and Trade 9am Friday 7th Apr

UPDATE:

Here are the full details!

Purpose

To evaluate the difference between recirculating the dry and a more traditional approach of adding the hops then rousing.

Method

We brewed 2 IPAs back-to-back on the same day with the exact same recipe and process to keep them as close to the same as we could. We fermented them with the same generation yeast crop and ended up with 2 tanks of essentially the same beer. We then dry hopped them both.

With Shipwrecked Bones we recirculated the hops continuously for around 90 minutes before crashing to 0°C immediately after.

With Seasick Heart we threw the hops in the top of the tank as normal then left it for 24 hours before rousing from the bottom with Co2 and roused once more after another 24 hours before crashing to 0°C.

Everything was as very close to perfect:

Shipwrecked Bones

  • 68.1°C Mash Temperature
  • 5.24 Mash pH
  • 1.0640 OG
  • 1.0150 FG
  • Co2 Vols: 2.382 (average in package)
  • 31.7 ppb Total Packaged Oxygen (TPO)

Seasick Heart

  • 67.9°C Mash Temperature
  • 5.23 Mash pH
  • 1.0640 OG
  • 1.0150 FG
  • Co2 Vols: 2.363 (average in package)
  • 20.4 ppb Total Packaged Oxygen (TPO)

Results

Like our experiment with Surf Maps & Jump Maps, we decided to run a triangle test at the Taproom.

A total of 14 people of varying levels of experience participated in this triangle test over one weekend (including the brewery team). We served each person 2 samples of either Shipwrecked Bones or Seasick Heart and 1 sample of the other, this varied over the weekend so we will just call them Beer A and Beer B. Each participant was served 1 sample of beer A and 2 samples of Beer B in different coloured opaque cups then asked to identify the unique sample. While 9 tasters (p<0.05) would have had to accurately identify the unique sample to reach statistical significance, 6 did (p=0.310). This indicates that participants in this triangle test were unable to reliably distinguish between IPAs with a regular dry hop and a recirculated dry hop.

The 6 participants who made the accurate selection on the triangle test were instructed to complete a brief preference survey comparing only the beers that were different. A total of 1 taster reported preferring the Shipwrecked Bones, 4 said they liked Seasick Heart more, and 1 had no preference despite noticing a difference.

Two to three months after release the Untappd scores (at time of writing):

  • Shipwrecked Bones – 4.03
  • Seasick Heart – 4.03

My Impressions: Our whole team tried the test, and we all failed to identify the odd beer out! This was surprising to me as immediately post dry hop the flavour of Shipwrecked Bones was noticeably different from what our finished beers usually taste like. There was more of a soft melon type flavour going on. At that point we thought surely there would be an obvious difference. However, after crashing the hops out and carbonating, they tasted pretty much the same and the dominating melon character had blended into the background of the overall flavour.

Discussion

One of the reasons we started recirculating the hops was to increase the conditioning time of our beers, allowing us to drop out as much solids as possible before packaging. With the huge amount of hops going into these hazy styles it takes a long time to get them back out. If you don’t do this long conditioning step (assuming you don’t have any fancy toys like a centrifuge) then you end up with intense hopburn. You can even still end up with some hopburn with these techniques, depending on the hop varieties. Southern hemisphere hops are particular culprits.

One thing to note that was different was the total packaged oxygen (TPO). When recirculating there is a potential to introduce oxygen into the beer. Oxygen ingress to a finished beer is a very bad thing, and without going into detail, if you let too much oxygen in you end up with horrible brown oxidised beer – unpleasant to taste and look at. With the recirculation we were an average 31.7 ppb and with the regular dry hop we were averaging 20.4 ppb. There is a chance that this affected the final results as there is over 50% more dissolved oxygen in the recirculation beer than the regular dry hop beer. However, it should be noted that below 50ppb is considered very good, but that doesn’t mean the extra 11 ppb couldn’t have made a perceivable difference on two essentially identical beers. Here at Azvex we go to great lengths to keep our TPO levels as low as we can. We very, very rarely see any cans at all above 50ppb which is one factor that helps us achieve that very pale-yellow colour.

Noticing that flavour changed drastically when dropping the hops out, we investigated ways that we could try to capture that initial flavour. Sadly, we don’t have the fancy equipment here to remove the hops any quicker… but our friends at Drop Project do. Very soon they have a collab beer coming out where we tried to do exactly this, recirc the dry hop and get the beer away from the hops as quickly as possible by running through the centrifuge. Did it work? You will have to try it and let us know what you think.

Thanks to everyone that has tried them so far. I hope you enjoyed them! For anyone that hasn’t, there are still a handful left. Maybe try the blind triangle test yourself and see if you can pick the odd one out!

Adam Henderson – Azvex Brewing Co.


Surf Maps & Jump Maps

Surf Maps & Jump Maps

Okay, let’s go! It’s been a LOOOOOONG time since the last blog, so this is well overdue.

Anyone who knows me will know that I love to do these little experiments where I change one variable in a beer to see what impact it has on the final result. This is the first of its kind here at Azvex, so we needed to storm the front and do it with some BIG ones. These two beers have been in the pipeline since before opening so we had to do it with these!

The Experiment

Surf Maps – 8.6% DIPA with Citra, Mosaic & Amarillo

We brewed 2 identical DIPAs – Surf Maps & Jump Maps with one single difference. This difference is something that I have been intrigued about since my homebrewing days but have never actually done a direct comparison with no other changes to get in the way for a definitive finding.

To try and not skew the results I will keep the difference under wraps for now and update this blog later. Until then please report in to let us know what you think it is and which one you prefer (and why!)

However, what I can tell you right now to narrow it down right now is this. Both beers are the same grain, same hops, same water treatment and same yeast.

