Safety and Compliance: More Than Just a Checklist

By: Tracey L. Kelley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Create an Environment of Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  These organizations include, but are not limited to:

•    American Distilling Institute

•    Brewers’ Association

•    International Beverage Dispensing Equipment Association

•    Master Brewers Association of the Americas

•    WorkSafeBC

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

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

  Morgan agreed. He offered these three tips:

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

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

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

More Than a List on a Clipboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Here are the steps Pringle recommended:

•   Identify the hazard

•   Discuss the hazard

•   Create a plan of action to prevent the hazard

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

•   Define methods to disperse the hazard

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

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

•   Create a safety plan

•   Including safe zones and rally points

•   Practice, practice, practice

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

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

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

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

Basque Cider Comes to the Columbia Gorge

By: Becky Garrison 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  For more information about Son of Man Cider or to order their cider online, visit https://www.sonofman.co/

A Guide to Some of the Best Canadian Beer Fests

By: Briana Tomkinson

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

Mondial de la bière

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

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

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

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

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

Just wait, there’s more…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAKÉ: THE NEW FRONTIER IN CRAFT BEVERAGES

By: Nan McCreary

Saké has been around for thousands of years, but few Americans are familiar with the drink that is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. That is changing, and it’s changing quickly. With U.S. consumers eager to experience alternative beverages and explore new flavors, saké is on the cusp of a revolution here at home. As imports of saké rise dramatically, local artisans and entrepreneurs are seeing an opportunity for a new niche in the craft beverage market: local saké production.

Currently, there are about 20 saké breweries (Kura) in the U.S., including several that originated as American outposts of Japanese companies. These breweries span from California to Maine, from Texas to Minnesota. Wherever they are located, the owners and master brewers (toji) have one thing in common: a passion for the product. Dan Ford, founder and owner of Blue Current Brewery in Kittery, Maine, is one such devotee. After living and working in Japan for years, he decided to “spread the word” by bringing hand-crafted saké to New England.

“I love saké,” Ford said. “I love making it, and I love to see people smile when they taste it. That’s what drives me.”

So what exactly is this mystical brew that is rapidly growing in popularity in the U.S. and around the world? Saké is an alcoholic beverage fermented from rice. It has often been called ‘rice wine’ but, in fact, it is not a wine. Nor is it a beer, nor a distilled product. Rather, it fits into its own unique category.

“Saké has a little bit of identity crisis because a lot of people consider it a wine, but it’s more like a beer, fermented from grain using a saké yeast,” said Tim Klatt, co-founder of Texas Saké Company in Austin, the only saké producer in Texas. “In the past, people’s knowledge was pretty much limited to ‘hot saké,’ which is basically grain alcohol with a little rice flavoring that’s super cheap and heated up so you can’t really taste anything.  Our approach is to make a much more crafted, artisan product.”

Jack Lien, sales and education ambassador at SakéOne in Forest Grove, Oregon, said their brewery, too, is on a mission to introduce people in the U.S. to the joys of quality saké. “Saké is unique,” he told Beverage Master Magazine. “It’s brewed like a beer and drinks like a wine. It offers a nice alternative for people who are conscious of what they’re drinking. It’s sulfite free and naturally gluten-free. Some are vegan. It’s a unique beverage that intrigues a lot of people.”

Basic Ingredients

Saké comes in a variety of styles, but the basic ingredients are always the same: rice, water, koji (a fungus that converts the starch in rice to sugar) and yeast. Like good beer and good wine, good saké starts with quality ingredients, primarily premium rice. Generally, U.S. brewers source their rice from California’s Sacramento Valley, which grows some of the finest rice in the world. Texas Saké Company uses Calrose rice, the offspring of high-end rice used ages ago in Japan. SakéOne uses mostly Calrose rice and an American grown Yamada-Nishiki rice, known in Japan for its use in quality Saké. Blue Current uses Koshi Hikari, a short grain variety of rice named after the historic Koshi Province in Japan.

Water quality is also important, as completed saké is 80 percent water. “Water is critical because it can affect the final product,” SakéOne’s Lien told Beverage Master Magazine. “Soft water produces a soft and mellow saké, while hard water, which contains certain minerals, produces a more full-bodied saké.” Most American brewers prefer to use soft water.

Saké Production

Production of saké is not for the faint of heart: it is a complex process that takes time, patience and skill that can only be acquired by training and experience. This process starts when the rice first arrives at the brewery, where it is polished to remove the outer husk and prepare it for brewing good saké.

The polishing rates vary, depending on how much of the outside husk of each grain of rice is removed to reach the starchy and more desirable core. In general, the more the rice is polished, the more aromatically expressive the Saké becomes, and the higher the grade. The majority of saké made in the U.S. are junmai ginjo, a high-end saké milled to 60 percent of its original size, although some brewers may polish further.

After the rice is polished, residue from the milling process is washed from the grain, and the rice is saturated with water, depending on the type of rice and the desired characteristics of the saké. Next, the rice is steamed, which changes the molecular structure of the starch in the grain, allowing easier breakdown of that starch.

The next step — making the koji — is the heart of saké-brewing. “The Japanese say there are three pillars of brewing saké,” Blue Current’s Ford told Beverage Master Magazine. “The first pillar is koji, the second pillar is koji, and the third pillar is koji. All things flow from making koji. If you can make really good koji, you can make really good saké.”

In this process, the freshly steamed rice is spread out on long tables in a warm, heated environment known as a koji room. The rice is covered with koji-kin, the “miracle” mold that converts the starch in the rice to a form of glucose. Over the next 36 to 45 hours, the toji constantly tends the koji to ensure that it’s developing properly. “The koji is food for the yeast, and it’s critical to fermentation,” SakéOne’s Lien said. “Our toji, Takumi Kuwabara, has 25 years of brewing experience—13 years in Japan and 12 here—and he makes our koji completely by hand. He’s continually tinkering and tweaking the koji to make sure he gets the recipe just right.”

After the koji is made, a small amount is mixed with steamed rice, yeast and water in a tank to produce shubo or moto, or a fermentation starter. Typically, it takes two weeks to create a small batch of starter with a high concentration of robust yeast cells. Next, all the prep work comes together. Water, steamed rice, saké rice and the fermentation starter are added in three successive stages over four days to create the main mash, which will ferment over the next 18 to 32 days. During this time, the toji may adjust the length of fermentation, temperatures, and other factors in creating a specific saké profile.

