Buying New or Used Equipment & How to Decide

By: Kris Bohm, Owner of Distillery Now Consulting

When it comes to starting a distillery or a brewery it takes money to make it happen. In most cases it can literally take millions. The cost of the equipment is a big chunk of the cost required to start up a beverage alcohol business. Most folks who start a business will buy all new equipment. An alternative to the high price tag and long lead times of new equipment is to buy used equipment. When it comes to buying used equipment there can be many hidden costs and problems that come with what outwardly appears to be an excellent deal. By seeking to understand the hidden costs and potential problems that come with used equipment you may just uncover the perfect opportunity to land a deal on the equipment you need to start your business. Our aim is to help you avoid falling into the proverbial used equipment money pit. Let’s look through key considerations of buying used equipment and explore its potential.

  There are many reasons for wanting to buy used equipment instead of new equipment for a brewery or distillery. Lead time is a strong factor that drives folks to look at used equipment. In 2022 there have been massive disruptions to supply chains across many industries. Beverage manufacturing equipment is certainly one of them. For many manufacturers of equipment they now have lead times of well over a year. That means from the time you put a deposit on equipment to that equipment being delivered will almost certainly be beyond 12 months.

The opportunity to buy used equipment and take possession of it quickly has become an attractive option as a result. The downside here is that used equipment is in high demand these days and as a result the price on used equipment has gone up.

  There are many factors to consider when looking at used equipment. Age and condition are the two that are most important. As equipment gets older it can sometimes become hard to source replacement and repair parts. In some instances replacement parts do not exist and will need to be manufactured or redesigned which can be costly. The key here is to be diligent. Take some time to talk with the manufacturer and ask if they are available and willing  to continue to support the equipment they built. Here is an example of a situation where this occurred.

  There was an equipment manufacturer (who will not be named) but we will call them Acme in this example. Acme Company built equipment that looked great but their engineering and quality of manufacturing was shoddy. Acme went out of business only several years after opening due to lawsuits from equipment buyers.  A person new to the industry bought some equipment from Acme second hand that was still in crates unused. The buyer quickly bought the new and unused equipment from a 3rd party seller at what appeared to be a good price but did not do any research. Acme is no longer in business, and buying replacement parts for the equipment is impossible. When the time came to assemble and start the equipment there were many missing parts. To make it worse the equipment needed major repairs just to function as parts of the equipment were not operable. For the folks who bought this equipment, they had to spend lots of money and time to have custom work done just to make the equipment function. The repairs and replacement parts were so costly that the buyer would have spent less money on new equipment from a reputable manufacturer. 

  If the equipment comes with automation and controls the age of the equipment is critical to consider. Some older equipment does not age well and can in fact be more outdated than an 8 track cassette player. This is not to say that old controls or automation will not work, but there is a strong chance they can break and become unrepairable. If the used equipment is decommissioned and sitting in a warehouse it may not be possible to test the controls. If the controls cannot be repaired they may likely need to be replaced. The cost of replacement can eat up the money saved from buying used in the first place. Furthermore the cost of parts on older controls can sometimes be astronomical. The best way to test this before buying it is to buy equipment that is currently operational and can be tested.

  An important consideration is the cost of relocation. The cost of taking possession of the used equipment can vary hugely from one opportunity to the next. In most cases the equipment can be removed quickly and cleanly in the hands of skilled tradesmen. Most of the time there is room to disassemble and remove the equipment and also a door that allows for easy removal. In some instances this is not that case. There are some facilities that are literally built up around the equipment. In most cases continuous column stills in distilleries are installed via crane. In these cases removal of the equipment can be quite costly and require extensive building demolition and heavy equipment to carefully extract the equipment from a building. In one instance we saw a distillery in which the column for vodka distillation was encased in a metal and glass shaft. To remove the column required extensive demolition and a crane to extract the column from the building. After reviewing a plan and considering the value of the column we found that the cost of removal and relocation was going to negate any savings from the lower cost of the used equipment. This instance was one in which the buyer backed out of the purchase after investigating the cost of relocating the equipment.

  A common question asked by those buying used equipment is why are they selling it. The owner of the equipment can be selling it for a multitude of reasons, and it is an excellent question to ask. It is common for a business to outgrow its equipment capacity and sell its equipment to make room for larger equipment. Sometimes a business is closing permanently and is selling its equipment to liquidate the business. New entrants to the industry often ask how it works to buy used equipment. The transaction of buying used equipment is straightforward.  The seller of the equipment and the potential buyer connect and work to meet an agreed upon price and terms on purchasing the equipment. The agreement will often include a written contract that stipulates what equipment is being sold, how much time is there for the equipment to be removed, timeframe for deposit and payments, details on process of decommissioning and costs associated. If the buyer of the equipment is unsure of how to approach this process it is wise to hire a group or consultant to assist with this process. Typically a 3rd party will handle the disassembly, crating and relocation of the equipment. The process of decommissioning and relocation definitely has a cost so it is important to consider this in the overall cost of purchase.

  There are many factors to be considered here before buying used equipment. Although there are stories of bad deals, there are many more stories of success. In some instances, we have seen and helped folks save tons of money through buying used equipment. We hope you will give careful consideration when buying used equipment. If you are unsure whether or not to buy used equipment, it is best to bring in a professional to aid in your assessment of a potential purchase.

Keeping an Eye on the End Game

Precision in Bottling and Canning for Craft Breweries

By: Cheryl Gray

Savvy craft brewers want problem solvers on their team, especially when it comes to bottling and canning products. 

Industry experts specializing in bottling and canning needs for breweries tout the equipment and technology to handle these tasks for operations of any size.

  One of those experts is XpressFill Systems, a long-established player whose clients, the company says, know to expect cost-saving innovations from its products and solid customer service, particularly after the point of sale. California-based XpressFill was founded in 2007 and began with the idea of solving a dilemma for small-scale wineries stuck with trying to bottle their wines by hand. It continues to service the wine industry, which surrounds the company’s facilities in San Luis Obispo.

  Today, XpressFill manufactures bottle- and can-filling systems in its San Luis Obispo plant, using top-quality components made exclusively in the United States. Its fillers come in several models, including volumetric, level fill and carbonated technology. With affordability, compact design and ease of use among its top priorities, the company continues forging ahead with new ideas to keep pace with customer needs in real-time.  

  The XFW200C is XpressFill’s latest addition to the line of filling products. Its weight-sensing technology is designed to ensure accurate fill volumes that will hit their mark every time. The importance of this precision, of course, is to avoid spills and underfills, which cost valuable production time and loss of product. 

  Rod Silver leads the company’s Sales and Marketing Division. He describes how the XFW200C is ideal for 12-ounce to 16-ounce cans. An industrial-grade touchscreen display allows the user to enter the desired weight and the technology installed keeps track of how much product fills the can. A larger flow path gives the user access to a smooth fill along with the flexibility of filling containers with almost any product of choice, including those with some level of particulates, such as flakes or small seeds. In addition to processing beer, kombucha, juice and RTD mixtures are among some of the other options.

  Twin Monkeys Beverage Systems, based in Denver, Colorado, is the brainchild of Josh Van Riper and Brian LeFevre. Their attention-grabbing moniker, along with the duo’s business model of customer-focused design, has earned Twin Monkeys a global presence in the craft brewing industry, with customers throughout North and South America, Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia.

  Both Van Riper and LeFevre have engineering backgrounds. They are focused on designing the kind of automated canning systems that didn’t exist when Van Riper was brewing craft beer.

  “I started a brewery and quickly found there were not good options for buying automated canning machines for craft breweries then (2013),”Van Riper said. “I got Brian to come to the brewery to discuss this opportunity and we then started Twin Monkeys to make affordable, high-quality automated canning systems for packaging beverages. We’ve grown to a 30-person company in a 14,000-square-foot facility, and we have over 500 canning machines strewn around the planet. I’m an automation engineer who does mostly controls engineering and mechanical concepts. Brian is a mechanical engineer. Between the two of us, we can design automated equipment from the ground up.”

  Twin Monkeys Brewing Systems offers a full range of can-fill-and-seam machines. The company offers craft brewers automation options that provide access to in-house, integrated canning lines equipped with three critical functions.

  “We are singularly focused on canning machines that do three things: fill cans, put lids on cans and seal cans. We rely on other expert companies to do things like labeling, depalletization and brewing, and we want to just perfect the three things we do over and over. We’re also creating a new customer service paradigm to provide easier and more efficient access to our knowledge for our customers.”

  Van Riper says that customer service extends to helping clients integrate their systems with a wide range of accessories.  

  “Although we only make canning machines, we consider ourselves to be systems integrators and that means we sell and support a wider range of equipment,” he said. “This provides more of a one-stop-shop model for customers to lean on us for a variety of their equipment needs. We plant 50 trees for every machine we sell, and in 2021 we became carbon neutral. We do serious work, but don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

  The process of canning and bottling craft beer also entails protecting the integrity of the product before it hits the market. That’s the role of Industrial Physics, which brands itself as the world’s leading test and inspection corporation. Armed with a global network of technical and support teams, the company’s 75-year history in quality control has guided the testing and inspection experience for some of the largest beverage corporations in the industry.

