Lessons for the Start-Up Brewery

By: Tracey L. Kelley

Modern beer plant brewery , with brewing kettles, vessels, tubs and pipes made of stainless steel, monteiths beer factory, south island in New Zealand.

Three beverages are the most consumed in the world: water, tea…and beer.  Regional breweries, brewpubs, microbreweries, and contract brewing companies all experienced growth in 2018. In the United States, 219 breweries closed, but 1,049 opened last year. In Canada, there was a slight decline in domestic beer production last year—3.4%—and only a scant increase in sales—0.3%. Nevertheless, 178 breweries opened.

  Producers and consumers alike want the diverse selection, high quality and community connection craft brewing provides. This makes entering the industry an enticing option. So to answer some brewery start-up questions, we’ve compiled a few experts to share their acumen. They include:

•   Jeffrey Gunn, president and CEO of IDD Process & Packaging, based in Moorpark, California. IDD is a family-owned corporation that provides the consultation, design and manufacture of complete brewery and beverage plant systems.

•   Lindsay Johnson, operations manager, and Shawn Johnson, head brewer, Birds Fly South Ale Project (BFS) and tasting room in Greenville, South Carolina. Named one of 2019’s Top 10 Breweries by the U.S. Open Beer Championship, BFS specializes in Farmhouse and Saisons, along with sours, funky IPAs, barrel-aged brews, and range of wild and traditional styles. BFS is also on the 2019 Thrillist “Most Underrated Brewery in Every State” list.

•   Ben Parker, CEO, Scan American Corporation, located in Kansas City, Missouri; and Aubrey Dyer, business development manager, Flavourtech, represented by Scan American in North America. Flavourtech is a global technology manufacturer that specializes in aroma recovery, extraction and evaporation solutions for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries.

•   Christian Riemerschmid von der Heide, president and CEO of the Siebel Institute of Technology (SIT) in Chicago, along with John Hannafan, vice president and director of education. SIT is a for-profit vocational school for brewing education and brewing services. Founded in 1868, it’s oldest brewing school in the United States and home of the World Brewing Academy program, offering campus and web-based courses jointly developed with Doemens Academy of Munich.

  The three primary start-up takeaways they want you to remember:

1.   Take time to learn. Whether it’s refining your processes or understanding how to scale up, knowledge is power.

2.   Choose equipment wisely. Everyone makes different choices—research and compare to make the right decision for your business.

3.   Be patient, young Jedi. Slow, budgeted growth and the right partnerships make more sense for long-term sustainability and adaption to trends.

  These experts provided much more valued insight than print space allows, so we’ll highlight some of the top aspects.

Take Time to Learn

  The Johnsons were a Coast Guard family for more than 20 years, all the while gradually expanding their brewing and business knowledge. “We invested sweat equity first,” Johnson said. “We started home brewing while in Alaska. As we lived in different locations with the Coast Guard, Shawn was able to volunteer at several breweries, learning different aspects of business.”

  In 2016, Shawn officially retired from service, with a year or so of professional brewing experience as a contract brewer for Thomas Creek Brewery, also in Greenville. “This provided us an opportunity to test the idea and see how we wanted to proceed with a brewery buildout,” Johnson told Beverage Master Magazine. “This period of time made it simpler for us to find funding through investment, as we were an established brand and gained some national level recognition early on.” BFS has since received top medals in the Best of Craft Beer Awards, the Great American Beer Festival and the North American Beer Awards.

  Contract or nomadic brewing often reduces start-up risks. Some craft producers try the industry on for size, like the Johnsons. Others do it to gain gradual packaging and distribution knowledge and capital—a wise idea, since a full-scale packaging operation averages more than $300,000.

  Some brewers develop contract partnerships because their current facilities are out of capacity, but budget or geographical constraints prevent expansion. In rare circumstances, a contract partnership with a local brewery happens when someone only has interest in running a taproom.

  “We anticipated being small and niche and allowing the education and evolution of our products to happen slowly and organically,” Johnson said. “However, we quickly grew past all our projections and expectation models, and continually have to be extremely agile as our product line expands and as trends in the industry change. Our production model hasn’t found a ceiling yet.”

  Hannafan/von der Heide believe that every good brew begins with one key ingredient.

  “’First, you add knowledge’ is one of our favorite tag lines. A producer should begin their journey with education, and not after they run into issues,” Hannafan/von der Heide said. “Hopefully they come to us sooner than later to avoid many of the common pitfalls experienced by others. The same process applies brewing theory and understanding the ‘why’ of brewing. It’s not enough to open this valve or turn that pump on—there’s far more to brewing than the equipment side.”

  SIT creates viable paths for new producers through extensive courses on everything from the art and science of brewing to the nuts and bolts of business operations.

  “We share our knowledge by having assisted in numerous start-ups and real experience, not just theory. We offer a consulting arm which assists with recipe formulation all the way through to test batches and evaluating the product,” Hannafan/von der Heide said. “We assist with brewery start-ups and build-outs, supplier evaluation, business case review and staff training. We like to think that the art and science of brewing beer makes lifelong learners out of all in the brewing sector.”

  Hannafan/von der Heide said there are relatively short courses that can dramatically enhance your probability for success. These include the two-week “Siebel Concise” course, “Start Your Own Brewery” and “Executive Overview.”

  SIT also provides another valuable service: yeast banking. “Selecting the right yeast strain can be a key differentiator for better flavor profile, product innovation and brewery capacity utilization. Yeast banking, strain profiling, yeast propagation, fermentation optimization—you can never know enough about yeast,” Hannafan/von der Heide said.  

Choose Your Equipment Wisely

  Evolution in trends, products and other aspects of the brewing industry greatly influence how to source equipment. Spend time to evaluate options based on your ultimate goals and budget—not necessarily what everyone else does. 

  “For too many years, craft brewers grew up with the idea that the two-tank combi-brewhouse doing three–to–four brews in 24 hours was the only way to brew beer,” Gunn said. “As the industry grew, the systems expanded to four or five vessels, but were still stuck in the four–to–seven brews in 24 hours process, with low efficiencies in malt extract, water, energy, labor, effluent and so on.”

  IDD specializes in high-efficiency brewing systems, or HEBS. “HEBS mash filter brewhouses were an unknown entity to most and misunderstood by many that were aware of them. It continues to be an educational project, because it’s difficult for many to believe the efficiencies we publish and the misnomers perpetrated by conventional lauter tun brewhouse manufacturers,” Gunn said. “With HEBS capable of 95–to–98% extracts, up to 40% overall more efficiency and up to three times faster than a combi-brewhouse, there’s such a high ROI for a start-up or expanding craft brewer. Obviously, size has to be adjusted down from a conventional system because of the reduced turnaround time per brew. But 12–to–15 brews in 24 hours are the norm for HEBS.”

  If you’re planning a low-alcohol or non-alcoholic line, your equipment choice is even more specific. For example, Flavortech uses spinning cone column (SCC) technology to enhance flavor, efficiencies and budget. 

“The day-to-day operating expenses of the SCC are low, as it’s very energy efficient. The first two years of maintenance are also included, so these don’t need to be budgeted for until year three,” Dyer/Parker said. “The other main cost is dealing with the alcohol removed from the beer. Disposal can be expensive—however, it can be a valuable income stream if re-concentrated, or could potentially be used to fortify other products in the portfolio. It’s important to work through this part of the equation in advance to maximize the ROI of the system.”

