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When Mystery Brewing Company closed in 2018, it was difficult to
articulate to people outside the company where things had gone wrong. We looked
like a successful company from the outside; we had a well-attended pub and
restaurant, we frequently won awards for our beer in both local and national
competitions, and in general things looked great.
We made the mistake many
small businesses – particularly small breweries – make in having a debt load
that outsized our resources. We were stretched too thin. It took months of
introspection after the business closed for me to understand where things had
really gone awry.
What you’re missing in
that picture is distribution. At our peak, we were distributed throughout our
state of North Carolina to hundreds of grocery stores, convenience stores,
bottle shops, bars, and restaurants. When we closed, we were self-distributing
mostly draft beer in a 75-mile radius from the brewery.
I now put the blame
squarely on my own basic misunderstanding of what to realistically expect from
my distributor, as well as their fundamental misunderstanding of what we needed
and, what’s more, their misunderstanding of what they were actually offering us
– or anyone.
With the help of our
distributor, we saw success in distribution into large grocery store chains in
our state. Unfortunately, as a small brewery, we couldn’t handle the demand
from those grocery stores. We picked up a loan to help meet that demand, but
before we were able to put the pieces in place, we lost our placement in those
grocery stores. We were weighed down with debt without a market to sell the
expanded volume we had put into place. We could never recover those lost sales
and ended up closing our doors in the face of rising costs – in ingredients,
rent, and the cost of distribution – when we got to a point where we could no
longer service our debt.
It all tracks back to our
relationship with our distributor.
Distributors As Sales Companies
For years after
Prohibition, beer was sold exclusively through the three-tier system: the
mandated split of manufacturing, delivery, and retail sales of alcohol. The
role of each tier was very clearly defined, and as beer manufacturers
consolidated through the 20th Century, the role of sales could be taken on by
distribution partners whose portfolio was primarily comprised of one brewery’s
products. Distribution partners could essentially function as a brewery’s sales
force: a mid-sized middleman industry built to act as logistics handlers
between a large manufacturer’s output and the thousands of widely distributed
small retail outlets.
Enter the craft beer
industry – a ragtag gaggle of creative innovators that disrupted traditional
sales channels. From the first brewpub in the country, Bert Grant’s Yakima
Brewing Company in 1982, to changes in distribution and franchise laws around
the country, to the onset of the current popular “taproom-only” model, small
breweries have been in the business of changing how beer is sold almost
When Mystery Brewing
Company opened in 2012, we were on the early end of the “taproom-only” trend.
Because our local laws allowed it, we opened on a plan of self-distribution in
our local area and selling what we could through our own taproom. At the time,
I considered it a hybrid model between Production Brewery and Brewpub and it
worked! We saw distribution success that quickly outgrew our ability to deliver
on our own given our level of resources, and so before long we started looking
at distributors to help shoulder the load.
When I was contacted by
the first distributor I worked with – an independent distributor (ie, not
affiliated with either Anheuser-Busch or MillerCoors, primarily imported beers
either from other states or other countries) – the title of the person that I
talked to was “Statewide Sales Manager.” Her previous job was “Southeast
Regional Sales Manager,” and she later went on to work for another distributor
as “General Manager of Sales and Marketing”. After Mystery closed, I would
often wonder how I was so confused about the role of distributors in the beer
marketplace, but looking retrospectively suggests to me that the distributors
were equally as confused.
Later, when the
relationship with that distributor soured and I moved onto the next, much
larger distributor, we frequently met with the Sales team to train them on our
products. We had Sales Goals in place. We had brewery reps on staff that would
interface with those Sales Reps, but we weren’t allowed to do our own sales. We
were required to turn over any potential customers to the distributor for their
reps to handle and close the deal.
Here’s the problem.
Distributors don’t do sales. They do logistics.
Distributors are Logistical
According to the Brewers
Association and the National Beer and Wine Wholesaler’s Association, over the
course of the last 40 years the number of breweries in the country has gone
from just over 70 to just over 7,000. Over that same time, the number of
distributors has fallen from just over 4,500 (64 distributors per brewery)
handling, on average, around 100 – 200 SKUs each to around 3,000 (.4 distributors
per brewery) handling, on average, well over 1,000 SKUs each. The idea that any
distributor rep working could know and sell any more than a small percentage of
their portfolio is laughable.
Distributors, on the other
hand, are incredible logistics companies. Our primary distributor, through most
of the life of our business, was a statewide distributor that handled thousands
of SKUs across North Carolina and in most cases (ie – except for really rural
customers), would perform overnight delivery anywhere in the state. They had
one central warehouse that stored the majority of their products. That
warehouse would send trucks to each of its 7 branches every single night based
on orders put into the system each night. Those trucks would arrive at each location
and loads would get broken down into individual delivery trucks that would go
out from those branch locations and delivery every day of the week. It was
Distributors are experts
at off-premise sales. Over the course of the past 70 years, grocery store
chains have come to rely on distributors to both stock and manage their beer
sections from product selection to daily stocking of shelves. Distributors
don’t so much sell to grocery stores so much as they ensure that the grocery
stores always have something on the shelves to sell. It is incredibly difficult
for self-distributing breweries – small business partners that only represent
one product – to compete with the efficiency of a distribution company in a
If not for distributors,
it’s hard to imagine the national craft breweries that we have today even
existing. A startup in the 1980s, building a brewery out of cast-off dairy
equipment had no way of possessing the knowledge, much less the resources to create
or satisfy demand for its beers over the breadth of the country that was
required at that time.
It’s why it’s so
seductively simple for small breweries to fool themselves into think that
distributors inhabit the same role they used to. It’s the way they’ve been
taught to think of distributors – and it’s the way distributors think of
Breweries Drive Sales
This all might seem
obvious to large breweries with wide distribution networks, but the majority of
breweries in this country are small – they are 400bbls annually on average.
Many are undercapitalized and understaffed, stretched thin, barely making
payments on outsized debt. It’s easy to look to a distributor for relief, to
take work off of your hands, but that’s not what they’re there for.
In my current role,
managing Tavern Operations at Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery, I work with 7
different companies to manage cider, guest beers, wine, and other non-alcoholic
beverages. The only ones that sell to me – that approach me with new products
and attempt to make a sale – are self-distributing breweries, cideries, and
wineries. The distributors are order-takers and delivery-makers. That has
become their role as their portfolios are too large to know and as their
customer base is too wide to service personally.
Learn from my mistake: As
a small brewery, you are your own best asset when it comes to representing your
brand. Use a distributor to increase your reach, but do so knowing the extra
cost – that they will take a portion of your income AND require extra brewery
staff to manage sales. More than that, set that expectation up front with your
distributor so that you both agree what their role is, and yours. Distributors
can manage off-premise and chain accounts for you in a way that can be
transforming and positive, but they have no incentive to manage your supply,
only deplete it, so be sure that you can handle the demand – or grow safely to
meet it – before you take that step.
Distributors are not your friends and they’re
not your sales force. They’re a tool in your toolbox. Use them wisely.
In March 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (the
Court) affirmed a $2.6 million dollar fine against Craft Brewers Guild (CBG), a
wholesaler. The reason, alleged violation of anti-price discrimination statutes
and other commercial bribery regulations.
CBG allegedly paid
companies money as a rebate in exchange for an agreement to sell CBG product at
bars and restaurants. To hide the payments, these companies allegedly billed
CBG for services like marketing support and promotional services that never
The Court held that CBG
violated commercial bribery regulations
and participated in a commercial bribery scheme to encourage retailers
to supply CBG distributed products. The Court held that this type of commercial
bribery falls with the purpose of the Massachusetts Liquor Control Act. CBG’s
conduct was allegedly illegal because the regulations prohibit companies like
CBG from providing money to induce the purchase of certain alcoholic beverages.
When money is given to a company to persuade that company to purchase a
product, at that point there is a possible violation of these regulations.
