How Craft Beer Producers Can Incentivize Distributors and Wholesalers to Help Them Go to Market

By: Nichole Gunn, Vice President of Marketing and Creative Services, Incentive Solutions

As a craft beer producer, competition is fierce. According to the Brewers Association, there were 7,346 craft beer producers in the U.S. last year competing for $27.6 billion in sales. That’s a lot of beer! And, that doesn’t even take into account competition from “The Big Five” or import beer for shares of the overall U.S. beer market.

  For craft beer producers who are looking to scale and increase sales, it might be tempting to start pouring your marketing funds into consumer marketing. But will that really make a splash? Think of the hundreds of millions in media spend by beer companies every year that you’ll be going up against.

  Could there possibly be a more efficient way to use that marketing spend? For craft beers producers who are trying to go to market, it’s important to sit down and ask yourself, “Who has the biggest impact on whether or not end consumers find my beer? And how can I motivate them to prioritize my business?”

Understanding the Craft Beer Sales Channel 

  When it comes to connecting with end consumers, craft beer producers have four options:

•    On-Site: Selling directly to consumers at your brewery.

•    E-Commerce: Selling directly to consumers online.

•    Retail: Selling to consumers through other retailers.

•    On-Premise: Selling to consumers through bars and restaurants.

  However, on-site sales are limited by geography and e-commerce sales require brand familiarity or extremely creative (or very expensive) marketing. For a scalable sales and marketing strategy, craft beer producers have to turn their attention to retail and on-premise sales and the indirect sales force that helps them achieve penetration with these vendors.

Incentivizing Distributor and Wholesaler Sales Reps

  Outside of smaller, highly localized breweries, most craft beer producers rely on distributors, wholesalers and other supply chain trading partners to market to retailers and restaurants. Distributor and wholesaler sales reps are responsible for selling vendors on the value of your beer, negotiating pricing and terms of sale agreements and ultimately getting your craft beer to market.

  There’s one small problem: no matter how awesome your craft beer is, it only a small fraction of your distributor or wholesaler’s supply mix. In this battle for mindshare, it’s up to you to educate reps about your brand, enable them to sell your product and supply them with a value proposition that inspires them to take action on your account.

  This is where an incentive program comes into play. When many people think of incentive programs, they think about rewards. But while rewards play a big role in building relationships with your channel partners and adding to your overall value proposition, modern incentive programs take a more holistic, software-driven approach.

  Today’s incentive programs act as comprehensive sales and marketing platforms that enable craft beer producers to:

•   Build mindshare with distributor and wholesaler sales reps.

•   Target promotions by qualifying participant type, regions or product line.

•   Fill data gaps within their channel.

•   Enable sales reps to sell their product to vendors.

•   Deepen relationships with partners throughout their channel.

Building Mindshare with Distributors and Wholesaler Sales Reps

  Sales reps, for the most part, sell what they know. However, in a crowded supply mix, building this awareness and product knowledge with sales reps can be challenging. While every supplier wants something from these outside sales reps, far fewer supplier focus on offering value and creating memorable brand interactions.

  Inviting these sale reps to enroll in an incentive program where they have the opportunity to earn millions of rewards or exclusive incentive travel opportunities (and perhaps giving them a generous point bonus upfront) is more than a nice gesture. It’s a strategic differentiator and an opportunity to stand out from your competitors.  

  Your rewards program also creates new opportunities for communication and engagement that aren’t strictly business. These brand interactions are an opportunity to improve personalization and build relationship capital, which can be difficult to achieve in supply chain partnerships.

Targeting Promotions to Minimize Cost and Maximize Return

  It’s worth noting that a channel partner program is an investment. When planning an incentive marketing strategy, craft beer producers need to focus on maximizing the return on their marketing spend. This means that they should target first and scale second.

  For instance, would it make more sense financially to target your program to the sales and brand managers at the distributor level or the individual reps who work beneath them? It depends on your go-to-market strategy and the size and number of distributors you work with. If you sell through smaller wholesalers with a handful of reps, who each are responsible for a significant portion of your overall sales volume, then it might make sense to structure your program to reward individual sales reps. On the other hand, if you’re selling through a number of wholesalers and distributors, or an extremely large distributor with thousands of reps, it might make more sense to target your incentive programs to sales and brand managers.

  Additionally, from those managers and sales reps, craft beer producers can set qualification thresholds, based on sales volume or engagement, to ensure that their incentive program spend is allocated toward the participants who are most impactful to their sales growth.

  Another aspect of your targeting strategy is choosing to set incentive promotions by specific regions or product lines, based on strategic initiatives and opportunities for growth.   

Collecting More Complete Data Throughout Your Channel

  Craft beer producers, like many other companies who sell into a channel, often struggle with having inaccurate and incomplete data about their channel. Your incentive program is an opportunity to motivate distributors and wholesalers to provide more complete data. There are several ways craft beer producers can use their incentive program to fill in gaps in channel data:

•   Structuring enrollment forms that capture contact information and firmographic data during program registration.

•   Including automated tools for sales reps to attach invoices or other documents as part of the program’s sales verification process.

•   Offering rewards to participating sales reps for referring other reps within their organization.

•   Rewarding sales reps for completing voluntary surveys that can be used to clean up your existing database or collect more information about your participants’ interests, demographic and lifestyle.

•   Analyzing engagement datapoints the program generates to spot highly engaged accounts that are ripe for upsells and cross-sells.

  All of this information can be used to inform your sales and marketing strategy and increase the level of personalization you offer your supply chain partners.

  However, all the data in the world is useless unless you’re able to act on it. Modern incentive software includes CRM integration, data filters, reporting dashboards and custom reports to streamline this data for optimal use.

Enabling Your Distributor and Wholesaler Sales Reps

  Do you know one of the quickest ways to build brand preference with an indirect sales rep? Provide quality sales enablement. Using proven strategies to educate sales reps on your brand and your products makes it easy for them to sell your products to vendors.

  Integrating interactive quizzes and training videos with your incentive program is a powerful tool for supplying your external sales reps with the knowledge they need to sell your beer. This education can be supplemented by your incentive program’s digital communication platforms. (If you use this kind of strategy, make sure to break things up into bite-sized pieces and focus on the highlights your partners will need to help you go-to-market). Additionally, these quizzes are another opportunity for sales reps to earn rewards, increasing the overall value proposition of your program.

Deepening Relationships Throughout Your Channel

  Finally, in addition to short-term sales growth and marketing penetration, your incentive program has another benefit that will have a lasting impact on the success of your go-to-market strategy: relationship-building. Non-cash rewards are a social currency that achieve emotional impact and memorability with sales reps at distributors and wholesalers. In addition to motivating sales growth and reinforcing desired behavior, the rewards your program offers create a sense of personalization.

  For craft beer producers, your distributors and wholesalers are more than just conduits to the end consumer. They are your partners – an indispensable part of your go-to-market strategy. Offering your sales reps the opportunity to choose from exciting rewards or treating top performers to unforgettable incentive travel experiences represents the type of brand interactions that will set you apart from the competition. But more than that, these rewards inspire your distributor and wholesaler sales reps to emotionally invest in your brand and take an active interest in your success.

Unsure About Where to Start? Be Smart, Explore Your Options and Focus on Scalability

  An incentive program can be an integral part of a craft beer producer’s go-to-market strategy. However, what about companies who have never used this type of strategy before? If you are interested in creating a channel marketing program for your distributors and wholesalers, do your homework. Identify a goal for your program and the software functionalities you’ll need to achieve that goal.

  Compile a list of incentive program providers who fit your requirements and who have a proven track record, with case studies and testimonials to prove it. From there, begin reaching out to these providers and enlist their help in planning your incentive strategy. Use these conversations to refine your strategy and learn more about what has worked for companies with similar goals and similar distribution channels to yours in the past.

  Once you’ve decided on a provider, you don’t have to go all in. It’s prudent to start small, maybe with a pilot program or highly targeted incentive promotion. You can always scale, once you’ve proven that you can do this successfully.

  However, it’s also important to have a sense of urgency. As craft beer sales continues to grow, so will competition for craft beer dollars. Beating your competitors to building an incentive program for your distributor and wholesale sales reps can be a major competitive advantage. Plus, you owe it to your future customers to help them find their new favorite beer!

  Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing and Creative Services at Incentive Solutions (, an Atlanta-based incentive company that specializes in helping B2B companies improve their channel sales, build customer loyalty, and motivate their employees. Nichole Gunn can be reached at

Increasing Brewery Cash Flow: Craft Breweries and the R&D Credit

By: Wendy Landrum, CPA, Partner and R&D Advisory Leader; Mark Heroux, JD, Principal, Tax Advocacy and Controversy Services Leader; and Brian Haneline,  CPA, Senior Manager, R&D Advisory

Craft brew popularity is at an all-time high in the United States, with explosive industry growth in the past five years. According to the Brewers Association, craft brewers now make up 98 percent of all U.S. breweries. As new craft brewers continue to enter the industry and existing brewers look to keep up with recent trends, significant financial investments must be made before the first brew can reach the consumer. Whether these costs are related to the formulation of the brew, or how to produce or package the brew, costs can be substantial.

  Fortunately, federal and state governments offer an often overlooked but valuable benefit to help offset these costs in the form of R&D tax credits for craft brewers engaging in “qualifying activities.” 

R&D credits result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in income taxes and, if applicable, payroll taxes, providing cash flow for future investments. The R&D credit applies not only to new product development, but also to improvements to existing products and manufacturing processes. Importantly, the activities need only be evolutionary to the organization, not to the industry as a whole, to qualify for the credit.

  Because the R&D credit is nonrefundable, startup companies and other small businesses like craft breweries are often limited in their ability to claim the R&D credit in the current tax year because they do not have current income tax liability to utilize the credit. Despite the credit having a 20 year carry forward if not used currently, the company receives no immediate tax advantage from the R&D credit, especially for years in which R&D activities and investments may be high.