The actual fermentation process is what separates saké from beer or wine. In wine, no sugar conversion is necessary, since sucrose is naturally-occurring in grapes. With beer, the creation of sugar and alcohol are separate processes: starches in the grain are converted to sugar in the form of wort, then yeast is added to create alcohol. In saké, conversion of starch into glucose and glucose into alcohol occur simultaneously in a process called multiple parallel fermentation. One of the characteristics of alcohol made in this method is high alcohol content. Saké is usually about 15 percent alcohol by volume and may be as high as 21 percent.

Once fermentation is complete, the saké is pressed to separate the newly created alcohol from the rice solids left in the mash. The saké is then filtered to remove fine particulates and pasteurized to kill off any remaining bacteria and yeast. Finally, the product is aged—usually for three to six months—and then bottled. The time to brew a batch of saké, from start to finish, is around seven weeks.

American Spin

While U.S. craft saké brewers typically follow Japanese methods and traditions for brewing saké, they are putting an “American spin” on the product by using processes and ingredients more suited to the local palate. The Texas saké Company, for example, filters their product less than the Japanese. “This gives a more robust saké with lots of fruity flavors,” co-owner Tim Klatt said. “We’re home brewers from the past, so we’re always trying something different. One of our big pushes is oaked sakés, where we toast oak chips in-house and add them to the brew. This delivers an amazing vanilla and oak and tannin experience, which will even stand up to barbeque.” The Texas Saké Company also produces a line of sparkling sakés with seven percent ABV and is preparing to produce a typical Japanese product that “will bridge the gap” between American and U.S. styles of sakés.

SakéOne is on the cutting edge as well, with its Moonstone brands, flavor-infused sakés. These include Cucumber Mint, Asian Pear and Coconut Lemongrass. All are infused right before bottling. “We are making these to appeal to our wild, pioneering side,” Lien said. “This is what we do to have fun.”

As U.S. Saké brewers look to the future, they see more breweries popping up, and more consumers taking notice. All agree that we can expect to see new products, more experimenting with saké-brewing techniques and broader distribution of American-made saké, both in the U.S. and abroad.

“Craft saké is definitely a niche market,” according to Ford, the Harvard-trained entrepreneur who founded Blue Current Brewery. “People are trying new flavors and looking for the next new thing. As a brewer and frequent traveler to Japan, I think it’s wonderful to open the kimono and show people this wonderful new beverage which is probably the coolest thing people have probably never had. The future is looking good: we’re seeing blue skies ahead.”

Crafting Marijuana Policies? Managing Employees in the Wake of Legalized Marijuana

By: Amy Lessa and Nicole Stenoish, Attorneys At Law, Fisher Phillips

Marijuana legalization is on the rise and quickly expanding to all corners of the United States. Nearly 2/3 of the states have legalized marijuana for either recreational or medicinal use.  Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia allow recreational marijuana, and an additional 22 states allow medical marijuana. These numbers are expected to grow over the next few years as the societal and political perspectives on cannabis continue to shift in favor of legalization.

Despite this shift, marijuana still remains an illegal Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act – in direct contrast with legalized marijuana at the state level.  Although federal law is superior to state law, businesses must comply with both – even if federal and state laws conflict with one another. The chronic dispute between state and federal marijuana laws has left many employers confused about how to handle marijuana use in the workplace.  We’re here to clear the smoke.

Legalized Marijuana – What Can-a-Business Do?

Marijuana laws are constantly evolving and continue to be challenged in courts across the country. This makes it difficult to keep up with the requirements and limitations of legalized marijuana under both state and federal law.

Many employers are now questioning whether their workplace marijuana policies and practices should be revised.  Before deciding what policy is best for your company, it is important to understand the law in your state.  A company’s policies should also reflect the specific needs and challenges of the business and workforce.  For example, many craft brewery owners report they can no longer test for cannabis because most of their applicants cannot pass the drug test at the pre-employment stage. That could leave a brewery without a workforce.  As a result, Company’s should decide whether it makes sense to continue testing for cannabis in their pre-employment drug screens.  Other issues relevant to this determination are whether your employees operate heavy machinery or work in safety sensitive positions, and are you having difficulty recruiting qualified candidates for your company?

There are several key issues the keep in mind when determining the best marijuana policies and practices for your workforce:

  1. Maintain a Drug-Free Workplace

Employers are entitled to maintain specific policies related to marijuana use in the workplace, including drug-free workplace and zero-tolerance policies.  Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, employers can strictly prohibit marijuana at work.  Employees can be disciplined, and even terminated, for coming to work under the influence, possessing marijuana on company premises, or using marijuana while at work – even in states where marijuana is legal.  In most states, companies also have the right to test employees for drug use, and can discipline or terminate employees for violation of the drug-free workplace policy. Before implementing a zero-tolerance policy, make sure your state does not specifically protect medical marijuana users or prevent employers from disciplining workers for legal off-duty conduct. Otherwise, drug-free workplace policies are essential to help protect your business and manage employees in the wake of legalized marijuana.

  1. Review Drug Testing Policies

Employers can typically require employee drug testing throughout employment. The different types of testing including pre-employment drug testing, random drug testing, reasonable suspicion drug testing, and post-accident drug testing depending on state laws.  Employers with mandatory drug testing policies need to ensure they follow specific state laws restricting disciplinary action based on positive test results.  Additionally, employers are prohibited from administering drug tests as a form of discipline or for retaliatory purposes. There are several other issues to consider when reviewing your company’s drug testing policies.

First, the science used to test for marijuana has been slow to catch up with increased legalization. While there are testing methodologies currently in development, there is no test to determine whether an individual is presently under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana can remain in one’s system for weeks, and an employee could test positive for marijuana even if it was consumed outside of work and had no impact on the employee’s job performance. This creates potential issues for employers when drug testing employees who have medical marijuana prescriptions, or in states where recreational marijuana is allowed.

Also, many states have laws that provide protections for engaging in legal off-duty conduct.  These laws prohibit employers from considering an employee’s lawful conduct outside of work for purposes of making employment decisions.  For example, in states where recreational marijuana is legal, the consumption of marijuana outside of work hours could be considered lawful off-duty conduct, and an employer could be prohibited from using an employee’s positive drug test for purposes of making an adverse employment decision. Although this issue remains largely untested by the courts, and employers are currently allowed to make certain employment decisions based on drug test results, we anticipate that employee drug test results will be challenged by lawful off-duty conduct laws in the years to come.

