Barrels Old and New: Make Crafting Spirits a Careful Balance of Art & Science

By: Cheryl Gray

Distilleries are as selective about the barrels they use as they are about the ingredients that go into crafting their spirits. In fact, the right barrel plays an integral role in the entire process.

  Experts say that new barrels impart the highest wood impact into a spirit, giving it color and emphasizing characteristics exclusive to the wood. On the other hand, older barrels play a very different role and are used in a variety of ways by the spirits industry.

  Brown-Forman is the only spirits company in the world to handcraft its own barrels. Michael Nelson is Director of Brown-Forman Cooperage.

  “The barrel plays an important role in the making of whiskey,” said Nelson. “With more than 50% of the flavor and 100% of the whiskey’s color coming from the barrel, it is a key ingredient, not just a storage vessel. Barrels impart this flavor and color by sucking whiskey into the wood and through the char and layers of sugar behind it during the winter. When summer comes, it pushes the whiskey back out. That process repeats itself several times before it’s ready.”

  Brown-Forman has two cooperages, one in Louisville, Kentucky, and the other in Decatur, Alabama, both of which use American white oak to custom craft barrels for time-honored brands including Jack Daniels, Old Forester, Canadian Mist and Woodford Reserve. Few know better how barrels impact the end product than Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris.

  “When crafting a straight whiskey, such as Woodford Reserve Bourbon or Rye, the use of a new, charred oak barrel is required by the federal standards of identity,” said Morris. “The pros of using a new barrel are that we achieve the product type and descriptor we desire. The cons would be that if we filled a used barrel, we wouldn’t. There are additional pros and cons as well—those of crafting a desired flavor profile. A new barrel is an intense source of color, aroma and flavor, while a used barrel is not. During our initial use of a new barrel, we extract approximately 85% of the heat-induced oak character. Therefore, to create the product profile that consumers expect, we must use new wood.”

  However, Morris said, that doesn’t exclude using barrels from another beverage class, a technique he calls “finishing.”

  “We have finished Woodford Reserve in wine barrels, port, sherry and cognac barrels for a specific flavor formation purpose. Of course, by finishing a straight whiskey in a barrel that was previously used in any form or fashion causes us to lose the straight whiskey designation. That con is superseded by the pro of getting a unique finished product.”

  Morris told Beverage Master Magazine the concept of using finishing barrels is an innovation that Woodford Reserve Distillery introduced to the whiskey industry in 2006 when it became the first distillery to “finish” a whiskey in Chardonnay barrels. The flavor notes found in such barrels, like citrus, apple, pear and vanilla, are also found, Morris said, on the Woodford Reserve flavor wheel.

  “The ‘finishing’ barrel is selected so that it will highlight and enhance an existing Woodford Reserve flavor,” he said. “This will create an out-of-balance flavor presentation by design, therefore making the ‘finished’ expression ‘flavor focused.’”

  Canton Cooperage is also headquartered in Kentucky. Its master coopers handcraft barrels for wineries and distilleries worldwide, using American white oak, aged in open air. The company creates “Spirit by Canton,” a line of branded barrels for its distillery clients, who place orders based on specific barrel details, including the age of the barrel’s wood.  Bruno Remy, a veteran enologist, is Vice President and Sales Manager for Canton Cooperage.

  “At Canton Cooperage, our production is limited to craft premium spirit barrels,” said Remy. “We make our barrels by order with American oak wood seasoned for 12 months, called ‘Spirit by Canton;’ two years, called ‘Spirit Premium;’ three years, called ‘Spirit Grand;’ four years, called ‘Spirit Limited Edition;’ and even a very limited production of barrels with five-year-old wood called ‘Spirit FIVE.’”

  Remy told Beverage Master Magazine that distilleries pay attention to a barrel’s every detail.  He said that list includes dimensions, the thickness of staves and headings, logo branding on the heads, number of hoops, position and diameters of the bunghole, toasting recipe and charring.

  Another critical factor that distilleries look for in a barrel is the percentage of leakage, with 0%, of course, being ideal. That’s where handcrafted barrels have the edge. Industrial barrel production can show a higher percentage of leakers compared to artisan production.

  As for the life span of a barrel, some barrels can last 30, 40, 50, even 100 years or more, provided they are well-kept. Barrel recycling is fundamental to the spirits industry. Not only is it environmentally responsible but also financially practical.

  “Commonly, the large distilleries have a contract with their cooperage to sell back the used barrels after a certain number of years. Large distilleries can also transfer used barrels to subsidiary distilleries when part of a group,” said Remy. “There is a market of used barrels, and effectively, the barrels can have a second life when shipped to Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Caribbean islands, Japan, Brazil and Chile for whiskey, Scotch, sherry, rums, cachaça, pisco, etc.”

  In producing its rum, Washington D.C.’s Potomac Distilling Company uses a mix of new and old barrels to create Thrasher’s Rum. Owner Todd Thrasher told Beverage Master Magazine that multiple factors go into his barrel choices.

  “One con associated with new barrels is cost. It tends to be very expensive,” said Thrasher. “Also, because we have limited storage space, I only use 30-gallon barrels, which are more expensive than 50-gallon barrels. I find that many American spirit drinkers tend to enjoy the taste of oak, so it definitely makes for an easier transition for whiskey drinkers and can open our rum up to a potential new audience of drinkers.”

  Thrasher said that he sources old barrels from a variety of local distilleries with whom he has relationships. He chooses used barrels that are, on average, three years old, and inspects them for any aesthetic defects, especially for any signs of leakage. That aside, he is sold on the benefits his distillery gains from barrel recycling.

  “Barrels can absolutely be recycled! For example, one of our barrels is a used peach brandy barrel. I find that the recycled barrels can imbue the new spirit with a slightly different profile or flavor.”

  New barrels, Thrasher said, can be harder to source but, when he does place an order, in addition to size, he looks for other specific characteristics. “All new barrels are number three char with medium-toast. That’s the barrel profile that best suits my needs.”

  Cooperages do not typically stock a lot of new barrels in their inventory since most are made-to-order, and empty barrels sitting too long can cause problems. Even with a new barrel, the wood is continually drying out. As it does, the barrel shrinks. Once a shrunken barrel gets filled, it will almost certainly leak.

  Heidi Korb, owner and co-founder of Black Swan Cooperage in Park Rapids, Minnesota, said her cooperage’s typical lead time for a barrel order is approximately two months but will vary depending on the quantity of the order.

  Korb told Beverage Master Magazine there is a wide range of possibilities for clients to consider when choosing barrels. “The variables and options are fairly endless, so it very much depends on what the customer is looking for, what product they are aging and their preferred aging timeframe,” she said. “Using new barrels, especially smaller barrels 30-gallon on down, can be a great way to test new products because the age time will be less than if aged in a standard 53- or 59-gallon barrel.”

  Although used barrels are a staple in the spirits industry, Korb said that careful inspection includes more than watching out for aesthetic imperfections or signs of leakage.

  “In used barrels, you want to avoid any barrels that have off-flavors or barrels that have gone sour. This means they have sat too long empty or were stored in an area where they started to grow mold,” Korb said. “If a barrel is treated well and used rather continuously, it can be used—for lack of a better term—a very long time. Think of your 20-80 plus year aged Scotch whiskey!”

  Virtually all experts agree that the best method to protect a barrel’s integrity is always to keep it full. Industry veterans recommend that if barrels are to be ricked, empty them with the plan in mind to fill them within hours. Cellar or rick house temperatures should stay between 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Moisture in a cellar is vital for the barrel’s physical stability and aging of the spirit, with 50% to 80% of humidity recommended. Low variances of temperature and moisture present the ideal environment.

  New or old, the common denominator in the industry conversation about barrels is that they are a significant part of the distilling process that uniquely defines a crafted spirit, giving that spirit an identity all its own.

Brewery Start-Up Tips for a Successful Launch

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

  In the United States, there are currently over 7,000 breweries, but that isn’t stopping entrepreneurs from opening even more in cities, small towns and rural areas. Fortunately, craft beer lovers are plentiful across the country, loyal to their favorite brands and curious to try new brews.

  When making plans to open a new brewery, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

Initial Considerations

  Many things go into starting a brewery, even before searching for a physical location. You’ll need to choose a business structure for your brewery to operate within, such as an LLC with an operating agreement, which is often preferable to a brewery corporation because it’s quicker, easier and more affordable. You may choose to hire an attorney to handle these matters for you or give it a try yourself with online legal resources for a DIY approach. Insurance is also an important consideration to protect the business with liability, property and casualty coverage.

  When it comes to the legalities of opening a brewery, things can get complicated quickly. Permits and licenses must be filed at the local, county, state and federal levels. Depending on where you live, regulations, licenses and permits vary, so be careful to do thorough research to eliminate surprises in this regard. Be aware of when to file permits as well. Filing permits in the wrong order can lead to delays or stymy plans altogether. State liquor licensing and a federal brewing permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau can take several months to process, so file those as soon as possible.

  You must also consider if you want a simple taproom or if you will include food in the business model. Those choosing to include food will face more permitting and costs for equipment and location modifications. The overall cost of opening a brewery is often between $250,000 and $2.5 million, and much of that money goes towards equipment.

Physical Location

  The location you choose makes a huge difference in the type of customers you will attract and how your brand will grow in the future. At this stage of development, there is also the need to weigh the pros and cons of opening up on a busy street with lots of foot traffic versus opening in a more isolated industrial park with space to grow and more affordable rental prices.

  Remember that you’ll need to secure the proper zoning for your new brewery and meet all the necessary legal requirements in your jurisdiction. Zoning laws matter because you want to create a favorable community gathering space that’s welcome with local neighbors.

  While searching for a storefront, you must have at least enough funds for the first month’s rent and the security deposit for the lease. Also, consider any construction that will be needed to outfit the building for brewery purposes. For example, you will need a sturdy floor in your physical space that can withstand the beer-making process. Also, take into consideration the plumbing and electrical capacity of the building and start getting quotes from local contractors for any work that needs doing before opening.

