Hand Barrel Bourbon: Three Friends, One Idea and the Perfect Partnership

photo of 3 small hand barrel bottles in different colors

By Gerald Dlubala

We’ve all heard the phrase about loving it when a plan comes together. When it’s a plan that three friends come up and run with, we love it all the more. And that’s just what happened to Jim Hand, Scott Pirello and Beorn Brueckner, founding members of Hand Barrel Bourbon Company.

“It kind of started when I got recruited by Scott Pirello, a college friend, to play on a men’s softball team,” said Hand. “Scott was working on a project to make cool bottles for packaging. I thought it might be cool to make a whiskey bottle that resembles a real barrel and fill it with quality whiskey to sell. The initial idea was honestly as simple as that.”

Hand and Pirello were both fans of brown spirits and always considered the whiskey industry an exciting arena. They also believed that their bottle idea might just be good enough to attain what would become their first goal of surviving their first year in business. Well, they’ve not only reached that goal, which occurred the last week of October 2023, but they’ve done very well in their first year with an idea that admittedly seemed backward.

“Our approach was different, going from packaging first to the product inside,” said Hand. “But getting into the spirits market without some huge backing is tough. We brought in a third partner, Beorn Brueckner, who attended high school with Scott. Beorn was the GM of a bar in Boston during the pandemic and was now looking for something else. His industry experience fits in perfectly with what we needed, and he currently runs many operations within the company. Scott is our CEO and numbers guy. Additionally, Scott has an entrepreneurial background and experience starting and selling businesses. Without him, there would be no Hand Barrel Bourbon. He had the know-how to start this thing up and run with it. I come from a software sales background and now handle the sales and marketing aspects of the business. So, that’s the whole company, three friends and equal partners.”

Using Unique Packaging to Tell a Story

Hand tells Beverage Master Magazine that it came down to three friends getting together with an idea for a different and unique packaging idea and decided to put premium bourbon into it to sell to the public. Hand says that they knew they would run the risk of consumers thinking their bottle may just be a gimmick to sell their product. But the Hand Barrel Bourbon bottles are instead a motif, providing packaging that tells a story of what is inside the bottle. 

“We sell our single barrel, small batch in the white barrel bottle, signifying the unique minerals and deposits found in the Kentucky water,” said Hand. “Our double-oaked comes in a black, charred finish bottle, signifying the barrels and type of exposure the spirit encounters along its journey. These are specific ingredients and attributes to Kentucky bourbon whiskey, and we want to recognize, respect and make note of those attributes through our packaging.”

Partnering with the Right Contract Distiller is Key

After settling on the bottles, packaging, and message they wanted to send, the group had to find a contract distiller. Hand says they didn’t have the time or capital to start up and wait five or six years, so the search was on to find the best partner for them and their situation.

“We happened into Bardstown Bourbon Company in Bardstown, Kentucky,” said Hand. “We tried their products, looked at their facilities and met the people behind the brand. From that day forward, they became the perfect partner and our contract distillery. It really was a slam dunk for us, and we are now completely vertically integrated with them. They are a state-of-the-art distiller with the best column in the industry. It is our mash bill that we use, a 64-24-12 sweet mash recipe. It’s not the traditional higher corn content (70 to 78 percent) of many bourbons. We wanted to try something a little different. There aren’t as many high-rye mash bills out in the market. We come in at 105 proof, which we believe is the sweet spot for bourbon and the perfect place to land. And because our bottles are preprinted, we don’t deviate from that number. Our barrels age at Bardstown’s facilities, and we use their blending team and bottling line. Our responsibility is to provide the mashbill, the marketing and the cool bottles to package our product.”

Hand says its goal is to provide a bourbon experience that positively appeals to all the senses, including touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.

“We want our bourbon to be a total experience,” said Hand. “It’s an excellent-tasting, authentic Kentucky bourbon whiskey wrapped in a unique bottle that consumers will proudly display in their home or on their bar.”

One of those unique bottles was a special-release camouflage bottle.

“All three of us have connections or ties to the military somehow,” said Hand. “The camouflage bottle was our first special release and offered us the opportunity to give back 10 percent of sales to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SWOF) to benefit families of our fallen Special Operators. We feel that anytime we can give back to one of our military organizations, it’s absolutely worth it. It was a huge success, and we’re looking into other partnership releases. We’re considering things like NCAA or professional sports teams as well as personalized bottles for special occasions”.

Hand says their bottles would make perfect gifts for weddings, groomsmen’s and bridesmaids’ gifts or to celebrate and commemorate special occasions for clubs, groups and organizations. He also mentioned single-barrel picks to make the occasion even more distinctive.

“The bottle is one thing we can change to meet our customer’s special occasion needs,” said Hand. “That’s our edge in the marketplace. You can really only stretch one mash bill about three different ways, ending in a small batch, single barrel and double-oaked, similar to what we did. But we can also change the bottle to create something unique, distinctive and special for our customers.”

Pinpoint Focus and Smart Decisions Will Shape the Future

“We’ve been in business and on shelves for over a year now,” said Hand. “We started in just two states, Massachusetts and Kentucky. We had a minimal release our first year, maybe 6,000 bottles, and sold out within the first two to three months. That was a testament to the acceptance of our idea and gave us the confidence to try to gain market share. We’ve since added 19 more states to our distribution areas and are looking toward expansion and continued growth. We’ve had talks with Canada, South Korea and Japan, who all have interest in our bottles.”

“You know, we have a potentially wide footprint with customized bottles,” said Hand. “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also very daunting because we can go in many different directions. Since our path can go in so many different and diverse ways, we, especially as a small business, must focus on the best opportunities for us. If we have so much as a flop of 2,000 to 3,000 bottles, it would be very detrimental to us. We have to be careful about our choices and focus on what we need to do to build our business and gain customer commitment. We have to focus on who can commit to the best volumes early to get that extra volume and padding for us as a business. We’d love to eventually be able to do as little as six to 12 bottle orders for weddings or parties with names and dates, offering that custom gift for the guy or girl who has everything.”

Joining the Welcoming Community of Distilled Spirits

“The biggest surprise I’ve had along this journey is the general welcomeness of the bourbon industry. I mean, it really has been noticeable,” Hand said. “I was sitting with other bourbon reps trying to launch a market, and we were all sharing drinks, ideas and information. Unlike some other businesses, there weren’t any highly secretive behaviors or unwillingness to share our experiences. It helps everyone to grow with a better chance of success. This industry uniquely welcomes newcomers; everyone I’ve come into contact with has been willing to help and give quality advice. This industry is such a big piece of the overall spirits pie that we can all succeed. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, which is a truly refreshing and beneficial approach. Spirits consumers traditionally welcome variety. We love to build our bar cart with a variety of diverse brands. It’s just fun to build your display to share with friends, whether for a hobbyist or a serious collector. It’s a pretty straightforward sales approach.”

Displaying Products Together Boosts Sales

Hand tells Beverage Master Magazine that he learned a ton about the industry, which was expected. What sticks out for Hand and the other founders of Hand Barrel Bourbon is that along their path, they’ve noticed a distinct advantage to having all their products together on a shelf displayed as a suite or grouping. Because of their unique bottles and the meanings behind those bottles, when the products all stand together in unison on a shelf display, they combine to show and tell a story that ultimately leads to an increase in sales. Hand Barrel Bourbon’s sales are better when their products stand together, even if that means giving up less width on the shelf in return.

“When it comes down to it, we are just three friends who raised a little bit of money and came up with an idea that we thought was pretty cool, and we want to make an impact on the market with quality products that we are proud to offer, and that consumers are equally proud to own.”

Find more information on Hand Barrel Bourbon at www.handbarrel.com.

Barrel Storage Tips for Breweries and Distilleries

stack of barrels in a warehouse

By Alyssa L. Ochs

Breweries and distilleries use barrels for aging, to achieve oxidation and charring and to add distinctive flavors to their products. But an important factor to remember is how you store the barrels because storage can affect flavors, textures and the length of the brewing or distilling process.

To learn more about this issue and how modern producers approach barrel storage, we connected with a few brewers and distillers to discuss common challenges, best practices and expert advice.

Where to Store Barrels

One common place to store barrels is a racked warehouse, also known as a rickhouse or rackhouse. With this method, craft beverage companies typically hold barrels horizontally on racks with room for air to circulate around the sides and ends. Racked warehouse buildings are made from brick, wood, tin or concrete and may be subject to seasonal fluctuations due to a lack of climate control.

Barrels on lower racks have more consistent yearly temperatures, and the racks are usually six to nine barrels high per floor in a multi-story structure. Getting the barrels in and out of the racks can be labor-intensive. So, some producers use single-story or rickhouses up to four stories tall instead for greater ease and more consistent aging.