In the present case CBG
allegedly did not offer these rebates to all retailers, and rebate amounts
differed among the retailers involved so it is held responsible for violating
the anti-price discrimination statutes and allegedluy also the commercial
A bribe to induce a
company to do something in violation of law or anti-discrimination policies is
illegal no matter what form the bribe takes or how the paper trail is
structured. Rebates, refunds and other incentives to illegally induce a company
to sell its products could be construed as a bribe if there is no logical and
legal basis for the transfer of money. A bribe is a bribe no matter what form
US antitrust laws regulate the relationship of companies involved
in a supply chain at different levels. There cannot be an arrangement by these
companies to reduce competition. Courts will lift the veil behind the name of
written documentation (how an agreement is titled), or even behind the words
used in documents to determine whether an agreement to pay money is actually a
The courts look to
substance (the real relationship between the parties and of their conduct) over
form (the words in a document). This principle holds true in many transactions
when documents are drafted to embody the terms of the transaction. During
litigation, substance and conduct will usually trump form (a cleaverly written
document disguising a bribe or anti-competitive conduct as something else).
bribery regulations are valid, banning discounts, rebates and other inducements
to buy alcohol from only one particular vendor. These regulations help to
prevent price discrimination and an even, fair, competitive playing field for
all craft-brewing companies trying to sell product based on quality and market
price as opposed to “buying” their way to higher sales using illegal practices.
15 U.S. Code § 13 (15 USC
13), deals with pricing and selection of customers in the supply of products.
In accordance with this Code section, It is unlawful for any person engaged in
sales or distribution of products either directly or indirectly, to
discriminate in price between different purchasers of commodities of the same
type of grade and quality of that product if the products
are sold for use, consumption, or resale within the US if the effect of
such discrimination may be substantially to lessen competition.
This Code Section Also
“PAYMENT OR ACCEPTANCE OF COMMISSION,
BROKERAGE, OR OTHER COMPENSATION It shall be unlawful for
any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, to pay or
grant, or to receive or accept, anything of value as a commission, brokerage,
or other compensation, or any allowance or discount in lieu thereof, except for
services rendered in connection with the sale or purchase of goods, wares, or
merchandise, either to the other party to such transaction or to an agent,
representative, or other intermediary therein where such intermediary is acting
in fact for or in behalf, or is subject to the direct or indirect control, of
any party to such transaction other than the person by whom such compensation
is so granted or paid.”
This rule does not apply
if there are differences in the cost of manufacture, sale, or delivery relating
to one purchaser and not to another. Also the rule does not prohibit price
changes from time to time where a price change is in response to changing market
conditions of the goods concerned, such as actual or imminent deterioration of
perishable goods, obsolescence of seasonal goods, distress sales under court
process, or sales due to the discontinuance of sales of the goods concerned.
The US Federal Trade Commission has the power to stop any kind of unfair
business practices including but not limited to exclusionary exclusive dealing
are made, published and implemented all over the world. They are becoming more
obvious in China, Ireland, and Saudi Arabia. Enforcement in other countries is
somewhat irregular. Enforcement in the US is aggressive when the facts warrent
investigatioin and punishment.
The Massachuetts Supreme
Judicial Court case discussed in this article will be followed closely by other
jurisdictions in the US. This type of kick-back may be viewed as a form of
bribery in other jurisdictions with large fines to follow. Be aware.
Oenophiles have long known that wine dinners — where wine is
selected and paired with a variety of foods based on complementary tastes and
styles — can elevate the dining experience. Now, craft breweries are opening
that door to customers who want to expand their culinary horizons with the
plethora of flavors and styles of beers available on the market today.
“We’ve been doing
beer-food dinners for years, and they’re great fun for everyone,” said Ben
Edmunds, partner and brewmaster at Breakside Brewery in Portland, which opened
in 2010 as a restaurant and pub brewery. “The events introduce customers to a
wide range of beers, plus we have an opportunity to reach a different audience
than we usually have.”
Indeed, according to the
National Restaurant Association, food-and-beer pairings were listed as a top
beverage trend in its “What’s Hot 2018 Culinary Forecast.” This isn’t surprising, considering that beer
— with its broad range of flavors, aromas textures, and styles — offers endless
possibilities for pairing with food.
Whether it’s a light lager with a spicy Asian dish or an IPA with loaded
fries and a decadent burger, the right pairing will deliver a flavor nirvana
that far surpasses the flavors of each component. Ask any aficionado, and they
will tell you: food makes beer better, and beer makes food better. It’s that
Like wine and food pairing
dinners, beer and food events typically go through a progression of four or
five courses, sometimes more if the occasion is more extravagant. Each course
is paired with a different beer, depending on the strength, flavor and style
and its compatibility with the food.
According to Edmunds, each
beer serving in Breakside’s dinner is five and eight ounces. The event, he
said, is informal and educational. “We always have a brewery representative at
the dinners to talk about the beer,” he said, “and we ask the chef to come out
and introduce the food. It’s a fun way for customers to experience our beers,
and from our end, we get to present our beer in an entirely different format.”
While many customers are
die-hard beer drinkers, Edmunds told Beverage Master Magazine the dinners often appeal
to a wine-drinking crowd. “These events offer wine drinkers an opportunity to
see how diverse and food-friendly beer can be.”
Recently, Breakside featured wood-aged and acidic beers with lots
of fruit flavors, components that are similar to those in wine. “It was a good way
to challenge preconceived notions of what beer is and how it should be
Breakside’s dinners may
seat as few as 10-to-15, or as many as 70-plus. Prices range from $35 to $120,
depending on the number of courses and the complexity of the menu. The average
for an all-inclusive dinner, said Edmunds, is $65 to $85. Breakside has
sponsored events ranging from introductory beer pairing at gastropubs and bars,
to more elaborate affairs at fine dining establishments. This year during
Portland Beer Week, Breakside paired with renowned Icelandic chef Ólafur “Óli”
Áugústsson, the culinary director for Portland’s forthcoming KEX hotel. The
dinner featured aged and sour beers selected to complement local seafood and
explained, are a collaboration between brewery personnel, the restaurant’s
chef, and others, such as a bar manager. “The dynamic that works best for us
and leads to the best results for the consumer is for us to invite the
restaurant people to our brewery and taste through a wide range of beers,” he
said. “We’re lucky because we make many different styles of beer and aren’t
limited to three or four options. We ask them to find the beers that inspire
them, and we talk about food pairings.”
Edmunds said that the collaborations
always start with selecting the beer and then choosing a food pairing, rather
than vice versa. “Once a beer is done, it’s done, and you can’t modify it. It’s
easier to design a dish to a beer that’s already finished than to make a beer
to complement a specific dish.”
While the brewery
generally does not interfere with the chefs once a menu is selected,
occasionally they will use their expertise to “nudge” them one way or the
other. For example, Edmunds said he is very particular about pairing desserts.
“Even with a sweet beer, the dessert is likely to overpower it,” he told Beverage Master Magazine, “so I’ll ask the chef to do something with a savory element,
like a cheese plate.”
For Edmunds, whose
interest in food preceded his interest in beer, the pairing dinners are a
natural fit. “The two go hand in hand,” he said. “We also have three locations
for our brewery, plus two restaurants, and we regularly do pairings when we
release a new beer. The multi-course dinner is a natural extension of that.
Not Just for Breweries
While breweries like
Breakside typically collaborate with different restaurants to introduce their
beers, some restaurants host regular beer and food pairing dinners to showcase
the skills of their chefs. One such restaurant is the Session Room and Beer
Garden in Ann Arbor, Michigan. With the theme, “Real Food, Craft Beer,” the
restaurant focuses on fresh ingredients sourced locally and serves 70 rotating
Since opening three years
ago, the restaurant, under the guidance of Executive Chef Traver Lucas, has
offered pairing dinners every month or two, always featuring beers from
Michigan breweries, including Bell’s Brewing, Founders Brewing Company, and
Perrin Brewing Company. Like Breakside’s dinners, the Session Room pairings are
a team effort, where the chef meets with the brewery’s personnel and tastes the
beers, then decides what to cook. The beer dinners are inspired by French
cuisine, with the food selected to complement the beer.
According to Event and
Marketing Director Jessica Smith, the Session Room dinners are very elaborate,
with four courses and a beer to match each course. “The cost is $50 plus tax,
so customers get a lot for their money. Generally, 30 to 50 people attend the
dinners,” said Smith. The menus are not released ahead of the event, so the
dinner is always a surprise. “That’s part of the fun,” Smith added.