  Scan American/Flavortech allows producers to test all its equipment. “We can teach the customer how the system works and showcase the different outcomes. A beer trial can be run with as little as 60 gallons of product,” Dyer/Parker said. “After each trial, we’ll complete a product tasting to see how it responds to the process. Typically, these trials are proof of concept.”

  Gunn noted an interesting trend that influences equipment choices. “Smaller, more efficient breweries and cans. HEBS, for example, have gone from 20–to–40 Hl brew capacity systems to 5 and 7.5 Hl brew capacity systems. This reflects on the matured craft brew market reverting back to brewpub/restaurant and taproom style operations: local market supply through their own establishment,” he said.

  BFS took a completely different approach to equipment. “Budgeting a brewery start-up is difficult. We’re so capital heavy,” Johnson said. “Don’t rush into purchases. A lot of times you see a deal, but it’ll come back. Some producers are better off sourcing used equipment when applicable.”

  Hannafan/von der Heide offered this important reminder. “If you don’t know about equipment or sizing or space planning, hire a seasoned, independent consultant. Don’t let your emotional side pick the equipment suppliers. There’s a lot of unsafe, poorly-designed equipment that will haunt your day-to-day operations and product consistency.”

Be Patient, Young Jedi

  Our experts offered numerous tips for new producers—here are just a few.

  “We always advise the producer to focus on employing a good industry experienced general contractor, experienced industry-related architect, an experienced industry equipment supplier and themselves doing their due diligence,” Gunn of IDD Process & Packaging told Beverage Master Magazine. “The four parties working together can achieve the best system, the right location and within budget.”  

  “Our initial vision was quite different, or I’d say 60-70% different,” said Johnson of Birds Fly South Ale Project. “We call ourselves an ale project because we’re constantly exploring new styles, techniques and flavors. Our process is unique in that we’re continually blending, and our beer has a chance to evolve through different fermentation processes.”

  “We knew from the beginning we wouldn’t have a ‘set’ product line,” Johnson continued. “This can cause some educational issues when first entering into a distribution partnership. Our brands slowly became a steady product line, but patience was key in our relationships with distributors and retailers. So be patience in all aspects, from hiring and budgeting finances to decision making. We like to say, ‘The beer takes two weeks or more to make—let’s give ourselves an extra hour before we make a decision.’”

  “My advice to someone coming to us with a new product idea would be for them to sit down with us and work through the processing details to make it a reality. The next step is to book some time in our pilot plant and produce some product,” Dyer/Parker with Scan American/Flavourtech said. “We have a great team of engineers with a real depth of knowledge and can assist with the practical realities of turning ideas in successful products.”

  Dyer/Parker also pointed out two exciting trends. “One is the move towards much higher-quality beers. I was in Brazil last month, and the local beer we were served was so good that we cancelled our wine order and continued to drink beer with our meal!” Dyer/Parker said. “Parallel to this trend is the development of the zero-alcohol segment. This fits really well with the SCC, as we enable zero-alcohol products to meet exact quality requirements.”

  The educators from the Sieble Institute of Technology offered two final thoughts. “Create a realistic business plan. Then, have others with industry knowledge challenge and build your plan,” Hannafan/von der Heide said. “The craft and brewing industry is an amazing place to be creative and excel in entrepreneurial activities. It is, however, a place for the long run, despite the hype—there are no quick sustainable wins. Product and process knowledge reigns.”

Boilers in the Distillery: Gentle Giants That Pack A Punch

By: Gerald Dlubala

Boilers are rarely glamorized in any distilling discussions. The end product is the star, whether swirled, stirred or shaken in the able hands of a local mixologist. However, any boiler manufacturer will tell you that a reliable boiler affects every facet of the distilling process, including the cost of production. During fermentation, the mash is heated with steam to transform the carbs to sugars. The wort gets removed and transferred to a fermentation vessel to cool and get ready for the introduction of yeast. Steam provided by a boiler generates a gentle, consistent heat, very conducive for vessel heating, temperature maintenance and successful fermentation. Once fermentation is complete, the product is moved to the still, using steam heat to separate and remove the impurities.

Distillery Environment Matters

  “You always have to be aware of any unique requirements due to installation environment,” says Mike Bonjo, Sales Manager and Brewer for Columbia Boiler Company.  “Boilers are mandated to be a certain distance away for safety, but in general, it’s best to have them within eyeshot. Low-pressure boilers generally provide enough energy for craft distilling. However, if the boiler is situated a long distance from the other equipment, high pressure reduces heat loss during long runs in between distillery equipment.”

  In addition, when it comes to boilers, the type of building where the distillery is located makes a difference.  “The current trend of renovating historic buildings into rustic craft distilleries and breweries is aesthetically very cool, but these old buildings require custom installations because of building materials, floor strength and utility availability,” says Bonjo. “Professional consultation is needed to determine floor strength, layout viability and fire ratings. Also, you never want to situate a steam boiler directly on those old wooden floors. We have custom stands and risers for these situations.” 

  Columbia’s boilers are popular because of their performance and compact design. Their flagship units—the MPH boiler series, manufactured to fit through a standard thirty-six-inch door opening, provide up to eighty horsepower. Columbia also offers the CT line, a vertically-designed, tubeless boiler created for the dry-cleaning industry, now repurposed for artisan distillers.

  “Our boilers are easy to install, easy to use and a breeze to service,” says Bonjo. “They are operable right out of the box and come with everything needed to get up and running. Anyone with a basic mechanical aptitude can operate and maintain our boilers. We use standard industry controls rather than custom or proprietary controls. Parts are standard, so you don’t have to find a certain distributor in the area and hope that they have your part in stock. We also feature a copper coil inserted into the boiler to carry and heat city water—to be used as potable water—for cleaning or any other domestic water situations around the distillery. We fire up and thoroughly test our units before shipping to the customer for, what ends up being, a plug and play installation. If there are issues, we can relay our test settings and compare them with the customer’s running settings to make sure the boiler is in an optimal run state.”

  Maintenance on Columbia boilers is minimal. In addition to the mandatory annual state inspections, the boilers should be “blown down” at the end of the day, flushing out the silt and sediment that naturally forms at the bottom of the boiler. If that sediment isn’t regularly flushed out, it congregates and sticks to the steel, forming scale. Over time, scale causes the affected steel to fail due to improper heat retention and metallurgical issues. Blowing down takes 10 to 15 seconds, transferring the water to a blowdown separator to cool the liquid before disposal, nullifying any potential damage to drains and plumbing lines. Monthly water chemistry level checks should be performed to keep it compatible with the steel. For steel boilers, the pH should remain a constant 10 to 11.

  “If by chance, the proper maintenance has not been kept up with, the tubes on our boilers can be replaced independently, saving money on repairs and reducing downtime,” says Bonjo.

Safety Is Always The Priority

  “Your boiler is the one piece of equipment in your distillery that is more powerful than dynamite,” says Dave Baughman, President of Allied Boiler & Supply Inc. “It can relocate your whole business in an instant.”

  Let that sink in, and you’ll understand Baughman’s emphasis on boiler safety before selling you a boiler.

  “Boilers are truly the heart of the distillery, but there’s a critical need for training in daily boiler operation,” says Baughman. “When I ask potential customers if they’ve had any training on boiler operation, even if it’s just about keeping daily operational boiler log sheets, their answers reflect a need for training. We don’t expect boiler experts in these craft industries. They know the biological processes of distilling and rely on others for boiler recommendations, and frankly, the competence out there is lacking. The end-user is being thrown to the sales wolves.”

  This incompetence may even extend to the sales wolves themselves, who are often aware of the national codes but may not be as educated on those closer to home.