Jump Maps – 8.6% DIPA with Citra, Mosaic & Amarillo

Availability

UPDATED – Due to delays on kegs we have to push this back a week, sorry 🙁

  • Taproom from 4pm Thursday 4th Aug
  • Online shop 9am Friday 5th Aug
  • Trade 9:30am Monday 8th Aug
  • Taproom from 4pm Thursday 11th Aug
  • Online shop 9am Friday 12th Aug
  • Trade 9:30am Monday 15th Aug

I hope you enjoy drinking these as much as we did making them. Good luck guessing. Go go go!

UPDATE

So, here was the full mission:

Purpose

To evaluate the difference between a 30 min whirlpool and a 60 min whirlpool.

Method

We brewed 2 DIPAs back-to-back with the exact same recipe and process to keep them as close to the same as we could. We ran one with a 5 min WP (whirlpool) followed by a 25min rest (normal for us) and another with a longer 35 min WP followed by a 25 minute rest with idea that longer contact time and more agitation should lead to more hop oil extraction.

To try and offset any increase in bitterness the WP temperature was kept low.

Everything was pretty much spot on but here are the minor measured differences between the beers:

Surf Maps

  • 64.7°C Mash Temperature
  • 5.31 Mash pH
  • Co2 Vols: 2.4141 (average in package)
  • WP time: 30 mins
  • WP temperature: 69.9°C

Jump Maps

  • 64.5°C Mash Temperature
  • 5.28 Mash pH
  • Co2 Vols: 2.4058 (average in package)
  • WP time: 60 mins
  • WP temperature: 69.7°C

Results

I decided to run a triangle test at the Taproom for this one.

A total of 30 people of varying levels of experience participated in this triangle test over one weekend. We served each person 2 samples of either Surf Maps or Jump Maps and 1 sample of the other, this varied over the weekend so we will just call them Beer A and Beer B. Each participant was served 1 sample of beer A and 2 samples of Beer B in different coloured opaque cups then asked to identify the unique sample. While 15 tasters (p<0.05) would have had to accurately identify the unique sample in order to reach statistical significance, 11 did (p=0.415), indicating participants in this triangle test were unable to reliably distinguish between DIPAs with a 30min difference in whirlpool time.

The 11 participants who made the accurate selection on the triangle test were instructed to complete a brief preference survey comparing only the beers that were different. A total of 3 tasters reported preferring the Surf Maps, 3 said they liked Jump Maps more, and 5 had no preference despite noticing a difference.

Untappd scores (at time of writing):

  • Surf Maps – 4.25
  • Jump Maps – 4.2

My Impressions: Our whole team and myself tried it and all of us got it wrong. Normally I would have done the test a few times but from that very first test I knew that I couldn’t tell, and my choice was essential a guess. To me both beers tasted the same despite knowing what the variable was.

We did taste them very fresh so there is a possibility that time will help highlight the difference so we will probably re-take the test in a month or so to see if we can spot it then.

Discussion

The one area that could present a difference is the bitterness level of the beer, sadly we can’t measure the IBUs here, but it is very possible that Jump Maps is more bitter. Using the modified version of the Tinseth equation for predicted IBUs, Surf Maps comes in at 11.9 IBUs from the WP and Jump Maps comes in 15.3 IBUs so a theoretical 3.4 IBU difference.

It is possible that the dry hop overshadowed any perceivable difference the WP made. Our whole team tried the beers post fermentation and pre dry hop and all identified the odd one out. However, with the beer being unfinished any yeast or trub etc in suspension could easily have made them taste different so we can’t definitively say that the WP was the difference maker. One thing to note is, interestingly, no one said one tasted hoppier or more bitter than the other at that point.

It would be fun to see this test again in a beer that wasn’t dry hopped or maybe not a DIPA where the dry hop is large compared with other hoppy styles.

Thanks to everyone that has tried them so far. I hope you enjoyed them! For anyone that hasn’t, there are still a few left. Maybe try the blind triangle test yourself and see if you can pick the odd one out!

Adam Henderson – Azvex Brewing Co.


Installation, Testing, Calibration & Commissioning

Installation, Testing, Calibration & Commissioning

The floor is in, the boiler is in, the chiller is in, the cooling circuit is in, the cold room is in and it’s just the brew kit left?! So just plumb in the brew kit then we are off right? Not quite but almost!

When that key date of the first brew is in sight there are just a few things left to do. Very important things that often get compressed, rushed or skipped entirely on this type of project. This is usually due to timeframe and/or financial pressures. These sorts of projects where you have to build and install a large plant are almost always late and over budget so when the end is in sight there is a tendency to just push the project over the line instead of completing the final stages correctly. This is not a brewing industry specific thing but across all industries.

The Azvex project is a perfect example of this. The equipment spent over 2 and a half months in transit to get here where the normal transit time for the route is 35 days. The cost of shipping right now is around 500% more than it was in 2019 which is causing many people and businesses a real problem, including me! This single element of the project has added huge delays and cost so you can imagine how quickly this gets out of hand when you factor in every step. This project is relatively small so although the increasing costs and delays have caused me real pain I had contingency plans in place and was still be able to complete these last few bits of work before the first brew which by the way, IS FINALLY IN THE TANK!

Installation

The first of these things is installation. This is the obvious one, so I won’t spend too much time on it. When any equipment arrives, you have install it in some way before you can use it. This might be as simple as setting it on a desk or plugging it into the socket on the wall but for a whole brewery there are a few more bits to it. Overall, it is quite straight forward and essentially a big 3D jigsaw. However, it is important to not overlook things. For example, the correct nuts, bolts, gaskets etc. should be used to prevent failure or an accident causing injury or worse.

