The ABC’s of Beer Costs

bartender assisting customer's bill

By: Kary Shumway, Craft Brewery Financial Training

Brewery success depends on making great beer and making great profits. Profitability depends on knowing what the beer costs. Craft breweries are small manufacturers. In the finance world, to properly account for the costs of a brewery, we need to use manufacturing accounting. No need to be an accountant, just need to learn a few commonsense concepts. This article will give you grounding in the ABCs of your product costs so that you can make great profits to go along with the great beer.

The ABCs of Product Costing

•    Know your costs: Why it’s important.

•    The Building Blocks: Direct Material, Direct Labor, Overhead.

•    How to Implement a Simple Product Costing system.

Know Your Costs

  As businesspeople, we constantly strive to get better prices on the things we buy for our business: cans, bottles, carriers, mother cartons, etc. If there is an opportunity to save 5% or 10% without sacrificing quality or service, we jump on it. That’s just good business.

  The process of Product Costing is similar; however, we widen the lens and focus on every cost that goes into your beer.

  When you know all the costs, you begin to understand how they work together. Next, you understand how you can influence those costs, so that you can gain control of expenses and improve profitability.

  As your business grows and the numbers become larger this concept becomes more important. Set the foundation now. Know your costs.

The Building Blocks of Product Costing

  As noted above, breweries are small manufacturers, so a basic understanding of manufacturing accounting is required to know your costs. Don’t panic, I will explain this in common sense language. No accounting mumbo jumbo.

  The building blocks of your product costs: direct labor, direct material, and overhead. In a nutshell, these represent the cost of ingredients and packaging, the time to put it all together, and the overhead costs to make sure the operation runs smoothly.

DIRECT LABOR: This is the amount of time and payroll it takes to make your beer. Add up how much time it takes to make the beer and multiply by the pay rate of the folks making the beer.

DIRECT MATERIAL: This is the cost of water, malt, hops, and other ingredients that make up the beer. It includes the cost of bottles or cans, carriers, and other materials used in packaged beer.

OVERHEAD: This is the cost of everything else needed to produce your beer. Examples include the cost of utilities, water/sewer, lease expense, and a portion of the cost of your brewing equipment (based on the depreciation expense).

  All of these items taken together make up what’s called the bill of materials – the beer recipe, and the time needed to make it. Tracking all this may seem like a lot of work. Below I’ll cover two easy steps to get you started.

How to Implement a Simple Product Costing System

  Do these two things to start: calculate your standard costs and count your inventory regularly. These two things are like the 80/20 rule of understanding and staying on top of your product costs.

  If you haven’t heard of it, the 80/20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto principle or law of the vital few, says that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. I estimate that 80% of your product cost effects (improvement) will come from these two causes.

The 80/20 of Product Costs

1.   Calculate your Standard Costs

2.   Count your inventory on a regular basis

3.   Calculate Standard Cost

  Standard costs are the expected costs to make and package your beer. You can also think of this as the average cost of your beer. The actual cost will vary somewhat from batch to batch, but standard cost is intended to provide a good average. This gives you a benchmark understanding of what your beer costs.

  With standard cost, there is no need to record all the time and materials every time you brew a batch of beer, just do it once, and calculate your Standard Cost. The simplest approach is to capture the total costs associated with a brewing and packaging cycle, and then present the costs however they are most meaningful.

  For example, if a 15-barrel batch of kegged beer costs $750, this works out to a standard cost of $50 per barrel. This cost per barrel is useful when pricing your kegs for sale. Packaged beer will have a different standard cost to include the cost of cans or bottles, carriers and cartons, and other packaging.

  To calculate standard costs, begin with the building blocks: direct labor, direct material and overhead. Add them all up, and this is your standard cost. Direct labor + Direct material + Overhead = Standard cost

Count Your Inventory Regularly

  Regular and consistent counts of your inventory are among the most important things you can do to control your product costs. Counts ensure that the materials you think are there are actually there.

  Counts also ensure you don’t end up with a nasty surprise in the form of missing inventory. Missing inventory equals a write off. A write off is an expense that lowers your net income. It’s bad for your brewing schedule and worse for your income statement.

  If you take nothing else away from this article, please remember this: count your inventory regularly, match it up to the records in your inventory system, and analyze any variances. I’ve been burned so many times on this issue, it would be a personal favor if you would do this. I thank you, and your income statement thanks you.

  In previous articles, I’ve written about the basics of a good count process. Your inventory has feet and can disappear. Few things will hurt your products cost more than poor inventory count practices. Use this template to get ideas for your count process.

Wrap Up & Action Items

  Profitability depends on understanding your product costs. Understand your costs so that you can gain control over them. If you can control your costs, you can control your profit, and perhaps your destiny.

Review the ABCs of product costing and try out the ideas in your brewery:

•    Know your costs

•    Learn the Building Blocks: Direct Material, Direct Labor, Overhead

•    Implement a Simple Product Costing system

  You’ve got great beer, now it’s time to work on great profits. After all, if you aren’t profitable, you won’t be making beer much longer. The world needs your beer, and you need to be profitable. Learn the ABC’s so we can all enjoy your beer for years to come.

For more information please visit…inventory-count-process-scorecard/

The Power of Persuasion: Why Your Craft Brand Needs Social Media Influencer’s NOW!

people on their phones while drinking

By: Chris Mulvaney, President, CMDS Marketing Agency

In the past, reviewers and critics were the ones who determined what foods you wanted to eat and what movies you liked to watch. Then, when you turned on the TV, you would see a product-endorsing celebrity tell you what you wanted to buy.

  Now, not so much. You still have celebrity endorsements, sure, but you are much more likely to see them on social media than on prime time. With online technology far surpassing any printed newspaper, tv commercial or critic comes the birth of a new legion of opinion-swayers  – the social media influencer.  And, when it comes to craft beverages, there is no better place to be for brand promotion than having your product in one of their hands – and selfies – on social media.

  This new breed of influencer is not necessarily a celebrity. In fact, most aren’t. They are bloggers, cell phone photographers, Yelp reviewers. All someone needs is an online platform to post. Take that platform, add a determination for a large following, sprinkle in an enigmatic personality and the right “look” and viola! The new ”influencer” can take a brand like yours to an insane level of success.

  This proven method is exactly why the craft beverage industry is utilizing the social media influencer to further their reach and skyrocket their sales. On the internet’s various platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, lives a world of craft beer influencers, liquor afficianos and self-promoting humans commanding attention in the space.

  Whether they are self-proclaimed writers, brewers, distillery fans, liquor conoissors, beer sommeliers, beer-tenders, models, advocates, happy hour fans, or just plain-old well-respected craft beverage lovers, they are, in short, people we deem influential in this world.

  And, as of December 2020, there were 2.3 billion of them on Instagram.

  By strategic use of tagging, sharing links, posting photos of what and where they are drinking, sharing videos, stories and reels of new releases, encapsulating the crowd ambiance and engaging your audience with filtered selfies – they will make sure your product gets the ultimate endorsement advantage in hand and puts your online following on speed-dial.

So Why Are Influencers So Important?

  Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram were built with connection and humanity as its purpose and are primarily meant for person to person relations.

  And, those people will typically buy for two reasons:

1. Recommendations from someone they trust, and

2. Price.

  Influencers have an established credibility and can persuade others by virtue of their trustworthiness and authenticity. Your brand’s target influencers are users that employ your brand hashtag and who have the largest number of followers. What they like, buy, share and post will sway their followers to do the same.

  Influencers can be useful in three main ways for craft beverage businesses:

●   They can create content

●   Their audience can associate themselves with them, and

●   They can provide exponential revenue growth.

  In addition, this past year alone shows the skyrocketing success of the craft beverage hashtag. The following hashtags were used over and over by influencers all over Instagram:

●   #craftbeer: $29million

●   #cocktails: $28.9 million

●   #supportlocal: $26.6 million

  Influencers are also a great way to achieve a great engagement rate for your brand.

  As of July 2020, 35% of online adults in the US used Instagram. The average engagement rate of a video post on Instagram was 1.45 percent, which is considered a good engagement rate. Additionally, image posts on the photo-sharing social site had an average engagement rate of 1.74 percent. Carousel posts (multiple photos on one post in succession) had a higher average engagement rate than single slide posts.

How to Choose An Influencer that is a Good Fit for Your Business:

  Before hiring an influencer, it is very important to make sure that they fit in with your business model and ethical strategy.

Ask yourself these questions:

●   Are They a Natural Fit for Your Products or Services?

●   Does Their Performance Data Align with Your Campaign Goals?

●   How Engaged is Their Community?

●   Do They Align with Your Budget?

●   How Are They Working with Brands Already?

●   How Do They Disclose Sponsored Posts?

  Keep in mind, an influencer can become synonymous with your brand, so if it doesn’t feel like quite the right fit, always err on the side of caution.

Micro vs. Macro Influencer’s

  Here is where a marketing agency can be of huge assistance. Once you decide to use an influencer for your brand, then you have to decide what type of influencer will work best.

  Surprisingly, the most successful influencers are not always obvious celebrities. In fact, in a report by mediakix listing the 30 most influential influencers in 2021, an Instagram personality by the name of Mr. Pokee (@mr.pokee) made it to #18. Why is this newsworthy? Mr. Pokee, with over 1.3 million followers to date and whose page is run by Litha Girnus, is a world-traveling … hedgehog.

  So, it’s best to use the focus of your brand and test that out with various influencers because you never know what will hit best with your audience.

You also have to decide whether or not to use a “micro” or “macro” influencer.

  Micro influencers cost about $1,000 for a one-feed post, two IG stories and an audience reach of 50K-100k.  A Macro influencer costs an average of $50K with an average audience reach of 500K to one million. After doing math, the micro-influencer in many cases makes more sense. However, performing your own metrics or having a qualified marketing agency do this on your behalf will assist with what type is better for your business, brand, size and goals. 

  Marketing agencies can also help with locating the influencers using sites like, or, and taking on the evaluation and decision-making process on your behalf.

The “Taste-Test”

  Testing out various influencers is the best way to see which one is most effective for your brand. It is always best to have around five to start with.