  Industrial Physics has a presence in 75 countries, with manufacturing facilities in 13 locations. Through its vast portfolio of more than a dozen testing and inspection brands, including CMC-KUHNKE, Quality By Vision, Steinfurth, Eagle Vision and TQC Sheen, test and inspection solutions are deployed to ensure premium quality control for beverage packaging, materials and products. At the same time, the company assures clients of personalized solutions for their product needs. 

  Whether a small start-up or a global name in the brewing industry, Industrial Physics says its

Testing and inspection solutions cater to every need and budget. Steve Davis, global product line director at industrial physics, has more than 20 years of engineering experience. He leads a team of experts who ensure that the equipment provided by Industrial Physics does its job.

  “When you’re dealing with bottles, cans and metal packaging, you’ll need reliable inspection machines to ensure the quality of your drinks,” Davis said. “With Industrial Physics, you’ll improve the efficiency of your processes and improve your product, saving yourself time and money and, ultimately, you’ll keep your customers happier. Through our leading brands, including CMC KUHNKE, Quality by Vision and Eagle Vision Systems, we’ve helped thousands of beverage fillers and breweries to taste success.”

  Davis went on to say, “From seam inspection and metal can testing to an inline inspection of empty and filled containers, our devices offer unmatched innovation and help you meet your quality needs. We protect the integrity of some of the biggest brands on the planet, as well as hundreds of emerging brands and everything in between. But how do we do this? By providing first-class test and inspection machines and products that check the quality of your packaging, materials and coatings.”

  Davis provides an example.  “Let’s take seam inspection. Our CMC-KUHNKE Auto XTS is a state-of-the-art, fully automated seam inspection solution. There’s nothing like it in the world, and it has the power to completely revolutionize seam solutions for your production line. We also have a wealth of smaller solutions to fit different needs and budgets.”

  The company offers instruments designed to provide functions that include double seam inspection, non-destructive seam inspection, bottle, keg and can vision inspection, abrasion testing and headspace and dissolved oxygen testing. Customer service, Davis adds, is a priority at every point of the client experience.

  “We understand that being fast, efficient and truly reliable is critical when it comes to servicing the instruments that keep your business running. And that’s why we’ve established a global network of dedicated service specialists to ensure you have an expert ready and waiting at a nearby location who can offer you support.

  Wherever you are in the world, our experts are on hand to support your needs, whatever they may be. We know that having the right people ready to help is critical. It’s critical to delivering quality and speedy service that ensures your instruments can get up and running as quickly as possible. From installation to calibration, repair and preventative maintenance, we’ve got you covered.

  We’re also passionate about being there for our customers in a more holistic way. We don’t just provide products. We’re there as a true partner. We have a wealth of solutions available across the beverage space, from metal packaging to bottles, our instruments test across an incredibly vast range of applications for many different manufacturing and laboratory needs.”

  Canning and bottling craft beer is a process that engages the expertise of filling, packaging and protecting products. Selecting the partner for one or more of these steps is not only based on budget but also depends upon which companies can accommodate the individualized needs of a craft brewery, no matter the size. Another important factor, experts say, is which company will stay with a brewery for the long run, ensuring that it can accommodate growth while not compromising on quality control. 

The Design, Production and Manufacturing of Flavored Distilled Spirits

By: Kris Bohm: Distillery Now Consulting, LLC  

Take a moment the next time you are in your local watering hole. If you peer at the bottles of spirits behind the bar, there is a particular type of spirit you are sure to find. It is not whiskey, nor rum, vodka or tequila. The bottle you will almost certainly find is some type of flavored spirit. Whether it is a peanut butter whiskey or raspberry flavored vodka there is a variety of flavored spirits to be found behind every bar. If you look around at a liquor store, you will find dozens if not hundreds of flavored spirits on the shelf. The spectrum of flavors is massive and it is well worth giving the concept of flavored spirits some consideration. Many successful manufacturers have found that flavored spirits can be sold in volume. Let’s look closer at flavored spirits and then take some plain old vodka to flavortown.

The Appeal of Flavored Spirits

  There are literally thousands of varieties of spirits that are flavored. From spiced rums to honey whiskey, and vodka in a rainbow of flavors, there are flavors galore. The process of manufacturing flavored spirits can vary widely for the type of product being made. Some processes are expensive, labor intensive and can be subject to seasonality of ingredients. Other methods of manufacturing are very simple with merely the addition of a flavor before bottling. You might be asking yourself at this point. What kind of flavored spirits should I make at my distillery? This is a tough question because no two distillers have the same answer. Let’s start to answer this question by looking at the way flavored spirits are perceived by folks.

  The average consumer chooses flavored spirits because it is easy to make a mixed drink with. A person who enjoys a cocktail often has little to no knowledge of how to make a good cocktail. This demographic of consumer will view products like a lemon flavored vodka as a spirit that can simplify the process of making a cocktail. For this example, let’s explore the humble vodka soda. This popular drink is commonly served as vodka, plus soda water, with a lemon or lime added to it. If we substitute plain old vodka for a delicious lemon vodka this product can be combined with soda water and simplify the process of making a cocktail by not requiring fresh fruit to be added to the drink.

  For some consumers the appeal of choosing a flavored spirit over a traditional spirit is both flavor and drinkability. Drinkability can be a bit fickle so let’s define “drinkability” for the sake of this article. Some consumers of spirits believe they prefer to drink spirits that are labeled as “smooth” or “easy drinking”. Spirits even at 80 proof can be perceived as hot or labeled as a spirit that “has bite” or that it “burns”. These descriptors might not be terms used by producers of spirits as fair adjectives to describe their spirits, but regardless the adjectives are often used by the general public. Many flavored spirits not only have flavors added to them, they also have sugar or other ingredients added to them that mask the detectability of the alcohol in the spirits. The addition of flavor and sugar to a spirit can make the spirit taste more smooth or have less burn to it.

  It has been proven in blind tasting panels that the addition of sugar to distilled spirits is quite effective at masking the perception of the alcohol in spirits.

This is a huge factor as to why flavored spirits are sold in such massive volume. Consumers who might not otherwise like to drink distilled spirits find flavored spirits to be more pleasant to drink.

How to Make a Flavored Spirit

Distilling with Real Ingredients:  Smaller craft distilleries will sometimes use fresh ingredients to produce a flavored spirit that is deemed “authentic” or “artisanal”. One example is a fresh lime vodka made by a distillery in California. This spirit is produced by macerating fresh locally grown limes in a neutral spirit then redistilling that spirit to produce a flavored vodka. This method is quite effective and the resulting lime flavored vodka is quite delicious. On the down side this method is labor intensive and subject to the seasonality of the fruit. This can create limitations in production capacity and in some cases be cost prohibitive to produce.

Extracts for Flavoring:  A method employed successfully by large distilleries to produce flavored spirits is the use of extract based flavors. Extract flavored products are built in a tank where a measured amount of neutral spirit has water, sugar and extract flavor added to it to create a flavored spirit. This method is simple, scalable and economical. There are several flavor companies in the US and abroad that manufacture extract flavors that are TTB approved and meant specifically for flavoring of distilled spirits. These extracts are easy to work with and can fast track the production of flavored spirits. This method is a very economical way to manufacture them, when compared to using real, fresh ingredients to add flavor.

Quality Assurance Process:  Quality assurance, also known as QA, is the testing of a product before it is released to the market. There are many pitfalls in this process that must be navigated prior to release. Once a concept has been created for the production of a flavored spirit it is essential that rigorous product development and quality assurance testing takes place. Testing of the spirits for faults, flaws or problems is essential to the success and commercial viability of the product.

  Let’s look at an example of a failed QA in product development. A distiller once hit upon the idea of a flavored vodka and quickly rushed to take the product to market. The product was a strawberry flavored vodka and it was made by soaking freshly picked strawberries in vodka, then filtering the vodka and bottling the product. The result of this process was a vodka that had a beautiful light pink hue and an aroma of fresh strawberries. The product was instantly a hit and the distiller sold lots of it through their tasting room and to distribution. Not long after the launch of this product the complaints began to roll in. Customers complained that their bright pink vodka turned an unsavory shade of yellow. Liquor store owners demanded refunds for the vodka. Upon tasting the ugly discolored vodka there were no flaws to be found in flavor or aroma, but the color was downright off-putting. In the end the distillery recalled and bought back the product and shortly thereafter discontinued the production of their strawberry vodka.

All of this could have been avoided if they had a better QA process

Legal Considerations:  There is some legal navigation required when it comes to manufacturing flavored spirits. The TTB requires a formula to be submitted and approved before that spirit is allowed to be sold.  Part of the TTB formula process is the review of the ingredients used in the manufacture of a flavored spirit. Ingredients used in a flavored spirit must be approved by the FDA as an ingredient that is on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list. It is important in product development that one makes sure the ingredients they intend to use are approved by the FDA and TTB for use in distilled spirits. In the case of using extract based flavors, these extracts should be TTB approved. Ask your flavor manufacturer in advance if the flavors they are providing are approved by the TTB. Some flavor companies have thousands of TTB approved flavors. This multitude of options afford a distillery the opportunity to make a flavored spirit of almost any flavor they can dream up.

Let’s Go to Flavortown:  Now you have a better understanding of a few methods used to make flavored spirits, along with some of the guidelines and restrictions around production. You have the basic tools you need to start working on producing flavored spirits at your distillery. There is a huge opportunity to sell flavored spirits and one that we encourage you to take. Flavored spirits are the gateway to flavortown and it’s a place many successful distilleries go. If you need some help making your own flavored spirits drop us a line.