Pictures of the Azvex Brewhouse Installation

Testing

Alarm code on the glycol chiller

To get everything up and running in the brewery it is important to test things as you go. One good example is the chiller unit which cools the fermentation tanks. Once the cooling circuit has been constructed you should test it to ensure that there are no leaks and it holds the desired pressure before running the compressor, before adding any glycol and before adding pipe lagging. If this testing step is skipped and you do have a leak it will be much harder to fix as it won’t be known until later. The location of the leak will probably be covered up so you will have to remove a load of insulation to look for it and even then, the circuit will likely be cold and will form condensation making it very hard to find.

Ironically, I didn’t even follow my own advice here. We filled the thermal fluid system before leak testing. We did this for the exact reason above – time pressures. We needed to book a commissioning slot in a few weeks in advance when we hadn’t even done the pipework for it. We had only just finished assembling it the day of and didn’t have time to do the leak test before the committed date. We were so short on time that we were filling it during the start of commissioning! Guess what, it leaked. It leaked quite significantly, and we couldn’t resolve it during commissioning, so it had to be redone – all gaskets replaced and commissioning rebooked. Not only did trying to squeeze this in by skipping a step not save me any time it actually added more time as it took around a week of full-time effort to resolve the leak issue.

Calibration

Calibration is an area that doesn’t get anywhere near enough attention in small breweries as it should. It is a way of making sure the instrumentation outputs data with an acceptable level of uncertainty for the application. In breweries there are many parameters which are important and measured at various points. These measured values are used to make key decisions and to ensure the beer is in spec (and in some cases safe to drink!) so it is very important the device outputting this data is calibrated.

Take temperature for example. If a beer is to be fermented at 19°C or the mash is supposed to be at 65°C what do you do? Most people/systems look at the temperature probe readout and manipulate the process to get the 19°C or the 65°C they need. But how do you know that this 19°C or 65°C you are looking at on the readout is correct? Do you just think ”that’s what it says so it must be right”? Well a lot of people do exactly this and a lot of the time the readout is wrong. The reason for this is that it either isn’t calibrated or the results of any calibration that has been done isn’t known. Depending on the instrumentation used to measure the temperature the error can be several degrees Celsius, this difference can cause unacceptable changes to the intended beer. In the fermentation tank it can be the difference between healthy and unhealthy fermentation, it can also lead to fusel alcohols, diacetyl and other off flavors. In the mash it can be the difference between light and full body in the finished beer or over or under attenuation. Here it is clear that we need a certain level of accuracy to make sure that we are not a few degrees out from what we think the temperature is. To do this the instrument needs to be calibrated. There are simple crude methods to do this such as putting the probe in boiling water and making sure it reads 100°C and then into ice water and making sure it reads 0°C however this isn’t very accurate, the calibrated output range here is 0-100°C and you are assuming that it is linear (I have used this method in the past). The operating range for most temperature measurements in brewing is far smaller than the 100 degrees range so a better way is to take more than two carefully selected calibration points. One at the bottom, one at the top and one or more in the middle. If you never go hotter than 25°C and colder than -1°C then this is the range you should calibrate in. This is a more complicated process (and also more complex than my simple explanation here) so it needs specialist equipment and processes. Normally a small business won’t do this themselves, they will send it off to a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited lab. There is a cost involved but if you want to be sure that the measurements you are using to make your product are accurate then this is really the only safe way.

Calibrating the 4-20mA temperature transmitters

That said, there are other measurements that don’t require high accuracy and as long as it’s “close enough” then it doesn’t matter. One example is pressure in cooling loop. If it can operate anywhere between 1 and 3 bar pressure then assuming the gauge actually works, setting it to 2 bar is probably in the range you need. This can save time and money but you have to be sure that it really doesn’t matter if you are leaving something uncalibrated.

So next time you look at a measurement ask yourself how certain you are that it is correct or accurate enough? Has it been calibrated? Is it traceable back to UKAS? If the answers are no, are you still happy to use the data?

Commissioning

Pictures of the brewhouse at various points during commissioning

This is the final step before you can get up and running. It is a way of confirming that the system (or subsystem) operates how you expect it to. E.g. when you press the “lauter pump on” button that the lauter pump actually comes on. When you set the speed of that pump to 30L/min that it actually runs at 30L/min. Or when you set the cooling jacket to come on above 2°C and go off again at 0°C that this actually happens. For large plants then a full commissioning plan should be created and followed which is an extensive bit of work. However if you have a relatively simple plant (e.g. minimal or no automation) then you can probably cover all of this by running the system in all the ways you would do normally, e.g. wort production and transfer, cooling though the heat exchanger, running the CIP cycle etc. You can do this with only water the first time around which should catch most of the issues. Once you are happy that you can do everything as expected with the water then you can do a commissioning brew, which is what I have done. In the past I have done this with older stock because there is a good chance the beer would be going down the drain anyway. This time around I had to do it with regular stock as I have some equipment that can’t be commissioned unless the beer is made as intended. It is an expensive step but I believe in this instance it is a sensible step as the entire plant and all auxiliary equipment is new so everything needs to be commissioned. If something didn’t work correctly on the production beers then things would be a whole lot worse.

And finally, what you all wanted to hear – the beer will finally be out in the next few weeks! Signup now to be the first to hear and not miss out on the releases.

Now that production is underway it may be a little longer before the next blog but at least there will be beer to hold you over in between!

Adam Henderson – Azvex Brewing Co.


Brewery Flooring

Brewery Flooring

Besides the brewhouse and how you decide to heat it, the one other big decision to make is the choice of flooring. It is also one of the decisions many people get very wrong when setting up a brewery.

Why do people get this wrong?

It really comes down to lack of experience. To be clear I am not criticizing anyone here as I have also made this mistake myself. The cost of a properly designed and installed hygienic floor is eye watering. Several tens of thousands of pounds is what it takes and you don’t even get a lot of floor area for that! This is particularly difficult for a new brewery to swallow when all the other start-up costs involved are also eye watering. It is all too tempting to say “I can get away without a proper floor, at least for now anyway” to try and save some money. However, once you have committed to this decision you quickly realise it wasn’t a good saving at all. Ask any brewery who did this and I am certain they will agree.