A great process for you to use is the following:

●   Find one influencer for each focus in your brand strategy, run them, and test to see what is most effective.

●   Use unique UTM tags for each influencer

●   Offer to pay to advertise the post to their lookalike audiences (this can only benefit your brand so is a win-win)

●   Have them post on the weekends when engagement will most likely be higher

●   Identify winners, then put money into the influencers that are bringing returns.

●   Share metrics with influencer and work with influencer to optimize videos, etc.

  An additional option is to let the influencer in on a revenue share, in which they provide more content but you pay the ad spend.

The Law

  Once you find an influencer who meets all of your criteria, you must be aware of the laws governing their posts.

  In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission published its Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising and followed by a 2015 FTC Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertising. These regulations state that consumers must be aware that the influencer is compensated by a marketer and that an influencer does not hide any connection with the brand or marketer.

  FTC guidelines also state that an influencer’s sponsored posts (even on their own website or under their own social media account) must be considered advertisements as well as noting a “material connection” between the influencer and the brand.

  Recently, the FTC has also taken an interest in controlling influencer-based marketing. Any Influencer must be aware of four points the Federal Trade Commission issued in its “Updated Guidance”:

1.  Clearly disclose when you have a financial or family relationship with the brand.

2.  Don’t assume that using a platform’s disclosu tool is sufficient.

3.  Avoid ambiguous disclosures like #thanks, #collab, #sp, #spon or #ambassador.

4.  Don’t rely on a disclosure placed after a CLICK MORE link or in another easy-to-miss location.

  The FTC has also given guidance to brands who use influencers. In a 2017 Consent Order, the FTC required a brand to:

1.  Provide influencers with a clear statement of his/her responsibility to make clear disclosures of material connections to the brand.

2.  Establish and maintain a system to monitor and review influencers.

3.  Terminate influencers who don’t comply.

  Being aware of these regulations will save you and your business from any potential (and hefty!) lawsuits in the long run.

The Last Gulp

To Recap: In simple terms, influencers provide:

•    Content creation

•    Brand elevation/Product validation

•    Revenue Growth

In turn, your craft beverage brand can use that for:

•   Paid social content

•   Organic content

•   Amplification/association

  In order to be successful in your craft business, you need social media. It’s the absolute best way to grow your brand, engage with your customers and achieve tremendous sales growth. And, using an influencer is critical to this business strategy and can help you reach an insane amount of success.

  Finding the perfect influencer partner for your brand can take some time, but with careful consideration and a strong strategy, you can avoid having any big setbacks that can cost you money or put your reputation at risk.

  And, allowing your customers to associate a trusted influencer with your brand, in addition to having all of the above factors work together on social media, will increase your craft beverage sales exponentially. And that’s a notion that goes down real smooth.

Barrel-aging Beers & Spirits During a Global Pandemic

malt whiskey barrel

By: Becky Garrison

How did the events of this past year impact barrel-aging programs? Following are selected pro-files of those who manufacture barrel-aged products and the impact, if any, they experienced during 2020 regarding the production and marketing of their barrel-aged beers, bitters, ciders and spirits.

Copperworks Distilling Company, Seattle, Washington

  Copperworks Distilling Company’s philosophy is to showcase the flavor of specific malt strains from a specific farm of a specific growing season. They age and, in some cases, finish their whiskey in a variety of casks, both new and used, to create a bevy of whiskey flavors. By blend-ing a few casks, they can produce unique whiskeys for each release. They vary the cask parame-ters  – stave seasoning, toast, char, entry proof, warehouse conditions and years aging – and se-lect the barrels only when they reach the peak of deliciousness.

  According to co-founder Jason Parker, the challenges involved with this method of barrel-aging include investing in a product that can’t be sold for several years and not knowing what your ex-periments, plans and decisions will ultimately taste like for several years. They also lose between 5-7% per year through evaporation, widely known as the “angel’s share.”

  Copperworks sources all of their new barrels directly from cooperages. Before purchasing used barrels, they try to taste products that came from them. While sourcing barrels did not prove to be a challenge during Covid-19, Parker said there were challenges in staying socially distanced when dealing with deliveries and warehousing. “It made us slower, but we had nothing but time.”

  With breweries coming back online, Parker expects to have more opportunities to partner for barrel exchanges. “The flavor swaps are great!”

  During 2020, Copperworks produced more whiskey than in prior years. “With no tasting room customers, special events, classes, tours, competitions, conferences or other gatherings – all of which we miss terribly – and after making all the hand sanitizer we could, we simply focused exclusively on distilling, blending and bottling whiskey (and a few cask-finished gins).”

  Since they could not introduce themselves to new customers through bars, restaurants and their tasting room during Covid-19 shutdowns, they went online to introduce new releases via video blogs, virtual tours and tastings, direct emails and social media.

Ecliptic Brewing, Portland, Oregon

  Right after Ecliptic Brewing opened in Fall 2013, one of the first beers John Harris made was Orange Giant Barleywine, which went straight into barrels for a year. The beer debuted in 2014, and every year since, a new batch has been released.

According to Harris, barrel-aging is important to them. “We had a two-year drought where we could not lay down any barrels due to production demands. It has been great to get back to this again and get the creative process going more. We have many projects going right now!”

  In his estimation, adding the spirit of the wood barrel to the base beer is a real joy. “Seeing what the barrel does to the beer – whether it be a bourbon, rye, Sangiovese red wine, white wine – it’s all an experiment hoping for a good outcome. The downside is sometimes projects or individual barrels go south and need to be dumped.”

  Thankfully Covid-19 did not impact their barrel-aging program. Moving forward, they will con-tinue to use traditional spirit barrels but will be putting creative spins on the beer before releas-ing. “The market is looking for more than a bourbon-aged stout without any twists. 2021 will be fun!”

Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon

  Deschutes Brewery’s barrel-aging program began in 2008 and currently consists of approximate-ly 800 barrels and six wood-aging vessels. These barrel-aged projects generally fall into one of two categories: beers aged in spirit barrels that are meant to highlight the spirit of choice, and mixed culture sour and wild beers that use neutral barrels as aging vessels.  This program fits in with their mission as a conduit to continually explore new expressions of beer using unique, high-quality ingredients.

  According to Ben Kehs, assistant Brewmaster and Barrel Master, Deschutes experienced some minor shipping delays and general uncertainty regarding freight times and costs during the pan-demic. “For wine barrel sourcing, we did find that some of our local suppliers were releasing fewer barrels from their programs as their sales were affected. The majority of volume for our barrel-aged products end up in a bottle instead of a keg, so we did not experience a big disruption with the shutdown of on-premise accounts, but the closure of our pubs made us look at expand-ing our direct-to-consumer business.”

Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Chimacum, Washington

  According to Andrew Byers, Head Cidermaker and co-owner, Finnriver Farm & Cidery’s barrel program allows them a pathway to a greater depth of expression, a treatise of tannins from fruit and wood and a place to bring it all together. “Like Finnriver, barrels are a place to weave the community fabric, a place to discuss origins – a place to reconnect people to the land that sus-tains them.”

  “To make phenomenal barreled cider, you need to start with phenomenal fruit, dynamic and healthy yeast and a vision of your finale,” Byers said. In his estimation, the micro-oxygenation of barrel time is the place to mellow harsh polyphenols and the opportunity to extract those pithy ellagic tannins from the oak.

  Finnriver seeks out barrels from regionally-based whiskey producers – historically High West, Woodinville Whiskey and now Bainbridge Organic Distilling – and purchases a small number of fresh whiskey barrels each year. Occasionally, neighbors will reach out with neutral wine barrels.

  Among the ongoing challenges they face is finding space to store the barrels and the time in-volved in monitoring their barrels. During the pandemic, they could not give customers draft pours. However, this lack of draft sales led to an increase in bottling and longer barrel-aging, as well as an increase in their club memberships.

Liberty Ciderworks, Spokane, Washington

  Rick Hastings, Liberty Ciderworks’ owner and cidermaker, pointed to the need to barrel-age ci-ders when using tannic, cider-specific varietals. “Most of the time, there’s a real benefit in allow-ing the type of micro-oxygenation barrels offer to occur versus aging in a stainless tank.”

  They use wheat whiskey, gin and bourbon barrels, mostly from Dry Fly Distillery, along with red wine barrels to extract flavors that compliment different apple varietals. They also use barrels as neutral containers.

  During Covid-19, their cider club and online sales grew. In particular, they found a heightened demand for their pommeau and have tripled production on that barrel-aged product. In a post-Covid world, Hastings hopes their online sales, which have given them access to global markets, will continue. “For us, barrels are an essential part of making what we produce, and if we’re able to grow connections with quality-minded consumers through technology, our barrel program will keep growing too,” he said.

pFriem Family Brewers, Hood River, Oregon

  The ethos of pFriem Family Brewer’s barrel-aged program is emblematic of their overall brew-ing style. Josh pFriem, Brewmaster and co-founder, said, “We take a historical approach and look at it through a modern, innovative and pFriem lens.”

  For their funky and mix-culture beers, they search out high-quality, primarily French, oak wine barrels, while they also work with a wide range of producers for their distiller beers.

  The biggest thing that impacted pFriem’s barrel-aged program during the pandemic was their inability to sell their beer on draft. Also, pre-pandemic, they were about to open their new barrel-aged facility in Cascade Locks, Oregon. Plans are still in place, and once opened, this space will enable the brewery to have separate areas for their mixed culture and clean spirit barrel-aged beers and a unique place for people to gather.

The Bitter Housewife, Portland, Oregon

  While they don’t have a formal barrel-aging program, The Bitter Housewife’s collaboration with Bull Run Distillery allows them to explore how barrel-aging changes bitters. As Genevieve Brazelton, co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, said, “The result was quite tasty, and in-stead of being a one-off product, it’s now part of our stable of bitters.”

  The product demand is high enough to need more than a few barrels a year, so they currently source bourbon or whiskey barrels from four Portland area distilleries. It became more difficult to obtain barrels during the past year, though Brazelton is not sure this delay was due to Covid-19.

Wanderback Whiskey Company, Hood River, Oregon

  Wanderback Whiskey Company’s barrel-aged program includes new oak, aged naturally for at least two years and heated by coopers to create a heavily toasted, lightly charred inner surface. They also utilize previously used, yet still flavorful, barrels and previously used “neutral” casks with very little flavor remaining in the wood.