  Space requirements for your location may be based on equipment needed, but consider whether it’s in your best interest to secure a location with space to accommodate future fermentation tanks and storage needs.

Brewing Equipment

  Equipment is, by far, one of the biggest financial hits for a new start-up brewery. Equipment costs can range from $100,000 or less for a very small-capacity brewery, to over $1 million for a brewery that uses a new 30-barrel system.

  The brewing equipment you need will primarily be based on the number, category and style of beer you plan to make. There are significant differences between a brewery that will only brew a couple of types of beer compared to one that is looking to launch eight to ten styles right away. Unless you have ample support staff and financial resources, most new breweries find it in their best interests to start small and build up their offerings and services over time.

  The list of equipment needed for a brewery can be very overwhelming at first, but do your best to take it one step at a time. Some of the equipment to start thinking about and budgeting for early-on are kettles, kegs, boilers, bottling and canning lines, conveyors, cooling systems, storage tanks, fermentation tanks, filters, labeling machines, piping and tubing, refrigeration equipment, cleaning equipment, waste treatment systems and tap handles.

  Now is also the time to learn about the differences in piping, tubing and brew pump equipment so you can make informed decisions about buying peristaltic, diaphragm or centrifugal pumps. Fermentation tanks and temperature gauges will be needed for beer storage. Meanwhile, immersion wort chillers and counter-flow chillers are essential for cooling systems, and brewing kettles and boilers are necessary for heating processes.

  Andrew Ferguson, sales manager for Codi Manufacturing, told Beverage Master Magazine that packaging is more important than ever in today’s rapidly evolving beverage market.

  “Codi manufactures complete canning systems that scale to meet the demands of our growing customers,” Ferguson said. “Codi’s counter-pressure filler allows for a high temp caustic CIP and over four CO2 vols, giving you the ability to package seltzers or other beverages.”

  Ferguson said that a common mistake among brand-new breweries in the start-up phase is buying on price and speed instead of function and quality. He recommends always finding others who own the equipment you are looking at and asking for their advice.

  “You can have the best hops, malts, yeast, water, recipe and brewer, but a bad packaging machine will ruin all your hard work,” he said.  He also recommends buying spare parts to decrease your equipment’s downtime and avoiding machinery made with aluminum and cheap plastic materials so you can CIP with caustic at 180-degrees Fahrenheit.

“Form solid relationships with suppliers and stay in touch to get the latest updates and functionality out of the equipment you purchase.”

Ergonomics

  Stocking up on all the necessary equipment is often the first goal of a start-up brewery. According to Ron Mack, the regional sales manager for Bishamon Industries Corporation, one of the most common mistakes that new breweries make is being “laser-focused on production equipment and often forgetting to consider ergonomics that increase worker safety and productivity.”

  Based in Ontario, California, Bishamon Industries Corporation specializes in quality, innovative, ergonomic products that enhance worker safety and productivity. The company offers a wide array of ergonomic assist lift equipment, including the EZ Loader Automatic Pallet Positioner, that are useful for craft breweries that hand-palletize cases of beer.

  “This product keeps the top of the pallet load at waist height, eliminating worker bending, which can lead to back injuries,” Mack said. “The EZ Loader also features an integral rotator ring like a lazy Susan that enables near-side loading and eliminates reaching, stretching and having to walk around the pallet to load or unload. For breweries that do not have access to a fork truck for loading or unloading, we offer products that are pallet jack accessible, like our Lift Pilot and EZ Off Lifter.”

  Bishamon products can significantly help reduce the risk of worker injuries related to lifting, bending, reaching and stretching while loading or unloading cases.

  “Another great benefit is that the EZ Loader also significantly increases productivity, as pallet loading and unloading can be accomplished in much less time with much less effort,” Mack said.

  Mack said breweries should “think about how to make the work environment, especially in the packaging area where the heaviest lifting is done, more ergonomic and efficient for the employees.” From ergonomics to scheduling and operations, making your employees’ needs a priority from the very beginning is a positive way to launch any type of new business.

Other Early-Stage Planning

  Once you’ve gotten a handle on these aspects of opening up a new brewery, think about the customer experience and how your staff will work onsite starting on opening day. An efficient, friendly front-of-house staff can make all the difference for a brewery’s reputation, particularly in areas with a lot of competition. Start picking out and ordering glassware and growlers that reflect the brand image you want to create. Keeping the brewery hygienic and sanitary is essential to its long-term success, so make a list of cleaning products you’ll need and narrow down your list of suppliers. Before you get too entrenched in your operations processes, invest in a POS system to track inventory, outline your staff management system and begin thinking of ideas for a loyalty reward system to entice new customers.

  Building a clear brand identity early-on to help you stay focused, and establishing a robust online presence as early as possible can spread the word about your new brewery.

  Also, consider your relationships with vendors. Ferguson from Codi told Beverage Master Magazine new breweries would be wise to support family-owned suppliers who are invested in the industry.

  “Private equity held manufacturers are lowering quality to meet your price point and are not concerned about your long term needs,” he said.

  Starting a new brewery is rarely easy, but it’s often worth it if craft beer is your passion, and you have a great business plan and support team behind you. As you prepare for your initial launch, remember some things can wait. Focus less on merchandising, loyalty programs or decorating for every event and allow the business to grow a little at a time. Once you’re established with a good reputation, those things will come naturally and pay off quickly.

Special Considerations and Latest Innovations for Growlers & Kegs

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Growlers and kegs have been staples in breweries for many years. With the bevy of options available to brewers today, choosing the right size, shape and material for these essentials may be an overwhelming task. To make the best choice, brewers need to consider their options as well as the new and exciting innovations in the world of portable containers.

Types of Portable Containers

  Growlers can be made with various materials, such as glass, stainless steel, ceramic and plastic. Vacuum-insulated growlers go beyond a standard glass growler’s functionality to keep beer colder and fresher for longer. Some popular models include Hydro Flask beer growlers, DrinkTanks, GrowlerWerks, 45-Degree Latitude stainless steel growlers, Yukon insulated beer growlers and two-liter Euro Growlers with metal handles.

  Meanwhile, keg types vary based on volume, capacity and weight. The most common kegs are sixth barrels, quarter barrels, slim quarter and half barrels. Consumers also have access to Cornelius kegs, mini-kegs, one-way kegs and eighth barrels.

  With headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, Schaefer Container Systems North America manufacturers ECO KEGS that are lightweight, durable and stackable stainless-steel kegs, and 100% stainless-steel Sudex Kegs. The company also offers fully or partially encased Plus Kegs, the FreshKEG and SmartDRAFT keg with flexible small-scale dispensing systems and Party Kegs that are stylish and easy to use with a gravity-fed system. Schaefer’s specialty kegs include yeast brinks and cellar topping kegs that are adaptable by using tri-clover and tri-clamp fittings.

  “The most popular are our ECO KEGS,” said Richard Winslow, the president of Schaefer Container Systems North America. “These kegs provide immediate brand differentiation, are highly customizable, and offer significant value-added features and long terms cost advantages. Also very popular are our Party Kegs, which use a gravity-fed system with all the utility of a Firkin and none of the hassles.”

  Yet there are even more types of portable containers that are trending and particularly attractive. For consumers looking for less than the standard 64 oz fill, smaller containers, like Swig Savvy’s stainless-steel water bottles, are popular. Some breweries are now equipped to fill 32-ounce crowlers, aluminum cans filled and sealed on demand that keep the beer fresh until it’s cracked open at its destination.

Best Materials for Growlers and Kegs

  Since the advent of the modern growler, glass has been a popular material. Easy to clean, easy to fill and easy to find, glass growlers can be clear or amber color. However, the material is heavy and easily broken, among other problems.

  “Glass has a highly non-porous surface and does not absorb microorganisms which can spoil your beer, but annealing is weakened with use and when subjected to temperature changes. Thus, glass weakens over time or when subjected to an impact and will eventually break,” said John Burns, Jr. of Craft Master Growlers. “Glass is not suitable to be pressurized.”

  Based in Tacoma, Washington, Craft Master Growlers creates the next generation of growlers forged from high-quality stainless steel and designed for performance and durability.

  Stainless steel is sturdy and keeps beer cold; however, during filling, bartenders are unable to determine the fill level accurately, often leading to a loss of product. However, stainless is sustainable and durable, resists oxidation and corrosion, and is ideal for pressurization.

  Ceramic growlers have a classy look but are heavy, more difficult to clean and prone to chipping. Plastic is also used for growlers because of its low cost and low likelihood of breaking, but is less durable with multiple uses and may cause oxidation in the beer.

  For kegs, stainless steel is the most commonly used material because it is durable, sterile, long-lasting and affordable with reuse. Aluminum was once used for kegs because of its strength and low cost, but is prone to corrosion and runs the risk of being stolen for scrap metal. Plastic kegs are cheaper, lightweight and stackable, but they also create concerns about durability, oxidation and exposure to heat and sunlight.

  Emma Shepanek of G4 Kegs told Beverage Master Magazine that food-grade stainless steel is the best material for kegs. Founded in the craft beer destination of Bend, Oregon, G4 Kegs offers high-quality and durable kegs, as well as various keg services and leasing.

  “All stainless-steel kegs are the most durable, reliable and safest kegs on the market,” Shepanek said. “There have been recent innovations with plastic kegs, but they are still not as safe or sustainable as all stainless-steel kegs.”

Refill Policy Considerations

  For both growlers and kegs, there are considerations to keep in mind about refill policies. First, check local and state laws concerning portable container fills to ensure you comply. Make sure to openly and publicly share your brewery’s policy about refills with consumers to avoid confusion.

  As a general rule, never refill a container with questionable sanitation or cleanliness to avoid compromising a consumer’s health. Brewers may always want to avoid refilling containers with other breweries’ names and logos on them to avoid misconceptions about whose beer is inside. Some states have laws against filling any growler that does not feature that brewery’s logo. Again, brewers should check state and local regulations for more information.