Furthermore, employers in a limited number of states may need to accommodate medical marijuana usage by employees. In those circumstances, employers are prohibited from making employment decisions based on an employee’s positive test result, depending on the nature of the employee’s particular position and job duties.

Pre-employment Drug Testing

Companies are generally allowed to require drug testing as a condition of employment, and can deny employment based on positive test results.  However, some states limit pre-employment drug testing for medical marijuana users, and other states have anti-discrimination laws for pre-employment drug test results.

Interestingly, an increasing number of companies, including those in the craft beverage industries, are eliminating pre-employment drug testing because of difficulties it can pose in finding employees who can pass the test.  As a result, some employers are softening their drug testing policies or removing marijuana from the list of drugs tested for. However, softening the stance on pre-employment marijuana drug testing may not be a viable option for companies with employees working in safety-sensitive positions, or companies with insurance policies or government contracts that specifically require employee drug testing.

Drug Testing During Employment

Employers may also consider random drug testing, reasonable suspicion drug testing, and post-accident drug testing of employees. Random drug testing is only allowed in some states and often limited to employees in specific, narrowly defined classifications – such as employees working in safety sensitive positions.  Almost all states allow employers to drug test employees if there is reasonable suspicion that an employee is impaired on the job.  Reasonable suspicion must be more than a hunch, and employers should be able to articulate the employee’s specific conduct or behaviors that led the employer to suspect impairment on the job.  Employers can also conduct post-accident drug testing following a workplace injury or accident, but only for employees whose impairment or drug use could have contributed to the incident.

Overall, companies should review state-specific laws and consider the specific needs and challenges of their workforce when reviewing or revising drug testing policies and practices.  And you should always put drug testing policies in writing, distribute to your employees, and enforce the policies uniformly.

  1. Accommodation of Medical Marijuana Varies by State

Generally, employers do not need to accommodate medical marijuana in the workplace. However, this could soon change. Courts in several states have recently indicated that accommodating an employee’s medical marijuana use may be appropriate in certain situations.  Employers already must engage their employees in the interactive process to explore reasonable accommodations for known disabilities of an employee. In some circumstances, this could mean accommodating medical marijuana use if it is determined to be a reasonable accommodation that does not create an undue hardship on the Company. Before doing so, however, employers should consult with qualified legal counsel.

Employers also need to be careful when disciplining medical marijuana users. Several states have specific laws protecting medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination. Medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, for example, have already won lawsuits against companies that rescinded job offers or fired workers because of positive tests for cannabis. Medical marijuana laws are continuing to evolve, and protections for medical marijuana users are likely to increase.

Conclusion – Best Practices

An increasing number of states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, yet the federal government continues to classify marijuana as an illegal drug. This conflict between state and federal law is not likely to be resolved anytime soon. In the meantime, employers should follow several best practices to manage employees where marijuana has been legalized.

Companies should carefully review these issues and create policies that balance legal compliance with the specific needs of the business. Until the conflict between state and federal law is resolved, this includes:

  • Stay up to date with evolving marijuana laws.
  • Determine specific requirements for drug testing and medical marijuana in each state in which your company has employees.
  • Develop state-compliant workplace drug policies that are appropriate for your business.
  • Confirm your drug testing policies in writing, distribute to employees, and apply the policies uniformly.
  • Consider eliminating strict drug testing practices in favor of reasonable suspicion drug testing.
  • Determine if you will test applicants for marijuana use or not.
  • Contact legal counsel if any specific concerns or incidents arise within your workforce.

If your company follows these simple guidelines for managing employees in the wake of legalized marijuana, you will be in a good position to adapt while protecting your business as marijuana legalization continues to evolve in the coming years.

For questions on specific state laws, consult with an attorney.

  Amy Lessa and Nicole Stenoish are attorneys in the San Diego office of Fisher Phillips.  Amy and Nicole counsel and defend employers, including breweries in employment law matters. They can be reached at alessa@fisherphillips.com and nstenoish@fisherphillips.com

Nelson-Jameson and 3M™: Driving the Fight Against Food Allergens

By: Nelson-Jameson

With industry demand calling for new innovations in allergen testing, Nelson-Jameson is proud to offer 3M Allergen Protein Rapid Test Kits.

These kits are a qualitative immunochromatographic assay for rapid in-plant monitoring of specific food allergens, and are designed for accurate detection of processed and unprocessed allergen proteins. With results available in 10 to 12 minutes, these fast, easy tests can be used for clean-in-place (CIP) final rinse water, environmental swab samples, raw ingredients and finished food products. We currently have the following test kits available: Almond, Bovine Total Milk, Cashew, Coconut, Egg White, Fish, Gluten, Hazelnut, Peanut, Pecan, Pistachio, Soy, and Walnut. All test kits include 25 tests per kit.

Nelson-Jameson also offers 3M’s line of Allergen Protein ELISA Test Kits for both processed and unprocessed target allergen proteins. For additional information visit nelsonjameson.com or call us at: 800-826-8302.

Nelson-Jameson has been an integrated supplier for the dairy and food industry since 1947. Product lines include safety & personnel, production & material handling, sanitation & janitorial, processing & flow control, laboratory & QA/QC, and bulk packaging & ingredients. The company is headquartered in Marshfield, Wisconsin, with other locations in Turlock, California; Twin Falls, Idaho; York, Pennsylvania; Amarillo, Texas; and a sales branch in Chicago, Illinois.

The Careful Craft Of Brewery Insurance: Getting the right insurance for a craft brewery business is a combination of peace of mind and great business sense

By: James Sanborn, The Insurance Beer Guy

Opening a craft brewery is a dream many people have turned into a reality. Getting to do all the fun stuff like branding new brews, using all the shiny new equipment, and networking with those who share the same passion. But then there are all the other, not-so-fun tasks that need juggling, like maintaining property and equipment, getting licenses, fitting out the brewery, ordering supplies and hiring staff. Only after wading through all this can a brewery finally get to the reason for it all: making great beer to be proud of.

Keeping motivations firmly in sight and visions on track is important, but so is being realistic about the potential risks business owners face. One bad batch. One slip and fall. One severe workplace injury. All of a sudden, a claim has occurred causing disruption, an interruption in the brewery’s operation, or even worse, there’s no coverage under any of the insurance policies in effect. There’s lost time, lost revenue needed to fuel the brewery operations, and — depending upon the nature of the claim — diminished customer confidence.

