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A Budget Brewery Built From Shipping Containers

After signing an uncertain lease in London, one brewery decided to keep things cheap and mobile.

Starbucks has done it. Taco Bell has done it. And now it’s the microbrewery’s turn. The 40ft Brewery in Dalston, London, opened earlier this year. Its name comes from the fact that it was constructed out of two, 20-foot-long shipping containers that sit atop an old car park.

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“The spot has a very short rolling lease from the council due to being part of a greater redevelopment plan for the area,” co-founder Andreas Pettersson says. “So by using shipping containers, we can turn this derelict place into a place to brew and serve great beer. If or when we need to move we can pick up our brewery to a new plot of land, we own the brewery and the containers.”

Inside 40 feet of welded shipping container, the team has set up a tap room that serves beer straight out of 1,000-liter condition tanks. Unlike the giant brewing tanks that you see in many microbreweries, 40ft uses smaller, horizontal tanks to squeeze into the low-roof space. On the second level, a six-barrel brew kit handles everything from mash to fermentation.

“Space is the big enemy but it also makes us creative about how we work,” Pettersson says. “Empty kegs becomes bar stools, the tap room bar is also our storage box.”

The low cost of shipping containers–which typically cost a few thousand dollars apiece–has allowed the brewery to expand rapidly, even though Pettersson admits that development hasn’t been as inexpensive as they’d hoped. “In theory you just buy a second hand container and work away,” Pettersson says. “In reality, you get building engineers, drawings for the ground works, and hire people people to come in do the concrete base and foundations. [You need] electricians and plumbers, new floors for the containers, etc.” Since opening the “40ft” space, Pettersson and his colleagues added two more 20-foot containers, and they’re planning to build on another 40 feet of containers early next year. The easy expandability means that 40ft can grow alongside its business.

So how is shipping container life really working out for 40ft?

“We are just about to embark on our first London winter in the containers, so if you ask us in a few month, you probably get a different answer,” Pettersson says. “So far it has all worked out well, even though ‘never a dull moment’ has become a motto of the setting up the brewery. We could not find any real inspirations to other shipping container breweries out there, so it was a risk to see if it would work actually in practice as well. It has been a steep learning curve from day one.”

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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