  “[Distillers] may need certain, critical support equipment with their boiler, depending on the environment and local code requirements. Do they need water treatment? What type and how much? What about chemical injection systems, blowdown separators, boiler feedwater systems with steam preheat, or condensate return systems? These can all be critical components that may or may not be necessary. Sales representatives may follow national code, but if they’re not aware of the local regulations, you’ll end up with a boiler that’s not code compliant,” says Baughman.

  Distilling is a cost-driven industry, but Baughman believes decisions should still be made based on technical specifications related to distillery needs. Some boilers are better at heating, some better at boiling. Older cast iron sectionals are great at heating but inadequate for production environments. Vertical boiler units were introduced for the dry cleaning industry, and when that industry dried up, manufacturers started pushing those high-pressure units into the next expanding market. That happened to be brewing and distilling, even if it wasn’t a perfect fit.

  “My best advice is to be diligent in research, and never buy based on cost alone,” says Baughman. “Instead, buy based on the technical needs of your situation. For smaller batch distillers, low steam boilers are sufficient. Larger production distillers with continuous columns need more steam, so high-pressure boilers with regulators that hold a constant temperature for longer periods are beneficial.”

  Purchasing the boiler is only the beginning. Baughman tells Beverage Master Magazine boiler training is an absolute necessity because manufacturers have a legal and moral responsibility to sell safe units to trained users. Allied Boiler & Supply offers a three-day, no-cost, on-site boiler training school and startup with every boiler they sell. Water chemistry, a significant contributor to boiler failure, takes up one of those days.

  “Everyone worries about the effects of scale, but most failures are attributed to improper oxygen levels,” says Baughman. “It becomes a very aggressive situation when heated and must be treated by the use of a deaerator or with chemical injection systems. Water softeners won’t treat the oxygen component. Underwater injection systems or sodium sulfite are used and should be administered by professionals, along with consistent tests for pH, conductivity and oxygen levels.”

  All Allied’s boilers come equipped with troubleshooting display modules and forced draft systems, which are more efficient and less prone to backdrafts.

  “These things add to the bottom line cost, but they are legitimate safety features,” Baughman says. “Our after-sale support is unmatched in the industry. Every sale comes with two emergency phone numbers, one being a service employee and the other being mine. We are serious about becoming a partner with your company and will never just sell you a boiler to make a sale. There is too much at stake personally and professionally for both of us.”

  Baughman runs his business on a motto that his father taught him.

“Consider service ahead of reward, and the reward will come because of the service.”

Boiler Choice Based On Technical Specifications and Business Goals

  Correct sizing without upselling is always the best for the customer, so before getting a recommendation for a boiler from Jack Coe, President of Rite Engineering & Manufacturing Corporation and manufacturer of Rite Boilers, there will be some technical fact-finding.

  Affordable Distillery Equipment is an OEM of stills and packages Coe’s Rite Boilers with their stills. Affordable Distillery’s CEO Paul Hall says, “We are sticklers for right-sizing because it can take four-to-five years to recoup the boiler cost, but if you get too large of a boiler, you can end up paying for that system for the next ten to fifteen years. Every boiler situation is unique and has different needs depending on the equipment used and the business goals.”

  Rite Engineering offers multiple boiler lines that maintain their efficiency, provide one hundred percent access for inspection and cleaning to help avoid costly repairs, and remain field repairable.

  When deciding what boiler is best, Coe recommends looking to your existing equipment. “To determine if you need a low-pressure versus a high-pressure boiler, look at the equipment you already have or are planning to use and see what the highest duty application will be,” says Coe. “In the craft distillery, it’s usually the wort boil. Subsequent pieces of affected equipment should be labeled with a steam pressure recommendation. If they are all rated as 15 psi or less, you’re good to go with a low-pressure boiler. If pieces of equipment are rated to handle higher than 15 psi, then you can consider a faster, high-pressure boiler, but boilers can use large amounts of fuel, so be aware of that when choosing components.”

  Speaking of support components, Hall says, “You absolutely need a condensate return to bring the condensate back to the boiler, or else you’re constantly pumping fresh water into the system. Additionally, a blowdown system used at the end of the day or when you’re finished with the boiler session will hold the blowdown water until it cools down to 140 degrees or so. [This is the] temperature that municipal discharge systems feel is safe to allow down the drain lines into their sewers. If you’re not using a municipal system and just have your own discharge pool on the property, you don’t need this component. Each of these components can run an extra three to four thousand dollars on top of the boiler.”

  Hard water will no doubt shorten your boiler’s life span. If testing shows hard water in your system, Coe recommends a Zeolite salt exchange type, and steers customers away from a deionized or reverse osmosis systems, as they can lower water’s conductivity and pH to unsafe levels.

  “After that, boiler professionals need to be brought in for consistent cleaning, checks and inspections,” says Coe. “Some of these are mandated by codes and laws and are in place to prevent small issues from turning into big problems. These professionals can also [help with] monitoring water pH and treatment options.”

  Whatever boiler system you decide to work with, both Rite Engineering and Affordable Distillery Equipment recommend installing them in a separate boiler room when possible.

  “That way, the boiler fire is isolated and kept from any equipment, and you’ll have some type of vapor barrier,” says Hall. “By rule, distillery equipment is classified as a Class 1 Division 2 Hazardous Environment, meaning boiler placement must be at least six feet away from any still parts that are 18 inches or less off of the floor, and at minimum 24 inches away from any still parts above that 18-inch mark.”

The Best Canning Systems & Machines for Modern Breweries

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Eugene, OR, USA – July 17, 2014: Can and bottle filling machine on an assembly line at Oakshire Brewing.

Canning has become an increasingly popular way to package craft beer, and more breweries than ever before are either exclusively moving to cans or incorporating cans alongside their traditional bottle offerings. Many brewers prefer canning over bottling because of the increased protection from light and oxygen, cost, portability, recyclability and freshness. However, a brewery needs the right type of canning system in its space to make this form of production profitable and efficient.

  With the input of top industry experts at SKA Fabricating, XpressFill Systems and OneVision Corporation, here’s what breweries should know before investing in a new canning system for the first time or upgrading a current machine.

Canning Products Available to Breweries

  Smaller and newer craft breweries may start off with manual canning systems that have a two-head filler and that can fill about 10 cans per minute because of these systems’ affordability. An upgrade from this is a micro-automated canning system with a three-head filler and capacity for 25 cans per minute with multiple can size options. Meanwhile, automated canning systems may have up to 10 head fillers and be able to fill more than 70 cans per minute. To operate a canning line, a brewery may also need to purchase blank or printed cans, can ends and lids, PakTech can carriers, shrink sleeves and corrugated case trays.

  One canning machine company based in San Luis Obispo, California, XpressFill, manufacturers affordable table-top machines that are used by craft breweries to fill both cans and bottles. Rod Silver, the marketing coordinator at XpressFill, told Beverage Master Magazine that his company has experienced a significant increase in can fillers from its brewery customers this year.

  “Our counter pressure fillers fill the cans in a pressurized environment to maximize the CO2 in solution,” Silver said. “Our open fill units have become increasingly more popular due to the lower cost and faster fill rate. Controlling filling conditions are critical in achieving optimum fills using either system. Both units purge the can with CO2 prior to the fill cycle.”

  Another relevant company that breweries will want to learn about is Ska Fabricating, which is based in Durango, Colorado and has over 700 customers worldwide. Matt Vincent, a partner in Durango’s largest and most award-winning craft beer brewery, told Beverage Master about Ska’s primary and most popular product called the Can-i-Bus Can Depalletizer. It is paired with either a water twist rinser or ionized air rinse and is an industry-leading depalletizer and rinser combo that covers the speed range of 30 CPM up to 400+ CPM. 

