Advice from Beyond the Grave: Distribution for Small Breweries

By: Eric Myers

skeletal decor with beer in hand

When Mystery Brewing Company closed in 2018, it was difficult to articulate to people outside the company where things had gone wrong. We looked like a successful company from the outside; we had a well-attended pub and restaurant, we frequently won awards for our beer in both local and national competitions, and in general things looked great.

  We made the mistake many small businesses – particularly small breweries – make in having a debt load that outsized our resources. We were stretched too thin. It took months of introspection after the business closed for me to understand where things had really gone awry.

  What you’re missing in that picture is distribution. At our peak, we were distributed throughout our state of North Carolina to hundreds of grocery stores, convenience stores, bottle shops, bars, and restaurants. When we closed, we were self-distributing mostly draft beer in a 75-mile radius from the brewery.

  I now put the blame squarely on my own basic misunderstanding of what to realistically expect from my distributor, as well as their fundamental misunderstanding of what we needed and, what’s more, their misunderstanding of what they were actually offering us – or anyone.

  With the help of our distributor, we saw success in distribution into large grocery store chains in our state. Unfortunately, as a small brewery, we couldn’t handle the demand from those grocery stores. We picked up a loan to help meet that demand, but before we were able to put the pieces in place, we lost our placement in those grocery stores. We were weighed down with debt without a market to sell the expanded volume we had put into place. We could never recover those lost sales and ended up closing our doors in the face of rising costs – in ingredients, rent, and the cost of distribution – when we got to a point where we could no longer service our debt.

  It all tracks back to our relationship with our distributor.

Distributors As Sales Companies

  For years after Prohibition, beer was sold exclusively through the three-tier system: the mandated split of manufacturing, delivery, and retail sales of alcohol. The role of each tier was very clearly defined, and as beer manufacturers consolidated through the 20th Century, the role of sales could be taken on by distribution partners whose portfolio was primarily comprised of one brewery’s products. Distribution partners could essentially function as a brewery’s sales force: a mid-sized middleman industry built to act as logistics handlers between a large manufacturer’s output and the thousands of widely distributed small retail outlets.

  Enter the craft beer industry – a ragtag gaggle of creative innovators that disrupted traditional sales channels. From the first brewpub in the country, Bert Grant’s Yakima Brewing Company in 1982, to changes in distribution and franchise laws around the country, to the onset of the current popular “taproom-only” model, small breweries have been in the business of changing how beer is sold almost constantly.

  When Mystery Brewing Company opened in 2012, we were on the early end of the “taproom-only” trend. Because our local laws allowed it, we opened on a plan of self-distribution in our local area and selling what we could through our own taproom. At the time, I considered it a hybrid model between Production Brewery and Brewpub and it worked! We saw distribution success that quickly outgrew our ability to deliver on our own given our level of resources, and so before long we started looking at distributors to help shoulder the load.

  When I was contacted by the first distributor I worked with – an independent distributor (ie, not affiliated with either Anheuser-Busch or MillerCoors, primarily imported beers either from other states or other countries) – the title of the person that I talked to was “Statewide Sales Manager.” Her previous job was “Southeast Regional Sales Manager,” and she later went on to work for another distributor as “General Manager of Sales and Marketing”. After Mystery closed, I would often wonder how I was so confused about the role of distributors in the beer marketplace, but looking retrospectively suggests to me that the distributors were equally as confused.

  Later, when the relationship with that distributor soured and I moved onto the next, much larger distributor, we frequently met with the Sales team to train them on our products. We had Sales Goals in place. We had brewery reps on staff that would interface with those Sales Reps, but we weren’t allowed to do our own sales. We were required to turn over any potential customers to the distributor for their reps to handle and close the deal.

  Here’s the problem. Distributors don’t do sales. They do logistics.

Distributors are Logistical Experts

  According to the Brewers Association and the National Beer and Wine Wholesaler’s Association, over the course of the last 40 years the number of breweries in the country has gone from just over 70 to just over 7,000. Over that same time, the number of distributors has fallen from just over 4,500 (64 distributors per brewery) handling, on average, around 100 – 200 SKUs each to around 3,000 (.4 distributors per brewery) handling, on average, well over 1,000 SKUs each. The idea that any distributor rep working could know and sell any more than a small percentage of their portfolio is laughable.

  Distributors, on the other hand, are incredible logistics companies. Our primary distributor, through most of the life of our business, was a statewide distributor that handled thousands of SKUs across North Carolina and in most cases (ie – except for really rural customers), would perform overnight delivery anywhere in the state. They had one central warehouse that stored the majority of their products. That warehouse would send trucks to each of its 7 branches every single night based on orders put into the system each night. Those trucks would arrive at each location and loads would get broken down into individual delivery trucks that would go out from those branch locations and delivery every day of the week. It was breathtakingly complex.

  Distributors are experts at off-premise sales. Over the course of the past 70 years, grocery store chains have come to rely on distributors to both stock and manage their beer sections from product selection to daily stocking of shelves. Distributors don’t so much sell to grocery stores so much as they ensure that the grocery stores always have something on the shelves to sell. It is incredibly difficult for self-distributing breweries – small business partners that only represent one product – to compete with the efficiency of a distribution company in a grocery stores.

  If not for distributors, it’s hard to imagine the national craft breweries that we have today even existing. A startup in the 1980s, building a brewery out of cast-off dairy equipment had no way of possessing the knowledge, much less the resources to create or satisfy demand for its beers over the breadth of the country that was required at that time.

  It’s why it’s so seductively simple for small breweries to fool themselves into think that distributors inhabit the same role they used to. It’s the way they’ve been taught to think of distributors – and it’s the way distributors think of themselves.

Breweries Drive Sales

  This all might seem obvious to large breweries with wide distribution networks, but the majority of breweries in this country are small – they are 400bbls annually on average. Many are undercapitalized and understaffed, stretched thin, barely making payments on outsized debt. It’s easy to look to a distributor for relief, to take work off of your hands, but that’s not what they’re there for.

  In my current role, managing Tavern Operations at Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery, I work with 7 different companies to manage cider, guest beers, wine, and other non-alcoholic beverages. The only ones that sell to me – that approach me with new products and attempt to make a sale – are self-distributing breweries, cideries, and wineries. The distributors are order-takers and delivery-makers. That has become their role as their portfolios are too large to know and as their customer base is too wide to service personally.

  Learn from my mistake: As a small brewery, you are your own best asset when it comes to representing your brand. Use a distributor to increase your reach, but do so knowing the extra cost – that they will take a portion of your income AND require extra brewery staff to manage sales. More than that, set that expectation up front with your distributor so that you both agree what their role is, and yours. Distributors can manage off-premise and chain accounts for you in a way that can be transforming and positive, but they have no incentive to manage your supply, only deplete it, so be sure that you can handle the demand – or grow safely to meet it – before you take that step.

  Distributors are not your friends and they’re not your sales force. They’re a tool in your toolbox. Use them wisely.

YIKES! $2,600,000 Fine Against a Beer Wholesaler

By: Dan Minutillo, Esq., Minutillo Law

animated judge saying verdict

In March 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the Court) affirmed a $2.6 million dollar fine against Craft Brewers Guild (CBG), a wholesaler. The reason, alleged violation of anti-price discrimination statutes and other commercial bribery regulations.


  CBG allegedly paid companies money as a rebate in exchange for an agreement to sell CBG product at bars and restaurants. To hide the payments, these companies allegedly billed CBG for services like marketing support and promotional services that never happened.

  The Court held that CBG violated commercial bribery regulations  and participated in a commercial bribery scheme to encourage retailers to supply CBG distributed products. The Court held that this type of commercial bribery falls with the purpose of the Massachusetts Liquor Control Act. CBG’s conduct was allegedly illegal because the regulations prohibit companies like CBG from providing money to induce the purchase of certain alcoholic beverages. When money is given to a company to persuade that company to purchase a product, at that point there is a possible violation of these regulations.

  In the present case CBG allegedly did not offer these rebates to all retailers, and rebate amounts differed among the retailers involved so it is held responsible for violating the anti-price discrimination statutes and allegedluy also the commercial bribery regulations.

  A bribe to induce a company to do something in violation of law or anti-discrimination policies is illegal no matter what form the bribe takes or how the paper trail is structured. Rebates, refunds and other incentives to illegally induce a company to sell its products could be construed as a bribe if there is no logical and legal basis for the transfer of money. A bribe is a bribe no matter what form it appears.

US antitrust laws regulate the relationship of companies involved in a supply chain at different levels. There cannot be an arrangement by these companies to reduce competition. Courts will lift the veil behind the name of written documentation (how an agreement is titled), or even behind the words used in documents to determine whether an agreement to pay money is actually a bribe.

  The courts look to substance (the real relationship between the parties and of their conduct) over form (the words in a document). This principle holds true in many transactions when documents are drafted to embody the terms of the transaction. During litigation, substance and conduct will usually trump form (a cleaverly written document disguising a bribe or anti-competitive conduct as something else).