  Many breweries have a policy of not refilling plastic containers since plastic cannot be cleaned as well as other materials and is more likely to harbor bacteria. Brewers should only use and fill containers that maintain the integrity of the beer that they’ve worked so hard to produce, such as insulated stainless-steel or colored glass.

Return Policy Considerations

  Return policies are important to have in place if the brewery is in the business of leasing kegs to consumers. Always provide written policy details to consumers and include details about how to reserve kegs, the time frame for reservations and the length of time before it must be returned.

  Other important information to provide includes how long the brewery will honor deposit refunds, the charge for unreturned kegs and the deposits amounts for barrels and hand pumps. Brewers may want to advise customers where to park while picking up their keg and how to properly exchange an empty for a full one.

New Technology for Portable Containers

  The world of portable beverage containers is continually changing due to new technology and innovations in the industry. Portable beer systems are gaining popularity by allowing consumers to pour their favorite beer anywhere. Pressurized growlers serve as mini-kegs to maintain carbonation levels for longer and even include customizable tap handles and pressure gauges. Entrepreneurs are even turning shipping containers into mobile multi-tap kegerators to help beer lovers enjoy their favorite brews outside the taproom.

  Burns of Craft Master Growlers said that new pressurized growlers substantially extend the longevity and usability of fresh craft beer for a couple of weeks or longer. This is a significant upgrade from glass growlers with virtually no shelf life.

  “Double-wall insulation lets you enjoy a cold or hot beverage for hours when outside or on the road. Oxygen is substituted for CO2, as oxygen will cause the beer to go stale. A pressurized growler goes beyond just beer, to cider, kombucha, spritzer, seltzer and more,” said Burns. “At Craft Master Growlers, we are innovating the CO2 delivery system, giving the user a way to control and monitor the pressure for the appropriate beverage, and offering ways to infuse and ferment in a small-batch container. The way we think of it is broadening the appeal and accessibility of all the great things local craft brewers and homebrewers are doing.”

  Schaefer Container Systems’ FreshKEG and SmartDRAFT technology allow brewers to pour beer without CO2 tanks or draft systems. “The CO2 and beer are contained within a single keg body, and the unit is tapped by an easy-to-use dispensing unit,” Winslow said. “It’s ‘plug and play’ for the consumer!”

  Because kegs have been designed well and there’s little need for improvement, manufacturers look to technology as the next big thing.

  “Kegs are actually quite boring and basic,” said Shepanek of G4 Kegs. “The design and engineering of the keg have already been optimized, so there’s not much to be improved with the form or function. Yet spear and keg manufacturers continue to innovate to sustain consistent quality. There are some exciting things brewing in the keg tracking and software space. Services that give breweries access to their own data about their keg fleets and that can be used for other business insights could be really beneficial.”

The Importance of Modern Portable Containers

  The demand for portable beer containers is growing, especially for small batches, and as more beer drinkers begin thinking about how their consumption impacts the environment. Beer consumers are a mobile population that’s on-the-go and looking for ways to enjoy local craft beer while traveling and enjoying the outdoors.

  Portable containers are an eco-friendly option to help consumers control their waste, while also allowing more access to rare and special-release beers. With the right marketing, portable containers encourage brand loyalty with greater exposure in the community and cost-effective refill programs.

  Burns said Craft Master Growlers’ products are ideal for anyone who likes beer, enjoys their local craft brewery scene, and also homebrewers who want to share their hard work and innovations.

“Craft Master Growler can be a delight for campers, boaters, tailgating, picnics and barbecues where a cold and fresh local craft brew is coveted,” Burns said. “Craft Master Growlers were designed for people who want a luxury, high-end product for their home, and the professional food service industry where quality and durability are so important.”

Expert Advice About Growlers and Kegs

  Industry experts who work with growlers and kegs every day have a lot of useful advice and tips about how to choose the best portable containers.

  “I think most people are aware that fads come and go, and plenty of companies jump briefly on the bandwagon,” said Burns. “So, you want to make sure you are not buying a cheap consumer product that will break or is destined for the basement, the yard sale or donation center.”   

  Winslow of Schaefer Container Systems’ said breweries should spend the money to customize their kegs for distribution. “You want to maximize your chances of getting them back!” he said.

  Shepanek advises craft breweries to invest in their own fleet of kegs. “Kegs are a great investment as they can last 30 years and pay for themselves quickly,” she said. “Leasing is a great option to keep cash flowing, but make sure it is an ownership-based program. Rental and logistics options can seem attractive and convenient, but many breweries end up locked into contracts for services they don’t need.”

Testing, Metering and Monitoring Tools Enable Consistent Brewing

By: Gerald Dlubala

Consistency in the craft brewing process is achieved through quality control. Quality control includes regular testing and monitoring of ingredients and processes to achieve consistent results over multiple batches, while also ensuring that all regulatory issues are followed and the risk of contamination is minimized. With new flavor profiles and textures being introduced seemingly daily, a craft brewer needs to practice exceptional quality control to make their beer the best they can, even if it’s a new and unique offering. Craft brewing starts with water, and as a major component, that is where the testing must begin. Quality testers and monitors are a necessity, but so is the willingness and discipline to use them diligently at the proper times.

Simplifying the Chore of Testing and Monitoring

  Milwaukee Instruments Inc., of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, operates on the belief that digital testing technology should be easy to use and available for every level of brewer. They focus on offering affordable, easy to use instruments manufactured from quality hardware. Milwaukee Instruments offers all the most widely and regularly used testing and monitoring products for the craft brewing and winemaking industries, and they do so without the use of test strips. Being known for outstanding capability while packaged in a smaller, more convenient size, their handheld meters can be kept conveniently in a pocket, and feature exceptional accuracy and lab grade performance.

  “Temperature probes, pH meters and a unit like a refractometer that measures Brix are must-haves when brewing craft beer,” said Jason Brown, Operations Manager, North American Operations. “Monitors and meters are used throughout every stage of the brewing cycle. Depending on the type of beer the brewer is making at the time, there are major factors to be controlled and monitored. The initial pH of your water plays a big role in the taste and profile of the beer, whether you’re brewing a lager or a stout, a smooth or a bitter, or anything in between. The Brix, or sugar content, is measured before and after fermentation by measuring density. We have the right testing and monitoring products available for every stage of brewing, as well as every level of brewer.”

  Included in that selection of testers and meters is their turbidity, or haze meter, used to measure clarity by the concentration of undissolved, suspended particles that are present in the beer.

  “All of our instruments are very precise and accurate when taking measurements within the specific applications of pH, temperature or Brix. Our testers and meters are manufactured to be small and wireless, yet durable and waterproof to give a brewer the most convenient and easy-to-use method for testing and monitoring applications. These instruments have withstood the test of time and generally fit all of the required needs of the craft brewer at all levels,” said Brown. “That being said, of course, there are always ways to improve on the current tools and instruments. Brewers haven’t asked for anything that we can’t provide, but faster processing and longer-lasting probes would always be welcomed. The average lifespan of a normal pH probe is 12 to 18 months, so maybe we can improve upon that. More manufacturers are heading towards data logging equipment so brewers can have a historical view of their pH, temperature and Brix levels during different applications.”

  Milwaukee Instruments’ automatic smart controllers continually monitor the required parameters set for the brewing process, including pH and ORP. These monitors dose and adjust the system as needed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Automatic monitoring and control systems are nice additions because let’s face it, things happen, and measurements can and will get delayed or forgotten, allowing water makeup parameters to possibly get off track. Automatic smart controllers have your back when needed.

Quality Water Before Quality Beer

  Industrial Test Systems in Rock Hill, South Carolina, knows that water matters in craft brewing, and, no matter what type of beer, it’s best to know the makeup of the water source. Without quality water, there cannot be quality beer. The water chosen for brewing, depending on things like chlorine or other contaminants, affects the sulfide to chloride ratio, how the beer is expressed to the drinker’s palate, and, ultimately, the final taste of the beer. 

  Water hardness plays a significant role in the beer’s mouthfeel. Light beers tend to be noticeably smoother on the palate, and a lot of that has to do with using softer water for brewing. Dark beers can use harder water, producing that familiar stronger or crisper flavor profile.

  All-in-one kits, like the Smart Brew Starter Kit by Industrial Test Systems, can keep water testing on target. The self-contained kit tests for water hardness, calcium hardness, alkalinity, pH, chloride and sulfates. Once brewers get the hang of the basics and are looking to expand their testing, the Smart Brew Professional Kit provides the same testing plus the eXact pH+ Smart Meter System, a Bluetooth enabled, handheld multi-parameter pocket meter that works within their eXact iDip app for both iOS and Android smart devices. This unit can test pH, conductivity, salinity, Total Dissolved Oxygen, Temperature, and Oxygen Reduction Potential using two different probes. The data captured is useful for specific brewer formulas and brewing-specific calculations.

Temperature and pH Determine Results

  “A good pH meter and thermometer are used in all stages of brewing and are, by far, the best friend of the craft brewer looking to produce a quality, consistent brew,” said Casey Thomson, Application Sales Engineer for Hanna Instruments, a world leader in pH and titration science.

  Hanna Instruments is known for developing innovative products, and many are the norm throughout the instrumentation industry. Included in their product offerings are pH electrodes with built-in temperature sensors and waterproof, portable pH meters.

  “As a brewer, one of the most important things to test regularly is the water supply you’re using as source water. If you’re using your area’s general water supply on a year-round basis, chances are your source water is changing with the seasons, and that’s ultimately going to alter and change the taste of your beer. Inconsistency in the taste of your product is something you never want because that’s a good way to lose customer loyalty. Pilsners, for example, are all about the water that they’re brewed from. Guinness will never be exactly duplicated here in the states because of the water that is used as the base.”

  “Craft brewers also need to keep tabs on temperature over the entire process,” said Thomson. “Extra-long probes, like the one we affectionately call ‘The Sword,’ come in very handy to monitor the temperatures down deep into the mash to ensure consistent temperatures throughout. When you do that, you’ll know that you’re keeping the yeast happy enough to form alcohol from the sugars.”