Another option for beverage producers is palletized warehouses, where employees place barrels on large, wooden pallets, usually four to six barrels per pallet. Employees can store them vertically with pallets on top of each other to save space and labor. Then, they can move multiple barrels on pallets at a time with a forklift, usually six high per floor. Since restricted airflow may alter the aging process, companies may need to install large fans in the area. This method works best in cool and humid climates without extreme temperature changes. However, there is a greater chance of leaks with pallets stacked on top of each other in a palletized warehouse.

Meanwhile, dunnage warehouses are a well-established form of barrel storage tied to old Scottish traditions. A dunnage warehouse is a single-floor warehouse that offers a beautiful display and consistent maturation over many years. This method is commonly used for old and rare whiskies. The warehouse walls are typically made from stone or brick to prevent large temperature swings that could affect the flavors.

The Importance of Barrel Storage

It is helpful to understand the various methods of barrel storage so that your business can improve flavor profiles and add in flavors like oak, vanilla and fruit. Part of the barrel cleaning and maintenance process also involves checking and cleaning the inside and outside of barrels received, checking for leaks, making repairs and using heat or chemicals to treat them before the first fill. For example, staff members can light a sulfur burner inside a barrel to preserve it and ensure no mold growth, but not if the barrel previously aged spirits. You’ll need to close the bunghole quickly, avoid breathing in the toxic sulfur dioxide and then store the barrels in a cool and dry place, checking them occasionally because gas tends to escape within a few months.

Alternatively, producers can use a citric acid solution to protect barrels from microbial growth for six months or longer to keep the barrels moist. Another vital thing to remember is that storage racks and warehouses must be built with noncombustible materials, such as reinforced concrete, masonry or fireproof steel. Also, electrical systems should be at least five feet above the top of the highest storage level for safety purposes.

What Works for Distillers and Brewers

Matt Cunningham, founder and proprietor of Old Glory Distilling Co. in Clarksville, Tennessee, told Beverage Master that his company palletizes all of its barrels. Old Glory Distilling opened in 2016 and specializes in small-batch Tennessee whiskey and bourbon.

“We use four barrel pallets designed specifically for the storage of barrels to be able to stack them six high in columns,” Cunningham said. “We use a system in our warehouse of rows and columns for organization and safety. We have used some racks before where barrels are laid down, but the amount of space those racks took up and the difficulty handling them didn’t make sense when we built our 10,000-barrel barrel house and made plans for a second one.”

Cunningham said that they plan to take a similar approach to their second barrel house. He also said that the most important thing to keep in mind about barrel storage for spirits is ensuring airflow around the barrels and not enclosing them in a space that does not have any airflow.

“As those barrels are breathing, you don’t want them to become stagnant,” Cunningham said. “This is something we found out and paid heed to some people who used storage containers in the past because they were cheap and readily available. While you can store barrels in them, just make sure they are ventilated and not sealed up. If you are going to use those and your jurisdiction allows for it, you need to ensure good air flow.”

Bryan Smith, the master distiller and owner of Hard Truth Distilling Co. in Nashville, Indiana, told Beverage Master that his company also stores barrels in a palletized barrel warehouse. Hard Truth Distilling began distilling spirits in 2015. It produces over 20 premium spirits and quickly outgrew its original production facility. In 2017, Hard Truth moved into its current 50,000-square-foot building with a state-of-the-art Vendome Copper & Brass distilling system. Its wooded, 325-acre destination campus in Brown County, Indiana also serves as an artist colony and tourist destination surrounded by natural beauty.

“Storing the barrels vertically and on pallets makes our ability to pull barrels for sampling and for blends far more efficient and safe,” Smith said. “Safety is the first consideration, followed by environmental conditions favorable to shape the whiskey to the flavor profile. While monitoring temperature and humidity, for us, a one-story barrel warehouse gives us more consistency over time.”

Many breweries around the U.S. also use barrels and must plan ahead for their storage needs. One example is Alpha Michigan Brewing Company, located in the smallest village in America with a brewery: Alpha, Michigan, which had a population of 126 at the time of the 2020 census. Alpha Brewery prioritizes community involvement and brews to support local organizations, hosting fundraisers and sourcing ingredients from local farmers.

Mike Bjork from Alpha Michigan Brewing Company told us, “We store full barrels in our walk-in cooler and empty, clean barrels in the office with limited space.” He said the most important thing to remember about barrel storage is to “keep the clean and dirty barrels separated.”

The Biggest Issue with Barrel Storage

The biggest challenge that Old Glory Distillery has faced with barrel storage relates to space concerns and a lack of storage space.

“When you start off, you have a designated space where you’re going to store your barrels, but next thing you know, it’s full,” Cunningham from Old Glory Distilling said. “Make sure storage is in excess of what you need because it’s going to fill up.”

Space has also been an issue for Hard Truth Distilling in recent years.

“Our biggest challenge has been our rate of expansion and being able to keep up with our storage needs,” Smith from Hard Truth said.

On the brewery side, Bjork from Alpha Michigan Brewery shared with Beverage Master that space has been his brewery’s biggest challenge, as well.

Advice About Barrel Storage

Brewers and distillers may be interested to learn about companies offering barrel storage solutions, such as B.R. Distilling Company, which provides bonded warehouse storage on four-barrel pallets and charges a monthly storage rate, plus handling fees. Some barrel storage specialty companies offer additional services, including lab analysis, logistics, sampling and TIB registrations.

Some interesting trends in barrel storage are happening now, such as distilleries moving away from traditional rickhouses and using palletized storage instead. This approach generally makes it easier for employees to move barrels and check on the aging process. Also, the industry has increased awareness about how metal roofs and thin walls can make flavors change when seasons change. Craft beverage companies may consider storage-saving designs in which a rack can be compressed into a stack when empty. Meanwhile, barrel storage walls at distilleries can serve decorative purposes by providing attractive photo backdrops and conversation pieces for guests.

One major piece of advice for brewers and distillers is always to keep the barrel storage warehouse clean and dry. Our experts provide additional tips and advice to guide new businesses and those amid operational transitions.

Cunningham from Old Glory Distilling shared with Beverage Master that his advice is to “allow for more space than what you initially need because you’ll eventually need it later.” He also advised,” You don’t need a bung in the staves if you are going to palletize them, as it creates a possibility for those barrels to leak.”

From Hard Truth Distilling, Smith advised, “Do plenty of research on safety and regulatory requirements in your area, first and foremost. Take into consideration your planned operational space and ability to be able to access barrels, as well as the time you plan to age and the flavor profile that you were targeting. And finally, make sure to build more capacity than you think you might need.”

Bjork from Alpha Michigan Brewing Company’s advice to breweries is similar and follows a common theme throughout the industry. He simply advises new and growing breweries, “Ensure you have sufficient space for all barrel storage.”

High Performance Counts

Experts Supply Craft Brewers and Distillers with Pumps That Set Products in Motion

two men working on pumps outside of a distillery tank

By: Cheryl Gray

Choosing pumps for breweries and distilleries requires consideration of several factors, perhaps none more important than technology. That technology is what propels the liquids that create a successful product for the beer and spirits industries.

When it comes to the ever-changing line-up of products, advanced pump technology is taking the lead in which products find their way into brewery and distillery production lines.

Ampco Pumps Company is one of the manufacturers providing state-of-the-art technology in its pump products. An ISO 9001:2015 Registered Company, Ampco is a spin-off from the original firm, founded in 1914 and headquartered in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where it manufactures products. Ampco has regional offices throughout the United States and also an international sales, assembly and light fabrication plant in Germany. Additionally, as part of The Krones Group, Ampco Pumps Company has leveraged its position as a member of a global team serving the food and beverage industries.

Ampco Pumps Company has been providing quality centrifugal pumps and positive displacement pumps worldwide for more than 70 years. It is committed to manufacturing quality products, providing excellent customer service and competitive pricing to its customers. It has become the preferred pump provider for some of the most recognized companies across the globe.

For breweries, Ampco says it focuses on maximizing efficiency and portability by engineering pumps that have been incorporated into Ampco carts. The company explains how its carts are tailored to each customer’s specifications and can accommodate any Ampco centrifugal pump, positive displacement pump or blender. It also boasts a wide variety of products to meet the challenges of small and mid-sized craft breweries.

Bob Garner is the engineering manager for Ampco. With more than 30 years of engineering experience with C Series and centrifugal pumps, Garner is very familiar with the challenges that craft breweries face.

“Ampco was hearing from craft brewers about a common leaky pump issue when pumping hot wort,” he said. “They were all using a standard C Series, and it did not matter the brand of pump. So, I looked into the issue closely to find a solution. The result was the development of the CB+ Craft Brew pump, which solved the problem.”