Easing the blow when any of this happens is simple: have the right insurance in place. The right coverages that are crafted to the needs of a specialized industry that cover a broad range of exposures.

“It is important to choose an insurance agent that has worked with many different breweries” says Colleen Croteau of Maine Beer Company.  “James and the staff at GHM Craft provide exemplary customer service and a high level of industry knowledge.  Maine Beer Company relies on GHM for our comprehensive business insurance needs, state compliance bonds, and general questions related to our employees, a recent expansion project, and routine business operations.  Their experience in the brewing industry is evident in the knowledge and recommendations they provide.”  Selecting an agent who understands the uniqueness and complexities of brewery operations and who can identify and fix coverage gaps is essential  – it is important to understand that fixing coverage gaps is not necessarily reducing risk; instead, it is transferring risk to the insurer and away from the brewery.

This article will run through the most common brewery insurance gaps, explain how different types and levels of insurance can protect a business, and show how important it is to get the right insurance.

Insuring The Prized Possession: Beer

There are lots of upsetting things in the world, but for a brewery, a ruined or bad batch of beer – or worse, batches – is right up there. It can hit a pocketbook hard. Inventory will need to be replenished by brewing more and, naturally, bad beer can’t be sold so there won’t be any revenue coming in.

In this scenario, you need the right coverage, which can protect against contamination, spoilage, and tank leakage. Understanding how beer is insured will help determine proper limits and make sure everyone is on the same page if something goes wrong.

Keeping The Doors Open After A Claim Happens

When a loss to property happens, it is important to have the right coverage to help keep brewery doors open. Having a revenue stream, even if production is halted, is critical. Say, for example, a brewery closes unexpectedly due to a fire and production is shut down for weeks or months. Revenue ceases or significantly reduces. There will be no beer for customers today. What happens next could be a make or break situation.

While things are being repaired or rebuilt, breweries will need coverage that provides a continued flow of revenue to be able to pay key employees, cover overhead, debt service, and other ongoing operational expenses that will continue even though revenue from beer sales cease. And having coverage for extra expenses like temporary offices, warehousing, and other expenses a brewery will incur while rebuilding its facility is essential. There are coverages breweries can purchase to cover these exposures. If a brewery already has these coverages, limits should be reviewed, at least annually, to keep up with growing sales. Failing to do this means the level of coverage originally purchased may be outdated as the brewery has grown and expanded.

Understanding How Property Is Defined

One of the biggest assets in a brewery is where the magic happens: the property of a brewery (building, improvements, brewing equipment, etc). So, it needs to be insured correctly. Problems may arise because all property insurance policies define business property differently than the brewery owner, his or her contractors or accountant may define it.

Understanding the definition of what constitutes a building, as defined in an insurance policy, is critical. The definition of brewing equipment is also critical. If space is leased, understanding the definition of tenant fit-up is critical too. When writing a policy, it is important to have an agent who will work as part of the team to properly classify property.

Correctly classifying brewery property means a) getting the right level of insurance in each category, b) potentially saving money since insurance rates on the building can be lower than rates on other types of  property and equipment, and c) properly classifying property increases the chances a claim will be settled fairly and satisfactorily.

The Complexities of Liability Coverage

Getting into the fine details of liability insurance is like individually counting every grain of barley put into making beer – there’s a lot to it. For broader liability coverage, having the help of an experienced brewery agent who can tailor the policy for a brewery’s specific operations can make a big difference. As an example, anyone who has a tap room or attends brewfests needs to pay attention to his or her liability coverage.

Opening the doors of a tap room to the public is a great source of revenue. However, breweries with tap rooms have more risk. Unfortunately, customers occasionally have a slip, trip or fall. And then there’s the person who visits a brewery at the end of a pub crawl for one last beer. He leaves and get into an accident on his way home and hurts himself and others. Will this brewery have the right coverage, and enough coverage, for these exposures?

Another tricky exposure to navigate is insurance for events and brewfests. It’s great exposure for any brewery but how is the insurance impacted? Event organizers routinely ask to be named as ‘additional insured’ on general liability insurance and, possibly, liquor liability. Typically someone from the brewery contacts the insurance agent to request a certificate of insurance and off it goes. What this now means is that the brewery’s general liability policy will be sharing its limit with the event organizer – and others who may be asked to be added to the policy – should a claim be made. In this scenario, imagine someone trips and gets hurt at the brewfest and it’s the brewery’s fault!

This person then sues the brewery and the event organizers. Again, since the event organizers are an ‘additional insured’ on the policy, the brewery is now sharing its limit with them, which means there may be less coverage to protect the brewery. Now, imagine if the brewery is asked to add the city/town, license holder, or others to its policy and everyone gets sued. Now the brewery’s limit may be shared by multiple parties. Where does that leave the brewery?  A brewery insurance expert can offer solutions to this concerning situation.

Correctly Classifying A Liability Policy Matters

Different aspects of a brewery need to be classified differently, and correctly. These are called ‘liability classifications.’ Similar to property, brewery owners need to understand how liability classifications apply to the business and make sure sales are assigned correctly. These classifications need to be kept up to date as the brewery evolves and grows.

To give an example, the liability classification for beer sold in bottles is rated differently than beer sold in cans, and kegged beer is different again. Merchandise sales have a separate class too. Do brewery owners want to pay the higher rate on the sale of a t-shirt as they would for the sale of a beer? Probably not! Most breweries have four or five different liability classifications, but there could be more, and if there is a missing classification, coverage could be in question should a liability claim occur!

When policies are classified incorrectly, issues surface when an insurance company audits the policy. Because sales are estimated at the beginning of the policy term, if the final sales end up higher at the end of the policy term, the brewery will get a bill it did not budget for. And if sales are incorrectly classified, the audit could cost the brewery even more.

Making sure liability classifications are correct and up-to-date is important, something that is easily done with the help of a craft beer insurance specialist.

Navigating Employee Related Insurance

Employees are one of the greatest assets of any business, but they can also be one of the biggest exposures to every business:

Workers’ Compensation – Protecting a brewery and its employees for workplace injuries means getting workers’ compensation insurance. But like liability coverage, there are different classifications for the different jobs and roles in every business. Getting this right ensures there won’t be any surprises with a big audit, and that employees will be covered if they get hurt on the job. Another important note about workers’ compensation, if there are family or friends who volunteer at the brewery, there may not be coverage for this exposure.