  Thomson told Beverage Master Magazine that refractometers are useful for brewing reports and for measuring the sugars before fermentation. After fermentation, a refractometer measures alcohol content. Many brewers still like to use older style hydrometers, and that’s fine, but they have to use a larger amount of product for a sample. If the brewer offers hazy IPAs, a haze meter is a great addition to their testing instruments and can indicate the amount of concentrated, suspended particles in the beer by measuring the amount of transmitted light through the product.

  “Due to the growth in the popularity of sour beers, we are also seeing increased interest and requests from brewers for a tool to measure lactic acid,” said Thomson. “While we don’t currently have beer-specific units to do this, we do supply these types of testing units to the dairy industry, so the breweries can use those and expect quality, true results. Additionally, being able to measure the alpha and beta enzymes in hops is an area with some interest, so we’re learning more about the science behind as this is an area of business growth.”

  “All of our instruments are generally easy to learn and use,” said Thomson. “It’s more of a situation of having the time to get the measurements done as needed. I always like to show the users what the process is to take the measurements and make sure they know what they’re getting into as far as using our equipment consistently. We get users up to speed in about two hours tops, but we also provide web training through YouTube videos, our online training manuals, etc.”

  Hanna Instruments also provides testers and monitors for the wine industry. Consistent pH measurements are important throughout the process. Their Halo wireless pH meter provides direct readings on a phone or tablet. Their edge wine meter kit is their most popular unit, measuring pH, conductivity/cold stability and dissolved oxygen. It’s Bluetooth capable, able to be carried around and equipped with an eight-hour battery. A benchtop cradle transforms the unit into a tabletop wine lab.

  “Winemakers are more traditional with their processes, so the testing tends to stay more standard,” said Thomson. “Occasionally, you’ll get a winemaker with a science background that wants to play around, experiment and see what happens under different circumstances so that other tests can come into play. But pH is, of course, very important throughout the entire production process, as is the ability to stay aware of free acids and sulfur dioxide that affect both bouquet and shelf life.”

Profiling Software: Used by the Breweries, Cideries, and Distilleries

By: Becky Garrison

As we enter into a new decade, an increasing number of breweries, cideries and distilleries are moving from recording their finances, employee logs and other data from offline pen and pencil accounting methods to online software systems. Here’s a sampling of some of the latest techno-logical developments that are specifically geared towards helping these outfits better manage their businesses.  

ShiftNote

  ShiftNote is an online manager logbook and employee scheduling software. The program, re-leased in 2002, gives owners, managers and employees the ability to communicate in one place. Employees can change their shifts and request time off in a few easy clicks. Then managers can approve or deny these changes and requests.

  The scheduling feature allows users to create and publish schedules and shift notes that can be viewed on any mobile device. Additionally, the manager log book can track key daily sales, re-pair and maintenance schedules, upcoming events and labor stats. As this logbook is entirely cus-tomizable, business owners can add custom categories and stats contingent on their particular needs.

  Help articles, tutorials and free screen share trainings are available for those who need assistance in setting up and using ShiftNote. A major software update slated for 2020 will offer new and enhanced features.

Whiskey Systems Online

  Whiskey Systems Online is a complete production tracking and TTB reporting system tailored to the unique needs of American craft distillers. Launched in 2014, this software offers complete distillery operations tracking, from raw materials to cases shipped out. Features include invento-ry and barrel management, cost of goods sold, manufacturing cost accounting, forecasting and planning, batch tracing, auto-generated TTB monthly reporting and federal excise tax returns, QuickBooks integration, employee task management, TTB audit preparation, success metrics dashboards and much more.

  Whiskey Systems’ propriety hardware interface allows distillers to track the temperature and humidity of their warehouse during a barrel’s entire aging lifecycle. By tying the aging history to their Whiskey Systems barrel inventory, the software can both optimize aging conditions and eliminate manual data entry from a third-party monitoring system.

  In 2020, the company plans on launching a brand new interface to improve the user experience and navigation. The update will include more production planning and forecasting tools and more success metrics and dashboards. As Whiskey Systems is a “subscription as a service,” there are no required downloads, and eve-rything is available via a browser. Users just activate their subscription online for immediate ac-cess. Whiskey Systems has extensive online resources such as training videos and help pages, as well as one-on-one support and set up for no additional charge.

Daruma Tech

  Since 2015, Daruma Tech has been developing mobile loyalty applications for beer guilds. For the more significant guilds and associations, it has a customizable solution that can be tailored to suit their marketing needs. For smaller guilds, the “lite” version can help them get started with their digital loyalty program.

  This loyalty program software rewards consumers for visiting participating locations. App users can keep track of the breweries they’ve been and the places they want to visit next. Users collect stamps at each brewery and claim prizes based on the number of stamps they’ve collected.

  Brewers who participate can access a portal where they manage their content, including location-specific information, beers, events and deals. The app also provides a marketing channel where brewers can communicate directly with their target audience, as well as a social component where users can share their thoughts on different breweries and beers.

  The mobile app is powered by a cloud-based mobile content management system. Participating locations can update the content in real-time through their MCM. There is nothing to maintain, download and install, as it’s also a subscription-based service. A knowledge library where users can access help documents is available online.

  Current guild users of the app are New York State Brewers Association, Ohio Craft Brewers As-sociation, Brewers of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Brewers Guild, Rhode Island Brewers Guild, Connecticut Brewers Guild and the Washington Beer Commission.

  In 2020, Daruma Tech will begin offering these services for other craft beverages and related craft foods.

KegID

  KegID is a cloud-based asset scanning and tracking application that’s been available to brewers since 2001. The software allows brewers to track how many kegs they currently have in use by providing visibility and insight. This application can create accountability by pinpointing the lo-cation of a barrel, its contents and dwell time.  

  Scanning can be done with a variety of equipment, from Android or iOS mobile devices to fixed in-line scanners. In addition to scanning kegs at the brewery, they can be scanned in the field and marked for special handling if any part of it is found to be damaged or malfunctioning. It can al-so identify kegs that are due for routine maintenance.

  Also, KegID is automatically included on any kegs leased through its lease-to-own solution, KegFleet, at no extra charge. Each brand new European keg comes laser-etched with the scan codes and the ID numbers pre-loaded into the application. They are ready to scan and track upon delivery. 

  In addition to online resources, a team of people located in KegID’s Houston-based office are available to provide personal assistance to new users during business hours.

  The app can also be used to manage other reusable assets like pallets and tap handles.    

Kegshoe

  For the past four years, cideries, breweries, distilleries and other craft beverage producers worldwide have been using Kegshoe tracking software. Using either an iOS or Android app alongside Kegshoe’s barcode stickers, producers can track their keg fleets throughout the entire production, storage and distribution cycle.

  The application then offers insights into the status, location and development of a keg fleet, ensuring that turnover cycles are kept in check and kegs are not being lost. Having the reporting and logging tools available to show the contents, location and details of each barrel allows customers to manage their fleet inventory better.

  To make setup and operation as convenient and affordable as possible, the company eliminated the need for additional hardware. Producers can download the Kegshoe app on their devices and start scanning. Other features include rental customer logging and tracking, and production batch assignment and monitoring 

  Kegshoe is currently in the process of releasing a craft beverage-focused customer relationship management software. The CRM will help to provide an industry-tailored system for sales reps and managers to log and manage their customers, sales cycles and productivity. With both desk-top and mobile functionality, it is meant to make the sales process for craft beverage producers as efficient and affordable as possible.

  All new customers receive a series of onboarding materials, including detailed product tours that walk them through the app and desktop software, as well as a support article library. Additional-ly, Kegshoe offers around-the-clock support, ensuring all issues and questions are addressed promptly and don’t interrupt brewing operations.

Small-Batch Maps

  Released in 2019, Small-Batch Maps is designed to help breweries and distilleries better manage their distribution and sales. The company wants to lessen the challenges of market forecasting by helping producers determine if they should market one product or concentrate on all of their of-ferings.

  The software allows potential customers to search for products on a website, and for beverage companies to gain marketing insights, estimate product needs and discover new distri-bution regions. Producers can then use this data to market the products most in-demand, or those with less traction.

  Breweries and distilleries can easily add Small-Batch Maps to their websites and other online properties. Once they’ve added the feature, they can head over to their website, log in, and add new locations as their distribution networks grow.

MAN VERSUS MACHINE: Options in the World of End-of-Line Packaging

By: Cheryl Gray

Quality, efficiency and speed are but a few of the attributes assigned to best practices when it comes to end-of-line packaging.  Craft breweries and distilleries that make the change from manual to automatic or, in some cases, combine the best of both worlds, have a universal goal: to produce an attractively packaged and cost-effective end product that draws in consumers and keeps them coming back.

  When it comes to automation for end-of-line packaging, the best companies listen to the needs of craft brewers and distillers, rather than drive them to a product that won’t benefit their bottom line. Such is the case with WestRock of Atlanta, Georgia, which touts itself as the only company in the paper packaging industry with in-house machinery manufacturing teams designing full lines of automatic packaging systems. WestRock considers itself a leader in innovation and sustainable packaging practices. David Hayslette is WestRock’s Senior Director of Business Development for Craft Beverages.

  “Customers come to us because we create customized, sustainable and value-added solutions using the world’s most comprehensive portfolio of paper and packaging products,” says Hayslette. “Customers appreciate our partnership approach. They know that when they work with WestRock on a total automated solution, they have a single point of contact for paperboard, corrugated and machinery solutions that work together.”

  Hayslette points out that for many craft breweries and distilleries, automation comes into play when growth demands something beyond what a manual operation can handle.

  “Typically, end-of-line packaging automation decisions are driven by upgrades to filling capacity. In other words, if a brewery is filling cans at a rate of 45 cans per minute with a mobile filler and they decide to purchase their own filler with a speed of 100 cans per minute, they will likely not be able to keep up with the speed using labor, or their costs will increase prohibitively. Instead, with the investment in the faster filler, they also become interested in automated packaging to address their objectives.”