Flooring finish options

Pictures of the Azvex flooring installation

There are a few options but the most common ones are polyurethane resin, ceramic tiles or skipping this altogether and going with straight up concrete.

The resin and ceramic tile options are (very) expensive but offer great chemical and thermal resistance which is needed in the brewery. To do the job properly you screed the floor to create falls into a drainage channel. This allows any liquid on the surface to naturally find its way into the drain. This is another step that is often skipped to save money but if you don’t create the falls then you end up with pooling which is unhygienic and results in loads of manual labour to squeegee it all into the drains. Most brewers know this fun task all too well… With resin or tiles you also have various options to make it non-slip. As the floor is pretty much always wet this is important for the safety of the team.

In the brewery you use a wide range of chemicals throughout the day and of course lots of water. You are constantly dumping liquids onto the floor and spraying down or cleaning the floor. If you don’t opt for a proper finish and stick with bare concrete then all these chemicals eats into it. This is a problem because the concrete starts to pit and crack where it then becomes impossible to clean and nasty bacteria and moulds can start to grow there. Once it starts it accelerates pretty rapidly until the floor becomes a real problem. With a proper finish it is much easier to clean and harder for these nasties to grow. At some point, for cleaning or otherwise you will spray your floor. This water splashes up and it goes everywhere. If you have bare concrete or a floor that harbours bacteria this bacteria also goes everywhere, including the connections of your tanks and hoses. No one wants that.

Drainage options

You can have channels or point drains or anything in between but the key things are: fluid must flow to the outlet and the construction materials must be able to survive the harsh environment of the brewery. For it to be hygienic then you really need to go with stainless as it’s very easy to clean. But like everything in brewing it is very expensive so this is another area that corners are often cut (again I have been as guilty of this as anyone). Many people end up going with the polymer concrete or polypropylene channels as they are a fraction of the price. While they can work they are far from ideal. I have seen many breweries where the channel has been damaged in some way which leads to cracking, leaks and all the issues that come as a result. This damage can be from the chemicals we use in brewing, from things being dropped or forklift trucks constantly running over them. These cheaper channels link together with seals which usually don’t hold up well against the cleaning chemicals used so quickly fail and then you have problems. It’s not easy to fix a channel concreted into the floor. With stainless it can be fully welded so there is no real risk of leaks. One other problem that I have experienced with the cheaper channels is they often come with galvanised steel gratings which corrode and last all of 5 minutes in the brewery environment so you either have to replace them or remove them which then ends up as a trip hazard.

To get the liquid into the sewer the best option is to cut a channel into the floor and go straight to the manhole using gravity to drain into it. However, the foul manhole is often nowhere near where you want the floor to be and you guessed it, it is not a cheap job to connect it. To get around this many people go with a sump pump solution where you dig a pit (like a manhole) then use a submerged pump with a float switch to pump it out and over to the waste outlet of the building. This is the solution that I went with last time and I won’t be doing it again. These pumps will have moved thousands of litres of liquid mixed with harsh chemicals at a wide range of temperatures early into their operational life. They often fail, trip out or become disconnected to the outlet line all of which ends up with lots of horrible waste all over the floor that you then need to clean up. I have done this myself more times that I would like. The other issue with this sump pit solution is they are very difficult to keep clean. You have horrible stagnant water sitting at the bottom all the time and this attracts flies. Breweries attract flies anyway so this amplifies the problem. If you designed it properly with a sealed chamber and redundant pumps etc. I am sure it could work well but if you ask me – go direct to the manhole.

In summary

Flooring isn’t the most exciting topic but it is incredibly important. It costs a huge amount of money which might not seem worth it at first glance but it pays dividends over time. Think of it like a bit of key equipment that is used all day every day or how many hours labour can be saved over 5 years by not having to deal with problems, clean up mess or squeegee water all the time.

If you have been following my blogs and you take only a single piece of advice from me then make sure it is this – Don’t skimp on the floor, you will regret it.

The tanks will be here in just a few weeks which means beer will follow soon after. Signup now and don’t miss out!

Adam Henderson – Azvex Brewing Co.


Location! Location! Location!

Location! Location! Location!

Liverpool! Liverpool! Liverpool! That’s right, Azvex Brewing Co. will set up camp in the incredible city of Liverpool!

This will come as a bit of a surprise to most of you but I thought long and hard about where to base Azvex and one thing that became clear to me while I was doing this was that I was completely free to do it wherever I wanted. There was a fresh canvas in front of me with which I could do absolutely anything with. I was not tied to anything or anywhere, I had complete freedom and flexibility.

I am not from Liverpool, nor have I even lived there (yet) but I have visited several times and every time it has been fantastic. It is an amazing city for many reasons: the people, architecture, tourism, music, football, the list goes on. It is also known as one of the best cities in the country for nights out. There are hundreds of great bars and restaurants in the city. However, in the context of this post, Liverpool is rarely referred to as being a “beer” city. Why this is I am unsure as all the ingredients for an amazing beer scene are there – the bars, the breweries, the people. Liverpool has gone through a huge and impressive regeneration over the last 10-15 years with loads more planned over the next 30. I feel that the city is right on the cusp of becoming even more exciting than it already is, including being known for its beer. There have been some great new additions to the city’s beer scene over the last couple of years and hopefully Azvex can further add to this. One local brewery in particular deserves a mentioning here – Carnival Brewing Company, as they are now my new neighbours!

Azvex Brewing Co. – Unit 16

I have spent the best part of a year trying to find the right space and I have finally found it. Situated on King Edward Rise in Unit 16 you will find Azvex. It is on the north edge of the city centre, only a short walk away from the major rail links and other city centre attractions. Sometime soon (very soon) I should be able to open the doors to welcome you in.