Payroll Tax Offset

  However, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 allows certain small businesses to offset the R&D credit against payroll taxes instead of income taxes. PATH allows for up to $250,000 of annual federal R&D credits that can be allocated against payroll tax liability. This applies to tax years that begin after Dec. 31, 2015.

  To qualify for the payroll tax offset in 2019, a business must have gross receipts of less than $5 million in 2019 and may not have had gross receipts for any tax year before the five-tax-year period ending with 2019. For example, if the credit-claiming year is 2019, a company must have had less than $5 million of gross receipts in 2019 and no gross receipts prior to 2015.

  The R&D credit may be applied against the FICA portion of payroll taxes beginning in the first calendar quarter following the date on which the business files the income tax return. If the payroll tax credit portion of the R&D credit exceeds the tax liability for any calendar quarter, the excess is carried to the next calendar quarter and allowed as credit for that quarter. The payroll tax election is limited to five taxable years.

Four-Part Test

  Naturally, the question then becomes, what are “qualifying activities” to be able to claim the credit and what costs can be captured? Generally, activities must meet the following four criteria (referred to as the “four-part test”) to include the related wages, supplies, or contract research costs in the R&D calculation:

1.   The activity must be technological in nature. The activity must be based on the principles of a hard science such as chemistry or engineering.

2.   The activity must be for a permitted purpose. The activity must involve the creation of a new or improved level of: function, performance, reliability, quality, durability or cost reduction for a product or manufacturing process

3.   The activity must involve the elimination of uncertainty. The activity must explore what was not known at the start of the project.

      •   Capability: Can we develop the new or                                improved product or process?

      •   Methodology: How will we develop the new                       or improved product or process?

      •   Design: What is the appropriate design of                            the new or improved product or process?

4.   The activity must involve a process of experimentation. Substantially all activities must include elements of experimentation such as:

      •    Evaluating one or more alternatives

      •    Performing testing or modeling

      •    Examining and analyzing hypotheses

      •    Refining or abandoning hypotheses

  A wide range of technical activities related to product or process development or improvement in the craft brew industry may qualify for the R&D credit. Consider the examples below:

•    Developing new or improved recipes and styles.

•    Brewing experimental or pilot batches of new or improved recipes and styles.

•    Performing lab testing, or other functional testing, on new or improved products or processes.

•    Developing new or improved ingredient mixing methods.

•    Developing new or improved yeast strains or fermentation processes.

•    Developing new or improved manufacturing processes.

•    Researching new or improved production techniques.

•    Automating existing manufacturing processes.

•    Developing new or improved processes or methods to prevent spoilage.

•    Developing new or improved bottling or packaging processes.

•    Developing new or improved methods to minimize or treat wastewater.

  For reference, examples of activities that may not

qualify include:

•    General administrative and managerial functions.

•    Sales, marketing and business development activities.

•    Routing data collection (e.g., management studies, efficiency surveys).

•    Day-to-day production activities.

•    Routine quality control and inspection.

•    Maintenance and installation services.

•    Training (even if related to new equipment or technology).

•    Research conducted outside the U.S.

Qualifying Costs

  As mentioned above, the following costs are included in the R&D calculation:

1.  Wages paid or incurred to employees who are directly engaged in qualified research activities, or who directly supervise or support qualified research activities. Qualified wages are computed by multiplying the percentage of an individual’s annual time attributable to qualified research activities against W-2, box 1 wages.

2.  Supplies include any tangible property, other than land and depreciable property, which is used or consumed during the development process.

3.  Payments to third parties to perform research and development activities on your behalf. The services must be performed within the U.S. and you must have financial risk (with T&M or hourly contract terms paying for the services versus final product).

  There are two calculation methodologies to consider, alternative simplified credit and regular credit, both with alternatives for start-up companies.

Documentation Requirements

  Federal and state regulators focus on whether a taxpayer can document: 1) the process of experimentation, and 2) the development of a new or improved product or process (also referred to in a research credit discussion as “the business component”).

To maximize the credit taxpayers are well-advised to conduct a disciplined, documented research process. It is important to document every step of the research process, particularly the process of experimentation used to eliminate uncertainty and the identification of the business components, i.e., the new or improved product or process. Sales increases and customer surveys will help to identify improved products, but will not be conclusive. It’s the contemporaneous recording of the research activity that will carry the day in an IRS exam.

  It’s also important that breweries identify the amount of time that professionals spend performing qualified research activities. Time tracking software that identifies the various activities that take place when creating a new or improved product or process is the best option to document time spent by professionals in the conduct of qualified research activities. Taxpayers that do not use time tracking software generally use estimates provided by the research professionals, through the use of time surveys, as to the percentage of time that they spend conducting creditable research activities.

Case Study

  To see how the credit can benefit a craft brewer, the following case study is instructional. In this example, XYZ Brewery in Texas wants to design a new brew from scratch. Once research is conducted to determine the ideal end product (and this research should qualify for the R&D credit), here is the process employed by the brewer (pre-bottling) and who is involved:

  General R&D process including potentially qualifying activities:

1) Mashing – malts are mixed with adjunct flavorings and liquor (pure water) and heated to allow enzymes to break down starch into sugars.

2) Lautering – consists of three steps: mash out, recirculation, and sparging.

3) Hops boiling – once the mash is sparged, the resultant wort is sent to a hops boiler where hops are added for flavor and boiled according to a recipe hops schedule.

4) Fermenting – the wort is sent to a fermentor where the sugars undergo fermentation, via the glycolysis which causes a chemical reaction.

  Who might be involved in the process:

1) Head R&D Brewer

2) R&D Brewery Manager

3) Production Manager

4) Assistant R&D Brewer

5) Brewery Quality Control/Lab

The brewer in this case provides their tax advisor with a W-2 box 1 wage listing and supply expenses for the current and previous three years, and had no contractors that assisted with the development process. Your tax advisor conducts technical interviews with the employees below to help identify the qualifying activities and to allocate a percentage of time to each qualifying activity:


•   Head R&D Brewer’s time qualifies at 100%

•   R&D Brewery Manager time qualifies at 100%

•   Production Manager’s time qualifies at 50%

•   Assistant R&D Brewer’s time qualifies at 100%

•   Brewery Quality Control/Lab’s time qualifies at 100%

  Qualified supply expenses by year:

•    2018: $60,000

•    2017: $50,000

•    2016: $50,000

•    2015: $40,000

  Once the data is gathered, analyzed and quantified, your tax advisor calculates a federal and state R&D credit. In this case, the brewer will generate a federal credit of $10k and a Texas state credit of $6k.

  As can be seen from the case study above, the R&D credit can be a valuable tool for craft brewers to help offset startup or other operational costs, either in the way of credits to offset tax liability or refundable payroll tax credits in certain cases.

  While it may not be readily apparent that the R&D credits are in-play for the craft brew industry, many craft brewers have taken advantage of this opportunity. Craft brewers should take notice of the activities that they engage in and consider whether R&D credits might be an option.

For more information, contact the authors at Baker Tilly or 608-240-2334.

Distribution Agreements: Negotiate Your “PreNup” Carefully

Business people shaking hands, finishing up a papers signing. Meeting, contract and lawyer consulting concept.

By: Brian D. Kaider, Esq.

Starting a brewery requires learning a lot of new skills and practices that have nothing to do with making great beer.  One of the most confusing and frustrating is the issue of distribution.  If their state allows, most new breweries initially distribute their own products and, if the brewery is content to be relatively local, that might never change. 

But, in many cases, brewery growth necessitates working with a distributor.  This is not a relationship to be entered into lightly. A distributor becomes an ambassador for the brewery’s brand and, once retained, the supplier may have little control over how its beer is marketed. Further, these relationships can be difficult or financially impossible to break once established.

  Supplier/distributor relationships are governed by franchise laws in most states. In the absence of franchise laws, the relationship is defined entirely by a distribution agreement between the parties. But, even in franchise states, the distribution agreement can play a critical role, particularly in the termination of the distributor relationship.

  Too often, however, breweries accept a distributor’s “standard” agreement and when the relationship sours, the supplier finds that they are stuck with no viable option to terminate. The best practice is to engage an experienced attorney to negotiate the terms of the distribution agreement. While even the best attorney cannot evade state franchise laws (which generally prohibit a distributor from waiving its rights), there are ways an attorney may help bring balance to the supplier/distributor relationship.  Some of the key terms to negotiate include termination, territory, brand scope, and exclusivity.


  The most critical section of the agreement sets forth the manner and circumstances under which a supplier may terminate the distributor. In a franchise state, the law typically says that a supplier may terminate for “good cause.” If good cause is defined in the law, it is paramount that the distribution agreement mirror the language of the law, because in many cases, a contract that contradicts the law will be held invalid, leaving the supplier in the position of effectively not having an agreement at all.

  For example, the Virginia Beer Franchise Act states that good cause includes “failure by the wholesaler to substantially comply, without reasonable cause or justification, with any reasonable and material requirement imposed upon him in writing by the brewery.”  Further, the Act provides, “good cause shall not be construed to exist without a finding of a material deficiency for which the wholesaler is responsible.”  Tracking that language, a distribution agreement in Virginia should clearly define certain of the distributor’s obligations as “material requirements” and explicitly define certain actions as “material deficiencies.” 

For example, the Virginia law identifies failure to “maintain a sales volume” of a brewery’s brands as being a reasonable and material requirement.  But, the law does not specify what volume is required.  So, the distribution agreement should clearly lay out specific minimum sales volumes (preferably on an escalating scale) and identify the requirement to hit those volumes as a material requirement of the contract. 

  When the law does not define good cause, and in non-franchise states, it is essential for the distribution agreement to do so. The contract should clearly set forth the distributor’s requirements that are critical to the business relationship and for which failure to perform will be grounds for termination.