  “It allows for the opportunity to grow as your production grows, due to the wide range of speeds that it can handle,” Vincent said. “It also is a necessary part of a canning line because it eliminates the need for hand-loading cans onto a filling line, allowing operators to focus on quality by eliminating menial tasks.”

  Vincent also said that Ska Fabricating offers an extensive line of conveyance solutions, date coders, handle applicators, can and bottle drying equipment and machinery integration to assist in the post-fill needs of the brewery.

  Meanwhile, Neil Morris of OneVision Corporation in Westerville, Ohio told Beverage Master Magazine how OneVision “manufactures and markets inspection systems that empower beverage canners and food canners produce quality double seams.” This company’s expertise includes double seam evaluations, inspection systems and training and support at system installation, as well as electronic and phone support after installation to prevent seam leaks and keep products fresh.

  Ben Anacker, who manages sales and services for OneVision in the western U.S. and Canada and who is an expert in can manufacturing, said that OneVision arguably provides the most cost-effective craft brew system and support to empower brewers to have confidence in their canned products.

  “Evaluating double seam overlap and tightness is imperative to comprehensive analysis of seam integrity,” Anacker said. “The OneVision SeamMate® Inspection System, in combination with the Mini Drive Seam Stripper System, is unparalleled in performing the destructive seam dissection to allow close examination of these attributes.”

Important Features of Canning Machines

  Overall, canning systems feature a complex set of machines that share some similarities but are also very different in many ways. These differences lie in their speed, efficiency, size and other capabilities, such as low DO pickup, 15-20 ppb, dual cam driven seamers, nitro with a widget or no widget and monitors. Considerations to keep in mind are oxygen and light penetration, seamers, reliability, the ability to upgrade later and integration with your current system.

  Silver of XpressFill said that the most important features to consider are “cost, fill consistency, oxygen uptake, user-friendly, reliability, ease of cleaning and sanitizing and support by the manufacturer (both pre-sale and after).”

  Vincent of Ska Fabricating said that first and foremost, the most important factors for making a canning machine decision are identifying the proper speed line that works well with your budget, batch size, labor pool and desired level of automation. He said that the second priority is to make sure you understand the differences in the fillers and what level of quality you can expect from them. 

  “In the end, you get what you pay for,” Vincent said. “Rotary fillers tend to provide a higher level of fill quality than inline fillers, but they are typically four to five times the cost. 

  “All businesses evaluate the cost-competitive options when procuring capital assets to support their business,” said Anacker of OneVision Corporation. “For the craft brewery industry, there are many options for these canning investments. Sustainability versus initial investment cost is widely overlooked and should be evaluated more closely.”

Questions to Ask Before Buying a New Canning System

  There are many questions to ask before buying a new canning machine, either for the first time as a new brewery or to upgrade existing equipment. Here are some initial questions to start with:

•    Is the machine the right size for your needs?

•    Will you use printed cans or labels?

•    Are pneumatic seamers your best option?

•    How easy is it to clean the machine?

•    What other accessories are needed to operate the machine?

•    What are the financing options?

  Silver of XpressFill said that while many craft breweries are shifting to cans instead of bottles because of customer demand, switching production from bottles to cans is a significant undertaking that should not be taken lightly.

  “Canning lines and mobile canning could be prohibitively expensive depending on the initial scope of your production,” Silver said. “Table top units, like the XpressFill fillers, can be a cost-effective initial effort to meet the initial demand. Questions should be asked regarding the production capacity of the equipment, ability to upgrade, sell-back policies and warranty information to ensure a prudent investment.”

  Vincent of Ska Fabricating said that the most important questions to ask are about the machine’s cost, level of support offered, how many people it takes to operate the line efficiently and what level of dissolved oxygen the filler can maintain while filling.

  Anacker of OneVision Corporation recommends looking into the track record of the supplier company as well as the actual system being considered. He said to ask about if the system can be upgraded to match future growth and to check references of actual users with at least three years of experience using the system. How a “micro-canning” system compares to larger commercial canning systems and whether the system has the same fundamental function and repeatability to have confidence in long-term production capability and integrity are other considerations that Anacker recommends.

Expert Advice About Canning Machines & Lines

  With all of this information in mind, you may decide that now is the right time to start looking at new canning machine options, or it may be best to hold off for a while until you have fully assessed your needs. However, it seems that canned craft beer is here to stay and will only continue to increase in popularity in the future.

  Vincent of Ska Fabricating recommends that breweries do their homework in researching canning line equipment and identify reputable vendors that will provide the levels of customer service and project management that your brewery needs.

  “Budget for the suppliers to do the installations and training for their machinery,” Vincent said. “Many mistakes are made and inefficiencies are created without proper installation and training on the machinery. We have seen many customers that try to do the installations on their own and it ends up creating more problems in the long run, resulting in down time and/or machinery that doesn’t operate as well as intended.” 

  In terms of advice for craft breweries, Anacker of OneVision Corporation said,” Contract or employ resources with canning experience to help make procurement choices, develop production layout, oversee the production to get this business phase started well and develop other resources for sustainability.”

  Silver of XpressFill recommends finding other breweries that have worked with the particular machine and manufacturer that you are considering and asking them about the machine’s reliability and overall satisfaction with the canning equipment.

  “Also, search online for reviews of the equipment,” Silver said. “Real world experience is the best insight into what can be expected with purchasing and operating a new canning system.” 

Pumping Success Into Your Brewery or Distillery

By: Gerald Dlubala

For breweries and distilleries, the beer and spirits that flow within drive business, but the pumps used to move that product can easily be considered the heart of production. If a pump fails, product flow stops and downtime eats away at production and delivery schedules. Having a quality pump lessens the chances of failure, so reliability and quality are key.

  Taking the time and effort to research the best pumps for the money and making a quality investment will make all the difference. “With the risk of sounding glib, you really do get what you pay for,” said Ross Battersby, Sales & Design contact for Carlsen & Associates. “There is usually a bit of a conflict between what the business accountant says is affordable and what the winemaker, distiller or brewmaster really wants and needs. The accountant almost always wins, but there is an inherent danger in selecting a pump on the basis of cost alone. Cheaper pumps may look fine on the outside, but they’re usually outfitted with cheaply made, low-quality blades and impellers, leading to a lot of internal shear that damages the product as it passes through the pump.”

  Carlsen & Associates started as a portable pump manufacturer for the wine industry, but now manufactures pumps for breweries, distilleries, meaderies, kombucha, soy sauce manufacturers, honey producers and various cannabis-related businesses. Their many years creating and tweaking pumps for multiple industries makes them uniquely qualified in recommending the right pump for a business’s needs.

  “We recommend a double diaphragm air pump with grounding tag for distilleries,” said Battersby. “With distilleries and high proof alcohol, you first and foremost need explosion-proof pumps. Compressed air powered pumps easily deliver the necessary amount of power for distilleries, and they’re perfectly fine for fluids, but if the distiller uses any botanicals, the pumps need to be screened off. You can safely use electrical-based pumps too, but they have to be rated explosion-proof, which sometimes makes them quite costly for what is really needed.”

  “With breweries, you’re talking about moving wort and heavier fluids with temperatures up to 210 degrees, so you’ll likely be looking at positive displacement pumps. Ours are Waukesha pumps, using winged rotors resembling ice cream scoops that spin around, scoop the optimal amount of product, and move it along without causing any crush or damage. They have capabilities of pumping as little as 30 gallons per minute up to 130 gallons a minute using one to three-inch lines.”