One of the most important things for any business is location. What do you need it to be? Size, layout, accessibility, utilities, parking, footfall, price, expansion etc. are all words that go through your mind.

For me, I want to build a brewery so the key things I need are a large space with a sensible layout, HGV accessibility, three phase electric, large mains gas supply, good quality water, good water pressure and drainage. These are things that you can get in a lot of places but on top of this I want a taproom. This adds some harder to meet requirements. I need good links to the city centre and/or public transport. Onsite parking is also a desirable for anyone who wants to pick up. Finding a big open space building in a location like this which has the correct use class or can be changed to the correct use class is much harder than it might seem. I spent many months on this with more places falling through than I can count but I have finally found what I believe to be the perfect spot.

So there you have it. Azvex will be a Liverpool based brewery. I am 100% committed to this project. My family and I are moving to Liverpool and we are putting everything we have into it. Hopefully Azvex will become a great asset and addition to what is already a great city.

Progress update

The work has already started. Here are a few pics for you all to see.

Besides the above, there are other more boring things that need to be done. I said that I would cover the necessary things for starting a brewery so here is the status of everything:

  • Brewhouse plant – Completed manufacturer and is on the water!
  • Canning line – Completed manufacture
  • Process heating boiler – Completed manufacture
  • Flooring/drainage – In progress right now
  • Cold room – Work planned in
  • Brewery cooling system – Ordered
  • Premises licence – Complete
  • Planning permission – Submitted, in progress
  • Site layout plan – Complete
  • NRU/HMRC registration – Complete
  • AWRS registration – Submitted, in progress
  • Trade effluent permit – Submitted, in progress
  • Hop contracts – In place
  • Recruitment – A couple or opportunities are available very soon. Apply here!

Now that I have access to the site the countdown timer can begin. I am optimistic that I can get beer out to you all by the end of the summer. To keep up to date signup with the relevant link below.

Adam Henderson – Azvex Brewing Co.


Process Heating for Breweries

Heating Options

One early decision that you have to make when choosing a brewhouse (and a site) is how you are going to heat the process. Heating is an essential step in brewing (mostly done in the kettle tank) as it is the one which typically makes the product safe to drink. The heat generated kills off any nasty bacteria etc. that has found its way into the product either via the raw materials or the water supply.

There are 3 common ways that breweries heat the process: Electric elements; direct/indirect fire gas; or steam jackets. Which one you choose has a big knock on effect to the overall cost of the project, the utilities required, the time needed to make the beer, the quality of the beer itself and a bunch of other more detailed factors.

As with most things in brewing there are multiple variations of these options but let’s look at each of the basic configurations and their pros and cons.

Electric Elements

This is pretty much as it sounds. Electric heating elements are usually inside the tank (very much like the kettle in your kitchen). The elements turn the electricity into heat and the heat is transferred to the liquid until you get to the temperature you desire.

The key advantage is that electric elements are the cheapest and easiest way to get operational. Elements are relatively cheap and you can add more of them to get enough power to boil within a reasonable timeframe. Most breweries use 3-phase elements and have 2 or 3 installed into the kettle. Most commercial sites have 3 phase available so it’s a simple job for an electrician to wire them up and then you’re up and running. Electric elements are also very easy to control so connecting them up to some form of automatic control is very simple. Another advantage is that they are less of a safety concern as there are no concerns about gas/carbon monoxide leaks or dangerous open flames.

However this comes at a price as there are a few disadvantages to electric heating. Firstly it takes quite some time to get to the boil point even with 3 or so elements. You can be waiting 60-90 minutes or even longer to get to the boil after you have transferred all the liquid into the tank (the lautering step). This adds a lot of extra time to the day and also creates a bottle neck if you want to brew more than once.  If you decide to add more elements to speed things up you might increase the demand on the electrical supply to the point that you need to upgrade it. 3 x 18kW elements draws a lot of current! Secondly, electric is expensive compared to gas so although the upfront cost is cheaper the running costs are considerably higher per brew. Another issue is that cleaning them is a real pain. As the heat source is concentrated to localised points at very high temperatures, well above boiling, they build up lots of burnt on proteins and sugars so at the end of the day you need to get in there to give them a real scrub. This leads on to what is probably the biggest disadvantage – reduced beer quality. This carbon build-up breaks away from the elements and into the beer. If you don’t do an excellent job cleaning the elements every time then you can end up with smoky or rubbery flavours in the finished beer.

Electric heating elements

Direct/Indirect Fire Gas

Indirect fire gas heating coil – Credit Pentrich Brewing Co.

A direct fire gas setup consists of a gas burner fit to the outside of the kettle. The burner blows a flame into a contained box fixed to the underside of the kettle to heat it. The indirect method is similar but instead blows the heat from the flame into a chamber within or around the tank. In the UK it is common to see an indirect gas configuration where the heat is blown into a coil tube which sits inside the kettle.

One major advantage of this solution is that it is much quicker than electric. You should be able to get to the boil as you are finishing the lautering step or at least a short time after. This reduces the time needed to make the wort on brew day. Another is that it’s cheaper to run on gas than electric. Finally there is a much higher surface to liquid ratio so the chance of scorching is lower, particularly so for the coil design (but still very much possible due to the high temperatures). This means better quality beer and less scrubbing (although you probably still have to get in to clean it fully).

Direct/indirect fire systems have higher up-front costs, both from an equipment cost and also installation. There are also safety issues – you are working with gas and fire so there are regulatory requirements that need to be met as well as regular maintenance to complete, all this further increases the price. Although they are quicker to get to the desired temperature than electric elements they are relatively energy inefficient which isn’t great for the environment. Therefore as you can probably guess they consume a good amount of gas, if you don’t have a big enough supply (or a gas supply at all) to the building then you may need to look at storing lots of bulk gas. Holding this on site brings yet further safety and security issues which also have to be addressed, again at a cost.