Garner describes why Ampco’s CB+ is so popular among its craft brewery clients.

“It was designed to solve a problem that no one else in the industry was working on,” he said. “The CB+ solution reduces lost product, is easy to maintain and has proven to have longer seal life than a standard C Series, which saves money in the long run. There are also conversion kits available to convert standard C Series to the CB+. The response from customers has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Ampco touts its high priority on pre- and post-sale customer service for its clients. Garner adds that the company’s reputation in this area plays an important role in its growth.

“Providing superior customer service is part of our mission,” he said. “Quick response times from knowledgeable representatives and trained engineers in real time is part of the advantage of working with Ampco. It has been an important part of what put us on the map and how we continue to grow.”

Many of Ampco’s products can be customized to ensure accuracy when it comes to mixing and blending applications. One of those products is the ZPI Positive Displacement Pump. While the product is manufactured to meet the needs of wineries, the company touts it as tough enough for the demands of breweries, including spent yeast with hop material. The ZPI can also handle product handling for harvesting yeast, propagation skids, feeding a centrifuge and cone-to-cone transfer.

FLUX Pumps is another industry leader. FLUX Pumps made its mark when the first electric pump was introduced to the marketplace in 1950, and the name bore the moniker FLUX. Soon after, the company launched the first explosion-proof drum pump for use in hazardous areas. In the decades since, FLUX Pumps has paved the way as one of the frontrunners in drum and container pumping technology.

The company has its headquarters and manufacturing plant in Germany. It has global ties that include six subsidiaries and a comprehensive roster of distribution centers that give FLUX the ability to service clients in more than 100 countries. FLUX Pumps also operates corporate offices in the United States, Belgium, India, Thailand, the United Kingdom and France.

Glenn Mulligan is the president of FLUX Pumps North America. He explains how pump performance helps keep production lines running efficiently. He says his product advice is the same for all craft breweries. Product longevity and performance play important roles because the duo increases productivity by shifting tasks that used to be done by hand to automation.

Recent product releases by FLUX Pumps include the VISCOPOWER product line. These pumps phased out the company’s F550 and F560 pump models.

The newer design was created for easier assembly and dismantling, a change that reduces cleaning and maintenance while simplifying the pump design. VISCOPOWER pumps are designed with a modular configuration that allows for streamlined spare parts, while at the same time, offering a customizable pump design.

FLUX Pumps also offers flow meters and control panels, which can turn a standard drum or tote pump into a one-touch batching/metering system. This technology eliminates the guesswork of dispensing the right amount of product. As Mulligan explains, adding just a few components to a pump can help FLUX Pumps customers come away with an accurate, repeatable dosing product that saves clients time and money by reducing costly mistakes. 

Distillers have some of the same challenges as brewers when it comes to choosing the right pumps to get the job done. Todd Thrasher is the founder and owner of Potomac Distilling Company, located in Washington, D.C.’s waterfront District Wharf. In business since 2018, the industrial distillery is the headquarters for Thrasher’s signature Thrasher’s Rum, which is sold in island-inspired flavor profiles, such as white, spiced, coconut, green spiced and gold.

Thrasher knows a thing or two about what pumps and accessories he needs to create his products, while at the same time ensuring a work environment that is both safe and productive.   For transferring high-proof spirits, Thrasher’s Potomac Distilling Company prefers the SimpleSpirits 49 Air Diaphragm Ethanol Transfer Pump.

“I purchased this pump first because I knew it would handle high ethanol spirits,” he said. “It has been a great piece of equipment in the distillery. I made this specific selection upon research and other industry recommendations.”

The pump is manufactured by Versamatic, headquartered in Mansfield, Ohio. One of Versamatic’s key suppliers is TCW Equipment, which is in California’s Sonoma Valley. In business since 1966, TCW Equipment is a supplier to multiple areas of the beverage industry, including breweries and distilleries.

The SimpleSpirits 49 pumps are ATEX-rated, which means that, when used as instructed, they comply with all safety regulations that govern atmosphere explosive devices. The pumps are equipped with EPDM diaphragms, which are durable and compatible with ethyl alcohol. In addition, the pumps run entirely on compressed air, therefore reducing the threat of static discharge from electrical equipment that could cause fires when encountering flammable vapors. Finally, the pumps can be connected to a ground source in the distillery, ensuring that any naturally occurring static build-up is discharged into the ground.

For low-proof spirits, Thrasher looks to McFinn Technologies out of Kenosha, Wisconsin for its 22060, a self-priming, multiple-speed and reversible-flow direction pump with a standard wireless remote control. 

“This pump was purchased shortly after Potomac Distilling Company opened as I realized that another pump was needed – this is made to move wash that isn’t overproof,” he said. “And it gets used before spirit runs to move the fermentations over to the still.”

The pump’s three-horsepower version features a 1750 TEFC motor and NEMA 4 VFD with a standard stainless-steel cart. This model also features voltage options. Additional pump models by McFinn Technologies include the 20035, 20035CC and the 30080.

There are multiple choices for distilleries and breweries when it comes to choosing pump products and accessories. The decision-making comes down to price, productivity and safety protection in the workspace. Expert companies with years of engineering and scientific knowledge can help. Combining that knowledge with years of experience working with clients in the production of spirits and beer can go a long way toward helping breweries and distilleries make the right moves to move their products to the market.

Nailing Down the Right Tanks for Your Craft Beverage

Picture of Distillery tanks in a distilllery

By: Cheryl Gray

Whether it’s craft brew, spirits or hard cider, the right tank can make all the difference in taste. Cutting corners when choosing tank products can inevitably result in quality control issues that can spell disaster for any craft beverage maker. The resulting losses can be time, materials, labor and perhaps worst of all, an entire product batch.

For nearly 20 years, SmaK Plastics has made it its business to provide craft beverage makers with best-in-class tank products, including those from its Flextank product line. Flextank serves clients throughout the United States and in Canada, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Cyprus, Australia, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, France and Austria.

  Headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, SmaK Plastics touts the Flextank roster of tanks as affordable and nearly identical to more costly stainless-steel tanks and oak barrels. Flextank vessels began selling in the United States in 2006. The brand considers itself a market leader in what it describes as new-age wine and beverage making. Flextank products have been used, the company says, to produce award-winning wines, ciders and meads. All its tanks are manufactured and assembled in Vancouver for global distribution in outlets that include Sydney, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; Santiago, Chile and Bordeaux, France. Flextank products are manufactured with high-quality resins that the company says are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority.

  Kristi Cummings, the marketing director for SmaKPlastics, describes some of Flextank’s most popular products and the reasons behind the brand’s success, including an oxygen transfer rate roughly the size of a grain of table salt.

  “With a 9 mg/liter/year oxygen transfer rate, our Heavyweight Flextanks are used by craft beverage makers throughout the world to create award-winning ciders, spirits, meads, kombuchas, wines and other craft beverages.”  

  “Our Flextank Stacker Tanks are among our most popular with craft beverage makers for their capacity, easy access and maneuverability. Unlike heavy stainless-steel tanks, Flextank Stacker Tanks are comparably quite affordable and can be easily moved around your workspace with a pallet jack. Our Stackers, like many of our other tanks, also come standard with our Dexter lid, which provides an airtight seal and easy access to your beverage when you need it. Add-ons like pouring and sampling valves are also available, as well as FlexStaves from a world-leading French stave manufacturer for adding notes of oak to your beverage.”

  As to customer service, Cummings explains what makes Flextank stand out from its competition.

“Flextanks are designed and rotomolded in the USA to be extremely durable. You can craft your beverages with some peace of mind knowing that all Flextanks purchased directly through us or an authorized Flextank dealer come with a lifetime tank guarantee. For busy business owners we make our tank and accessory prices transparent and ordering simple.”

  One Flextank customer is Salt Creek Cider House, an orchard and cidery in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon. This second-generation hard cider company, founded by Carter and Lindy Rickett, was recently voted “Best Cidery” in the Willamette Valley. The cidery relies upon the Flextank Apollo line of products, so named because it resembles the history-making Apollo Space Capsule. Cidery co-founder Lindy Rickert points to the efficiency of the Apollo as one reason that her company, which began with a single Flextank Apollo, has added additional Apollo products to its operations.

  Another popular Flextank option is the versatile Dexter product line. All Dexter Tanks are cylindrical and are equipped with a 19-inch diameter clamp lid for easy cleaning and access. Customers can choose from the standard maturation weight or more heavyweight options. 

