When you’re starting a business, everyone always asks you how things are moving along. Fortunately, it seems as though there’s always something to talk about.

Unfortunately, it’s not always the most glamorous of things to talk about. I would love to tell you how I’m builidng a bar, or testing out tanks, or whatever the case may be. But, the bottom line is really that there hasn’t been a lick of work going on at the brewery space yet. The main work that’s been happening is digging out from under a mountain of permit applications.

The whole brewery startup has been a huge effort in managing timing. I sat down when I first started putting plans together, and tried to get an idea on how long each of the different elements that play into it would take. From there, I started working backwards from my goal of having the space ready for when the equipment arrives.

Equipment order went in during february (at least for the brewhouse and tanks) and is set to arrive in may. The longest lead time item, by far, was the state liquor license application. I could cut and pour concrete, and let it dry for a month three times over before getting a liquor license approved by our esteemed state of arizona.

Based on the information from their website (pdf file), I should expect my license to take 105 days to approve. So, as soon as I had an address, the license application went into the state.

The strange thing about the timeframe they give is that 75 days are for ‘administrative completeness review’, and 30 days are for ‘substantive review’. This was a bit unclear to me at the outset, but it became very evident after my license application was initially submitted. It was immediately returned to me for deficiencies from an ‘administrative completeness’ standpoint. Things as important as:

Please list the middle name for Nathan Friedman in section XX.
We need you to list the square footage of the brewery space.
Please clearly mark the main entrance and exit to the brewery.

There were some others as well. There was a lot of face-smacking every time I got another version of the license application returned to me. My middle name was listed in 4 places, but not the 5th. The length and width of the perfectly rectangular brewery space was marked, but I didn’t list the ‘overall square footage’. The single ‘door’ in the building was marked, but I had not labeled it as the main entrance and exit.

This went on for about a month before my license was accepted. I consider this a win, since they budgeted 75 days for it on the website.

It’s actually unfortunate, because I believe they have resorted to being nitpicky about the applications so that they don’t have to process them as quick, but in reality they’re creating much more work than they need to. So it goes.

Either way, I got the application in and *finally* accepted, and they have now posted on my front door for my liquor license. If you want to see my neatly typed application with 2 layers of handwritten corrections on it, drop by and thumb through it.

motorolae DROID BIONICm, 2.8, 4.6mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 65535

That stays up for 20 days, and then I put on a monkey suit and go wow the city council with my illusions of grandeur for the brewery.

In the meantime, I’ve had a whole other stack of applications to get through. The city building one has been another fun one.

I’ll be perfectly honest, the city has actually been really easy to work with. I’ve heard horror stories about unreasonable requirements and complicated plan reviews, but I got some great advice when I went in there, and since the renovations are relatively simple, it’s actually been quite smooth. I ran into a little hitch when I was originally wanting to build a small room within the big space, and if you build any sort of wall (even non-load-bearing) in a building over 3000 square feet, you need an architect.

The second you need an architect, they need to hire engineers, because really, an architect is just the designer. They can’t tell you what kind of concrete to put in, or what load center you need for you power requirements, or how to build the walls. They hire that out. It’s one massive ponzi scheme if you’re trying to do something simple. I didn’t need any engineering, I didn’t need any design, I needed to build 16′ of wall to store grain in.

Again, the guys at the city were really apologetic, and said they wished they could help me, but it’s a state statute (go figure). Yet again, it seems as though the state is really the red tape here. So it goes.

So, I erased the 16′ of wall I wanted to build, and the problem disappeared. No wall, no architect. I walk in, I tell them what I’m doing for electrical and plumbing upgrades, give them some money (always essential) and walk out with my permits. Bing, bang, boom.

Now I’m planning on a temporary ‘paint booth’ setup for when I mill the grain, along with a really nice wood shop dust collection system on the mill itself to keep everything contained.

On to the next…..

State, check. City, check.