TANK & TANK SYSTEMS: Streamline Production and Maintenance

By: Cheryl Gray

The tanks and tank systems that support the production of the brews and spirits of the craft beverage industry work to keep the quality and safety of those beverages on target.

  No matter the size or brand of the tanks involved, craft brewers and distillers want optimal results and a minimalistic cleaning and maintenance routine to ensure productivity goes uninterrupted. Some companies cater to the industry to provide multiple options.

  Among them is Quality Tank Solutions (QTS), headquartered 35 miles outside of Milwaukee. The company, founded a decade ago, is a stainless-steel tank manufacturer. Jimmi Jean Sukys is the

company’s owner.

  “We are about 100 employees in size and we serve the brewing, food and beverage, dairy and pharmaceutical industries,” Sukys said. “Aside from manufacturing, we also install and repair stainless steel vessels. Our talented engineering team helps you refine your process by increasing efficiency, quality and cleanability.”

  QTS provides a wide range of complete stainless-steel tanks and tank systems for craft breweries, whether it is a start-up or an established brewery. This includes custom-built brewhouses with two to four vessels of 3-1/2BBL to 100BBL in size. The systems are configured to accommodate any height or space restrictions. Standard construction offers features that include either manual or fully automated operation and either steam or direct fire. QTS also supplies brewhouse equipment, such as boilers, chillers, keg washers, bottling lines and walk-in coolers. Sukys explains what additional innovations set QTS apart, including the top-priority use of high-quality materials, efficiency and cleanability.

  “Our QTS cellar tanks are versatile and are completely customizable to meet your specific needs,” Sukys said. “The tank system industry has been around for some time now. What QTS has brought to the table, in just 10 years of service, is consistent and trustworthy results with emphasis on quality standards. Our tanks are engineered and manufactured in Wisconsin, USA using only U.S. stainless steel. Tank longevity is a priority. QTS is with you every step of the way. Even after you receive your tanks, we can help you install, repair or expand. Our expert team members offer amazing customer service.”

  Solid customer service and buying American-made products are among the reasons behind Potomac Distillery’s decision to buy tanks and tank equipment from Idaho-based Corson Distilling Systems, Inc. The Washington D.C.-headquartered distillery is the home base for Thrasher’s Rum, which takes its moniker from owner Todd Thrasher.  “I worked with Corson because I wanted to source American-made products,” said Thrasher.

Corson Distilling Systems is a family-owned business founded a little over a decade ago by brothers Josh and Tory Corson. Today, the company hand-builds each system from materials that include raw stainless steel and copper. The firm also turned to SOLIDWORKS Premium 3D design software to boost its output, streamlining the process of creating models and drawing files while supporting automatic configurations of equipment designs within the SOLIDWORKS products family. Combining the productivity of SOLIDWORKS with another technology solution, COUNTERPART ERP, shaved off a considerable workload and further streamlined processes for the team of draftsmen responsible for the products sold by Corson Distilling Systems, Inc.

  Breweries count on a variety of tanks and tank equipment to get their products out. That includes brew kettles, lauter tuns, mash tanks and more. 

  QTS brew kettles feature what the company describes as a steam-driven Omega Heat Transfer Surface Jacket. The company touts this feature as one that allows precision boiling designed to eliminate over-boiling, which can negatively affect the final product. In addition to some of the other features that are standard on QTS products, its brew kettle standard features include a vent stack with DMS drain, flanged and dished top head, shallow cone bottom and a vortex breaker. 

  Options include a combination brew kettle and whirlpool, so-called “China-hat” assembly, direct fire and vent stack installation. The company’s whirlpool tanks can either stand alone or be combined with other functions. They are customized to handle a brewery’s system capacity. Standard features incorporate many of those offered in other products by QTS, along with a feature known as Trub Guard. The whirlpool tanks can be customized to combine the functions of a whirlpool tank with a brew kettle.

  The company also offers steam-driven calandrias designed to achieve boiling point temperatures without using a heat transfer surface jacket. The calandrias are made of a cylindrical shell and a tube design that is custom-sized to meet the requirements of breweries of virtually any size. The calandrias feature an insulated shell and tube design, accessible flanged ends, a square tube frame with adjustable feet and an optional flexible design to fit a brew house.

  Mash tanks by QTS include standard features such as flanged and dished top head, turbine agitation, glass stop manway, tank light, side wall baffles, shallow cone bottom, NORD gear drive, removable CIP assembly, steam jackets and, of course, 3-A standards. Options include a combination mash and lauter tun, a hydrator and a knife gate.

  The company’s lauter tuns incorporate a tight wedge screen wire fit at the bottom of the vessel, which is designed to eliminate the possibility of the screen bending under the pressure of a heavy mash bed.

  This tight tolerance design prevents excess grains from seeping through the screen. Features of the QTS lauter tuns include gear drive and agitation, which are configured based on the size of the vessel. Other standard construction features include a freeboard above grain bed depth, flanged and dished top head, shallow cone bottom, rake assembly with plow bar, glass top manway, tank light, removable CIP assembly, rectangle side entry manway and wedge widescreen false bottom. Optional features are a combination mash and lauter tun and underscreen CIP.

  Lager tanks designed by QTS feature a horizontal design that the company touts as more efficient since the tanks have more surface area coverage. The lager tanks feature flanged and dished heads, an insulated vessel design, a heat transfer surface jacket, a quarter-inch thick formed saddle with adjustable feet and an oval swing-in manway. They also have a removable CIP assembly with a “whirly spray” device and come fully equipped with a PRV, sample valve, butterfly valves and a CIP accessory. Available options include a stacked tank design and a visual sight gauge assembly.

  For distilleries, QTS offers custom-made hot and cold liquor tanks with features that include flanged and dished top heads, an insulated vessel, a round cross-arm manway, a heat transfer surface jacket, overflow control, F&D and flat-pitched bottoms.

Options include a visual sight gauge and an immersion heater. 

  One QTS product used for adding ingredients during the brewing process is the QTS Q-Bot. It can be used as a dry hop or slurry vessel. The tank’s flexibility helps in the work of adding ingredients at different points in the production process. Among its features are a shallow cone top head, a 24-inch round pressure manway, interchangeable perforated baskets in sizes of one-eighth, one-fourth and one-half inches, a tangential side inlet, a rolled push ring and caster wheels.

  Cleaning tanks and the accompanying equipment are very important, not only for protecting the investment in production, but also for protecting the distillery products. At Potomac Distillery, Thrasher favors a non-chemical approach to cleaning his tanks, which he says are all jacketed.

  “We clean the still and fermentation tanks about once a month. We typically use a combination of water and citric acid and then clean again with distilled water.”

  Experts say that designing, manufacturing, installing and maintaining tanks and their accompanying equipment is done with a combination of craftsmanship, innovation and ever-evolving technology. The aim, of course, is to preserve the products that craft brewers and distillers pour their time and resources into making and getting ready for market.

Inviting Sustainability into The Vodka Industry

By: Tina Karras, Founder & Owner — Tina’s Vodka

As a founder and owner of a vodka distillery, I regularly contemplate our industry’s sustainability. I want people to have what they enjoy, but I also want a future for our planet.

  The process of sourcing, making, and packaging alcohol has environmental implications that we can no longer afford to ignore. It varies by the liquor and production method, but the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable’s research reveals that each 750-milliliter bottle of liquor produces an average of 6.5 pounds of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. This cannot continue.

Sourcing Sustainable Ingredients Through Regenerative Agriculture

  I’ve always been disheartened by the nagging fear that nothing I did as a single business owner would impact the global environment. However, after watching the documentary “Kiss the Ground,” I am hopeful at last. This film asserts that if we commit to changes that regenerate our planet’s soil, we will simultaneously balance our changing climate, replenish the Earth’s water supply, prevent species extinction, and raise more abundant crops. Here, at last, is a film with solutions that leaves me optimistic about our planet’s future.

  The documentary inspired me to embrace regenerative agriculture in my vodka production process and spread the news to others. This type of farming is not new by any means. Instead of industrial farming methods that deplete the land with a lack of biodiversity, pesticides, and fertilizers, regenerative agriculture applies traditional farming methods to maintain healthy soil, plants, and water. It seeks to reverse environmental damage through no-till systems, crop diversity, planned livestock grazing, and biosequestration (the method of trapping and storing carbon in plants, microbes, and other organisms).

If We Implement These Solutions, We Will See A Rapid Shift In Our Planet’s Health

  Regenerative agriculture is the simplest way to heal the soil, and soil health is the key to solving the climate problem. If every alcoholic beverage producer sourced grain from fields farmed with regenerative agriculture and bio-sequestration, massive amounts of CO2 would be drawn down into the soil and out of the atmosphere. Tilling fields for corn, wheat, barley, rice, and other ingredients we source for our products releases massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. No-till plows can plant those seeds without allowing CO2 to escape. The healthy soil that resulted would capture carbon and reduce runoff. If we keep the soil covered and healthy, CO2 remains in the ground where it belongs.

Resistance to Regenerative Farming and Organic Ingredients in the Liquor Industry

  Leading scientists and soil experts claim that capturing atmospheric carbon and replenishing the Earth is possible with the technology we already have. Unfortunately, this type of farming faces strong opposition, and many remain resistant to change. I haven’t yet seen regenerative agriculture become a significant part of the spirits industry. Perhaps this is because organic, non-GMO corn is simply more expensive to produce than GMO corn.