  Brewery systems and structures are more rigid and fixed, so the pumps tend to reflect that and perform better as a fixed system as well. Battersby told Beverage Master Magazine many brewers favor smaller centrifuge pumps that fit into these systems. In contrast, wineries will make better use of portable pumps that are on carts so they can move them around the different areas of the winery where needed.

  As far as new technology on the forefront, Battersby said hybrid pumps made by combining air and impeller pumps are currently being manufactured, but he doesn’t feel they will significantly change the industry. The real trend, according to Battersby, is what he calls “right-sizing.”

  “You can’t really get away from the tried and true technology,” says Battersby. “Business owners tend to go with whatever will give them the least amount of downtime. Many newer brewers don’t possess the type of physics background that allows them to know the best ways of moving liquids. They tend to think that more horsepower is always better, but that’s not true. It’s better to match your specific needs. So the new trend, as far as we are concerned, is right-sizing. We match the equipment up to whatever it is that you need to move.

  We educate brewers and distillers in the physics behind what they are trying to do, and why one piece of equipment is preferred over another, even if it’s not the most powerful. Additionally, we stress that the pumps are only as good as the hoses, clamps and fittings that connect to them. Right-sizing incorporates a quality pump with appropriate matching parts that are easily serviceable and repairable in the least amount of time.”

Matching Pumps To Product

  Paul Hail, CEO of Affordable Distillery Equipment, knows what reliability means in the brewing and distilling industry, so only offers quality equipment made to last a lifetime. Although based in the rural hills of the Missouri Ozarks, Affordable Distillery’s pumps are used in nearly 20% of craft spirit distilleries across the U.S. Hail recommends a few options for spirits production.

  “If you try to use a centrifugal pump with corn mash, the lifespan of that pump is probably going to be less than a year,” said Hail. “When moving corn mash, you have better options available. A double diaphragm air pump will work, but it will take a lot of air and a minimum of 1 ½  diameter connecting hoses. The pump is cheap, but the big expense—sometimes an additional $2,000-$3,000—comes with the need for a larger air compressor. A flex impeller type of pump is a great, moderately priced choice, but the impeller is a normal wear part, and depending on what type of material it’s manufactured from and the amount and type of use it receives, it could last months or only weeks. The loads it’s put through determines the wear and replacement needs. Your best choice would be a rotary load pump, but they are incredibly expensive so generally not an option for every smaller or startup distillery.”

  Hail, like Battersby, mentions the importance of safety when using a pump in the distillery. “You must remember, though, when moving high proof alcohol, you’ll need a grounding terminal on the pump to make it explosion-proof,” said Hail. “It’s not a likely scenario, but there is a minute chance that the rushing of a product while being pumped will manufacture enough static to potentially release a tiny spark. Couple that with high proof alcohol and we all know where that leads.”

  As Hail continues to run an industry-leading pump manufacturer, he told Beverage Master Magazine that it’s hard to come up with new ideas when pump technology has barely changed in generations.

  “You’ll hear about new things being tried around the industry, but when properly researched, those bright new ideas were usually already attempted by those before us. The reason that they’re not being done today is that they just didn’t work or weren’t economically feasible. Any new technology or methods would likely be groundbreaking if valid, and that’s what we are working on here at Affordable Distilling. Hopefully more about that in the future,” said Hail.

Improving On Current Equipment

  Based on their successful history with marine and industrial applications, AmpCo Pump Company in Glendale, Wisconsin, began manufacturing pumps specifically for the brewing, distilling and wine industries (https://www.ampcopumps.com).

  One chronic issue with pumps has been a tendency for the seals to leak eventually. Tony Krebs, Marketing Manager for AmpCo Pumps, said they have successfully addressed that issue in one of their most popular pumps, the CB+ Craft Brew Pump, specially designed for hot wort transfer.

  “Over time, the material being moved through the pump typically crystalizes, and that buildup will eventually cause traditional seals to leak,” said Krebs. “AmpCo’s CB+ Craft Brew Pump possesses an internal, submersed seal to promote cooling. Because it’s internally seated, any pressure increase caused by heat or flow creates an increased closing force on the seals to minimize any potential buildup. Additionally, the pump has an internal spring that acts as an agitator to reduce the solids buildup, thereby reducing crystallization on the seals. It’s an excellent choice for all sizes of breweries, but it’s an especially great match for the smaller brewpubs because on a cart, mobile and multi-functional. It can be used as a transfer pump in many areas around the facility, but it performs equally well as a clean-in-place pump. It’s not the cheapest pump you’re going to find, but when choosing a pump, it’s extremely important to be able to find certified, readily available parts and quality people to install those parts and repair your equipment. Downtime costs money, and when pumps are down, so is your brewing or distilling process.”

  AmpCo also makes pumps for the wine industry, offering their L series centrifugal pumps with the same exceptional quality, efficiency and durability as their counterparts designed for the craft breweries and distilleries.

  Krebs told Beverage Master Magazine that AmpCo is always at the forefront of pump technology, and regularly on the leading edge of trends in the craft brewing, spirits and wine industries. Krebs has recently noticed the need and increased demand for their portable hop induction units. This machine simultaneously induces dry hop pellets directly into the beer stream while recirculating the fermenter. It features AmpCo’s SBI Shear Pump and provides the brewmaster everything necessary to dry hop beer efficiently and safely within a single unit.

  “You can’t ignore the creative side of distillers, winemakers and brewmasters. They like to continuously mix flavor and ingredient profiles and provide experimental flavor combinations for signature blends, special tastings or customer trials,” says Krebs. “Blending pumps provide a better and more efficient way to get this done.”

How to Choose the Right Packaging Machine for Your Brewery

By: Alyssa Ochs

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


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

Uses of Brewery Packaging Equipment

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

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

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

Benefits of Packing Machines for Breweries

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

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

Top Packaging Machines in the Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Breweries are Using and Why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Choose the Right Packaging System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customization Fosters Innovation: Choosing the Best Brewing Tanks

By: Tracey L. Kelley

Head Brewer Joe Kesteloot of Peace Tree Brewing Co. in its Des Moines, Iowa-based innovation brewery. Photo courtesy of Peace Tree Brewing Co.

The long game of brewing isn’t always obvious in the glass. Some producers spend up to two years evaluating what to brew and what equipment will craft the best product. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, but for brewers eager to get started or respond to an expansion demand, it’s critical to have a long-term mindset to produce creatively with fiscal responsibility.

When choosing tanks, especially fermentation tanks, there are numerous questions to answer before snapping up a standard model and placing it in the rack. The equipment in the brewhouse reflects as much about your approach as the end result: attention to detail and processes, ease of production and quality standards.

Patrick Mears is the sales and marketing manager for Marks Design and Metal Works, operating in Vancouver, Washington. Since 2008, Marks Design has specialized in designing custom stainless steel fermenters to brewers’ unique specifications but also fabricates brite tanks, cider tanks and other stainless steel vessels. Mears told Beverage Master Magazine the brewer’s personality, and approach helps inform his company to meet your needs.

“We’ve happily helped many groups who didn’t have a clue what they needed other than a produced volume and a budget. However, our expertise can be more useful if you’ve had a chance hammer out your vibe,” Mears said. “I know that sounds crazy, but it tells us a lot! Are you nerdy about beer and want extreme control over every aspect of the process and log all the data to look for trends? Are you super laid back and simply want to provide your neighborhood with an alternative to Applebee’s? Do you want to be innovative, or are you looking to perfectly reproduce old world beers?  Your brewhouse is an extension of you.”