  According to co-owner Sasha Muir, the challenges of barrel-aging include casks that leak, wood that can vary in its flavor profile, variations in how the cooper heats the wood, the environment the barrels rest in and surrounding odors in the area of the casks.

  Wanderback Whiskey sources its barrels from several brokers around the country. As coopers were more than happy to provide barrels to them during Covid, they did not notice any signifi-cant changes over the last year. “Our program will likely remain the same once Covid has passed,” Muir said.

Westland Distillery, Seattle, Washington

  In Master Blender Shane Armstrong’s estimation, the arc of tradition, innovation and locality that guides Westland Distillery is reflected in their cask program, which includes the Scotch whisky stalwarts of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry and the new American oak familiar to the Bourbon industry. Their new oak casks are air-dried for a minimum of 18 months. For their Garry Oak casks, found exclusively in the Pacific Northwest, air drying time is a minimum of three years.

  “Our locality is reflected both in growing region and by relationships with local brewers, wine-makers, and cidermakers,” said Armstrong.

  For distillery manager Tyler Pederson, the challenges of producing barrel-aged spirits are that it’s expensive, time-consuming and logistically complex. He does not believe the pandemic had a heavy impact on the cooperage industry.

  “Our availability of new and used casks remains steady and should for years to come. We will also continue to grow and develop our partnerships across our region, sourcing casks from winemakers as well as from breweries through the Cask Exchange program,” Pederson said.

  When sourcing casks, Westland considers the provenance of the cask, the quality of the oak, the type of spirit that will be maturing and the length of time anticipated. In the case of re-used bar-rels, they also consider the quality of its previous contents and how long it matured the spirit, wine or beer. They also note the distance each barrel traveled when factoring the sustainability of their cask program.

Westward Whiskey, Seattle, Washington

  According to Christian Krogstad, Westward Whiskey’s founder and Master Distiller, they’ve reimagined single malt. “That spirit of creativity is paramount to everything that we do. For us, that means playing with different casks.”

  The majority of their new American oak lightly-charred barrels come from Kelvin Cooperage. They also play around with different wine and beer finishes using casks obtained from their brewing and winemaking friends throughout the Northwest. While their tasting room took a hit during Covid, once direct shipping was available throughout Oregon, they were able to sell some of their smaller Oregon- and distillery-only projects.

Grain Handling, Storage & Conveyance: The Beginnings of a Successful Brewing Operation

wide shot of a brewing facility

By: Gerald Dlubala

An engineer, architect and brewmaster walk into a brew space. No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke, but rather the start of a multi-point approach in laying out a successful and reliable grain handling and storage system.

  ABM Equipment works with brewery owners and brewmasters to develop their projects from concept to completion. They use collaborative teamwork and deliver cohesive systems integrated to work together as a complete unit rather than a group of individual machines pieced together. 

  “When you understand the effects that your grain handling and storage system has on your entire brewing process, you realize how important it is to be one of the initial items discussed when laying out a brewery,” said Adam Dubose, Operations Manager at ABM Equipment. “Proper grain handling and storage planning include considering the entire brewhouse and production plans while remaining aware of available space. When all of these things get included early in the planning process, it becomes easier to determine the needed specifications regarding storage options, handling capabilities and system speeds versus available space. Then you factor in expected growth and go from there.”

“We always like to see a brewer mill their grain if possible,” said Dubose. “Pre-milled grain is crazy expensive, so even a small mill with a flex auger is better than using a pre-milled product. You can control crush, increase safety and improve your time and labor costs. Instead of shouldering bags and risking physical injury, you push a button. Most breweries now have a grist case as well. Then you can start talking about bulk storage to cut costs even more dramatically – sometimes in half – over the use of bulk bags. Your return on investment includes cutting physical labor, saving workers’ shoulders and the savings on buying at bulk prices.”

  In terms of brewery installations, almost all of their projects use either flex augers or chain discs for conveyance. “Flex augers are the usual choice for entry-level applications because they are the low cost, reliable choices,” said Dubose. “Their downside includes higher required maintenance, meaning that they need to be oiled more often and will likely require routine elbow replacement after about six months, depending on use. We remind our clients that if they don’t schedule a little downtime to maintain their equipment, the equipment will schedule it for them. Chain discs are a popular go-to method for grain and malt conveying because they’re versatile, run a little quicker, maneuver tighter corners and are gentler on the product while moving it from place to place. Chain discs can connect silos, handle long runs, vertical climbs, bulk bag unloaders or specialty hoppers. The same chain disc line can carry infeed to mill and then loop back around and go from mill to mash. They are also lower friction options, so that translates into lower wear in parts.”

  Dubose told Beverage Master Magazine that silos provide the most significant savings and return on investment when considering grain storage options. Larger bulk purchases translate to a lower price point, offer more opportunities for system automation, better grain consistency, longer storage times and the chance to free up some valuable indoor floor space.

  “We recommend silos with a minimum 65,000-pound capacity so a brewer can receive a typical 48,000-pound grain delivery without having to run their silo dry,” said Dubose. “Larger capacities are available if desired. Bigger may be better when it comes to needing only limited grain deliveries, but it’s more common to link silos for the additional capacity and then use an automated sourcing system. With more than one source available, a brewmaster can mix the contents of multiple sources for new, seasonal or different mixtures and recipes. We can link up to eight sources from one system, allowing the brewmaster to choose which product is needed and from which source. Quality stainless-steel silos have a minimum 20-year life expectancy with proper maintenance, which usually means keeping them touched up with paint to reduce any chance of corrosion. Silos situated closer to saltwater or in coastal locations normally get a paint upgrade to help reduce the corrosive effects of saltwater. Our silos feature smooth walls to deter any grain from getting stuck and deteriorating or rotting, and we manufacture our gates for excellent dust inhibition. We reduce the need for ladders with built-in level indicators, and we help navigate any municipal restrictions by using creative workaround strategies. For brewers that use bulk bag grain, bulk bag unloaders are available in an easily installed, low-profile form. They can use a hoist and trolley configuration to help reduce grain costs and labor through efficient use of super sacks.”

  Spent grain is a related yet separate issue, requiring its own storage area. Spent grain storage should alleviate the mess of raking or shoveling the spent grain into totes and moving them to outside storage by forklift or pallet jack. The type of storage needed depends on the number of daily brew cycles and anticipated spent grain pickups. Spent grain silos are also constructed of stainless steel to fight corrosive contents, but they’re usually not polished like the more visible grain storage units and are elevated for truck access either underneath or along the side. If using a silo for spent grain storage, the brewery may require an additional pump at the mash discharge to get the spent grain over to the silo.

  Dubose told Beverage Master Magazine that it’s crucial for a brewer to partner with a grain handling and storage provider that works within the brewery’s desired layout and approaches it in a complete system mode versus a supplier that sells and provides only equipment and nothing else.

  “We look at all facets of the operation and the speed and throughput of your process to make sure it all works in unison. Control panel automation helps brew consistency and labor control, but it’s also a way to keep your equipment from damaging itself. A brewer has to know their limitations regarding their knowledge in certain areas, and they have to partner with a supplier that will work with them as if it is their own business. Another thing to look for is a supplier that carries spare parts in their inventory like chains and gearboxes to help out when the OEMs don’t have the part. We at ABM Equipment will do that for our clients.”

  “It’s really about taking the brewery’s concept, including the amount of storage or bulk bag storage needed and projected, and then providing the proper mix within the space allotted,” said Dubose. “A workable and successful layout within a brewery’s space and allotted budget ultimately dictate our recommended conveyance and storage design.”

Good Planning Leads To Proper Handling Equipment and Right Sized Grain Storage

  “In so many cases, having adequate space to store enough grain inside the brewery is often overlooked, and you see a variety of bags and pallets placed wherever they can fit,” said Dave Ewald, Director of Sales for Bratney Companies, providers of state-of-the-art equipment, processes and solutions for their clients. “The layout and choices for grain handling and storage should be done in the initial planning stages of the brewery. Then, with more planning and forethought, an area can be designed to store the brewery’s grains in an organized and efficient manner.”

  Knowing what your planned and projected grain usage will be in conjunction with what the expected lead times are for deliveries goes a long way to dictating what type of storage is necessary. Upgrades can include silos, conveyors with floor dump hoppers, bulk bag dump stations, and more. These save time and minimize physical labor like bag hauling and ladder or stair climbing.

  “Conveyor types range from simple, flexible conveyors to chain disc systems to drag or screw-type conveyors. Conveyor mechanics typically include either a screw type, helical coil type or disc system that runs by chain or cable. Each has benefits and treats the grain differently while conveying,” said Ewald. “The key factors in determining the best conveyance solutions come back to the capacities needed, distances to convey, the number and complexity of the rises and runs to get the malt from point-to-point, and the ability to still facilitate a good cleanout between malt types. For example, leftover dark malts mixed in with pilsner malts will affect the color and taste of the beer.”

  “The capacity needed by any brewery is largely determined by the brewery size and the capability of their roller mill,” he said. “Many mills run between 1,500 and 3,000 pounds per hour and run a simple flex conveyor or chain disk system. Flex conveyors are quite simple in their design and construction, usually featuring tubing constructed from PVC or steel. It is fair to say that many breweries only operate their conveyors once or twice a day for a couple of hours, so the system’s longevity is naturally extended. On the other hand, breweries that run several batches would look for longer-lasting and more durable solutions. It really is a balance between needs and overall cost.”

  Ewald told Beverage Master Magazine that storage most often falls into the use of a hopper-bottomed silo to hold a truckload of malt. Suppose a brewery can get their grain by the truckload. In that case, they enjoy the economic advantages of buying in bulk, and the higher initial investment in the equipment is usually recovered in a relatively short time. Likewise, with conveyors, the brewer can slow a conveyor system down to handle lesser capacity if needed. For example, if the conveyor runs 4,000 pounds per hour, the brewer can alter and decrease that through a frequency variator or drive system change. Conversely, the brewer can’t modify a 2,000 pound an hour conveyor to run twice the speed, so if they can afford the higher speed systems upfront to match their planned production increases, it’s a better option.

