Electric Basement Brewery
Electric Basement Brewery

After 2 years of design and work, my basement development is finally complete. The center piece of the basement being my basement brewery and bar. Prior to this, I had been using my garage to brew which was less than ideal for many reasons (no running water, I use the garage to park my cars in, and wood work in the winter so things always had to be moved around, etc). Needless to say, I wanted a more permanent place to brew, with running water.

I did most of the basement work excluding cabinets, drywall, hardwood floor in the main area and the custom metal work. Yes, I did design and build the wood bar tops and the custom doors that house the keg fridge and glycol chiller.

When designing the basement, I had a number of design requirements / constraints to meet:

  • Basement required to meet beer brewing and serving needs while still providing a comfortable area for family and friends including a living area, bathroom and bedroom
    • Ideally I would have had a separate room for the brewing area to keep the mess and clutter away from the living spaces. Unfortunately, given the requirement for a bedroom in the basement – and because I don’t live in a 4000+ sq ft house – I didn’t have enough room and I had to incorporate the bar and brewing facilities into a common space
  • Any exposed brew equipment and support equipment had to be incorporated in such a way to maintain both aesthetics and functionality. For example, having kegerators out in the open, or a hood fan hanging from the ceiling with hardware and ducting exposed was unacceptable
    • Because the bar and brew spaces were common, this required some effort to design a functional brewery while still maintaining aesthetics. Take the hood fan for example, I designed a custom hood in order to get something that I could install near flush to the ceiling (due to my basement only having 8′ ceilings) with no hardware showing.
    • The nature of brewing is it’s an industrial affair, so the bar area theme was set to be industrial and a bit rustic so the stainless steel equipment would fit in. The stainless steel counter tops and custom stainless steel sink are all functional while still being aesthetically pleasing and fit in with the industrial theme. The solid walnut bar tops are not meant to be working surfaces, and I believe they help blend the industrial theme into the living area better than a stainless steel or granite bar tops would have.
  • Brewing activities should not have any detrimental affect on the house integrity or comfort of the inhabitants
    • An obvious requirement. My primary concern was with moisture and the hood vent and not venting enough of the fumes or pulling too much air from within the house and creating a vacuum. With regards to adequate exhaust, there are a number of people that use the Vortex VTX600 with good success so I had a good place to start there. As for the vacuum concern, I wanted to add makeup air without adding equipment to heat incoming air. I decided to incorporate an air curtain into my hood design where the fresh air gets pulled in front of the exhaust hood and the majority exits out the exhaust instead of mixing with the conditioned house air. So far it works great, but the true test will be brewing on a -20C or colder day.
Basement Brewery Hood Exhaust Vent
Basement Brewery Hood Vent – Final Install
Inside Installed Basement Brewery Hood Vent

Central to most any electric basement brewery is the exhaust hood vent. The vent hood I installed is a custom design. The large compartment is the main exhaust section, the front compartment is the make-up air or “air curtain”. It’s made out of 16- gauge 316SS and was fabricated by Another Dimension Stainless here in Calgary, AB.

The hose you see sticking down is a drain hose from the exhaust fan and it drains into a drain lip that extends around the exhaust section (so far I have had almost not condensation forming). The fan switch and speed control are on the wall to the left.

I haven’t posted my hood plans to this site, but if you want them, send me an email. I modeled and drafted the hood using FreeCAD.

Basement Brewery Hood Vent Prior to Install

The hood vent has three main pieces. The body, a 6″ exhaust connection that bolts to the body via nuts that are welded on top, and a 4″ make-up air connection that bolts to the body via studs on the inside.

The 6″ connection follows ASME CL150 FF flange dimensions and I use a rubber gasket to seal it. The 4″ connection is custom given the tight space in the make-up air compartment.

The make-up air and exhaust connections were designed to be removable so that the hood vent can be installed flush in the ceiling cavity and then the exhaust and makeup air connections can be completed after. This does required the use of flexible ducting to complete the connections. I have not noticed any loss of performance due to these short flexible runs though.

Vent Hood Ceiling Cavity

This shows the inside of the ceiling cavity prior to install. What’s not shown is the unistrut that I first installed to the joists. I then used spring nuts in the unistrut so that I could use UNC type bolts to fasten the hood vent to the unistrut. Strictly speaking, I probably didn’t need to use unistrut, but it’s a lot nicer if I have to remove the hood vent and reinstall as I’m not unscrewing and screwing into wood joists multiple times this way. Hopefully I don’t have to remove it for a long time because it’s heavy! Another reason was that it allows me to use stainless bolts and keep everything inside the hood stainless steel. Finally, it provides ~1″ of separation from the ceiling joists which helped with the exhaust connection and provides some air space between the hood and wood joists.

Draft Tower – Proper Handles Pending

The draft tower is fed from a kegerator in a small room adjacent to the counter. To the right of the picture as viewed above. The distance was just long enough that I decided to install a trunkline (~12′ of trunk line) and use a glycol chiller. I bought a used glycol chiller, bigger than I needed, but it was cheap.

Kegerator and CO2 Setup

Kegs sit inside a UBC Kegerator. Not sure I’d recommend this fridge as my first choice to others. It’s much better than say a Danby fridge, but it’s noisy and won’t allow you to fit ball lock kegs with a rubber handle on them all the way to the back. This requires some use of specific kegs to get everything to fit. I managed to fit in four 5 gallon kegs and one 2.5 gallon keg for sparkling water. So despite having to play some Tetris with different kegs, I’m happy with the results.

I use a dual regulator so that I can have two different carbonation levels for different beers. There are additional distribution manifolds inside the fridge that allow me to put 4 kegs on either the low or high pressure regulator.

Beer Glycol Chiller

As you can see from the pictures. The space that houses my kegerator and glycol chiller is small. With just the fridge in there, there was zero issues with heat. Once I turned on the glycol chiller though, things got HOT!! So hot that I had to unplug the chiller as I’m certain something would have overheated. I had half anticipated this, and I had a backup plan. You can see the galvanized vent on the wall. This is connected to a 6″ exhaust fan in a storage run that pulls air from the small space and vents it to the main living area. This solved the heat problem. Visually, it looks fine, but it does add some more background noise to the basement as the fan is running all the time. Not ideal, but I’m not sure what else I could have done with this specific layout.

Given that I already have an oversized glycol chiller, I decided to add some tubing and valves so that I could use the glycol to control my fermentation temperature. I have the system substantially complete and will posted pictures and more details soon.