Examples of common requirements include: meeting specified sales and marketing goals, maintaining appropriate records and reports regarding inventory and sales, transporting and storing the product under specified temperature and lighting conditions, exercising adequate quality control measures to ensure product freshness, and paying invoices within a specified time frame. It is also common to include termination rights if the distributor is declared bankrupt, enters a voluntary’ petition for bankruptcy, enters into a compromise or agreement for the benefit of its creditors, or fails to maintain in good standing all Federal and State licenses and permits necessary for the proper conduct of its business.

  In some cases, sale of the distributor or even a change in the ownership structure may be justification for termination.  In February 2019, Bell’s Brewery of Kalamazoo, Michigan completely pulled all of its distribution in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The issue was that its distributor in Richmond was sold to a subsidiary of Reyes Beer Division, the largest distributor of beer in the United States.  Per its distribution agreement, the original distributor was to have provided Bell’s with certain information about the sale to Reyes, but it failed to do so and Bell’s believed that because it did not have the opportunity to properly vet the new distributor, termination of the franchise was warranted.  To this day the dispute has not been resolved and Bell’s beer is not available in Virginia.

  In most states, a supplier must compensate the distributor for the lost business even if the supplier is able to terminate for cause.  Sometimes the law simply says the supplier must pay the distributor the “fair market value” of the distribution rights.  There can be an expensive battle just to determine that compensation if fair market value is not defined in the distribution agreement.  Often the value is defined as a percentage of the prior year’s case volume multiplied by some dollar amount per case. The “standard” contracts pushed by some distributors can be very severe in this section. In the beer industry, it is not uncommon to see values set at an entire year’s worth of profits times a multiplier that can range from 1.5 to many times higher. In practice, often a new distributor will buy out the distribution rights from the old distributor, but if the supplier wants to return to self-distribution, this buy-out provision may be cost prohibitive. 

  While the beer franchise laws in most states were written at a time in which large beer manufacturers had significant market power over small distributors, those roles have substantially reversed.  Slowly, state laws are being revised to accommodate this change.  In Maryland, for example, the law changed on January 1, 2020 to eliminate the “for cause” provision of termination for suppliers who manufacture fewer than 20,000 barrels per year and the termination notice was shortened from 180 days to 45.  However, the manufacturer still has to give the terminated distributor fair market value of the franchise.


  Depending on the size, experience, and reach of the distributor, there may be an opportunity to creatively carve out different territories. Territories are most commonly limited to certain states. However, a supplier may be able to limit a smaller distributor to certain counties or even specific types of establishments (grocery stores, but not restaurants, for example). One of the clearest breaches of the distribution agreement, that may constitute good cause for termination, is for a distributor to make sales outside of its contracted territory. 


  Generally, when a distributor is hired to carry a brewery’s brand, it has the right to all of the products in that brand. But exactly what constitutes a  ‘brand” is unclear both in the statutory language of most state franchise laws and in many distribution agreements. 

In Maryland’s beer franchise law, for example, “brand” is not explicitly defined, but the law appears to favor the distributor in terms of brand scope. Specifically, section 105 of Maryland ‘s Beer Franchise Fair Dealing Act prohibits a brewery from entering into a beer franchise agreement with more than one distributor for “its brand or brands of beer” in a given territory. One might argue that the language “or brands” means that the first distributor has the right to all brands of the manufacturer in a given territory.

In fact, that very’ issue was litigated in the 1985 case of Erwin and Shafer, Inc. v. Pabst Brewing Co., Inc. and Judge Couch, writing for the panel of The Court of Appeal of Maryland, disagreed. The court held that if a brewery retained a distributor to handle one or more of its brands within a territory, it could not then contract with a second distributor within the territory for those same brands. It could, however, contract with a second distributor to carry a different set of brands.

  How far the court would take its interpretation of what is a “brand” is unclear, however. In the Pabst case, the first distributor was given the right to distribute Pabst brand beers, but Pabst later merged with Olympia Brewing Company and gave the second distributor the right to sell its newly acquired Hamm’s brand beers. Whether the court would have allowed the brewery to contract with one distributor for Pabst and another for Pabst Extra Light it did not say.


  Even if rights under a distribution agreement cannot be divided by brand (as in the case of the beer franchise law in Maryland), some states may nevertheless allow a supplier to contract with more than one distributor within a territory. If permitted in their state, a brewery should ideally enter into all of its distribution agreements for a given territory simultaneously, providing notice to each distributor. At a minimum, the brewery should ensure that the first agreement entered into is explicitly designated as non-exclusive. Otherwise, the distributor may view the agreement as giving it exclusive rights to the territory and could sue the brewery for diminishing the distributor’s business if it were to engage a second distributor in that territory.

Final Thoughts

  Whether a brewery is in a franchise state or not, it is critical that it review and negotiate its distribution agreements carefully, with the assistance of an experienced attorney. It is also important to remember that the supplier’s diligence does not end when the agreement is signed. No matter how well the terms of the distribution agreement are negotiated and drafted, they are effectively useless if the supplier cannot back up its claims for good cause.

Accordingly, thorough documentation is essential. If a distributor is not meeting sales goals, mishandling product, or failing to provide adequate reports, they must be given written notice of those deficiencies each time they occur.

  There are great distributors out there who become essential partners in a brewery’s business. But, sometimes those relationships can sour and signing an agreement without anticipating complications down the line can make it virtually impossible to sever those ties. A little forethought and planning and a lot of diligence will go a long way toward a successful termination of a bad relationship.

  Brian Kaider is a principal of KaiderLaw, an intellectual property law firm with extensive experience in the craft beverage industry. He has represented clients from the smallest of start-up breweries to Fortune 500 corporations in the navigation of regulatory requirements, drafting and negotiating contracts, prosecuting trademark and patent applications, and complex commercial litigation.

HOP SENSORY: Benefit to Growers & Brewers

Just because something is fun to do, doesn’t mean there isn’t a robust science involved. Case in point: beer sensory. My relatives like to joke that they also studied beer sensory in college, but I think the readers will be aware of the difference between running a carefully randomized tetrad test and doing a keg stand on a football player’s front porch. To properly conduct the science of beer sensory, you start by finding 16-or-so willing participants (shouldn’t be difficult) to undergo rigorous beer flavor training and validation. Through this training and validation, you ensure that everyone is speaking the same flavor language, describing specific flavor-active compounds in agreed-upon terms.

  While technology has come a long way in helping us describe the chemical reactions taking place on brew day, quantitative data from analytical equipment falls short in describing the sensory experience of drinking a given beer – good news for your 16-or-so panelists. The human nose is capable of detecting millions of aromas, and more importantly, humans are capable of linking these aromas to incredibly specific real-world objects like guavas or jasmine flowers. It’s an impressive feat, and in this particular battle of Human vs Machine, we’re winning. 

Beer Sensory in a Hop Context

  Beer sensory is important to the industry, but it’s far too time consuming and resource intensive to assess every lot of hops during harvest this way. Enter: hop sensory. The process of gathering and training panelists is similar to that of beer sensory, but the results are produced a lot faster; thousands of samples can be assessed within a harvest period. This allows for ruined harvest lots to be eliminated from the get-go before expensive resources go into processing them. Hop sensory produces a clear snapshot of different varieties from different growers, harvested on different days, so that brewers participating in hop selection can get exactly the product they’re looking for each crop year. Using this data, we can reveal how the sensory characteristics of each variety are evolving over time.

  However, due to thousands of reactions that take place during brewing, the key aromatic compounds identified in hops have undergone many changes by the time they make it into the final product, if they even make it at all. When brewing, hop compounds are modified by thermal reactions, yeast biotransformation, chemical conversions such as oxidation/reduction, hydrolysis, isomerization, ester exchange, and even evaporation. During fermentation, for example, yeast metabolic activity will biotransform geraniol (a bed of roses) into β-citronellol (zesty lemon), completely changing the aroma characteristics of the beer. So, it’s not only necessary to apply sensory to hop aroma, it’s vital to also focus on the aroma compounds present in the end product – the beer brewed with these hops, to fully understand which hop characteristics are of the greatest importance to brewers. 

  To complicate matters further, brewing components like malt and yeast contribute to flavor in varying degrees depending on the beer style, and hops contribute non-aroma characteristics to beer such as bitterness, mouthfeel, and haze, all of which are important to monitor and assess in order to fully understand a hop’s full contribution to beer.

Benefit to Growers

  Hop growers are beginning to identify the specific genes responsible for producing certain flavor compounds and can use beer sensory data to zero in on the ones that actually make it into the final product.

Beer sensory assessment acts as a helpful stage in filtering through the thousands of experimental varieties that breeders develop to determine the lucky few that will be planted on a large scale and eventually released to the public. The whole process of new varietal development takes upwards of 12 years, with only one in every 10,000 new hop varieties ever making it to market. This lengthy, arduous, and resource heavy process relies on sound assurances that beer drinkers will embrace a new hop, in turn giving brewers a reason to welcome it onto their brewing schedule.

  At the other end, when growers wish to tweak production to increase efficiency, beer sensory can make sure that any changes have not negatively impacted sensory attributes of the final product. From optimizing harvest windows to dialing in the perfect kiln temperature, growers use beer sensory feedback to guide the decision-making process.

Benefit to Brewers

  Brewers ask a lot of questions. How do I get my beer to taste like starfruit? When in the process should I add hops to achieve a perfect balance between fruity and bitter? How will dry-hopped beer behave over time in different storage conditions? Answers to such questions are critical for success, but not all commercial brewers have the luxury of committing precious resources to pilot brews in order to find them. Beer sensory scientists can glean important information from brewing the exact same beer multiple times, tweaking only single aspects (like hop variety, hop addition timing, or storage conditions). The results of sensory analysis on these experiments can be passed to brewers, saving them time and capital, and optimizing the quality of their outputs. 

