Multitasking Buildings: Design Considerations for Distilleries & Breweries

Build It (Properly) and They Will Come

By Sean Porter, RA | Loveless Porter Architects

When it comes to distilleries and breweries, the equation is not as simple as build it and they will come. These spaces must simultaneously function as production facility, warehouse, retail shop and gathering place. To pull off this balancing act successfully requires thoughtful planning and design.

I start with a focus on maintaining the public connection with production, such as featuring large windows that enable visitors to see the equipment and feel engaged in the process. Most people don’t know what goes into it—the combination of science, art and passion. So to be able to see behind the scenes, the amount of equipment that is required, to watch the ingredients transform, sparks interest and the connection is formed.

Of course, beyond creating that connected experience, there are a number of complex building codes and unique industry considerations I advise my clients to keep in mind:

Safety First

While each jurisdiction has its amendments to the international building codes and regulations, there are additional considerations when entering into any distillery or brewery project.

  • Understand maximum allowable quantities of hazardous materials, and what could flag a distillery as a hazardous occupancy.
  • Factor in maximum production capacity, product flash point and local and international fire codes when planning for sprinkler systems and emergency exits.
  • Know if your facility will trigger High-Piled Storage or Rack regulations, which follow the international fire code, as well as requiring a separate building permit based on submitted plans. One permit does not take the place of the other.
  • Choose an architect familiar with additional local codes pertaining to the amount and types of liquids in the building, electrical and ventilation requirements and occupancy limits.

Going with the Flow

Each drop produced, each sip savored, each memory made in the tasting room, relies on knowing how you will use each part of the space for years to come. Plan, and then plan some more.

  • Meet with your full production team and architect, mapping out every step in your process. Will you need a forklift to move product? Space for two brewmasters to create side-by-side? Room for large events?
  • Look ahead! This is a growth industry—after quadrupling production in the first two years, one of our clients is already renovating to accommodate the growth. Another just opened a third location. Project and plan for where you will be in 3, 5, 10 years.
  • Envision how you want customers to feel as they tour the facilities or cozy up in the tasting room. A sense of warmth and comfort lends itself to longer visits and increased sales.
  • Consider both customer experience and production requirements. Think high ceilings, room for storage, large open spaces and plenty of parking.
  • Let gravity do the work where it can, lessening the need for pumps and remember, you can never have enough drainage!

Virginia continues to experience rapid growth in the craft beverage industry, which also means increased competition. However, having an outstanding product and a welcoming place for customers to discover that product, will help your business to stand out. All it takes is a little planning.


Questions about designing a distillery or brewery? Loveless Porter is happy to share what we have learned in our 17 years of working on these specialized projects. Call 703.368.1600 or email admin@lpallc.net.