  Massachusetts’ commercial bribery regulations are valid, banning discounts, rebates and other inducements to buy alcohol from only one particular vendor. These regulations help to prevent price discrimination and an even, fair, competitive playing field for all craft-brewing companies trying to sell product based on quality and market price as opposed to “buying” their way to higher sales using illegal practices.

  15 U.S. Code § 13 (15 USC 13), deals with pricing and selection of customers in the supply of products. In accordance with this Code section, It is unlawful for any person engaged in sales or distribution of products either directly or indirectly, to discriminate in price between different purchasers of commodities of the same type of grade and quality of that product if the  products  are sold for use, consumption, or resale within the US if the effect of such discrimination may be substantially to lessen competition.

This Code Section Also Indicates:

   “PAYMENT OR ACCEPTANCE OF COMMISSION, BROKERAGE, OR OTHER COMPENSATION  It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, to pay or grant, or to receive or accept, anything of value as a commission, brokerage, or other compensation, or any allowance or discount in lieu thereof, except for services rendered in connection with the sale or purchase of goods, wares, or merchandise, either to the other party to such transaction or to an agent, representative, or other intermediary therein where such intermediary is acting in fact for or in behalf, or is subject to the direct or indirect control, of any party to such transaction other than the person by whom such compensation is so granted or paid.”

  This rule does not apply if there are differences in the cost of manufacture, sale, or delivery relating to one purchaser and not to another. Also the rule does not prohibit price changes from time to time where a price change is in response to changing market conditions of the goods concerned, such as actual or imminent deterioration of perishable goods, obsolescence of seasonal goods, distress sales under court process, or sales due to the discontinuance of sales of the goods concerned. The US Federal Trade Commission has the power to stop any kind of unfair business practices including but not limited to exclusionary exclusive dealing contracts.

  Anti-bribery regulations are made, published and implemented all over the world. They are becoming more obvious in China, Ireland, and Saudi Arabia. Enforcement in other countries is somewhat irregular. Enforcement in the US is aggressive when the facts warrent investigatioin and punishment.

  The Massachuetts Supreme Judicial Court case discussed in this article will be followed closely by other jurisdictions in the US. This type of kick-back may be viewed as a form of bribery in other jurisdictions with large fines to follow. Be aware.

For more information contact…Dan Minutillo or

Beer & Food Pairing Dinners: Upping the Bar for Craft Breweries

By: Nan McCreary

salad and hamburger meal

Oenophiles have long known that wine dinners — where wine is selected and paired with a variety of foods based on complementary tastes and styles — can elevate the dining experience. Now, craft breweries are opening that door to customers who want to expand their culinary horizons with the plethora of flavors and styles of beers available on the market today.

  “We’ve been doing beer-food dinners for years, and they’re great fun for everyone,” said Ben Edmunds, partner and brewmaster at Breakside Brewery in Portland, which opened in 2010 as a restaurant and pub brewery. “The events introduce customers to a wide range of beers, plus we have an opportunity to reach a different audience than we usually have.”

  Indeed, according to the National Restaurant Association, food-and-beer pairings were listed as a top beverage trend in its “What’s Hot 2018 Culinary Forecast.”  This isn’t surprising, considering that beer — with its broad range of flavors, aromas textures, and styles — offers endless possibilities for pairing with food.  Whether it’s a light lager with a spicy Asian dish or an IPA with loaded fries and a decadent burger, the right pairing will deliver a flavor nirvana that far surpasses the flavors of each component. Ask any aficionado, and they will tell you: food makes beer better, and beer makes food better. It’s that simple.

  Like wine and food pairing dinners, beer and food events typically go through a progression of four or five courses, sometimes more if the occasion is more extravagant. Each course is paired with a different beer, depending on the strength, flavor and style and its compatibility with the food.

  According to Edmunds, each beer serving in Breakside’s dinner is five and eight ounces. The event, he said, is informal and educational. “We always have a brewery representative at the dinners to talk about the beer,” he said, “and we ask the chef to come out and introduce the food. It’s a fun way for customers to experience our beers, and from our end, we get to present our beer in an entirely different format.”

  While many customers are die-hard beer drinkers, Edmunds told Beverage Master Magazine the dinners often appeal to a wine-drinking crowd. “These events offer wine drinkers an opportunity to see how diverse and food-friendly beer can be.”  

Recently, Breakside featured wood-aged and acidic beers with lots of fruit flavors, components that are similar to those in wine. “It was a good way to challenge preconceived notions of what beer is and how it should be consumed.”

  Breakside’s dinners may seat as few as 10-to-15, or as many as 70-plus. Prices range from $35 to $120, depending on the number of courses and the complexity of the menu. The average for an all-inclusive dinner, said Edmunds, is $65 to $85. Breakside has sponsored events ranging from introductory beer pairing at gastropubs and bars, to more elaborate affairs at fine dining establishments. This year during Portland Beer Week, Breakside paired with renowned Icelandic chef Ólafur “Óli” Áugústsson, the culinary director for Portland’s forthcoming KEX hotel. The dinner featured aged and sour beers selected to complement local seafood and produce.

  Pairings, Edmunds explained, are a collaboration between brewery personnel, the restaurant’s chef, and others, such as a bar manager. “The dynamic that works best for us and leads to the best results for the consumer is for us to invite the restaurant people to our brewery and taste through a wide range of beers,” he said. “We’re lucky because we make many different styles of beer and aren’t limited to three or four options. We ask them to find the beers that inspire them, and we talk about food pairings.”

  Edmunds said that the collaborations always start with selecting the beer and then choosing a food pairing, rather than vice versa. “Once a beer is done, it’s done, and you can’t modify it. It’s easier to design a dish to a beer that’s already finished than to make a beer to complement a specific dish.”

  While the brewery generally does not interfere with the chefs once a menu is selected, occasionally they will use their expertise to “nudge” them one way or the other. For example, Edmunds said he is very particular about pairing desserts. “Even with a sweet beer, the dessert is likely to overpower it,” he told Beverage Master Magazine, “so I’ll ask the chef to do something with a savory element, like a cheese plate.”

  For Edmunds, whose interest in food preceded his interest in beer, the pairing dinners are a natural fit. “The two go hand in hand,” he said. “We also have three locations for our brewery, plus two restaurants, and we regularly do pairings when we release a new beer. The multi-course dinner is a natural extension of that.

Not Just for Breweries

  While breweries like Breakside typically collaborate with different restaurants to introduce their beers, some restaurants host regular beer and food pairing dinners to showcase the skills of their chefs. One such restaurant is the Session Room and Beer Garden in Ann Arbor, Michigan. With the theme, “Real Food, Craft Beer,” the restaurant focuses on fresh ingredients sourced locally and serves 70 rotating beer taps.

  Since opening three years ago, the restaurant, under the guidance of Executive Chef Traver Lucas, has offered pairing dinners every month or two, always featuring beers from Michigan breweries, including Bell’s Brewing, Founders Brewing Company, and Perrin Brewing Company. Like Breakside’s dinners, the Session Room pairings are a team effort, where the chef meets with the brewery’s personnel and tastes the beers, then decides what to cook. The beer dinners are inspired by French cuisine, with the food selected to complement the beer.

  According to Event and Marketing Director Jessica Smith, the Session Room dinners are very elaborate, with four courses and a beer to match each course. “The cost is $50 plus tax, so customers get a lot for their money. Generally, 30 to 50 people attend the dinners,” said Smith. The menus are not released ahead of the event, so the dinner is always a surprise. “That’s part of the fun,” Smith added.

Festival Pairings

  As competition among craft breweries heats up, many breweries and beer festivals are upping their game with pairing events to attract more visitors. Last year, at the California Craft Beer Summit, a “Brewed for Food” event featured specialty brewed beers from 12 breweries paired with specially crafted food from as many restaurants. The objective, said the advertising, was for “teams to partner to create the perfectly balanced bite that elevates the flavor profile of the beer.” The 2019 Portland Beer Week featured four pairing events. “Bean to Bar,” was a chocolate-and-beer festival hosted by Xocolatl de Davíd chocolatiers and Ruse Brewing, spotlighting 10 local chocolates and the beers paired for each one. “Mussels From Brussels,” featured four local brewery’s takes on the classic pairing of mussels and frites.

   At the “Brewer’s Burger Brawl,” four Oregon brewers served a carefully selected beer alongside a slider-sized burger to determine the best pairing. The “Nordic + Northwest” event was the event held by Breakside Brewery and Portland’s future KEX hotel.

Everyday Pairing

  “Culinary Brewhouses” are making waves across the country. In these establishments, brewmasters are applying culinary skills to create beers that showcase flavors and aromatics, and chefs create foods that transcend pub fare like burgers and chicken wings. Chicago’s Band of Bohemia, noted for “infusing culinary flavors into house beers and pairing them with global plates,” became the first brewpub to be awarded a Michelin star within its first year of opening. 