  The results of beer sensory studies also help brewers by guiding hop blend development to meet specific market demands. For example, an additive effect has been found to exist whereby the coexistence of linalool, geraniol, and β-citronellol creates a strong flavor impression of lime – crucial information in a time where citrus flavors in beer are fervidly sought, making access to hop products developed using this information incredibly valuable.

  To put it simply, brewers just want to make good beer that people like, and sensory assessment is one weapon in the arsenal that can be used towards that goal.

The Circle of Sensory

  Hops growers, brewers, and the beer market are linked in a never-ending feedback cycle. Growers develop and produce a hop variety, brewers use it to make the best beer they can, and the market lets us know what they think with their dollars. That information gets passed back to growers, who can adjust according to what the people want.

  And the stitches linking this whole process together? You guessed it. Beer sensory.

  Written by Tessa Schilaty, Sensory Coordinator at Yakima Chief Hops

  At Yakima Chief Hops, we have invested in a robust hop and beer sensory program, dedicating time and resources to gathering this valuable information in-house that we then share with our industry partners. Trained YCH staff members from all areas of the company meet regularly to taste, sniff and evaluate various beers and hop varieties with the guidance of our own Technical and Brewing Innovations teams. Drinking beer is a tough job, but our employees are happy to take one for the team!

Do’s & Don’ts of Opening Your Microbrewery

In The Microbrewery Handbook we discuss a variety of topics that can have a positive or negative impact on your brewery ranging from financials to operations to zoning, equipment and employee engagement.

  I wanted to share a few key do’s and don’ts of opening or operating your own microbrewery based on our experience opening Perfect Plain Brewing Co., a taproom-focused brewery in the heart of downtown Pensacola, Fla.

  We often focus on the part of the business we are passionate about: Beer. That’s understandable, but in an ever-evolving market, it can sometimes lead to a lack of focus on other important pieces of running a successful operation.  Let’s dive into some do’s and don’ts.

Do What you Know & Know What You Don’t

  Ego gets the best of all of us at one time or another. We think we know how to do something; we think we know the right way to handle something, we think we have the objectivity or perspective to make a sound decision on something. And sometimes, after it fails, we realize that perhaps we could have used some help.

  This happens all the time in business. Would you open a brewery without anyone on the team having any knowledge about beer? Likely not. Ask yourself why so many breweries open without consulting in help with banking, with accounting, with hiring and onboarding employees, or with sound expertise in customer service.

  The reality is that most often, people gravitate to their comfort zone. So if you’re a brewer, you focus on the beermaking and very little on the other things. And vice versa.

  Point is, it’s a major help to ensure your leadership team, or your mentors as you begin your company, provide a litany of expertise. Surround yourself with smart people who can fill the gaps in your skill set.

  I was fortunate to have Reed Odeneal, a friend, to start as director of brewing operations. I didn’t come from a brewing background, instead my expertise was in marketing, messaging, branding and operations. We complemented each other, and that has proven quite valuable so far.

Be Meticulous in Your Hiring & Onboarding Process

  Ask yourself: What is your hiring process? How do you onboard employees? Do you have standards or procedures for these things? In the Microbrewery Handbook I lay out a three-step interview process that I migrated from the health care industry and adapted to our specific needs. It allows the owner, the direct supervisor and the new hire’s peers to all have a say in the people who join our team. It’s a format that provides a sense of ownership for all and accountability to each other to make new hires successful.

  In the hustle of opening a new business, standards like these are so often disregarded. We “fly by the seat of our pants.” But realize this: The cost of one position turning over in the hospitality industry is more than $5,000. Why? Lost productivity, additional training hours, loss of regulars for that person, paying overtime to cover shifts, etc. That doesn’t even factor in the stress of hiring again, new faces, onboarding them and the other psychological variables that come into play.

  So knowing that, it seems like clarifying your hiring and onboarding should be a higher priority, right? Tie this financial outcome to the consequence of hiring poorly and you’ll quickly see that spending some time working on these processes are a major benefit.

Give Your Employees a Sense of Ownership

  At Perfect Plain, we share our financials with every member of our staff upon request, and we remind our staff of this at every meeting.

  We have a three-person peer interview panel – the final interview for all potential new hires – and if our peers don’t say yes to them unanimously, we don’t hire them. We are the first bar in our region to offer comprehensive health benefits to all full-time staff.

  We give each bartender $25 per shift to do the right thing without having to consult a manager to void. A spilled beer, a birthday celebration, etc.

Why do we do these things? Simple. We ask that our staff have a sense of ownership. We want them to treat their job like it’s their own place. Every business owner wants that, right? Well, ask yourself: What are you doing to provide a sense of ownership? It’s easy to request that your staff act like owners, but too often it’s a one-way street. We expect that but provide nothing to make them feel like owners.

  I challenge you, even if it’s just one or two steps, to empower your staff with some ownership-type information and responsibilities. I know it seems awkward.

  Let’s use sharing the financials as the example. The feedback I get most often when I present a brewery owner with this fact is some kind of concern that if they see the business being successful, “everyone will ask for a raise.”

  Research has proven this point to be false. Let me tell you what actually happens. Your bartenders and brewers probably see the daily sales reports coming through, and if you’re doing well, they see big numbers, right?

  Do they know how much insurance costs? Do they know about your $2,000 power bill each month? Do they know how expensive supplies and materials are? I’ve experienced that when you share financials, more often than not your staff is surprised at what it truly costs to operate a business. When they only see revenue, and not the profit and loss statement, they likely thing profits are much higher than normal.

  And at the end of the day, I offer this: If your company is doing so well that a staff member asks for a raise down the road, I can think of a LOT bigger problems you can be having as a business owner.

Don’t Undersize Your Brewhouse to Save Money

  A sound business plan will outline a range of top line revenue needed to make your brewery break even or turn a profit.

  It’s surprising how many people go through the laborious process of calculating these sales numbers, then you realize that because they’re trying to save money the first thing they do is downgrade the size of their brewhouse. Fitting your equipment to match your revenue goals and future potential is a must.

  Let’s say you were buying a car that was slightly out of your price range. Would the first thing you ask them to do to cut costs is take 50 percent of the horsepower out of the engine? Of course not. You need most of those horses just to pull the weight of the vehicle efficiently. You’d likely find some features you like but could live without. Or perhaps you cut other things in your personal budget so you can afford the vehicle.

  The brewhouse is the engine. You can only make as much beer as your labor and equipment allow. If you need a 10-barrel brewhouse and to save money you cut it to five barrels, then double your labor cost because you’re having to brew around the clock, are you saving money? Of course not. You’ll pay back those “savings” in the form of labor, repairs on equipment needing maintenance faster, etc.

  I’m not suggesting you bust your budget. What I’m suggesting is that a sound budget factors in the need for your company to produce product efficiently and at scale. So I’m all for saving money, but this is one place where your revenue goals and your equipment need to match. Don’t say you’re going to produce 1,000 barrels per year on a 2-barrel. If you need 1,000 barrels to make money, then get the proper amount of horsepower to make your business sustainable. 

Don’t Treat Your Taproom as an Afterthought

  This is one of the more common mistakes seen in taproom-focused breweries around the nation. There’s so much focus on the beermaking process, and what could make that process easier. But reframe the mindset: What’s the use of spending thousands of dollars on equipment that can speed up your brew day by 90 minutes … if no one is there to drink that beer?

  Craft beer consumers delineate between quality, no question. Don’t misread this as saying that quality doesn’t matter. It’s vital. However, reaching a certain quality standard – and knowing that yourself and at least a handful of your competitors will be in that same zone – engaging customers with an exciting taproom and fun vibe will produce more results for your business than that extra equipment ever could.

  At this moment in the craft beer movement, this fact is only becoming more prevalent. Competition continues to saturate markets all over the U.S. I wrote an entire chapter on making sure every brewer and every brewery owner asks themselves “What makes us different?” I would always include a large investment in the taproom as one of the safest ways to create some uniqueness in your market.

Suds & Soldiers: Beer and World War I, 1914-1919

By: Doran Cart, Senior Curator, National WWI Museum and Memorial

By the time of World War I, which started in 1914, beer was already an ancient beverage made and consumed by most the nations involved in the war. In light of the long history already written about beer, this article will center on the personal, official and period-printed references of beer during World War I held in the archives of the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.

  Many of the early war photographs show soldiers, especially German, posing for their gone-to-war photographs with beer mugs in hand and often sitting on beer kegs. Ceramic beer tankards were illustrated with scenes of soldiers’ service so they could be reminded of what they had gone through while enjoying their favorite brew. A German/Anglo brewery in Tsingtao, China was in production at the beginning of the war and was there when Japanese forces attacked the German garrison taking control. A graphic illustration of that attack is on exhibition at the museum. The brewery still exists.

  Changes in the opening and closing hours of pubs in England occurred during the war when the situation became dire from many of the war industries’ workers spending more time drinking beer and “other intoxicating liquor” than producing artillery shells and airplanes. The Defense of the Realm (Consolidation) Regulations of 1914 specifically prohibited the sale and consumption “on weekdays 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays [the same hours].”

  British soldiers wrote in their diaries about beer:

“Hallowe’en was celebrated in our billets – beer, soup, roast beef, plum duff.” A. Stuart Dolden, 1st Battalion, London Scottish Regiment

  October 1916 – “I was amazed to get two bottles of Guiness to drink.” George Coppard, British Machine Gun Corps, after being wounded.

  C.H. Williams, 5th Battalion, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, British Army, wrote after Christmas of 1916: “We had our Christmas dinner in Albert, France in an old sewing-machine factory.  We had beer for our dinner – plenty of it – and a good tuck-in to go with it!  Roast pork!  Beautiful after bully beef!” [Bully beef was canned processed beef issued as a ration].