  “Most applications are pretty straightforward,” said Ewald. “Working with an equipment provider on the head end of your brewery planning and knowing what considerations need addressing upfront goes a long way in ensuring a successful, properly sized and reliable system. For example, a case in point might be if the conveyor runs overhead across the taproom or restaurant portion of a brewery. The last thing you want in an area where patrons should be enjoying themselves with your food, conversation, and your beer is an excessively noisy conveyor.”

  When the economics of buying in bulk versus bags make sense, that’s generally when changes, including expansion, take place. Ewald said it’s not too difficult to make a case for a brewery producing as little as 1,500 to 2,000 barrels per year to justify the expense of a silo and slab and be able to recoup that cost in less than a year. From that point on, the cost savings goes right into the brewery’s bottom line. A brewer should inquire with their malt providers to confirm the exact savings point on a per pound basis and see if there are any partnership incentives available through the supplier to help obtain a grain storage silo.

  “I suggest that a brewer engage a company that has the history and knowledge to be able to discuss overall plans and can look at their entire grain handling and milling systems,” said Ewald. “Being able to provide and take responsibility for a total solution versus looking at one piece from one manufacturer, another from a different supplier and so on, is critical. It is often the little things in a brewery’s overall flow that get overlooked, like transitions, gates, spouting and the system control interface.”

  “Another consideration,” said Ewald, “Is after all the fun that comes with grain conveyance, milling, and brewing, you’re then going to have to deal with the spent grain. So it’s best to have an idea of how much spent grain will be stored, the time that it will be in storage, how it is going to be moved out and where it will be going. [These are] all things to think through before you brew that first batch of goodness.”

Black Bourbon Society

customers bourbon taste test

By: Nan McCreary

In an age when multiculturism is redefining America, it has become clear to many in the alcohol industry that, while African Americans are one of the leading consumers of premium liquors, distillers are late to the party when it comes to marketing to this demographic. And it costs them a sizable chunk of what researchers, such as the Nielson Company, say is the $1.2 trillion buying power of Black American consumers.

  One person who has observed this is entrepreneur Samara Davis, who, in 2016, founded the Black Bourbon Society to bridge the gap between the spirits industry and African American bourbon enthusiasts. 

  “At the time, I was producing some events with an agency in San Francisco and realized that a lot of marketing for events, especially in the spirits industry, were not necessarily catering to consumers of color,” Davis told Beverage Master Magazine.

  “I decided to create a group that represented a diverse audience and shows the brands what a diverse audience looked like. My idea was to produce events for this audience in partnership with the brands so both would benefit.”

  Today, after five short years, BBS has over 22,000 members worldwide who share their love of bourbon through social media platforms, brand-partnered events and exclusive excursions to distilleries.

  For Davis, bourbon was the natural choice for a connection with the spirits trade. “That’s what I was drinking at the time,” she said. “I love the bourbon industry. It’s so unique. It’s ‘America’s native spirit.’ It’s what we’re known for.” 

  To Davis, the logical way to make that connection was social media. “I was producing bourbon-related events in Oakland and building a following through email, and then I had a chance to move to Atlanta. I developed a new following here, so instead of doing double duty in the two cities, I set up a Facebook page to connect everyone.” 

  According to Davis, the page exploded. Friends invited friends, and their friends invited their friends. Today, the page boasts a dynamic membership that shares weekly online tastings, happy hours, educational seminars and a growing community of friendships.

  One key to the success of BBS is the partnership with bourbon distillers that Davis has created to bring the two groups together. “By working with brands, we provide genuine connections for them to engage with Black consumers and, at the same time, cultivate and educate our community,” she said.

  In the past, BBS has partnered with brands including Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, Heaven Hill and Jim Beam, to name a few. Brands actively participate with BBS to plan events, send brand reps or multicultural experts to cities for local programs and, in the case of national events, provide people from national leadership to help create exclusive programs. “We work hand in hand to cultivate audiences so they can experience the brand’s portfolio and expression of their products in a unique way,” Davis said.

  Recently, the BBS held a Valentine’s Day pairing dinner at the Atlanta Intercontinental Hotel in cooperation with Woodford Reserve to feature the distillery’s Double Oaked Bourbon. The evening, the BBS’s first in-person event since the pandemic, was fashioned as a “date night” featuring a five-course pairing dinner, with each couple having their own table and even a cocktail kit where attendees could create their own concoction. “This was just one of the many examples of events we’ve had,” Davis said. “It was really well-received.”

  BBS offers a premium membership that includes access to enriched content on the Facebook page, discounts on events and trips and an invitation to the BBS signature event, the annual Bourbon Boule Labor Day weekend gathering in New Orleans. Membership is not limited to African Americans: It is open to all bourbon lovers who actively and enthusiastically support the cause of improving diversity within the spirits industry. BBS recruits volunteer brand ambassadors in select cities to help with networking events in the local market and engage members on social media. With Covid-19 restrictions easing, Davis anticipates that BBS will be hosting more live events, always following recommended safety protocols.

  “We have to be smart about it,” Davis told Beverage Master Magazine. “We can’t do everything we used to do five years ago. We have to keep it safe, which makes it more challenging, but I’m so happy to see some degree of normalcy returning.”

  Besides connecting Black bourbon consumers with spirits producers, BBS has created a nonprofit, Diversity Distilled, to help promote diversity and inclusion policies within corporations across the spirits industry. “Companies are very eager to work toward diversity,” Davis said. “They just don’t know how to go about it.”

  Diversity Distilled assists brands in recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce and creating inroads for employees to advance to leadership levels within the company. “This is where real change happens,” Davis said. “You have to change the corporate culture and mission.” 

  With her marketing skills as well as her contacts and knowledge of the spirits industry, Davis is a crucial player in fulfilling Diversity Distilled’s objectives, offering consulting, job placement assistance, training workshops, public speaking, and industry research.

  This year, to support Diversity Distilled, BBS created #TheBlackManhattan Project, a month-long hashtag campaign to raise awareness of Diversity Distilled and its objectives. The campaign, spotlighting the Black Manhattan, was launched during February for Black History Month in partnership with Mitcher’s Distillery and Branca USA, who committed $20,000 to the Diversity Distilled job placement program.

  The Black Manhattan Project challenged members to make Manhattans or variations with Mitcher’s rye or bourbon and Branca amaro products, which, as Davis said, “was a marriage of two brands to make the perfect cocktail.” The event featured a professional bartending competition highlighting African American bartenders, a series of virtual masterclasses and a virtual tour of the Michter’s Distillery. Winners of the bartender competition received cash prizes. BBS members also had an opportunity to make their own renditions of a Manhattan and show off their DIY cocktail skills during the BBS-tenders Showcase. The rounds of the competition are available on YouTube via the BBS Facebook page.

  To Davis, BBS is a win-win for everyone involved. “Brands have the opportunity to reach out to an untapped audience and are learning how to appropriately connect with consumers of color in a genuine manner without pandering,” she said. “At the same time, consumers are receiving one-on-one attention and one-on-one experiences that enable them to learn, love and develop loyalty in a way that resonates more deeply.”

  As Davis looks to the future, she hopes to expand her community of African American bourbon consumers and reach them through more online conversations with master distillers, distillery owners and brand ambassadors who will tell their stories and offer tastings. Regular features like Friday Happy Hours, Teachable Tidbits and Whisky Weekly have been big draws on the BBS Facebook page during the pandemic. These events continually attract hundreds of consumers who want to further develop their appreciation of bourbon and share fellowship with others. The biggest challenge, Davis said, is keeping up with the demand for new events and finding new and creative ways to push brand messaging so that one doesn’t sound just like the other. Davis, along with her husband and business partner, Armond Davis, and a small cadre of human relations personnel, is also going into “full action” with Diversity Distilled. 

  “We had a serious racial reckoning last year,” Davis told Beverage Master Magazine, “and the brands are feeling very pressed to get this right. They are incredibly open to what I’m saying to help them become more inclusive.”

  While Davis pursues her goals, she is focusing her work at a grassroots level. “Grassroots — it’s the story of my life,” she said. “Grassroots growth is organic; it happens slowly.  But it’s more genuine, and people are more invested.”

  And spirits — be it whiskey or wine or beer — will always have an invested audience. “Every industry has diversity issues,” Davis said, “but the spirits industry cares. It’s in your face. It’s colorful as a product; it’s engaging. With bourbon, it’s not who makes the best, but who you had it with. That’s what makes that bottle your favorite.”

  For Samara Davis and the Black Bourbon Society, “America’s Native Spirit” is, indeed, a universal language that is championing diversity and inclusivity in the spirits’ world.

For more information on Black Bourbon Society, visit

Startup Distilleries: Advance Planning and Expert Guidance Make for a Smooth Ride

upper deck of a distillery facility

By: Cheryl Gray

Building out a new distillery evokes the same excitement as driving a brand-new car. Think gleaming exterior, masterful engineering, unique design and an owner’s manual – the latter being a solid strategic plan. These are the pistons of a powerful engine for distillery startups moving toward the on-ramp of the spirits industry.

VITOK Engineers

There are experts whose business it is to prevent distillery startups from stalling. VITOK Engineers is one. Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, VITOK boasts more than 400 completed distillery projects across the globe, both new and refurbished.

Founded in 1967, VITOK combines the expertise of about 40 multi-disciplined engineers and designers. CJ Archer is Vice President of Marketing and is also a credentialed engineer certified to investigate fires and explosions. Archer says that startup distilleries can avoid surprises – and hits to their bank account – with careful planning.

“The first consideration in starting a distillery project is to determine the products you can sell, how to sell them and how much you can sell. How will you set your product apart from the crowd? Will you be selling purely onsite in your gift shop, selling regionally, nationally, internationally? This step usually requires some expertise from someone who has knowledge of distribution and marketing,” Archer says.

“Second, you’ll need to establish a business model. A distillery project generally requires very deep pockets. The design phase could last as much as a year, construction two years, and then maturation time for whiskeys can take several more years. How will you provide both construction and operating capital until you’re in the black? Some startups choose to distill white spirits initially to create an income stream. Others choose to purchase aged whiskeys and package them under their label. One can also distill products for others at bulk rates. Regardless, the business plan is your road map to financial success, but it has to be based on solid data.”

