Barrel-aging Beers & Spirits During a Global Pandemic

By: Becky Garrison

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

Copperworks Distilling Company, Seattle, Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecliptic Brewing, Portland, Oregon

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

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

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

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

Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon

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

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

Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Chimacum, Washington

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

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

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

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

Liberty Ciderworks, Spokane, Washington

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

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

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

pFriem Family Brewers, Hood River, Oregon

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

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

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

The Bitter Housewife, Portland, Oregon

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

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

Wanderback Whiskey Company, Hood River, Oregon

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

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

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

Westland Distillery, Seattle, Washington

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

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

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

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

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

Westward Whiskey, Seattle, Washington

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

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

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

By: Gerald Dlubala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Cheryl Gray

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

VITOK Engineers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symbiont Science, Engineering and
Construction, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Müller Pot Stills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Basics of Nitrogen and CO2 Use in Breweries & Distilleries

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

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

Using CO2 in Breweries & Distilleries

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

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

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

Using Nitrogen in Breweries & Distilleries

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

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

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

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

Equipment Needed for CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanks for CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

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

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

Pros & Cons of CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

Safety Considerations for CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expert Advice Goes a Long Way

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

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

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

Barrels & Racking:

Modern Systems, Historic Preservation and Refurbished Options Producing Optimal Results

By: Cheryl Gray

In 1879, distiller Frederick Stitzel patented a revolutionary method that put a new spin on how barrels for spirits and other crafted drinks are stored.

  Some 150 years later, the practice of racking barrels, also known as ricking, is an industry-standard. Placing barrels on their sides, rather than upright, and supporting them underneath with either timber or metal, increases air circulation and space.  Racking keeps pressure off barrel staves, a problem that Stitzel and other early distillers learned could result in losing a barrel’s precious contents through leakage.

Space to Breathe

  Western Square Industries, headquartered in Stockton, California, has been in business for 43 years and is among the global leaders in its field. The company originally catered to the agriculture and livestock industries, specializing in two main products, steel gates and corrals. Western Square Industries now manufactures a broad range of barrel racking systems for distillers, breweries, wineries, meaderies and cideries. It serves clients across the United States, with a significant client base in California, Texas and the Eastern U.S.  

  President and CEO Trygve Mikkelsen took over the company in 1993 and quickly recognized its potential in manufacturing barrel racks. Mikkelsen told Beverage Master Magazine about one of the company’s most popular barrel systems for distillers expanding their operations.

  “The Barrel Master is our most popular model for distilleries in growth since the user can mix and match sizes of barrels in a safe forklift-able stacking system. The Barrel Master can also be bought with the barrels sitting on wheels for easy rotation if desired. This is possible because there is no weight on each barrel.”

  The Barrel Master 30/53 allows barrels ranging in size from 30 to 53 gallons to be stored on the same rack. The rack-on-rack design allows barrels to be more visible and accessible. There is also the opportunity to stack barrels higher without compromising stability. An optional wheel design provides 180-degree barrel rotation in either direction. Unlike other systems, which are more like pallets between barrels and require a uniform barrel shape and size, Mikkelson said Barrel Master’s rack-on-rack function eliminates any barrel putting pressure on another below. The rack also features a storage-saving design in that it can be nested into a stack when empty.  The racking system is manufactured from stainless steel and is available in several color and coating options.

  Mikkelsen said breweries and distilleries also use his company’s seven-inch two-barrel racks and another product known as Big Foot. Sometimes, Mikkelsen said, full access is less important than space.  In that case, clients choose the company’s low-profile rack, known as two-barrel four-inch racks.

Tradition and Preservation

  While newly established distilleries may look to modern-day solutions for ricking, the name Brown-Forman evokes a history like no other, including that it is the only distillery company in the world to make its own barrels, which are stored in a range of distilleries, some with warehouses and barrel ricking systems dating back to the late 1800s.

  When a young Jack Daniel first learned the art of making whiskey under the tutelage of a soon-to-be ex-slave-turned-master-distiller, Nathan Nearest Green, neither could have imagined that the whiskey created would become synonymous with the tradition and preservation of some of the most historic distilleries in the world. Brown-Forman is the keeper of that tradition, in the form of four distilleries, three in Kentucky and, of course, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Tennessee. 

  With some 130 years of warehouses spread across four distilleries, the barrel ricking found in any given Brown-Forman warehouse depends upon many variables. Chris Morris, Woodford Reserve Master Distiller for Brown-Forman, explained that while a modern distillery can install all one type of ricking, the historical distilleries of Brown-Forman have operated on a different premise.

  “The date of construction for the numerous warehouses at our distilleries ranges from 1890 through 2020.  Needless to say, this means we have many types of barrel rick material, from wood to metal. Within those two groups, we find different types of wood and metal in use over the years. That depends on the era an individual warehouse was constructed and who built it. We also have some palletized storage as well as floor dunnage. The Woodford Reserve Distillery, for example, has warehouses with wooden ricks and others with heavy iron rails. Woodford also has some palletized space and floor dunnage. 

  “While our ricks are made of various materials, they are all using the same design that was patented in 1879: the ‘open rick’ design. Now, this again will vary in length and height, based on the size of the warehouse. Some wide houses will have a rick that holds 31 barrels, while others may only hold 11 due to the narrow width of the house. Most of our warehouses have ricks that are ‘three high’ or have three tiers of ricks.  However, we do have one house that has ‘six high’ ricks. Still, the design doesn’t change.  When our cooperage makes a barrel for a distillery, like a Woodford Reserve specific barrel, it doesn’t know which warehouse it is going to be entered into, so that barrel has to fit in every warehouse’s ricks.”

  When it comes to proper storage, Morris said, some things never change. “The proper storage for a barrel in the rick is simple. Rick it with the bung in the 12 o’clock position to minimize leakage. If a barrel already has a leak, rick it with the leak point at 12 o’clock. Otherwise, it is the condition of the warehouse that is important, rather than how the barrel sits in the rick.  We want clean, dry conditions in the warehouse.”