  There is a delicate balance, Hayslette says, between reducing costs for labor and materials, while working to maximize productivity.  

  “Automation brings a level of consistency in the packing process by the way cartons are erected and glued versus the manual approach, which can be subject to human variance. In a tight labor market like we have in the U.S., finding laborers to hand-pack cartons can be challenging, and the hourly pay rate is increasing in some jurisdictions. Automation also brings the ability to pack out more product in the same period. Manual packaging works best when there is no bottleneck created to the production process; there is readily available labor; and the rate of pay is reasonable, such that the total cost of packaging is reasonable. “

  Hayslette stresses that WestRock works with clients to help ease the burden of financing the capital investment costs tied to purchasing machinery for end-of-line packaging. He points to return-on-investment as one key consideration for breweries and distilleries thinking of buying automated packaging systems.

  “We encourage customers to think about their total cost of ownership and do a side-by-side analysis of the manual versus automated process. A manual process typically carries with it the cost of labor, a cost associated with the packaging materials to be used and a productivity rate. This would be compared to the automated option, which would typically reduce labor, reduce materials costs and increase productivity rates. However, there is the added investment in the machinery itself.”

  Minnesota-based and employee-owned Douglas Machine sold its first automation product in the 1960s to none other than the Curtiss Candy Company, makers of iconic candy bars that include Baby Ruth and Butterfinger. More than 50 years later, Douglas provides a vast array of what it describes as cutting-edge machinery for cartoning, case packing, as well as tray and shrink wrapping.

  Todd Welker, Beverage Sales Manager for Douglas, says top producers in brewing—both craft and legacy—along with distilled spirits, come to Douglas for their packaging machinery needs. The company, Welker says, designs and builds exclusively servo platforms in its Minnesota factory.  All come with nationwide sales and service support, backed by a three-year warranty and a parts price guarantee.

  “Typically, our customers come to us when either their speeds increase beyond their current low-end machinery, or when they are planning ahead to accommodate future outputs,” said Welker. “It is our clients who make the decision to automate based on labor costs, labor availability and safety of their personnel. Reducing labor or the concerns of safety due to manual processes generally drives automation, in addition to increasing line speeds, which reduces labor economies.”

  Welker says that switching from manual to automated end-of-line packaging takes output to new levels.

  “Manual packaging is extremely flexible. The human hand can do a number of things that are difficult with automation. Still, automation of packaging is by far more cost-effective, and it can reduce or eliminate repetitive motion injuries where one injury can potentially cost more than a fully automated line.  Automated packaging can also run much faster than manual work, thus increasing line speeds, reducing labor and driving up efficiencies.”

Welker says that his brewery clients work with a variety of end-of-line packaging options.

  “The carton and tray are the most accepted packages in the brewing industry when cans are run. Bottles are often run on older case erectors, drop packs and case closers, but more breweries are looking to eliminate the box-shop and utilize all-in-one wraparound case packing technologies. These greatly reduce footprint, labor, case costs, and can even potentially eliminate partitions in the cases for even more material savings.”

  However, for some craft beverage makers, the dollar investment of automated end-of-line packaging can be daunting. Meghann Quinn, co-owner of Bale Breaker Brewing Company in Yakima, Washington, says her brewery’s end-of-line packaging is all done by hand. 

  “We manually put the six-packs into the cases and palletize them.  We do both of those manually because end-of-line automated packaging systems are too expensive, and our speed doesn’t necessitate them.”

  Some breweries and distilleries deploy manual labor as a way to test the market to learn what are the best pack sizes and styles. Once the decision is made on what works and what doesn’t, many producers turn to automation to quickly get their products to customers.

Best of Both Worlds

  The marketplace had to wait nearly a century before Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, founded in the 1800s in Nashville, Tennessee, was resurrected by brothers Andy and Charles Nelson. The Nelson brothers worked to restore the landmark distillery built by their great-great-great-grandfather, Charles Nelson, and with it, a brand that many consider highly responsible for putting Tennessee whiskey on the map worldwide before Prohibition dried up production.

  Fast forward to the 21st Century, when the Nelson brothers have embraced many aspects of automation in their end-of-line packaging. However, just as they managed to re-create the family’s original whiskey recipe through meticulous, hands-on research, Andy Nelson says the distillery is just as careful not to abandon many of the manual end-of-line packaging techniques that make Green Brier’s products unique. A combination of automated and manual systems, Nelson believes, brings together the best of both worlds.

  “We have been utilizing both for quite some time,” Nelson says. “If you have all or mostly automated equipment, it’s important to have a good tech on hand to help when things inevitably go wrong.  And, with manual or semi-auto equipment, it’s necessary to have a staff that is attentive and detail-oriented.  It’s all about quality and efficiency!” 

  Sourcing suppliers for end-of-line packaging needs is as careful a process as deciding what products to order. Nelson says that his distillery relies upon a variety of options.

  “We’ve used a handful of methods, ranging from brokers to OEM directly. It can depend on how much I know about each item and how much I trust others to help me select equipment and coordinate maintenance.”

  For those embracing automation on any level, the opportunities are endless. While manual packaging renders what only a human approach can offer, automation addresses the future, boosting production and the bottom line.

Innovative Bottling Systems Allow Craft Brewers to Adjust to Trends

By: Gerald Dlubala

While tastes for craft beer are as individual as each customer that walks into your tasting room, the reasons to package your craft beer in a bottle remain consistent whether manually capping a few bottles or running a high-speed bottling machine around the clock. You want that bottle of beer to retain its quality, compete with other breweries for on-shelf presence and present a consistent product to those consumers who look to packaged beer as their primary selection.

Flexibility And Versatility Are Key

“In a crazy industry like craft brewing, versatility and the ability to react to and meet changes are key. That includes your packaging system,” said Dan Komarony, President of DK Advanced Technologies, manufacturer of the MicroBottler filling machine. “When looking to purchase a packaging system, craft brewers should be aware of their projected volume, available floor space and the potential effects that adding additional equipment will have on their workflow. Most machines offer a sanitizer or pre-sanitizer and a filling and rinse function, but can they do it within the footprint that you can offer? Can they transition from canning to bottling across any product you offer without significant downtime during changeover?”

  “Breweries need to follow the trend of what their customers want, not what their equipment forces them to do,” said Doug Ernenwein, Sales Manager for DK Advanced Technologies. “Most new craft brewers operate on a small budget, but they still want and need the ability to get in on new trends without having to spend thousands of dollars on a new setup. One minute, cans are popular, next it’s bottled, then it’s specific closures to match the different styles of beer that they brew, so versatility is essential. A packaging system should support all sizes of bottles or cans and offer smooth bottling or canning transfers with minimal setup, configuration and maintenance requirements.”

  That’s why the team at DK Advanced Technologies is passionate about their MicroBottler system. Having initially built the MicroBottler for their private use and using it for three years before making it available to the public, they know it fills the needs for craft breweries requiring up to a 600 bottle per hour system. It’s on wheels for easy maneuverability and compact enough to maneuver through a standard doorframe. To get up and running, you need an operator, a standard 110-volt power supply and access to compressed air and CO2 supplies. Without changing the original footprint of the machine, operators can use modular options to fill bottles ranging from six to twenty-five ounces with enclosures ranging from corking, caging, capping, screw tops, or anything in between. The MicroBottler bottles carbonated or non-carbonated beverages directly from your bright tank, keg or vat, easily changing midstream if you want to package a batch of your craft beer in multiple ways.

  “The machine is built and engineered in-house to your specifications at our New York facility,” said Scott Lufkin, Engineer at DK Advanced Technologies. “Right out of the box, it’s fundamentally set up and assembled containing additional spare parts to replace those that are most needed or misplaced to minimize downtime. Parts that wear the most like O-rings and gaskets are standard, off the shelf components that the buyer can obtain directly from the manufacturer, saving time and money.”

  Technical support is always important when purchasing new machinery, and it’s also a major component of controlling downtime. When it’s needed, it’s usually needed right now.

  “Ours is unmatched,” said Jordan Wood, Technician at DK Advanced Technologies. “Every purchase includes a full machine manual and a short, eight-and-a-half-minute video to help complete your setup. For additional support, you’ll get our company phone number that a live person will answer, along with my number, and our engineer’s number. We are open to conversations by text, message, conference call, email and face time. We take the time to solve your problem, 24 hours a day. Our machines are very user-friendly, with setup and system changes able to be accomplished with only five tools to match the packaging job at hand.”

Specialty Brews And Bottles Are The Perfect Combo

  “We’re seeing bottles used mostly for specialized packaging,” said Andrew Ferguson, Product Manager for Wild Goose Canning – Meheen Manufacturing in Louisville, Colorado. “The need is still there. Craft brewers have to compete with national and international beers for shelf space. It’s sometimes easier to get that space in the warm storage areas using the popular 22 to 24-ounce bottles. Both glass and alumapak bottles are a great choice and work for water, wine, mixed drinks, kombucha and even cannabis mixes. Alumapak bottles are filled on the same bottling machinery as the glass bottles, just requiring a different cap enclosure.”

  Meheen is a bottling technologies company that prides itself on helping craft breweries deliver quality, consistent, packaged craft beer. They have become intensely focused on the filling technology of packaging, working with strategic partners equally focused on the other integral parts of the bottling system to fully outfit breweries to their unique specifications. With the help of these strategic partners, Meheen provides end to end lines for bottling and packaging.

  “Meheen bottling units are very responsive and easy to use,” said Ferguson. “We’ve traditionally sold two, four or six head fillers as standalone units based on the brewery’s fill rate and bottle format. With our updated bottle filling systems, we now can provide all of those format styles for use on one unified frame, so expenses are kept down by only having to buy the needed filler head.”

