Expertise Now Rescues Craft Brewers from Costly Headaches Later
By: Cheryl Gray
Quality, precision and productivity are just some of the elements that factor in when deciding what brewery equipment to install.
Whether for a start-up or an expanding operation, equipment is a major investment, and there are companies whose expertise is to help guide their brewery clients toward making that investment pay off.
One of them is Craftmaster Stainless, a full-service stainless equipment provider that provides an expansive list of products for breweries, wineries and distilleries. The California-based company has clients across the United States and Canada. The company prides itself on the detail and finishing of every product its manufactures, as well as the customer service it provides before and after the sale.
Mackenzie Sant is a sales and equipment specialist for Craftmaster Stainless. He says that learning about craft brewing from the ground up introduced him to the company’s products. The team behind Craftmaster Stainless, Sant explains, has multiple years in brewing, technical detail and customer service. That experience supports the company’s ability to translate a client’s equipment wish list into a customized experience. It is just one of the company’s assets that Sant believes puts Craftmaster Stainless ahead of its competitors.
“We offer every piece of equipment someone needs to start a brewery. We want to be your one-stop shop. We won’t furnish your taproom or install your walk-in cooler, but we have all the equipment you need to upscale that popular homebrew batch or to upgrade from the ugly brewhouse you have been brewing in for four years. We wish we could have in-person meetings with everyone shopping for a new brewery, but a phone call works wonders. Tell us your business plan, what styles of beer you want to brew and projected production numbers, and we can spec out the equipment you need. We work closely with other manufacturers and suppliers in the U.S. to source equipment that we don’t produce, from the start of the brew day milling the grain, to chilling and carbonating before pouring a crispy pint.”
And just what does a newly-minted brewing operation need? Sant provides a checklist of essentials, beginning with a business plan and a building followed by must-have equipment, such as a mill/auger for crushing and transporting the grain to the mash tun, a mash tun/lauter tun for converting complex malt sugars into fermentable sugars and a kettle for “cooking” unfermented beer (wort), as well as for adding hops/adjuncts and pasteurizing the liquid to ensure a clean fermentation.
Sant adds that additional essentials include a heat exchanger to cool the wort down to fermentation temperatures, pumps for cleaning or transferring liquids, unitanks/conical fermenters for the bulk of fermentation, brite tanks for conditioning, clarification and carbonation and, lastly, a glycol chiller for controlling fermentation and conditioning temperatures. The latter, Sant advises pairs well with a cellar control panel to control each tank.
Regarding some of the most popular items on the product list for Craftmaster Stainless, Sant points to a number of items that highlight the company’s unique feel for what breweries need, including one piece of equipment that takes the tedium out of a very mundane but necessary chore.
“I would say our keg washer is the most popular piece of equipment at the moment. I think I speak for most brewers when I say that keg washing is probably one of the most repetitive jobs in the industry. This machine makes that job easy. It is seriously your best ‘employee.’ Once again, our customer service is always there to help with any trouble shooting. We understand downtime is not profitable, so we are always available to help. I would say our brewhouses are popular as well. They look great and they get the job done. Our level of customization on our brewhouses will catch your eye. We do have a couple other products releasing this year that will steal the spotlight for a while.”
The company’s new product launches include the Craftmaster Stainless Semi-Auto ‘Keggernaut’ Keg Washer and another new equipment item.
“We just released our Three Gallon Hop Doser. The Hop Doser is a great attribute in our equipment line up. When introducing hops into the brewing process, you don’t want to introduce oxygen. This hop doser allows you to dry hop without oxygen ingress. It can be used for other adjuncts as well, so use your imagination. Keep an eye out for equipment to come. There is so much technology in the industry that isn’t being used, and we have big plans for the future, while staying competitive.”
From Lincoln, Nebraska, is ABE Equipment Company, which designs and manufactures a variety of equipment for breweries. The company’s brewhouse equipment is custom-built, paying special attention to solving problem areas such as low ceilings, tight spaces, ventilation barriers and utility requirements. Ashlei Howell is the marketing manager for the firm’s parent company, Norland International.
“Our sweet spot is the 1,000 BBL to 5,000 BBL per year brewery. Our products cater to much larger breweries, and much of our equipment can be used on a much smaller scale, but the niche we serve will be a bit on the higher production end.
We pride ourselves on being able to offer a complete solution at a fair price. We handle everything from grain to glass. Everything is designed and assembled in Lincoln, Nebraska, and we employ over 130 hardworking Americans to make our suite of products. Our dedicated customer service technicians train our customers and make themselves available nearly anytime to answer questions.”
When it comes to introducing new products to the market, Howell explains that ABE Equipment Company is focused on what will increase its clients’ bottom line.
“Our newly released products have changed how breweries and distilleries package their product. The new CraftCan Go is a small footprint, one operator and a dual-purpose (atmospheric and counter pressure) canning machine. Breweries are packaging so much more than just beer in today’s environment.
A canning line capable of making beer, coffee, seltzer, tea, and anything else that may be high or low in carbonation adds versatility to the brewery. It sets that particular machine apart from anything else on the market.
The Patriot Fill Station allows companies to package virtually any beverage on a budget. It is a manual fill station allowing the user to package around eight bottles per minute. This machine can handle alcohol, syrups, oils and many more viscous or non-viscous liquids. With so many craft beverage companies coming to the market, having an affordable machine to get a product into a package at a reasonable price is a must for any beverage company wanting to stay ahead of the game.”
Howell offers input on some advanced equipment choices for breweries to consider.
“There are numerous products a brewery can add to its lineup to optimize production, save time, cut costs and much more. A yeast brink allows breweries to reuse yeast and can easily be added to your equipment lineup. If harvested and stored correctly, you can sometimes yield up to 10 generations of yeast, spreading the cost across multiple brews. With rising grain costs, adding a bulk grain silo is becoming a more economical option for breweries. Buying in bulk saves time when brewing, but you can cut significant costs when ordering large amounts of grain at a time. The ROI on a silo is easier to prove now more than ever. There are also a variety of smaller, simpler items, such as brite tank monitors, CIP carts, and brewhouse automation options that help improve production within a brewery.”
MISCO Refractometer and its 70-year history have earned a place in the specialty field of refractometry. Refractometers in the brewing industry are among the equipment needs experts say breweries should have on their checklist of items designed to ensure quality control. As the singular item that the company manufactures, MISCO offers a wide range of refractometer choices for different industries, but one specifically designed for brewing. The company says that its MISCO Digital Beer Refractometer deploys a patented design specific to wort and eliminates the need to use a refractometer correction factor when placing measurements into beer calculators.
Another advanced equipment option for breweries is a set of sieve plates for the mill. According to experts like Sant, even a one percent efficiency loss in this area could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single year. Along with this, brewers may want to consider keg washers along with portable and inline flow meters. Sant recommends breweries make equipment choices with long-term gain in mind.
“Can you save money in the beginning by cutting cost on your equipment? Absolutely. But what about labor cost, repair cost for failing equipment and bad batch efficiency? The list goes on. Spend less time worrying about the equipment and more time worrying about the beer you are creating. A popular beer podcast said that every 10 minutes you save brewing is a cold beer at the end of the day. Spend that extra time focusing on different aspects of the process.”