  In England in 1918, the Hart Family Brewers produced a commemorative extra pale ale called the “Flyer.” It was brewed to honor Wellingborough, England’s “Own Flying Ace, Major Mick Mannock.” Major Mannock was a Victoria Cross recipient for his World War I actions in which he recorded 61 aerial victories with the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Air Force). He was killed over France on July 26, 1918.

  Although the American Expeditionary Forces were technically “dry,” prior to the US 18th Amendment ratified in 1920, enterprising soldiers soon learned where the beer and wine were. One US Signal Corps photograph is captioned: “American soldiers in a captured German trench drinking beer out of steins and smoking cigars.”

  From the papers of Captain Clarence J. Minick, 361st Infantry, 91st Division the following order was found: “Headquarters 3rd Battalion, 91st Division, Sarrey, France, July 24, 1918. Extract General Order No. XXI. 1. “The following regulations for the government of troops billeted in Sarrey are hereby published for the guidance of all concerned: (a) Cafes will be open to troops for sale of light wines and beers during the following hours: 1:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. Absolutely no drinking of other intoxicants will be permitted and all cases of intoxication will be summarily dealt with. Wine or beer purchased in cafes will be used on the premises and not carried away in bottles or other receptables.”

  At the Battle of St. Mihiel, France, September 1918, this report of the 353rd Infantry Regiment, 89th Division Intelligence Section related:

  “In the evening of September 13, the Regimental observers established an O.P. [observation post] on the high ground south of Xammes. While occupying this O.P. the observers lived on the fat of the land. An abandoned German commissary in Xammes furnished bread, honey, butter, jam, gold-tipped cigarettes and cigars – from the well-kept German gardens in the vicinity came a variety of vegetables – and crowning all, German beer, wine and schnapps were on tap in former Boche (German) bars (for the ‘dry’ All-Kansas regiment).”

  During the American occupation of Germany in 1919 when the rules regarding consumption of beer and wine had been unofficially loosened, Charles MacArthur, 149th Field Artillery Regiment, related that in his [cannon] battery’s stop in Bittenburg, “we ran into real German beer, a little watery for the famine in grain.”  Another discovery was made in Bittenburg:  eierkuchen, or German waffles.  “With a helmet full of flour and a little corn syrup any hausfrau could produce an elegant set of waffles.”  Evidently, the waffles reached such an esteemed place that “the very name of eierkuchen was transferred to anything that looked appetizing, especially young women.”

  A Captain Biggs related that the clothing worn by German civilians seemed serviceable, but that the “shapeless, heavy shoes” was a noticeable feature.  Much of the material was ersatz [substitute], made of paper products.  Beer was plentiful at 20 to 30 pfennings a glass, but “of a poor grade,” as was the wine.

  As part of the agreement for the occupation of Germany after the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 was one unpopular requirement that all dram shops be closed except during a few hours of the afternoon and early evening.  The sale of any intoxicant except beer and light wines was prohibited.

  A printed announcement of a “Reunion and Smoker” party for the 77th Division’s MP Company on October 25, 1919 at the 77th Division Association Club House in New York City. states that “they will organize an American Legion Post and there will be a keg. Organized by Francis N. Bangs.” Captain Bangs was in the MP Company, 77th Division, AEF.

  A postcard with an inscription, described the outdoor tables in Bourges where the French would gather to drink and socialize, as pictured. Inscription on the back: “the French people like to have this little beer table outside. This is very typical.”

  On a printed card from the YMCA, “The Y.M.C.A accepts no responsibility for money or valuables kept by soldiers during the night. These should be handed for safe keeping to the Leader in charge of the Hut. Overcoats, rifles, or other equipment should be stored in the cloak room. You are urged to leave no articles of clothing or equipment in the cubicle after dressing or about the Hut at any time. By order of the Police, Beer and Spirits must not be brought into the Institute.”

  From the service of Private Walter G. Shaw, 18th Infantry Band, 1st Division. He died at Charpentry in the Argonne in 1918:

  Oct 31, 1917 “I like France fairly Well don’t think I would like to live here always [sic] they have fine roads here. white and red wine can be bought for 1.50F a bottle (30c) some of the soldiers get tanked up on it I don’t like it because it is so sour French people have it with every meal. Champagne can be bought for 9.00F a bottle $1.75 this is extra dry costs about $7.00 in the U.S. Beer costs .30 centimes a bottle 10c….”

 From the service of Corporal Reid Disman Fields, Ordnance Detachment, 13th Field Artillery, AEF:

“Feb. 23/19

Dear Clara:

  No doubt you will be surprised to hear I am going down into Germany. Left Mehnin today 11AM. Am going to the Third army. So far as I know somewhere near Coblenz. So don’t expect I will be back very soon. Tell your mother I will drink her share of beer. Ha! All for the time so Bye Bye, Reid.”

  The roster and menu for Christmas dinner, 1915 from the 133rd Company, US Coastal Artillery Corps, Fort Terry, New York listed that the dinner included oyster stew and crackers, roast turkey, oyster dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, creamed peas, stuffed olives, tomato catsup, celery, pumpkin pie, mince pie, cocoanut layer cake, chocolate cake, bananas, oranges, apples, grapes, figs, cigars, cigarettes, apple cider, and bottled beer.

  From US volunteer truck driver, Ned Henschel, December 8, 1918, Verdun, France:

  “…a rumour floated around that there was beer to found in a neighboring village. Another lieutenant and I walked eight kilometres to investigate – and found that it was all wrong; there wasn’t even Pinard!” Pinard was a red French table wine.

  During the Easter Uprising in Dublin of 1916 of Irish citizens against British rule, the British Illustrated War News of May 10, 1916 reported that British troops took cover behind a barricade of beer barrels.

  One postcard shows a “German concrete cellar used as cooler for beer, in woods, Meuse, France.” A British humorous postcard shows a tent surrounded by flood waters with a downcast soldier poking his head out lamenting “‘Ah! If it were only beer.” A German postcard that a Karl Rosendahl in writing to Frieda Rosendahl of Riemsloh, Germany related: “My dear Freidelchen, We are sitting in the Train with a nice glass of beer and send you greetings.” [translated to English].

  A letter from F. Thunhorst of Riemsloh Germany to Carl Rosendahl, June 3, 1915, related that one of their acquaintances “Old [illegible] is still the same and he just keeps going. The beer still tastes excellent, and he still drinks a few pints daily. He sends his greetings.” [Translated from German to English].

  American Dale E. Girton, Base Hosp. #78 wrote on May 8, 1919,

“Hello Rummy:

  I guess that is a fitting salutation for one who has told me in a – past letter he has started drinking Rum, BEER, Wine & Cognac. How about it? Haven’t heard from you for some time and we are expecting to leave Toul for a port of embarkation at any day now, so I thot [sic] I would write you a word so that if I am quite a while.”

  Beer was universal in WWI. It was used to quench thirst, to enjoy in comradeship, to relax and possibly, to help for a moment, to forget about the horror of war.

  From the Archives of the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

Profiling Software: Used by the Breweries, Cideries, and Distilleries

By: Becky Garrison

As we enter into a new decade, an increasing number of breweries, cideries and distilleries are moving from recording their finances, employee logs and other data from offline pen and pencil accounting methods to online software systems. Here’s a sampling of some of the latest techno-logical developments that are specifically geared towards helping these outfits better manage their businesses.  


  ShiftNote is an online manager logbook and employee scheduling software. The program, re-leased in 2002, gives owners, managers and employees the ability to communicate in one place. Employees can change their shifts and request time off in a few easy clicks. Then managers can approve or deny these changes and requests.

  The scheduling feature allows users to create and publish schedules and shift notes that can be viewed on any mobile device. Additionally, the manager log book can track key daily sales, re-pair and maintenance schedules, upcoming events and labor stats. As this logbook is entirely cus-tomizable, business owners can add custom categories and stats contingent on their particular needs.

  Help articles, tutorials and free screen share trainings are available for those who need assistance in setting up and using ShiftNote. A major software update slated for 2020 will offer new and enhanced features.

Whiskey Systems Online

  Whiskey Systems Online is a complete production tracking and TTB reporting system tailored to the unique needs of American craft distillers. Launched in 2014, this software offers complete distillery operations tracking, from raw materials to cases shipped out. Features include invento-ry and barrel management, cost of goods sold, manufacturing cost accounting, forecasting and planning, batch tracing, auto-generated TTB monthly reporting and federal excise tax returns, QuickBooks integration, employee task management, TTB audit preparation, success metrics dashboards and much more.

  Whiskey Systems’ propriety hardware interface allows distillers to track the temperature and humidity of their warehouse during a barrel’s entire aging lifecycle. By tying the aging history to their Whiskey Systems barrel inventory, the software can both optimize aging conditions and eliminate manual data entry from a third-party monitoring system.

  In 2020, the company plans on launching a brand new interface to improve the user experience and navigation. The update will include more production planning and forecasting tools and more success metrics and dashboards. As Whiskey Systems is a “subscription as a service,” there are no required downloads, and eve-rything is available via a browser. Users just activate their subscription online for immediate ac-cess. Whiskey Systems has extensive online resources such as training videos and help pages, as well as one-on-one support and set up for no additional charge.

Daruma Tech

  Since 2015, Daruma Tech has been developing mobile loyalty applications for beer guilds. For the more significant guilds and associations, it has a customizable solution that can be tailored to suit their marketing needs. For smaller guilds, the “lite” version can help them get started with their digital loyalty program.

  This loyalty program software rewards consumers for visiting participating locations. App users can keep track of the breweries they’ve been and the places they want to visit next. Users collect stamps at each brewery and claim prizes based on the number of stamps they’ve collected.

  Brewers who participate can access a portal where they manage their content, including location-specific information, beers, events and deals. The app also provides a marketing channel where brewers can communicate directly with their target audience, as well as a social component where users can share their thoughts on different breweries and beers.