  Meheen units are fully integrated technologically for remote connectivity when needed. Ferguson tells Beverage Master Magazine that the filling units are touch screen operated with the ability to save format settings, so once successfully configured they can be retrieved with the touch of the screen.

  “Our tech teams stay on-site through the installation until the users are up to speed on the systems,” said Ferguson. “But should the brewer need help, Meheen technicians can remotely tap into, troubleshoot and run diagnostic tests based on your system’s error codes and current running information to keep downtime to a minimum.”

  “With packaging systems, there is always more innovation regarding the faster and easier transition between bottle formats and sizes,” said Ferguson. “From smaller, manual style bottling through fully automated, high-speed systems, our goal is to hit on all budgets and be a craft brewer’s one-stop-shop for bottling and packaging system acquisition and installation.”

Technology To Bottle Your Passion

  Randy Kingsbury, owner of XpressFill Systems LLC, knows that craft brewers want and need an affordable, well designed, low maintenance filler that will get their craft beer on the shelf. Since 2007, XpressFill Systems has been filling that need with their affordable, long-lasting, easy to use, premium bottle and can filling systems manufactured in America using only the highest quality components available.

  “When looking for a bottling or canning system, read reviews, check with others that are using the system and look for a good warranty with corresponding technical support and parts availability,” said Kingsbury. “For the craft brewer looking to fill up to 400 bottles or 600 cans per hour directly from their keg or brite tank, our XpressFill systems are a perfect choice.”

  The lightweight XpressFill system is a craft brewer’s dream, designed as a plug-and-play tabletop unit that needs only electricity, air and CO2 supplies to start filling bottles or cans using either a two or four head filler. XpressFill systems are sold worldwide and are routinely engineered specifically for each customer’s packaging and business needs.

  “We do customizations all the time,” said Kingsbury. “We tweak our machines in house to match brewery specifications whether it’s for different sized bottles or cans, including crowlers. The finishing setup is as easy and straightforward as possible, but we are available by phone to help or just for additional information. There are also YouTube videos, photos and manuals available. Honestly, the hardest part of the setup is finding your beer’s unique balance regarding the pressures that it can handle. You have to know your beers and how much pressure they need and can tolerate for proper filling. That balance is always dependent on the product, the environment, working conditions and bottling temperatures. It’s different in every situation.”

  Kingsbury tells Beverage Master Magazine that they are always working on simplifying the methods needed to verify and maintain proper filling measurements, including improvements in weighing systems. “It’s easy to see the filler results while bottling because you can see through the glass,” said Kingsbury. “But when canning your beer, it’s not so easy. You have to rely on your measuring systems and physical checks after the product is packaged.”

  “Craft brewers are usually budget and space-oriented, so you should start small and step up as needed,” said Kingsbury. “Recognize your place in your local craft brewing industry and proceed accordingly. You may have really big plans for the future, and that’s great, but it’s always best to manage your money wisely and cautiously. Design your system conservatively by focusing on getting an easy to use and maintain bottling or canning system that serves your present needs.”

Reliability, Speed & Innovation

  Krones AG is the world’s leading manufacturer of filling and packaging technology and is commonplace in many global sized breweries. They remain focused on keeping energy consumption low while offering efficient resource utilization. The Krones system can be found in many popular breweries regardless of size.

  “We’ve had our current Krones line for over a decade, and plan on upgrading our packing equipment, cleaning stations and inspecting and conveying operation this upcoming March,” said Dick Leinenkugel, President of Leinenkugel Brewing Company. “Our brewery workers manage, monitor, change or control our processes using available screens and PLC logic. It’s user-friendly with additional access to some functions by smartphone, laptop or tablet when needed. The training is pretty straightforward including both vendor and equipment manufacturer led classroom sessions and on the job training,”

  Leinenkugel told Beverage Master Magazine that although technical support is always important, they use Reliability Centered Maintenance as their approach to defining maintenance tasks and frequency intervals. “We currently run traditional 12-ounce, long neck, no-return bottles at a rate of 475 bottles per minute for both 12 and 24 packs, so we do have consumable or high wear parts readily available,” said Leinenkugel. “Then we use preventive or predictive tools to help us plan repairs or replacement tasks and retain the needed technical support to get those accomplished.”

  “The main thing when looking at bottling systems is to involve your brewery workers upfront in the design function,” said Leinenkugel. “Safety and ease of cleaning are important and welcomed. Look for reliable, simple and robust equipment that is easy to be trained on, use and maintain. Seek out manufacturers that design out waste and overproduction and design in energy efficiency to lower overall operating costs. In the end, your system depends on your unique situation.”

  Abita Brewing Company has used a Krones bottling line for over eight years. They currently run 400 bottles or cans per minute and are planning a new addition using manufacturers Garvey, Omni, PakTech and Switchback to improve efficiency and offer customers more variety in package types. 

  “All of our equipment uses a Human Machine Interface (HMI) to allow operators and maintenance to operate and repair the systems,” said Christopher Bradley, Sr Packaging and Automation Manager, Abita Brewing Company. “They are Automation PC powered touchscreens working with other Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC’s) and safety systems. A Line Data System (LDS) monitors our system via an internal network and server, providing real-time data to help us look for efficiency gaps or machine issues.”

  Bradley tells Beverage Master Magazine that while they have the ability, they don’t allow remote operation of their systems due to the risks and dangers involved. And because obtaining parts can sometimes be a challenge, they stock many replacement parts to prevent large periods of downtime. There is additional support available from their OEM and other outside sources.

  “Innovations allowing for speed and efficiency improvements are coming at a fast pace in this industry,” said Bradley. “Bottling systems are tailor-made for the needs of the customer. When designing your system, use an experienced firm to make determinations on present and future needs. Pay close attention to details. Things that may be simple to implement during the design phase can cost several times that amount if done post-production. Everything from the placement of a light fixture or a convenience outlet could save years’ worth of headaches and expenses.”

  With the 2009 acquisition of Kosme, an Italian based producer and developer of packaging and filling lines for lower output beverage industries, the Krones technology became more accessible to the craft beer industry.

  Brad Branco is the Packaging Manager at O’Fallon Brewery, a regional craft brewery in Maryland Heights, Missouri. They’ve used a Krones Kosme bottling line for about five years, including a depalletizer, a pressure-sensitive labeling system, a rotary filler head and rinser. It was in place when Branco joined the company, and definitely allows room for growth.

  “Honestly, it’s oversized for us right now, but it’s a very good machine, and I’ll always take faster processes over slower,” said Branco. “We use a 28 head rotary filler with a max speed of 9000 bottles per hour, which equates to about 150 bottles per minute or about 25 barrels per hour if speaking in volume. We can empty a 100-gallon brite tank in four to five hours.”

  The Kosme system is windows based and can be manipulated remotely, but Branco tells Beverage Master Magazine that at their facility, there is always an operator on-site, negating any need for remote operation.

  “The Kosme bottling and packaging system is Italian made, which brings with it a learning curve,” said Branco. “Initially it was a bit of a language struggle with the tech support being all Italian speaking. It was a challenge if you needed a proprietary part or something non-standard. We’re good now, and there’s a parts distributor in Wisconsin that carries the most common parts. But Google translate was our best friend for quite some time. You can still have an issue and have to wait for something, but through technical support and speaking with other breweries that have the same equipment, we’ve learned the best replacement parts to keep on hand. It’s all about planning. All in all, this is a great filler that doesn’t lend itself to failure. It’s all metric, with blocks and modules that are easily and fully accessible. In that sense, it’s what I consider a simple machine.”

The Best Tanks and Tank Systems for Distilleries

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Tanks are an essential part of operating a distillery, and there is a lot to know about this particular type of equipment. While there have been many improvements made to tanks and tank systems in recent years, distillers are still looking for more features and options from these products.

Types of Tanks Used in Distilleries

  Tanks are used for numerous functions in a distillery, primarily for blending, fermenting, storing, distilling and filtering. Since tanks are used for multiple purposes, it is crucial to use the right type of tank for each job.

  Storage tanks are typically single-wall tanks that store a spirit before proofing, filtering and blending. These tanks commonly come with volume indicators, scales, vent pipes, pressure release valves and access ports. Meanwhile, blending tanks mix spirits and water during the blending, proofing and hydro-separation processes. These come in a range of standard sizes and can have a motorized agitator, sampling port and temperature gauge.

  Derrick Mancini from Quincy Street Distillery told Beverage Master Magazine that his distillery uses polyethylene tanks for fermentation. Quincy Street is a small distillery in Riverside, Illinois, and the distillery’s modest size is reflected in its equipment.

  “These are Ace roto-molded types,” Mancini said. “We ferment a wide range of materials in them, such as whiskeys and Eau du vies, and we do not use any cooling. But in the smaller ones, we may use some heating when required, as for rum.”

  For the storage of spirits, Quincy Street Distillery uses 400-liter stainless Letinas for high proof final spirits and high wine.

  “Intermediate distillate may be stored in plastic 55-gallon drums or 275-gallon IBC totes,” Mancini said. “We have a 150-gallon stainless mash tun as well. In addition to tanks, we have 12-gallon and 25-gallon stainless fustis and 6-gallon glass carboys for small container storage.”

  When asked about the pros and cons of the tanks he uses, Mancini said, “Plastics are cheap, but over time can wear enough they need to be replaced. They are not suitable for very high-proof spirits and somewhat harder to sterilize than stainless. Stainless tanks are great, but far more expensive to initially purchase.”

  Meanwhile, Ethan Poole from Vance Metal Fabricators told Beverage Master Magazine about the many fermenters that his company has fabricated for distilleries, as well as hot liquor tanks, cold liquor tanks and storage tanks. Headquartered in Geneva, New York, Vance Metal is an ISO 9001:2015-certified, large-capacity metal fabricator and weld shop that serves many industries, including heavy manufacturing, technology and agriculture.

  “These fermenters have very efficient cooling and heating jackets placed on the main body sections of the tanks that can be used with glycol or steam since they are rated for high PSI,” Poole said. “We can also place jackets on the bottom or top heads if the producer needs more coverage. Our strength at Vance Metal is customizing tank setups for each producer’s specific needs.”