A good business plan won’t cut corners on reliable engineering and design, Archer says. “One critical feature of the business plan is the to determine the project capital costs. For this step, you’ll need an experienced process engineer, like VITOK. If the distillery is desired to attract tourists, you will also need a good architect.

“If so, both should be hired simultaneously, as they’ll need to work together to combine the most efficient operation with the desired visitor features. Experience allows the process engineer to quickly and accurately estimate the costs for distillation equipment, installation, piping, electrical and controls. Likewise, an experienced architect can estimate the building costs, including construction, HVAC, grounds/landscaping, fire safety, etc. Thus, the more experience with your project team, the less cost and more accuracy you’ll receive in your capital cost estimate. Once your costs are known, then it’s time to secure funding.”

Archer stresses that any project budget must include a line item for contingencies. “One important piece of advice from my two decades in this industry – never underestimate your budget contingency. Whenever you put a shovel into the ground, you never know what you’ll dig up. At project initiation, there are many unknowns, and these should be considered in the budget.”

He adds that startup distilleries cannot ignore safety costs. “Beverage distillation is an industrial process. As such, it has hazards that must be considered. Grain dust is explosive, and alcohol is flammable. There is also steam, compressed air, cleaning chemicals and OSHA considerations. With a good, experienced process engineer, the owner doesn’t have to worry about these items. The process engineer ensures that there are no surprises. Similarly, a good architect will design the facility to be both interesting and safe for visitors and distillery personnel alike.

“Another often overlooked factor is the need for quality project management. Your project will need a champion, and the best champions are certified by the Project Management Institute as Project Management Professionals.”

A well-rounded team includes mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineers to design the building systems. “You may also want specialists to design event spaces, artistic elements, or unique features,” says Archer. “The design phase is a very collaborative effort between the owner, architect and process engineer, so make sure that you’re comfortable with the team you choose. There are many who claim distillery experience, few who truly have it.”

Symbiont Science, Engineering and
Construction, Inc.

SYMBIONT SCIENCE, ENGINEERING AND CONSTRUCTION, INC., helps both start-up and high-capacity distilleries across North America and the Caribbean. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the company is celebrating its fourth decade as a leading full-service engineering, design-build, and construction firm. SYMBIONT’s team and their innovative engineering technologies for the spirits and beverage industry help distilleries achieve their environmental and sustainability goals. They prepare start-ups for potential expansion and scalability.

SYMBIONT tends to work with growing operations and larger facilities that typically have a bottleneck: waste stream pitfalls, planning, and other concerns that are necessary but not in the distillery’s realm of expertise. SYMBIONT provides a diverse team of engineering experts from virtually all fields to address those concerns. Start-up distilleries can benefit from SYMBIONT’S guidance with a broad range of services, such as facility planning, construction and fabrication, regulatory requirements, water conservation/reuse/reduction, waste byproduct management, waste-to-energy alternatives, utilities engineering for equipment integration and process design and controls systems.

SYMBIONT started working with distilleries due to the firm’s experience with very-unique, high-strength waste services as a qualified engineering consulting firm. High strength waste is a challenge throughout the spirits and beverage industry.

Joe Kolodzinski, Director, and Jeff VanVoorhis, Vice President, for SYMBIONT help distillery start-ups and other beverage manufacturers steer clear of expensive mistakes by guiding them to focus in on the big picture: long-term growth.

Many start-ups, Kolodzinski says, do not always consider the impact of non-equipment aspects to the bottom line. This includes a checklist involving environmental issues, space constraints, utility capacity as well as potential utility and building modifications. Kolodzinski says that with a little foresight, start-ups can avoid many missteps.

“A major misstep,” he says, “is in facility planning: either planning for a new facility or an addition to an existing facility. We understand the start-up process intimately and can help you identify the utilities you need. As a full-service engineering and construction firm, SYMBIONT works closely with you to take a project from concept to production and advises you on how decisions made at the front end of the project can have a significant impact on your facility’s operations.”

“Are you selecting your site based on distribution and foot traffic, or are you looking at available utilities? We have seen issues where the city in which the client was planning to put their plant did not have an infrastructure of sufficient size and capacity to handle their waste stream. This results in lots of costs upgrading city sewer lines and a low allowable limit of waste stream constituents. Find out if you are in a location that has a municipal treatment plant; understand the location of the site and whether the infrastructure is already in place or there would be costs associated with it. Sure, you need a certain amount of acreage, but you really need to understand all of the true costs.”

As raw ingredients enter the facility and go through the process from milling and cooking through fermenting and distillation, waste byproducts are a result. SYMBIONT knows how to address the challenges waste byproducts and stillage present. During the conceptual phases of a project, SYMBIONT evaluates site and location-specific alternatives to provide an optimized solution to handling waste byproducts.

“Not knowing how to handle waste byproducts and wastewater,” notes VanVoorhis, “is literally like pouring money down the drain.” He continues, “What are you going to do with them? Do the municipal utilities have capacity to accept your waste byproducts and wastewater? In some cases, they do not, which means you have to truck waste and that’s a significant, often unanticipated cost. Plan for your distillery’s wastewater/water management. Understand what’s required, the costs and the alternatives. Look at everything upfront and understand the big picture. We help you do this. We know common, and not-so-common mistakes, and advise you on how to avoid them. If your goals are set at zero waste, you can be a leader in water use. We’ve done work for facilities to go to zero liquid discharge (ZLD) and can efficiently develop that pathway for you.”

Additionally, having worked across North America and the Caribbean, SYMBIONT professionals understand and can explain how codes and regulations vary from location to location. Their compliance experts get involved during the planning stages to provide distilleries with an understanding of the local regulatory and compliance agencies that will govern the project. Kolodzinski says, “Our clients know early on what may drive design decisions and the related costs. SYMBIONT’S regulatory experts help you understand the applicable code requirements based on site and what agencies to work with for local regulatory and compliance agencies.”

From a destination standpoint, the location of the distillery may also be such that there are limitations in local qualified contractors to support the specialized installation needs. Kolodzinski explains, “Project costs will be impacted if a higher level of engineering support is required to oversee the installation and verify installation aligns with the design. Additionally, if qualified contractors are coming from outside the local area, the installation costs may increase due to additional travel and living costs.

When it comes to implementation of the project, start-up distilleries should look at the availability of qualified contractors in their locations. A higher level of oversight from the project engineering team may be needed if the contractors available do not have experience installing distillery systems.”

SYMBIONT has construction capabilities and construction leaders who have worked nationwide, in Canada, and in the Caribbean. They can assemble a pool of qualified contractors with whom the firm has experience. Contractors you can trust to provide the installation quality your project requires and deserves.

Müller Pot Stills

Among the most important expenses of a startup distillery is, of course, the still. Choosing the right one is about research and the reliability of information from someone who knows the industry.

Few know more about beginning a startup distillery than Frank Deiter, a master distiller who founded Okanagan Spirit in 2004, which is among the first craft distilleries established in British Columbia, Canada. These days, Deiter is a consultant for Müller Pot Stills and represents the company in North America.

Müller Pot Stills has clients spread across six continents in 51 countries. In business since 1929 with its manufacturing headquarters in Germany, the fourth-generation, family-owned company creates custom-made stills. Many consider the stills to be engineering marvels, formed by a combination of traditional craftsmanship and state-of-the-art technology. One thing that hasn’t changed is the company’s practice of fashioning stills using hammered copper. Deiter explains why this process distinguishes Müller Pot Stills from its competitors.

“The hammering of the copper increases the hardness of the copper; thus, the catalytic properties of the copper stay active way longer. Thus it will render nice smooth distilled products for a longer period of time between cleaning cycles.”

The stills feature patented design elements, including unique, advanced column technology. That, combined with a well-recognized aroma hat, distinguishes the brand from its competitors. The workmanship, Deiter says, is like no other.

“If it comes to distilling equipment, I want to sell only the best. And, there is no equivalent production facility to be found that is as good or better than the equipment coming from Müller in Germany.”

Aside from acquiring equipment and a physical plant, startup distilleries need legal advice to help navigate through numerous regulations, permits and other government requirements. There are state regulations and federal agencies to consider, including the Food and Drug Administration and Occupational Health and Safety Administration. CJ Archer may have said it best: “You cannot put a label on a bottle until the TTB has given its blessing.”

The Basics of Nitrogen and CO2 Use in Breweries & Distilleries

bartender mixing alcohol

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

For many years, carbon dioxide has been used in brewing and distilling processes. Recently, some producers have switched from CO2 to nitrogen or use both CO2 and nitrogen because each has unique advantages. To help make the right choice for your operations, here are a few things to think about regarding the use of carbon dioxide and nitrogen for craft beverages.

Using CO2 in Breweries & Distilleries

  For brewing and distilling, beverage producers use CO2 to remove air and protect the product from oxidation. This ensures good taste, mouthfeel, quality and shelf stability. CO2 can be pumped into kegs and kept at pressure to carbonate beer and give it a foamy texture. CO2 is often transported as a cryogenic liquid, which requires trailers and railcars for transportation.

  Ken Hoffman, vice president of sales for Allcryo, Inc., told Beverage Master Magazine that the first factors his company considers for CO2 tanks are tank size and monthly use volumes. He also said to consider the proximity of the use site to the supply source. Based in Montgomery, Texas, Allcryo manufactures, refurbishes and services cryogenic tanks, CO2 tanks and related equipment.

  “With a refrigerated CO2 tank, you can have more storage than you might need because there is no loss of product,” Hoffman said. “It is important not to have an undersized tank, as the expense of additional delivery charges and the threat of run-outs is far more expensive than the savings of buying a smaller tank. It is also important to size for future growth.”

Using Nitrogen in Breweries & Distilleries

  Nitrogen serves some of the same purposes as CO2 in craft beverage production, such as protecting against oxygenation, extending shelf life and improving taste and aroma. Nitrogen is used in pressurized containers and can be incorporated before or after filling and before capping and seaming. For small breweries, nitrogen often comes in liquid form from gas distributors. For larger nitrogen needs, it can be transferred from a supply tank using vacuum-insulated piping.