  Employment Practices Liability – Employees bring other exposures to businesses such as claims related to harassment, discrimination, salary disputes, or wrongful termination. Neither general liability nor workers’ compensation policies cover these exposures. An experienced brewery insurance agent can give advice and information needed to make well informed decisions on handling these exposures.

Navigating Vehicle Insurance

As a small brewery, having a delivery van may be a ways off. For larger breweries, using a distributor means someone else is delivering brew. In both cases it could mean that a brewery does not own any vehicles, but there could still be auto related exposures the business may be subjected to.

For example, many brewers use personal vehicles to deliver beer, run to the bank or commute to events. These are all business journeys. If there’s an accident while doing official beer business, anyone injured as a result can bring a suit against the owner of the vehicle and the brewery. This is because the vehicle was operating on behalf of the brewery at the time. Without the right type of auto insurance, the vehicle owner and/or the brewery may not be covered.

So even if the brewery doesn’t own a van, truck or car, it could be exposed when using other people’s vehicles for company business. It’s worth discussing this exposure with an agent who has expertise with insuring breweries.

The Added Extras

These areas of insurance are just the froth on the pint. When it comes to insuring a craft brewery there are other potential gaps:

  • Flood damage
  • Pollution liability
  • Data protection and cyber security
  • Employee benefits
  • Theft — both physical & of intellectual property.

And Let’s Not Forget A Non-Insurance Exposure … Human Resources

As if there aren’t already enough exposures facing brewery owners but the importance of solid HR protocols are just as important and should never be overlooked. Things like properly completed I-9 forms, ADA compliant job applications and job descriptions, and a properly written personnel manual are just a few of the priorities when it comes to HR compliance.

All of this may feel overwhelming but building the right team of advisors, including an insurance agent who has expertise with insuring breweries, can make the process much less complicated so at the end of the day, after a couple cold brews, brewery owners can go to bed feeling comfortable that should something bad happen at the brewery the right insurance is in place to put the pieces back together and get back to brewing great beer. Cheers!

How to Choose the Right Packaging Machine for Your Brewery

By: Alyssa Ochs

©Mitch Wojnarowicz Photographer
Schneider Packaging Equipment Co in Brewerton NY for ABC Creative group, Schneider Packaging Equipment Co and OEM Magazine


Craft beverage consumers are often quick to judge a book by its cover, or in this case, a beer by its packaging. The quality of beer comes first and foremost, but how a beer looks on retail shelves can also drive or sink a brewery’s profits. Packaging machines are useful to breweries for many reasons, including efficiently and attractively packaging beer and cans in cartons. Depending on the size of a brewery’s operations and its goals, these machines range from small hand machines to huge mass production models.

Uses of Brewery Packaging Equipment

These days, very few breweries are packaging their products by hand. Manual processing isn’t fast enough to keep up with demand, but unlike mechanization in the wine industry, there isn’t a strong stigma regarding breweries using machines.

For breweries, packaging equipment comes in the form of case packers and uncasers, can cartoners, case erectors and partition inserters. Innovative companies have developed robotic case packers to pack products into cases and trays, as well as multi-lane diverters to configure cans in the desired format for multi-packs. It may save time and labor if breweries use cartoners that convey, collate, and package cans into multi-pack cartons that are built and glue-sealed.

Meanwhile, other packaging machines work as case and carton sealers, stretch and shrink wrappers, and label applicators. Wrap-around tray packers are commonly used for beer bottles and cans, tray-formers are used for rollover locking, and open-top glue trays are used for 24-count trays of bottles or cans. Large brewery operations typically rely on fully integrated systems that include many of these features including product conveyors, uncasing, single-filling conveyors, lane dividers, dividing wheels, star wheels and sealing equipment.

Benefits of Packing Machines for Breweries

In the early stages of operations or for small and niche breweries, manual packaging may be the preferred operational method, or at least a good starting point. Packaging bottles and cans manually can serve as a preliminary method before growing and saving up for a more automated system. Temporary and transitional packaging services are available for breweries looking to outsource this type of work. However, having your own packaging line typically saves money in the long run and gives brewers greater control over their products.

Packaging machines provide breweries with speed, consistency and efficiency on their packing line, saving employees time and the brewery money. Packaging machines also help a brewery reduce packaging costs, ensure a more consistent appearance, and promote good hygiene to prevent beer contamination. Consistent, well-placed packaging can reinforce and strengthen a brewery’s particular brand and help establish brand recognition and loyalty among consumers.

Top Packaging Machines in the Industry

Packaging machines are used in a wide variety of industries, including food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, industrial products, and non-food consumer goods. In a market with so many choices, some companies now cater to the highly specific needs of breweries.

Based in Brewerton, New York, Schneider Packaging provides case and tray packaging, case sealing, palletizing, and complete end-of-line solution services for its customers. For the beverage industry, Schneider’s gable top packing solution is the stand-out solution designed to run at speeds matching the fastest filling systems. Meanwhile, Schneider incorporates FANUC robotics to create flexible palletizing solutions to meet facility and production requirements. The latest innovations used include ProAdjust technology to increase uptime, patent-pending Intelligent Illumination to maintain case packers, and the proprietary OptiStak software to optimize and simplify pallet generation. Other industries Schneider serves are dairy, food, industrial/chemical/household, paper, personal care/cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and plastics.

Douglas Machine Inc., a packaging solutions company based in Alexandria, Minnesota, specializes in high-quality automated packaging solutions for paperboard, corrugated and shrink-film. Douglas is a 100 percent employee-owned company that has installed more than 9,000 machines in at least 30 countries.

“Douglas provides paperboard horizontal cartoning, RSC, and wrap-around case-packing and tray, shrink, pad/film and film only packaging machinery for the brewery industry at a variety of line speeds and configurations,” said Brenda Larson, Marketing Communications Manager at Douglas Machine.

Meanwhile, in Eugene, Oregon, PakTech is a full-service manufacturing company that delivers environmentally sustainable packaging solutions to the craft beer industry.

“Our handles are simple to grab, carry, and remove your product using a 100 percent recycled handle,” PakTech Sales Manager, Keenan Hoar, told Beverage Master Magazine. “PakTech’s minimalistic design and extensive color options highlight your brand and eliminate the need for obscuring artwork with other types of packaging.”

Hoar also said PakTech offers automated application versatility for flexible production requirements.

“You can apply the handles by hand if you’re a startup or have a limited volume requirement,” he said, “or you can utilize their automated applicators ranging in speed from 120 cans per minute to over 1,500 cans per minute if you have a higher speed operation.”