  Moody Tongue Brewing Company, also in Chicago, has classically-trained chef Jared Rouben at the helm as brewmaster. According to Moody Tongue’s website, Rouben “draws on his culinary training to forge this connection between the kitchen and our brewery, building recipes for our beers in the same manner a chef would for a dish.”

  Clearly, beer pairing beer and food is a hot trend throughout the country, and it shows no signs of stopping. According to the 2017 Nielsen Craft Beer Insights, 71% of consumers look for complementary foods when choosing a craft beer at restaurants and bars, and that isn’t about to change. If anything, the number is likely to increase, as more and more beer lovers become exposed to the wonders of the beer and food match-up. Stay tuned…as the market continues to ramp up, the best may be yet to come for the thirsty consumer with a discriminating palate.

Safety and Compliance: More Than Just a Checklist

By: Tracey L. Kelley

woman writing on a clipboard

In the past 10 years, workplace injuries and illnesses declined in the craft beverage manufacturing industry. This is good news, as it’s a thriving employment sector. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2016—the most recent data collected—breweries, distilleries and other artisanal beverage producers employed approximately 75,000 people. In Canada, according to information from the System of National Accounts in 2018, the craft industry had more than 15,000 workers.

  Some experts say a reduction in workplace incidents is the direct result of an attitudinal shift from reaction to prevention. Ashley Heiman is the MRO department manager for Nelson-Jameson in Marshfield, Wisconsin—a single-source food, dairy and beverage processing plant supplier. Heiman explained the vital importance of this approach. 

  “The Food Safety Modernization Act created a significant culture shift. The essential question that the FSMA pushes us and our customer base to ask is, ‘How can I most effectively and proactively create a safe, quality product?’” she told Beverage Master Magazine. “When you think proactively about your product, it pushes you to think proactively about your facility and the staff that produces that product. From floor drains to dust collection in your rafters, every facet of your facility and those operating that facility can make or break a brewery or distillery.”

  Established in 2011 by the Food and Drug Administration, FSMA compliance extended to beverage producers at a graduated rate. It began in 2016 for companies with over 500 full-time employees, scaling down to “very small businesses”—those with beverage sales of less than $1 million—finalizing compliance in September 2018. Inspections of beverage raw materials started this year. For some producers, this compliance required extensive examination and overhaul of processes and systems.

  One might assume that requirements by OSHA and the FDA already cover worker and product safety issues. In many ways, they do, but this additional layer of compliance mandated by the FSMA is a necessity for consumer products. It’s also another thread of bureaucracy to follow—one of many that can be challenging to untangle. 

  “It’s very difficult for business owners to dedicate time to learning all the nuances of compliance to both OSHA and the FDA. They’re really interested in creating and growing their businesses, so having a consultant who’s knowledgeable in these compliance areas allows the owner to both focus on the business and ensure that someone is keeping them compliant,” said Gary D. Morgan, Vice President and senior consultant of SafeLink Consulting in Cumming, Georgia. He’s also an authorized OSHA outreach trainer.

  “Our business is to know everything we can about OSHA safety requirements and FDA regulations on producing beverages that are safe for the public to consume, so we keep our clients as informed as possible in these areas,” Morgan said. He also pointed out that the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and its Food Inspection Agency mirror OSHA and the FDA requirements rather closely, so producers sharing a national border are assured of similar compliance between partners.

Create an Environment of Safety

  Doing what’s best for the product starts with the optimum workplace atmosphere and training provided to employees. Ideally, owners and managers should establish these best practices in the early stages of the business.

  “Bringing a consultant onboard at start-up can ensure decisions can be made in the development stage that takes into consideration compliance issues for both OSHA and FDA,” Morgan said. “Trying to retrofit safety considerations into an existing design can be costlier than providing for it upfront. Implementing an FDA-compliant quality system initially can also prevent or handle issues in producing a product that’s fit for consumption.”

Morgan advised that instead of evaluating consultants by price, first outline facility specifications.

  “Then, I would suggest that as part of due diligence, talk to several consulting firms and ask the same questions of each one to ensure an apples¬-to-apples comparison, rather than just looking solely at pricing. A producer should include expenses for these services in the annual budget.”

  Another top-to-bottom safety solution, Heiman said, is color-coding. “We’ve seen a great interest in it. It’s proven to be an excellent proactive approach. Not only can color-coding help prevent cross-contamination in terms of allergens or yeast strains, but it also helps to organize and streamline workflow, designates critical control areas of a facility and assists many of our customers in isolating possible pathogen risks,” she said. “With the wide variety of products we offer, facilities can build a color-coded program to break up their operations into pragmatic zones.”   

  Josh Pringle is the vice president of CO2Meter in Ormond Beach, Florida. His company specializes in the design and manufacturing of gas detection and monitoring devices—mainly CO2—as well as consultancy and training. He advises producers not to rely on state or local inspectors to tell them to improve ventilation or install monitors: do it because it’s what’s best for your employees.

  “Producers should consider the following when preparing to train or educate staff: what’s in the best interest of our employees, what does our insurance provider require us to do, what will OSHA/NIOSH expect as part of a training package, and how should we plan to test and retrain staff,” he told Beverage Master Magazine. “We have a brewing partner who made the following statement: ‘Why would I pay a few hundred dollars for a safety monitor and then not train my staff on what to do if it goes off? Pointless!’”

  Pringle noted that many professional associations offer free training regarding CO2 safety, proper lockout/tagout procedures, and dozens of other critical topics.

  These organizations include, but are not limited to:

•    American Distilling Institute

•    Brewers’ Association

•    International Beverage Dispensing Equipment Association

•    Master Brewers Association of the Americas

•    WorkSafeBC

  OSHA and NIOSH also have online training, workbooks, visual aids and other resources for new employee and refresher training.

  He cautioned against complacency in your facility. “When employees work in and around hazardous situations, materials, ingredients and situations, no duty should be considered mundane or a ‘to do.’ Safety is an every moment, everyday project,” Pringle said. “The statistic always sited from the National Transportation Safety Board is the majority of car accidents occurred within five miles of someone’s home. The data demonstrated that drivers started to let their guard down in more familiar surroundings. Employee safety has no mileage areas. Any training that allows for complacency is flawed.”

  Morgan agreed. He offered these three tips:

1.  Always be vigilant to compliance issues. Oversight is demanding.

2.  Delegate responsibilities to duly-trained and competent individuals.

3.  Training is an ongoing activity, not a one-time event.

More Than a List on a Clipboard

  Workers in the craft beverage industry are prone to the following injuries and illnesses:

•    Overexertion, including medical conditions caused by repetitive motion or lifting heavy items such as barrels, kegs and crates.

•    Slips, trips and falls because of slick floors, ladders, obstacles and carrying heavy loads up and downstairs.

•    Working in fermenters, tanks, vats and other confined spaces, especially when carbon dioxide exposure is a concern.

•    Physical hazards such as pressurized equipment, forklifts, temperature extremes, and moving parts.

  It might require specialized products, protective gear, and consultation to maintain essential worker safety. “Safety concerns are widespread across a facility. Personal protective equipment, noise protection and respiratory protection are some of the most common product areas we deal with for our brewery and distillery customers,” said Heiman of Nelson-Jameson. “Lockout/tagout products are also popular. Additionally, it’s important to be specific with vendors if employees are handling chemicals, lab reagents, machinery, and so on. These details dictate the best products to utilize.”

  Even with a safety plan upon start-up, and as Pringle of CO2Meter expressed previously, crafting operations are integrated with safety in handling not only CO2 but throughout all functions. So the plan becomes more of a living document, refined by training, to help staff anticipate and correct issues before a more significant problem occurs.

  Here are the steps Pringle recommended:

•   Identify the hazard

•   Discuss the hazard

•   Create a plan of action to prevent the hazard

•   Create a secondary plan that accounts for and mitigates the hazard

•   Define methods to disperse the hazard

•   Understand the methodology to test an area to ensure safe conditions

•   Create and institute a policy and procedure to understand an incident

•   Create a safety plan

•   Including safe zones and rally points

•   Practice, practice, practice

“Be mindful. Be aware, Follow procedures, no matter how cumbersome. For example, lockout/tagout has become a mainstay because it’s effective,” Pringle said.

  Regarding C02 specifically, “The most likely points of CO2 incidents for beverage producers are at their canning and bottling lines. ‘Dosing’ areas typically register CO2 concentrations above the OSHA– and NIOSH–permissible time-weighted average standard of 5,000 ppm TWA for employees—placing a typical producer in violation,” Pringle said. “While working around CO2 can often be a necessity for beverage staff members, having proper training sessions and ensuring your staff is informed on the dangers of CO2 is the first step.”