  The mobile app is powered by a cloud-based mobile content management system. Participating locations can update the content in real-time through their MCM. There is nothing to maintain, download and install, as it’s also a subscription-based service. A knowledge library where users can access help documents is available online.

  Current guild users of the app are New York State Brewers Association, Ohio Craft Brewers As-sociation, Brewers of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Brewers Guild, Rhode Island Brewers Guild, Connecticut Brewers Guild and the Washington Beer Commission.

  In 2020, Daruma Tech will begin offering these services for other craft beverages and related craft foods.


  KegID is a cloud-based asset scanning and tracking application that’s been available to brewers since 2001. The software allows brewers to track how many kegs they currently have in use by providing visibility and insight. This application can create accountability by pinpointing the lo-cation of a barrel, its contents and dwell time.  

  Scanning can be done with a variety of equipment, from Android or iOS mobile devices to fixed in-line scanners. In addition to scanning kegs at the brewery, they can be scanned in the field and marked for special handling if any part of it is found to be damaged or malfunctioning. It can al-so identify kegs that are due for routine maintenance.

  Also, KegID is automatically included on any kegs leased through its lease-to-own solution, KegFleet, at no extra charge. Each brand new European keg comes laser-etched with the scan codes and the ID numbers pre-loaded into the application. They are ready to scan and track upon delivery. 

  In addition to online resources, a team of people located in KegID’s Houston-based office are available to provide personal assistance to new users during business hours.

  The app can also be used to manage other reusable assets like pallets and tap handles.    


  For the past four years, cideries, breweries, distilleries and other craft beverage producers worldwide have been using Kegshoe tracking software. Using either an iOS or Android app alongside Kegshoe’s barcode stickers, producers can track their keg fleets throughout the entire production, storage and distribution cycle.

  The application then offers insights into the status, location and development of a keg fleet, ensuring that turnover cycles are kept in check and kegs are not being lost. Having the reporting and logging tools available to show the contents, location and details of each barrel allows customers to manage their fleet inventory better.

  To make setup and operation as convenient and affordable as possible, the company eliminated the need for additional hardware. Producers can download the Kegshoe app on their devices and start scanning. Other features include rental customer logging and tracking, and production batch assignment and monitoring 

  Kegshoe is currently in the process of releasing a craft beverage-focused customer relationship management software. The CRM will help to provide an industry-tailored system for sales reps and managers to log and manage their customers, sales cycles and productivity. With both desk-top and mobile functionality, it is meant to make the sales process for craft beverage producers as efficient and affordable as possible.

  All new customers receive a series of onboarding materials, including detailed product tours that walk them through the app and desktop software, as well as a support article library. Additional-ly, Kegshoe offers around-the-clock support, ensuring all issues and questions are addressed promptly and don’t interrupt brewing operations.

Small-Batch Maps

  Released in 2019, Small-Batch Maps is designed to help breweries and distilleries better manage their distribution and sales. The company wants to lessen the challenges of market forecasting by helping producers determine if they should market one product or concentrate on all of their of-ferings.

  The software allows potential customers to search for products on a website, and for beverage companies to gain marketing insights, estimate product needs and discover new distri-bution regions. Producers can then use this data to market the products most in-demand, or those with less traction.

  Breweries and distilleries can easily add Small-Batch Maps to their websites and other online properties. Once they’ve added the feature, they can head over to their website, log in, and add new locations as their distribution networks grow.

MAN VERSUS MACHINE: Options in the World of End-of-Line Packaging

By: Cheryl Gray

Quality, efficiency and speed are but a few of the attributes assigned to best practices when it comes to end-of-line packaging.  Craft breweries and distilleries that make the change from manual to automatic or, in some cases, combine the best of both worlds, have a universal goal: to produce an attractively packaged and cost-effective end product that draws in consumers and keeps them coming back.

  When it comes to automation for end-of-line packaging, the best companies listen to the needs of craft brewers and distillers, rather than drive them to a product that won’t benefit their bottom line. Such is the case with WestRock of Atlanta, Georgia, which touts itself as the only company in the paper packaging industry with in-house machinery manufacturing teams designing full lines of automatic packaging systems. WestRock considers itself a leader in innovation and sustainable packaging practices. David Hayslette is WestRock’s Senior Director of Business Development for Craft Beverages.

  “Customers come to us because we create customized, sustainable and value-added solutions using the world’s most comprehensive portfolio of paper and packaging products,” says Hayslette. “Customers appreciate our partnership approach. They know that when they work with WestRock on a total automated solution, they have a single point of contact for paperboard, corrugated and machinery solutions that work together.”

  Hayslette points out that for many craft breweries and distilleries, automation comes into play when growth demands something beyond what a manual operation can handle.

  “Typically, end-of-line packaging automation decisions are driven by upgrades to filling capacity. In other words, if a brewery is filling cans at a rate of 45 cans per minute with a mobile filler and they decide to purchase their own filler with a speed of 100 cans per minute, they will likely not be able to keep up with the speed using labor, or their costs will increase prohibitively. Instead, with the investment in the faster filler, they also become interested in automated packaging to address their objectives.”

  There is a delicate balance, Hayslette says, between reducing costs for labor and materials, while working to maximize productivity.  

  “Automation brings a level of consistency in the packing process by the way cartons are erected and glued versus the manual approach, which can be subject to human variance. In a tight labor market like we have in the U.S., finding laborers to hand-pack cartons can be challenging, and the hourly pay rate is increasing in some jurisdictions. Automation also brings the ability to pack out more product in the same period. Manual packaging works best when there is no bottleneck created to the production process; there is readily available labor; and the rate of pay is reasonable, such that the total cost of packaging is reasonable. “

  Hayslette stresses that WestRock works with clients to help ease the burden of financing the capital investment costs tied to purchasing machinery for end-of-line packaging. He points to return-on-investment as one key consideration for breweries and distilleries thinking of buying automated packaging systems.

  “We encourage customers to think about their total cost of ownership and do a side-by-side analysis of the manual versus automated process. A manual process typically carries with it the cost of labor, a cost associated with the packaging materials to be used and a productivity rate. This would be compared to the automated option, which would typically reduce labor, reduce materials costs and increase productivity rates. However, there is the added investment in the machinery itself.”

  Minnesota-based and employee-owned Douglas Machine sold its first automation product in the 1960s to none other than the Curtiss Candy Company, makers of iconic candy bars that include Baby Ruth and Butterfinger. More than 50 years later, Douglas provides a vast array of what it describes as cutting-edge machinery for cartoning, case packing, as well as tray and shrink wrapping.

  Todd Welker, Beverage Sales Manager for Douglas, says top producers in brewing—both craft and legacy—along with distilled spirits, come to Douglas for their packaging machinery needs. The company, Welker says, designs and builds exclusively servo platforms in its Minnesota factory.  All come with nationwide sales and service support, backed by a three-year warranty and a parts price guarantee.

  “Typically, our customers come to us when either their speeds increase beyond their current low-end machinery, or when they are planning ahead to accommodate future outputs,” said Welker. “It is our clients who make the decision to automate based on labor costs, labor availability and safety of their personnel. Reducing labor or the concerns of safety due to manual processes generally drives automation, in addition to increasing line speeds, which reduces labor economies.”

  Welker says that switching from manual to automated end-of-line packaging takes output to new levels.

  “Manual packaging is extremely flexible. The human hand can do a number of things that are difficult with automation. Still, automation of packaging is by far more cost-effective, and it can reduce or eliminate repetitive motion injuries where one injury can potentially cost more than a fully automated line.  Automated packaging can also run much faster than manual work, thus increasing line speeds, reducing labor and driving up efficiencies.”

Welker says that his brewery clients work with a variety of end-of-line packaging options.

  “The carton and tray are the most accepted packages in the brewing industry when cans are run. Bottles are often run on older case erectors, drop packs and case closers, but more breweries are looking to eliminate the box-shop and utilize all-in-one wraparound case packing technologies. These greatly reduce footprint, labor, case costs, and can even potentially eliminate partitions in the cases for even more material savings.”

  However, for some craft beverage makers, the dollar investment of automated end-of-line packaging can be daunting. Meghann Quinn, co-owner of Bale Breaker Brewing Company in Yakima, Washington, says her brewery’s end-of-line packaging is all done by hand. 

  “We manually put the six-packs into the cases and palletize them.  We do both of those manually because end-of-line automated packaging systems are too expensive, and our speed doesn’t necessitate them.”

  Some breweries and distilleries deploy manual labor as a way to test the market to learn what are the best pack sizes and styles. Once the decision is made on what works and what doesn’t, many producers turn to automation to quickly get their products to customers.

Best of Both Worlds

  The marketplace had to wait nearly a century before Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, founded in the 1800s in Nashville, Tennessee, was resurrected by brothers Andy and Charles Nelson. The Nelson brothers worked to restore the landmark distillery built by their great-great-great-grandfather, Charles Nelson, and with it, a brand that many consider highly responsible for putting Tennessee whiskey on the map worldwide before Prohibition dried up production.

  Fast forward to the 21st Century, when the Nelson brothers have embraced many aspects of automation in their end-of-line packaging. However, just as they managed to re-create the family’s original whiskey recipe through meticulous, hands-on research, Andy Nelson says the distillery is just as careful not to abandon many of the manual end-of-line packaging techniques that make Green Brier’s products unique. A combination of automated and manual systems, Nelson believes, brings together the best of both worlds.

  “We have been utilizing both for quite some time,” Nelson says. “If you have all or mostly automated equipment, it’s important to have a good tech on hand to help when things inevitably go wrong.  And, with manual or semi-auto equipment, it’s necessary to have a staff that is attentive and detail-oriented.  It’s all about quality and efficiency!” 