 Accutek Packaging Equipment Companies, Inc. is headquartered in Vista, California but has locations in Irving, Texas and Fort Myers, Florida as well. One of the largest privately-held packaging machinery manufacturers in the U.S., Accutek is a leading manufacturer and developer of complete turnkey packaging solutions. It offers consumers everything from filling to capping machines, conveyors, labeling and sleeving machines, and complete packaging systems.

Vice President Drake Chocholek told Beverage Master Magazine that Accutek often helps start-up companies make the best decisions for their operations. By partnering with a company experienced in this field, brewery owners can better assess whether potential packaging machines are easy to maintain, clean, adjust and upgrade.

“For example, a lot of new producers don’t know there are different grades of quality for glass bottles, or they may not know about bottle washers or rinsers used for cleaning containers before filling,” Chocholek said.

To take this a step further, Chocholek told us about the essential checklist his company uses to help new customers understand their full scope of operations and to make packaging simpler and more affordable.

“After we find out the product and container sizes, we ask them what their budget is, how fast they want the machinery to go, and if they’re in the market for more than one piece of machinery,” he said.

What Breweries are Using and Why

Aaron Williams of Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia told Beverage Master Magazine his brewery specializes in brewing balanced beers for weeknights that pair well with food. Monday Night Brewing opened up its second facility, The Garage, in September 2017 to feature its barrel-aged, sour, and experimental beers. This addition came with an upgrade in equipment.

“We recently upgraded to a 24/4 CFT canning line that we are running at about 250 cans per minute,” Williams said. “We use hi-cone rings packed into trays because it uses the least amount of packaging.”

Meanwhile in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Marble Brewery’s president and brewmaster, Ted Rice, told us about the packaging system that his team currently uses.

“We use a 12-head CFT for canning,” Rice said. “From the CFT, the 12-ounce cans run to a Switchback cartoner for six or 12 packs. The cans can also run to an American Canning Machine PakTech applicator.”

However, finding the best options for machines that carton beer bottles and cans seem to be more of a challenge for breweries.

“Right now, we don’t do any bulk beers in cartons but are actively looking at machines to handle this in a more automated system,” Williams of Monday Night Brewing said. “There are many machines, but it doesn’t seem there is a clear winner based on conversations with other breweries. We currently hand-package our limited sampler packs.”

Douglas Machine may have the solution, however, since they offer a variety of cartoning machinery models that fit a wide range of canning and bottling line speeds and pack configurations.

“For lower speed lines, the intermittent motion Vantra offers an unparalleled speed of 40 plus cartons per minute with range capabilities offering of four to 24 count flexibility,” Larson said. “For higher speed lines, Douglas offers the Spectrum in many models for mid-high-speed lines with speeds up to 250 cartons per minute. The Vantra and Spectrum Center Select offer flexibility to run different diameter and height cans, while the cost-effective Spectrum Center Select offers mid-high-speed capability on a single can diameter capability at a very cost-effective price.”

How to Choose the Right Packaging System

As with every decision made in a brewery, owners must make considerations before investing in a packaging system. Short-term and long-term costs, ease of ongoing maintenance, opportunities for customizable design, integration with existing bottle and can filling systems, as well as choosing the correct machine size are only a handful of things to analyze before purchasing.

Breweries can also reduce their carbon footprint and sustain more eco-friendly operations if they choose packaging products made from 100 percent recycled materials.

“Our products provide an end market for recycled HDPE, helping the economy and environment by providing jobs and keeping plastics out of the landfills and oceans while providing a second life for recycled HDPE plastic,” said Gary Panknin, PakTech’s Sustainability Officer. “Our handle recycling program also provides the opportunity for breweries to participate in keeping our products in the recycling stream and out of the waste stream.”

According to Panknin, 102,592,428 milk jugs were kept out of landfills and repurposed into PakTech handles in 2018, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. “In total, we have diverted 338,267,223 milk jugs from entering the waste stream, kept 20,973 tons of plastic out of the landfills and oceans, and saved 17.90-acre feet of land from being used as landfills for waste,” he said.

PakTech’s system isn’t merely a sustainability badge of honor, however. “The PakTech applicator makes our line far more efficient, and our operators do not experience wrist fatigue from manually applying the PakTech,” said Rice of Marble Brewery. “Having the Switchback cartoner allows our brands to have a clean billboard on the shelves. Using the PakTech allows us to run smaller volumes of seasonals in shrink sleeve cans without designing a carton with its associated costs and minimums.”

Williams of Monday Night Brewing suggests brewers ensure that any company they partner with for packing is credible and trustworthy.”I think the key is to really do your homework and ask around,” he said. “Find out who uses the equipment you’re interested in, what the manufacturer support is like, and if the manufacturer really will stand behind it for the long term. I’ve talked to many breweries that got a great up-front price on their equipment only to find the supplier didn’t really stand behind it.”

With this in mind, Mike Brewster of Schneider Packaging Equipment advises breweries “to do their due diligence on what they foresee their operation looking like in the future. Today, more than ever, consumer trends in the marketplace are changing at a rapid pace. With that, it is critical to align with a manufacturer who offers flexible and scalable solutions to assist you as your operation encounters changes.”

Concerning functionality, Hoar of PakTech said that his team looks at the fill rate when helping a brewery choose the right application for its operations. “It is extremely easy to manually apply PakTech carriers, yet the feasibility of doing so is all dependent on volume,” he said. “It is necessary to look at the cost of utilizing employees to apply the handle against the return on investment of our automated solutions.”

Hoar emphasizes the importance of packaging presentation as well because “by focusing on originality and creative expression, breweries have turned artwork into brand identity.” He also points out the need to know your brewery’s customers and consider portability and sustainability when choosing packaging products because many customers care about these things.

“We understand that many customers have a ‘pack it in, pack it out’ mentality, and we need to support the idea of a circular economy in any capacity,” Hoar said.

Finally, Larson of Douglas Machine recommends that breweries consider future packing patterns and configurations when specifying packaging systems for canning and bottling lines.

“Too often, brewers will select machinery based upon their immediate pack patterns or speeds, therefore buying a machine that cannot handle future pack patterns and speeds due to a lack of flexibility in some machinery offerings,” Larson said. “Additionally, the robustness of machinery is critical as brewers grow their operation and volumes increase to the point they need to add production shifts. It is imperative to consider the design and build design to ensure that a packaging system they purchase is robust enough to run multiple shifts, seven days per week. Initial low costs are long forgotten when experiencing poor or inconsistent performance.”