  Morgan of SafeLink Consulting had some final thoughts. “Be proactive in establishing your compliance programs. If you have to be reactive, then something negative has happened that could be very detrimental to the business itself. It could be an employee injury or complaint, or a product that causes consumer complaints or worse, consumer injury or illness,” he said.

  “And there’s always the ever-present specter of an inspection from a regulatory agency with fines, penalties and even forced business suspension or closure. Give yourself peace of mind by being on top of compliance issues, not at the mercy of them.”

Pumping Success Into Your Brewery or Distillery

By: Gerald Dlubala

pumping machine for distillery

For breweries and distilleries, the beer and spirits that flow within drive business, but the pumps used to move that product can easily be considered the heart of production. If a pump fails, product flow stops and downtime eats away at production and delivery schedules. Having a quality pump lessens the chances of failure, so reliability and quality are key.

  Taking the time and effort to research the best pumps for the money and making a quality investment will make all the difference. “With the risk of sounding glib, you really do get what you pay for,” said Ross Battersby, Sales & Design contact for Carlsen & Associates. “There is usually a bit of a conflict between what the business accountant says is affordable and what the winemaker, distiller or brewmaster really wants and needs. The accountant almost always wins, but there is an inherent danger in selecting a pump on the basis of cost alone. Cheaper pumps may look fine on the outside, but they’re usually outfitted with cheaply made, low-quality blades and impellers, leading to a lot of internal shear that damages the product as it passes through the pump.”

  Carlsen & Associates started as a portable pump manufacturer for the wine industry, but now manufactures pumps for breweries, distilleries, meaderies, kombucha, soy sauce manufacturers, honey producers and various cannabis-related businesses. Their many years creating and tweaking pumps for multiple industries makes them uniquely qualified in recommending the right pump for a business’s needs.

  “We recommend a double diaphragm air pump with grounding tag for distilleries,” said Battersby. “With distilleries and high proof alcohol, you first and foremost need explosion-proof pumps. Compressed air powered pumps easily deliver the necessary amount of power for distilleries, and they’re perfectly fine for fluids, but if the distiller uses any botanicals, the pumps need to be screened off. You can safely use electrical-based pumps too, but they have to be rated explosion-proof, which sometimes makes them quite costly for what is really needed.”

  “With breweries, you’re talking about moving wort and heavier fluids with temperatures up to 210 degrees, so you’ll likely be looking at positive displacement pumps. Ours are Waukesha pumps, using winged rotors resembling ice cream scoops that spin around, scoop the optimal amount of product, and move it along without causing any crush or damage. They have capabilities of pumping as little as 30 gallons per minute up to 130 gallons a minute using one to three-inch lines.”

  Brewery systems and structures are more rigid and fixed, so the pumps tend to reflect that and perform better as a fixed system as well. Battersby told Beverage Master Magazine many brewers favor smaller centrifuge pumps that fit into these systems. In contrast, wineries will make better use of portable pumps that are on carts so they can move them around the different areas of the winery where needed.

  As far as new technology on the forefront, Battersby said hybrid pumps made by combining air and impeller pumps are currently being manufactured, but he doesn’t feel they will significantly change the industry. The real trend, according to Battersby, is what he calls “right-sizing.”

  “You can’t really get away from the tried and true technology,” says Battersby. “Business owners tend to go with whatever will give them the least amount of downtime. Many newer brewers don’t possess the type of physics background that allows them to know the best ways of moving liquids. They tend to think that more horsepower is always better, but that’s not true. It’s better to match your specific needs. So the new trend, as far as we are concerned, is right-sizing. We match the equipment up to whatever it is that you need to move.

  We educate brewers and distillers in the physics behind what they are trying to do, and why one piece of equipment is preferred over another, even if it’s not the most powerful. Additionally, we stress that the pumps are only as good as the hoses, clamps and fittings that connect to them. Right-sizing incorporates a quality pump with appropriate matching parts that are easily serviceable and repairable in the least amount of time.”

Matching Pumps To Product

  Paul Hail, CEO of Affordable Distillery Equipment, knows what reliability means in the brewing and distilling industry, so only offers quality equipment made to last a lifetime. Although based in the rural hills of the Missouri Ozarks, Affordable Distillery’s pumps are used in nearly 20% of craft spirit distilleries across the U.S. Hail recommends a few options for spirits production.

  “If you try to use a centrifugal pump with corn mash, the lifespan of that pump is probably going to be less than a year,” said Hail. “When moving corn mash, you have better options available. A double diaphragm air pump will work, but it will take a lot of air and a minimum of 1 ½  diameter connecting hoses. The pump is cheap, but the big expense—sometimes an additional $2,000-$3,000—comes with the need for a larger air compressor. A flex impeller type of pump is a great, moderately priced choice, but the impeller is a normal wear part, and depending on what type of material it’s manufactured from and the amount and type of use it receives, it could last months or only weeks. The loads it’s put through determines the wear and replacement needs. Your best choice would be a rotary load pump, but they are incredibly expensive so generally not an option for every smaller or startup distillery.”

  Hail, like Battersby, mentions the importance of safety when using a pump in the distillery. “You must remember, though, when moving high proof alcohol, you’ll need a grounding terminal on the pump to make it explosion-proof,” said Hail. “It’s not a likely scenario, but there is a minute chance that the rushing of a product while being pumped will manufacture enough static to potentially release a tiny spark. Couple that with high proof alcohol and we all know where that leads.”

  As Hail continues to run an industry-leading pump manufacturer, he told Beverage Master Magazine that it’s hard to come up with new ideas when pump technology has barely changed in generations.

  “You’ll hear about new things being tried around the industry, but when properly researched, those bright new ideas were usually already attempted by those before us. The reason that they’re not being done today is that they just didn’t work or weren’t economically feasible. Any new technology or methods would likely be groundbreaking if valid, and that’s what we are working on here at Affordable Distilling. Hopefully more about that in the future,” said Hail.

Improving On Current Equipment

  Based on their successful history with marine and industrial applications, AmpCo Pump Company in Glendale, Wisconsin, began manufacturing pumps specifically for the brewing, distilling and wine industries (

  One chronic issue with pumps has been a tendency for the seals to leak eventually. Tony Krebs, Marketing Manager for AmpCo Pumps, said they have successfully addressed that issue in one of their most popular pumps, the CB+ Craft Brew Pump, specially designed for hot wort transfer.

  “Over time, the material being moved through the pump typically crystalizes, and that buildup will eventually cause traditional seals to leak,” said Krebs. “AmpCo’s CB+ Craft Brew Pump possesses an internal, submersed seal to promote cooling. Because it’s internally seated, any pressure increase caused by heat or flow creates an increased closing force on the seals to minimize any potential buildup. Additionally, the pump has an internal spring that acts as an agitator to reduce the solids buildup, thereby reducing crystallization on the seals. It’s an excellent choice for all sizes of breweries, but it’s an especially great match for the smaller brewpubs because on a cart, mobile and multi-functional. It can be used as a transfer pump in many areas around the facility, but it performs equally well as a clean-in-place pump. It’s not the cheapest pump you’re going to find, but when choosing a pump, it’s extremely important to be able to find certified, readily available parts and quality people to install those parts and repair your equipment. Downtime costs money, and when pumps are down, so is your brewing or distilling process.”

  AmpCo also makes pumps for the wine industry, offering their L series centrifugal pumps with the same exceptional quality, efficiency and durability as their counterparts designed for the craft breweries and distilleries.

  Krebs told Beverage Master Magazine that AmpCo is always at the forefront of pump technology, and regularly on the leading edge of trends in the craft brewing, spirits and wine industries. Krebs has recently noticed the need and increased demand for their portable hop induction units. This machine simultaneously induces dry hop pellets directly into the beer stream while recirculating the fermenter. It features AmpCo’s SBI Shear Pump and provides the brewmaster everything necessary to dry hop beer efficiently and safely within a single unit.

  “You can’t ignore the creative side of distillers, winemakers and brewmasters. They like to continuously mix flavor and ingredient profiles and provide experimental flavor combinations for signature blends, special tastings or customer trials,” says Krebs. “Blending pumps provide a better and more efficient way to get this done.”

Getting to Know Beer’s Key Ingredients: Barley growers say, “If there is no barley, then there is no beer.”

By: Cheryl Gray

man raising both hands

Barley has been around for some 10,000 years. When this ancient grain was introduced in the United States, in New England during the 17th century, it was produced specially to quench the thirst of colonists who wanted to make beer.

  Malted barley remains the key ingredient in the world’s oldest and most consumed alcoholic beverage. Today, the market for malting barley is directly impacted by the weather and economy of the area where it grows. In the U.S., 90% of barley grows throughout the Northern Plains into the Pacific Northwest. The climate of this region is colder and arider, ideal conditions for producing the high-quality barley needed for brewing beer.