As competition among craft
breweries heats up, many breweries and beer festivals are upping their game
with pairing events to attract more visitors. Last year, at the California
Craft Beer Summit, a “Brewed for Food” event featured specialty brewed beers
from 12 breweries paired with specially crafted food from as many restaurants.
The objective, said the advertising, was for “teams to partner to create the
perfectly balanced bite that elevates the flavor profile of the beer.” The 2019
Portland Beer Week featured four pairing events. “Bean to Bar,” was a
chocolate-and-beer festival hosted by Xocolatl de Davíd chocolatiers and Ruse
Brewing, spotlighting 10 local chocolates and the beers paired for each one.
“Mussels From Brussels,” featured four local brewery’s takes on the classic
pairing of mussels and frites.
At the “Brewer’s Burger
Brawl,” four Oregon brewers served a carefully selected beer alongside a
slider-sized burger to determine the best pairing. The “Nordic + Northwest”
event was the event held by Breakside Brewery and Portland’s future KEX hotel.
“Culinary Brewhouses” are
making waves across the country. In these establishments, brewmasters are
applying culinary skills to create beers that showcase flavors and aromatics,
and chefs create foods that transcend pub fare like burgers and chicken wings.
Chicago’s Band of Bohemia, noted for “infusing culinary flavors into house
beers and pairing them with global plates,” became the first brewpub to be
awarded a Michelin star within its first year of opening.
Moody Tongue Brewing
Company, also in Chicago, has classically-trained chef Jared Rouben at the helm
as brewmaster. According to Moody Tongue’s website, Rouben “draws on his
culinary training to forge this connection between the kitchen and our brewery,
building recipes for our beers in the same manner a chef would for a dish.”
Clearly, beer pairing beer
and food is a hot trend throughout the country, and it shows no signs of
stopping. According to the 2017 Nielsen Craft Beer Insights, 71% of consumers
look for complementary foods when choosing a craft beer at restaurants and
bars, and that isn’t about to change. If anything, the number is likely to
increase, as more and more beer lovers become exposed to the wonders of the
beer and food match-up. Stay tuned…as the market continues to ramp up, the best
may be yet to come for the thirsty consumer with a discriminating palate.
In the past 10 years, workplace injuries and illnesses declined in
the craft beverage manufacturing industry. This is good news, as it’s a
thriving employment sector. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that
in 2016—the most recent data collected—breweries, distilleries and other
artisanal beverage producers employed approximately 75,000 people. In Canada,
according to information from the System of National Accounts in 2018, the
craft industry had more than 15,000 workers.
Some experts say a reduction in workplace incidents is the direct result of an attitudinal shift from reaction to prevention. Ashley Heiman is the MRO department manager for Nelson-Jameson in Marshfield, Wisconsin—a single-source food, dairy and beverage processing plant supplier. Heiman explained the vital importance of this approach.
“The Food Safety
Modernization Act created a significant culture shift. The essential question
that the FSMA pushes us and our customer base to ask is, ‘How can I most
effectively and proactively create a safe, quality product?’” she told Beverage Master Magazine. “When you think proactively about your product, it pushes you to
think proactively about your facility and the staff that produces that product.
From floor drains to dust collection in your rafters, every facet of your
facility and those operating that facility can make or break a brewery or
Established in 2011 by the
Food and Drug Administration, FSMA compliance extended to beverage producers at
a graduated rate. It began in 2016 for companies with over 500 full-time
employees, scaling down to “very small businesses”—those with beverage sales of
less than $1 million—finalizing compliance in September 2018. Inspections of
beverage raw materials started this year. For some producers, this compliance
required extensive examination and overhaul of processes and systems.
One might assume that
requirements by OSHA and the FDA already cover worker and product safety
issues. In many ways, they do, but this additional layer of compliance mandated
by the FSMA is a necessity for consumer products. It’s also another thread of
bureaucracy to follow—one of many that can be challenging to untangle.
“It’s very difficult for business owners to dedicate time to learning all the nuances of compliance to both OSHA and the FDA. They’re really interested in creating and growing their businesses, so having a consultant who’s knowledgeable in these compliance areas allows the owner to both focus on the business and ensure that someone is keeping them compliant,” said Gary D. Morgan, Vice President and senior consultant ofSafeLink Consulting in Cumming, Georgia. He’s also an authorized OSHA outreach trainer.
“Our business is to know
everything we can about OSHA safety requirements and FDA regulations on
producing beverages that are safe for the public to consume, so we keep our
clients as informed as possible in these areas,” Morgan said. He also pointed
out that the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and its Food Inspection
Agency mirror OSHA and the FDA requirements rather closely, so producers
sharing a national border are assured of similar compliance between partners.
Create an Environment of Safety
Doing what’s best for the
product starts with the optimum workplace atmosphere and training provided to
employees. Ideally, owners and managers should establish these best practices
in the early stages of the business.
“Bringing a consultant
onboard at start-up can ensure decisions can be made in the development stage
that takes into consideration compliance issues for both OSHA and FDA,” Morgan
said. “Trying to retrofit safety considerations into an existing design can be
costlier than providing for it upfront. Implementing an FDA-compliant quality
system initially can also prevent or handle issues in producing a product
that’s fit for consumption.”
Morgan advised that instead of evaluating consultants by price,
first outline facility specifications.
“Then, I would suggest
that as part of due diligence, talk to several consulting firms and ask the
same questions of each one to ensure an apples¬-to-apples comparison, rather
than just looking solely at pricing. A producer should include expenses for
these services in the annual budget.”
safety solution, Heiman said, is color-coding. “We’ve seen a great interest in
it. It’s proven to be an excellent proactive approach. Not only can
color-coding help prevent cross-contamination in terms of allergens or yeast
strains, but it also helps to organize and streamline workflow, designates
critical control areas of a facility and assists many of our customers in
isolating possible pathogen risks,” she said. “With the wide variety of
products we offer, facilities can build a color-coded program to break up their
operations into pragmatic zones.”
Josh Pringle is the vice president of CO2Meter in Ormond Beach, Florida. His company specializes in the design and manufacturing of gas detection and monitoring devices—mainly CO2—as well as consultancy and training. He advises producers not to rely on state or local inspectors to tell them to improve ventilation or install monitors: do it because it’s what’s best for your employees.
“Producers should consider
the following when preparing to train or educate staff: what’s in the best
interest of our employees, what does our insurance provider require us to do,
what will OSHA/NIOSH expect as part of a training package, and how should we
plan to test and retrain staff,” he told Beverage Master
“We have a brewing partner who made the following statement: ‘Why would I pay a
few hundred dollars for a safety monitor and then not train my staff on what to
do if it goes off? Pointless!’”
Pringle noted that many
professional associations offer free training regarding CO2
safety, proper lockout/tagout procedures, and dozens of other critical topics.
include, but are not limited to:
OSHA and NIOSH also have
online training, workbooks, visual aids and other resources for new employee
and refresher training.
He cautioned against
complacency in your facility. “When employees work in and around hazardous
situations, materials, ingredients and situations, no duty should be considered
mundane or a ‘to do.’ Safety is an every moment, everyday project,” Pringle
said. “The statistic always sited from the National Transportation Safety Board
is the majority of car accidents occurred within five miles of someone’s home.
The data demonstrated that drivers started to let their guard down in more
familiar surroundings. Employee safety has no mileage areas. Any training that
allows for complacency is flawed.”
Morgan agreed. He offered
these three tips:
1. Always be vigilant to
compliance issues. Oversight is demanding.
2. Delegate responsibilities
to duly-trained and competent individuals.
3. Training is an ongoing
activity, not a one-time event.
More Than a List on a Clipboard
Workers in the craft
beverage industry are prone to the following injuries and illnesses:
• Overexertion, including
medical conditions caused by repetitive motion or lifting heavy items such as
barrels, kegs and crates.
• Slips, trips and falls
because of slick floors, ladders, obstacles and carrying heavy loads up and
• Working in fermenters,
tanks, vats and other confined spaces, especially when carbon dioxide exposure
is a concern.