  The 80-gallon Dexter by Flextank Tank is the product choice for Runcible Cider, another award-winning cidery based in Mosier, Oregon, along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. According to cidery co-founder Kelly McCune, the Dexter Tank is versatile enough to accommodate the production of hard cider without fear of picking up so-called off flavors. The Dexter has an optional racking pallet with a contoured center “lug” option. This allows for convenient transport and storage of the tank with easy access. 

  For those who prefer stainless steel options, Quality Tank Solutions has, as its name implies, a number of choices when it comes to tank products. The Wisconsin-based company was founded in 2012. It specializes in multiple liquid applications for various industries, including breweries, food and beverage and pharmaceuticals. Quality Tank Solutions works with companies throughout North America and prides itself on what it describes as exceptional customer service, pre- and post-sale.

  Josh Sukys is a the multimedia design specialist for the company and describes what sets Quality Tank Solutions apart. “We specialize in agitation, whether keeping liquids in suspension or providing a scrape surface, we cover it all. All of our products are custom-designed, making the opportunity to get exactly what you are in need of our priority. QTS is also 3A & ASME (R & U Stamp) certified, which adds to the capabilities on what we can provide. But don’t stop there; our customer service is top-notch, covering everything from tank repair to service parts and installations, and if you need a platform to go with, we have that, too.”

  “When working with Quality Tank Solutions, you will have access to the entire team. From conception, design, engineering, manufacturing and installation, Quality Tank Solutions will have you connected to the correct team member every step of the way. Every project is unique, and QTS understands that. Finding out what the equipment will be used for, your process and the required result is all part of the client interaction to be sure expectations are met and exceeded. Once your equipment is installed, QTS offers training and continued technical support, along with a full two-year warranty. Consider Quality Tank Solutions a long-term partner.”

  When it comes to outfitting brewhouses with the right stainless steel tank equipment, Quality Tank Solutions offers custom-built options. The client-specific systems are manufactured with a focus on the height and space restrictions of the brewery. QTS offers full and complete two- and four-vessel brewhouses ranging in size from 3-1/2BBL to 100BBL. Standard construction options include manual to fully automated systems, as well as steam or direct fire systems. QTS also offers a complete line of brewhouse equipment, such as boilers, chillers, grain handlers, walk-in coolers, keg washers, bottling lines and other equipment.

  The QTS fully stainless-steel mash tank offers standard construction features that include a flanged and dished top head, NORD gear drive, turbine agitation, glass top manway, tank light, removable CIP assembly, side wall baffles, steam jackets, shallow cone bottom and 3-A standards. Available options are a combination mash/lauter tun, a hydrator and a knife gate.

  QTS offers stand-alone whirlpool tanks and a double-duty brew kettle/whirlpool tank. Either choice is sized specifically to the brewery’s system capacity. Standard construction features include most of the features of a mash tank plus a shallow cone bottom, vortex breaker and a trub guard.

  Fermentation tanks manufactured by QTS are designed for maximum yields, which the company says results in a greater return on investment. The tanks use the precision and function of what the company describes as Omega laser-welded heat transfer surface jackets. These allow for increased flow and quicker crash times. In addition to some of the standard construction features of other   QTS tank products, a QTS fermentation tank also includes a tori conical bottom cone, an insulated vessel, a heat transfer surface jacket, a top/bottom/side entry manway, a removable CIP assembly with a whirly spray device, a racking arm and other accessories. 

  QTS manufactures brite tanks with standard features that include visual sight gauge assembly, side entry manway, side entry manway and the Omega laser welded heat transfer surface jackets designed for ample flow and fast cooling. The company’s lager tanks are horizontal and marketed as highly efficient because they contain more surface area coverage. Standard construction features include flanged and dished heads, heat transfer surface jacket, quarter-inch thick formed saddle with adjustable feet, oval swing-in manway, removable CIP assembly with whirly spray device, stacked tank design and visual sight gauge assembly. Available options include a stacked tank design and visual sight gauge assembly.

  QTS offers hot and cold liquor tanks that are designed to accommodate the size of virtually any brewhouse and are built to customer specifications. In addition to some of the other standard features of QTS products, these tanks include a round cross-arm manway, flanged and dished or flat pitched bottom, overflow and additional options such as 304 or 316L stainless steel, visual sight gauges and immersion heaters.

  Clearly, there are a number of options that craft beverage makers need to consider when choosing tank products. Whether just starting out or expanding a growing operation, expert companies are within reach to help clients make the right choices.

Build Your Business Fast and Get it Right.

brewing and distilling machines

By: Kris Bohm of Distillery Now Consulting

Building a business fast and getting it right is hard to do. Many breweries and distilleries start with a far-flung idea that often takes months or years to initiate the process of bringing the idea to life. The thousands of steps needed to bring a big idea to life will take you down a path that is not obvious and certainly not direct. Going from concept to operation is a massive challenge, but with the right help and guidance it can be done quickly. There are many ways to fast track building a new business. Many of these fast methods are fraught with traps and mistakes that are expensive. The sure-fire way to build a business fast and to do it right is to work with those who have done it before. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest learning lessons from building multiple distilleries i’ve seen and help set you on the path to building your business fast and getting it right.

  Talk to any business owner of a brewery or distillery, and I guarantee you that the owner will have some stories about how they did not do some things right the first time. Whether the equipment they bought was too small, or the location was not ideal, there are always lessons to be learned from a first time start up business. One lesson that is particularly painful and hard to fix is poor location selection to start the business. Many challenges such as location selection and selecting the perfect equipment for that location can have long term problems that only an individual with direct experience can foresee. Another factor that is often forgotten in a new business is planning for growth. These are just a few factors critical to starting right and starting quickly. Let’s go over some real world examples of these situations and share some lessons learned the hard way.

  Selecting the optimal location can make a massive difference in the speed your business can get up and running. Finding a building that is zoned correctly is a huge step forward in starting the business. In many instances a business is planned to be started in a building that is not zoned for manufacturing aka light industrial use. To get a building rezoned or to get a zoning exemption can take months if not years and can be a costly endeavor. Seeking out a building that is zoned correctly to start with will help avoid this problem entirely. At first glance, hunting for the correctly zoned property can be so specific that it can feel like a hindrance to starting the business, but taking the extra time needed to find the right property with the correct zoning can save an immense amount of time to start up. In one instance it took a distillery an entire year to get a property and building rezoned and in this case the zoning had to be approved before construction was allowed to start.

  A major cost in building a distillery or brewery is bringing all the proper utilities to the building. The cost of adding sprinklers can be astronomical. Bringing fire water for a hydrant and or sprinklers to a building then installing fire sprinklers is not only costly, but can add months to the timeline of a construction project. The other primary utilities that are needed for a business to function are another factor that is important to consider. Manufacturing equipment often has large electrical demands for motors and requires 3 phase power. Seeking a building that has enough electricity to service the business is another factor that will help to fast track the construction and reduce construction cost. The 3 other critical utilities are sewer, water and gas. All 3 of these utilities have critical use in the business and when possible, finding a building with properly sized utilities in place can save hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction. Buildings that were previously used for manufacturing are often the best option that can potentially have all utilities needed. We recently helped a distillery open up in which the previous building tenant was a water bottling plant. This building already had all necessary utilities in place and floor drains. As a result this distillery was built out extremely quickly. The construction cost of this distillery was also quite low as there was minimal construction related to utilities.

  One challenge many businesses face as they start to grow is the room to grow. It is essential in selecting a location to seek a place with room to grow. Room to grow can mean many different things. Opportunity to grow can be as simple as a location with an empty lot or adjacent buildings that could be added to the operation. When a business outgrows the space it operates in, daily operations can become painful to manage. It can be hard to plan for growth when so much time and energy is being given to just getting started. Considering long term growth during location selection can be so valuable when it comes time to grow.

  When the ideal building is found to build your business, the location is often less than ideal in consideration to foot traffic into a tasting room. Oftentimes the perfect building is tucked far away into an industrial neighborhood that no one would ever stumble upon. This can be challenging for the business as a tasting room or cocktail lounge is often an important revenue center. As foot traffic is non-existent in most industrial neighborhoods, bringing visitors to an onsite tasting room can be difficult. One creative solution that solves this problem is the satellite tasting room. In some states an offsite tasting room is allowed with a distillers permit. A satellite tasting room is often a small tasting room or cocktail lounge that is located in a downtown or Main St setting. A downtown location like this is a great way to introduce people to your brand. A downtown location is also often an impossible place to build a manufacturing business. The satellite tasting room creates the opportunity to expand your business in a tourist area or location with strong foot traffic, to support the manufacturing operation with revenue.

