Innovation Helps Modernize Brewing Equipment

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

At Beverage Master Magazine, we’re always looking to keep up with craft brewing trends, which more often than not relates to pieces of innovative equipment and new technologies. Certain types of new equipment are slowly but steadily being introduced to breweries, as are new technologies, tools, mechanisms and improvements to processes relied upon in the past.

  These things factor into how efficiently breweries can operate during challenging times and how memorable their beers are when they reach consumers. To learn more about the role of new equipment in the modern brewery setting, we looked into what’s being used in breweries lately and what industry leaders who work in this space are saying.

Types of Equipment & New Changes

  There are a few essential equipment types that breweries use today. Examples include the malt mill, mash tun, filtration system, heat exchanger and brite tank. Breweries also regularly use pumps, valves, kegs, hydrometers and equipment for dispensing and packaging.

  While experienced brewers are already familiar with all of these things, they might be interested in new equipment options and types of technology to potentially save time, money or labor. Certain machinery may preserve hops better, improve quality control or keep processes more consistent for a better result. Meanwhile, new technology might facilitate multi-purpose machines in a small space or accommodate a shift to using more cans as the business grows. As the industry continues to trend toward aluminum cans, canning equipment is in demand and being considered by brewers who have traditionally stuck to glass bottles.

Equipment and Technology Worth Learning About

  These days, there are fully automated, multi-vessel systems to serve breweries’ needs and specialized wort aeration and oxygenation equipment to

improve brewing processes. Developments have been made to pneumatic conveyors that remove spent grains and tank systems that save water and conserve energy by using compressed air instead of CO2 and have recyclable inner bags. Meanwhile, sustainable design and build practices have been gaining traction for environmental stewardship, future economic vitality and customers’ social enrichment.

  We’ve been following specific advancements, including BrewSavor’s kink-resistant hoses, Thielmann’s multi-purpose aseptic containers, and Twin Monkeys’ low-key and affordable automatic canning line. IntelligentX software compares supply chain and production constraints with beer drinkers’ preferences, and FliteBrite created a “smart flight” serving system to assist menu development at establishments serving craft beer.

  Other machinery and technology-related updates include fully automated, stainless steel crossflow filters for better beer filtration and automated brewing systems with touch screens and mobile technology graphics. These brewing systems are equipped with artificial intelligence features that give feedback on beer produced while integrating customer feedback with manufacturing data. Some professional brewers are not particularly interested in all these “bells and whistles” and believe they are not worth the money and extra staff training to do what they already do best. However, new breweries and current establishments undergoing transition may be curious to adopt a few practical, high-tech features to create a more automated, organized or modern operation.

  Even some seemingly simple pieces of equipment, such as kegs, have been updated to make them more suitable for the current brewing environment. Now you can find stainless steel barrels with automated control systems for better precision and slim diameter kegs to store beer in limited spaces.

  Justin Willenbrink, Blefa Kegs’ sales director for North America, told Beverage Master Magazine that while not much has changed over the years concerning stainless steel kegs, the innovation comes from the barrels’ safety and quality.

  “Each keg from Blefa comes with an integrated pressure relief valve to reduce the risk to producers and on-premise staff by creating a safe failure,” Willenbrink said. “Quality has been the cornerstone of our company for more than 100 years. Durability can only be guaranteed by high-quality material, reliable operating production equipment, highly qualified staff and high-precision manufacturing according to your specifications. These high-quality standards allow us to be the only manufacturer of stainless steel kegs in the world to offer a guarantee of 30 years – a promise to all our customers that they have purchased a reliable and extremely durable asset.”

  Blefa and American Keg partnered in early 2020 to serve the North American market with a domestic manufacturer. Since then, the companies have been working together to upgrade their equipment and support U.S. customer needs, ensuring that efficiency gains in production align with the quality standards of both companies.

  “As a world’s leader in stainless steel packaging, Blefa and American Keg can provide various sizes from 10 liters to 59.62 liters. The U.S. 1/2 bbl, slim 1/4 bbl and 1/6 bbl are the most popular for both on- and off-premise needs. All kegs from our stock are equipped with drop-in D-Type spears from Micro Matic,” Willenbrink said. 

Buy New, Used or Lease?

  When brewers think about updating their equipment, dollar signs often flash before their eyes as new equipment costs start adding up. However, there are options available for breweries on tight budgets, such as leasing new or buying used equipment still in great condition.