  Vacuum Barrier Corporation is a cryogenic engineering company that manufactures vacuum jacketed piping and equipment for use in multiple industries, including breweries and distilleries.

  “Our Semiflex and Cobraflex vacuum jacketed piping are used to safely and efficiently transfer cryogenic liquid nitrogen. Our Nitrodoser systems are used for inerting or pressurizing containers and for nitrogenating beer and coffee,” Dana P. Muse, the international technical sales engineer for Vacuum Barrier Corporation, told Beverage Master Magazine.

  Allcryo also offers systems for liquid nitrogen, and Hoffman said that the primary application of their products is to strengthen thin-walled plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Equipment Needed for CO2 and Nitrogen

  Specialized equipment is needed to facilitate the use of both CO2 and nitrogen in beer or spirits production.

  “The Vacuum Barrier Nitrodoser system drops a single dose of liquid nitrogen into the top of the container just before the cap or lid is applied,” Muse said. “The drop of liquid nitrogen is trapped inside the container, and as it evaporates and warms up, it expands, pressurizing the container.”

  Muse said that for pure spirits, a plastic bottle could benefit from some internal pressure to reduce jams on the filling line, improve stacking strength, improve storage efficiency and improve the product appearance.

  “We have also seen an increase in the market for pre-mixed cocktails in aluminum cans,” he said. “Carbonated cocktails, like a Cuba Libre or Moscow Mule, already have internal pressure created by the CO2. However, still cocktails, like a margarita or a screwdriver, in an aluminum can are extremely flimsy and easily crushed without internal pressure created by liquid nitrogen.”

  For breweries, liquid nitrogen has two different applications. On a canning line or a bottling line without a pre-evacuation system, a drop of liquid nitrogen into the empty container purges out oxygen and creates an inert atmosphere. This helps reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in the beer to improve the shelf life. Liquid nitrogen is also used for nitrogenated beers in single-serve containers.

  “A drop of liquid nitrogen in the headspace will pressurize the container, and under the right conditions, the nitrogen will dissolve into the beer over time,” Muse said. “When the container is opened, the nitrogen will come out of solution and create the cascading bubbles and creamy foam that customers expect. However, in order to get the nitrogen to come out of solution quickly, either the container needs to have a ‘widget,’ or the consumer needs to be aware of how to ‘hard-pour’ the beverage. Without a widget or a hard pour, the nitrogen will not create the cascade or foam, and the beer will be flat.”

Tanks for CO2 and Nitrogen

  Breweries and distilleries can buy a new or refurbished foam insulated tank for their equipment. Allcryo’s refurbished tanks are a cost-effective solution that performs as well as new tanks because the refurbishment process comes with a warranty and includes all-new, two-part poly-foam insulation, paint, pipes and safety valves.

  “Typical cost savings on a refurbished tank over a new tank is between 20% and 30%,” said Hoffman. “If purchasing a new, refurbished or used vacuum jacketed tank, it is extremely important that the vacuum is sound and the tank is complete with refrigeration coils that afford the opportunity to add refrigeration if the vacuum becomes compromised. The coils are necessary to allow pressure control and avoid the possibility of high pressure and venting of CO2.”

  Both the foam insulated and vacuum jacketed tanks are offered by Allcryo and work well under most conditions, with the significant differences being cost, application and the installation site.

  “A vacuum jacketed tank does not require electricity, but the ability to control pressure in the tank is limited without an inner coil,” Hoffman said. “With a foam insulted tank, the refrigeration loop maintains the liquid CO2 in a constant pressure range. The system is set to automatically kick on when necessary, and the balance of the time is not running.”

  Concerning installation, Hoffman said that most vacuum jacketed tanks are vertical and require a substantial foundation. However, a horizontal tank might be more affordable if there is enough space available. 

Pros & Cons of CO2 and Nitrogen

  CO2 is the industry standard, which means that it is readily available and well-tested for craft beverage purposes. However, CO2 can be challenging and expensive to transport. Also, recent shortages of CO2 have slowed production for some beverage producers.

  Nitrogen offers a unique mouthfeel and smoothness because it is less soluble than CO2. Yet, it is not beneficial for hop-forward beers that are meant to have a bite to them rather than a creamy consistency. Nitrogen can be used for various applications, including cleaning, pressurizing and inerting. These applications make it a practical choice and cost-efficient since it is often cheaper than CO2, especially with onsite nitrogen generation. With onsite generation, a producer can be more efficient without waiting for a supplier’s delivery or wasting gas. It may also be a way to reduce the company’s carbon footprint since nitrogen releases fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

  Some beverage producers are using CO2 and nitrogen blends to meet their needs. However, no other substitutes have proven effective for these purposes at a cost-effective rate.

Safety Considerations for CO2 and Nitrogen

  Working with CO2 or nitrogen in any capacity can be dangerous without the proper training and safety protocols in place. Gas can collect at the bottom of tanks and spill out onto the floor to create hazards. Production facilities should have a gas detection system to alert workers to dangers or automatically activate ventilation systems. Preventative maintenance should include testing tanks for residue buildup and ensuring that gas supply lines do not have condensation or standing liquid inside. In-line filtration can be used to scrub away undesirable chemicals and moisture that collects during the production process.

  “Most people understand liquid nitrogen is cold enough to cause frostbite and cold burns if it directly contacts the skin,” Muse said. “Cryogenic gloves and face shields should be used anytime there is a risk of direct exposure to the liquid nitrogen.”

  Liquid nitrogen should only be used in a well-ventilated area, where it may be necessary to install oxygen monitors. Also, nitrogen expands to 700 times its original volume when it changes from a liquid to a gas.

  “We use this expansion to pressurize or purge out oxygen from containers, but if there is a nitrogen leak, it could eventually push all the air and oxygen out of an entire room,” Muse said. “If someone enters an area without enough oxygen, it can cause asphyxiation and death. Proper ventilation and oxygen monitors help minimize this risk.”

  Vacuum Barrier provides pressure relief valves at critical locations to eliminate the risk of over-pressurizing and prevent explosions. If too much liquid nitrogen becomes trapped inside a sealed volume, the expansion from liquid to gas could create enough pressure to explode. Relief valves must be set at the correct pressure, so if they must open, the gas escapes in an area away from people.

  “Vacuum Barrier works with each of our customers to ensure that any personnel working with or near our equipment will have the correct training for proper and safe handling of liquid nitrogen,” Muse said.

  “To help mitigate the risk of asphyxiation, it is very important to monitor the atmosphere in process areas to ensure that OSHA-mandated oxygen levels are maintained,” Hoffman from Allcryo said. He also suggested producers install alarm systems to constantly monitor the atmosphere and warn of dangerously low oxygen content.

  Both liquid CO2 and liquid nitrogen are stored at very low temperatures and can cause injury if not handled properly. “Allcryo can work with site safety personnel and assist in the design and installation of safety systems,” Hoffman said. “Allcryo can also provide input on foundation design to meet seismic and wind load requirements of the specific location and provide guidance on NFPA-adjacent exposure requirements, such as proximity to overhead electrical wires, sewer drains and vehicular traffic.”b

Expert Advice Goes a Long Way

  CO2 and nitrogen can be great choices for a brewery or distillery, depending on its specific needs and production level. When making this decision, make sure to communicate your needs and goals with your supplier to assess the risks and maintain top quality.

  Muse from Vacuum Barrier said that for anyone considering using liquid nitrogen for any reason, the most important thing to do is speak with an expert.

  “Certainly, talking with coworkers and associates in the industry who have experience with liquid nitrogen might provide some basic information, but they might also pass along some bad habits or incorrect assumptions,” Muse said. “Many people get frustrated when first trying to use liquid nitrogen and jump to the conclusion that it doesn’t work when in reality, they might just be using it incorrectly. Not only is this a waste of time and effort, but if not handled properly, there is a risk of injury.”

Craft Gluten-Free Beers and Spirits That Will Win Fans for All Occasions

gluten free signage

By: Laura K. Allred, Ph.D., Regulatory Manager, Gluten Intolerance Group and Jeanne Reid, Marketing Manager, Gluten Intolerance Group

The desire to gather over good food and drink is a powerful urge for most people. For those who have adopted a gluten-free diet, finding ways to socialize is often complicated by the need for refreshments that don’t contain gluten. Members of the gluten-free community crave a sense of belonging and normalcy as much as anybody, but they don’t want to eat or drink anything that will make them sick. Makers of gluten-free craft beers and spirits can instill trust in consumers by following best practices for manufacturing gluten-free beverages, heeding recent changes in labeling requirements, and ensuring that their product is truly gluten-free.

The Gluten-Free Market for Alcoholic Beverages

  Along with the rest of the gluten-free market, which exhibits a compound annual growth rate of 9.2% and is projected to reach $43 billion by 2027, demand for alcoholic beverages that are gluten-free is growing. The growth in the gluten-free market is driven by rising rates of various forms of gluten sensitivity, in addition to increased diagnosis of celiac disease.

  While the market for gluten-free alcohol is comparable to that of other gluten-free products, consumers are particularly concerned about the safety of alcoholic beverages because so many of them are made from grains that contain gluten. Gluten-free consumers tend to be avid researchers who carefully read ingredient lists and doublecheck claims by visiting manufacturers’ websites. Given the choice, gluten-free consumers will always opt for products that are labeled gluten-free. What’s more, they’re often willing to pay more for a product that lives up to its gluten-free name.

Recent Rule Changes for Fermented and Distilled Beverages

  For people with celiac disease and other forms of gluten sensitivity, finding gluten-free products isn’t a dietary or wellness fad; it’s a requirement for remaining healthy and avoiding unpleasant physical symptoms. Brands getting into the gluten-free market need to understand that consumers with a medically prescribed diet will have more demands than the average consumer, and thus companies also need to go the extra mile to be transparent about their processes. You can reassure consumers by demonstrating you understand legal requirements for labeling gluten-free products, particularly recent rule changes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

  In 2020, the FDA responded to growing awareness that ELISA tests used to identify gluten proteins in foods and beverages don’t reliably detect residual gluten in fermented products. To address the issue, the FDA passed a new rule that requires manufacturers to start with gluten-free ingredients if they want to label products as gluten-free. At the same time, the FDA ruled that distilled products made from grains containing gluten could be labeled as gluten-free because distillation removes gluten proteins from the finished product. Following the lead of the FDA, the TTB released a ruling that allows makers of distilled beverages to advertise and label those products as gluten-free—even if they are made with grains that contain gluten.