  With such an extensive list of qualifications for the ideal location, it can seem a bit like chasing a unicorn to find the perfect building. It is unlikely you will find a building that checks every single box on my list. A location can certainly be found that checks most of the boxes if you hunt hard enough. For every key feature you find in a potential building these things can save you months of build time and large amounts of money. Finding the ideal space will take lots of diligent hunting. Further it takes the resolve to say no to a space if it is less than ideal. Saying no can be hard, as many spaces can be tempting to say yes and take the steps forward to start construction. It is actually quite common that the first or even second potential location selected for a business does not work out. In some cases I’ve seen several potential locations not end up working for a location.This is not to say that you must have all of these utilities in place for a location to work, but if the building does have it all you will be up and running really fast.

  When starting a manufacturing business, the right location can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure. Take the time to find the right place before you take the big leap to build the business. If you are unsure whether or not a location is right, then hire an experienced consultant or professional to help you consider your options. That professional could save you from making a costly mistake. Building it fast and getting it right can be done but must be done with care.

Proactive, Protective Measures to Avoid Liquor Liability

2 people negotiating showing hands

By: David DeLorenzo

There is a plethora of things business owners in the hospitality industry need to oversee and manage. Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol have the added challenge of serving their customers while also avoiding the liabilities associated with a guest’s alcohol consumption — and the choices they make upon leaving an establishment.

  One of the biggest dangers bar and restaurant owners should steer far clear of is becoming part of a lawsuit related to drunk driving. It cannot be overstated that establishments serving alcohol need to be extremely diligent about their protocols and also vigilant about their insurance policies. They should ensure they not only have proper coverage to protect their business and staff in the event of an alcohol-related lawsuit, they should also stay on top of the ever-changing liquor laws. This is for the safety and protection of all parties. 

  First and foremost, bar and restaurant owners should have good insurance. They also need to be aware of what their policies cover — and what they don’t. Though understanding the ins and outs of insurance may not seem like something that a hospitality business owner has time for, it is vital to the success of their business. Ideally, a bar or restaurant owner should work with an insurance agency that specializes in their industry and is well versed in the laws that impact it. They should also work with an agent who keeps current on the ever-changing laws that pertain to things like liquor policies. Keep in mind unexpected changes such as the ability to sell cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to go during COVID as well as marijuana usage and weapons exclusions, too, which are impacting today’s businesses in new ways.

  It’s always recommended business owners have their policies reviewed at least once a year. This way, they can be notified of changes or new exclusions or endorsements and take stock of whether they need to modify or add to their current policies to better protect themselves. This is also a good time to make note of any changes to the company that need to be reflected and protected in their policies. The “better safe than sorry” adage is not too cliché for this scenario. Just one incident can put a company out of business if they are not properly covered. Just as with auto insurance, some people may not understand they didn’t have the right coverage until an accident — and then it’s too late. This is where an agent that specializes in the hospitality industry can best guide and protect the business, staff and customers alike.

  Beyond air-tight insurance coverage, there are many things bar and restaurant owners can take into their own hands to ensure the safety and protection of staff and customers. Bar and restaurant owners should ensure they have the current certificates for serving alcohol in their state.

  Education is crucial. Employees must understand how liquor law works, how they can notice intoxication and know what steps that need to be taken in order to avoid overserving of alcohol.

This begins with safety training for all staff as well as training staff on how to properly identify an intoxicated person before they even enter the bar. Is it also vital that staff understands how to detect whether a customer is becoming intoxicated during their service.

  It is illegal for an establishment to allow an intoxicated person onto their premises — so safety begins at the door. It is important that a bar have door security to do ID checks to ensure first that guests are indeed of age and also that they are not intoxicated before they even step inside. In addition to door security, bars may want to invest in security personnel for their exterior or parking lot areas as well.

  Upon entry, it is also essential that staff understands how much is too much when it comes to serving their patrons. Training staff on the obvious symptoms of intoxication can help prevent a lawsuit. Signs to watch for can include slurring speech, becoming loud, the pace of their drinking, red eyes or flushed face. It is also important to note that it is illegal to serve an intoxicated person whether or not they are driving.

  Obviously no bar or restaurant owner wants to turn away customers or have to cut them off during their service. However, these measures need to be seen as non-negotiable safety protocols for staff and customers. It could be a matter of life or death if an intoxicated person decides to leave, get in their car and drive away. They are then not only putting their own lives in danger but putting others’ lives at risk.

  Another strategy bar and restaurant owners can employ to help protect themselves is the use of surveillance cameras in and around their property. This can be a lifesaver. Video surveillance can provide timestamped evidence of an incident, such as a fall in the kitchen or a server-customer interaction that can help prove vital in a court of law. Surveillance cameras are a wise investment and are there for safety and protection of all parties.

  It’s also crucial to think about specials bars and restaurants are offering. While happy hour drink specials are a great way to bring in much-needed customers to help boost sales, this can be a risky move — especially reverse happy hour specials that are offered at the end of the night or right before the restaurant is closing. It’s also a good idea to avoid “last call.” These measures can be construed in a lawsuit as encouraging patrons to order more drinks before alcohol will no longer be served or to order more alcoholic beverages because they are being offered at a discounted price.

  It is also key to stay up to date on liquor laws. Knowledge of any changes should be a red alert to check with the company’s insurance agent to see how that might impact current coverage. Staying in communication with their insurance agent can also help bar and restaurant owners ensure they are properly covered as laws and policies change.

  I understand that is a lot to keep up with, especially while trying to operate a bar or restaurant in today’s unstable climate. That is why I created my Connector and Protector Hospitality Series on YouTube. It features videos and interviews with experts on topics such as liquor liability and more to help guide bar and restaurant owners. It is a goal of mine to help my clients and everyone in the hospitality industry be successful — and safe.

  The bottom line is that no one wants an accident to happen to their customers or their staff. Putting simple protocols in place to avoid an incident may seem tedious. However, they can be lifesaving and could save a business if it is hit with a liquor liability lawsuit. Taking proactive and protective measures is for the benefit of all.

  Out of his passion to serve the restaurant and hospitality industry, David DeLorenzo created the Bar and Restaurant Insurance niche division of his father’s company The Ambassador Group, which he purchased in 2009. For more than 20 years, he has been dedicated to helping protect and connect the hospitality industry in Arizona. For more information visit barandrestaurantinsurance.com

Scaling Production with Precision

manufacturing machine for beverages

By: Kris Bohm of Distillery Now Consulting

Many beverage businesses start off with the owners or the founders serving in production manufacturing and in sales roles. As the business grows it is no longer feasible for the founders to serve in many of these roles as the needs of the business change with growth. One of the challenges many founders face in scaling their business is maintaining consistent manufacturing practices when they are no longer the person who is responsible for those practices. Training for new employees in small businesses can sometimes be inconsistent or informal.  When training is not implemented cleanly enough that a newly hired employee can fulfill their responsibilities fully it can be frustrating for all involved. Lets take a look at some easy to implement solutions that can help your employees do the best job possible.

  One solution to this problem is creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). When you detail in writing each step of the manufacturing process in a document that is readily available to those performing the task, you should get more consistent results. Standard operating procedures can be tedious to create but will save you time in the long run and give your employees the confidence to perform complex tasks with ease. In the process of beverage manufacturing there are many complex steps. Without a set of standard operating procedures it can be extremely difficult for a new hire to fully grasp their roles and responsibilities.

  The optimal steps in training a new hire are the following. Create a written set of operating procedures that are clear and easy to follow. Review the SOP with employees and discuss the steps with them as well to confirm understanding. Once an employee has a basic understanding of the operating procedure the person training the employee along with the new employee should go through the process detailed in the SOP together. By having the trainer first complete the process while following the SOP it will fully demonstrate for the employee how the steps are done. This on hand training will often bring up questions from the employee being trained that might not otherwise come up. Once the employee being trained has seen the process completed following the SOP it is best for them to then complete the procedure outlined in the SOP in the presence of the trainer. It is critical at this step that the trainer does not work hands on with the new employee but is there to only observe and answer questions. If the trainer at this point feels that the employee grasps the SOP and is able to complete it then it is time to move on to additional training. Although this method of training can feel arduous and redundant for an employee, training like this will build their confidence in performing a task that may seem difficult for them. Training this way will also ensure that the manufacturing process will continue to be performed to the correct standards. Implementing a training of this type for all complex tasks will give the creator of the SOP trust in the individuals tasked with completing the process in the SOP.

 Let’s take a look at what a standard operating procedure looks like for a process in a business and talk about some of the key points that you will find in an SOP.

  Let’s go through the practice of generating an SOP:

1)   Go through the process yourself of completing the task that needs a SOP.

2)   Write down all steps and processes required to complete that task.

3)   If there are certain measurements critical to completing the task such as volume temperature or time, include this info in the steps.

4)   If there are complex controls or tools in the process include pictures to help further clarify the written steps.