  Today’s farmers are able to keep the cost of industrial agriculture low through the extensive use of harmful chemicals. These become necessary because their way of farming creates an ecosystem centered around only one crop. Over time, it depletes the soil of nutrients and throws the environment out of balance. Natural ecosystems are filled with a variety of plants and animals, each designed to keep the others in harmony. When massive amounts of one plant cover an area, it is natural for predatory insects and weeds to move in and take advantage of the surplus. In an effort to protect their crops, farmers spray tons of poisonous pesticides and herbicides on the fields. To replace nutrients in the soil, they turn to harmful fertilizers. 

  For example, glyphosate has had a major impact on the production of corn for vodka. For over four decades, this chemical has been the leading tool farmers in the United States used for killing weeds before planting their corn. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), glyphosate — the main ingredient in Roundup — has become the most widely-used herbicide in the US since 2001.

  The problem was that this chemical killed all plants indiscriminately. In response, scientists created “Roundup-Ready” crops in 1996. Genetically engineered plants were then able to tolerate the herbicide. After this, farmers could spray their entire cornfield without worrying about being selective. Today, farmers who grow Roundup-Ready GMO crops use glyphosate as a desiccant to speed up their harvesting timetable. Spraying their plants with the herbicide kills the crop, causes it to dry out sooner, and produces more consistent yields. This allows them to harvest crops as much as two weeks earlier than they could have otherwise, which proves to be an advantage in colder climates.

  Exactly how glyphosate impacts long-term human health is still being debated, even though its use has increased almost 20-fold during the last two decades. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declares that glyphosate is a carcinogen. The IARC also claims that Roundup is linked to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism.

  Regenerative farming employs biodiversity to control weeds and pests. It is more expensive, but the cost is worth it. When spirit brands embrace this way of farming, they discover exciting benefits. In addition to the environmental gains, they will also be pleasantly surprised by a vast improvement in the quality of their product. Vodka made with organic corn and without added sugar simply tastes better, since it has its own natural sweetness. There are no additives — just organic corn and water.

  The best way to ensure the corn and grains sourced for the production of spirits are organic and farmed sustainably is to purchase them locally. Eliminating the need for transporting large volumes of grain over long distances is also a way to reduce the liquor industry’s carbon footprint.

  Despite the cost, a growing number of farmers are looking into the possibility of producing their crops with sustainable farming methods and regenerative practices. Because of the damage that has already been inflicted on our planet and the harmful practices still going on today, regenerative farming requires commitment. Some of these farmers have to spend up to three seasons restoring the soil in their fields. On top of this, many are forced to plant a 25-foot buffer crop to block the overspray of pesticides from neighboring farms. It is time for the liquor industry to show these farmers our support.

  Farming is inherently risky, and farmers are resistant to change. When you ask them to do something they have never done before, especially when neighboring farmers aren’t doing it, you are asking a lot of them. It’s hard for farmers to learn new techniques because so many of them are already working another job to avoid losing their farm. Greater education is key to getting more farmers to adopt regenerative practices.

  The best means of persuading large farms to commit to regenerative agriculture is by demonstrating that it makes financial sense. If large distilleries can work out long-term contracts to source grains directly from the farm, it could be a win-win scenario for both parties. The distillery could share a regenerative story about the farm and about their product. Likewise, if a farmer knows there is demand for sustainable ingredients, they will be willing to meet it. There are so many positive stories that can come out of these partnerships.

Reducing Waste in the Distilling Process

  Sourcing quality ingredients is paramount because it offers us a chance to restore our planet’s health. However, the most unsustainable part of liquor production is distillation. It leaves us with waste products that are harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly.

  Inspired by shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic, some distilleries began turning these waste products into hand sanitizer and are still doing so even after the commercial producers restocked the shelves. I have known certain distilleries to give away a bottle of sanitizer with every purchase.

  Distilleries are also forming partnerships with industries such as fish farms, livestock farmers, and bakeries to put waste grain and water products to good use. At TimberFish Technologies, spent grain is converted into fish food and pumped into growth tanks brimming with speckled trout, Atlantic salmon, and shrimp. Distilleries also send waste products to farms that raise livestock — often the same farms where they purchased their grain initially. Upcycled waste products are not just for animals. Bakeries use mash to make sourdough bread and grain byproducts to make flour.

  Other distilleries are exploring ways of reusing their waste products to keep the machines running. Converting waste into energy can be achieved by an anaerobic digester system that uses waste to produce methane. Cyclically, this methane helps to fuel the very distillation process that produces it.

Reducing The Impact Of The Liquor Industry’s Packaging Materials

  After distillation, packaging is the second most significant environmental challenge in our industry. A 2019 assessment finds the carbon footprint of glass vodka bottles accounts for 43 percent of the product’s carbon footprint. Recyclable PET plastic bottles account for around 27%.

  Ideas for making the packaging of our products more sustainable include recycled glass and cork. Larger distilleries are funding research into biodegradable bottles, recycled paper-plastic hybrid bottles, and plastic bottles made from wood pulp.

Hope for a Sustainable Future in the Liquor Industry

  As more and more of our consumers become aware of climate change and its implications, they are adopting a new understanding of what it means to drink responsibly. Today, people are reading labels. They are aware that their purchases have an impact on our planet and want to know where their food and beverages come from. We should give them the opportunity to make a difference with the products we provide.

  There is a new climate story that is optimistic and simple, and the liquor industry can be part of it. If we learn how to support sustainably-farmed ingredients, manage our waste products responsibly, and package our products in environmentally-conscious ways, we don’t have to live in fear.

New Brewery, Winery or Distillery Start Up

By: Kris Bohm: Distillery Now Consulting, LLC  

Starting up a new beverage alcohol business is hard. Whether making beer, wine, or spirits, the challenges are daunting and upfront costs are huge. No one takes the leap to start a new business knowing it will fail, but many of them will. Based on industry data, up to 40% of new beverage alcohol businesses fail. To create a successful business, there is a common question that arises during the planning phase of launching a new beverage alcohol business.

What is the difference between a successful business and one that fails?

  This massively important question should be answered early on for a new business. In doing so, key strategies will be defined for the business from the beginning as it ventures forward. In the following paragraphs, you will find not only the answer to this question, but also a further analysis of successful business practices.

Defining Success: Let’s take a moment to define and measure success in a beverage alcohol business. This definition applies whether in a brewery, winery, or a distillery. These measurements of success will allow us to look closer at the internal workings of the business. As you look closer you will find common traits among nearly every business that is successful. For the sake of this article we will narrowly define success using the specific individual metrics of profitability, sustainability and velocity.

Profitability: The first key metric and measurement of success is profitability. A business must either be profitable, or at a minimum near self-sustaining, with revenue covering the cost of operating the business. Achieving profitability is one of the biggest metrics that defines success. Reaching profitability is essential, as every successful business must be self-sustaining after a certain amount of time. If a business is not profitable for too long of time, it is almost certain to fail.

Sustainability: A successful business must be sustainable in the capacity to produce the products it intends to sell. To clarify, we do not mean sustainability from an environmental impact or energy usage standpoint. Sustainability in this model means the ability to sustain and meet demand for products through growth. For a business model to be sustainable the equipment must have the capacity to grow and meet new demand as the company grows. The reason this metric is so essential is that most businesses must grow to reach profitability. If your business cannot sustain growth it most likely can not grow to become profitable.

Velocity: A business needs to have regular sales to provide consistent revenue for the business. Velocity is a measurement of how quickly your business is turning raw materials into finished goods and selling those goods. High velocity of product means there will be more consistent cash flow for the business. As product velocity increases it is followed by increases in revenue and often economies of scale. Both of which help a business become successful.

Tripod Business Model: Most businesses achieve some of these measures of success, but not too many will achieve them all. Among those who do succeed in meeting all three, there is a common thread that these successful businesses share. They will usually have three separate divisions that perform distinct business activities. These three divisions are production, sales, and marketing. This concept we will refer to as the tripod business model. If the top of a tripod is a successful beverage alcohol business as measured by our success metrics, then there almost always exists these three divisions in the business that make up equally important legs that hold up the business. If you remove any of the three legs, it only leaves the business on two unstable legs, and in time the business will fall and is likely to fail. It is easy to take this observation and call it as incorrect, but if one was to look closely at established successful beverage alcohol businesses they would find truth in this observation.

  When a sizable amount of time and resources are heavily invested into sales and marketing, the business has a strong probability that it will flourish. Often the business will flourish so strongly that production will often feel constrained in the resources it needs to meet the demand of the business. This is the correct way to invest time, financial resources and manpower to grow. If too many resources are dedicated to production in most instances production will have far too much capacity and there will not be enough demand for product to keep production running near its capacity.

  Now that we have defined some measures of success and the business practices that support them, let’s look closer at the three practices that hold up a successful beverage alcohol business, through the lens of a distillery.

SALES: Sales is essential and paramount to the success of nearly any business that has a product they sell. It can be the easier path for a new distillery to focus on their production with a plan to only sell spirits through a tasting room or cocktail lounge that is part of the distillery. A business plan like this can work, but it has a low ceiling that will often restrict a distillery from growing to a successful level. Real sales of considerable volume come from a distillery selling products in the same market as its competitors. This means working to sell spirits in liquor stores, bars, restaurants and other venues. In this market there is immense competition. The only way to compete in the larger spirits market is by investing into sales. This means having people working for your business who are full time employees whose job is to pull your spirits through the market and drive sales.