Steam Jackets

A steam jacket heating solution requires a chamber between the inside tank wall and the outside tank wall. Steam is pushed through this chamber (creating a “jacket”) which heats up the metal surface of the tank and this transfers the heat into the process. The steam is generated by using a gas boiler (or an electric boiler but this is not common) where water is fed through the heated section and becomes steam. This steam is pressurised and fed to the tank jackets. The steam condenses inside the jacket and leaves as hot water to be turned back into steam by the boiler. This state change from gas to liquid releases a large amount of heat energy into the process.

Steam jacket designs are very fast to reach the designed temperature. It has the biggest surface to liquid ratio so coupled with the high energy transfer into the process it heats the wort very quickly so you should have no trouble reaching the boil by the end of lautering if not before! They are also very energy efficient so coupled with running on gas they have lower running costs. From a quality standpoint, the pressurised steam is only a little higher than the 100°C needed to boil the wort therefore there is almost no chance of scorching resulting in the best beer quality. They are also very easy to clean with proper clean in place (CIP). No need to get in to clean these tanks!

Steam heating process example – Credit Watson McDaniel

As great as steam systems are they come with disadvantages. They are very expensive to buy and integrate into the system vs the above options, lots extra pipework and an expensive boiler. All this takes up loads of space and a lot of time to install and commission. Steam is also quite dangerous, the system is pressurised so there is a real safety hazard if it were to fail. We have all seen a steam pipe burst on TV/video games and none of us want to be anywhere near one when it does. Sadly steam leak incidents do happen and there are operators who have been severely injured and killed as a result. Due to these major safety concerns there are further regulatory controls, maintenance requirements you must comply with for steam on top of what you already have for just running gas. To further enforce this you can’t get insurance if you haven’t complied.

There are a few other rare options such as using an open flame under the tank like a giant pot on a stove. These other options are less common and for good reason. The very first system I brewed on was like this and it took about another 2 hours AFTER the transfer to get to the boil for only 300L!

So which one have I selected for the Azvex brewhouse?

None of the above.

As mentioned, these 3 solutions above are the most common but I have chosen to go for an uncommon approach – Thermal fluid.

Thermal fluid heating systems are very similar to steam jacket systems. Instead of pushing steam through the jacket you push a hot food grade fluid through the jacket to transfer the heat. Due to the similar design the upfront and installation costs are also similar.

Why would I go for something that is not common?

There are a few reasons. Steam solutions rely on a state change from gas to liquid to transfer the energy, to achieve boiling you need to pressurise the system which has safety implications as mentioned above. Thermal fluid on the other hand can be up to many hundreds of degrees at atmospheric pressure and remain liquid, therefore there is no requirement to pressure the system because we only need a little over 100°C for brewing. This removes a large amount of safety implications. If you get a leak it is a mere drip, not a jet spray like turning on a power hose if it were pressurised. Steam boilers are very efficient but when using a correctly specified thermal fluid the efficiency is even greater! I won’t bore anyone with the thermodynamics or fluid mechanics here but put simply the thermal fluid has better heat transfer properties than water/steam for this application leading to lower energy costs, lower CO2 emissions and faster heating times. Another great advantage over steam is it is very low maintenance. You fill the system up with the fluid and run it without much further interaction. Steam however is different, you need to treat the water regularly to remove solids otherwise you will have scale build-up leading in poor efficiency and premature failure, you also need to control the pH as the steam can become corrosive which will ultimately lead to a pipe failure. Losses in steam systems mean that top up water is also needed. Thermal fluid systems don’t have this issue.

Thermal fluid heating process example – Credit Pirobloc

This all sounds great doesn’t it? Well it is but there are of course down sides or a lot more people would be using it. Thermal fluid is actually fairly common in processing plants including food and beverage applications, just not in breweries. The main reason for this is that steam is incredibly usefully to a brewery. It is great for sanitising and cleaning. Keg and cask washers are a prime example. If you heat with steam then you have steam readily available on site for free which is a real bonus. Another disadvantage is availability when there is a failure. There are lots of spare boilers and parts available to get you back up and running on steam but they are less available for thermal fluid solutions. Mine was built to order.

In summary, there are lots of factors to consider when choosing how to heat your brewhouse, as with most things in brewing this ties in closely with budget, constraints and quality. Every project is different so there is no real right or wrong answer but for me the solution was to go with thermal fluid.

What’s the current status?

The brewhouse has completed manufacture and the factory acceptance test (FAT) so will be shipping imminently!

I also expect to get the keys to the site in the coming weeks (hopefully days!) which will mean the real work can start in preparation for the brewhouse arriving (more on this next time). In the meantime, here is a little look at the manufacturing progress.

The Azvex Brewhouse – Final stages of the build

Completed Azvex Fermenter Vessels (FVs)

It is getting closer and closer to the date of the first brew so to keep in the loop, signup using the relevant link below.

I told you this update would come much quicker, and so will the next one…

Adam Henderson – Azvex Brewing Co.


Ordering a Brewhouse

What took so long?!

It seems like ages ago I started this project and posted that first blog, and it has been! I know it has been quiet but that hasn’t been because nothing has been happening. It is actually quite the opposite, lots of stuff has been going on. Unfortunately, a lot of it was going around in circles but there has been enough bad news this past year so that story is for another time…

The Brewhouse

It will come as no surprise that the key purchase you make when setting up a brewery is the brewhouse itself (including the cellar side, fermentation vessels (FVs), brite tanks etc.). Therefore, as you would expect I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about what I want and who to go to for it.