5)   Place notes in the SOP if there are any hazards in the process or safety concerns.

6)   If there are many steps it can be helpful to add a checklist to accompany the SOP.

7)   Once the SOP has been written, seek feedback on it. Have another person read the SOP ask if they could perform the task.

8)   If the feedback is positive implement that SOP by training your employees.

9)   Put the SOP in a binder or place where it is nearby the location where the task is performed.

  This process of putting in the work to create easy to follow operating procedures, will make work better for everyone. An SOP will guide your employees as they do tasks and give them the confidence that will require less oversight by you. This does not mean that an SOP can replace a manager. The true purpose of an SOP is to provide a resource to ensure complex activities can be done correctly by all who perform it. As a business grows and scales new employees will need to learn how to do their job. The better SOP program you have the faster a new employee will be able to work independently.

Software Options Available for Breweries and Distilleries

woman swiping card in cashier

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

As the craft beverage industry continues to grow, many tech companies are focusing on the needs of breweries and distilleries around the country. There are many benefits to incorporating software into a beverage production business, including reducing human errors, automating repetitive tasks, getting staff organized, harnessing the power of data and ensuring quality control. Software is available for accounting, inventory, packaging, purchasing and scheduling. Breweries and distilleries also use software for sales, quality control and legal compliance. Mobile app software is an option in this industry, as well as all-in-one management software that takes a comprehensive approach and handles various functions. Meanwhile, some producers embrace a more manual process and rely basic spreadsheets and paper recordkeeping.

  So, what are today’s breweries and distilleries using for software, and how are those products working for them? Representatives from two breweries and two distilleries weighed in on this topic and told Beverage Master Magazine about their experiences with software. 

BOSQUE BREWING CO. Albuquerque, New Mexico

  One brewery that Beverage Master connected with on the topic of software is Bosque Brewing Co., which has multiple New Mexico locations in Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. With a history dating back to 2012, it is one of the largest brewing companies in the state and has grown from a small startup producing 350 barrels the first year to more than 10,000 barrels annually.

Bosque’s production manager Tim Woodward told Beverage Master Magazine that his brewery uses Ekos for inventory and production management. He also uses a few self-built spreadsheets for forecasting, sales and analysis. The brewery handles accounting with separate software not directly tied to Ekos functionality.

  “Bosque has been using Ekos since 2015,” Woodward said. “At the time, it was very affordable and relatively simple to use. The tools in Ekos addressed what we needed most: inventory management. We are able to track inventory, manage orders, invoice sold product, track costs, review pertinent data and oversee production steps with relative ease.”

  But while fully functional, Woodward said he often runs into little “Ekos glitches” that can be frustrating, such as the services being laggy.

  “Cleaner, more functional report systems with intuitive interfaces would be wonderful,” Woodward said. “I pull a lot of data from Ekos on a daily basis, and sometimes manipulating the report parameters to pull accurate data can be cumbersome. Ekos has done a wonderful job developing product planning calendar with drag and drop features, which is very lovely. They have other modules, such as order hub and keg asset tracking, which we do not use or have not found to work with our particular business model but are helpful pieces. Another offering which would be nice is perhaps a more robust server system to support software operation.”

ALVARIUM BEER CO. New Britain, Connecticut

  Nick Palermo, the head brewer of Alvarium Beer Co., told Beverage Master about the software programs his team uses in New Britain, Connecticut. Alvarium launched New Britain’s first microbrewery, founded on the principle of creating an inclusive and communal taproom while revitalizing a historical city.

  On the brewhouse side of things, Alvarium Beer Co. uses Beersmith to fine-tune recipes and DIY templates on Google Sheets for its calendar and brewing schedule, individual brew sheets and inventory of raw materials and packing materials. Alvarium uses Google Drive to store nearly everything related to production, from brew logs to SOP’s, manuals, inventory and supplier contact information.

  “Beersmith is one of the founding tools that many brewers have used in a homebrew or production setting, allowing quick integration and easy ways to edit recipes with something that is fairly familiar and quick to learn,” Palermo said. “We ended up choosing to use Google Sheets and Drive because of the ability for company-wide visibility and editing capabilities.”

  “We are an increasingly growing brewery in Connecticut, and such quick growth over the last couple of years has led to use needing to be able to combat the ebbs and flows of this industry,” he said. “Whether we need to make a quick change to the schedule, edit a recipe from home or have different departments be able to access information without complication, we found our method has been working really well as we expand.”

  “I’d say the biggest challenge we face with our method is the need to manually enter all of our data and make changes in the templates as we see fit,” Palermo said when asked about challenges with Alvarium’s current software. “Lack of auto-entered data does take up a little more time when it comes to keeping track with inventory and can lead to some mistakes.”

  In the future, Palermo would like to see more flexible software plans for different brewery sizes and needs, with costs to match. He said that having a method to integrate software programs more easily into companies with a system in place or smaller staffing structures would also be helpful.

  Cherokee Robbins, the director of sales for Alvarium, told Beverage Master Magazine about software this brewery uses for other purposes.

  Robbins said that Alvarium uses Google Business software, such as Gmail and Google Drive for recordkeeping, Google Sheets for reporting and inventory and Google Docs and Google Calendar for events, appointments and employee schedules. She says these pieces of software are user-friendly, easy to access and meet requirements for digital storage. Alvarium uses Untapped for Business to store information about brewed beers, to allow customers to view beers and check in and to use the menu board to list available products. Robbins said this software is user-friendly and great for keeping track of customer reviews, archiving past beers and helping other businesses find products.

  Alvarium uses Square POS in the taproom for on-premise and online transactions. The team likes this software because it is easy to add, customize and categorize items with an online store that is set up as an extension for customers to shop. However, she has noticed that sometimes items can “disappear” in Square POS, or if they are intentionally hidden, customers can still find them online and order something that is no longer available. After experimenting with various email marketing platforms, the brewery uses Mailchimp for analytics and to monitor communications with its customer base. However, sometimes these emails have ended up in spam folders even after the team has certified and legitimized its domains.

  After interviewing approximately nine different CRM/ERP-related software companies, InSitu hit the four major categories of importance for Alvarium’s sales and distribution team: QBE integration for accounting, inventory management, mileage tracking and logistics for sales routes and customer relations.

“This is a relatively newer software for us, as we started using this in February of this year,” Robbins said. “There is much to learn with all of its functions, but there are times when we may have delayed connectivity issues with its integration to our QBE. Our account representative has been great with staying in communication and finding resolutions for us when we need help, so that is a huge plus. Sometimes support teams with software can be hard to get in touch with when you need something fixed right away.”

  Other types of software the Alvarium team uses include Adobe Illustrator for signage and labels, Canva for business cards and marketing and QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise for accounting and payroll. It uses Prolific as its delivery-routing software to optimize routes for delivery drivers with self-distribution, Eezycloud’s remote desktop for multiple users to access QBE and Workable and Glassdoor for job postings and recruiting.

  When asked what she would like to see in future brewery software offerings, Robbins said, “It would be ideal if all of the platforms we use can be lumped into one software for a brewery our size, especially because we have a hybrid business model with the taproom, self-distribution and now working with a wholesaler. I know there are options like Encompass or Lily Pad available, but those can be pricey and are geared more towards larger distribution networks. I have also heard of a few software platforms that other breweries have worked on creating themselves in the past few years that fit close to what we ideally would need, but there seems to be an important element missing such as integration to QBE, delivery routing software logistics or the CRM portion for our sales force.”

MUDDY RIVER DISTILLERY Belmont, North Carolina

  Caroline Delaney, co-owner and CFO of Muddy River Distillery, told Beverage Master Magazine how her company approaches software in Belmont, North Carolina. Muddy River is the oldest rum distillery in the Carolinas and launched in 2011 with 500 square feet of space in an old textile mill before growing its production from 35 bottles per day to more than 1,200.

  Delaney said that her distillery uses QuickBooks for accounting and payroll and Square for POS and retail sales. She noted that QuickBooks is straightforward for day-to-day accounting, and Square has the lowest credit card processing rates without a monthly fee. She was familiar with QuickBooks from previous companies and says while it can be limiting, the next step up in accounting software is much more expensive, and most offerings require contracts.

  Yet running sales reports with multiple customers, states and distributors can be tricky and lengthy, she said, plus QuickBooks raised its payroll fees this year.

  “It seems like once you are signed up with Whiskey Systems or similar systems, they have all your data and it would be hard to switch back or to another software,” she said. “And the monthly fees are quite a bit higher than POS systems, so that will add up. Since we were pretty limited here in North Carolina, we weren’t able to sell unlimited bottles and cocktails until late 2019. We are under construction on a building where we will actually have a bar and event space, so I am looking into changing payroll and POS systems.”