MARKETING: Marketing is the driving force that directly links to the success of sales. Marketing can come in a multitude of forms, some obvious and some not so obvious. Public facing platforms, such as social media, websites, billboards, magazines, newspapers, and influencers are all forms of marketing in action. The more a consumer or target consumer encounters a brand, the higher the chance that the consumer will buy your brand. Without an active marketing plan in place, consumers will quickly lose sight of your brand. A strong marketing plan and the person or people to continually implement, monitor, and drive a marketing plan is paramount to achieving success. Marketing is the key difference that will take a brand to the next level and keep pulling it up from there. Although it can be easy to not put an emphasis on channeling resources to marketing, it would be a mistake to do so. Many businesses have launched with little to no resources committed to marketing. Often these launches feel successful, but by our measurements are in fact not truly successful. Oftentimes the business will get going and be selling some amounts of product but in most instances a lack of marketing will cause a business to plateau quickly.

PRODUCTION: This practice of manufacturing is easy to give too much focus in the business of distilling. Whether you are distilling whiskey from scratch or bottling sourced spirits, the production part of this business is extremely important. While production is absolutely paramount to the business, this does not mean that the bulk of resources the business has should be invested into the production of spirits, nor the labor or equipment to produce the spirits. If the bulk of resources go towards production thus starving sales and marketing, there will invariably be a lack of sales to cover the costs of production. Now the manufacturing of distilled spirits is in no way inexpensive. Considerable resources have to go to production for it to function. We are trying to urge you to consider all resources the business has and properly allocate them to all three practices.

The battle between the practices: If you ask most folks who work in this industry, whether they work in sales, marketing, or production, they will all likely tell you that their business function is the most important to the success of the business. To be fair, all these folks can probably make a reasonably sound argument to support that statement. It is normal that there is some friction between all three practices because they all have unique functions and priorities that often do not align with one another. For a business to be successful, production, sales, and marketing must work together to achieve the goals of the business. When common goals are shared it is much easier for each part of the business to work in harmony.

The Do’s & Don’ts of Cleaning Barrels

By: Cheryl Gray

Knowing precisely how to clean and sanitize a barrel means avoiding certain disasters, save time and protect the product.  Cutting corners means inviting contamination, a surefire way to destroy an otherwise saleable product. By contrast, proper cleaning and sanitizing ensure a pristine, bacteria-free barrel, which means the product inside is safe from unwanted microorganisms and undesirable flavors. At the same time, the barrel enjoys a longer life. Experts say that maintaining barrels through proper cleaning and sanitizing also contributes to avoiding leaks, another costly product loss.

  Since barrels are one of the most expensive beverage production costs, it pays to know companies that understand their unique cleaning and sanitizing requirements. Among them is California-based  STEAMERICAS, whose Optima Steamer™ was born out of a unique process of reimagining old technology. Company owner Yujin Anderson touts the multiple benefits of that innovation.

  “The Optima Steamer™ was born over 15 years ago when we saw the need for a machine that generated much less waste water runoff than a typical pressure washer. We saw the hot water pressure washer market audience who had trouble with wastewater runoff and identified that dry steam machines were mostly only available in the residential or professional size or performance level that can’t keep up with continuous all-day use.

  My father, who was a marine boiler engineer, basically altered a commercial/industrial-sized pressure washer and retrofitted it with a patented dry steam boiler to give customers who asked for hot water pressure washers that are compatible with winter usage. The Optima Steamer™ is a revolutionary machine that increases water temperature beyond the 212 degrees Fahrenheit boiling point to create saturated and super-heated steam with minimal preheating time. The result is a highly effective, sanitizing methodology that destroys harmful microorganisms and reduces water usage from an average of three to four gallons a minute to 0.08 gallons without introducing any chemicals.”

  Anderson explains that people oftentimes confuse cleaning a barrel with sanitizing it. However, there is, she says, a definite difference.

  “Sanitizing and cleaning are two different processes. While you can measure cleaning results with naked eyes, you can’t with sanitizing. Hence, you may easily skip the sanitizing process. This is a big mistake. Barrels, especially, have pores, and microorganisms unaddressed can spread beyond the surface level, which is very challenging to remove.

  For sanitizing, you can introduce a choice of chemicals (including chlorine, acid and ozone) that dissolve in water and have the liquid in contact with the barrel’s interior surface. However, the recent trend is to avoid chemical treatment to avoid altering the taste and quality of the product. 

  Dry steam is undoubtedly the most effective way to control microorganisms on most materials, especially barrel staves. Steam generators can reduce both water (steam uses only one to two gallons per barrel) and energy use, and they are helpful for general cleaning in addition to barrel cleaning. Dry steam is saturated steam, where over 97 percent of the water has been converted into a gas, rather than wet steam or boiling water like plant steam.”

  Anderson describes how dry steam goes beyond the surface interior of a barrel to destroy harmful bacteria that the naked eye can’t see.

  “Dry steam penetrates into the pores of barrels to kill pathogens, like Brettanomyces, Zygosaccharomyces and other microorganisms, even those that can survive water heated to 160 degrees. For example, most brewers use sanitization of some sort, but some brewers aren’t taking advantage of implementing a dry-steam method. Instead, many use plant steam, which is unsaturated wet steam or technically a liquid. Plant steam doesn’t reach lethal temperatures to kill bacteria inside barrels. Dry steam penetrates a quarter-inch deep into wood pores. It penetrates deeper than hot water or chemicals and with better efficiency at removing sediments deposited in the pores.”    

  Anderson adds that the dry steam method deployed by the Optima Steamer™ also saves time and money.

  “Barrels can be in dry storage or wet storage. Both involve sulfur dioxide in the form of gas (dry) or diluted in water (wet). After storage, barrels should be rinsed, rehydrated (swelled), checked for leaks and drained before use. Using water, the rehydration process takes 60 gallons of water and 48-plus hours. Dry steam can shorten this process down to under 30 minutes and one to two gallons of water. Best of all, rehydration and sanitizing happen at the same time with dry steam.”

  Being in California means that STEAMERICAS is near wine country, where the company found its initial clients. Breweries and soft drink companies followed. Anderson says that dry

steam offers distinct solutions for each client.

  “The biggest selling point of dry steam may be different for each clientele. For example, for distillers and craft brewers, the main reason for dry steam is to rehydrate barrels, vats and foeders as quickly and efficiently as possible. For winemakers, controlling unwanted microorganisms, such as Brettanomyces, is the biggest reason they may introduce dry steam to their facility. For larger facilities, typically saving time while the food safety standards are met is the most important.”

  Many companies that source barrels for clients also recommend dry steam as a preferred method of sanitizing their products. One of them is Northeast Barrel Company, located in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, northwest of Philadelphia. The barrel-sourcing company has a second showroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, serving its West Coast customers. Its product line includes previously used barrels and racks, bungs, foeders, tanks and even barrels used exclusively for decor.

  While most of its wine barrels are sourced from wineries throughout California, Northeast Barrel Company travels around the globe sourcing other craft beverage barrels previously containing whiskies, tequilas, bourbons, rums, mezcals and brandies from countries that include Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, Portugal and Jamaica, to name a few. Since the barrels have been previously used and have housed all sorts of beverages, the importance of properly cleaning and sanitizing them is tantamount to the company’s existing and prospective clients. Co-owner Pat Tramontano says that dry steam is the way to go.

  “We have a dry steam generator that we use on our barrels. The generator pressurizes the barrels with steam. This not only kills any present bacteria but allows us to check for leaks. It is an excellent tool, and I recommend it to anyone in the beverage industry with a large-scale barrel program.”

  Black Swan Cooperage is a family-owned barrel-making enterprise located in Northern

Minnesota and founded in 2009. The company creates hand-crafted barrels for distilleries, breweries and wineries across the United States. Black Swan Cooperage makes its custom barrels in a variety of sizes, ranging from five gallons to 53 gallons, with multiple charging and toasting levels. The cooperage also promotes its barrels as having staves that are the largest patented surface area of any staves currently available.

  Co-founder and owner Heidi Korb learned the business of crafting barrels from her father, Russ Karusch, a master cooper. Among those lessons is how to properly clean and sanitize barrels.

  “Ideally, if you can plan for your barrels to not ever sit empty, you will have fewer problems. However, this is likely not realistic for all. If you properly clean your barrel between uses, this will dramatically increase the life of your barrel. If a barrel is well kept, it can be used indefinitely. It will eventually no longer add flavor but will still be good to hold and age spirits. If a barrel is not properly stored and kept clean, it can go sour and start to grow mold. Once this happens, usually no amount of cleaning and sanitizing can save it.”

  In short, those who create, source, clean and sanitize barrels agree that shortcuts do not lead to a long life for one of the most expensive costs in craft beverage production. Rather, those shortcuts can destroy not only the barrel but the entire contents inside. Experts say that a clean and sanitized barrel is best achieved with dry steam, a growing industry standard used to ensure that barrels are absent from the destructive microorganisms that can escape any other cleaning and sanitizing method.