• Physical hazards such as
pressurized equipment, forklifts, temperature extremes, and moving parts.
It might require
specialized products, protective gear, and consultation to maintain essential
worker safety. “Safety concerns are widespread across a facility. Personal
protective equipment, noise protection and respiratory protection are some of
the most common product areas we deal with for our brewery and distillery
customers,” said Heiman of Nelson-Jameson. “Lockout/tagout products are also
popular. Additionally, it’s important to be specific with vendors if employees
are handling chemicals, lab reagents, machinery, and so on. These details
dictate the best products to utilize.”
Even with a safety plan
upon start-up, and as Pringle of CO2Meter expressed
previously, crafting operations are integrated with safety in handling not only
but throughout all functions. So the plan becomes more of a living document,
refined by training, to help staff anticipate and correct issues before a more
significant problem occurs.
Here are the steps Pringle
• Identify the hazard
• Discuss the hazard
• Create a plan of action
to prevent the hazard
• Create a secondary plan
that accounts for and mitigates the hazard
• Define methods to disperse
• Understand the
methodology to test an area to ensure safe conditions
• Create and institute a
policy and procedure to understand an incident
• Create a safety plan
• Including safe zones and
• Practice, practice, practice
“Be mindful. Be aware, Follow procedures, no matter how
cumbersome. For example, lockout/tagout has become a mainstay because it’s
effective,” Pringle said.
specifically, “The most likely points of CO2 incidents for beverage
producers are at their canning and bottling lines. ‘Dosing’ areas typically
register CO2 concentrations above the OSHA– and NIOSH–permissible
time-weighted average standard of 5,000 ppm TWA for employees—placing a typical
producer in violation,” Pringle said. “While working around CO2
can often be a necessity for beverage staff members, having proper training
sessions and ensuring your staff is informed on the dangers of CO2
is the first step.”
Morgan of SafeLink
Consulting had some final thoughts. “Be proactive in establishing your
compliance programs. If you have to be reactive, then something negative has
happened that could be very detrimental to the business itself. It could be an
employee injury or complaint, or a product that causes consumer complaints or
worse, consumer injury or illness,” he said.
“And there’s always the
ever-present specter of an inspection from a regulatory agency with fines,
penalties and even forced business suspension or closure. Give yourself peace
of mind by being on top of compliance issues, not at the mercy of them.”
For breweries and distilleries, the beer and spirits that flow
within drive business, but the pumps used to move that product can easily be
considered the heart of production. If a pump fails, product flow stops and
downtime eats away at production and delivery schedules. Having a quality pump
lessens the chances of failure, so reliability and quality are key.
Taking the time and effort
to research the best pumps for the money and making a quality investment will
make all the difference. “With the risk of sounding glib, you really do get
what you pay for,” said Ross Battersby, Sales & Design contact for Carlsen
& Associates. “There is usually a bit of a conflict between what the
business accountant says is affordable and what the winemaker, distiller or brewmaster
really wants and needs. The accountant almost always wins, but there is an
inherent danger in selecting a pump on the basis of cost alone. Cheaper pumps
may look fine on the outside, but they’re usually outfitted with cheaply made,
low-quality blades and impellers, leading to a lot of internal shear that
damages the product as it passes through the pump.”
Carlsen & Associates
started as a portable pump manufacturer for the wine industry, but now
manufactures pumps for breweries, distilleries, meaderies, kombucha, soy sauce
manufacturers, honey producers and various cannabis-related businesses. Their
many years creating and tweaking pumps for multiple industries makes them
uniquely qualified in recommending the right pump for a business’s needs.
“We recommend a double
diaphragm air pump with grounding tag for distilleries,” said Battersby. “With
distilleries and high proof alcohol, you first and foremost need
explosion-proof pumps. Compressed air powered pumps easily deliver the
necessary amount of power for distilleries, and they’re perfectly fine for
fluids, but if the distiller uses any botanicals, the pumps need to be screened
off. You can safely use electrical-based pumps too, but they have to be rated
explosion-proof, which sometimes makes them quite costly for what is really
“With breweries, you’re
talking about moving wort and heavier fluids with temperatures up to 210
degrees, so you’ll likely be looking at positive displacement pumps. Ours are
Waukesha pumps, using winged rotors resembling ice cream scoops that spin
around, scoop the optimal amount of product, and move it along without causing
any crush or damage. They have capabilities of pumping as little as 30 gallons
per minute up to 130 gallons a minute using one to three-inch lines.”
Brewery systems and
structures are more rigid and fixed, so the pumps tend to reflect that and
perform better as a fixed system as well. Battersby told Beverage Master Magazine many brewers favor smaller centrifuge pumps that fit into these
systems. In contrast, wineries will make better use of portable pumps that are
on carts so they can move them around the different areas of the winery where
As far as new technology
on the forefront, Battersby said hybrid pumps made by combining air and
impeller pumps are currently being manufactured, but he doesn’t feel they will
significantly change the industry. The real trend, according to Battersby, is
what he calls “right-sizing.”
“You can’t really get away
from the tried and true technology,” says Battersby. “Business owners tend to
go with whatever will give them the least amount of downtime. Many newer
brewers don’t possess the type of physics background that allows them to know
the best ways of moving liquids. They tend to think that more horsepower is
always better, but that’s not true. It’s better to match your specific needs.
So the new trend, as far as we are concerned, is right-sizing. We match the
equipment up to whatever it is that you need to move.
We educate brewers and
distillers in the physics behind what they are trying to do, and why one piece
of equipment is preferred over another, even if it’s not the most powerful.
Additionally, we stress that the pumps are only as good as the hoses, clamps
and fittings that connect to them. Right-sizing incorporates a quality pump
with appropriate matching parts that are easily serviceable and repairable in
the least amount of time.”
Matching Pumps To Product
Paul Hail, CEO of
Affordable Distillery Equipment, knows what reliability means in the brewing
and distilling industry, so only offers quality equipment made to last a
lifetime. Although based in the rural hills of the Missouri Ozarks, Affordable
Distillery’s pumps are used in nearly 20% of craft spirit distilleries across
the U.S. Hail recommends a few options for spirits production.
“If you try to use a
centrifugal pump with corn mash, the lifespan of that pump is probably going to
be less than a year,” said Hail. “When moving corn mash, you have better
options available. A double diaphragm air pump will work, but it will take a
lot of air and a minimum of 1 ½ diameter
connecting hoses. The pump is cheap, but the big expense—sometimes an
additional $2,000-$3,000—comes with the need for a larger air compressor. A
flex impeller type of pump is a great, moderately priced choice, but the
impeller is a normal wear part, and depending on what type of material it’s
manufactured from and the amount and type of use it receives, it could last
months or only weeks. The loads it’s put through determines the wear and
replacement needs. Your best choice would be a rotary load pump, but they are
incredibly expensive so generally not an option for every smaller or startup
Hail, like Battersby,
mentions the importance of safety when using a pump in the distillery. “You
must remember, though, when moving high proof alcohol, you’ll need a grounding
terminal on the pump to make it explosion-proof,” said Hail. “It’s not a likely
scenario, but there is a minute chance that the rushing of a product while
being pumped will manufacture enough static to potentially release a tiny
spark. Couple that with high proof alcohol and we all know where that leads.”
As Hail continues to run
an industry-leading pump manufacturer, he told Beverage Master Magazine that it’s hard to come up with new ideas when pump technology has
barely changed in generations.
“You’ll hear about new
things being tried around the industry, but when properly researched, those
bright new ideas were usually already attempted by those before us. The reason
that they’re not being done today is that they just didn’t work or weren’t
economically feasible. Any new technology or methods would likely be
groundbreaking if valid, and that’s what we are working on here at Affordable
Distilling. Hopefully more about that in the future,” said Hail.
Improving On Current Equipment
Based on their successful
history with marine and industrial applications, AmpCo Pump Company in
Glendale, Wisconsin, began manufacturing pumps specifically for the brewing,
distilling and wine industries (https://www.ampcopumps.com).
One chronic issue with
pumps has been a tendency for the seals to leak eventually. Tony Krebs,
Marketing Manager for AmpCo Pumps, said they have successfully addressed that
issue in one of their most popular pumps, the CB+ Craft Brew Pump, specially
designed for hot wort transfer.