  Delaney shared that Muddy River Distillery does not use distilling software for federal reports but that her husband, Robbie, developed his own system for that purpose and is still using it with the distillery’s production manager. 

  “I know he has spoken to some of the companies, but has not made the switch because of the monthly fees and not wanting to get into a system and get stuck with them,” she said.

STILL 630 St. Louis, Missouri

  Another spirits producer that shared details about its software usage with us is Still 630, which makes award-winning, handcrafted spirits in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. David Weglarz, the owner and distiller of Still 630, uses as many organic, local ingredients as possible in his spirits, with an old-world double distillation method that captures all the flavors while consistently embracing the adventure of experimentation. 

  Weglarz told Beverage Master Magazine that he uses Google software for his distillery’s spreadsheets and recordkeeping. He chose this option and still likes it because it is free and not localized to just one computer that could be damaged.

  “It allows us to edit simultaneously from different locations, and since it’s not based on one physical computer, it’s more safely guarded against a catastrophic loss,” he said.

  However, Weglarz acknowledged that Google Docs and spreadsheets are not specifically built for distilleries, so challenges have inevitably occurred while using this strategy.

  “It’s just an excel-type format so I had to build my own spreadsheets to make it work correctly,” he said. “But I did that, and now I have my own personal distillery software. It’s certainly not as fancy and sleek as the pre-packaged software solutions, but it works and the price (free) is right!”

  In the future, Weglarz would like to see more cost-effective software options offered in the distillery industry. He says that his distillery is priced out at the moment, something many craft beverage producers can likely relate to.

Conclusions and Opportunities

  Based on our conversations with craft beverage producers across the U.S., a few things stand out about what is working for software and where improvements can be made. In general, craft beverage producers are pleased with user-friendly software that offers multiple applications, features analytics to optimize processes and gives multiple users access to shared data. Affordability is paramount for craft beverage producers, and if software seems too costly, they often settle for free solutions that require more manual entry and monitoring despite the extra labor and risks.

  There is a need and demand for software for small breweries and distilleries with limited budgets and modest distribution networks. Many current solutions cater to large operations and are financially out of reach for smaller and emerging businesses. Integration is important to brewers and distillers, yet many of these businesses feel that they understand their needs better than what any software provider could provide and prefer to take a DIY approach, creating their own internal systems to get the job done internally. Therefore, there are significant opportunities for software companies to focus on the basics and adjust their offerings with tiered options to connect with breweries and distilleries in mutually beneficial ways.

Cheers to New Beginnings

How Start-Up Distilleries Can Get It Right the First Time

bronze distillery machine

By: Cheryl Gray

Starting a new distillery can be a daunting task. Failing to do it properly will inevitably cost the owner time and money.  

  The industry is flush with experts to guide start-up distilleries in the right direction when it comes to equipment, building, layout, local health regulations and environmental requirements – virtually everything to consider when launching a well-tooled distillery.

  Few companies know better what a start-up distillery requires than VITOK Engineers, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. The global consulting engineering firm, launched in 1967, offers a singular source for multiple engineering disciplines and targets a wide range of chemical plants and manufacturing facilities, including distilleries.

  In its early days, VITOK Engineers was local. Still, its engineering expertise was far-reaching, with a client list that the company says included the United States Navy, for which VITOK designed and built CO2 scrubbers for the Navy’s nuclear submarines. By the mid-1980s, new leadership at the company introduced the distilling industry to VITOK, which already had a solid foundation for the design of a complete chemical processing facility. In the 40 years since, VITOK touts a solid reputation for designing and optimizing every aspect of distillery production, with more than 500 distillery projects sprawled across the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Africa. The projects range in size from small craft distilleries to more established facilities and some of the world’s largest and most recognized distilleries that manufacture up to 50 million proof gallons per year.

  CJ Archer is Vice President of Marketing for VITOK Engineers and has been with the company for nearly two decades. As an electrical and controls engineer licensed in more than 20 states and the Caribbean, Archer points out what sets VITOK apart from its competitors.

  “What sets VITOK Engineers apart from other companies is our ability to serve all engineering disciplines within our organization,” he said. “Continuity and flow of information between engineering disciplines is important for the successful completion of a large project.”

  Archer says that with distillery start-ups, it is important to gather critical information up front, beginning with what kind of spirits the distillery will produce and the proof gallon output the client desires.

  “Our engineers will then produce a Process Flow Diagram (PFD),” he said. “This helps to determine the vessel sizing, pump sizing, still size, boiler size and chillers.”

  The next steps, Archer says, are evaluating current infrastructure, such as available sewage, water and power, to help determine any additional power distribution equipment, water treatment or RO requirements that may be needed.

  “This PFD and supplemental infrastructure equipment will reveal the size, scale and types of equipment. From there, our staff can calculate and perform a Total Installed Capital Cost Estimate for the facility.

  VITOK Engineers can design and optimize every element of the beverage distillation process, from the receipt of raw materials to the proofing and bottling. Our staff can design the process, specify the equipment, design the building, define classified areas, specify and design instrumentation and controls and program the controllers, even tablets. We can also help you with the intricacies of environmental permitting.

  Our depth of experience enables us to provide clients with an expansive overview of projects, as well as a unique, cross-disciplined perspective on the design process. As an employee-owned company, the staff members of VITOK take a vital interest in building loyal client relationships. We are constantly striving to improve our services and technology while providing cost-effective solutions for project challenges,” he said.

  Archer points out other equipment and protocols distilleries can deploy to optimize production. Examples include automated control instrumentation, which serves the dual purpose of standardizing the process and freeing up labor. Another factor to consider is achieving maximum energy efficiency, which saves money. Archer explains that this means distillers will want to know if they can achieve an energy benefit from chillers, versus a cooling tower or aquifers. Examining the mash cooling systems and techniques are also on the checklist. Distillers may want to look at introducing solar to enhance so-called “green” branding, which Archer says is not a significant increase or decrease to the overall cost of implementation.

  Another point Archer mentions is installing power efficiency equipment to help save on energy costs. The power efficiency equipment helps distilleries coordinate with utility and correct for any apparent power overages. Also, comparing continuous operation, versus batch operation, as potential energy savings is another area to consider. Finally, Archer says that examining the number of shifts, timing and staging process of operations can help improve energy efficiency.

Another expert company that assists distilleries with installing equipment for both short- and long-term use is Trench Drain Systems, which manufactures and distributes drainage systems for distilleries, wineries and breweries. Engineer Michael Schroer started Trench Drain Systems in the basement of his home in 2004, selling only about three products. By 2017, the company had purchased a 10-acre property with office and warehouse space large enough to service a clientele that now spreads throughout all 50 states, Canada and the Caribbean. Schroer explains why his firm is different from others in the industry. 

  “When buying a drain system for your distillery, winery or brewery, you will most likely have to go through a distributor who interfaces with a manufacturer,” he said. “Your distributor usually won’t have the knowledge base to cover all the particularities of the drain and its installation. Trench Drain Systems is both a distributor and manufacturer of drainage systems. We have a full understanding of all brands of drainage systems. We can make custom drains when needed. We have a full engineering department and provide drawings for your installation, something that a distributor doesn’t do. In short, we are specialists in drainage systems. We have the flexibility to handle many product lines while being able to customize your drain when needed.”

  Schroer describes what key steps his company takes in helping new distilleries make the right choices when it comes to installing a drainage system that meets specific needs. 

  “I like to start this discussion by asking who owns the property where the project is being done. The reason being, if that facility is rented, the process is going to be a five-year project, and if the owners see themselves going to another location that they will own, the trench drain can be downgraded a bit. There will be differences in the drain channel chemistry, in general, when we are speaking about the drains of beer vs. wine vs. distillate manufacturing.  

  However, if you have a five-year lease on a building and have to foot the bill for the trench drain, consider a drain that will last as long as you need it. When you get into phase two of your project, where you own the building, it makes sense to have a longer vision for the drain design. That includes having a system that will handle the rough and tumble start-up period when construction equipment may be involved. It also is good to look at your future development when you may want to showcase your process and change your look from something industrial but practical to something more commercial or customer-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

  After that detail is revealed, we need to consider the temperature and chemical demands of the process on the trench drain system. Breweries are the most demanding on drains, as they have high-temperature solutions and a wide range of chemicals that are put into the drain. And breweries will have differing drainage needs in different parts of the facility, depending on how the consumer will interface with the operation. Wineries and distillates don’t see the high volume of daily cleaning and temperatures as does a brewery. They generally don’t need drain systems that have high-service demands. Generally, these facilities have a lower drain budget unless the owner is going for an aesthetic, which costs more,” he said.