Trends in Beverage Packaging to Look Out For in 2022

By: Preston Geeting

Building healthy lives entails nourishing our bodies, both mentally and physically. As such, the beverage industry will continue to be an essential component in improving the health of societies across the globe for as long as we call it home. More presently, however, the products we choose to consume from brands in today’s world often reflect our own personal values.

  Packaging plays a huge role in how impactful a product is on its target audience. Much of the information regarding what is considered healthy or not is often presented on the packaging of consumable beverage products, so their packaging must clearly communicate how it reflects the values of individual consumers. This makes the packaging industry a crucial component of the beverage industry.

  According to MarketWatch, the beverage packaging industry, in particular, is expected to reach a value of $142.28 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 4.17%, a significant growth from $111.36 billion in 2017. This growth can be credited to the constant demand for groundbreaking, trendy beverage packaging across both industry sectors of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

  Each sector serves as a quintessential example of the beverage industry’s permanent dependency on the packaging industry, fostering a crucial and long-lasting partnership between the two. Thus, companies must now shift their focus on the ever-changing trends within both industries, while simultaneously aligning with the demands of consumer markets to maintain a competitive edge.

  A product’s packaging often complements its brand image and desired messaging, empowering a brand to sell not merely a product, but a lifestyle to its target audience. In the era of 2022, with headlines abuzz with topics encompassing Web 3.0, the Metaverse, and other digital innovations, product packaging that may be deemed ‘Instagrammable’ or trend-worthy is far more appealing to consumers than those perceived as more “traditional” or mundane.

  In the beverage industry, packaged products often reflect what value the brand can add to a consumer’s life, and how that value complements or enhances their current lifestyle. What makes your product unique enough to stand out on the shelves, compared to hundreds of others, relies almost entirely on the impact of its packaging.

  Additionally, in the luxury beverage space — such as high-end alcohol brands — product packaging is the first element consumers interact with showcasing why the product is desirable. Nightclubs and bars are excellent examples of this. In these settings, the most sought-after alcohol purchased is typically the one that stands out the most and similarly emulates a high-class, sought-after, yet rarely-obtained lifestyle.

  In the case of non-alcoholic beverage packaging, the packaging must communicate why one brand is better than another. This is commonly seen with packaging for companies that sell water. Although water is rarely perceived as little more than a standard beverage, all the details of its product packaging — from visual designs and colors to its sourced location, packaging material, and more — can spell the difference between its sales stagnating or skyrocketing. Other factors listed on the product’s packaging, such as the brand’s sustainability efforts or even the sheer convenience of its packaging, likewise play a key role in targeting specific consumer markets.

  For example, plastic water bottles that have a twist-off top may be less desirable to consumers in comparison to those boasting a sports-bottle style cap. Furthermore, sustainably-packaged water, or reusable metal water bottles, might be more appealing to eco-conscious consumers.

  The trends witnessed within both the beverage and packaging industry are constantly evolving alongside a growing consumer market. These industries must continue to work harmoniously to understand what makes consumers tick. Competition is always intense in the beverage industry, and companies spend immense periods researching competitors, as well as the needs and wants of consumers, to ensure that standards are met through superior packaging.

  Packaging must serve a purpose other than simply protecting products in retail stores or back-of-house storage to be memorable and appealing. The little details are essential regarding a beverage’s packaging, and these seemingly small details can have a significant impact on sales.  With all of this in mind, here are the top ten trends in beverage packaging to look out for in 2022.

1. Biodegradable Packaging:  Biodegradable packaging comprises of biopolymers, which are often found in the cellulose of plants. Since this form of packaging comes from plants, they easily decompose naturally over time in comparison to plastic packaging. Traditional plastic packaging, unfortunately, never decomposes. Instead, it slowly breaks down into microplastics which often wind up in our oceans or, even worse, our food.

  Recently, it was found that microplastics were detected in human bloodstreams. While this hasn’t been directly tied to plastic packaging, single-use plastics — such as those frequently utilized in beverage packaging — have been a significant cause of ocean-dwelling microplastics.

  To combat this, companies like Boxed Water Is Better are taking an active stance in ensuring that their product packaging is decomposable to fight the ever-growing single-use plastic issue; an issue which has also been recognized across various consumer markets. Throughout 2022, expect more beverage companies to release (or, at least, announce) their products being packaged in a similar, more sustainable manner.

2. Internet of Packaging or Smart Packaging:  Internet of packaging, or innovative packaging, comprises the integration of QR codes, smart labels, RFID, and AR/VR into packaging technology. The industry will begin to see the next evolution of packaging personalization through technology, especially QR codes, as adoption rates have soared since the pandemic in 2020.

  An example of this is 19 Crimes, a famous Australian wine company that has become a global phenomenon that works with celebrities like Snoop Dogg to craft fine wines, with each one telling a new story. The bottles of wine are brought to life via AR integration with a mobile app. Once labels are scanned via the app, it tells consumers the tales of notorious criminals through a pop-up video. Several coffee suppliers in the Australian market have begun implementing this method to provide consumers with a story element behind the type of coffee they purchase. This informs consumers who advocate for ethical and sustainable farming practices that the product they purchased aligns with their personal values.

  For another example of this trend, imagine purchasing a bottle of wine as a gift. If the bottle has a scannable QR code, the sender can write a message, and the recipient can see the message enclosed in the app. This eliminates the need to send additional paper cards and advances the gifting process.

  From a design perspective, we will quickly begin to see more minimalistic styles as a direct result of QR codes; if brands design packaging to have a QR code containing all the written content, it eradicates the overwhelming amount of information consumers currently see on packaging. And because product information is often small, making readability an issue, QR codes could also add an element of accessibility.

3. Recyclable Packaging:  Recyclable packaging is similar to sustainable and biodegradable packaging; it helps the environment and appeals to more environmentally-conscious consumers. However, biodegradable packaging merely degrades, whereas recyclable packaging can be reused, making it more sustainable in the long run.

  One new interesting element of recyclable packaging not seen typically is referred to as circular packaging. Circular packaging is forecasted to become an industry trend, as it utilizes a single layer for the packaging, rather than multiple layers, significantly reducing waste in the process. Along with this reduction in waste, circular packaging encourages companies to optimize the materials used in their packaging, maximize and amplify supply, and protect brands while inspiring them to make a significant impact against high-waste packaging.

4. Edible Packaging:  In 2019, London marathon runners made headlines worldwide after news broke that they were provided with seaweed pouches filled with energy drinks, rather than plastic water bottles. This enabled them to consume their water and leave zero waste. While edible packaging may not yet be very common, this example highlights how such a trend can genuinely help niche industries advance and make a difference — both for the environment and consumers.

5. Custom Packaging:  Beverage brands looking to differentiate themselves from competitors are increasingly utilizing custom packaging platforms to meet their needs. These platforms eliminate the physical component of fully-stocked warehouses, offering beverage manufacturers, brand owners, and suppliers with streamlined tools that both align with their marketing initiatives, and efficiently and effectively deliver eye-catching packaging for their products. This simplified process is quickly gaining traction across the beverage industry, providing companies with a one-stop-shop for their custom packaging solutions.

6. Active Packaging:  Active packaging consists of new technological techniques that extend the shelf-life of products, especially in the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. Active packaging works by interacting directly with the packaged product and is designed to eradicate residual oxygen, bringing the product to a level where there is zero-permeation. This trend could lead to increasing the shelf life for beverage products that may otherwise spoil on retail shelves or in warehouses, thus mitigating costs for companies.

7. Packaging Automation:  Packaging automation for the manufacturing of products has witnessed a significant boost through AI. When combined with platforms that can serve as a one-stop-shop for custom and stock package purchasing options, this trend shows how robotics in the packaging industry can turn companies into genuine industry titans like Amazon, which continues to lead in terms of warehouse robotics and automation. Packaging automation enables the e-commerce giant to stay ahead of the game and on top of the retail charts. The same tactics could easily apply to companies in the beverage industry.

8. NFT Integration and Utility:  Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are one of the fastest-growing trends in 2022, and the beverage industry is leading the way. Penfolds, Glenfiddich, Hennessy, and other luxury brands are now selling NFTs that corresponded to a limited edition physical bottle; the NFT acts as a digital receipt that validates the authenticity of the wine bottles. Many start-up beverage companies, however, are finding ways to leverage this technology with their physical packaging as a marketing tool. From startup Perfy’s customized NFT soda cans, to The Bored Breakfast Club including the famous Bored Apes collection on their packaging materials, NFTs are proving to be a unique way for beverage companies to help promote their brand and acquire a larger portion of consumer markets. 

9. 3D Printing:  3D printing has become cheaper for companies to prototype their packaging designs, materials, and even manufacturing machines. 3D printing boosts packaging designs by removing the typical challenges packaging designers face. Some of these challenges tend to include the need for multiple prototypes (which generate additional waste), fewer resources and materials to source prototypes, as well as reduced costs during the packaging design stage. This evolving trend streamlines the design process, and can enable beverage manufacturers and suppliers to conduct more in-house prototyping with their packaging without the presence of a middle man.

10. Nanotechnology:  Regarding the beverage industry, nanotechnology in the form of nanocoating or nanosensors is most commonly used. Nanotechnology-enhanced packaging reduces microbial bacteria and can help improve the quality of the product, especially in water.