“Over time, the material
being moved through the pump typically crystalizes, and that buildup will
eventually cause traditional seals to leak,” said Krebs. “AmpCo’s CB+ Craft
Brew Pump possesses an internal, submersed seal to promote cooling. Because
it’s internally seated, any pressure increase caused by heat or flow creates an
increased closing force on the seals to minimize any potential buildup.
Additionally, the pump has an internal spring that acts as an agitator to
reduce the solids buildup, thereby reducing crystallization on the seals. It’s
an excellent choice for all sizes of breweries, but it’s an especially great
match for the smaller brewpubs because on a cart, mobile and multi-functional.
It can be used as a transfer pump in many areas around the facility, but it
performs equally well as a clean-in-place pump. It’s not the cheapest pump
you’re going to find, but when choosing a pump, it’s extremely important to be
able to find certified, readily available parts and quality people to install
those parts and repair your equipment. Downtime costs money, and when pumps are
down, so is your brewing or distilling process.”
AmpCo also makes pumps for
the wine industry, offering their L series centrifugal pumps with the same
exceptional quality, efficiency and durability as their counterparts designed
for the craft breweries and distilleries.
Krebs told Beverage Master Magazine that AmpCo is always at the forefront of pump technology, and regularly
on the leading edge of trends in the craft brewing, spirits and wine
industries. Krebs has recently noticed the need and increased demand for their
portable hop induction units. This machine simultaneously induces dry hop
pellets directly into the beer stream while recirculating the fermenter. It
features AmpCo’s SBI Shear Pump and provides the brewmaster everything
necessary to dry hop beer efficiently and safely within a single unit.
“You can’t ignore the creative side of
distillers, winemakers and brewmasters. They like to continuously mix flavor
and ingredient profiles and provide experimental flavor combinations for
signature blends, special tastings or customer trials,” says Krebs. “Blending
pumps provide a better and more efficient way to get this done.”
Barley has been around for some 10,000 years. When this ancient
grain was introduced in the United States, in New England during the 17th
century, it was produced specially to quench the thirst of colonists who wanted
to make beer.
Malted barley remains the
key ingredient in the world’s oldest and most consumed alcoholic beverage.
Today, the market for malting barley is directly impacted by the weather and
economy of the area where it grows. In the U.S., 90% of barley grows throughout
the Northern Plains into the Pacific Northwest. The climate of this region is
colder and arider, ideal conditions for producing the high-quality barley
needed for brewing beer.
Grown Under Contract
Virtually all U.S. malting
barley is grown under contract with a brewer or maltster. Those contracts
generally call for specific varieties demanded by breweries—typically two-row
or six-row. Breweries determine what barley varieties they need based upon
brewing techniques, cost and the desired flavor of the finished product. Many
craft brewers prefer to brew beers using directly sourced ingredients and will
partner with local barley growers, eventually using the “locally grown” angle
in their product marketing.
Barley growers generally
seek contracts that secure price premiums in exchange for growing a specific
barley variety. Those premium prices help the grower offset the higher
production costs tied to a lower-yielding crop. Developing a dedicated crop of
malting barley is not without substantial risk. Bad weather and disease can
destroy an otherwise profitable yield. Any product that doesn’t make the grade
gets relegated to the feed market and downgraded in price, which for the grower
can be half or less of the original crop value.
The Value of American-Grown
According to The Brewers
Association, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming are the top
five states producing barley for malting. These regions use the power of
science, technology, economics and strategic planning to gain an edge in a
marketplace that is increasingly global.
The U.S. Grains Council
helps track the journey of America’s barley crop from farm to glass around the
world. Its latest statistics reveal that American-grown barley accounts for
more than 190 million barrels of annual beer production in the U.S. alone.
Foreign markets, including Mexico, are taking notice. Under NAFTA, malted
barley from the U.S. enters Mexico duty-free. That is an attractive option to
Mexico’s breweries, which depend upon imported malted barley because Mexico has
no way to produce it independently. According to the Grains Council, Mexico
purchased more than 18 million bushels of barley, worth $209 million in its
most recent purchasing year.
It is that buying
potential that makes global markets attractive to the U.S. malting barley
industry. Brian Sorenson, Program Director for the Northern Crop Institute of
North Dakota State University, said that in addition to its research-driven
programs and courses, the NCI plays a critical role in connecting barley
breeders, scientists and growers with buyers and processors worldwide.
“NCI helps to bring U.S.
barley growers in touch with global markets by providing courses to educate
grain buyers on how the U.S. grain handling and trading systems function,”
Sorenson said. “NCI’s Grain Procurement Management for Importers Course is held
each September and typically educates over 30 participants (mostly from
overseas) on how to purchase high-quality grains from the U.S. and showcases
the crops produced in the Northern Great Plains states of North Dakota, South
Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.”
The NCI is also a
significant player in the science and research designed to help stakeholders
reach what Sorenson describes as the ultimate goal: to produce optimal quality malting
barley for brewing consistent, top-quality beer.
“It is important for each
of those involved to understand what the other players contend within their
particular role,” said Sorenson. “Developing new barley varieties that can make
it possible for farmers to grow and deliver the quality needed by the maltster
profitably, and ultimately, the brewer is an extremely difficult set of tasks.
Barley breeders work hard to stay ahead of the changing agronomic challenges,
such as crop diseases, as well as the need for high production yield, and at
the same time satisfy the quality demands of the end-users.”
Quality control factors
include color and kernel plumpness, protein content, moisture, skinned or
broken kernels, and sprout damage.
Breeding Strong Varietals
Science is the universal
language in barley breeding, and Dr. Paul Schwarz is among the leaders in
research, development and breeding applications for the malted barley industry.
He is a professor at NDSU’s Department of Plant Sciences, specializing in the
area of malting barley quality. NDSU has a barley breeding program, as do other
land grant universities in barley producing states.
Dr. Schwarz told Beverage Master Magazine that science has a pivotal role in breeding new varieties of
malting barley as well as sustaining the successes of current ones.
“Breeding is the
application of several branches of science including biology,
genetics-genomics, biochemistry and statistics,” said Schwarz. “Barley breeding
has closely followed developments in science and often uses the newest tools.
As an example, in the past, breeders would make a cross and then have to screen
thousands of progeny in the field or lab to select the most desirable. Today,
with advances in genomics, they can identify genes of importance and use DNA
techniques to screen lines that have desired traits.”
Schwarz also stresses that
the breeding process combines the expertise of scientists across multiple
fields. “When we think breeding, we think breeder,” he said. “However, the
development of new varieties is a team effort. In the past, it has involved the
breeder/geneticist, an agronomist, a plant pathologist, and maybe an end
product specialist (cereal chemist) to evaluate malting quality. Today, this
list has expanded to include a molecular biologist and often a bio-informaticist
[to handle the large amounts of data gathered]
Fusarium Head Blight
One of the biggest threats
to a barley crop that NDSU and other land-grant schools try to combat on behalf
of barley growers is fusarium head blight, also known as “head scab.” This
disease infects the head of the crops, reducing grain yield and impacting the
producer’s bottom line. While FHB is more prevalent in humid, wetter climates
such as the eastern U.S., in recent years, changing weather patterns have
forced barley growers as far as the Northern Plains to begin routinely
safeguarding their crops using fungicides. Malting companies across the country
sample and grade every truckload of barley coming into receiving stations,
regularly deploying stringent and frequent testing for FHB and its accompanying
There are assessment tools
that can predict weather patterns and other factors in any region of the U.S.
where FHB is likely to develop. FHB forums are held around the country,
including those spearheaded by the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. This
group also coordinates research projects aimed at combining current data with
new exploratory channels designed to develop tools and strategies to reduce FHB
and mycotoxin contamination. The research benefits barley producers, malting
companies, and the breweries that use malted barley.