CLOUD COMPUTING: HOW CRAFT BEVERAGE COMPANIES BENEFIT FROM HAVING DATA AT THEIR FINGERTIPS

By: Wade Huseth, Baker Tilly

As a craft beverage manufacturer and business leader, you’re probably familiar with the term cloud computing – but may still have questions about the benefits, costs or risks associated with “moving to the cloud”. This article will answer some of those questions and demonstrate how cloud computing can positively transform your business from the inside out.

What is cloud computing …and why does it matter for my business?

In its most simple form, cloud computing is the use of a shared resource on the internet to store, manage and process data. The cloud allows unique users to access the same software application from any device, anywhere, at any time. Information is easily updated and shared between team members without the need to print files, manually input reports or be in the same physical location.

As an example, take a moment to imagine this structure in place for your accounting processes. With data available in the cloud, your accountant can access and adjust your records in real time.

So, why should you care about cloud computing? The threat of being left behind for one. Cloud computing is quickly becoming a new organizational norm. Emerging research on the topic speaks for itself.

  • Nearly 90 percent of all financial decision makers are already aware of cloud computing and the overwhelming majority believe cloud computing brings quantifiable business benefits critical to the success of their organizations.
  • The cloud is the new normal for enterprise applications, with 70 percent of all organizations having at least one application in the cloud today.
  • Wikibon is predicting enterprise cloud spending will grow at a 16 percent compound annual growth (CAGR) run rate between 2016 and 2026.
  • Business/data analytics and data storage (both 43 percent), so critical in the competitive craft beverage industry today, are projected to lead the decision for cloud adoption in 2019 and beyond.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

How can cloud computing improve my business?

We’re glad you asked. Here are a few ways cloud computing can positively impact your operational, financial and organizational goals:

  • Scalability
  • Reduced IT and operational costs
  • Enhanced efficiencies through automation and collaboration
  • Information mobility and accessibility
  • Greater visibility into your competitive advantages
  • Increased productivity
  • Disaster resistance

Scalability: Successful craft brewers are growing at an unprecedented rate and the ability to scale on an as-needed basis is one of the biggest advantages of cloud computing. Accelerated business growth typically leads to growing pains and missed opportunities resulting from the mismanagement of more data, infrastructure and customers. The right cloud computing solution will grow alongside your business to meet market demands and accommodate growth as technology shifts, revenues grow and your business needs evolve.

  Reduced IT and operational costs: When it comes to budgeting for infrastructure, the cloud eliminates hefty upfront costs for computer hardware and licenses. Instead, you pay a monthly software subscription based on usage that can be adjusted over time. Cloud computing allows craft beverage companies to work with business professionals with expertise in areas where your team may be

lacking from a skill set standpoint. It allows you to share information in real time for consultation in areas you would rather outsource such as CFO services, IT, human resource management, sales analytics, accounting, and payroll / performance compensation so you can focus on what you do best which is brewing quality beer. Cloud computing isn’t just good for business – it’s good for the environment, too. In one example, the U.S. General Services Administration reduced server energy consumption by nearly 90 percent and carbon emissions by 85 percent after switching users to a cloud solution.

Enhanced efficiencies through automation and collaboration: Craft business owners are always looking for efficiency savings and implementing a cloud solution means you can say goodbye to manual entries or physical backups to secure data. For example, cloud-based accounting software typically automates processes by importing transaction data on a real-time basis. The cloud computing model empowers team members to collaborate and share information beyond traditional communication methods – allowing multiple facilities and/or taprooms to co-manage production, raw materials, packaging levels and distribution scheduling.

Information mobility and accessibility: Information mobility and accessibility are two major benefits associated with the widespread adoption of smart phones and tablets across the global workforce. Cloud technology gives business owners access to critical data and reports on the go with anytime-anywhere access for quick and more informed decision making. In today’s market as a craft beverage manufacturer, it is critical to maintain ongoing communication via a CRM tool not only within your own sales team but with your distributor partners to ensure opportunities are addressed quickly and everyone is executing as planned. As a business leader, you can customize authorities and grant individual user access through a comprehensive authorization process.

  Greater visibility into your competitive advantages: Taking it one step further, the ability for craft beverage companies to access data in real time also makes that data more useful in identifying trends, comparing results to industry benchmarks, monitoring key performance indicators and, ultimately, being a better business partner to your distributors and retailers. Harvard Business Review Analytic Services reported that 74 percent of cloud computing businesses feel they have a competitive advantage.

 Increased productivity: The blend of increased collaboration, added efficiencies, enterprisewide visibility and more informed decision making can only lead to one thing: more productivity. In fact, a survey by Frost & Sullivan found companies that invest in collaboration technologies increased productivity by as much as 400 percent.7 Cloud solutions allow employees, service providers and senior leadership to devote more time and energy to achieving strategic business goals. In some cases, it can also free up resources for the other ongoing capital investments required from beverage companies such as marketing, point of connection materials, event activation, research and development and employee training.

Disaster resistance: Paper files and hardware systems run the risk of being destroyed by natural disasters like fires, hurricanes and earthquakes. While cybersecurity remains a top concern for potential cloud adapters, losing important data to a disaster can completely devastate your business. Cloud technology recovery methods mitigate this risk by securing a copy of your data in a centralized server location, should a natural disaster occur.

Data Security

What’s the catch? Is security a concern?

Cloud security is a hot topic, and rightfully so. Critics argue the risks of turning your data over to an external provider need to be taken seriously, and data security is the leading concern for IT professionals when it comes to cloud computing.8 Additionally, a mere 23 percent of organizations today completely trust public clouds to keep their data secure9 and many surveyed professionals attribute a delay in cloud adoption to a lack of cybersecurity skills.

There is a widespread misconception that keeping IT operations in house is safer when, in reality, a third-party firm may be more capable of looking after your data. Unlike the IT management process a typical craft beverage company has in place, third-party providers offer devoted cybersecurity professionals with relevant technical credentials and a business model focused predominately around data security. As a result, they bring the expertise required to handle (and alert clients to) threats that include data breaches, insecure interfaces, system vulnerabilities, account hijacking and malicious insiders. Third party providers also keep up with the latest technology and industry developments, bring best practices forward based on interactions with other similar businesses, don’t require a benefits package including vacation and remove the threat of leaving with critical intellectual property such as recipes or brewing process insights.