  Overall, each of these trends holds the potential for companies within the beverage industry to successfully outgrow their competitors, and each is deserving of careful consideration when designing packaging solutions throughout the remainder of 2022. In a market that is as ever-changing as it is necessary, it is imperative that brands stay one step ahead, understand the true importance of these trends, and implement them accordingly.

  Preston Geeting is a Co-founder of Packform. Along with Philip Weinman and Peter Williams, he recognized the opportunity to transform the antiquated packaging industry with innovative technology, creating new service levels, better customer experience, and more significant opportunities for all involved. As of 2020, Packform officially became the fastest-growing packaging company and won the gold International Stevie Business Awards for Technology Startup of the Year.

Exploring the Nuances of Distilling Bourbon

By: Becky Garrison

Jason Parker, co-founder of Copperworks Distilling Company in Seattle, Washington and a native of Kentucky, may distill American Single Malt whiskey. Still, his collection of 600 bourbon bottles speaks to his love of this particular whiskey. “Whiskey made from corn produces a lighter and oiler texture than other whiskeys such as Scotch, Irish, Canadian or Japanese rye.”

  Tom Jones, Global Brand Ambassador for Kentucky Owl, offers this succinct history of bourbon. “Immigrant farmers discovered ways to turn wheat, rye and corn into dollars, which flowed all the way down the Mississippi, fueling celebration on the streets of New Orleans.”

  While some claim bourbon was named after Bourbon Street, others like Jay Erisman, co-founder of New Riff Distilling in Newport, Kentucky, believe the name came from Kentucky’s Bourbon County, where this spirit emerged.

  In summarizing the history of bourbon, Parker reminisces how modern expressions of whiskey have someone named Beam as their master distiller or on their board of directors. This points to the brotherhood and family network of individuals who have distilled Kentucky Bourbon since the 1700s.

  For example, Buffalo Trace Distillery, an award-winning distillery based in Frankfort, Kentucky, has a rich tradition dating back to 1775. According to Kristie Wooldridge, Buffalo Trace’s PR associate manager, Kentucky has many unique natural features that make it the ideal location for producing bourbon. “We experience all four seasons, which plays a big role in the aging process, and our water is naturally limestone-filtered. Early settlers found Kentucky’s ground to be quite fertile for growing corn, an essential ingredient for bourbon, and put down roots here. The rest is history.”

  Jones cites Kentucky’s natural resources as contributing to the quality of Kentucky Owl’s bourbon, which it’s been distilling since Charles Mortimer founded the distillery in 1879. “The blue limestone-filtered water provides us with a good supply of clean, fresh and filtered water unlike anywhere else.”

  In addition to using water to produce bourbon, the water also feeds the growth of raw materials. Also, in Jones’ estimation, the hot summers and cold winters provide the perfect conditions for bourbon to expand and contract, passing in and out of the oak barrels. “This gives us color, mouthfeel, and flavor,” he said.

Defining Bourbon

  For a U.S. spirit to be labeled “bourbon whiskey” by the TTB, it must not exceed 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51% corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers. New American wood imbues bourbon with a full-bodied flavor profile quite different than barrels from Europe and Scotland. Due to the difficulty in sourcing new American oak, bourbon is produced primarily in the United States.

  Straight bourbon whiskey has been stored in charred, new oak containers for two years or more, and may include mixtures of two or more straight bourbons, provided all are produced in the same state. Blended bourbon whiskey is the classification for bourbon produced in the U.S. containing not less than 51% of straight bourbon. The TTB does not specify the requirements for the remaining 49% ingredients, thus allowing for considerable creativity among distillers.

  Distillation processes typical to the Kentucky whiskey-making regimen differ from the Celtic traditions. Erisman told Beverage Master Magazine, “We distill ‘on the grain,’ meaning that the still is fed with both liquids and the ground grains from the mash. This extracts more flavor from the grains than in other distilling traditions.”

  While Kentucky may be considered the home of bourbon, one can find distilleries throughout the U.S. producing this spirit. Molly Troupe, Master Distiller at Freeland Spirits in Portland, Oregon, speaks to the regional differences inherent in bourbon distilled outside of Kentucky. “Each of those ingredients has their own nuances, particular to the region that they are grown, that makes them special.”

  Following are some examples of bourbons distilled in different regions of the United States.

  30A Distilling Company (Santa Rosa Beach, Florida) – Like many small-batch producers, 30A Distilling founder Brian Rabon sources his bourbon. He describes 30A’s process for making bourbon as “distilled in Indiana, rested at Sugarfield Spirits in Louisiana, and then finished at 30A Distilling Company.” Like its other spirits, its Blue Mountain Beach Bourbon (81.4 proof) is named for one of the local Florida beaches. The mashbill is very rye forward at 36%, which gives this bourbon some spicy and peppery notes. Also, Rabon produces a lower-proof version that allows for sweeter corn notes.

  The Aimsir Distilling Company (Portland, Oregon) According to co-owners Christine and Steve Hopkins, the Pacific Northwest’s cooler, drier environment affects how the bourbon extracts from the barrel. Steve, head of production, told Beverage Master Magazine, “Even though we’re using new oak barrels, our bourbon does tend to extract a little bit slower from the wood. So you get more of the mashbill flavor and less of the barrel flavor.”

  Aimsir uses 51% corn and 45% wheat for its mashbill, resulting in a high-wheated bourbon with a smooth flavor, bottled at 94.5 proof. The bourbon ages between four and four and a half years, with distillers testing the barrel periodically after the fourth year until it gets to that sweet spot. “If you age it too long, you start to get too much barrel notes,” Steve Hopkins said.

  Alchemy Distillery (Arcata, California) – When they first started their distillery, co-owner and head distiller Amy Bohner said they made batches of 100% single grains to get to know each grain’s flavor profile. “Being able to choose which corn, rye and wheat makes each batch unique. And every batch for us is a single barrel, so the options for our mash bills are vast.”

  Alchemy chose to work with local farmers and keep the grain in whole form until milling the day of the cook. According to Bohner, this ensures optimal freshness, similar to grinding beans just before making a cup of coffee.

  Brother’s Bond Bourbon (Fort Smith, Arkansas) Co-founder Paul Wesley describes Brother’s Bond Bourbon as hand-selected, four-grain, high rye, straight bourbon with the grain flavors optimized. It is distilled in a copper column and copper pot-doubler, aged four years in virgin American Oak, staves charred #4 and heads charred #2, and chill-filtered once at a distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Then the bourbon is bottled at 80 proof, 135 barrels at a time, and distributed at Brother’s Bond’s facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

  Ian Somerhalder, co-founder, highlights their commitment to sustainability. “We partner with organizations that use sustainable and regenerative practices to combat climate change. Also, we aim to use our platform to help reverse climate change by giving back a portion of proceeds to support regenerative farming practices.”

  Freeland Spirits (Portland, Oregon) – According to Molly Troupe, Freeland Spirits’ bourbon is a sourced whiskey, which means that only the aging and blending take place at the distillery. Distillers finish the bourbon in Pinot Noir barrels, where it sits for about six months. Then, they select barrels for blending, adding water to bring the bourbon to bottle-proof.

  In Troupe’s estimation, one of the best parts of living in the Pacific Northwest is its proximity to makers of all kinds. For example, through their relationship with Elk Cove Winery, they get barrels delivered to them the day they are dumped.

  Hood River Distillers (Hood River, Oregon)  – Hood River distillers purchase bourbon in barrels from a source in Kentucky. Then, they experiment and manipulate the bourbon through those barrel finishes, which Master Distiller Joe O’Sullivan finds best define the region and complement the flavor of the base spirit itself. He told Beverage Master Magazine, “By finishing the same spirit in various, unique regional casks, we focus entirely on the Northwest and its culinary strength.

  Maverick Whiskey (San Antonio, Texas) – Maverick Whiskey pays homage to founder Kenneth Maverick’s storied Texas roots and the family patriarch Sam Maverick (1803-1870). Its Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey mash, which consists of locally sourced corn and rye, is distilled in a hybrid pot still, a combination of a pot still and a column still. As the bourbon ages, it gets proofed to 88, using reverse osmosis filtered water and then non-chill filtered, thus ensuring a bold flavor. In Head Distiller Kevin Graham’s assessment, the Texas grains –corn, in particular – are sweeter with a bigger flavor than grains grown elsewhere in the county. Also, the Texas Hill Country is home to artesian wells that produce hard water with a high carbonate, ideal for distilling spirits and making beer.

  Mile High Spirits (Denver, Colorado)Wyn Ferrell, co-founder of Mile High Spirits, distinguishes his distillery not by the spirits but by the people. “We have an amazing vibrant staff that produces our products with passion, heart and soul, but also has a lot of fun with music pumping and people dancing.”

  Ferrell sources unique grain profiles from around the world for Mile High’s mashbill, which is distilled in a pot column hybrid from Germany-based Arnold Holstein Stills. As part of its commitment to regenerative agriculture, Mile High sends all its spent grain to a local rancher.

  Port Chilkoot Distillery (Haines, Alaska)Heather Shade, Port Chilkoot’s founder and co-owner, sources the distillery’s organic, certified non-GMO corn and Kentucky barrels from a barge that floats up the famed Inside Passage from Seattle to Haines once a week. Distillers cook, ferment and double-distill the bourbon mash on-site using a traditional method of open-fermentation, distill on-the-grain and a batch double distillation process. The bourbon is proofed down to barrel strength after distillation using water from their glacier-fed mountains and aged in a climate-controlled barrel house. According to Shade, “The unique water source and the stormy weather patterns/large barometric pressure swings here give their maturation a different character, more similar to the Scotch whiskies made in Scotland.”