  Sourcing suppliers for end-of-line packaging needs is as careful a process as deciding what products to order. Nelson says that his distillery relies upon a variety of options.

  “We’ve used a handful of methods, ranging from brokers to OEM directly. It can depend on how much I know about each item and how much I trust others to help me select equipment and coordinate maintenance.”

  For those embracing automation on any level, the opportunities are endless. While manual packaging renders what only a human approach can offer, automation addresses the future, boosting production and the bottom line.

Innovative Bottling Systems Allow Craft Brewers to Adjust to Trends

By: Gerald Dlubala

While tastes for craft beer are as individual as each customer that walks into your tasting room, the reasons to package your craft beer in a bottle remain consistent whether manually capping a few bottles or running a high-speed bottling machine around the clock. You want that bottle of beer to retain its quality, compete with other breweries for on-shelf presence and present a consistent product to those consumers who look to packaged beer as their primary selection.

Flexibility And Versatility Are Key

“In a crazy industry like craft brewing, versatility and the ability to react to and meet changes are key. That includes your packaging system,” said Dan Komarony, President of DK Advanced Technologies, manufacturer of the MicroBottler filling machine. “When looking to purchase a packaging system, craft brewers should be aware of their projected volume, available floor space and the potential effects that adding additional equipment will have on their workflow. Most machines offer a sanitizer or pre-sanitizer and a filling and rinse function, but can they do it within the footprint that you can offer? Can they transition from canning to bottling across any product you offer without significant downtime during changeover?”

  “Breweries need to follow the trend of what their customers want, not what their equipment forces them to do,” said Doug Ernenwein, Sales Manager for DK Advanced Technologies. “Most new craft brewers operate on a small budget, but they still want and need the ability to get in on new trends without having to spend thousands of dollars on a new setup. One minute, cans are popular, next it’s bottled, then it’s specific closures to match the different styles of beer that they brew, so versatility is essential. A packaging system should support all sizes of bottles or cans and offer smooth bottling or canning transfers with minimal setup, configuration and maintenance requirements.”

  That’s why the team at DK Advanced Technologies is passionate about their MicroBottler system. Having initially built the MicroBottler for their private use and using it for three years before making it available to the public, they know it fills the needs for craft breweries requiring up to a 600 bottle per hour system. It’s on wheels for easy maneuverability and compact enough to maneuver through a standard doorframe. To get up and running, you need an operator, a standard 110-volt power supply and access to compressed air and CO2 supplies. Without changing the original footprint of the machine, operators can use modular options to fill bottles ranging from six to twenty-five ounces with enclosures ranging from corking, caging, capping, screw tops, or anything in between. The MicroBottler bottles carbonated or non-carbonated beverages directly from your bright tank, keg or vat, easily changing midstream if you want to package a batch of your craft beer in multiple ways.

  “The machine is built and engineered in-house to your specifications at our New York facility,” said Scott Lufkin, Engineer at DK Advanced Technologies. “Right out of the box, it’s fundamentally set up and assembled containing additional spare parts to replace those that are most needed or misplaced to minimize downtime. Parts that wear the most like O-rings and gaskets are standard, off the shelf components that the buyer can obtain directly from the manufacturer, saving time and money.”

  Technical support is always important when purchasing new machinery, and it’s also a major component of controlling downtime. When it’s needed, it’s usually needed right now.

  “Ours is unmatched,” said Jordan Wood, Technician at DK Advanced Technologies. “Every purchase includes a full machine manual and a short, eight-and-a-half-minute video to help complete your setup. For additional support, you’ll get our company phone number that a live person will answer, along with my number, and our engineer’s number. We are open to conversations by text, message, conference call, email and face time. We take the time to solve your problem, 24 hours a day. Our machines are very user-friendly, with setup and system changes able to be accomplished with only five tools to match the packaging job at hand.”

Specialty Brews And Bottles Are The Perfect Combo

  “We’re seeing bottles used mostly for specialized packaging,” said Andrew Ferguson, Product Manager for Wild Goose Canning – Meheen Manufacturing in Louisville, Colorado. “The need is still there. Craft brewers have to compete with national and international beers for shelf space. It’s sometimes easier to get that space in the warm storage areas using the popular 22 to 24-ounce bottles. Both glass and alumapak bottles are a great choice and work for water, wine, mixed drinks, kombucha and even cannabis mixes. Alumapak bottles are filled on the same bottling machinery as the glass bottles, just requiring a different cap enclosure.”

  Meheen is a bottling technologies company that prides itself on helping craft breweries deliver quality, consistent, packaged craft beer. They have become intensely focused on the filling technology of packaging, working with strategic partners equally focused on the other integral parts of the bottling system to fully outfit breweries to their unique specifications. With the help of these strategic partners, Meheen provides end to end lines for bottling and packaging.

  “Meheen bottling units are very responsive and easy to use,” said Ferguson. “We’ve traditionally sold two, four or six head fillers as standalone units based on the brewery’s fill rate and bottle format. With our updated bottle filling systems, we now can provide all of those format styles for use on one unified frame, so expenses are kept down by only having to buy the needed filler head.”

  Meheen units are fully integrated technologically for remote connectivity when needed. Ferguson tells Beverage Master Magazine that the filling units are touch screen operated with the ability to save format settings, so once successfully configured they can be retrieved with the touch of the screen.

  “Our tech teams stay on-site through the installation until the users are up to speed on the systems,” said Ferguson. “But should the brewer need help, Meheen technicians can remotely tap into, troubleshoot and run diagnostic tests based on your system’s error codes and current running information to keep downtime to a minimum.”

  “With packaging systems, there is always more innovation regarding the faster and easier transition between bottle formats and sizes,” said Ferguson. “From smaller, manual style bottling through fully automated, high-speed systems, our goal is to hit on all budgets and be a craft brewer’s one-stop-shop for bottling and packaging system acquisition and installation.”

Technology To Bottle Your Passion

  Randy Kingsbury, owner of XpressFill Systems LLC, knows that craft brewers want and need an affordable, well designed, low maintenance filler that will get their craft beer on the shelf. Since 2007, XpressFill Systems has been filling that need with their affordable, long-lasting, easy to use, premium bottle and can filling systems manufactured in America using only the highest quality components available.

  “When looking for a bottling or canning system, read reviews, check with others that are using the system and look for a good warranty with corresponding technical support and parts availability,” said Kingsbury. “For the craft brewer looking to fill up to 400 bottles or 600 cans per hour directly from their keg or brite tank, our XpressFill systems are a perfect choice.”

  The lightweight XpressFill system is a craft brewer’s dream, designed as a plug-and-play tabletop unit that needs only electricity, air and CO2 supplies to start filling bottles or cans using either a two or four head filler. XpressFill systems are sold worldwide and are routinely engineered specifically for each customer’s packaging and business needs.

  “We do customizations all the time,” said Kingsbury. “We tweak our machines in house to match brewery specifications whether it’s for different sized bottles or cans, including crowlers. The finishing setup is as easy and straightforward as possible, but we are available by phone to help or just for additional information. There are also YouTube videos, photos and manuals available. Honestly, the hardest part of the setup is finding your beer’s unique balance regarding the pressures that it can handle. You have to know your beers and how much pressure they need and can tolerate for proper filling. That balance is always dependent on the product, the environment, working conditions and bottling temperatures. It’s different in every situation.”

  Kingsbury tells Beverage Master Magazine that they are always working on simplifying the methods needed to verify and maintain proper filling measurements, including improvements in weighing systems. “It’s easy to see the filler results while bottling because you can see through the glass,” said Kingsbury. “But when canning your beer, it’s not so easy. You have to rely on your measuring systems and physical checks after the product is packaged.”

  “Craft brewers are usually budget and space-oriented, so you should start small and step up as needed,” said Kingsbury. “Recognize your place in your local craft brewing industry and proceed accordingly. You may have really big plans for the future, and that’s great, but it’s always best to manage your money wisely and cautiously. Design your system conservatively by focusing on getting an easy to use and maintain bottling or canning system that serves your present needs.”

Reliability, Speed & Innovation

  Krones AG is the world’s leading manufacturer of filling and packaging technology and is commonplace in many global sized breweries. They remain focused on keeping energy consumption low while offering efficient resource utilization. The Krones system can be found in many popular breweries regardless of size.

  “We’ve had our current Krones line for over a decade, and plan on upgrading our packing equipment, cleaning stations and inspecting and conveying operation this upcoming March,” said Dick Leinenkugel, President of Leinenkugel Brewing Company. “Our brewery workers manage, monitor, change or control our processes using available screens and PLC logic. It’s user-friendly with additional access to some functions by smartphone, laptop or tablet when needed. The training is pretty straightforward including both vendor and equipment manufacturer led classroom sessions and on the job training,”

  Leinenkugel told Beverage Master Magazine that although technical support is always important, they use Reliability Centered Maintenance as their approach to defining maintenance tasks and frequency intervals. “We currently run traditional 12-ounce, long neck, no-return bottles at a rate of 475 bottles per minute for both 12 and 24 packs, so we do have consumable or high wear parts readily available,” said Leinenkugel. “Then we use preventive or predictive tools to help us plan repairs or replacement tasks and retain the needed technical support to get those accomplished.”

  “The main thing when looking at bottling systems is to involve your brewery workers upfront in the design function,” said Leinenkugel. “Safety and ease of cleaning are important and welcomed. Look for reliable, simple and robust equipment that is easy to be trained on, use and maintain. Seek out manufacturers that design out waste and overproduction and design in energy efficiency to lower overall operating costs. In the end, your system depends on your unique situation.”

  Abita Brewing Company has used a Krones bottling line for over eight years. They currently run 400 bottles or cans per minute and are planning a new addition using manufacturers Garvey, Omni, PakTech and Switchback to improve efficiency and offer customers more variety in package types. 