Advocating for Growers
Such potential risks for
barley growers are among the subjects on the agenda of the National Barley
Growers Association, which advocates for public policy on behalf of its
members. Dale Thorenson, a former North Dakota farmer, is an agricultural
lobbyist with Gordley Associates and an officer in the National Barley Growers
“NBGA has worked to try to
keep farm policy equitable between crops so that the market price determines
what crops – including barley – are grown, rather than farm policy,” Thorenson
told Beverage Master Magazine. “This includes having a viable federal crop
insurance policy available for barley including the malt barley endorsement,
which provides coverage based on the malt price rather than the underlying feed
value for barley. It’s also important for barley growers and the malt and beer
industry that adequate funding is appropriated every year for the wheat and
barley scab initiative, so that research continues on methods to combat
fusarium head blight. Finally, NBGA has joined with the malt and beer industry
to support equitable excise tax rates for beer, and the coalition was
successful in getting the Craft Beer Modernization & Tax Reform Act
(CBMTRA) included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. That reform expires at
the end of 2019, and we are still working at getting this legislation extended
into future years.”
Public policy, scientific applications and
emerging markets create a unique mix for malting barley growers, whose success
is measured by consistently producing successful crops that satisfy maltsters
and breweries who, in turn, seek to satisfy the tastes of beer consumers.
Unlike the domestic ciders that dominate the Pacific Northwest,
Basque cider (known in the Basque region of Spain as Sagardo) has a wild,
untamed quality. These ciders are made only once a year using heirloom apples
and native yeast strains that naturally occur in a given orchard.
The result is a cider with
a taste very unique to the region where the apples were har-vested. Similar to
natural wine, Basque ciders are made without chemical addition or manipulation
and fermented with wild or native yeasts. These unfiltered ciders have a cloudy
look with a flavor profile akin to a Lambic, a Belgian style of beer that also
un-dergoes spontaneous fermentation. The funky tart taste of Basque cider pairs
well with a wide variety of foods ranging from seafood to grilled steak.
An aficionado of natural
wines, Jasper Smith, sampled a Basque cider on the recom-mendation of a server
in San Francisco. Finally, he found a cider that spoke to his pal-ate. He began
scouring the internet and ordering any Basque ciders imported into the US. Then
he took a trip to Basque country in Spain to visit the cider houses near San
Sebastian. Here he met his eventual partner – an oenologist named Guillermo
When Smith surveyed the
American cider market, he began to wonder why, in an in-dustry experiencing
massive growth, no one was trying to produce a Basque-style ci-der
domestically. “I decided that I wanted to fill that hole in the market and
create a product that paid homage to the wonderful ciders of Northern Spain, while
creating and promoting the identity of the Columbia Gorge in the Pacific
Smith brought to this
venture a range of experiences in the food and drink scene. While living in Philadelphia, he worked as a
line cook at the award-winning Vernick Food and Drink. Later, he developed and
launched the private event and catering pro-grams at Belcampo, a vertically
integrated, sustainable meat company based in Oak-land. Then, this Portland,
Oregon native moved back home, where he curated the wine selection at southeast
Portland’s acclaimed local bar and restaurant, Bar Casa Vale.
While these experiences
gave him the background he needed to make his mark in the food and beverage
industry, Smith knew he needed to learn how to make Basque ci-der. So, he spent
a few weeks in October and November 2017 in Basque Country with his partner
Castaños, and their friend Guillermo Montiel, making cider at Montiel’s small
family farm in Bera, Spain. “That was a compelling and inspiring moment – the
cider was fantastic and the low intervention production method was exactly how
I wanted to pro-duce cider back in Oregon,” he said.
Smith makes his ciders
using the same method he learned at Montiel’s farm. Genera-tions of Basque
cider makers use this method to make the unique beverage. He starts by sourcing
cider-specific apples once a year in August and September. Currently, Smith
works with four small Oregon farms. While Smith won’t divulge the specific
farms where he sources his apples, he did say that two growers are in the
Willamette Valley and, according to Smith, grow wonderful European cider
apples. The other two growers are located in the Hood River/Parkdale area.
Smith said they have beautiful 20- to 50-year-old orchards full of heritage and
heirloom American apples.
According to Smith, “These
apples are harvested at the exact moment we feel they have the right balance of
acid, sugar and tannin development.” Then this rustic, Basque-style cider is
made using a process more akin to winemaking than brewing beer. They crush and
press the fruit and ferment the must spontaneously with whatev-er wild yeast is
present on the apple skins and in the cellar. There are no flavors added, no
chemicals, and no clarifying agents.
Smith set up shop in a
cavernous warehouse space just off the banks of the Columbia River. A fresh
coat of paint gives the cidery a stark, clean look with a giant mural of
Basajuan, the mythical Basque “wild man” covering one of the walls. Brand new
shiny fermentation and blending tanks sit off to the back of the space. A
spacious, wood-lined bar and long wood picnic tables give the space a
welcoming, woodsy feel. Weather permitting, the warehouse doors open to a
private view of the Columbia Gorge.
In late August 2018,
Smith’s cidery, Son Of Man Sagardo, kicked off their first vintage, becoming
the first cidery in the Pacific Northwest to specialize in Basque-style cider.
After four months in the tank, and weekly batonnag, they released their Sagardo
in Fe-bruary 2019 with an initial production of 2,200 cases of 750ml. These
bottles are avail-able at the cidery, select retail outlets, and on their
Overall, Son of Man’s
Sagardo cider has a soft tannic structure with a hint of vinegar—the latter is
a hallmark of Basque cider. The nose has a light musty pineapple feel fol-lowed
by a clean, bright, green apple taste that feels dry and slightly tart on the
While Basque cider is
bottled still, its natural carbonation is awakened using a pouring method
called “throwing the cider.” This method involves pouring the cider from the
bottle into the glass at the height of a few feet. This movement causes the
cider to splash into the glass, creating a bubbly, fizzy head that resembles
Currently, the cidery is
open for tastings by appointment and special events. During a tasting, visitor
have the unique opportunity to sample cider from three tanks instead of being
poured from bottles. The method employed to sample Basque ciders from the tank
is called the “long pour” where one holds their glass at an angle about two
feet from the spigot to catch the cider. This method unlocks the aromatics,
activates the natural carbonation, and aerates the cider.
While Smith is a Portland
native, he chose to establish Son of Man in Cascade Locks, a region he views as
the most exciting winemaking region in the country. In the forty miles
west-to-east between Cascade Locks and The Dalles, visitors travel from
rainfor-est to high dessert. In the 10 miles north or south away from the
Columbia River one can encounter ten unique micro-climates and soil types.
“By setting up our
business in Cascade Locks, and by sourcing fruit for the Gorge, I am helping to
promote this incredible region and the diverse array of products that come from
it. The Gorge also reminds me of Basque Country. The craggy cliffs and verdant
landscapes that invite you to be active and outdoors are similar to those found
around San Sebastian,” said Smith.
Currently, Smith shares his
space with Graham Market of Buona Notte Wines and Bethany Kimmel of The Color
Collector. While the three operate independently, Smith describes their
connection. “Both winemakers are deeply connected to the Columbia River Gorge
and make wonderful natural wines with fruit from the Gorge. The three of us are
all creating products we are proud of in a very special, but nascent winemaking
region. Creating a community of like-minded producers is a priority at this
stage so that we can start to open consumers’ eyes to the bounty of the area
and the diversity it has to offer.”
Emily Ritchie, Executive
Director of Northwest Cider Association, observes how Son of Man plays a part
in the burgeoning Pacific Northwest Cider scene. “He’s doing won-ders for the
cider industry by opening up a cidery that makes a unique style of cider not
found in most parts of the world,” she said. Basque-style cider can be so
enticing when done we, l and I know it’ll raise the profile of cider here in
the Pacific Northwest.”
Moving forward, Smith
plans to continue to fine tune their product. His biggest project on the
horizon is working with small apple growers to grow particular varietals,
allowing him to continue experimenting and creating the best possible Basque
Smith believes Son of Man
falls somewhere between the new farmhouse brewing and wild beer movement
currently developing across the country and the natural winemak-ers promoting
old school, low intervention winemaking techniques.
“It might sound odd, but I
feel like I’m closer to the progressive brewers and winemak-ers than to the
general American cider culture,” said Smith. “This is because our prod-uct is
so much different than most of the stuff on grocery store shelves. I’m working
to define a category and reset consumers’ expectations around what cider is and
what it can be. There are a number of other fantastic cider producers doing the
same thing across the country, but we are a minority in a very immature market.