  Morris also said that there is no need to rotate barrels if there is good inventory control, along with batching barrels together to make a consistent flavor profile. A barrel matures based upon warehouse temperatures and the length of time the barrel spends in the warehouse, not by how it sits.

  “There has been a tremendous amount of study conducted on the impact temperature has on the maturation process,” he said. “Brown-Forman has research papers that date back to the 1920’s – we operated during Prohibition under medicinal permit KY—3. Based on these many studies, we never allow our Kentucky warehouses to drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. This requires that each of our warehouses be constructed with thick masonry walls so they can be heated as necessary. They will get as hot as they will in the summer because they can’t be cooled. Jack Daniels has ‘iron clad’ warehouses, so they can’t be heated and will, therefore, get cold in the winter. So, Brown-Forman matures its whiskies across a variety of maturation styles.”

Reusing Resources

  Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, is home to The Barrel Broker, co-owned by John and Kathleen Gill, who started the business 11 years ago in California. The company sources and supplies used barrels and racks for breweries, wineries and distilleries. While its clients are primarily in the Midwest, The Barrel Broker also has business overseas.  The company’s customer base prefers barrels freshly emptied and slightly wet. A lot of that barrel stock comes from bourbon distilleries which, by law, can only use a barrel once for bourbon.

  Accordingly, The Barrel Broker has some insight to share on how to store barrels and what its customers prefer when selecting used racks. John Gill, who has a background in the wine tourism industry and heads quality control for the company, said that for his clients, choosing a racking system really comes down to need, preference and budget.

  “Racks are designed to safely store barrels two wide and up to five stacks high while being able to be moved with a pallet jack or forklift. The seven-inch racks allow ample space to access the bungs while stacked for pulling samples or topping off.  We suggest used, refurbished or new two-barrel racks in three-to-seven-inch sizes.  We sell them all for barrels, 15 to 60 gallons.” 

  Gill agrees with other experts, such as Morris, who say that barrels don’t need to be rotated. He told Beverage Master Magazine that he also believes that keeping the proper temperature in a warehouse is key to a successful product outcome from any barrel.

  “Ideal for breweries is high humidity, 60% to 70%, and cool temperatures to minimize evaporation loss. Ideal for distilleries is a continuous change of temperatures and humidity to achieve complex flavors and complexity in barrel-aged spirits.”

  Price and preference dictate what racking systems a brewery or distillery may choose. However, experts agree that controlling warehouse temperature, avoiding undue pressure on barrels, and keeping tabs on inventory control produce the best results.  Whether wood or metal, racking is a matter of knowing what will stack up as the best outcome for the product inside a barrel.

Tank Supplies for Modern Distilleries

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

In a distillery setting, tanks are used for various purposes, including blending, fermenting, storing, distilling and filtering. But in addition to the actual tanks, several tank-related products and accessories help distillers do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

  When choosing tank wraps, insulation, meters and stands, it is essential to consider these products’ functionality, cost, maintenance and ease of cleaning and sanitation. Meanwhile, there are unique tank-related considerations for distilleries that other types of beverage producers may not need to address. Fortunately, many specialized suppliers serve the distillery market to meet these needs and solve common issues that arise while making craft spirits. 

Essential Distillery Tank Supplies

  Craft spirit distilleries use tank wraps to provide fluid temperature control and help fluids circulate properly inside the tanks. Wraps, such as glycol-styles on the sides and bottoms of tanks, also reduce condensation and moisture loss.

  Similarly, tank insulation ensures that temperatures stay as hot or as cold as necessary. Insulation on tanks prevents freezing pipes, corrosion and mold while also controlling humidity levels and saving energy. For example, Syneffex insulation is a popular option among distilleries to reduce energy usage and emissions for more environmentally sustainable operations. Distilleries can find storage and fermentation tanks that have optional heating and cooling jackets to maintain optimal temperatures.

  Distillers use tank meters to gauge pressure levels in their tanks and monitor the liquids’ temperature inside them. Meters also help distillers monitor the flow to minimize product loss over time. Pressure-relieving and venting devices are optional features on some distillery tanks. Also, tank stands are important in the distillery to hold and secure tanks in a safe way. Frames built for this purpose come in various sizes to fit different levels of production.

  Distilleries also use CIP spray balls, hydrators, valves and racking arms. Cooling coils, air compressors, aging barrels, clamps and condensers are other accessories that craft distilleries may need to replace or upgrade over time.

Choosing the Right Tank Supplies

  Distillers should choose tank wraps that are flexible and easy to put on and adjust as necessary. Tank insulation should have a good track record for energy efficiency so the distillery can save money in the long run. It’s in a distillery’s best interest to work with a supplier that can build storage tanks with as much insulation needed for the operation.

  One good option for insulating beverage tanks is the Flextank FlexChill system in a temperature-controlled room. FlexChill is an exterior wrap chilling system with glycol chillers. Useful for cylindrical tanks in sizes from 50- to 300-gallons, this system is designed for maximum insulation performance. With distribution outlets in Washington, Australia, South Africa, Chile and France, Flextank products are used to produce wine, mead, cider and specialty spirits. For heating and cooling, distilleries can also find dimple jackets, open jackets, half-pipe coils and internal pipe coils from Stainless Fabrication, Inc., in Springfield, Missouri.

  Distillers should look for meters with hygienic process fittings to maintain clean and sanitized tanks that don’t compromise the quality of the product. The measurement range and temperature compensation capabilities are features to look for when choosing a new meter. Some companies that supply these meters will offer information security standards and even loaner units while servicing an existing product.

  Bellevue, Washington-based ATAGO U.S.A., Inc. manufactures refractometers, viscometers, polarimeters, pH meters, saccharimeters, and others. The company’s In-Line Refractometer PRM series is commonly used for craft beverage tank monitoring and equipped with an alarm that signals when valves exceed high and low limit values.