  “All of our equipment uses a Human Machine Interface (HMI) to allow operators and maintenance to operate and repair the systems,” said Christopher Bradley, Sr Packaging and Automation Manager, Abita Brewing Company. “They are Automation PC powered touchscreens working with other Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC’s) and safety systems. A Line Data System (LDS) monitors our system via an internal network and server, providing real-time data to help us look for efficiency gaps or machine issues.”

  Bradley tells Beverage Master Magazine that while they have the ability, they don’t allow remote operation of their systems due to the risks and dangers involved. And because obtaining parts can sometimes be a challenge, they stock many replacement parts to prevent large periods of downtime. There is additional support available from their OEM and other outside sources.

  “Innovations allowing for speed and efficiency improvements are coming at a fast pace in this industry,” said Bradley. “Bottling systems are tailor-made for the needs of the customer. When designing your system, use an experienced firm to make determinations on present and future needs. Pay close attention to details. Things that may be simple to implement during the design phase can cost several times that amount if done post-production. Everything from the placement of a light fixture or a convenience outlet could save years’ worth of headaches and expenses.”

  With the 2009 acquisition of Kosme, an Italian based producer and developer of packaging and filling lines for lower output beverage industries, the Krones technology became more accessible to the craft beer industry.

  Brad Branco is the Packaging Manager at O’Fallon Brewery, a regional craft brewery in Maryland Heights, Missouri. They’ve used a Krones Kosme bottling line for about five years, including a depalletizer, a pressure-sensitive labeling system, a rotary filler head and rinser. It was in place when Branco joined the company, and definitely allows room for growth.

  “Honestly, it’s oversized for us right now, but it’s a very good machine, and I’ll always take faster processes over slower,” said Branco. “We use a 28 head rotary filler with a max speed of 9000 bottles per hour, which equates to about 150 bottles per minute or about 25 barrels per hour if speaking in volume. We can empty a 100-gallon brite tank in four to five hours.”

  The Kosme system is windows based and can be manipulated remotely, but Branco tells Beverage Master Magazine that at their facility, there is always an operator on-site, negating any need for remote operation.

  “The Kosme bottling and packaging system is Italian made, which brings with it a learning curve,” said Branco. “Initially it was a bit of a language struggle with the tech support being all Italian speaking. It was a challenge if you needed a proprietary part or something non-standard. We’re good now, and there’s a parts distributor in Wisconsin that carries the most common parts. But Google translate was our best friend for quite some time. You can still have an issue and have to wait for something, but through technical support and speaking with other breweries that have the same equipment, we’ve learned the best replacement parts to keep on hand. It’s all about planning. All in all, this is a great filler that doesn’t lend itself to failure. It’s all metric, with blocks and modules that are easily and fully accessible. In that sense, it’s what I consider a simple machine.”

The Best Tanks and Tank Systems for Distilleries

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Tanks are an essential part of operating a distillery, and there is a lot to know about this particular type of equipment. While there have been many improvements made to tanks and tank systems in recent years, distillers are still looking for more features and options from these products.

Types of Tanks Used in Distilleries

  Tanks are used for numerous functions in a distillery, primarily for blending, fermenting, storing, distilling and filtering. Since tanks are used for multiple purposes, it is crucial to use the right type of tank for each job.

  Storage tanks are typically single-wall tanks that store a spirit before proofing, filtering and blending. These tanks commonly come with volume indicators, scales, vent pipes, pressure release valves and access ports. Meanwhile, blending tanks mix spirits and water during the blending, proofing and hydro-separation processes. These come in a range of standard sizes and can have a motorized agitator, sampling port and temperature gauge.

  Derrick Mancini from Quincy Street Distillery told Beverage Master Magazine that his distillery uses polyethylene tanks for fermentation. Quincy Street is a small distillery in Riverside, Illinois, and the distillery’s modest size is reflected in its equipment.

  “These are Ace roto-molded types,” Mancini said. “We ferment a wide range of materials in them, such as whiskeys and Eau du vies, and we do not use any cooling. But in the smaller ones, we may use some heating when required, as for rum.”

  For the storage of spirits, Quincy Street Distillery uses 400-liter stainless Letinas for high proof final spirits and high wine.

  “Intermediate distillate may be stored in plastic 55-gallon drums or 275-gallon IBC totes,” Mancini said. “We have a 150-gallon stainless mash tun as well. In addition to tanks, we have 12-gallon and 25-gallon stainless fustis and 6-gallon glass carboys for small container storage.”

  When asked about the pros and cons of the tanks he uses, Mancini said, “Plastics are cheap, but over time can wear enough they need to be replaced. They are not suitable for very high-proof spirits and somewhat harder to sterilize than stainless. Stainless tanks are great, but far more expensive to initially purchase.”

  Meanwhile, Ethan Poole from Vance Metal Fabricators told Beverage Master Magazine about the many fermenters that his company has fabricated for distilleries, as well as hot liquor tanks, cold liquor tanks and storage tanks. Headquartered in Geneva, New York, Vance Metal is an ISO 9001:2015-certified, large-capacity metal fabricator and weld shop that serves many industries, including heavy manufacturing, technology and agriculture.

  “These fermenters have very efficient cooling and heating jackets placed on the main body sections of the tanks that can be used with glycol or steam since they are rated for high PSI,” Poole said. “We can also place jackets on the bottom or top heads if the producer needs more coverage. Our strength at Vance Metal is customizing tank setups for each producer’s specific needs.”

  Matt Kramer, the regional sales manager for beverages at the Paul Mueller Company, described the three products his company offers that craft spirits distillers commonly use: fermenters, bulk spirit storage tanks and the maxxLūp infusion system. Headquartered in Springfield, Missouri, the Paul Mueller Company has been in the processing equipment business since 1940, and specializes in stainless steel tanks, heat transfer and industrial construction services. Tank Services offered include inspection, modifications and alterations, repair and relocation.

  “Our fermenters are most commonly used to accurately control the temperature during fermentation of the mash,” Kramer said. “We have jacketed heat transfer that maintains the proper temperature and an internal CIP system for ease of cleaning to stop unwanted bacterial growth and prevent off-flavors. Our storage tanks can be built up to 40,000 gallons and come with or without heat transfer.”

  Kramer went on to describe how flavor infusion has become increasingly popular among distilleries and how Paul Mueller’s maxxLūp flavor infusion system has revolutionized the way that distillers innovate.

  “The maxxLūp’s system allows users to extract aroma and flavor out of ingredients in much less time than other traditional methods,” Kramer said. “Users have seen up to a 50% reduction in ingredient usage because of the design of the equipment. All of our equipment is designed, fabricated and finished to beautiful aesthetic standards in Springfield, Missouri. The level of quality will make them a showpiece in anyone’s craft distillery!”

Tank Improvements in the Industry

  Tank manufacturers have been getting more innovative over the years and making improvements to their products to serve distillery customers better.

  “The improvements made to our tanks over the years at Vance Metal are laser welding the jackets to the tank bodies; using square tube legs instead of an open back style (so there is less surface area to clean); 2b prime finish on the inside of the tank; and #4 finish on the outside,” said Vance Metal’s Poole.

  “Using insulation and cladding can improve the efficiency of your tank as well,” Poole said.

  Kramer from Paul Mueller Company noted how the maxxLūp has upped the game on infusion and how the circulation tank is the most versatile and efficient adjunct-dosing system on the market.

  “With a removable screen design, it can handle a wide variety of adjuncts and use less of them for the same flavor profiles,” Kramer said. “The maxxLūp sits on casters so it’s easily mobile and a safe alternative to infusion that doesn’t require entering a tank.

  Kramer also mentioned that distillers are typically working at around 78 degrees Fahrenheit and not getting a lot of condensation or energy loss. Still, for those needing more temperature control, insulation can be added.

  “We use beadboard, Styrofoam and poly-iso type insulations on our fermenters,” he said. “Insulation prevents temperature fluctuations and brings greater energy savings.”

  “For stainless steel storage tanks, we craft them to the customer’s specifications,” Kramer said. “We have highly experienced fabricators in a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, and we possess all the accreditations and certifications needed to meet your specifications, including ASME code, complete weld passivation and turnover packages.”

  However, there are still tank improvements that distillers would like that would make production easier and more efficient. For example, Mancini of Quincy Street Spirits would love to see more incorporation of weighing scales into larger stainless-steel tanks.

New Tank Buying Considerations

  There are many features to look for when you are in the market for new distillery tanks, whether you are just launching a new business or upgrading your current tank systems. Mancini from Quincy Street Distillery said that the top considerations his distillery takes into account are quality and price.

  Concerning the significant differences between tank systems, Poole said, “We see the most difference in the heavier gauge material we choose to use, making our tanks more rugged, customized options for each producer’s needs and building requirements.”

  Kramer of Paul Mueller Company explained how the type of heat transfer on Paul Mueller Company equipment is unique.

  “Our Temp-Plate inflated heat transfer is manufactured using resistance-welding, which is more cost-effective and precise than laser welding,” he said. “Our maxxLūp infusion system brings the notes and flavors to your spirit in less than half the time of typical infusion methods. No one has the proprietary design of our maxxLūp.”

  “Whether you’re buying a storage tank, fermenter or an infusion system, you need to know what your size and process requirements are, any dimensional constraints at your facility and access considerations to the building,” said Kramer. “When buying a fermenter, we recommend keeping a height-to-diameter ratio of about 1.5:1 to 2:1. Sometimes, customers will request to go taller to preserve space in their facility, but you have to remember that the taller the fermenter, the greater the liquid-height pressure on the yeast. Yeast doesn’t like too much pressure, and this can be harmful to the fermentation process.”

  “Make sure you discuss the future of your operation when planning your building layout and making your equipment purchases to leave yourself options for growth,” Poole of Vance Metal Fabricators offered as a piece of advice to distilleries. “Everyone operates under a budget, but planning for certain aspects will save you time and money in the future.”