I have chosen to work with Bespoke Brewing Solutions to manufacture the brewhouse. I have worked with them before so I know they are able to produce excellent quality equipment, great service and provide exceptional value for money. Over the last 8 months or so I have been working closely with them to design a fully customised brewhouse, all to my specifications and to suit my chosen site. Every time I have spoken to them they have been very helpful and accommodating with my requirements (and I have had some very niche ones), so I am very excited to be working with them to deliver their first 4-vessel brewhouse!

What is a 4-vessel brewhouse you ask? Well first let me cover what options you typically have and why you would or wouldn’t choose them. The brewhouse needs to perform the following steps to make the wort which we then turn into beer. Typically, there are 3 necessary steps in the process with a final optional 4th step. These are:

  1. Mashing (done in a mash tun)
  2. Lautering (done in a lauter tun)
  3. Boiling (done in a kettle)
  4. Clarification (done in a whirlpool or hop back) – Optional

I won’t cover the actual brewing process or what happens in each step because there are many books and websites that can do a far better job explaining this than I can.

2-Vessel Brewhouses

A 2-vessel system is typically a combined mash/lauter tun as the first vessel and a combined kettle/whirlpool as the second. Or if you have a slightly fancier setup a combined mash/kettle/whirlpool and a separate lauter tun but either way, it is as it sounds – 2 vessels.

These systems are very common for small breweries, especially so in little brewpub type setups. If you don’t intend on doing more than one brew per day or you are limited on space and budget, then this is a good choice.

3-Vessel Brewhouses

A 3-vessel system has three common formats. One is a combined mash/lauter tun, separate kettle and sperate whirlpool. One is a combined mash/kettle, separate lauter tun and separate whirlpool. And the last one is sperate mash tun, separate lauter tun and combined kettle/whirlpool.

Once a brewery hits a certain size, it makes sense to brew the target amount of beer by brewing more times per day on a smaller sized 3-vessel system than less times on a larger 2-vessel system. It allows flexibility in the schedule and gives the brewer the ability to adjust any errors in gravity there may be from the first turn (brew) of the day. This also allows the brewery to get either small FVs and brew once to fill or larger FVs and fill them by double or triple brewing into them. Either way it is possible to do all of this in a single day.

4-Vessel Brewhouses

A 4-vessel system as you may have guessed by now, is where all these stages are separate. Separate mash tun, separate lauter tun, separate kettle and sperate whirlpool.

4-vessel breweries are a great choice for modern brewing, especially considering how the use of hot side hopping has changed over recent years with most of it going into the whirlpool as opposed to the kettle. Having separate vessels for each step gives the greatest flexibility on what you can do with it. One example of this for modern hop forward styles is to whirlpool at cooler temperatures than boiling. There are a few ways of doing this but going from the kettle via a shell-and-tube or tube-in-tube heat exchanger to the whirlpool are great options (the latter is what I am going to do). It allows you it bring the temperature down very quickly without the risk of clogging your plate heat exchanger which I have unfortunately done more times that I would like. I’m sure there will be brewers out there reading this who have shared this pain.

There are other variants of these setups with dual kettles etc. but ultimately, they are all trying to achieve one or more of the associated advantages (given below).

What are the pros and cons of each option?

A brewery with fewer hot side brewhouse vessels is cheaper to buy and install (less stainless steel, pumps, pipes etc.) which is obviously an attractive feature. Fewer vessels also mean the smallest physical brewery footprint which allows the brewery to be squeezed into a smaller space (again saving on cost – lower rent, business rates etc.). However, this comes with a couple of compromises. The fewer the vessels the more doubling up of functionality so the tank designs are not optimal as they must be able to do multiple steps in the brewing process. When you get to a certain size output your bottleneck becomes the number of brews per day you can achieve. The fewer the tanks the tighter that bottleneck and the fewer brews per day. Once you hit this maximum limit then it is an expensive upgrade to increase capacity.

On the other hand, a brewery with more hot side vessels is more expensive to buy and install (more stainless, pumps, pipes, etc.) and takes up more space on the brewery floor. The more you add, the more complex it becomes which can then impact the operability of the system. It may become difficult to use or to learn how to use adding even further cost to provide solutions to these difficulties. It also may increase maintenance and other associated costs. So why bother with all this? There are significant positives to outweigh the negatives. The more vessels you have the less compromise there is in the design as you can have tanks designed specifically for the step in the process they carry out which increases efficiency and the overall quality of the beer. You can also cascade the brews through the system. If the maximum step time (including transfer) in any one tank is 120 mins then technically you can start a batch every 120 mins! This means that the more brewhouse vessels you have the more beer you can produce in a single day without adding more or bigger equipment. You can start small and know you have lots of room for growth before having to purchase more expensive equipment.

The Azvex 4-vessel brewhouse

Over the years I have been brewing on the commercial scale I have come to appreciate the true value in well-designed quality equipment and the impact it has not only on the quality of your beer but also on planning ahead into the future and the problems you encounter if you don’t have it. I opted for the 4-vessel option because of the advantages listed above. My goal is to make the best beer I possibly can, so I have gone for the best I can possibly get within my budget. I like to create various types of beer and having dedicated vessels for each step in the brewing process will allow me to create them as efficiently as possible with the greatest flexibility and maximum quality.  Whether I want to make multiple different beers in one day or make a lot of the same beer in one day I will have this capability and the design of brewhouse will enable me to do it in the best way I can.

One of the first stages of designing the system is to get the piping and Instrumentation diagram (P&ID) the way you want it. This is a crucial step as the operability, maintainability, flexibility, and configurability are all directly linked to this. The P&ID determines how each tank is interconnected, where all the valves for directing the flows are and where the instrumentation for measurements e.g. temperature are taken in relation to the plant equipment. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you see it) I was a Control Systems Engineer before moving into brewing, so I have seen and worked on my fair share of P&IDs! This background in engineering alongside my brewing experience has been extremely valuable as I am familiar with typical operability and maintainability issues and how they can be designed out. I was able to draw out how I wanted the process to work in this P&ID format which gives a baseline for designing the physical layout and informs the routing of the pipework.