For new producers, knowing what’s needed beforehand can be difficult. Evaluating potential tank requirements by nebulous considerations of volume, beverage, processes and other factors sometimes makes the choice more challenging.

  Joe Kesteloot is the head brewer at Peace Tree Brewing, Co. based in Knoxville, Iowa. Peace Tree, established in 2010, now has three taprooms in Iowa and an extended retail presence. They produced approximately 5,500 barrels in 2018. Kesteloot agreed the decision is tough, especially when “you don’t know what your flagship beer(s) may be yet,” but offered particular sources of insight. “It helps to get out in your market and talk to your potential customers, and weigh that information with your strengths. If you have a distributor, you ask what the market needs are. You can also look at the current market trends, but those trends are always evolving.”

Brewers should consider tank choices and sizes by determining, “some multiple of the brewhouse size,” said Bryan Boynton, Ph.D., brewer for Snake River Brewing, a brewery and pub located in Jackson, Wyoming. Established in 1994, Snake River is the state’s oldest brewery, and they now sell their beer throughout the U.S. The company produces an average of 8,000 barrels annually. “A 15 barrel brewhouse would lead to 30 or 60 barrel fermenters, bright tanks and serving tanks.” He suggested, “top manway tanks are ideal for all brewing styles, and especially important for ease of dry hopping; and tanks with racking arms that can rotate in the tank are ideal again for all styles, allowing for ease of transfer and filtering.”

Another consideration that factors into tank selection is the potential for multi-purpose use. William Stacy is the managing director of THIELMANN, a European company with U.S. headquarters in Houston. THIELMANN has produced containers for all types of products for more than 275 years, now with a particular focus on aseptic stainless steel tanks and kegs. In his brewery visits, Stacy said he’s continually impressed with the way producers ask double-duty of the company’s fermenters to maximize their investments.

“Some popular applications for our fermenter include brite tank, carbonation vessel and also a yeast propagation vessel. Large breweries use it for running small batches and test samples, and some even as a serving tank,” Stacy said. “This versatility and competitive price allow for the breweries to afford accessories and customization for the applications they require.”

Kesteloot sometimes takes this approach in the brewhouse. “One of my small-scale tanks doubles as a fermenter and a brite tank. However, I always transfer from fermenter to brite: I don’t ferment in it and leave it in there as brited beer. That tank rotates as one or the other function,” he said. “With most of my beers, I like to make sure they are off as much yeast and sediment as possible before serving or especially packaging.”

“I personally believe using fermenters as unitanks provides the most flexibility,” Mears said. He suggested buying the same amount of tanks as if you were pairing with brites, “but all the tanks would be conical fermenters. This way, your production doesn’t have to slow down because one of your brites are still full—you can just flip the fermenter to brite mode.”

While Boynton believes tanks can be multi-purpose in some instances, he offered a word of caution: “A fermentation tank doubling as a serving tank only works for certain styles of beer,” he said. “Most styles don’t allow for this combination. The removal of old yeast, dry hops and sedimentation that will push through to a consumer usually needs to be avoided.”

Stacy added that some producers intending to diversify their product lines often shop for tanks that can provide the most versatility. “Similar to root beer, sparkling or bubbling water is another offering brewers are moving into—filtering the water and just adding C02 to the tank prior to canning or bottling,” he said. “This is why we encourage brewers to think ahead about tank use and talk with their vendor about what type of kit specifications to accommodate other needs.”

Peace Tree Brewing Co. also crafts root beer, and often uses existing tanks for the process—but carefully. “We have designated hoses, carbonation stones and filler parts for root beer only. Many of those flavors can carry over to other brews, so we keep those pieces of equipment completely separate,” he said. “Even a mixing tank other than our brew system is used for root beer ingredients. Any tank used for root beer goes through a rigorous cleaning to remove any residue. This also applies to any sour beer we make with wild yeast.”

“If I Knew Then What I Know Now….”

The camaraderie of the brewing industry means the portal to quality information is always open. We requested our experts provide candid insight into tank, fitting and equipment decisions, and how they influence processes.

Boynton of Snake River Brewing stressed the significance of many factors. “Pressure Relief Valves (PRV) are very important for safety. If possible, buy tanks that are larger than expected brews to allow for a vigorous fermentation and not clog PRVs—which can lead to an explosion with grave consequences,” he said.

“Also, temperature probes that control the fermentation temperature need to be placed where one brew from the brewhouse is within its contact. If the first 15 bbl brew goes into the 60 bbl fermenter and doesn’t reach a temperature probe to turn on the cooling system, you have an uncontrolled fermentation,” Boynton said. “Finally, ease of cleaning without shadows, which are areas that the clean-in-place system doesn’t connect with well; and multiple zone cooling controls are the most important.

When asked what he wouldn’t do again, he replied: “No side manway tanks would have been purchased, and there was no need for conditioning tanks.”

Kesteloot of Peace Tree Brewing Co. seconded Boynton’s reference to temperature probes. “Probe location in fermenters and brite tanks are important. If you’re brewing multiple brews in a single fermenter, make sure the temperature probe is able to read the first brew, or maybe add multiple probes,” he said.

He also explained why tank shape and cooling jackets might matter to your processes. “We look at height-to-width ratios and cone pitch. Yeast can react differently in certain shape vessels. The right cone angle is necessary to collect healthy yeast,” Kesteloot said. “Even the way the cooling jackets are spaced or separated can help with certain applications. If you’re packaging from a brite tank and unable to finish the tank, the cooling jackets need to be located in the right spot to keep beer cold until packaging can resume.”

He added that learning how to accommodate Peace Tree’s expansion pointed to one crucial detail: “Anticipating the amount of cold storage we needed was a big challenge. It seems like we could always use more. Maximize the efficiencies in your processes as much as possible, so you have more wiggle room to be flexible later.”

Manufacturing experts Mears from Marks Design and Stacy from THIELMANN highlighted a fundamental but critical factor: bad tank quality reduces output and increases contamination.

“We offer field services in addition to tanks and systems, and have spent many field hours fixing tanks from other manufacturers that took shortcuts during fabrication or used low-quality material,” Mears said. “Within the past year, we fixed four 240 bbl fermenters at a single location! The tank manufacturer took shortcuts during fabrication, causing cracked welds on the inside of the tank within just a few years of purchase. Those cracks not only caused the tanks to leak precious revenue but also put the tank at risk of producing off-flavors due to the now unsanitary environment.”

Stacy echoed choosing a quality product and encouraged producers to “specify in tank selection aseptic characteristics and polished welds. This assures breweries that if operated properly, these aspects can reduce the risks of contamination. THIELMANN tanks, for example, are a fully aseptic design for easy cleaning with a simple spray ball,” he said. “We’ve recently seen some poorly-welded vessels in breweries and wineries. This substandard welding and lack of polished welds allow for severe risks with contamination.”

Invite the Vendors to Come to You

The nuts and bolts of tank decisions come down to what your vision is, and how well you communicate this to your equipment vendors.

Each producer has a different purchasing method—some buy tanks outright, using finance options that make sense within the guidelines of individual business plans. Others may lease or rent—an especially popular choice for seasonality spikes, short runs or additional product lines.

What does the typical fermentation tank cost? It depends. Establishing a base of $6,000-$7,000 or more per unit provides a launch pad, but what if the tank is multi-purpose? A standard brite tank may start at $2,500, but be as high as $6,000. Does this leave more wiggle room for additional equipment or change what you’ll produce? Should you utilize a turnkey system and work from that for a while?