Grown Under Contract

  Virtually all U.S. malting barley is grown under contract with a brewer or maltster. Those contracts generally call for specific varieties demanded by breweries—typically two-row or six-row. Breweries determine what barley varieties they need based upon brewing techniques, cost and the desired flavor of the finished product. Many craft brewers prefer to brew beers using directly sourced ingredients and will partner with local barley growers, eventually using the “locally grown” angle in their product marketing. 

  Barley growers generally seek contracts that secure price premiums in exchange for growing a specific barley variety. Those premium prices help the grower offset the higher production costs tied to a lower-yielding crop. Developing a dedicated crop of malting barley is not without substantial risk. Bad weather and disease can destroy an otherwise profitable yield. Any product that doesn’t make the grade gets relegated to the feed market and downgraded in price, which for the grower can be half or less of the original crop value.

The Value of American-Grown Barley

  According to The Brewers Association, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming are the top five states producing barley for malting. These regions use the power of science, technology, economics and strategic planning to gain an edge in a marketplace that is increasingly global.

  The U.S. Grains Council helps track the journey of America’s barley crop from farm to glass around the world. Its latest statistics reveal that American-grown barley accounts for more than 190 million barrels of annual beer production in the U.S. alone. Foreign markets, including Mexico, are taking notice. Under NAFTA, malted barley from the U.S. enters Mexico duty-free. That is an attractive option to Mexico’s breweries, which depend upon imported malted barley because Mexico has no way to produce it independently. According to the Grains Council, Mexico purchased more than 18 million bushels of barley, worth $209 million in its most recent purchasing year.

  It is that buying potential that makes global markets attractive to the U.S. malting barley industry. Brian Sorenson, Program Director for the Northern Crop Institute of North Dakota State University, said that in addition to its research-driven programs and courses, the NCI plays a critical role in connecting barley breeders, scientists and growers with buyers and processors worldwide.

  “NCI helps to bring U.S. barley growers in touch with global markets by providing courses to educate grain buyers on how the U.S. grain handling and trading systems function,” Sorenson said. “NCI’s Grain Procurement Management for Importers Course is held each September and typically educates over 30 participants (mostly from overseas) on how to purchase high-quality grains from the U.S. and showcases the crops produced in the Northern Great Plains states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.” 

  The NCI is also a significant player in the science and research designed to help stakeholders reach what Sorenson describes as the ultimate goal: to produce optimal quality malting barley for brewing consistent, top-quality beer.

  “It is important for each of those involved to understand what the other players contend within their particular role,” said Sorenson. “Developing new barley varieties that can make it possible for farmers to grow and deliver the quality needed by the maltster profitably, and ultimately, the brewer is an extremely difficult set of tasks. Barley breeders work hard to stay ahead of the changing agronomic challenges, such as crop diseases, as well as the need for high production yield, and at the same time satisfy the quality demands of the end-users.”

  Quality control factors include color and kernel plumpness, protein content, moisture, skinned or broken kernels, and sprout damage.

Breeding Strong Varietals

  Science is the universal language in barley breeding, and Dr. Paul Schwarz is among the leaders in research, development and breeding applications for the malted barley industry. He is a professor at NDSU’s Department of Plant Sciences, specializing in the area of malting barley quality. NDSU has a barley breeding program, as do other land grant universities in barley producing states. 

  Dr. Schwarz told Beverage Master Magazine that science has a pivotal role in breeding new varieties of malting barley as well as sustaining the successes of current ones. 

  “Breeding is the application of several branches of science including biology, genetics-genomics, biochemistry and statistics,” said Schwarz. “Barley breeding has closely followed developments in science and often uses the newest tools. As an example, in the past, breeders would make a cross and then have to screen thousands of progeny in the field or lab to select the most desirable. Today, with advances in genomics, they can identify genes of importance and use DNA techniques to screen lines that have desired traits.”   

  Schwarz also stresses that the breeding process combines the expertise of scientists across multiple fields. “When we think breeding, we think breeder,” he said. “However, the development of new varieties is a team effort. In the past, it has involved the breeder/geneticist, an agronomist, a plant pathologist, and maybe an end product specialist (cereal chemist) to evaluate malting quality. Today, this list has expanded to include a molecular biologist and often a bio-informaticist

[to handle the large amounts of data gathered]


Fusarium Head Blight

  One of the biggest threats to a barley crop that NDSU and other land-grant schools try to combat on behalf of barley growers is fusarium head blight, also known as “head scab.” This disease infects the head of the crops, reducing grain yield and impacting the producer’s bottom line. While FHB is more prevalent in humid, wetter climates such as the eastern U.S., in recent years, changing weather patterns have forced barley growers as far as the Northern Plains to begin routinely safeguarding their crops using fungicides. Malting companies across the country sample and grade every truckload of barley coming into receiving stations, regularly deploying stringent and frequent testing for FHB and its accompanying mycotoxin contamination. 

  There are assessment tools that can predict weather patterns and other factors in any region of the U.S. where FHB is likely to develop. FHB forums are held around the country, including those spearheaded by the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. This group also coordinates research projects aimed at combining current data with new exploratory channels designed to develop tools and strategies to reduce FHB and mycotoxin contamination. The research benefits barley producers, malting companies, and the breweries that use malted barley.

Advocating for Growers

  Such potential risks for barley growers are among the subjects on the agenda of the National Barley Growers Association, which advocates for public policy on behalf of its members. Dale Thorenson, a former North Dakota farmer, is an agricultural lobbyist with Gordley Associates and an officer in the National Barley Growers Association.

  “NBGA has worked to try to keep farm policy equitable between crops so that the market price determines what crops – including barley – are grown, rather than farm policy,” Thorenson told Beverage Master Magazine. “This includes having a viable federal crop insurance policy available for barley including the malt barley endorsement, which provides coverage based on the malt price rather than the underlying feed value for barley. It’s also important for barley growers and the malt and beer industry that adequate funding is appropriated every year for the wheat and barley scab initiative, so that research continues on methods to combat fusarium head blight. Finally, NBGA has joined with the malt and beer industry to support equitable excise tax rates for beer, and the coalition was successful in getting the Craft Beer Modernization & Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. That reform expires at the end of 2019, and we are still working at getting this legislation extended into future years.”

Seeking Satisfaction

  Public policy, scientific applications and emerging markets create a unique mix for malting barley growers, whose success is measured by consistently producing successful crops that satisfy maltsters and breweries who, in turn, seek to satisfy the tastes of beer consumers.

Basque Cider Comes to the Columbia Gorge

By: Becky Garrison 

bottles of basque cider

Unlike the domestic ciders that dominate the Pacific Northwest, Basque cider (known in the Basque region of Spain as Sagardo) has a wild, untamed quality. These ciders are made only once a year using heirloom apples and native yeast strains that naturally occur in a given orchard.

  The result is a cider with a taste very unique to the region where the apples were har-vested. Similar to natural wine, Basque ciders are made without chemical addition or manipulation and fermented with wild or native yeasts. These unfiltered ciders have a cloudy look with a flavor profile akin to a Lambic, a Belgian style of beer that also un-dergoes spontaneous fermentation. The funky tart taste of Basque cider pairs well with a wide variety of foods ranging from seafood to grilled steak.

  An aficionado of natural wines, Jasper Smith, sampled a Basque cider on the recom-mendation of a server in San Francisco. Finally, he found a cider that spoke to his pal-ate. He began scouring the internet and ordering any Basque ciders imported into the US. Then he took a trip to Basque country in Spain to visit the cider houses near San Sebastian. Here he met his eventual partner – an oenologist named Guillermo Castaños.

  When Smith surveyed the American cider market, he began to wonder why, in an in-dustry experiencing massive growth, no one was trying to produce a Basque-style ci-der domestically. “I decided that I wanted to fill that hole in the market and create a product that paid homage to the wonderful ciders of Northern Spain, while creating and promoting the identity of the Columbia Gorge in the Pacific Northwest.”

  Smith brought to this venture a range of experiences in the food and drink scene.  While living in Philadelphia, he worked as a line cook at the award-winning Vernick Food and Drink. Later, he developed and launched the private event and catering pro-grams at Belcampo, a vertically integrated, sustainable meat company based in Oak-land. Then, this Portland, Oregon native moved back home, where he curated the wine selection at southeast Portland’s acclaimed local bar and restaurant, Bar Casa Vale.

  While these experiences gave him the background he needed to make his mark in the food and beverage industry, Smith knew he needed to learn how to make Basque ci-der. So, he spent a few weeks in October and November 2017 in Basque Country with his partner Castaños, and their friend Guillermo Montiel, making cider at Montiel’s small family farm in Bera, Spain. “That was a compelling and inspiring moment – the cider was fantastic and the low intervention production method was exactly how I wanted to pro-duce cider back in Oregon,” he said.