  For tank stands, distillers should consider portable products in case there’s a need to move them due to space confines or a potential future expansion. YoLong Distillery Equipment offers support frames that provide standard column support and can be customized to provide additional functions.

  It is in a distillery’s best interest to choose reliable suppliers that can provide ongoing support and replacement parts, no matter the equipment.

Maintenance & Cleaning Considerations

  Keeping equipment clean is critical in preserving the product’s integrity, keeping customers safe and staying in business. The basics needed for tank cleaning include a pump, clean water, heat, citric acid, dilute sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide solution, ethyl alcohol and safety gear. Check tank supplies for any oil, grime, dirt or dust collected during the distilling process or in storage. It is common for residue to accumulate around a tank meter’s surface and make it difficult to read, for example. While cleaning distillery tanks, rubber gloves and safety glasses should be on-hand for protection, and workers should dress in long sleeves, pants, and boots.

Why Distillery Tank Supplies are Unique

  Beyond craft distilleries, several industries use tanks, such as manufacturers of chemicals, oil and plastics. However, distillers have unique considerations when choosing tank supplies.

  Distillery tank supplies must be food-grade equipment since they are involved in making consumable products. Tanks and supplies must also withstand hot and cold temperatures and perhaps serve multiple purposes in the distillery. Since tanks are large and many distilleries operate in small spaces, multi-functional tanks are a significant asset to maximize square footage. Therefore, it may be necessary to update tank supplies when using an existing tank for a new purpose.

Tank Supply Companies

  In addition to the companies already mentioned throughout this article, other reputable suppliers specialize in the craft spirits market and offer high-quality supplies and accessories for tanks.

•   Affordable Distillery Equipment, LLC has a wide range of accessories for distillery purposes, including hydrometers, thermometers, cooling coils, air compressors and ingredient kits. Whether your distillery equipment budget is $5,000 or $500,000, their website, Distillery-Equipment.com, offers used equipment for sale in addition to its brand-new water and spirit storage tanks, fittings, tubing, thermometers and pumps.

http://shop.distillery-equipment.com

•   Global Stainless Systems, based in Portland, Oregon company supplies distilleries with various types of equipment in addition to tanks, including glycol chillers, valves, fittings and hoses.

http://www.globalstainlesssystems.com

•   Mile Hi Distilling based in Wheatridge, Colorado,  offers distilling supplies specific for fermentation, including several meter options.

https://milehidistilling.com

  Of course, these are just a few of the many U.S. companies serving distilleries’ needs, but it provides a starting point for sourcing tank accessories. Distillers should choose a supplier that regularly works with distillery tanks rather than general tanks for other industries and provides a warranty on the products they sell. While these distillery supplies may seem fairly straightforward on the surface, having ongoing support is a huge help if something goes wrong or during any future expansions.

Up Your Consistency and Repeatability Game With Quality Testers and Meters

By: Gerald Dlubala

Testers, meters, monitors and probes make it possible for craft alcohol producers to raise their standards and improve their craft. The overall move from older, unreliable, visual-based testing to greater process control with more accurate and precise analysis means repeatable sample measurements and more product consistency for reporting purposes.

Quality Control and Analysis at Your Fingertips

  “Measurement and meter use within the distillery are critical for quality analysis and quality control,” said David Zavich, Applications and Technical Support Manager for Mettler Toledo. Mettler Toledo is a leading provider of precision instruments and research and development-related services, quality control and production across numerous industries.

  “At the very least, the distiller should possess a quality pH meter and density meter for help in making informed decisions throughout the production process, and know if and when to intervene and make any needed adjustments. The best way for a distiller to know when the mash is within the acceptable pH range – 5.2-5.8, 5.4 being optimal – for the enzymatic activity to convert starches to sugars is with a quality pH meter. It also helps monitor the critical fermentation activity of a distiller’s beer, when pH should decrease to 4.0-4.5 as yeast metabolize ammonium ions and excrete organic acids. A pH remaining above 5.0 indicates a lack of activity, and pH below 4.0 may indicate the presence of undesirable bacterial contamination.

  “Benchtop density meters are invaluable for determining the proof and quantity of distilled spirits for TTB reporting purposes,” said Zavich. “Handheld versions can determine mash extract efficiency before fermentation, measure distiller’s beer to ensure fermentation is complete, calculate alcohol by volume, and measure proof during the distilling process that aids in making cuts.

  “To measure density, the distiller has three available options,” said Luke Soposki, marketing specialist for Mettler Toledo’s Analytical Chemistry division. “They can use a hydrometer, which is inexpensive and offers several industry measurement scales, but they are fragile, dependent on the user for results and have longer measurement cycles. Pycnometers are also inexpensive and can achieve a level of accuracy, but they require a higher level of training and have limited measurement scales available. The best choice is a digital density meter. They are more expensive but easier to use, more consistent and reliable, and have a shorter measurement cycle. They cover a wide density range, have automatic temperature compensation, and are available in a variety of models to meet the specific needs of the distiller.”

  “Density meters are quite durable,” said Zavich. “Benchtop units are quite self-sufficient with a suggested yearly preventative maintenance. They have an expected lifespan of around 10 years, but we’ve seen operational units well beyond that mark. Handheld units have no specified terms of use but are equally self-sufficient and expected to last many years under normal use.”

  “The main thing is to ask questions before purchasing,” said Soposki. “Mettler Toledo offers a full suite of testing solutions that include density meters, refractometers, titrators, spectrophotometers and pH meters. We can also talk about automation and multi-parameter options when needed. Distillers’ needs are always evolving, and we know that they are still looking for an easier way to release product after testing, specifically with TTB approved handheld density meters. Ask specific questions about the instruments related to your process applications. Ask for a demo, either onsite, virtually, or even in a try-and-buy program when available. Look for manufacturers that can support you across your business needs and offer service and support beyond just the equipment purchase.”