  Matt Kramer, the regional sales manager for beverages at the Paul Mueller Company, described the three products his company offers that craft spirits distillers commonly use: fermenters, bulk spirit storage tanks and the maxxLūp infusion system. Headquartered in Springfield, Missouri, the Paul Mueller Company has been in the processing equipment business since 1940, and specializes in stainless steel tanks, heat transfer and industrial construction services. Tank Services offered include inspection, modifications and alterations, repair and relocation.

  “Our fermenters are most commonly used to accurately control the temperature during fermentation of the mash,” Kramer said. “We have jacketed heat transfer that maintains the proper temperature and an internal CIP system for ease of cleaning to stop unwanted bacterial growth and prevent off-flavors. Our storage tanks can be built up to 40,000 gallons and come with or without heat transfer.”

  Kramer went on to describe how flavor infusion has become increasingly popular among distilleries and how Paul Mueller’s maxxLūp flavor infusion system has revolutionized the way that distillers innovate.

  “The maxxLūp’s system allows users to extract aroma and flavor out of ingredients in much less time than other traditional methods,” Kramer said. “Users have seen up to a 50% reduction in ingredient usage because of the design of the equipment. All of our equipment is designed, fabricated and finished to beautiful aesthetic standards in Springfield, Missouri. The level of quality will make them a showpiece in anyone’s craft distillery!”

Tank Improvements in the Industry

  Tank manufacturers have been getting more innovative over the years and making improvements to their products to serve distillery customers better.

  “The improvements made to our tanks over the years at Vance Metal are laser welding the jackets to the tank bodies; using square tube legs instead of an open back style (so there is less surface area to clean); 2b prime finish on the inside of the tank; and #4 finish on the outside,” said Vance Metal’s Poole.

  “Using insulation and cladding can improve the efficiency of your tank as well,” Poole said.

  Kramer from Paul Mueller Company noted how the maxxLūp has upped the game on infusion and how the circulation tank is the most versatile and efficient adjunct-dosing system on the market.

  “With a removable screen design, it can handle a wide variety of adjuncts and use less of them for the same flavor profiles,” Kramer said. “The maxxLūp sits on casters so it’s easily mobile and a safe alternative to infusion that doesn’t require entering a tank.

  Kramer also mentioned that distillers are typically working at around 78 degrees Fahrenheit and not getting a lot of condensation or energy loss. Still, for those needing more temperature control, insulation can be added.

  “We use beadboard, Styrofoam and poly-iso type insulations on our fermenters,” he said. “Insulation prevents temperature fluctuations and brings greater energy savings.”

  “For stainless steel storage tanks, we craft them to the customer’s specifications,” Kramer said. “We have highly experienced fabricators in a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, and we possess all the accreditations and certifications needed to meet your specifications, including ASME code, complete weld passivation and turnover packages.”

  However, there are still tank improvements that distillers would like that would make production easier and more efficient. For example, Mancini of Quincy Street Spirits would love to see more incorporation of weighing scales into larger stainless-steel tanks.

New Tank Buying Considerations

  There are many features to look for when you are in the market for new distillery tanks, whether you are just launching a new business or upgrading your current tank systems. Mancini from Quincy Street Distillery said that the top considerations his distillery takes into account are quality and price.

  Concerning the significant differences between tank systems, Poole said, “We see the most difference in the heavier gauge material we choose to use, making our tanks more rugged, customized options for each producer’s needs and building requirements.”

  Kramer of Paul Mueller Company explained how the type of heat transfer on Paul Mueller Company equipment is unique.

  “Our Temp-Plate inflated heat transfer is manufactured using resistance-welding, which is more cost-effective and precise than laser welding,” he said. “Our maxxLūp infusion system brings the notes and flavors to your spirit in less than half the time of typical infusion methods. No one has the proprietary design of our maxxLūp.”

  “Whether you’re buying a storage tank, fermenter or an infusion system, you need to know what your size and process requirements are, any dimensional constraints at your facility and access considerations to the building,” said Kramer. “When buying a fermenter, we recommend keeping a height-to-diameter ratio of about 1.5:1 to 2:1. Sometimes, customers will request to go taller to preserve space in their facility, but you have to remember that the taller the fermenter, the greater the liquid-height pressure on the yeast. Yeast doesn’t like too much pressure, and this can be harmful to the fermentation process.”

  “Make sure you discuss the future of your operation when planning your building layout and making your equipment purchases to leave yourself options for growth,” Poole of Vance Metal Fabricators offered as a piece of advice to distilleries. “Everyone operates under a budget, but planning for certain aspects will save you time and money in the future.”

“SMART” Brewing: Innovation & New Technology for Craft Breweries

By: Cheryl Gray

Brewers have needed packaging and tools to dispense their products ever since beer was first brewed a millennium ago. Today, innovation and technology that transform a good idea into a great one are driven by industry titans who know how to keep pace with the demands of a highly competitive field, putting craft breweries in a position to stay a step ahead in an increasingly crowded global marketplace.

Print-on-Demand With Abbott Company

  One of those titans is Wisconsin-based Abbott Company, in business for 95 years, specializing in industrial marking and packaging solutions. Tim Stark, Abbott’s president, points to the rise in craft brewing as the catalyst for creating a demand for innovation and new technology aimed at achieving best practices in product identification operations.

  With craft breweries increasing their production capacity and distribution, Stark says there is a correlating trend towards print-on-demand inkjet technology replacing pre-printed boxes and hand-applied labels.

  “Print-on-demand inkjet technology offers many benefits, including a lower cost-per-mark compared to pressure-sensitive labels, as well as more flexibility for managing corrugate stock volumes and case sizes. Our recommended high-resolution inkjet technology, FoxJet ProSeries print heads, has been recently enhanced to print scan-able barcodes on porous cases at higher speeds consistently.”

  Stark says that in automating the printing of product identification on cases, today’s brewers are also looking at improving efficiency by integrating what he calls “scan and select” capabilities into their operation.  

  “This makes product changeovers, and subsequent print message changes effortless and free of human error. A hand scanner is used to scan a barcode from a work order, which selects the correct message to be printed on the case. This is often paired with a barcode vision system which can verify the readability of barcodes before they are palletized and shipped to retailers, allowing a turnkey case coding solution that will scale as breweries continue to grow.”

  Craft breweries are also looking for innovation when it comes to products that solve their primary packaging identification needs, says Stark.

  “We also see a growing desire for high contrast date coding on bottles and cans that are dark in color,” he said. “With a focus on freshness, an increasing number of craft breweries are requesting to use yellow and light blue inks to make the date code and other important product information pop out to consumers. The introduction of the Linx 8900 Plus soft pigment inkjet printer allows brewers to print high contrast codes on their bottles and cans while avoiding the difficulty commonly found with traditional pigmented ink printers. “

Shrink Sleeves With PDC International

  PDC International is another company at the forefront of an industry upon which many craft breweries depend—shrink sleeve labeling. From the moment the business opened in 1968, anticipating customer needs is what the Connecticut-based company has brought to its brewery clients. PDC Founder Anatole Konstantin immigrated to the United States from post-WWII Eastern Europe, building his company out of the den of his home. 

  Through vertical integration and in-house controls, including its own machine shop, PDC is known for quickly solving customers’ production challenges. Neal Konstantin is president of the company his father, Anatole, founded fifty years ago. He says the widespread use of shrink sleeves, a technology allowing a brewery to place its brand name on blank cans rather than having to inventory large quantities of pre-printed cans, saves warehouse space, simplifies logistics and saves money.

  “The recent widespread adoption of shrink labeling by breweries has resulted in machine refinements for labeling [either] full or empty aluminum cans of all sizes,” says Konstantin. “Special product handling ensures that aluminum cans are not dented or marred when processed through the labeler. PDC’s proprietary cutting blades now last millions of cycles between sharpenings, saving downtime and labor and reducing overall costs. We offer the widest range of shrink sleeve label applicators in the industry, ranging from entry-level systems up to 400-500 pm.”

Release the Pressure With

R&S Supply Company

  Don’t be thrown by the Napa Valley location of R&S Supply Company. It also caters to craft breweries, along with wine and other industries in all 50 states and 10 countries around the globe. Founded in 1984, R&S Supply Company is a distributor of products from brands such as Tassalini Valves, Strahman Washdown Products, Definox Valves, Texcel Brewers & Spirits hose assemblies and Dixon Sanitary Pumps & Fittings.

  Company President Paul N. Roberts touts the newest product line that R&S Supply has recently added to its roster. “The newest product line that we have added is Bradley Industrial Products and Keltech Tankless Electric Water Heaters. The Keltech Tankless Water Heaters provide instant hot water anywhere in a production facility when mounted on our cart.”

  Roberts points to the Italian-manufactured line of Tassalini Sanitary Valves as one of his company’s top innovative products. Industry insiders know that the name Tassalini has been around since 1922 when it first produced products for the aeronautics industry. R& S Supply Company is Tassalini’s largest U.S. distributor, Roberts says, stocking all original manufacture replacement seals and repair kits, along with an entire line of Tassalini Valves for every need.

“We stock the complete line including butterfly valves, actuators, check valves, ball valves, tank vents, sight glasses, plug valves and all the accessories and repair parts.”

Pour One Out With Xpressfill Systems

  A relative newcomer to the industry of packaging and tools, XpressFill Systems LLC is led by owner Randy Kingsbury, a mechanical engineer with more than 30 years of experience. Based in San Luis Obispo, California, XpressFill Systems is a global player in the development of affordable, efficient filling equipment for the brewing industry, with customers in the United States as well as Europe, Australia, South America and Asia.  

  “Our equipment is small—tabletop—making it easy to position in smaller brewery operations. It is simple to operate and maintain, requiring only one or two operators to efficiently maintain the quantity and quality of the beverage,” Kingsbury says.