There is still a ton of education and growth to be had.”
Compressed air systems are often misunderstood in the brewing
industry and undervalued as a long-term investment; however, compressed air is
an essential part of the brewing process, and an efficient system is integral.
Choosing the best pneumatic system for brewery operations requires
understanding the uses of compressed air in a brewery, the types of compressors
available, and the size, focus and other needs of the brewery.
Brewery Uses for Compressed Air
Although every brewery
operates differently, there are a few common uses for air compressors that are
very important to the brewing process. Compressed air is used as a means to get
yeast cultures enough oxygen during fermentation. Brewers also use compressors
to aerate wort and water, and to transport solids, such as spent grains, whole
malt, and sugar.
compressed air can move beer from the conditioning tank to the bottle, as well
as keep lines clean and free of water. It is used during canning and clarifying
to remove solids and create a cleaner product, and controls valves and
actuators in automated packaging and labeling processes. Some maintenance and
sanitation also require compressed air, powering air tools and pressure
Types of Air Compressors for
There are two primary
types of air compressors used by modern breweries. The first is the
pressure-lubricated reciprocating or piston air compressor. These compressors
use a piston and cylinder driven by a crankshaft to compress air and feature
either a single-stage or double-stage operation. Single-stage piston air
compressors bring air in with a single-piston stroke that’s about 120 PSI.
compressors compress air up to about 175 PSI with an additional compression
step through a second piston. These compressors are often used for low-pressure
tasks, such as washing kegs.
The second type of brewery
air compressor is a lubricated rotary screw compressor. The rotary screws in
these compressors utilize a positive displacement system and a hydraulic seal
to transfer energy between rotors. The screw design and rotation forces air to
move through the compressor. These types of compressors are better suited for
high-pressure tanks and are useful for bottling and other brewery tasks.
When shopping for
compressors, brewers can choose between oil-lubricated compressors and oil-free
air compressors, depending on their needs. Lubricated compressors are typically
equipped with filtering systems to ensure that contaminants stay out of beer.
As an alternative to the
piston compressor for brewery applications, some brewers use oil-free scroll
air compressors for continuous clean air and quiet operation. These machines
can be installed anywhere due to the low noise levels and no pressure drop-offs.
Brewery Size Matters
Marketing Services Manager for Kaeser Compressors, Inc., told Beverage Master Magazine that the full range of craft breweries’ production levels would
affect their pneumatic equipment needs.
“Larger brewers tend to
have a broader variety of pneumatic devices, as well as more of them,” Camber
said. “Our craft brewers typically purchase rotary screw compressors from 5-50
hp, though most craft brewers are in the 5-25 hp range. These are most often
bought as part of a system that includes tanks, drains, dryers, and filters.
These are vital to cleaning up the air to protect brewers’ expensive equipment.
Many choose AIRTOWERs and AIRCENTERs, which are complete compressed air
stations with storage tanks and air treatment components built into a space and
In addition to the
high-quality air they provide, Camber said that these compressors are extremely
reliable and energy-efficient.
“These machines are designed for demanding manufacturing and
processing applications and can run 24/7 if needed,” he said. “A bonus is that
the packages are quiet, which is especially important if people will be working
near the compressor or the brewery has a public taproom on-premises.”
Compressors Used by Breweries
Due to their varying
needs, no two breweries use their air compression systems the same. The market
also provides brewers with plenty of manufacturers so that they can find their
perfect pneumatic fit.
seasonal, and unique one-off beers, D9 Brewing Company has been on the local
craft beer scene in Cornelius, North Carolina since 2014. Andrew
CEO and founder of D9 Brewing, told Beverage Master Magazine, “We use an Ingersoll
Rand compressor for all pneumatic controls in the brewhouse, packaging, and
aeration of wort.” (Photo on Right)
Peter Licht, brewmaster for Hermitage
Brewing Company in San Jose, California, said he uses rotary screw compressors
with integrated dryer for all of his brewery’s compressed air needs. Hermitage
Brewing Company is a big part of the growing craft beer scene in San Jose and
offers a pubic tasting room, growler fills, keg orders, and brewery tours.
Director of Brewery Operations for Fat Bottom Brewing in Nashville, Tennessee
said his brewery uses an Atlas Copco SF22+ FF Oil-free air compressor.
“This is used to provide
oil-free, dry air to our production equipment including the chain-vey conveyor
system, centrifuge, keg washer, canning line, PakTech applicator, CIP system,
and central foaming system for floor cleaning,” Yeager said.
Established in 2012 as
East Nashville’s first brewery, Fat Bottom Brewing brews a wide variety of
beers inspired by styles all around the world.
For brewers in the market
for an air compressor, many questions should be raised internally and with
manufacturers. One important consideration is to understand the size of air
compressor the brewery needs to not burn out and put operations at a
stand-still. Brewers should also take into account where to physically place
the compressor in the brewery to reduce noise and potential damage to brewing
Some brewers have made the
switch from oil-based air compressors to oil-free versions. Oil-free air tends
to be better for brewing because oil can kill yeast, flatten a frothy head,
present safety hazards, and reduce purity.
Camber of Kaeser Compressors
defined and described what he considers the six most important factors a
brewery should consider when purchasing an air compression system.
1. Reliability – If the operation has
mission-critical equipment with pneumatics, you want something well-built so
you don’t have downtime.
– Depending on local utility rates, size of machine (hp), and the running
hours, energy can be a significant cost. Efficiency varies widely between
– This impacts how easy or hard it will be to remove moisture from the
compressed air. The lower the operating temperature, the easier it will be to
prevent moisture from affecting equipment and product.
oil carryover – the carryover rate also impacts air quality and can be a real
problem with some compressors. The lower it is, the better for both product
quality and equipment reliability.
– over time, vibration will loosen internal piping and electrical connections,
causing downtime. Look for compressors that run smoothly and have good
6. Noise – if people will be
working near the compressor, low noise is important for morale, health, and
Durstewitz of D9 Brewing
said the most important considerations for his brewery concerning air
compressors are reliability and sanitation. Licht of Heritage Brewing said air
quality, reliability, and sound are the top things they keep in mind when
looking at air compressors.
At Fat Bottom Brewing,
Yeager said oil-free and dry air are the most important considerations for his
brewery’s air compressor decisions. Other factors he said are “planning for SCF
required day one and with a growth plan for sizing,” as well as the “noise
level for employee comfort and OSHA compliance.”
Choosing the Right Brewery Air
There is no
one-size-fits-all solution for brewery air compressors because every brewery’s
compressed air needs are unique. To get started, talk to experts at air
compressor companies that serve breweries as a primary market, as well as other
craft brewers about what systems work well for them.
Durstewitz of D9 Brewing
recommends not winging it when choosing the size of your air compressor. “Make
sure to accurately calculate your CFMs and pressure requirements. If you run a
compressor too hard it’ll just burn out,” he said.
Heritage Brewing Company’s
Licht said breweries should “plan for future air needs, make sure the air
quality is appropriate for the use, and do not install a noisy compressor in
Fat Bottom Brewery’s
Yeager stands behind oil-free. “Bite the bullet and purchase the right
oil-free, dry air compressor. You will save the difference in money with less
maintenance on brewery equipment and less downtime in production.”
Finally, Camber of Kaeser Compressors warns
about going too big. “Determine what size and type you need based on actual air
demand, duty cycle, and how mission-critical air is to your brewery,” he said.
“You want a reliable supply at a stable pressure, but you don’t want to
oversize compressors. Oversizing increases your purchase costs, your energy
costs, and your maintenance costs.”
Choosing the right hops can be a complicated task. Some breweries
choose hops based on past agreements – they have long-standing relationships
with growers they feel confident will provide what they need, at the highest
quality. Some search out their hops based on geography, based on knowledge of
which plant grows better in Washington than in Oregon or Idaho. Some experiment
with hops growers who are creating new varieties and bringing them to market.
Others just want a Citra, or an Alpha, or a Cascade, and make a spot purchase.