Fermentation vs. Distillation What’s Involved?

  To understand the rationale behind the FDA and TTB rulings, makers of craft beers and spirits need to be aware of the differences between fermentation and distillation. Typically, production of alcoholic beverages starts with fermentation. The fermentation process converts sugars into ethyl alcohol by breaking down substances like grain or potatoes through the introduction of yeasts, bacteria or other microorganisms. Beer usually starts with the fermentation of wheat or barley, two gluten-containing grains. Distilled spirits like whisky start with wheat or rye, while vodka can also be made with sugar cane or potatoes. Fermentation processes may break down some of the gluten proteins in beer or spirits, but it won’t remove all of them.

  Distillation involves the boiling and condensation of fermented products to separate particulates in a liquid. During the distillation process, fermented liquid is heated up in a still. Under high temperatures, the most volatile compounds like alcohol become gases that rise to the top, while the heavier, less volatile  compounds, including gluten, sink to the bottom. Once the alcohol is re-condensed and collected, the resulting product becomes protein- and gluten-free.

The Benefits of Third-Party Certification

  The safest bet for gluten-free consumers is to look for products that are labeled or certified as gluten-free. The benefits of certifying alcoholic beverages as gluten-free are many. According to FMI U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends, 29% of all shoppers look for certification claims on packaging for food and beverages—and this is particularly true for gluten-free consumers. These consumers look for brands that inspire confidence, which means that in addition to labeling products gluten-free, taking the step to get third-party certification, like that of the Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), goes a long way in building brand loyalty among the gluten-free community.

  For one leading producer of vodka, obtaining GFCO certification and prominently displaying the certification logo on a paper sleeve attached to their bottles has made their product the vodka of choice for gluten-free consumers, who are very brand loyal. For manufacturers, certifying alcoholic beverages can be a real differentiator and selling point in a booming market.

Best Practices for Producing Gluten-Free Beer and Spirits

  Producers of craft beers and spirits can capitalize on demand for gluten-free products, but it’s important for companies to follow the correct procedures for manufacturing these beverages. The process of producing gluten-free alcoholic beverages starts with sourcing gluten-free ingredients for products that are fermented but not distilled and ensuring that all gluten has been removed from products that are distilled. Manufacturers should also make sure their facilities are set up to avoid cross-contamination. One option is to produce alcohol in a dedicated gluten-free facility. While only 15 of the 8,000 breweries in the US are dedicated gluten-free facilities, this number has grown from just around three in 2016.

  However, using a dedicated facility to produce gluten-free beverages isn’t your only option. Provided you follow best practices for preventing cross-contamination, there is no reason you can’t produce gluten-free products in a non-dedicated facility. You will need to take extra precautions by cleaning and testing any shared equipment, and some certifications, like GFCO, recommend using dedicated gluten-free equipment on production lines, simply because the equipment used to distill alcohol can be difficult to take apart and clean thoroughly. On the other hand, if you’re doing small batch production and you can get inside your equipment to clean and swab it, you can use shared equipment. You just need to verify that you’ve removed all traces of gluten before you make your next gluten-free batch.

  As far as cleaning solutions go, you don’t need to spend top dollar on any specialty products. Standard soap and water will do. The important part of the process is swabbing to test for the presence of gluten or protein once you’ve cleaned your equipment. To demonstrate the effectiveness of your distillation process at removing proteins, GFCO recommends performing a lab procedure called an “amino acid analysis” that uses mass spectrometry to measure the amount of residual amino acids in distillates. A commercial lab can assist with the testing process, particularly for smaller distilleries that don’t have the equipment to conduct independent testing.

Things to Look Out for When Producing Gluten-Free Alcohol

  If you are not making a distilled product—if you are, say, brewing beer—you should start with higher quality grains and do a visual inspection once they enter your facility to ensure they really are gluten-free. You should also beware of advertising “gluten-removed” beer to gluten-free consumers. Gluten-removed beer is manufactured using wheat, rye, barley or some other common gluten grain, and then, after fermentation, is typically treated enzymatically in a way that makes the product test negative for gluten. However, because testing does not reliably detect the presence of all residual proteins that people with celiac disease react to, the TTB has ruled that only beer that starts with gluten-free grains can be labeled as gluten-free. If you want to produce a gluten-free product, another option is hard seltzer. Although many of these products start with malt, which is most commonly made from barley, hard seltzer can also be produced using sugar to create an inherently gluten-free product.

  Distillers of hard alcohol should also pay careful attention to any added flavorings: some of these ingredients include gluten and thus introduce the potential for cross-contamination. Manufacturers should also take care when using old barrels to season alcohol, because some of these barrels are sealed with wheat paste and may contain trace amounts of gluten.

  As the gluten-free market continues to grow, more consumers are seeking options for gluten-free alcoholic beverages and many are willing to pay a premium for products they know they can trust. Starting with quality ingredients, adopting best practices for cleaning and testing your equipment and obtaining third-party certification, like GFCO, are three ways you can assure consumers that your gluten-free product is safe for consumption. Take the right steps, and your gluten-free alcoholic beers and spirits can become the next must-have brand for any occasion.

  Laura K. Allred, Ph.D. is the regulatory manager for the Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). Allred’s experience includes a background in immunology and eight years of directing a food testing laboratory and test kit manufacturing operation. The GFCO certification logo is the symbol of trust for the gluten-free community, with more than 60,000 products certified worldwide.

  Jeanne Reid is the marketing manager for the nonprofit Gluten Intolerance Group. Reid is a marketing and advertising professional with 20 years in the retail, restaurant, and CPG industries as well as cause-related efforts. A difficult family battle with celiac disease was an eye-opener for Reid and provided an opportunity for her to gain extensive knowledge and expertise on the gluten-free market.

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The Best Approaches for Safety in the Brewery and Distillery

man overseeing facility

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

As a craft brewer or distiller, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of the beverage production process. After all, from securing supplies to marketing products and everything in between, there’s a lot to keep in order.

  Among the many competing demands, safety sometimes gets taken for granted or overlooked. However, it’s essential to always keep safety on the radar and on the minds of staff. Beverage producers can benefit from a little refresher on safety to protect their valuable workers while also maximizing efficiency and productivity.

Safety Hazards in Breweries & Distilleries

  Because of everything involved in the brewing and distilling processes, many things can go very right or very wrong depending on how operations are run. Various hazards exist in a beverage production facility that workers need to be aware of and trained to address.

  Injuries can occur due to lifting, pushing and carrying equipment or because of falls on slippery floors. Working at tall heights and on ladders can cause injuries, while clutter left behind on floors and in confined spaces can cause tripping. Carbon dioxide gas, boiling liquids, steam, hot surfaces and not being properly trained to use machinery pose hazards. Other causes for concern are flammable chemicals, broken glass and grain dust exposure. Meanwhile, repetitive movements without good ergonomic tools can put employees at risk, and high noise levels can cause ear damage.

  “All semi-finished and finished products are flammable, so proper engineering and procedural controls must be designed, installed and tested, and all staff trained on these controls and procedures,” said Rich Buoni, founding owner of Pennsylvania Distilling Company in Malvern, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Distilling is a small distillery that produces grain-to-glass vodka, whiskey, rum and gin. Its location offers tasting flights, artisan cocktails, tours and bottle sales in a relaxed environment.

  “As a chemical engineer with significant global experience, it is my opinion that distillery stills should never be direct-fired, as that is simply too intrinsically unsafe regardless of how large the installed base may be,” he said. “Steam, preferably through a vessel jacket or coils, is the best and safest design, although other heating fluids, such as circulating nonflammable hot oil, are acceptable. Electric heating coils are also acceptable but less preferable for a number of reasons.”

  On the brewery side of things, Beverage Master Magazine connected with Chad Gunderson, the president, CEO and head of brewing operations at Half Brothers Brewing Company in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Half Brothers is a family-friendly craft brewery specializing in creating unique beers with innovative ingredients and techniques in a relaxed gathering spot with a taproom, kitchen, live music and local art.

  When asked about the most important safety concerns that brewery owners and employees should be aware of, Gunderson said that “how to properly handle cleaning chemicals, hot water, hose management and cleaning floors” are his top recommendations.

The Role of

Personal Protective Equipment

  Personal protective equipment is vital across many industries, including craft beverage production. Breweries and distilleries should ensure that employees wear the proper clothing and footwear to do their jobs safely and without distraction or hazards. Protection for the eyes, ears and hands should be worn when operating specialized pieces of machinery that can put the body at risk.

  PPE has played an even more significant role in the craft beverage industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on where a producer operates and what the ever-changing guidelines dictate, front-of-house staff members who interact with the general public may also need to utilize face masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer and other sanitation measures.

Responsibilities of

Workers and Supervisors

  Ensuring that a brewery or distillery operates in a safe environment starts with good communication among everyone who works onsite. Owners and managers can begin this process by asking employees if they feel safe in the workplace and encouraging them to raise concerns about any potential hazards they have noticed in the facility.

  Buoni at Pennsylvania Distilling Company told Beverage Master Magazine that employee safety training is conducted by him directly. This includes testing equipment controls and safety procedures. 

  “Our safety checklist includes proper use of PPE, fire extinguishers, proper storage of products and chemicals, proper use of pumps and compressors, understanding of peripheral equipment including the steam boiler and chiller, use of any electrical equipment, grounding of tanks and pumps, food processing safety and how to lift objects like grain bags safely,” Buoni said.

  At Half Brothers Brewing, “Each new employee has an SOP manual and exam they must complete before working alone in the building and factory,” said Gunderson.

  The first places to look for safety hazards include the production facility and anywhere open to the public. But don’t forget about behind-the-scenes locations such as the shipping and receiving area or the bathrooms. A safety plan might include briefing delivery drivers and vendors about safety protocols unique to the facility.