  Side Hustle Brews & Spirits (Slippery Rock, PA) Chad McGehee, Founder, Balmaghie Beverage Group (dba Side Hustle Brews & Spirits, Side Hustle Hops Farm, Balmaghie Artisanal Spirits), sees his core business objective to build a farm so they can produce their own artisanal spirits from farm to glass. Starting in May, they moved from sourcing their bourbon to producing their first runs of produced recipes. They will purchase their Western Pennsylvania historic grains from a neighboring farmer. In particular, the Jimmy Red Corn used historically by Western Pennsylvania moonshiners produces a higher sugar content than normal corn that results in a sweeter Straight Bourbon Whiskey with an ABV of 50%. Their mashbill, which is high in rye and aged for seven years, is mixed either in their single pot or in space they rent from other distillers as need be. Also, they use American White Oak, which has been cured in the rain, snow, heat, and cold for a full eight seasons before they are transformed by coppers into barrels. 

Bottling & Canning Innovation

Companies Deliver Premium Technology, Raising the Stakes in Productivity!

By: Cheryl Gray

When it comes to bottling machinery for craft breweries and distilleries, technology is king.  The work that goes into fabricating, filling and sealing bottles and cans begins with the expertise of companies that understand what craft brewers and distillers need most—a cost-efficient way to boost output while also protecting the integrity of their products.  

  One of those companies is Pneumatic Scale Angelus, part of BW Packaging Systems. The Ohio-based firm is a global industry leader in designing and manufacturing beverage canning lines and filling technology for the craft beverage industry. The company’s numbers are impressive, starting with its years in business—more than 130. It has seven manufacturing locations and more than 700 members on its worldwide team. 

  Pneumatic Scale Angelus has installed more than 16,000 canning operations across 132 countries with applications that include liquid and dry filling, capping, can seaming and labeling. Global Marketing Director Gigi Lorence said that as an expert in beverage canning lines and filling technology, the company has built a reputation for knowing how to leverage the innovation of its high-speed beverage lines, scaling them down to the slower production speeds and lower volumes required for craft beverages. Lorence broke down the specifications for the company’s inline volumetric canning lines.

  “Our fully-integrated filler and seamer machines allow brewers to take control of their can filling operations. Running at speeds from 15 to 100 CPM, our inline canning machines are suited to small batch production and frequent changeover,” she said. “Our CB50F and CB100F open-air systems use our proprietary flowmeter technology to ensure a perfect fill at speeds to 100 CPM, with a gas flush system that keeps oxygen levels under control. The high-speed seamer design, scaled for single- or dual-head operation, delivers the only repeatable hermetic double seam in the industry. 

  “Our CB50C system leverages the CB50F design but uses counter-pressure filling technology to meet the demand for high-carbonation beverages, including hard seltzers, sparkling wines and high-carb beers. The CB50C uses true isobarometric filling technology, with the fill tank above the fill heads, allowing the product to be gravity-fed, as opposed to pumped upward. This minimizes product agitation for a quiet fill and lower CO2 loss.” 

  For brewers ready for the higher speeds of a rotary canning system, Lorence described PSA’s options for rotary volumetric canning lines. “These systems run from 100 CPM to up to 400 CPM, depending on configuration, which means brewers can expand their overall production without drastically increasing their overall footprint,” said Lorence. “Our larger CB244/324/404 rotary open-air systems serve brewers ready for higher speeds. These systems have 24, 32, or 40 electro-mechanically controlled filling heads that ensure fill level accuracy to within plus or minus 0.5 grams of the target volume and four seaming heads that offer the same industry-leading seal as our slower-speed machines.”

  There is a brand-new addition to PSA’s craft beverage canning lines. Lorence described the CB100C, launched this May at The Craft Brewers Conference in Minneapolis.

  “This rotary counter-pressure system builds upon the capabilities of the CB50C but leverages a 12-head rotary filling turret design, coupled with a dual-station seamer, to allow brewers to increase their throughput to more than 100 CPM. Using a motorized, recipe-driven turret design allows for automatic turret height adjustment,” she said. “Like the CB50C, the CB100C uses a true isobarometric filling, with an onboard product supply tank rated to 60 psi. The addition of the 12-head rotary filling turret enables the system to move more cans smoothly through the line, filling faster without creating an increase in product agitation as speeds increase. This gentle fill virtually eliminates the unwanted reductions in carbonation levels seen with other filling methods.

  “The CB100C also employs magnetic flowmeter technology to help you get a perfect fill with little waste and an under-cover gas flush system to keep dissolved oxygen levels low. In addition, our industry-leading Angelus double-seam technology keeps cans sealed tight, extending critical shelf life. The system is optimized for sleek and standard can bodies and designed with quick-change adjustments for easy changeovers accommodating various can heights and body diameters with no valve change required. A compact footprint and an intuitive HMI for individual fill-head volume adjustments simplify operation.”

  Another expert in bottling and canning operations for the craft beverage industry is XpressFill, a California-based company in operation since 2007. XpressFill offers a broad range of can and bottle filling systems for brewers and distillers, all of which promote ease of use, longevity and post-sale service as a top priority. It manufactures bottle fillers to accommodate volumetric, level fill and carbonated beverage technology, providing for nearly every bottling need. Rod Silver is head of the company’s marketing and sales.

  “XpressFill prides itself on its ability to respond to the needs of its customers. Our support of our products is unmatched,” said Silver. 

  XpressFill specifically targets smaller breweries that need guidance on the best equipment choices for their operations. “All XpressFill products are designed with the smaller, craft artisan in mind. We have been able to build affordable yet efficient and effective filling machines for this market,” Silver said. “The most popular filler for distillers is the XF460HP, specifically designed for spirits, using materials that are more resilient to ethanol. Our proprietary technology allows for filling well within TTB tolerances.” 

  Silver explained how the volumetric filler controls the amount of fill using a precision timer. The filler is calibrated to specifications and capable of accurate fills, regardless of inconsistencies in the bottle glass. The volumetric filler is also suitable for bottling various sizes, even down to 50 ml bottles.

Silver said XpressFill’s most popular products for craft brewers accommodate both cans and bottles. “The most popular fillers for brewers are the XF4500C (cans) and XF4500 (bottles). Both fillers use counter-pressure to minimize oxygen pick up during the fill.”

  Silver told Beverage Master Magazine that all XpressFill systems have a pre-fill CO2 purge cycle. The company’s counter-pressure systems require a minimal air compressor to operate the pneumatic actuators. Open can fillers have a moveable shelf that is easily adjustable for various sizes, with a maximum can diameter of four inches. 

  The counter pressure filler has a stopper that fits tightly into the can or bottle opening to seal and pressurize the container. Filling a container, Silver said, is an exact science. XpressFill’s level fillers control the rate of fill using a level sensor. As the liquid reaches the sensor, the filler automatically stops the fill. The liquid level is set by adjusting the height of the shelf, which can be adjusted to about one-sixteenth inch increments. The level filler can be used for all products, including wine and distilled spirits. Silver said that the level filler is perfect if the sightline in the bottleneck is a concern for shelf presentation due to glass variations.

  Although Colorado-based Ska Fabricating was born out of the need to address the brewing, packaging and distribution of Ska Brewing, its innovations have helped breweries worldwide.  

  Marketing Director Elise Mackay described the company’s most popular depalletizers. “Our most popular can depalletizer is the Can-i-Bus. It is our original depalletizer, obviously updated and

improved upon many times since its creation, and a full-height automatic depalletizer that is capable of speeds up to 250 CPM. It comes with three different trim levels that come with a variety of different features. It’s perfect for mid-sized operations and a great option to grow into for smaller operations,” said Mackay. “Our Nimbus is like our Can-i-Bus Jr. It features the same robust construction and pallet sweep mechanism that the Can-i-Bus does but uses a rotary table discharge that allows for additional accumulation with the added benefit of being able to fold down to save space when it isn’t in use. The Nimbus is also portable. You can use a pallet jack to move it from your production floor once you’re finished with your packaging day, so it’s perfect for smaller-scale operations looking to grow.” 

  Mackay said that innovation is always at the forefront at Ska Fabricating. “The newest addition, the Microbus, is our smallest footprint, most flexible, most affordable depalletizer yet. It’s rated up to 30 CPM and is an ideal product for operations that are just getting started in canning. Low speeds, manual pallet lifting, and ultimate portability make the Microbus special. It features the same foldable rotary table discharge that I mentioned with the Nimbus, but it also has a foldable dead plate, so when it’s completely dismantled, the footprint is minuscule.”  

  Mackay points out why her company is considered in the industry as, in her words, the “likable expert.”

  “We have an incredible team of engineers that create robust and reliable machines and then work with every single customer to create custom layouts to suit their exact needs; a personable and reliable sales team with tons of brewery and packaging experience; an installation crew that will travel to the ends of the earth to set our customers up for success; and a top-notch customer support team that is available 24/7 to assist with any issues that arise.”

  Industry experience, innovative products and after-sale customer service are common threads among these companies. These experts say that this combination is what breweries and distilleries should look for when choosing a company for bottling and canning products.