  Canning lines are among the most common systems that breweries debate about buying or leasing. Leasing involves entering into a legal agreement for a specified time and works somewhat like a loan. At the end of the lease period, the effectiveness of the equipment may be significantly diminished and therefore not an attractive purchase for another brewing operation. However, you may be able to purchase your current machine for a discounted price. As long as it is still in good working condition, this is an ideal option since staff would already be familiar with it, and you would not encounter any delay in production.

  Capital leases are common, especially when a brewery is only looking to update a single piece of equipment rather than start from scratch or do a total equipment overhaul. It may be beneficial to have a lawyer look over any lease agreement before signing to check the interest rates, accounting implications and terms of the lease in case of equipment malfunctions and who is responsible for repairs. Other considerations include any plans for expansion, durability and logistics of getting equipment into and out of the facility.

What’s Next for Brewing Equipment and Technology?

  There’s a lot to look forward to for brewers who keep an eye out for the next great invention. Many manufacturers and suppliers have a finger on the pulse of the industry and can anticipate the needs of brewers in the years ahead. These companies’ successes depend on how well they change and adapt to the shifts and evolutions of the industry, especially during pandemic times.

  When asked how brewing equipment can best adapt to the changing needs of the modern brewery, Willenbrink said stainless steel kegs are the most well-equipped for providing a quality product because they protect the beverage from harmful UV light and oxidation while ensuring that quality isn’t compromised. 

  “Not only is it the most profitable package, but it is also the most sustainable with stainless steel kegs being 100% recyclable,” he said. “When it comes to the packaging of beer, wine or soft drinks, kegs made of stainless steel offer the best protection. In their reliability, economic efficiency and sustainability, our kegs provide first-class results.”

Willenbrink’s advice to breweries looking at new equipment is to never compromise on quality and make investments in assets that offer maximum safety and reliability for your needs.

  “By choosing a quality supplier, you are making a decision to work with a company that has invested in automation and quality control systems that ensure the highest level of precision and process,” he said. “Comprehensive support from first contact through delivery and continuing with service capabilities from highly qualified technical staff ensure experience and commitment to each investment made.”

  With more automation, there should be greater consistency from one brewer to the next, something vital during staffing changes and high service industry turnover rates. Yet, these machines and technologies don’t remove brewers from their craft; they simply eliminate tedious processes so that beverage producers can have more time to be creative and take their passion for great beer to the next level.

Precision in Canning and Bottling Craft Beer

By: Cheryl Gray

The can or bottle of craft beer consumers select from store shelves is more than attractive packaging. The elements that go into fabricating, filling and sealing those containers can make the difference between a flat beer, leaking containers, or worse yet, a contaminated product.   

  To avoid these pitfalls, craft brewers turn to companies whose specialties are to help the brewing industry protect its most important asset—the beer it makes. There is expertise to address virtually every need that brewers, large and small, can rely upon to meet their production needs.

  American Canning is one of those experts. The company, headquartered in Austin, Texas, launched in 2013 making equipment, supplies and mobile canning services accessible to craft brewers regardless of their budgets. Clients navigate the company’s user-friendly e-commerce site to order as many or as few supplies as needed. Most items are shipped on the same day. Melody Meyer is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for American Canning.  

  “As a mobile canning company, supply distributor, and machine manufacturer, American Canning is uniquely positioned to help brewers understand and evaluate all facets of a value-driven canning operation. It specializes in the craft beverage space and is equipped to address customer needs from planning, to supply procurement and production execution.”   

  Meyer cautions that assessing a brewery’s packaging requirements involves more than just machinery. As canning needs and goals are addressed along with space, labor and financial considerations, Meyer says that there are two more essential questions for a brewery to keep in mind.   

  “What is the total volume and type of can-packaged product that needs to be canned? And how will it be packaged?”

  Meyer adds that once these questions are addressed, American Canning readies its clients for next steps in the ever-changing packaging environment of the craft brewing industry. 

  “Considerations must be made from all available options, including manual vs automatic, atmospheric vs counterpressure, in-line vs rotary, and intermittent vs continuous motion with regard to each’s capacity, quality, consistency, repeatability, ease-of-use. Small batch packaging of one beverage type for on-premise service may best be accomplished with a compact and cost-effective, countertop filler/seamer whereas larger-scale distribution of numerous products in multiple can styles would require a more robust, flexible, and higher speed counterpressure, rotary line.

    While I can’t speak for every manufacturer, American Canning is focused on engineering products with the highest quality process controls, at an approachable price point, for compact craft spaces, all while being incredibly easy-to-use with minimum operators and little to no product waste. It’s a tall task, but our two filler/seamer machines have already achieved these goals. We simply believe we can expand upon our foundation into a variety of machines with different speeds and filling capabilities, not to mention the ancillary machines that are needed to surround a filler seamer, such as infeed tables and can handle applicators.” 