  Smith makes his ciders using the same method he learned at Montiel’s farm. Genera-tions of Basque cider makers use this method to make the unique beverage. He starts by sourcing cider-specific apples once a year in August and September. Currently, Smith works with four small Oregon farms. While Smith won’t divulge the specific farms where he sources his apples, he did say that two growers are in the Willamette Valley and, according to Smith, grow wonderful European cider apples. The other two growers are located in the Hood River/Parkdale area. Smith said they have beautiful 20- to 50-year-old orchards full of heritage and heirloom American apples.

  According to Smith, “These apples are harvested at the exact moment we feel they have the right balance of acid, sugar and tannin development.” Then this rustic, Basque-style cider is made using a process more akin to winemaking than brewing beer. They crush and press the fruit and ferment the must spontaneously with whatev-er wild yeast is present on the apple skins and in the cellar. There are no flavors added, no chemicals, and no clarifying agents.

  Smith set up shop in a cavernous warehouse space just off the banks of the Columbia River. A fresh coat of paint gives the cidery a stark, clean look with a giant mural of Basajuan, the mythical Basque “wild man” covering one of the walls. Brand new shiny fermentation and blending tanks sit off to the back of the space. A spacious, wood-lined bar and long wood picnic tables give the space a welcoming, woodsy feel. Weather permitting, the warehouse doors open to a private view of the Columbia Gorge.

  In late August 2018, Smith’s cidery, Son Of Man Sagardo, kicked off their first vintage, becoming the first cidery in the Pacific Northwest to specialize in Basque-style cider. After four months in the tank, and weekly batonnag, they released their Sagardo in Fe-bruary 2019 with an initial production of 2,200 cases of 750ml. These bottles are avail-able at the cidery, select retail outlets, and on their website. 

  Overall, Son of Man’s Sagardo cider has a soft tannic structure with a hint of vinegar—the latter is a hallmark of Basque cider. The nose has a light musty pineapple feel fol-lowed by a clean, bright, green apple taste that feels dry and slightly tart on the palate.

  While Basque cider is bottled still, its natural carbonation is awakened using a pouring method called “throwing the cider.” This method involves pouring the cider from the bottle into the glass at the height of a few feet. This movement causes the cider to splash into the glass, creating a bubbly, fizzy head that resembles sparkling wine.

  Currently, the cidery is open for tastings by appointment and special events. During a tasting, visitor have the unique opportunity to sample cider from three tanks instead of being poured from bottles. The method employed to sample Basque ciders from the tank is called the “long pour” where one holds their glass at an angle about two feet from the spigot to catch the cider. This method unlocks the aromatics, activates the natural carbonation, and aerates the cider. 

  While Smith is a Portland native, he chose to establish Son of Man in Cascade Locks, a region he views as the most exciting winemaking region in the country. In the forty miles west-to-east between Cascade Locks and The Dalles, visitors travel from rainfor-est to high dessert. In the 10 miles north or south away from the Columbia River one can encounter ten unique micro-climates and soil types.

  “By setting up our business in Cascade Locks, and by sourcing fruit for the Gorge, I am helping to promote this incredible region and the diverse array of products that come from it. The Gorge also reminds me of Basque Country. The craggy cliffs and verdant landscapes that invite you to be active and outdoors are similar to those found around San Sebastian,” said Smith.

  Currently, Smith shares his space with Graham Market of Buona Notte Wines and Bethany Kimmel of The Color Collector. While the three operate independently, Smith describes their connection. “Both winemakers are deeply connected to the Columbia River Gorge and make wonderful natural wines with fruit from the Gorge. The three of us are all creating products we are proud of in a very special, but nascent winemaking region. Creating a community of like-minded producers is a priority at this stage so that we can start to open consumers’ eyes to the bounty of the area and the diversity it has to offer.”

  Emily Ritchie, Executive Director of Northwest Cider Association, observes how Son of Man plays a part in the burgeoning Pacific Northwest Cider scene. “He’s doing won-ders for the cider industry by opening up a cidery that makes a unique style of cider not found in most parts of the world,” she said. Basque-style cider can be so enticing when done we, l and I know it’ll raise the profile of cider here in the Pacific Northwest.”

  Moving forward, Smith plans to continue to fine tune their product. His biggest project on the horizon is working with small apple growers to grow particular varietals, allowing him to continue experimenting and creating the best possible Basque cider.

  Smith believes Son of Man falls somewhere between the new farmhouse brewing and wild beer movement currently developing across the country and the natural winemak-ers promoting old school, low intervention winemaking techniques.

  “It might sound odd, but I feel like I’m closer to the progressive brewers and winemak-ers than to the general American cider culture,” said Smith. “This is because our prod-uct is so much different than most of the stuff on grocery store shelves. I’m working to define a category and reset consumers’ expectations around what cider is and what it can be. There are a number of other fantastic cider producers doing the same thing across the country, but we are a minority in a very immature market. There is still a ton of education and growth to be had.”

  For more information about Son of Man Cider or to order their cider online, visit

Brewery Air Compression Systems: Why Quality Matters

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

staff checking the brewery system

Compressed air systems are often misunderstood in the brewing industry and undervalued as a long-term investment; however, compressed air is an essential part of the brewing process, and an efficient system is integral. Choosing the best pneumatic system for brewery operations requires understanding the uses of compressed air in a brewery, the types of compressors available, and the size, focus and other needs of the brewery.

Brewery Uses for Compressed Air

  Although every brewery operates differently, there are a few common uses for air compressors that are very important to the brewing process. Compressed air is used as a means to get yeast cultures enough oxygen during fermentation. Brewers also use compressors to aerate wort and water, and to transport solids, such as spent grains, whole malt, and sugar.

  During bottling, compressed air can move beer from the conditioning tank to the bottle, as well as keep lines clean and free of water. It is used during canning and clarifying to remove solids and create a cleaner product, and controls valves and actuators in automated packaging and labeling processes. Some maintenance and sanitation also require compressed air, powering air tools and pressure washers.

Types of Air Compressors for Breweries

  There are two primary types of air compressors used by modern breweries. The first is the pressure-lubricated reciprocating or piston air compressor. These compressors use a piston and cylinder driven by a crankshaft to compress air and feature either a single-stage or double-stage operation. Single-stage piston air compressors bring air in with a single-piston stroke that’s about 120 PSI.

  Meanwhile, double-stage compressors compress air up to about 175 PSI with an additional compression step through a second piston. These compressors are often used for low-pressure tasks, such as washing kegs.

  The second type of brewery air compressor is a lubricated rotary screw compressor. The rotary screws in these compressors utilize a positive displacement system and a hydraulic seal to transfer energy between rotors. The screw design and rotation forces air to move through the compressor. These types of compressors are better suited for high-pressure tanks and are useful for bottling and other brewery tasks.

  When shopping for compressors, brewers can choose between oil-lubricated compressors and oil-free air compressors, depending on their needs. Lubricated compressors are typically equipped with filtering systems to ensure that contaminants stay out of beer.

  As an alternative to the piston compressor for brewery applications, some brewers use oil-free scroll air compressors for continuous clean air and quiet operation. These machines can be installed anywhere due to the low noise levels and no pressure drop-offs.

Brewery Size Matters

  Michael Camber, Marketing Services Manager for Kaeser Compressors, Inc., told Beverage Master Magazine that the full range of craft breweries’ production levels would affect their pneumatic equipment needs.

  “Larger brewers tend to have a broader variety of pneumatic devices, as well as more of them,” Camber said. “Our craft brewers typically purchase rotary screw compressors from 5-50 hp, though most craft brewers are in the 5-25 hp range. These are most often bought as part of a system that includes tanks, drains, dryers, and filters. These are vital to cleaning up the air to protect brewers’ expensive equipment. Many choose AIRTOWERs and AIRCENTERs, which are complete compressed air stations with storage tanks and air treatment components built into a space and time-saving package.”

  In addition to the high-quality air they provide, Camber said that these compressors are extremely reliable and energy-efficient.

“These machines are designed for demanding manufacturing and processing applications and can run 24/7 if needed,” he said. “A bonus is that the packages are quiet, which is especially important if people will be working near the compressor or the brewery has a public taproom on-premises.”

Compressors Used by Breweries

  Due to their varying needs, no two breweries use their air compression systems the same. The market also provides brewers with plenty of manufacturers so that they can find their perfect pneumatic fit.

  Offering year-round, seasonal, and unique one-off beers, D9 Brewing Company has been on the local craft beer scene in Cornelius, North Carolina since 2014. Andrew Durstewitz, CEO and founder of D9 Brewing, told Beverage Master Magazine, “We use an Ingersoll Rand compressor for all pneumatic controls in the brewhouse, packaging, and aeration of wort.” (Photo on Right)

  Peter Licht, brewmaster for Hermitage Brewing Company in San Jose, California, said he uses rotary screw compressors with integrated dryer for all of his brewery’s compressed air needs. Hermitage Brewing Company is a big part of the growing craft beer scene in San Jose and offers a pubic tasting room, growler fills, keg orders, and brewery tours.