All in for Peace of Mind

  Or, you could go all in and buy the Rudolph Research Densitometer, the same machine that the TTB uses to send off samples for auditing. That’s what Greg Pope, Master Distiller of Missouri Ridge Distillery, did when he opened his distillery in Branson, Missouri.

  “It was pricey for sure,” said Pope. “At the time, it was a huge investment, around $6,500, plus another couple of thousand in training costs. It easily outpaced the cost of other densitometers, but it’s the one piece of equipment I thought was worth it based on time value savings, and in our case specifically, the frequency of the breakage factor of common hydrometers. I use it every day for my spirits as well as my beers, so for me, it’s a quality investment.”

  Accuracy and repeatability are always priorities in the distillery, and Pope told Beverage Master Magazine that he’s tried all the gadgets, getting hands-on experience at American Distilling Institute conferences and conventions. With the Rudolph Research Densitometer, he proofs a barrel in 25 to 30 minutes versus the 24 to 36 hours needed using traditional proofing methods.

  “When I got audited, and the agents saw that we have the same equipment that the TTB uses, we were already in favorable standing for trying to do the right thing,” said Pope. “This one piece of equipment holds all of our historical data that is time-stamped, properly labeled as tester batches, bottling runs, etc. and is transferable to a thumb drive for easy auditing. It’s designed for upgrading rather than obsolescence, saving money in the long run. We added the refractometer package when it came available for true and corrective proofs on our line of cordials.”

  Pope said that the training was an intensely monitored, two-day affair, but by the end of those two days, he was comfortable using the equipment for all of his applications and performing all necessary tests independently.

  “The only hiccups I’ve had with this equipment has honestly been because of human error,” said Pope. “Our machine is set to give us a recalibration reminder every Monday at midnight, and we can’t do any further testing until that recalibration is completed. The process is easy, and then we’re good to go for another week. This densitometer also has international settings, and because we export our bourbon to the U.K., we can provide their required test results.”

  Pope said that he also helps other distillers by testing and auditing their samples, providing another way to grow and support the distilling community.

Quality H2O: Good Water Equals Good Beer

  “That’s what brewers will tell you, and it’s certainly a good rule to follow,” said Mike McBride, marketing, IT and social media manager for Industrial Test Systems, a leading American manufacturer of instruments and chemistries designed to test water quality parameters. “It’s just a fact because beer is over 90% water, so it follows that good water makes for good beer.”

  Industrial Test Systems offers their popular eXact iDip Smart Photometer and their eXact pH meter to help brewers stay on top of their water parameters.

  “Visual testing only gives the end user a baseline guide or range versus digital testing that is much more precise and provides exact, repeatable results,” said McBride. “Our meters bring those types of laboratory quality results to you, and that’s important because of the many different tests performed on the water within a craft brewery. One example is testing for water hardness because different beers require different levels. Dark beers require harder water, while lighter beers use softer water. You have to have an accurate, quality test to determine what type of water you’re using.”

Brix and pH Meters: A Brewer’s Best Friend

  “Measuring pH and Brix levels in brewing is essential,” said Jason Brown of Milwaukee Instruments. “Both units are a must because those measurements ultimately determine the type of beer you will brew, how the flavor will turn out, and what percentage of alcohol the brew possesses. To measure alcohol content with a meter like our MA871 digital Brix refractometer, you take an initial Brix reading of the unfermented wort and then a follow-up reading once fermentation is complete. Those values are plugged into a conversion chart to determine the percentage of alcohol in your final product. Taking pH readings on a meter like our MW102 within the brewing process takes place from the beginning of the brewing process to the end, using it for multiple applications and processes.”

  Brown told Beverage Master Magazine that brewmasters typically already have basic knowledge of pH testers and refractometers. Still, even if they are new to the game, Milwaukee Instruments provides user-friendly equipment, with complete YouTube tutorials instructing the user on the operation, maintenance, storage and calibration of the meters. Most units come with a two-year warranty on the base unit and six months on the electrodes. Their bench meters offer data logging that is an advantage over comparable handheld units.

  “It’s recommended that both types of meters be calibrated before each use to maintain accuracy across all samples tested,” said Brown. “Our units can be calibrated by the end-user with no issues.”

Steam & Water Flow Measurement: Going with the Flow

  “Given the need for accuracy, consistency and repeatability, brewers should always choose the highest quality meter they can afford,” said Marc Bennett, regional sales manager for McCrometer, Inc., worldwide providers of precision flow meters for liquid, steam and gas applications. “Flow metering is all about optimizing production to give the brewer consistent and reliable results through understanding the precise temperatures, pressures and flow being used.

  “The best way to measure steam is through equipment like our V-Cone Meter. It helps a brewer understand the precise temperature, flow and measurement of their team processes, allowing them to optimize their consistency,” said Bennett. “We know craft brewers are frequently tight on space, so our V-Cone Meters are designed for tight fit and retrofit applications while handling most operating environments. Some of the largest, most well-known breweries use V-Cone meters for steam measurement, but they are very applicable for smaller brewers as well.”

  McCrometer also offers a line of electromagnetic flowmeters (MAG) for accurate water flow measurement. Their pumps rely on velocity and pipe diameter information to determine flow over wide ranges with high precision accuracy. Their SPI MAG measures everything from in-flow water through wastewater, including industrial flow processes involving potable water, slurries, sludge, cooling water and pulp stock.

  “Whatever the choice, brewers should always choose U.S. manufactured meters,” said Bennett. “U.S. manufactured meters are often more readily available and more quickly shipped than the non-U.S. manufactured counterparts. If you choose a high-quality meter with a long lifespan and U.S.-based support, you’re getting a great return on your investment. The last thing you need or want is to have your brewing process impacted or even halted because of support issues.”

  Bennett told Beverage Master Magazine that McCrometer meters have great attributes, including the aforementioned long lifespan and support. Perhaps one of the best advantages of both their MAG flow meters and the V-Cone DP meters is the advantage of having no maintenance or repair schedules.