  SKA Fabricating in Durango, Colorado is another manufacturer with its eye on the future packaging needs of craft breweries, providing its customers with a wide range of depalletizers, conveyors, and packaging line equipment. The company was founded in 2012 by craft brewer Matt Vincent, whose award-winning Ska Brewing is touted as the

largest in Durango. While Ska Fabricating was born out of necessity to address the brewing, packaging and distribution of Ska Brewing, its innovations help breweries around the globe. With more than 1,000 clients across the United States and abroad, Marketing Director Elise Mackay says that the company is well-positioned to handle virtually any packaging need. 

  “Ska Fabricating provides total packaging lines from beverage to non-beverage industries across the globe. They range from canned or bottled beer, cannabis, kombucha and coffee to aerosol or paint cans and spice jars. We are well-rounded and diverse enough to handle just about anything. Our systems can range from a 20’ x 20’ square at 20 containers a minute to a 60’ x 60’ square running 250CPM and above! We do everything we can to accommodate the space and speeds of a prospect’s needs.” 

  Mackay explains how the company has adapted to the changing demands of the craft brewing industry and how it works with clients to create the most cost-effective solutions. One major decision is whether to opt for automated or manual systems. 

  “Automation is key when it comes to running an economic line and has a number of upsides compared to manual systems. Our manual systems are available for half-height use which is ideal for a low-budget startup but requires more personnel. When the time is right, we have several solutions to help in the next steps of automation. 

  We are constantly striving to make our products better and have adapted over the years through various market changes and requests for specific additions. Anything from safety, line controls, and using our date coding system to hit the bottom of the can instead of the flange are being implemented.” 

  California-based XpressFill Systems LLC manufactures a wide range of can and bottle filling systems designed with ease of use and longevity as top priorities. The company, headquartered in San Luis Obispo, was founded in 2007 and serves multiple industries, including craft brewing. Technology is a primary focus. The company offers several models that capture volumetric, level fill and carbonated beverage technology.  Rod Silver, who spearheads Marketing and Sales for XpressFill Systems, describes features of some of the firm’s products, which he says are affordable, compact and easy to use. 

  “The volumetric filler controls the amount of fill with the use of a very precise timer. The filler is calibrated to your specifications and is capable of very accurate fills, regardless of inconsistencies that might exist in the bottle glass. …The level filler controls the amount of fill with the use of a level sensor. When the liquid reaches the sensor, the filler automatically stops the fill. The liquid level is set by adjusting the height of the shelf, which can be adjusted to approximately 1/16 increments. Both the volumetric (XF260/XF460) and the level filler (XF2100/XF4100) have a self-contained, self-priming pump that draws the liquid from any barrel or carboy. There is no reservoir, the liquid flows directly from the bulk container, through the filler into the bottle.” 

  Silver adds that XpressFill Systems offers a pair of fillers for bottling and/or canning carbonated beverages.  

  “The XF4500C is a counter pressure system capable of filling 200 12 oz cans per hour. The XF4500/XF2500 is a counter pressure filler for bottles. We also offer an open fill system, the XF2200 (2 spout) and XF4400 (4 spout) capable of filling 300 / 600 cans per hour. All systems have a pre-fill CO2 purge cycle. The counter pressure system requires a minimal air compressor to operate the pneumatic actuators. Open can fillers have a moveable shelf that is easily adjustable for various can sizes. The maximum can diameter is 4 inches. The counter pressure filler has a stopper that must fit snugly into the can or bottle opening to seal and pressurize the container. Our standard opening for cans is a 202-lid size but custom stoppers can be made.” 

  For craft breweries that opt for cans, seam protection is an important consideration. OneVision® Corporation, founded in 1994, shares its innovations with the craft brewing industry throughout North America and Europe. The Ohio-based company, located in suburban Columbus, offers can seam inspection equipment that helps breweries monitor double seam quality for their beer products. Regularly inspecting and tracking internal double seam dimensions helps to prevent leaking seams and beer from going flat. Marketing Manager Amy McKee describes the features of the company’s signature product. 

   “OneVision® has developed the SeamMate® Craft Beverage System that includes all the necessary equipment and software craft brewers need to properly inspect and track the quality of can double seams. We conveniently offer system bundles ranging in price and equipment dependent on a brewery’s canning operation. All system bundles can be upgraded as a brewery’s canning operation grows.   