  Yet another company that helps new and existing distilleries make critical equipment choices for the long and short term is Della Toffola Group. Headquartered in Italy but supported in the United States by Della Toffola USA in Santa Rosa, California, the company positions itself as a global frontrunner in designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art technology solutions for a wide range of beverage products. Della Toffola recently entered the distillery market by acquiring Frilli Srl, another worldwide company founded in 1912 that specializes in designing, building and refitting distilleries and distillation systems.

  Experts agree that careful equipment planning is the key to a successful operation, no matter the size of a distillery or whether it is a start-up or a more established production house. Those experts also agree that success begins with a thorough consultation with a company that respects a distillery’s immediate needs and what it will take for the operation to expand.

What Beverage Producers Should Know About Hoses and Tubes 

beverage brewing equipment

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Hoses and tubes are used for various purposes in a craft beverage production setting, including transferring liquids, washing containers and connecting essential pieces of equipment. Over time, this equipment can begin to show signs of wear and tear, or it can cease to be adequate for growing operations during times of expansion.

  Industry experts from companies specializing in these products weigh in on what breweries and distilleries should know about hoses, tubes and related accessories, plus how to choose the right options for your business.

Hoses and Tubes for Breweries

  Breweries benefit from using specific hoses to transfer and mix liquids at various levels and avoid contamination risks. All-in-one brewery hoses can be used to brew multiple beverages and eliminate manual labor tasks from mixing and transferring. Crimped hose fittings, clamps, gaskets, mounting bridges and hose barbs are hose accessories that help clean and maintain brewery vats and barrels.

  The most common materials used in brewery hoses are chlorobutyl, FDA UHMW, PVC, nitrile, silicone, EPDM and Teflon. Chlorobutyl hoses are common in brewery settings because they meet sanitary compliance standards and are ideal for non-oily applications and clean-in-place tasks. Yet it is crucial to ensure that the hoses you use can withstand specific temperature ranges and pressures. A food-grade, temperature-insulated, pressure-rated, 1.5-inch insulated brewer’s hose will accomplish many brewery tasks. But you might also look into highly rated hoses for resistance if they are placed in a high-traffic area where the hose could become kinked, twisted, or crushed. Tubing connects large components in a brewery to send waste products outside the production area.

Hoses and Tubes for Distilleries

  Craft spirit distilleries also use hoses to transfer products safely, hygienically and in a way that ensures excellent taste. Distillery hoses must meet industry sanitary requirements and FDA and USDA certifications. It is beneficial to use hoses specially designed for suctioning and delivering alcohol up to 96 percent.

  Clear tube hoses help ensure quality and cleanliness, and specific distillery hoses are designed to be odorless, so as not to alter the spirits’ taste. A higher working temperature allows for steam sterilization after use. Using hoses with a chlorobutyl or UHMWPE tube and EPDM cover in a distillery setting is common. Distilleries may want to look for kink-proof and compression-resistant hose and tube products to maintain flexibility under cold temperatures.

Alliance Hose & Rubber Co. Offerings

  One company that specializes in this industry is Alliance Hose & Rubber Co., an Elmhurst, Illinois-based company that has been providing construction and industrial supply products since 1932. It serves a variety of industries, including beverage, chemical, transportation and construction, with products that include industrial hoses, flexible tubing, couplings and fittings. Rob Williams, the sales manager for Alliance Hose, told Beverage Master about how craft breweries and distilleries use his company’s products.

  “We currently serve breweries in multiple ways,” Williams said. “One way is custom-cut and coupled hose systems, including a product hose, chemical hose, washdown and tubing to mate with the variety of connection options available, standard and special fittings, pumps and hose reels. Alliance Hose also serves breweries, distilleries and wineries with education on product knowledge and safety in person, at conferences and through webinars and podcasts.”

  He said nearly all Alliance Hose’s beverage products are also used in distilleries.

  “We do focus on the right hose for the distilling process, from front-end mash to the final high-proof product to be transferred,” Williams said. “Distilleries vary on what they like to use best. We just like to share insights and any additional knowledge that will help make their final product the best it can be.”

Kuriyama Offerings

  Another industry leader in industrial hoses, couplings and accessories is Kuriyama of America, Inc., which opened for business in 1968 and is located in Schaumburg, Illinois. The Kuriyama of America group of companies has eight subsidiaries and six distribution centers. It works through numerous distributors to provide thermoplastic, rubber and metal hose products and accessories, including couplings and fittings, for commercial and industrial applications.

  Tim O’Neill, marketing manager for Kuriyama, told Beverage Master Magazine that his company is best known for its high-purity, food-grade Kuri Tec® brand, clear vinyl hose and tubing products within the brewing industry. Most breweries use clear vinyl tubing, and Kuri Tec is a popular choice because it effectively maintains the purity of the materials that  the hose and tubing are made from. He explained that to ensure a high standard of quality and purity, Kuri Tec hose and tubing meet a wide range of safety standards, such as FDA, USDA, 3-A, NSF and USPS Class VI. To ensure compliance with these standards, Kuri Tec makes its own materials to manufacture its hoses and tubing, allowing for complete quality control.

  “An important consideration brewers should keep in mind when purchasing hoses and tubing is to understanding the difference between products that are simply considered ‘food grade’ and ones that are considered “high purity.” Often, brewers will hear the term ‘food grade’ and assume the hose will meet all their needs. However, the term only implies the product meets the basic standards of the FDA CFR 21 for food contact safety. It does not ensure the hose will not impart taste or smell on the ingredients or beer that pass through.”

  O’Neill said that the 3-A Sanitary Hygienic Standard, which originally started as a quality standard for the dairy industry, is quickly gaining acceptance in the brewery industry as the standard of choice to ensure the safety and purity of transferred materials. 

  “The 3-A standard defines additional criteria, such as ensuring low-extraction materials, as well as ensuring cleanability by reducing areas where materials can become stuck, potentially resulting in bacterial growth. Hoses, fittings and assemblies meeting the various 3-A Sanitary Standards have become a requirement at many craft and commercial breweries.”

  More recently, Kuriyama introduced a rubber “vat to vat” transfer hose under the Aflagomma® brand, called “The Brewt™.” In addition to meeting the 3-A standard for rubber purity, the hose provides a more flexible alternative to the heavy rubber hoses commonly used at larger breweries.

  “We found a lot of the smaller breweries were using the same heavy rubber hoses initially designed for larger commercial breweries,” said O’Neill. “The Brewt was designed to exhibit a similar ability to withstand the dragging and high-temperature cleaning to which these hoses are exposed, but to be light and flexible enough to work well in smaller craft breweries that may have space limitations.”

Common Hose Issues Among

Breweries and Distilleries

  Williams from Alliance Hose told Beverage Master Magazine that the most common problems that breweries and distilleries encounter with their hoses all relate to safety. These problems include pressure and temperature issues, trip hazards and finding the proper hose, tube and fitting for a particular application. These problems exist with product, gas and chemical transfers.

  “We address these needs by asking the right questions and recommending the safest option for that particular application,” Williams said. “We are not a click-of-the-mouse and a shopping cart. We ask questions and connect on a personal level with the beverage community. Concern for our customers safety and quality of their product is a high priority.”

Choosing the Right

Hoses and Accessories

  There are certain questions that brewery or distillery owners should ask themselves when buying a new hose. Williams from Alliance Hose uses the acronym STAMPED to get essential information from customers and provide the correct hoses and fittings for the application.

S    (size) What is the hose I.D./O.D. and length needed?

T    (temperature) What is the max fluid temperature inside the tube? What is the external atmosphere temperature?

A    (application) Where and how is the hose or tubing being used? What are the surrounding conditions?

M   (media) What is going through the hose or tube?

P    (pressure) Pressure product is being conveyed?

E    (ends) What fittings are required to make the connection?

D    (delivery) When do you want the hose or tube?

  “If we don’t have all the information we need, we will press in to gather those details as they are important to the hose system and overall brewing process,” Williams said.

  While discussing the topic of craft beverage hoses and tubes with industry experts, we found that there are few, if any, new technologies or innovations for brewers and distillers to be aware of. These are well-established and reliable products that get the job done, but there are differences in product quality and customer service to keep in mind.

  “I recommend talking to a hose professional instead of just relying on e-commerce to provide you what you think you may need,” said Williams from Alliance Hose. “I’m always available to talk product knowledge and especially safety.”

  O’Neill from Kuriyama said that the most important thing a brewery or distillery can do is ensure they have a good local hose supplier they trust to provide them with the right product for their needs.

  “The difference between using the right hose and one not best suited for a particular application can result in premature hose failures, causing lost production time,” O’Neill said. “Having a hose supplier that will understand your particular needs, rather than simply providing whatever hose they happen to have on the shelf, will improve overall operations.”