Federal was the next on the list, with a quoted average turnaround time of 51 days right now (max: 80). Back to the paperwork……

The federal was a much more in-depth application, but (I thought) much more straightforward. It’s online, which is nice because you can do part, save it, and return later. The hardest part was actually scanning all the documents in. You need area maps, diagrams, leases, promissory notes if you have personal loans, bank statements, and all other manner of documents. I ended up with 12 attachments totaling about 100 pages. This was in addition to the several long pages of typed info into their online forms. But, with the state license posting up, motivation was high to get it done and submitted.

It went in on thursday of last week, so that clock is ticking as well.

Health department plan meeting was friday morning, and with that final push, I think I’m in the clear for permits for a little while.

I won’t lie, it’s been a bit exhausting. I don’t mind paperwork, but it’s a painful system with all the different people needing the same information but presented in a slightly different way. My autocad drawing of the space has gotten a bit out of hand with all the layers on it. Here it is with everything turned on. It’s a bit of a mess.

(and as I look at it, I think it may be missing a couple little revisions as well, since there were a few I just made a quick change, printed it, and moved on).

Wowza.

With all this push for paperwork, I’m closing in on the t-minus 2 months to my goal. I have hesitated to tell people exactly when I’m opening, because if my history as a project manager at work has taught me anything, its that timelines and budgets are uncertain up until the very end. Fortunately, so far we’re looking to be within a reasonable schedule. My goal is to get as much wrapped up before the tanks arrive as possible (mid to end of may) so that when they do, I can plug them in, run some test batches, get my health department inspection, and then start some beer soon after. I would love to be opening in June sometime, but I’ll be ecstatic if beer is flowing by july.

And now that I’ve publicly stated that, you can probably count on september because Murphy’s law will most likely be rearing it’s ugly head any time now.

With all this paper pushing, I felt like I needed to actually go out an build something for the brewery. Fortunately, Nate was free this past saturday, and we decided to tackle the frame for the mill. Being the engineer I am, I have a 1hp motor sitting in my garage which should work perfectly for the mill, and so I designed up a drive system and frame to step it from 3450 RPM to the requisite 300 rpm and I designed a hopper that should hold upwards of 2 bags grain (which is 110 lbs) at a time. Since my batch sizes are going to be in the 150-250 lbs of grain per batch range, this should make it really easy to manage the grains going into a batch.

Here’s the cad file of the frame and top that I whipped up while staying late at work one night: Grain Mill (pdf) Nate had some extra 1″ square stock sitting around that he had picked up from somebody, and I’m getting the mounting plates for the pulleys and motor machined at Mayorga’s Welding here in town.

Nate is getting pretty good on the TIG welder, and with two of us working to get everything all cut, cleaned up, and welded together, it came together pretty quickly. If you ever see it in the flesh, ignore the ugly, blown out welds. That’s where Nate let me try my hand at the TIG torch (I did it once before, about 8 years ago).

31-Mar-2012 11:49, SONY DSC-W350, 2.7, 4.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 160
31-Mar-2012 14:17, SONY DSC-W350, 2.7, 4.7mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 125
31-Mar-2012 15:38, SONY DSC-W350, 8.0, 4.7mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 80

I made up the top plate for it yesterday, and started fitting up the hopper sides. I was originally going to make the sides out of plywood, but I may go back to sheet metal. I haven’t decided yet, and those can wait until the final plates are on and the thing is powder coated anyways.

01-Apr-2012 16:11, SONY DSC-W350, 2.7, 4.7mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 80

(there’s a mill under the top plate, attached to that monster of a pulley)

Finally, something I can say is getting done other than paperwork for the brewery.

I do think the next couple weeks are going to start seeing some big changes at the space, so that will be exciting. I’ve got permits in hand, and so the hope is that the concrete for the sloped floor and the floor drains will get cut this next week, and then we can really start making a mess of things. It’s gonna be fun.

motorolar DROID BIONICx, 2.8, 4.6mm, 0.06 sec, ISO 65535