Cloud Computing: Next steps

Okay, I’ve bought in to the benefits of cloud computing. Now what?

The majority of businesses hire an external consulting firm to help implement a cloud strategy.Working with an outside service provider gives you access to A) the latest and greatest technologies, B) industry specialists with an objective opinion and C) a reduction in both risk and cost.

Look for a firm that will work collaboratively with you to demystify the cloud to help your business thrive while making you a more informed and – as a result – more successful business leader throughout the process. Though the main focus may center on how cloud computing integrates with your financial reporting, cloud computing extends across many areas and is not limited to accounting functions.

Going beyond the basics, your chosen firm should assist you in understanding your data and leveraging it to make better business decisions. Every beverage company is different, so you should handpick a cloud solution customized to your unique needs and use that platform to transform what was once static accounting data and boring operational and sales statistics into a robust business management dashboard.

Business intelligence through analytics – dashboards – help identify trends, benchmarking comparisons, investment choices, planning opportunities and, most importantly, what your next business move should be. The beverage business is becoming less predictable with fewer loyal consumers. Staying a step ahead of your peers in this rapidly changing environment is critical to maintain a competitive advantage and realize long term success.

Cloud computing is more than just a technological fad. It represents the future of business and can transform your data whether it be sales, marketing, inventory/production or accounting records into a useful business tool.

  Wade Huseth is a partner with Baker Tilly and has more than 26 years of experience in providing financial accounting advisory services to companies in a variety of industries. Wade also leads the Advantage practice firmwide and specializes in leveraging best-in-class technologies and industry expertise to deliver customized accounting, finance and operational assistance to clients of all sizes

KNOCK, KNOCK! LIQUOR STORE AT YOUR DOOR IN 60 MINUTES OR LESS

By: April Ingram

Don’t want to leave the party to pick up the missing ingredients to make your signature cocktail or to try a new recipe? Wish you had options to save time, or you don’t want to head out into the elements to go pick up your favorite alcoholic beverages? Canadians can now enjoy greater options for their alcoholic beverage home delivery, including a wider selection of craft beverage products with Drizly.

In Canada, liquor laws are regulated by each province individually, and some have permitted home delivery of wine beer and spirits for decades. The original alcohol delivery service, Dial a Bottle, was taking orders by phone and delivering bottles before apps or even the internet existed. Today, the home delivery marketplace is flooded with options that make home delivery of alcohol nearly as easy as Uber Eats, and the competition is fierce, leading to lower delivery fees and extra service perks. E-Commerce companies are working with the complete inventory of local, leading liquor retailers and delivering them within 60 minutes to adults of legal drinking age at their homes and even to their offices.

Amazon for Liquor

Drizly, a pioneer and the world’s first and largest alcohol e-commerce marketplace is now launching their services in the city of Vancouver, the province of Alberta, and throughout 26 U.S. states. They’ve been called the “Amazon for Liquor” or “Uber Liquor,” and their approval to operate in Vancouver has been noted as quite the accomplishment, considering that legislative regulation has so far prevented the actual Uber from being allowed within the entire province. Drizly has already been serving consumers in parts of the neighboring province of Alberta for over two years.

Drizly works with local retailers, including Liquor Depot, to bring adults of legal drinking age a wide selection of beer, wine and spirits, with delivery in under 60 minutes through Drizly.com and the Drizly app.

By providing access to inventories from local retailers in each market, the service gives customers a wide selection of beer, wine and spirits at reasonable market prices. In addition to a wide variety of adult beverages, Liquor Depot’s range of popular soft drinks, juices, ice and other mixers, are also be available on the Drizly platform. Customers schedule a delivery or in-store pickup. The Drizly’s mobile app and website are deep wells of information, offering cocktail recipes, pro tips and popular adult beverage trends.

Delivery in Vancouver is a flat $4.99, and customers have to purchase a minimum of $20 worth of products from Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn to qualify for delivery.

Simplified Age Verification

Alcanna, formally known as Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd., is North America’s largest publicly traded alcoholic beverage retailer and includes a chain of more than 240 stores operating in Alberta, British Columbia, Kentucky and Alaska, with both Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn under its banner. They carry a vast selection of craft beers, ciders and spirits, some of which are not available in provincially run liquor stores.

Although other liquor delivery services exist in the area, Drizly’s verification software ensures that liquor is kept out of the hands of minors. Age verification made the service even more appealing to Alcanna when it was looking for a platform to sell its products on demand.

“Vancouver has been thirsting for everything that Drizly facilitates, not least online access to our vast inventory, an intuitive shopping experience and the convenience of delivery in under an hour. It’s a win-win in every sense of the term,” Fran Coons, Vice President of Operations at Alcanna said in a press release.

By equipping retailers with technology that can verify age and identification, Drizly helps business owners protect their liquor licenses. Their retail partners are provided with a device to scan barcodes on official forms of identification. Drizly’s proprietary ID verification technology enables delivery personnel to verify IDs with accuracy that goes well beyond a manual review. The scans collect the customer’s name, date of birth and the ID expiry date, and the device can determine whether the ID is authentic. Once age and identity are confirmed, the scanned information is deleted from Drizly’s records, so there is no concern about collection or storage of personal information. Retailers aren’t required to use the device and can choose to use the scanner for every delivery or only when employees suspect the customer is underage.

Regulations

Provincial regulations alcohol delivery services are required to follow under their licensing agreement do not allow delivery services to store liquor themselves. Instead, they must take orders from a verified adult, then purchase the order from a retailer or general merchandise liquor store licensees such as Liquor Barn or Liquor Depot, and deliver the liquor to the adult who ordered it at a place where it is lawful to store or consume. The delivery service license in Alberta is considered a Class D liquor license and costs $200 annually. In British Columbia, licensed establishments are permitted to sell their products online and deliver them to customers only between 9:00 am and 11:30 pm and orders must be delivered on the same day they were placed.

Additionally, in British Columbia, anyone involved in the selling or serving of alcoholic beverages is required to complete “Serving It Right” training.  Serving It Right is British Columbia’s mandatory self-study course that teaches licensees, managers, sales staff and servers about their legal responsibilities when serving alcohol, and provides practical techniques to prevent problems related to over-service. This training is extended to and required for alcohol delivery personnel as well.  All Drizly delivery drivers are Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn employees, so they go through the same training as in-store staff, knowing how to recognize whether someone should not be served and when a customer may be a minor.