  XpressFill introduced its first filler for brewers in 2014, a tabletop counter pressure filler for bottles with a pair of fill spouts. This product, Kingsbury says, was designed to launch its fill sequence with a carbon dioxide purge, then seal and fill the bottle to a level sensor that automatically stops the fill so the bottle can be removed and capped. XpressFill edged its technology forward, developing its four-spout counter pressure bottle filler, capable of filling 12-ounce bottles at a rate of 400 per hour.  In 2018 the company introduced counter-pressure fillers for cans.  

  “The XF4500C has two fill spouts and is capable of filling 300 12-ounce cans per hour. To further satisfy the demand for filling cans, the XF2200 open fill unit was developed. This provided a faster, less expensive alternative, capable of filling 360 12-ounce cans per hour with two spouts, while still providing quality fills,” says Kingsbury.

  More innovation and technology is in store with the development of XpressFill’s new two-spout filler, the XF280W. “Current quality control of fill volumes is accomplished by craft brewers weighing their filled cans, which is an additional step following the filling,” Kingsbury says. “We set out to explore the possibility of providing a user-friendly and cost-effective filler that would measure the weight of dispensed beer to save the additional weight verification step.”

Expand With iStill

  For craft breweries exploring the world of distilling, Netherlands-based iStill offers an automated, robotized distillery unit that promises a simple setup with only a water hose and electrical plug needed to begin.

  “Due to our scientific approach to distilling, we have been able to create an easy to operate, versatile machine that takes the magic out of distilling great spirits, and makes whiskey, vodka, gin and rum production an easy add-on to the already existing brewery,” says Edwin van Eijk, CEO of iStill.

  “The iStills come in sizes ranging from 26 to 1300 gallons. Each and every machine can make every distilled product. If the craft brewer does not want to re-invest in expanding mashing or fermenting capacity, the iStills can mash and ferment as well. Everything takes place in the same unit.”

  iStills offers a broad range of services, Eijk says, to assist its more than 700 clients worldwide, including iStill University, which educates and trains approximately 200 distillers annually in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. 

  Innovation and technology are ever-evolving as leaders in the packaging and tools industry find new ways not only to push themselves but also, push craft breweries into thinking smarter about ways to make their products move quickly in the marketplace.

Important Tank Supplies & Accessories for Your Brewery or Distillery

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

High-quality and reliable tanks are one of the most essential parts of any brewery or distillery. However, there are many components involved in keeping tanks in good condition and well-monitored throughout the beverage-making process. Experienced brewers and distillers use various tank supplies to keep their tanks working well for many years into the future and to produce excellent craft beverages.

Here is an overview of some of the most important tank supplies and accessories to stock up on and use regularly in a brewery or distillery.

Basic Tank Needs

  Wraps are one of the most important tank-related products that breweries and distilleries should invest in because they provide fluid temperature control for tanks. Wraps also reduce condensation and allow fluids to circulate with a cooling jacket on for thermal control. Glycol wraps help control the fermentation process and are also referred to as glycol jackets. These products are put on the bottoms and sides of tanks to maintain beverage temperatures, regardless of the beverages’ fill levels. This is especially important on packaging days of the year. Overall, breweries and distilleries typically look for wraps made with lightweight and flexible fabric that’s easy to apply and manipulate as needed.

  Insulation is useful for craft beverage tanks because both hot and cold temperatures are required from these tanks. Common insulation materials are fiberglass and stone wool. Insulation helps to counteract high humidity in a brewery or distillery and also prevent burn and freezing so that ice does not form on the pipes. Since insulation helps resist corrosion, keep mold away and save energy, it is also a way for breweries and distilleries to become more efficient and sustainable. For example, Synavax™ multipurpose coatings use a liquid wrap insulation to coat the equipment and cover exposed valves to prevent energy loss. Just keep in mind that staff members must to be trained thoroughly on insulation safety, especially when working around hot pipes.

  Meters are another crucial piece of equipment used alongside tanks in the brewing and distilling processes. Liquid pressure and vacuum gauges come in both analog and digital formats, with digital versions typically being more expensive. Common sizes are ¼ inch to 1.5 inches, and stainless steel is the most common meter material used in the food and beverage industry. Meters often use two pressure transmitters to measure the beverage level – one for the head pressure and the other for the total pressure. It is that differential that’s really important number to steadily monitor. Magnetic flow meters often range from ½ inch to six inches and provide readings to minimize losses in the beverage-making process. Meanwhile, temperature sensors monitor a beverage’s temperature so that you can quickly adjust temperatures that become too high or low. Regardless of the chosen product, it’s always important to have hygienic process fittings for meter sensors.

  Tank Stands, a less technical but equally important product that goes hand-in-hand with tanks. Stands are usually made from stainless steel and can accommodate 100, 200, 300, 500, or more liters for the right fit with your tanks. Stainless steel pipe stands for brite tanks are available to fit 1.5-inch and two-inch sizes. Some stands accommodate just one large tank, while others fit several tanks and are ideal for small batches. Some smaller tanks have wheels to make them transportable in case mobility is convenient for your operations.

Top Tank Supply Products

  Dean Thompson, the brand manager for Flextank USA, told Beverage Master Magazine that his company’s most popular tank products among breweries and distilleries are its line of SS sanitary fittings, fermentation locks and oak adjuncts. This company manufactures and assembles all of its vessels in Vancouver, Washington and distributes them worldwide.

  Among the most-used products throughout the beverage industry is Flextank’s AK1T – Combo 6-Bolt Flange Accessory Kit in the 1.5-inch size that includes VF1, BV3 and SV1T. This kit includes a complete drain valve installation and a Tassilini sample valve, and it fits all Eco and Dexter Maturation and heavyweight tanks, plus the Apollo Fermentor. Other popular products are Flextank’s butterfly valves and FL1 Fermentation Lock.1 for use on Eco Tanks and Dexter Lids purchased prior May 31, 2014. Meanwhile, the company’s FC060-50-70-80 FlexChill is an exterior wrap chilling system used with glycol chillers and designed for cylindrical tanks in two standard sizes.

  “Our oak staves are French and American oak and available in different toast levels and sizes for different tank sizes,” Thompson said. “These are made with directions to add up the staves needed for use. An example is if you need 80 gallons, you can add the staves from the 50-gallon tank and then add the 30-gallon tank, and now you have what you need for the 80-gallon tank.”

  Miyuki Clauer of ATAGO U.S.A., Inc. told Beverage Master Magazine that ATAGO’s most common product line used for craft beverage tank monitoring is its In-Line Refractometer PRM Series. Based in Bellevue, Washington, ATAGO U.S.A. is a leading manufacturer of refractometers, polarimeters, salt meters, acidity meters, pH meters and saccharimeters.

  “The PRM series offers a digital display section with a seven-segmented LED that displays the temperature and measurements,” Clauer said. “Using output methods, such as RS-232 or 4-20mA, the data can be transmitted to a PLC system for system automation. It offers lab-grade accuracy across the full range of refractive index, Brix or user-defined concentration scale. The PRM series is equipped with an alarm output function that transmits a signal when it detects values exceeding preset high- and low-limit values.”

  Clauer also explained how these inline units use COP (clean-out-of-place) and CIP (clean-in-place) methods for easy cleaning. This is always a valuable feature for busy breweries and distilleries.

  “The detection section occupies a small footprint, taking up very little space and offering an installation option to be directly mounted to the tanks or piping systems,” Clauer said. “The unit can be easily removed without requiring previously acquired skills to be easily removed and installed for COP. The prism section is completely flat and can be easily cleaned once removed. For CIP, users can install an optional accessory and let the ultrasonic cleaner prevent utterly unavoidable sample build-up around the refractometer’s prism surface. Another option is the prism wiper, which attaches directly facing the detection section of an inline refractometer installed in the piping system to manually wipe buildup off the prism surface.”

Other Tank Accessories to Consider

  In addition to wraps, insulation, meters and stands, there are many other tank products that can come in handy during the brewing and distilling process. For example, your beverage operations may benefit from carbonation stones, CIP spray balls and hydrators. Racking arms, valves, sight glasses, basic thermometers and through wall fittings are among the many other tank supplies that experienced beverage producers use.

Choosing the Best Tank Products 

  Although there are many brands, types and styles of tank supplies and accessories to choose from, not all of them are necessarily right for your beverage company. This is why it’s a good idea to get to know industry leaders who make these types of products so you learn about what will best suit your needs.

  With regard to insulating beverage tanks, Thompson of Flextank USA said that the best strategy is “either a temperature-controlled room using our FlexChill system or using standard insulation materials common in hot water tanks.”

Thompson’s advice to breweries and distilleries is a reminder that starting with Flextank for fermentation of grains and sugars can significantly lower start-up or expansion costs.

  “These tanks come in variable permeation rates so they can serve a double-duty and can age spirits, beer and cider without the cost of barrels,” Thompson said. “If an oak profile is desired, inexpensive oak staves are available in a variety of toasts and species that can complement the end product.”

  When shopping for tank supplies for your brewery or distillery, Clauer of ATAGO U.S.A. says that the most important things to look for in a tank meter are the specification of the measurement range, temperature compensation capabilities and after-care services.

  “ATAGO offers in-house service in the U.S., and we offer loaner units while we have customers’ instruments,” Clauer said. “With NIST certification, it offers information security standards and guidelines to ensure that the instrument is working accordingly.”

  Clauer also told Beverage Master Magazine that when searching for pieces of craft beverage equipment, such as tank meters, it is important to have a comprehensive overview of what’s needed and what options are available.

  “Purchasing an instrument is one part, but also knowing the spare parts and how accessible it is to these parts are important, as well as any technical service turnarounds,” Clauer said. “Having a manufacturer that can offer customer service that walks with you every step of the journey of craft beverage manufacturing is important. ATAGO is dedicated to meet our customers’ need with a motto of ‘You ask, we create.’ We offer a portable CO2 meter, refractometer, pH meter, and conductivity meter, as well as the inline refractometer.”