The Azvex Brewhouse 3D Model

The Azvex P&ID

You might be thinking, “This sounds overly complicated, can’t you just have a few giant stainless pots with some hose connecting them up together?!”. The answer is yes, you absolutely can! This is exactly what I did in the early days when I started out, so it is all I have ever worked with to date. This will be the first 4-vessel system I have ever used (only 2 vessel systems before this) and the first fully interconnected brewhouse I have used. In the past I have essentially just used brewer’s hoses to make the connections and moved them from tank to tank as and when needed to move the product to the next step. Over time I gradually replaced most of these hose connections with random lengths of stainless and valves. It ultimately worked well for me but ended up a very Heath Robinson type system. This is a completely valid (and common) approach, but it is labour intensive, time consuming and is very prone to human error as I learned the hard way.

I won’t go into specific details on the individual tanks here but there is one more first for me here which I have to share… and wait for it… this will be the first time I have had or worked on a lauter tun that digs itself out! To most of you this will not mean much but any brewer out there who has worked on basic equipment will be able to tell you why this excites me so much. Believe me, once you have spent some real time digging out spent grain you begin to appreciate just how great this is, albeit simple!

What’s the current status?

I have placed the order for my brewhouse, the design is complete and is in manufacture so now it’s a waiting game. However, there is plenty of work to be getting on with in the meantime. I have been working with my chosen flooring supplier to lock in the details and costs. I have chosen and ordered a process heating boiler which has now completed manufacture and I have been working with the installer to make sure it integrates smoothly into the overall system. I will cover both flooring and heating in separate blogs as they are both equally as important as each other and depending on who you ask, also as important as the brewhouse itself!

The Azvex Brewery Layout – Notice just how much space the 4-vessel setup takes up!

Things are picking up pace now so the next update will come much, much quicker than this one did. Although there is still a little way to go, beer is now on the horizon! If you want to be first to hear when it becomes available, signup using the relevant link below.

Stay tuned, stay safe and please be patient!

Adam Henderson – Azvex Brewing Co.


Welcome to Azvex Brewing Company!

Welcome to Azvex Brewing Company!

I am absolutely driven and fully committed to delivering the best beer I am capable of and offer the best possible experience for my customers. For many years now I have spent countless hours researching, brewing and experimenting to improve my understanding of beer and my ability to make better and better beer. I have also spent even more hours learning about running a business and how I can improve it to better benefit my customers. I have therefore created Azvex to achieve these goals.

So where to start? Why I am setting up another brewery is a good place…

In 2015 I founded Neon Raptor Brewing Company with the intent of making the best beer I could possibly make and organically grow the business into something special. Due to the COVID-19 situation, for the first time in a very long time, I have been able to take a step back from the non-stop work required to run and manage a brewery and really think about things. I realised that the way Neon Raptor was structured and the business relationship with my business partners wasn’t working for me. I needed to change things to enable me to achieve my goals. After some soul searching, research and planning I decided that the best way forward, for me, was to set up a new brand and brewhouse to give me the platform I need to make achieving my goals possible. I have since sold off my stake in Neon Raptor. Azvex now has my full-time commitment.

What’s the current status?

I have been working on this new project for a couple of months now and have spent all of that time planning how to do things the way I feel is correct. I am very happy with my plan and what I have in store for everyone and have absolutely no doubt that this time I will do everything better. During the process of setting up this new project I will be able to make use of the million and one lessons I have learnt from my first time around, which truly is invaluable. There is a long list of things that I plan to implement at the new brewery, some of which are new things to me, others are improvements on what I have done before. It is all very exciting!

Azvex Brewing Co. will give me the ability to grow and improve my capability across all disciplines of running a brewery and business, which in turn, will help me create the best beer and experience for you all to enjoy.

On my last project I never documented the brewery setup but thought I should do that this time. When someone (myself included) considers starting up a brewery they have a lot of questions: How much does this cost? What permissions do I need to get? How long will this take? Can I buy that later? etc. As I have been through this before I have a much better idea of what to expect so I will document the steps I take on this blog which will hopefully help someone else further down the line.

The name, Azvex Brewing Co.

It is a made-up name; it isn’t the name of a thing or place. It doesn’t exist, or at least it didn’t until now. There are several reasons I wanted this (I am already using the lessons learnt from last time!):

  1. No IP infringement issues – Last time I chose a name I got bombarded with cease and desist letters, which is sadly very common in this industry. I didn’t think the name was similar enough to cause any confusion between brands, nor did the IP lawyer I consulted. However, the companies sending these letters were huge businesses with a lot of money and legal support so there was no way I could afford to fight it off. I ended up having to rebrand coming at a cost which I hadn’t budget for as well as a delay to the project that I really didn’t need. That won’t happen this time. Tip: For anyone also choosing a name, trademark your name straight away so that you have some protection and can avoid a dispute later down the line when it is much more expensive to rebrand. Although it was a massive pain for me, it was early on and it was a lot less work than if it was a number of years in.
  2. Online searchability – When searching for Azvex you will find it. All too many businesses have a common word or phrase in their name making it a nightmare to find the correct thing you want. How many times have you googled something and ended up clicking on the wrong thing? I didn’t want that issue.
  3. Unique association – Azvex currently isn’t linked to anything so it will become associated with beer/brewing. Words that are already in existence and not specific to beer have a primary association to something else, not the brand using the word. This creates a tough job to make a strong brand association. It can certainly be done, e.g. Apple, but much harder.
  4. Simplicity – A one-word name is easier to remember, read and write.

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I will leave it here for now and update you all with the next steps I take very soon!

Adam Henderson – Azvex Brewing Co.