  “That’s a big load off of a brewer’s calendar and his mind,” said Bennett. “Our new ProComm converter on the MAG meters is available with built-in verification that uses stored data to check a meter’s operation against its baseline. That’s true peace of mind. Our V-Cone Meters have been around and studied in applications that are a lot more rugged than what the typical brewery would put them through and have shown no shift whatsoever in their calibration coefficient.”

Brewing Social Media Success:

How to Use the ‘Gram to Maximize Your Craft Beverage Brand  

By: Chris Mulvaney, President (CMDS)

What three things do Tito’s, Blue Chair Bay Rum and Trillium Brewing Company have in common?  All three have mastered the ‘gram game and have boosted their brand success by putting out a consistent cross-formula of brand content, brand awareness and maximizing audience engagement across the ever-growing social media platform.

  Whether you are a craft brewer, startup spirit producer or global drinks company, your social media presence should be at the top of your priority list. But how exactly can crafters use Instagram to grow their business?

  Instagram is a visually appealing social media platform. In recent years, it has started to dominate Facebook in that it is not as overcrowded and expensive. The beauty of Instagram is that brands can still establish an organic relationship with their followers and can develop brand personas, becoming known for a certain tone, content and style. They can build their brand immensely just by being an active user. Also, the influencer market has never been so powerful for brand awareness.

Instagram Strategy

  Once you get a grasp of the platform, then you must define your social media strategy to gain the right followers and maximize engagement.

   This should include:

•   Increasing brand awareness.

•   Driving website traffic.

•   Increasing website engagement to generate leads and drive sales.

•   Increasing customer retention, engagement, and followers.

  How can a brand stand out in an increasingly competitive market?

•   Quality products, first and foremost.

•   Great marketing.

  After that, tell your brand story through photos, partnerships, video and human interaction. Think about what separates your product from others in the market. This isn’t something that’s achieved by one post, but over time, and means connecting your product to something much wider than the drink itself.

  For example, Mexican brand, Corona, understands the appeal of their beverage isn’t just the beer itself. A Corona and lime brings to mind vacations, beaches, relaxation and sun.

  They’ve fully embraced this as their brand, tying the image of plunging a fresh lime into a cold Corona to diving headfirst into the waters of a clear blue ocean.

Organic Media vs. Paid Media

  In the past, the goal of most marketers on Instagram tended towards growing a big following, then continuously publishing content that’s relevant to their brand and audience. One important point to realize, however, is that just because you have 1000 followers doesn’t mean every time you post all 1000 of them will see that post.

  In fact, the reality is a much smaller percentage of them will ever see your post and that’s where the term “organic reach” comes in.

Organic

  One of the most important things to understand about social media marketing is that the way companies can succeed on social media will be entirely dependent on whether they can create an organic experience for users.

  Organic reach determines how many of your followers will see your post without you paying.

This concept of organic reach is prevalent on Instagram since the algorithms used to determine who will see your content at any given time are based primarily on engagement.

  Tips to Get More Organic Reach:

•    Feed your audience with more value.

•    Upload at least two posts a day.

•    Make use of all the features (posts, stories, comments, hashtags).

•    Use attention-grabbing headlines.

•    Use paid sites like Sprout Social to understand the industry atmosphere and create an ongoing dialogue with your audience.

Paid Distribution

  Due to changes in organic reach over the years, companies have been forced to rethink their social media strategies, and in many cases begin exploring other avenues to reach their users on social media, specifically through paid distribution.

  Utilizing paid channels has a number of benefits because it can target users based on demographic information, behavior and interests. Because of this, marketers are able to drill down to specific audiences.

Seven Steps to Success

  Gaining followers and engagement isn’t about simply posting once a week and hoping for the best. In fact, a successful strategy on Instagram should include concrete goals, an ongoing content calendar, a scientific approach to who you’re trying to reach and how many people you expect to interact with.

  The following are seven important steps to grow your brand on Instagram.

1.  Be consistent:   It’s important to define a core strategy for your brand. It should be consistent across all channels and the narrative should be easy to follow. You’ll need to balance product content, campaign content and brand content to be most effective.

       How to maximize consistency on the Instagram platform:

•   Post stories often.

•   Like and comment on posts.

•   Run a contest.

•   Post engaging captions.

•   Offer free advice or information.

•   Post during active hours.

•   Use Instagram ads (paid distribution).

•   Have a strong visual brand strategy.

2.  Use clever alcohol hashtags:  Using clever alcohol-related hashtags can help get your brand trending online or inspire a sense of community with your customers.

        Studies have shown the optimal number of hashtags to use in Instagram consistently is seven. However, even more important is to define your hashtags, include them on packaging and don’t change them too often to make sure fans can refer to you easily.

3.  Use Influencers:   The influencer market has never been so powerful. There are hiring sites for influencers that will allow you to enhance your brand and vision through them. It’s a great way to promote engagement because it boosts brand awareness fast and increases your potential to go viral.

4.  Keep the “social” in social media:  A great way to inspire your fans is to use social media to inspire real world engagement. Your brand will get the most out of social media by catering to the interactive experience. It’s important to be part of the conversation around social events which will resonate with your market – both in terms of pre-planned campaigns and via reactive content.

       Just having a social media account is not enough. Successful brewing and spirit brands actively encourage their fans to engage with their accounts. Many have received some serious engagement by re-posting user generated photos.

       Whether you’re sponsoring a national event, or you can be reactive in a more local way, providing up-to-date content and being part of the conversation will help to keep your brand relevant.

5.  Offer a Backstage Pass:  Take your followers behind the scenes. Let your audience peek behind the curtain and see how their favorite drinks are made. Post photos of the start-up days, of the staff living life and having real experiences.

6.  Connect to a Cause:  Just as social media users don’t only care about likes and clicks, drinkers don’t care solely about their alcohol. More and more, consumers care about the ethics behind the products they’re buying. Remember, they are buying a brand.