Mears told Beverage Master Magazine that customization is what saves money in the long run. “The biggest mistake I see over and over is a brewer simply sending an email or filling out an online form and asking for a standard quote on a system,” he said. “If you take the time to have a conversation with us, we can put together a real quote that fits your specific needs. Explain what you really want, and if it isn’t in your current budget, we can help you decide what comes now vs. later.”

Stacy added: “We find budgets are a large factor, especially for new breweries. I would suggest they ask about the versatility of the systems. To be able to buy one piece of equipment and get three or four different uses out of it is a rare find,” he said. “For specification purposes, we have added many of the popular fittings and connections to make a tank a versatile, multi-use vessel. We also can customize the manways and connections to meet the specific needs.”

Producers that take advantage of customization find it allows for better operations. “We had vendors come to look at our space, and scale our square footage vs. ceiling height to maximize the most volume possible,” Kesteloot said. “They also examined our layout to see if things were going to flow from tank to tank, to packaging and out the door.

Based on increased demand, Boynton at Snake River Brewing said the company scaled up as needed. “We have a hodgepodge of tanks purchased through different sources.  The new large 60 barrel tanks we purchased are very nice.”

While no one can predict the future, these experts suggested using your objectives to determine tank needs. “Right now, with the popularity of IPAs, there are many specialized tanks for dry hopping as well as techniques for dry hopping in standard tanks,” Kesteloot said. “Breweries are using this equipment to maximize flavors and aromas. These are some things we’ll take into account in future expansions. We may even go backward in some applications and add some old, traditional methods.”

Maximizing budget. Providing quality products. Preparing for growth. It’s incredible to think your tank selection is a primary catalyst to accomplish these and other objectives. So take time and let the experts walk you through a set-up that fits your needs. “It’s important to brewers to be innovative, but it’s also important to be consistent and crank out the moneymakers,” Mears said. “Why not have a system that can do both?”

Canning Your Craft Brew

By: Robin Dohrn-Simpson

Marty Jones of Cask Global Canning Solutions has worked tirelessly for nearly twenty years convincing brewers that cans were the right way to package craft beer. He was one of the founders of Oskar Blues Brewery’s “Canned Beer Apocalypse” and remembers the pioneer days of canned craft beer. “I would serve canned beers at fests, and folks would walk by and wave and say ‘I don’t drink canned beer,’ and follow that remark with some additional misinformed comment, such as ‘Cans are bad for beer,’ or ‘Cans impart metallic flavors to beer.’ Many brewers thought we were nuts, heathens, committing sacrilege by questioning the long-revered brown bottle. A few breweries wished misfortune upon us! I always made a point to talk about the benefits of cans, not the negatives of bottles, and that helped to temper some of the backlash. Most consumers loved the idea.”

Many of those benefits include fitting in with into the younger generation’s more environmentally conscious and active lifestyle.

“Cans are welcome in loads of places where bottles are not,” Jones said. “They dramatically shrink shipping costs and energy consumption for shipped beer. They are Mother Nature’s preferred beer package and the most recycled beverage package on the planet. They make it super easy to take goose-bumping beer to the beach, the boat, the backcountry, the bathtub, and other places where beer is a treasured life enhancer.”

Cans also provide protection that isn’t necessarily guaranteed with bottles.

“Cans lock in the flavor of beer better than even dark glass bottles,” according to Mother Road Mobile Canning’s website, motherroad.com. “In glass bottles (especially green and clear ones) beer can become lightstruck, a condition caused when ultraviolet light breaks down hop-derived isohumulones, breaking them apart and allowing them to bind with sulfur atoms, creating a skunky, off-flavor. This flavor is so common that some people think the skunky character is a normal flavor in some beers. Oxidation is another problem for bottled beer. Bottle caps allow oxygen to pass into the beer making it stale.”

Cans provide a full 360 degrees chance for advertising as well, which according to Sarah Brennan, Marketing and Sales Coordinator for Palmer Canning Systems, “is a draw when you want your product to stand out on a shelf.”

Canned Beer Apocalypse

While working at Oskar Blue’s in 2002, Jones recalls, “We purchased Cask’s original tabletop one-can-at-a-time seamer/filler and became the first U.S. craft brewer to brew and can their beer. At that time a couple of craft brewers had beer in cans that was brewed and canned by others under contract.”

Jones and Oskar Blues went out of their way to make cans exciting, crushing stereotypes and creating the kind of beers that consumers wanted, attracting a following of beer drinkers who helped change the industry.

“For the first few years, I spent most of my time debunking the myths about aluminum cans and talking about the many wonders of cans, rather than talking about the beers we squeezed into those cans. That helped change the perceptions. We made a point of putting especially luscious beers into those cans, to inspire more craft beer lovers to give them a chance. That was super helpful, too,” said Jones. “Slowly, other risk takers took the chance on cans and started to reap the benefits and fast-rising sales. Nowadays the perception of cans in comparison to bottles has changed about 180 degrees. There are still a few can cynics and doubters out there, and people who simply prefer the feel and time-tested merits of bottles. But the most maligned and scorned package a craft brewer could once consider has now become the package of choice for many discerning brewers and beer drinkers. Brewers who swore they would never put their beer in a can have now added the mighty aluminum can to their packaging, or tossed out their bottles completely.”

Purchase vs. Mobile Canning Lines

There are many considerations when deciding whether to purchase, lease or rent a mobile canning unit. Mobile canning services are a great way to get into cans without any capital outlay. Many brewers start with a mobile canner and then eventually move to purchase their own canning lines.

Mobile canning lines offer the convenience of coming to you, no matter the size of your brewery. Every state has a variety of companies to assist you. The advantages of their systems are that they have provided the capital outlay for the equipment. Most mobile canning companies will help with inventory management of cans, ends, handles, case flats and off-site storage options. They focus on the canning so you can focus on the brewing.

However, with the rise in cans and use of mobile canners, some brewers find the service not quite worth it.

“While they can make your packaging very easy, their service comes at a cost. We often hear complaints that busy mobile canners are hard to schedule, and their quality control in terms of dissolved oxygen and product loss rates can be lacking, depending on the quality of the operator. Many brewers also don’t feel comfortable turning something as crucial as their packaging over to someone else,” said Jones.

For those canning less than 300 cases a month, mobile canning is often a great choice. However, for those filling 300 cases or more each month, it may be more beneficial to buy an in-house canning line. Often, an in-house system pays itself off within one to two years, and brewers have complete control over all aspects of packaging and filling.

“If you plan to put your product in cans for the long term, the point to purchase your own canning line is right away. The payback period on a purchase is two years at 300 cases a month and one year at 500 cases a month. On top of that, you’ll have full control over your packaging schedule and quality control program. At 500 cases a month, we have literally saved some customers thousands of dollars per month by helping them buy or finance their own canning system,” said Russell Love, President of Cask Global Canning Solutions.

Creating Your Canning System

Canning system manufacturers like Cask Global and Palmer Canning Systems work with breweries to ensure they make the right choice of canning line for their size, output and budget.

“As you build the system that works for your brewery, keep in mind that Cask offers systems that cater to all budgets down to the nano-brewery level and an entire range of systems from manual systems with as little as a two, three, six or 10-head fill stations systems. We can customize canning systems and accessories for just about any beverage type, and we also provide brite (unpainted) or printed aluminum cans to our customers as well,” Love said.