Whichever path they choose, what truly matters is the quality of the hop and
the right varietal for the beer.
Purchasing Based on Terroir
Thomas Bleigh, Innovation
Brewmaster at Craft Brew Alliance’s Ph Experiment in Oregon, chooses his hops
based on the terroir.
“While I don’t have any
empirical evidence to support this, I, historically, have had a preference for
Oregon-grown vs. Washington-grown Cascade hops. Much of it was the most likely
narrative for the beer that we produced, but we did run trials on Cascade in
our flagship single-hop Cascade Ale, and we found a preference in one
supplier,” Bleigh said. “Much of this would have been tied to a qualitative raw
source, but we also believed that processing played a role in the character of
preference for Oregon-grown, the CBA doesn’t limit themselves to hops from one
state over another, instead, focusing on locally sourced ingredients. This is
undoubtedly the case at their Redhook brewpub in Seattle.
“Currently, our Redhook
BrewLab is working on a series called Washington Native that focuses on
Washington sourced malts and salmon-safe sourced Washington hops,” said Bleigh.
“That project is an interesting example of trying to tease our nuance based on
regional distinction. One of the challenges is that while Pacific Northwest
breweries are hyper-aware and engaged in local sourcing, we are also mindful that
these hops service the majority of domestic craft.”
Hop varietals, just like
any plant, thrive in some regions over others. At the same time, varietals that
thrive in any environment can develop characteristics based on the soil and
weather of the area where they grow. Terroir is often spoken of regarding
winegrapes but can also be applied to other crops, particularly those involved
in the creation of alcoholic beverages.
“Yakima, given its dry
climate, is a much better growing region for higher alpha hop varieties and
Nuevo IPA hop varieties. These proprietary hops (such as Citra, Mosaic, Azacca)
all fare better in Washington than they do in Oregon. Idaho presents an
interesting domestic terroir character, and they have now surpassed Oregon for
hops produced and are becoming more of a geographic force in the industry,”
Larry Sidor, Co-Founder,
Master Brewer and CEO at Crux Fermentation Project in Bend Oregon, knows hops
and appreciates why different regions and growers yield a range of
conditions during kilning, as well as processing methods post field harvest
make all the difference. When hops are dried in Oregon the ambient temperatures
are lower than Washington, but the humidity is higher, yielding significant
differences. Methods of preserving the hops differ quite widely and can
contribute different nuances. An example is “farmer bales” that are dried,
packed loosely, and then stored in barns. Books can and have been written about
all the differences. The resulting beer is also different,” Sidor said.
Sidor does have a
preference, however. “Being a native Oregonian, my belief and preference is
that Willamette Valley grown hops are the best in the world. I may be a bit
biased, I’ve brewed with hops from every major hop growing region in the world,
so that should count for something,”
Christian DeBenedetti of
Wolves and People Brewery in Newberg, Oregon, feels that the amount of sensory
and flavor research and description in the industry is at an all-time high. His
brewery wants growers with proven track records and a full grasp on their
fields and crops.
“Hops are almost like wine
varietals at this point. There are so many interesting old and new varieties
being cultivated with real care, and we definitely look to favored growers who
can communicate accurately about their hops and lots. They vary by year and
even by the lot, because of variations in soil and site. So we’re looking for a
combination of characteristics we can bring forward in a well-made beer,”
DeBenedetti said. “Soil chemistry and farming techniques both affect hop
flavor. Take Cascade, for example, a classic aroma hop. In Oregon and
Washington, it tends to grapefruit and pine. In New Zealand, which is free of
the sort of pests that plague other growing regions, it’s often more
melon-like. This is due to the soil it’s grown in. This a perfect reflection of
terroir in beer.”
Which Comes First, the Hops or
Brewers vary in their
approach to creating a beer recipe. Sometimes, an idea for a new brew will come
to them, and they will search out the ingredients to make it. Other times, it’s
the ingredients themselves that inspire a recipe.
At Crux Fermentation
Project, Sidor prefers experimenting with hops and letting them do the talking.
“I don’t brew a beer until I’ve acquired the materials to brew it,” he said.
“Once they are acquired, I then look for the best way to utilize them in a
formulation. Crux tends to bring in a dozen or so new hops every year with the
intent of experimenting with them using this approach. I don’t have an idea
about a brew when I purchase a hop. I typically brew a single-hop brew to get a
feel for the hop. The result is usually a very one-dimensional beer that isn’t
very interesting. This doesn’t mean the hop is bad; it means that other hops
are needed in the brew to make it shine.
A good example of this is
the Strata hop. By itself, it is very one dimensional, when in combination with
other hops, it’s a rock star. One hop that seems to shine all by itself is the
Sabro hop. Have only brewed one brew so far, but as a single hop brew, the
Sabro delivered a very layered and interesting beer. In short, you need to let
the hop tell you what beers it’s going to shine in.”
Wolves and People Brewery
has built beers around individual hops. “There are new aroma varieties that
play up fruity, tropical aromas like passionfruit, lychee, coconut and mango.
We want those traits to be front and center, so we build a recipe almost like a
stage to pop those bright, high-tone aromas to the fore. Sometimes we’re doing
the complete opposite. We want a beer that has spice character, some old-world
bitterness and aroma, then we go looking for those varieties and use what’s
freshest,” DeBenedetti said.
Joe Catron, “Hoperations”
Manager at Yakima Chief Ranches, feels right now is the Golden Age of hops and
beer. Three hop farming families created Yakima Chief with the sole purpose of
creating new world-class hops varieties and bringing them to market. The
process of creating a new hop takes up to a decade and can cost upwards of a
million dollars from cross-pollination, to market research, to placement in the
marketplace. The ranch releases one new hop approximately every year.
“We make several crosses
each year and generally result in 30-50,000 seedlings in any given year,”
Catron told Beverage Master Magazine. “In my seven years working here we have
released five varieties: four flavoring and aroma for the American scene and
one super alpha hop for bittering for the big macro brewers.”
Yakima Chief has
experienced immense growth over the years. When Catron started in 2013, there
were three owner-growers and 900 acres planted. As of 2019, there are now 45
farms in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, with 15,000 acres managed.
The ranch applies a “fail
fast” mentality. They run a hop through the gamut, and if it doesn’t check off
all the boxes, it goes to the scrap heap. However, they did have a quasi-flop
that eventually became a success.
“The Simco hop was
released 20 years ago as a dual purpose hop alpha and aroma. We couldn’t give
it away. Some said it was too pungent, punchy and dank. We were going to tear
down the bines, but Russian River Brewing found it and liked it, and it became
a champion in the beer called Pliny the Elder. Vinny, the head brewer is a cult
hero amongst brewers. He helped to save the variety, and now there are 3,000
acres of this hop planted. It was definitely before it’s time and needed a new
audience,” Catron said.
Crux Fermentation’s Sidor
has seen experimentation change the hops market throughout his career, due to
the increase in craft brewing and the demand for the next big thing.
“When I started brewing,
only Cluster and Fuggle were available. You could bring in hops from Europe,
but most were at a state of oxidation higher than acceptable,” he said. “My
concern now is, can the hop breeder keep up with the customer demand for
‘what’s new?’ Remember that Cascade was revolutionary in the 1970s, Citra 40
years later, Galaxy 5 years after that. The thing that has accelerated hop
breeding is the customer demand, the technical tools now available to the hop
researcher, and the money available to do the research. My only concern is that
not enough money is being spent on breeding public varieties by the USDA.”
Craft Brew Alliance’s pH
Experiment specializes in trying new things, and Bleigh enjoys testing hop
varieties. “We are heavily invested in trialing new hop varieties and working
with the Hop Research Council to explore new varietals and to support public
breeding of hops. Our initial explorations have shaped our early pioneering
interest in hops like Citra and Galaxy, which have very specific tropical hop
characters that are signature hops in some of our brands,” he said.
Hops play an essential
role in the craft beer industry, helping create distinct brews with
complimentary varietal combinations and terroir. With a high demand for more
hops and hops growers, and places like Yakima Chief Ranch creating new cross
breeds nearly every year, the U.S. hops industry can only continue to bloom.
hops is the world leader right now. It’s a special time to be alive,” Catron