       For example, New Belgium Brewing Company put meaning behind their message with their #FindingCommonGround campaign, which not only connects their outdoorsy aesthetic brand to a public land cause, but raised over $250,000 for charity.

        It’s worth the investment, on multiple levels, to put some of your efforts into giving back.

7.  Partner with other brands:   A drink is better with friends. Likewise, a brand is better in a partnership.

       Consider doubling up your power for promotions with a complimentary brand. Partnerships are especially good on Instagram for giveaways, allowing you to expand your offer and reach two different audiences.

       Make sure to find a brand aligned with your goals, and of similar size to get maximum value from a partnership.

Don’t Make These Common Instagram Mistakes

  Common mistakes brands can make on Instagram can hurt them exponentially. Here are some important ones to avoid:

•    Sharing more reposts than original content.

•    Taking too long to respond to comments.

•    Favoring quantity over quality.

•    Misusing hashtags.

•    Buying likes and fake followers.

•    Not paying attention to analytics.

Recap

Craft beverage companies have a product that is in demand, but they are working in an increasingly competitive market. Digital marketing allows them to stay ahead of the game through creative branding and audience engagement.

As a recap, here are some main social media tips as discussed above:

•    Get to know how the Instagram platform works.

•    Define your social media strategy.

•    Tell your brand story.

•    Utilize organic search and paid distribution.

•    Be consistent.

•    Use hashtags.

•    Use influencers.

•    Inspire real world engagement.

•    Take your followers behind the scenes.

•    Connect to a cause.

•    Partner with other brands.

•    Keep it going; don’t stop!

The Last Gulp

  If craft beverage companies hope to engage consumers and boost their sales in this competitive market, they have to adopt a social media strategy that ensures success. While there is no cookie-cutter formula to success on Instagram, there is a pattern that works across the platform if utilized properly.

  The realness is in the engagement and knowing how to maximize your followers and their engagement. So keep thinking: just how can you brew up a social media campaign as unique as your beverage?

Chris Mulvaney is a business developer, entrepreneur, and an award-winning creative marketing strategist. His extensive professional background includes working with some of the world’s leading brands – and personally helping clients refine their corporate vision and generate the kind of eye-popping results that too many companies only dream about. Visit… cmdsonline.com

Tanks & Tank Cleaning Equipment

Global Companies and Smaller Firms Handle the Universal Needs of Craft Brewers

By: Cheryl Gray

All craft beer must include two key ingredients that no brewery can do without – the perfect tank and the pristine cleaning of it. 

Companies making tanks and tank cleaning equipment know that cutting corners on these important steps can not only ruin a batch of beer but could also ruin a brewery’s relationship with its customers.  

  Helping breweries stay on top of sanitizing tanks and related equipment is the specialty of Butterworth, Inc., a global industry leader with representatives and supply depots in more than 25 countries, including beverage installations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, Belgium, Venezuela, Japan and China. 

  When Arthur Butterworth founded the Houston, Texas-based firm in 1925, company archives record how he invented and patented the process for tank cleaning and received a patent for the first automated tank cleaning machine. Started initially to address the needs of ocean vessels requiring improved safety measures to tackle the dangerous job of manually cleaning cargo tanks, breweries are among its 21st-century food and beverage industry customers.  

  Mark E. Murphy is Global Industrial Sales Manager for Butterworth, with a degree in Petroleum Engineering and more than 34 years of industry experience. Murphy provided an overview of Butterworth products for Beverage Master Magazine as well as innovations that the company has introduced to the market.

  “Stream impingement technology, a method by which a contiguous stream is delivered to the wall of the vessel being cleaned, such that upon contact, it shears to clean a larger area than just the stream. Our LTFT product in a 10 mm nozzle configuration is by far our best seller. We offer static spray balls, dynamic reaction drive rotating nozzles and our premium line of high-impact auto-indexing tank cleaning machines. We also build custom CIP solutions to our customer’s specifications.”

  A single Butterworth machine, Murphy said, can clean up to a 230-foot diameter tank. After point-of-sale, Butterworth provides custom on-site maintenance training, technical support by telephone, email or video, as well as start-up assistance and factory repair.  Butterworth products, Murphy said, are virtually maintenance-free.

  “Typically, little maintenance is required, given proper upfront preventative maintenance, such as filters and soft start systems on the CIP pumps. The high impact line will have seals that need to be replaced at 300 to 500 hours – about one and a half to two years for the average brewery,” he said. “The aforementioned filtration and soft start on the CIP pumps ensure longevity and productivity. As far as cleaning and sanitizing, our designs are self-draining, so as CIP chemicals are run through the devices, they are cleaned and sanitized. Our spray nozzles and CIP equipment are made of 316 stainless steel or higher metallurgy. “

  Breweries, large and small, have to make important decisions about what equipment they choose to keep their tanks and related equipment clean. Murphy told Beverage Master Magazine that Butterworth offers many options, including those that accommodate a brewery’s growth.

  “Smaller craft breweries will typically use static spray balls. As your equipment becomes larger, you start moving up the food chain of function. At 50 to 100 barrels, you start looking at more dynamic reaction drive rotating nozzles. Above 100 barrels, the high impact auto-indexing machines start to outperform everything else.”

  Ecolab is another global frontrunner with nearly a century of industry experience. Its focus is on maintaining clean and safe environments while, at the same time, optimizing water and energy use. The Minnesota-based conglomerate boasts nearly three million customer locations in more than 170 countries. That business portfolio includes craft brewery clients benefitting from an integrated brewery cleaning and sanitation project called the Ecolab Craft Brewery Program.  The program guides brewers on best practices for achieving product quality, flavor, operational efficiency, budget management, team building and safety.

  CraftMaster Stainless, based in California with clients in the U.S. and Canada, produces tanks using the material that its name implies. Owner and operator David Silva said that his company has invested a decade into providing a variety of stainless steel tanks, not just for breweries but also for winery and distilling operations. Silva told Beverage Master Magazine that CraftMaster Stainless has a roster of products to accommodate multiple equipment needs for breweries of all sizes.