Palmer Canning System’s Brennan told Beverage Master Magazine that they can customize a system for beverages from beer, wine and coffee to energy drinks and infused juices. “The market is really dictating the rise of canning now. There has been so much data to support that canning your beverage is the better process for quality in things like total package oxygen and DOs. Canning is the way to go, we have just been a part of the steady incline of cans,” she said. “We fabricate fully customizable entire systems at our manufacturing facility in Lafayette, Indiana. We have no problem working with other vendors to incorporate ancillary items to a line, although we also design things like weight checkers and date coders in house.”

Palmer Canning offers fixed and mobile versions of Craft-in-Line can filling and seaming systems, as well as Craftbulk, an empty can de-palletizer; Wavegrip, an auto carrier applicator; Propurge, can filling valves; Craftrinse, an empty can rinser; and Craftdry blower systems.

Cleaning Your Cans

Whether you purchase a custom designed system or put together a variety of components that fit your brewery or a combination thereof, Carleton Helical Technologies has created a can and bottle cleaner suited for existing production lines.

“Our equipment is very versatile. We can easily integrate it into existing lines which is easier than developing a new line,” said Nick Carleton, President of Carleton Helical. “The beauty of our cleaner is that it is very simple to install and operate. It is very rare that we have to install or do start-ups, although we do offer the service. Our cleaner has been used in both can and bottling lines, providing easy change-over with our proprietary HP Inverters [that flip] the cans over for cleaning and back.”

Carleton Helical’s cleaners provide customers the option to clean with ionized air, water or any cleaning solution, starting at 10 cans per minute. “This system is also being used for code dating, flipping the can over for the code date and inspection. This provides a very simple method to place the cans in position for the code date,” said Carleton.

What’s on the Horizon

A trend that’s already common in the brewing world seems to be reaching out into the canning world as well: collaboration.

“We are seeing a real interesting growth in the collaboration space where breweries are partnering with other local craft beverage producers (coffee, cider, Kombucha, craft sodas or craft spirits, etc.) to provide affordable co-packing,” said Cask Global’s Jones. “We design all our canning systems to be very easy to switch between slim, sleek and standard diameter cans which allows a brewery the ability to run 250 mL slim nitro cold brew coffee cans or 12-ounce sleek Kombucha cans one day a week. It’s a great model for cool collaborations and also financial efficiency.”

Stop Contamination at the Door With Disinfectant Mats

By: Nelson Jameson

PRESS RELEASE

CONTACT: Melissa Pasciak | Director of Marketing

m.pasciak@nelsonjameson.com | 715-387-1151

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Stop Contamination at the Door with Disinfectant Mats™ from Nelson-Jameson

MARSHFIELD, WIS., December 19, 2018 – One step beyond the ordinary sanitizing footbath, Disinfectant Mats both clean and sanitize footwear before workers enter any processing areas, or anywhere you want to limit the spread of contamination.

While ordinary footbaths don’t provide any scrubbing action to keep users from tracking sediment back into a clean processing environment, Disinfectant Mats feature hundreds of flexible rubber fingers to clean dirt particles from footwear. Constructed of a heavy-duty rubber that won’t sag or allow solution to run out, Disinfectant Mats allow users to wipe their feet while simultaneously lowering the sole of the footwear into the sanitizing solution. The finger design then lets contaminants settle undisturbed, while the footwear contacts clean solution only, and then steps off the mat clean and sanitary.

To learn more about preventing cross-contamination in your plant with innovative selection of Disinfectant Mats and accessories, visit nelsonjameson.com or call one of our product specialists today!

2400 East Fifth Street, P.O. Box 647 | Marshfield, Wisconsin 54449

Petition for a Writ Far-fetched? Nope!

By: Dan Minutillo, APC

If a state regulatory agency with jurisdiction over the craft brew industry makes a decision that appears to be arbitrary and capricious, having a direct effect on your business, then, you have the right to petition a court for relief using a Writ of Administrative Mandamus. An unnecessarily fancy phrase meaning that a court of law reviews the administrative decision and decides if, under applicable law, the decision is not rational. Most times a writ is requested by an association or group of companies that are affected by the agency decision so that a positive result will affect many companies in the association or group.

STATE ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES

State administrative agencies with jurisdiction over the craft brew industry create policies that can affect your business. I recently wrote in this magazine about a Tennessee agency which passed a regulation indicating that only people domiciled in Tennessee for a certain time could get a permit to sell alcoholic beverages in the State.

For the purpose of this article, let’s say that an administrative agency in California, like the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), passed a regulation indicating domicile restrictions to get a permit to sell craft beer om the State; that a company had to be in business in the State for ten (10) years and then that company could sell alcoholic beverages. This regulation is then challenged by you as arbitrary and capricious at the agency level, and the agency denies your challenge.  You argue that this domicile restriction is illogical, with no purpose other than to discriminate against out of state craft brew companies. You lose at the agency level, that is, the ABC reviews your challenge and denies it.

THE APPEAL; THE WRIT

That administrative decision (the denial of your challenge) by the ABC can be appealed to a court by “writ”, and you, the appellant, will win and ensure that this decision and underlying regulation is stricken if you can prove that the decision and underlying regulation is arbitrary, that is, without a rational basis.

So, there are a few criteria to get you into court to have the ABC decision (the denial of your challenge) reviewed and to win on your writ:

  1. That the decision/regulation was made by an “administrative agency” of a state (or of the Federal government), like the California ABC;
  2. Normally, that you have exhausted your administrative remedies. This means that if there is a method of appeal at the ABC, then you must first make that appeal and follow all other procedural rules regarding an appeal at the ABC before you bring a writ.
  3. That all of your ABC remedies have been exhausted and denied, and this denial must usually be in writing by the ABC (evidentiary issue).
  4. That you have standing to be heard by a court. Standing means that you are a “party in interest” which usually means that you, that is, your business has been affected by this ABC regulation/decision. You have standing if you will be or have been damaged by the regulation or decision. For example, if I teach math to high school students in a local school, I would not have standing to bring a writ in this circumstance because the ABC regulation/decision does not affect me. But, if you make or sell craft beverages, this regulation/decision does affect you, so, you have standing to bring the writ.
  5. That any applicable statute of limitation has not run. Most actions brought in a court of law must be brought to the court before a certain time period, that is the statute of limitations. Various statutes limit the time in which you can bring certain actions. Some statutes are as short as ninety (90) days from the time of the ABC denial of your challenge.
  6. That you can prove that the decision/regulation was made by the California ABC in an arbitrary and capricious manner, that is, there is no basis in fact or law to support the decision (the denial). It was whimsical and therefore an abuse of discretion by the ABC. The case law language is that a court on a writ will not disturb the ABC’s decision absent an arbitrary, capricious, or patently abusive exercise of discretion by the ABC.

THE STANDARD

Some courts call this a “rationality review”. Is the regulation/decision rational, that is, justified in fact and in law. No matter how you look at this, the key here is that the ABC did something that has damaged you and, after exhausting your administrative remedies, you are able to prove that the ABC’s decision is arbitrary and capricious—and you win.

THE REMEDY

I will discuss remedies, that is, what decision a court could make on a writ and how it could affect you, in a later article for this magazine.

Dan Minutillo has lectured to the World Trade Association, has taught law for UCLA, Santa Clara University Law School and their MBA program, and has lectured to the NPMA at Stanford University. Dan has lectured to various National and regional attorney associations about Government contract and international law matters. Dan has provided input to the US Government regarding the structure of regulations. He has been interviewed by reporters for the Washington Post and other newspapers.