Safety Tips for Brewers and Distillers

  Flooring-related slips, trips and falls are among the most critical safety concerns in a brewery or distillery. To ensure that the floors are safe to walk on, spills should be cleaned up as quickly as possible, relevant signage posted, and obstructions moved out of walkways. Obstructions include cords, boxes, bottles, cans and employees’ personal bags. Employees should wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes to protect themselves from broken glass, chemical spills and slippery surfaces.

  Chemical leaks, spills and handling are significant concerns for craft beverage producers because of how dangerous these substances can be when misused. Goggles, protective footwear and safety aprons can help prevent injuries due to chemical exposure. Make sure to clearly label hazardous materials, so employees know to avoid these products or use extra caution when handling them. Ensure proper ventilation in areas where chemicals are used, particularly in small spaces.

  Initial and ongoing safety training is important to prepare employees for potentially dangerous situations and common scenarios that could turn deadly without a moment’s notice. In smaller operations with just a few staff members, it might be necessary to cross-train all employees on the various safety procedures, so everyone is prepared to handle diverse tasks throughout the day. Being proactive with training is always preferable to training in response to an incident. In addition to how to safely use specialized equipment, it may also be beneficial to train employees on first aid, CPR and basic safety tips for seemingly simple tasks like opening boxes and stocking supplies.

  OSHA compliance is required of brewery and distillery owners in order to keep their licenses to operate. Laws and regulations in the alcohol industry frequently change, so producers should keep up with any updates. OSHA is known to show up unannounced to inspect and ensure that safety regulations are being followed. Some of the main things these inspectors look for are cluttered walkways, chemical storage and labeling, keg storage and written records that document training plans, hazard assessments and injury logs.

How to Keep Your

Staff and Customers Safe

  Safety in the brewery or distillery may seem like little more than common sense at first glance, but gentle reminders can go a long way in helping staff members remember what’s most important. Without suitable safety protocols in place, a beverage business could be subjected to extra inspections and incident investigations that disrupt normal operations and put the company at risk of fines or discipline.

  Buoni from Pennsylvania Distilling Company said that his best advice for a new distillery concerning safety is to ensure that they have a solid understanding of the distillation process from beginning to end. 

  “It’s critically important to know how the dots are connected rather than just taking somebody else’s recipe and making liquor,” he said. “Appropriate education is the best answer. For the tasting room, it is really very similar to any bar that serves alcohol to patrons. Having appropriately certified bartenders and servers is key. Staff must understand the uniqueness of a different license class so that all laws are followed.”

  Gunderson at Half Brothers Brewing Company recommends that brand-new breweries thoroughly research the proper chemical training, dosage, time and handling.

  “Clean beer starts at the source of cleaning SOPs,” he said.

  Keeping up with all of these safety requirements and regulations might feel like a hassle, but there’s no way around it if you want to run a reputable craft beverage business. By encouraging a proactive safety culture in your brewery or distillery, you will ultimately attract the types of employees and customers you want and need to stay in business while also letting people know that you honestly care about their health and safety.

Reverence Barrel Works: A Small Ontario Brewery with BIG IDEAS

man brewing in the barrel

By: Alyssa Andres

In the world of craft beer, trends abound. Styles of beer seem to become popular in waves – whether it’s fruity sours or ridiculously hoppy triple IPAs. When breweries catch on to a trend, they tend to ride with it. This results in a market saturated with similar offerings, while, somewhat ironically, it seems what many craft beer lovers are looking for is something new.

  While most breweries across North America are producing many of the same styles of beer and using similar brewing techniques, there is a small town brewery in Cambridge, Ontario, that is doing the opposite. Reverence Barrel Works has built itself on experimentation with the goal of producing small-batch craft beer full of personality.

  Reverence Barrel Works owners Brett Hunter and Matt Duimering always wanted to focus on two things: experimentation and quality. The two brewers started RBW in September 2019 after quitting their day jobs and quickly started playing around with different concepts for their beer. They’d both used traditional and non-traditional methods of brewing, incorporating slow-fermentation techniques, wild yeast strains and an array of different ingredients. They experimented with beer-wine hybrids, wild-foraged edibles and have even used gelatin in some of their beer. By playing with techniques and styles, RBW has managed to catch the attention of craft beer lovers across Ontario.

  The craft beer scene within Ontario is vast and spans across the entire province. There are microbreweries in some of the smallest towns in Ontario, and craft beer lovers will travel great distances to find the latest and greatest that breweries have to offer. Hunter and Duimering opened their brewery with this concept in mind. They knew if they had something on their roster that was a must-try, it would put their small brewery on the map for people touring the craft beer circuit.

  The release of Reverence Slrrp! Blue in December 2020 did just that. Hunter and Duimering created an 8% ABV, slightly soured blonde ale with the “natural flavor of blue” and the addition of gelatin, giving the beer a texture similar to unset jello. Although not something most people would care to drink every day, it was something that everyone wanted to try.

  “People drink with their eyes,” said Duimering. “When you’re scrolling through Instagram, you’re used to scrolling past a picture of beer, a picture of beer, and now there’s a picture of this blue beverage in front of you. You stop scrolling immediately.”

  Slrrp! Blue sold out quickly and was followed by Slrrp! Green and Slrrp! Red. The beers were something people felt they needed to try, and because they were produced in small batches, they sold out quickly after each release. Although successful, the Slrrp! series was more of a gimmick for Reverence to draw attention to the brewery. Their primary focus is on producing more traditional beers with a modern flair.

  Hunter and Duimering have experimented with a wide range of styles, from red wine barrel-aged sour red ales to maple barrel-aged pastry stouts. They use natural fermentation methods for their beer, so patience is a virtue when creating their products. Some beers take a few months to produce; others will stay in barrel for years. In the end, it’s all about quality and ingenuity.

  Since releasing their Slrrp! series, the brewers have gone on to partner with local wineries to create beer-wine hybrids using several grape varietals and brewing techniques. They chose to work with wineries that share their similar vision and values. They wanted to pair with like-minded people also focused on creating quality products that represent the region and reflect the unique terroir and climate of Ontario.

  Hunter and Duimering decided to source grapes from Traynor Family Vineyard in Prince Edward County, Ontario, for their beer-wine hybrid “Glou Glou Marquette.” The Traynor Vineyard is a small winery focused on sustainable permaculture, hand-harvesting their grapes and using natural, low intervention winemaking techniques. The brewers used Marquette grapes from the Traynor Vineyard and added them to a blend of golden sour ales. The beer spent five months in puncheons resting on the grapes, giving it a deep color and slight tannin. With rich flavors of red cherry and black raspberry, this hybrid beverage drinks more like a pét-nat wine than a traditional beer.

  Duimering said he loves working in this hybrid style that expresses the terroir and uses natural fermentation. “We don’t want to be pitching just wine yeast strains into our beer because I can go buy those commercial strains,” he said. “We want to work with people who are asking what is the native microflora? What is the flavor of Ontario? So whatever [yeast] is on the grapes, that’s what ferments them. We put that in our beer, and you get that terroir carrying over.”

  By incorporating wine into their beer, Reverence is appealing to a whole new demographic of drinkers. Being located close to wine country, it makes sense to utilize these ingredients and draw in wine lovers who are touring the area. Reverence has released several of these wine-beer hybrids, including a Chardonnay barrel-aged brett Saison aged on orange wine skins and a Flemish red ale aged for two months on Cabernet Franc skins. These beers are alive with personality and flavor, bringing the taste of the region to life.

  Located an hour west of Toronto, Reverence Barrel Works is not only surrounded by wine country but also by expansive farmland and sprawling forests. Naturally, Hunter and Duimering also gravitate to incorporating some of the region’s other fruit and flora into their beer. They’ve utilized wild foraged sumac to create their “Patience & Fruition Sumac,” a tequila barrel-aged golden sour with notes of lemon and raspberry. They are now awaiting warmer weather to incorporate other wild edibles into their recipes, including dandelion, for a natural bitterness.

  As a young brewery, the two brewers are continuing to experiment and expand. Many of their beers are extremely small batch and don’t make it onto their website or bottle shop. As a result, Reverence Barrel Works has started a “Barrel Club,” offering its members exclusive access to these limited edition beers. Each member receives 12 different beers a year not available to the public. Other benefits include access to pre-order unreleased beers and double bottle limits on limited edition beers. The Barrel Club allows RBW to showcase their most experimental beers as well as brews that would never be feasible to produce on a large scale due to cost and labor. They can also test their products this way and get a sense of what people like before producing large quantities. The club has been a great success for the brewery, with all 75 spots in the club selling out last year.

  Another reason RBW has been successful, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is the support from bottle shops that have opened across the province. Before the pandemic, restaurants in Ontario were not legally able to sell takeout alcohol at all. Since restaurants were forced to close for most of 2020 and now into 2021, the government amended that law, enabling restaurants to offer takeout beer, wine and even cocktails in sealed containers. Many restaurants have transformed their operation into full-fledged bottle shops, offering an array of craft beer from across Ontario made by small producers that are not available in regular liquor stores. These shops have helped get RBW’s beer into the hands of a community that would otherwise never get to try their products.

  In their own bottle shop, RBW does not offer tasting flights. Their beer is sold only by the can or bottle in order to encourage their customers to experience the full product. “I’m not a fan of speed dating,” Duimering said, “and I often find when people do flights, they’ll get a heavy stout and a light lager and a fruited sour and then some hoppy IPA, and it just wipes your palate. We want people to really get to know the beer and enjoy it more.”

  The bottom line for Reverence Barrel Works is quality. Duimering and Hunter want to do things right and ensure that when people taste their beer, it’s the best it can be. Whether it takes a few months or a couple of years to produce, they’re turning out unique products made with love and passion, and that is something craft beer lovers want.

  Consumers are starting to move away from what is trendy and looking for something different – something unique that tells a story and represents a person or a place. By going back to more traditional methods of production, using local ingredients and taking their time to create quality, small-batch beer, Reverence Barrel Works is able to capture the attention of their target audience and make a name for themselves in an otherwise extremely saturated market. They are definitely a brewery to take note of while exploring the flavors that Ontario craft beer has to offer.