  “We offer all sorts of equipment, from complete brewhouses, uni-tanks, brite tanks, lagering tanks, serving tanks, mixing tanks, mash tuns, cold and hot water, to keg washers, yeast brinks, brew hoses, down to just some basic hardware. If you need a custom tank designed, that’s no problem. We have our engineers design to your specifications to fit our customer needs.”

  Whether it is a first-time client or a returning one, Silva said that his company prides itself on a personalized customer experience from point-of-sale and beyond.

  “We also love to educate our customers when they call in to ensure they are getting the correct size, correct equipment, and just steer them in the right direction. There is nothing better than talking and educating our customers!”

  CraftMaster Stainless offers its customers a 10-year warranty and lifetime customer service on its tanks, made of 304 stainless steel. Silva said that it is good to periodically passivate all stainless-steel equipment with an acid-based solution to establish a uniform passive oxide layer that will maximize corrosion resistance.

  While stainless steel is tough, Silva warns that it is not invulnerable, which is why proper cleaning is a must. He considers heat as the best sanitizer but also recommends commonly used over-the-counter products for general cleaning and heavy-duty sanitizing. The exception is any product with chlorine bleach.

  Silva and other experts agree that using chlorine bleach on stainless steel is a recipe for disaster. Not only is its use potentially dangerous to the health of workers, but chlorine bleach can also damage the invisible chromium oxide layer that protects stainless steel from stains and rust.  If the layer is breached, rust can form on the surface, making way for what the industry calls pitting corrosion. Instead, proper cleaning with the right products can benefit the stainless steel tank and its invisible protection shield, that all-important chromium oxide layer.

  CraftMaster Stainless has created some innovative products for craft brewers. “We have a very unique ½ barrel yeast brink (shown above). We designed it to be user friendly by adding rolling casters, an oversized yeast outlet, large 6-foot manway opening [and] CIP ball for easy cleaning,” Silva said. “[There’s] also a unique stir paddle to agitate your yeast without having to expose the yeast to extra oxygen, or lifting the bring to shake the yeast to keep it activated.”

  A brewery’s size dictates what tanks and tank systems it should use in its operations. Growth has a lot to do with the clients’ equipment choices.  “Most systems in breweries range from three and a half barrels to 30 barrels,” said Silva. “For instance, if you have a five-barrel brewhouse system, you would yield five barrels of beer. As the brewery starts to grow or gain more popularity, the brewery might start looking into doubling the size of [its] tank by going to a 10 barrel. Then, on brew days, the brewer will brew the same recipe twice, usually the more popular recipe, making 10 barrels of product and storing it in the bigger vessel for fermentation, streamlining their process. This is called double-batching. Most breweries will double the size of the tank to the size of their brewhouse.”

  Experts say that brewers need to factor in the initial capital costs and maintenance expenses when selecting tanks and tank cleaning equipment. Additional costs include water and chemical consumption needs. As with any industrial process, safety precautions should be exercised when cleaning and sanitizing tanks and using tank cleaning equipment. One of those precautions includes using standard PPE when using chemicals or when using water at high temperatures. 

  Shared information about tanks and tank cleaning equipment is helpful to craft brewers looking for affirmation on how some products and methods have worked for others.

  Additional resources are available through the Master Brewers Association of America, a nonprofit organization with more than 4,000 members in 25 regions from more than 50 countries. The organization offers many professional development opportunities and technical information, including safety in cleaning and sanitizing tanks.  Here is their website link…https://www.mbaa.com/Pages/default.aspx

https://www.mbaa.com/Pages/default.aspx

All About Hoses, Tubes, Clamps and Connections

By: Alyssa l. Ochs

In the brewing industry, many different small parts play a significant role in producing beer. While hoses, tubes, clamps and connections are often overlooked, it is never a good idea to use worn-down or ill-fitting parts that could compromise the product’s quality. Brewers can benefit from learning about different types of hoses, tubes, clamps and connections to determine whether an upgrade is needed now or in the near future.

Types of Brewery Connection Products

  There are various hose types and sizes that breweries use for different purposes. Commonly used hoses for beer operations include beer transfer hoses, washdown hoses, crush-proof hoses and general-purpose hoses. Hose widths are often between 1 and 4 inches, while hose lengths can be anywhere from 5 to 50 feet.

  Meanwhile, tubes connect pieces of brewhouse equipment and work in conjunction with various piping components. Black pipes carry water into the brewhouse and out into the wastewater system, while stainless-steel pipes are used for many parts of the brewing process. Galvanized pipes coated with zinc are important for corrosion resistance. Copper pipes, ABS plastic pipes and polypropylene-R pipes are all common in breweries. For tubing, thick-walled vinyl tubing is the top choice of many brewers because of its kink-resistance, taste protection and flexibility even while cold.

  One-inch crimped stainless-steel tri-clamp ends are useful in breweries, with typical sizes being a quarter-, three-eighths-, one-half-, five-eighths- and three-quarter-inch. Both plastic and metal clamps are used in breweries with cutter and crimping tools to ensure a good fit. Worm clamps are easy to find in hardware stores and operate with a screw mechanism and metal strap with slots cut into the strap. Easy to use and reusable, snap rings are clamps made with semi-rigid plastic that utilize pressure to tighten. Single- and double-eared clamps are circular and have ears that hold the strap in an open position until closed with pliers and cannot reopen. Meanwhile, stepless clamps apply equal pressure and require a tool to apply and remove, making them non-reusable.

  Connections include basic hose connectors called barb fittings and easy-to-clean sanitary connectors called tri-clamps. Camlocks and stainless sleeve QD connectors allow a brewer to make connections without swapping hoses or removing or installing clamps on hoses.

  James Lutgring, head brewer for Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, Louisiana, told Beverage Master Magazine that his team uses 1.5-inch tubing with 1.5-inch tri-clamp fittings for nearly everything in their brewery.