  Meanwhile, Drew Yeager, Director of Brewery Operations for Fat Bottom Brewing in Nashville, Tennessee said his brewery uses an Atlas Copco SF22+ FF Oil-free air compressor.

  “This is used to provide oil-free, dry air to our production equipment including the chain-vey conveyor system, centrifuge, keg washer, canning line, PakTech applicator, CIP system, and central foaming system for floor cleaning,” Yeager said.

  Established in 2012 as East Nashville’s first brewery, Fat Bottom Brewing brews a wide variety of beers inspired by styles all around the world.

Brewery Compressor Considerations

  For brewers in the market for an air compressor, many questions should be raised internally and with manufacturers. One important consideration is to understand the size of air compressor the brewery needs to not burn out and put operations at a stand-still. Brewers should also take into account where to physically place the compressor in the brewery to reduce noise and potential damage to brewing equipment. 

  Some brewers have made the switch from oil-based air compressors to oil-free versions. Oil-free air tends to be better for brewing because oil can kill yeast, flatten a frothy head, present safety hazards, and reduce purity.

  Camber of Kaeser Compressors defined and described what he considers the six most important factors a brewery should consider when purchasing an air compression system.

1.   Reliability – If the operation has mission-critical equipment with pneumatics, you want something well-built so you don’t have downtime.

2.   Energy efficiency – Depending on local utility rates, size of machine (hp), and the running hours, energy can be a significant cost. Efficiency varies widely between compressors.

3.   Operating temperature – This impacts how easy or hard it will be to remove moisture from the compressed air. The lower the operating temperature, the easier it will be to prevent moisture from affecting equipment and product.

4.   High oil carryover – the carryover rate also impacts air quality and can be a real problem with some compressors. The lower it is, the better for both product quality and equipment reliability.

5.   Low vibration – over time, vibration will loosen internal piping and electrical connections, causing downtime. Look for compressors that run smoothly and have good vibration isolators.

6.   Noise – if people will be working near the compressor, low noise is important for morale, health, and safety.

  Durstewitz of D9 Brewing said the most important considerations for his brewery concerning air compressors are reliability and sanitation. Licht of Heritage Brewing said air quality, reliability, and sound are the top things they keep in mind when looking at air compressors.

  At Fat Bottom Brewing, Yeager said oil-free and dry air are the most important considerations for his brewery’s air compressor decisions. Other factors he said are “planning for SCF required day one and with a growth plan for sizing,” as well as the “noise level for employee comfort and OSHA compliance.”

Choosing the Right Brewery Air Compressor

  There is no one-size-fits-all solution for brewery air compressors because every brewery’s compressed air needs are unique. To get started, talk to experts at air compressor companies that serve breweries as a primary market, as well as other craft brewers about what systems work well for them.

  Durstewitz of D9 Brewing recommends not winging it when choosing the size of your air compressor. “Make sure to accurately calculate your CFMs and pressure requirements. If you run a compressor too hard it’ll just burn out,” he said.

  Heritage Brewing Company’s Licht said breweries should “plan for future air needs, make sure the air quality is appropriate for the use, and do not install a noisy compressor in work areas.” 

  Fat Bottom Brewery’s Yeager stands behind oil-free. “Bite the bullet and purchase the right oil-free, dry air compressor. You will save the difference in money with less maintenance on brewery equipment and less downtime in production.”

  Finally, Camber of Kaeser Compressors warns about going too big. “Determine what size and type you need based on actual air demand, duty cycle, and how mission-critical air is to your brewery,” he said. “You want a reliable supply at a stable pressure, but you don’t want to oversize compressors. Oversizing increases your purchase costs, your energy costs, and your maintenance costs.”

The Golden Age of Hops and Beer: The Fine Art of Choosing a Hop

By: Robin Dohrn- Simpson

hand inspecting plant

Choosing the right hops can be a complicated task. Some breweries choose hops based on past agreements – they have long-standing relationships with growers they feel confident will provide what they need, at the highest quality. Some search out their hops based on geography, based on knowledge of which plant grows better in Washington than in Oregon or Idaho. Some experiment with hops growers who are creating new varieties and bringing them to market. Others just want a Citra, or an Alpha, or a Cascade, and make a spot purchase. Whichever path they choose, what truly matters is the quality of the hop and the right varietal for the beer.

Purchasing Based on Terroir

  Thomas Bleigh, Innovation Brewmaster at Craft Brew Alliance’s Ph Experiment in Oregon, chooses his hops based on the terroir.

  “While I don’t have any empirical evidence to support this, I, historically, have had a preference for Oregon-grown vs. Washington-grown Cascade hops. Much of it was the most likely narrative for the beer that we produced, but we did run trials on Cascade in our flagship single-hop Cascade Ale, and we found a preference in one supplier,” Bleigh said. “Much of this would have been tied to a qualitative raw source, but we also believed that processing played a role in the character of the hop.”

  Despite Bleigh’s preference for Oregon-grown, the CBA doesn’t limit themselves to hops from one state over another, instead, focusing on locally sourced ingredients. This is undoubtedly the case at their Redhook brewpub in Seattle.

  “Currently, our Redhook BrewLab is working on a series called Washington Native that focuses on Washington sourced malts and salmon-safe sourced Washington hops,” said Bleigh. “That project is an interesting example of trying to tease our nuance based on regional distinction. One of the challenges is that while Pacific Northwest breweries are hyper-aware and engaged in local sourcing, we are also mindful that these hops service the majority of domestic craft.”

  Hop varietals, just like any plant, thrive in some regions over others. At the same time, varietals that thrive in any environment can develop characteristics based on the soil and weather of the area where they grow. Terroir is often spoken of regarding winegrapes but can also be applied to other crops, particularly those involved in the creation of alcoholic beverages.

  “Yakima, given its dry climate, is a much better growing region for higher alpha hop varieties and Nuevo IPA hop varieties. These proprietary hops (such as Citra, Mosaic, Azacca) all fare better in Washington than they do in Oregon. Idaho presents an interesting domestic terroir character, and they have now surpassed Oregon for hops produced and are becoming more of a geographic force in the industry,” Bleigh said.

  Larry Sidor, Co-Founder, Master Brewer and CEO at Crux Fermentation Project in Bend Oregon, knows hops and appreciates why different regions and growers yield a range of characteristics.

  “Terroir, climate conditions during kilning, as well as processing methods post field harvest make all the difference. When hops are dried in Oregon the ambient temperatures are lower than Washington, but the humidity is higher, yielding significant differences. Methods of preserving the hops differ quite widely and can contribute different nuances. An example is “farmer bales” that are dried, packed loosely, and then stored in barns. Books can and have been written about all the differences. The resulting beer is also different,” Sidor said.

  Sidor does have a preference, however. “Being a native Oregonian, my belief and preference is that Willamette Valley grown hops are the best in the world. I may be a bit biased, I’ve brewed with hops from every major hop growing region in the world, so that should count for something,”

  Christian DeBenedetti of Wolves and People Brewery in Newberg, Oregon, feels that the amount of sensory and flavor research and description in the industry is at an all-time high. His brewery wants growers with proven track records and a full grasp on their fields and crops.

  “Hops are almost like wine varietals at this point. There are so many interesting old and new varieties being cultivated with real care, and we definitely look to favored growers who can communicate accurately about their hops and lots. They vary by year and even by the lot, because of variations in soil and site. So we’re looking for a combination of characteristics we can bring forward in a well-made beer,” DeBenedetti said. “Soil chemistry and farming techniques both affect hop flavor. Take Cascade, for example, a classic aroma hop. In Oregon and Washington, it tends to grapefruit and pine. In New Zealand, which is free of the sort of pests that plague other growing regions, it’s often more melon-like. This is due to the soil it’s grown in. This a perfect reflection of terroir in beer.”

Which Comes First, the Hops or the Brew?

  Brewers vary in their approach to creating a beer recipe. Sometimes, an idea for a new brew will come to them, and they will search out the ingredients to make it. Other times, it’s the ingredients themselves that inspire a recipe.

  At Crux Fermentation Project, Sidor prefers experimenting with hops and letting them do the talking. “I don’t brew a beer until I’ve acquired the materials to brew it,” he said. “Once they are acquired, I then look for the best way to utilize them in a formulation. Crux tends to bring in a dozen or so new hops every year with the intent of experimenting with them using this approach. I don’t have an idea about a brew when I purchase a hop. I typically brew a single-hop brew to get a feel for the hop. The result is usually a very one-dimensional beer that isn’t very interesting. This doesn’t mean the hop is bad; it means that other hops are needed in the brew to make it shine.

  A good example of this is the Strata hop. By itself, it is very one dimensional, when in combination with other hops, it’s a rock star. One hop that seems to shine all by itself is the Sabro hop. Have only brewed one brew so far, but as a single hop brew, the Sabro delivered a very layered and interesting beer. In short, you need to let the hop tell you what beers it’s going to shine in.”

  Wolves and People Brewery has built beers around individual hops. “There are new aroma varieties that play up fruity, tropical aromas like passionfruit, lychee, coconut and mango. We want those traits to be front and center, so we build a recipe almost like a stage to pop those bright, high-tone aromas to the fore. Sometimes we’re doing the complete opposite. We want a beer that has spice character, some old-world bitterness and aroma, then we go looking for those varieties and use what’s freshest,” DeBenedetti said.

Experimental Hops

  Joe Catron, “Hoperations” Manager at Yakima Chief Ranches, feels right now is the Golden Age of hops and beer. Three hop farming families created Yakima Chief with the sole purpose of creating new world-class hops varieties and bringing them to market. The process of creating a new hop takes up to a decade and can cost upwards of a million dollars from cross-pollination, to market research, to placement in the marketplace. The ranch releases one new hop approximately every year.

  “We make several crosses each year and generally result in 30-50,000 seedlings in any given year,” Catron told Beverage Master Magazine. “In my seven years working here we have released five varieties: four flavoring and aroma for the American scene and one super alpha hop for bittering for the big macro brewers.”

  Yakima Chief has experienced immense growth over the years. When Catron started in 2013, there were three owner-growers and 900 acres planted. As of 2019, there are now 45 farms in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, with 15,000 acres managed.

  The ranch applies a “fail fast” mentality. They run a hop through the gamut, and if it doesn’t check off all the boxes, it goes to the scrap heap. However, they did have a quasi-flop that eventually became a success.

  “The Simco hop was released 20 years ago as a dual purpose hop alpha and aroma. We couldn’t give it away. Some said it was too pungent, punchy and dank. We were going to tear down the bines, but Russian River Brewing found it and liked it, and it became a champion in the beer called Pliny the Elder. Vinny, the head brewer is a cult hero amongst brewers. He helped to save the variety, and now there are 3,000 acres of this hop planted. It was definitely before it’s time and needed a new audience,” Catron said.

  Crux Fermentation’s Sidor has seen experimentation change the hops market throughout his career, due to the increase in craft brewing and the demand for the next big thing.

  “When I started brewing, only Cluster and Fuggle were available. You could bring in hops from Europe, but most were at a state of oxidation higher than acceptable,” he said. “My concern now is, can the hop breeder keep up with the customer demand for ‘what’s new?’ Remember that Cascade was revolutionary in the 1970s, Citra 40 years later, Galaxy 5 years after that. The thing that has accelerated hop breeding is the customer demand, the technical tools now available to the hop researcher, and the money available to do the research. My only concern is that not enough money is being spent on breeding public varieties by the USDA.” 

  Craft Brew Alliance’s pH Experiment specializes in trying new things, and Bleigh enjoys testing hop varieties. “We are heavily invested in trialing new hop varieties and working with the Hop Research Council to explore new varietals and to support public breeding of hops. Our initial explorations have shaped our early pioneering interest in hops like Citra and Galaxy, which have very specific tropical hop characters that are signature hops in some of our brands,” he said.

  Hops play an essential role in the craft beer industry, helping create distinct brews with complimentary varietal combinations and terroir. With a high demand for more hops and hops growers, and places like Yakima Chief Ranch creating new cross breeds nearly every year, the U.S. hops industry can only continue to bloom.

“American hops is the world leader right now. It’s a special time to be alive,” Catron said.

A Guide to Some of the Best Canadian Beer Fests

By: Briana Tomkinson

hand dispensing beer

The popularity of craft beer in Canada has fueled the growth of beer festivals across the country. Some, like Craft Beer Week events in Vancouver and Ontario, are primarily dedicated to showcasing local brews, while other festivals, like Montreal’s Mondial de la bière, are opportunities for beer-lovers to explore new tastes from across Canada and around the world.

Mondial de la bière

  At the 26th annual Mondial de la bière, held in May 2019, an estimated 80,000 visitors flowed through the kiosks at Windsor Station in downtown Montreal. Visitors were keen to sample some of the 450 beers, ciders, meads and spirits from at least 90 craft beverage producers—including 35 from Quebec.

  While the included the usual branded brewery kiosks, it also featured the Petit Pub where visitors could try a selection of beer varieties from eight countries: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the U.S., Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Although admission was free, visitors could buy coupons for two- or four-ounce samples, ranging in price from $2 to $8 CAD.

  Quebec distilleries were a notable presence at the event, offering many creative tastes like les Subversif’s maple gin, produced in a former church in Sorel-Tracy; and Franklin-based Sivo’s rhubarb liqueur. Sivo was the first in Quebec to create a single-malt whisky in 2017 and is now known for its complex herbal liqueurs as well. Quebec’s first locally produced bitter Italian-style apératif, Amermelade, by Montreal’s Les Spiritueux Iberville was also available for sampling, along with the company’s Amernoir, a bitter amaro-style digestif with notes of coffee, cocoa, sarsaparilla, mint and orange.

  The event featured Quebec breweries proudly touting their sour beers. La Souche’s Canadian Brewing Award-winning Limoilou Beach beer stood out, in particular. The brew incorporates locally sourced ingredients unique to the northern Boréal forest, such as tart wild berries, Labrador tea and pine tips.

  The Mondial de la bière was founded in Montreal in 1994, and has become one of America’s most important international beer festivals. In addition to the original Montreal event, there are now three other Mondial de la bière festivals organized around the world, including one in Europe (, and two in Brazil. The events in France and Sao Paulo took place in late May and early June, and the seventh edition of the Rio de Janeiro Mondial de la bière ( is September 4-8, 2019.

Just wait, there’s more…

  If you missed out on the Mondial de la bière, don’t fret—there are similar events held across Canada throughout the year. Here are some of the most notable.

  Festibière (, held in Gatineau in June and February, is another Quebec beer festival. The June festival drew more than 30,000 people over three days and featured over 300 beers from more than 30 Quebec breweries. The winter edition in February is more intimate, drawing closer to 10,000 people.

  In July, the Toronto Festival of Beer ( pairs craft beverages with food and music. This year’s headliners include Ashanti and Ja Rule. The event will feature samples of over 400 beers from more than 90 brewers.

  Brewfest ( takes place in Ottawa in February and Toronto in March. The February event coincides with Ottawa’s annual Winterlude festival, a significant tourist draw at the famously frigid time of year. The Toronto event features over 150 beers from breweries in Quebec and Ontario, as well as gourmet eats from popular local food trucks.

  Alberta Beer Festivals ( organizes six events throughout the year in Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and Jasper. Their Calgary International Beerfest, home to the Canadian International Beer Awards, is one of Canada’s largest beer festivals. The beer fest, held annually in May, features over 700 beers from more than 200 breweries. Another of their events, the Jasper Beer & Barley Summit, held in February, is a two-day mountain retreat at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, featuring food and beer pairings and seminars from top brewers, distillers and other industry leaders.

  In British Columbia, Vancouver Craft Beer Week ( is the event to watch. Held in late May and early June, it’s a 10-day party celebrating the city’s thriving craft beer scene, including a two-day festival at the PNE Fairgrounds in June, as well as events at breweries, restaurants and bars throughout the city. This year’s events included beer bike tours, tap takeovers, special beer pairing menus at local restaurants, and a three-hour sunset cruise featuring craft beer, snacks and a DJ.

  Another notable summer festival in B.C. is Farmhouse Fest (, held in July at the University of British Columbia’s 24-hectare model farm. Farmhouse Fest is an ode to farmhouse-style beers and ciders—the funky, fruity, peppery, tart, dry and sour. Participating breweries include local breweries as well as specialty producers from throughout Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Chile and Australia.

  August in the Maritimes brings the Seaport Cider & Beer Festival ( to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The two-day event features over 300 beverages from producers in 20 countries. This year they’ve added a new feature: the Maine Beer Box, a pop-up taproom in a shipping container featuring 78 craft beer taps from breweries in Maine.

  Another major East Coast beer fest is New Brunswick’s Fredericton Craft Beer Festival ( in March, which features over 200 varieties of beer, cider and mead.

  In remote Whitehorse, the Yukon Beer Festival ( in October brings a taste of craft beer and ciders from around North America to delight beer fans in the Great White North. Last year’s event featured over 100 different brews.

  Some larger craft producers, like Beau’s Brewing in tiny Vankleek Hill, Ontario, have created their own marquee events. Beau’s Oktoberfest ( has become a significant fall music and beer celebration, featuring not only Beau’s brews but also a mini-beer festival with over 50 rare or exclusive beers from Canadian craft breweries. The New Pornographers and Shad headline the September festival, along with Jenn Grant, Neon Dreams, Birds of Bellwoods, Caravane, John Jacob Magistery, and What If Elephants. The 2018 event drew over 17,000 people, and since its launch 10 years ago, has raised approximately $711,000 for area charities. 

  The beauty of beer festivals is the opportunity for brands to make a personal connection with beer fans, tell their story, and above all, to entice more people to taste the unique product they have to offer.