  “These hoses are used for transferring wort and beer, cleaning, sanitizing and moving water around to where we need it,” Lutgring said. “We also use ½ inch silicon tubing when transferring beer to kegs.”

  Rob Williams, sales manager for Alliance Hose & Rubber Co., said the company’s most popular products are custom length transfer hoses and specialty tri-clamp fittings.

  “We offer several types, each having a unique advantage,” Williams said. “For example, there are hoses that are kink- and crush-resistant for higher traffic areas, while extreme-flex corrugated covers offer higher flexibility and allow the water to pass through the corrugations to prevent water damming.”

  Also popular, he said, is Alliance’s washdown hose. “We offer hoses that have a high standard when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing. Our washdown hoses have the Microban cover, which does not allow bacteria to form on the cover, as well as FDA rated tubes. Finally, there are one-piece tri-clamp crimp elbows to reduce hose trip hazards and end damage to hoses used on manifolds. With the level of safety concerns and cleaning processes being updated daily, providing safe assemblies and best practices to help the brewing community meet or exceed their safety requirements is our goal.”

When to use Different Types of Connections

  Experienced brewers know the best parts and accessories for different purposes, such as brewery suction and discharge applications. Concerning hoses, vinyl hoses are easy to obtain and use, but they can curl easily and accumulate residue inside. Reinforced vinyl hoses are stiffer but aren’t the best at handling high temperatures. For less curling and high-temperature resistance, many prefer silicone hoses. Good qualities in a brewery hose include flexibility, lightweight design, durability, ability to easily bend around brewing equipment, purity so that smells and tastes aren’t affected and a smooth structure that’s easy to clean.

  For tubing, transparent tubes are good choices for seeing what is collecting inside the tube and perhaps even causing contamination. Tubes should withstand high temperatures and have thick walls for high pressure. Beverage-specific tubing is also designed to prevent curling.

  Brewers often use tri-clamp fittings to move unprocessed beer from one place to another, leading to many variations being sold on the market today. Tri-clover, Camlock, Blichmann NPT and Quick Connect are the most commonly used connection types. Tri-clover fittings are sanitary, have a separate silicone seal and a tri-clamp that holds the pieces together. Blichmann NPT connectors require screwing in with each use, so they aren’t as quick to use, but they have a plastic sleeve that allows brewers to connect it without gloves, even when hot, and to connect and disconnect without leaks. Meanwhile, Camlocks are made from stainless steel, have a water-tight seal and are quick to connect and disconnect.

The Importance of Hoses, Tubes, Clamps and Connections

  These small details add up when operating complex brewing machines and trying to make the best beer possible for consumers with minimal hassles for staff. Hoses, tubes, clamps and connections are all important because, when working correctly, they help preserve the intended taste and smell of the beer. The right parts also help staff work in confined spaces without feeling cramped or frustrated. Having working parts will also help maintain overall equipment investment. When these products aren’t checked and maintained regularly, serious leaks in the brewing space or tainted beer that is not safe or desirable to drink could result.

  Williams from Alliance Hose & Rubber Co. said that the use of various hose and fittings is crucial since not all hose and fittings can handle the temperatures, pressures and chemicals present in the brewing process.

  “There are many safety issues concerning the proper attachment methods – i.e., crimping, bands and clamps – used with the brewery hoses as well,” Williams said. “Brewers suffer a great deal of product loss and also personal injury every year due to the misapplication of hoses, tubes and fittings. Some stages of the brewing process can use the same type of hoses, such as the transfer of beer from one vessel to another in either the heating stage or to the kegging process. However, brewers who are also making sours, distilled liquors or seltzers will need to use specific hoses for these processes.”

  For example, Williams said that brewers tend to use a different cover color and fitting when making sour beers.

  “This ensures that the same hose is not used in the regular brewing process and that sour hoses are only used for sour beers,” he said. “When distilling or making seltzers, it is highly recommended that brewers use a higher-proof-capable FDA hose with a wire reinforcement so that the hose can be grounded to the system and not cause a potential fire hazard.”

  Finally, Williams said that proper tubing and fittings should be used when higher concentrations of cleaning chemicals are in the brewing system or when transferring flavorings into the brewing process. Alliance Hose offers phone consultations – as well as on-site visits for breweries in the Elmhurst, Illinois area – to assist in selecting hoses and their safe use.

Choosing the Right Product

  Some of the most common mistakes and oversights that breweries make regarding these products are over-use and not regularly checking on them. Other common errors are settling for the cheapest option and making do with multipurpose parts that don’t best serve specific needs. It’s also vital to remember that brewers will need tools to cut tubing and hoses and crimp clamps. Cutters and pincers are available in different sizes and should factor into a brewery’s overall equipment budget.

  Lutgring from Bayou Teche Brewing said, “The hoses need to be able to withstand temperatures of 220 degrees Fahrenheit, caustics, acids and pressures of up to 200 psi, while also being durable enough to last.”

  “Cost is also a big factor when we are shopping for new hoses,” Lutgring said. “The tri-clamp fittings are just about the same wherever you get them, so it usually comes down to price and convenience. Some of the valves may last longer than others, but you just have to learn that from experience with the vendor.”

  Williams from Alliance Hose & Rubber Co. said breweries should get their S.T.A.M.P.E.D information to the hose and fitting supplier. “S.T.A.M.P.E.D. is an acronym used to get all the correct details of the application so that the safest and most proper hose and tubing system can be provided,” he said.

  Here’s what the acronym stands for to help breweries be as safe as possible while using these products:

S = Size (i.d. and o.d.) and length.

T = Temperature (product transferred & atmosphere).

A = Application (what is the hose being used for).

M = Media (what is being transferred).

P = Pressure.

E = Ends (fitting type).

D = Delivery (how soon the product is needed).

  Regarding safety, another resource is the Master Brewers Association of the Americas’ Safety Toolbox Talk that discusses hose fitting attachment methods in practical terms with helpful visual depictions.