  SeamMate® System software now includes a proprietary measurement that estimates double seam tightness by analyzing the double seam cross-section. This new measurement is especially effective at detecting too-tight seams on beverage cans. This measurement provides inspectors and quality managers with assurance that the visual cover hook inspection was accurate, or it can serve as an alternative to manual cover hook removal.” 

  Innovation is perpetual at OneVision®, says McKee, pointing to the latest feature available with the SeamMate® System. 

  “SeamMate® System includes the optional AutoAlertTM that automatically analyzes measured data and alerts users to potential double seam quality issues. This unique function helps predict and prevent seam leaks.”   

  Whether bottling or canning beer products, experts say craft breweries should plan for growth, which includes the decision on whether to go either automated or manual–or somewhere in between.  It comes down to when to invest for expansion.  XpressFill Systems’ Rod Silver explains it this way.    

  “The primary factors in evaluating the benefits of each are (the) cost of equipment, rate of production, cost of maintenance, cost of labor and equipment lifetime.”

Exploring the Variety of Spirit-Based Canned Cocktails

By: Becky Garrison

Over Memorial Day 2014, Bronya Shillo launched the Fishers Island Lemonade, a signature cocktail that originated at her family’s bar, The Pequot Inn, on Fishers Island, New York.  She refined their decades-old recipe and canned the premium distilled vodka, whiskey, lemon and honey cocktail. The drink is one of the first craft cocktails in a can, making Shillo and her brand a leader in the ready-to-drink market. Fast forward to 2021, and she’s expanded her portfolio to a full family of vodka and whiskey lemonade canned cocktails, as well as a fun and innovative frozen Fishers Island Lemonade spirit popsicle.

  Convenience remains the most touted selling point in the growing RTD market. According to Nielsen IQ, in 2019, annual sales in this segment were up 574%, and malt-based cocktails now account for $4.7 million in annual sales. Spirit and wine-based RTD cocktails are generally available in smaller packages; they’re also more established and generate larger sales—$62 million and $83 million in annual sales, respectively, according to the May 21, 2019, Nielsen IQ. One factor that may be influencing some of these sales from growing even higher is that in con-trol states such as Oregon, spirit-based cocktails can only be found in liquor stores instead of grocery stores in non-control states.

  In 2020, consumers in lockdown sought ways to savor their favorite spirit-based cocktails once enjoyed at a bar or restaurant. Establishments responded to this demand by offering cocktails-to-go. Depending upon state laws, these to-go packages contain all the ingredients needed to make a given establishment’s signature drinks or all the items sans the alcohol.

  This to-go trend looks to continue as the world opens up post-COVID, with customers looking for convenient ways to consume their favorite cocktails while on the go. Molly Troupe, Master Distiller for Portland-based Freeland Spirits, speaks to the appeal of canned cocktails. “Canned cocktails are great for those who like convenience and don’t want to make their own cocktails at home. Cans can go much easier than a bottle to the lake, on a hike or wherever adventure may take you.”

Carbonated Canned Cocktails

  The majority of spirit-based cocktails appear to be carbonated and designed for easy sipping with a low ABV. Ali Joseph, co-owner of Portland, Oregon’s Wild Roots, commented about their 2021 foray into the RTD market. “We always recommend simple two-ingredient cocktails to our fans and wanted to take that idea one step further. There’s nothing easier than cracking open a can.”

  According to Tuan Lee and Hope Ewing, co-founders of Los Angeles-based Vernet, they launched their line of sparkling craft cocktails when they observed the market was dominated by bulk spirits made with flavoring agents. Ewing said, “We really wanted to make something high-quality that we would drink ourselves. Tuan’s dream was to share his love for LA’s immigrant cultures through food and drink, and ready-to-drink cocktails felt like a great vehicle for this. We wanted to package in cans for convenience—being pool-friendly, beach-friendly and lightweight —and because aluminum is the most recyclable packaging around.” She added that their goals in producing these products were twofold. “We wanted to showcase the awesomeness of LA’s immigrant food cultures by using ingredients we loved from local farms and markets and to make something as complex and high-quality as I was used to making in craft cocktail bars.”

  Canned vodka cocktails like those produced by Wild Roots differentiate themselves by using natural ingredients instead of “natural” flavorings often found in canned vodka products. Wild Roots’ canned cocktails are made using their top-selling raspberry, blackberry/marionberry and peach spirits. They also added lemon to the lineup because they often use citrus in their Wild Roots cocktails. Spiritfruit is a ready-to-drink canned vodka soda made using all-natural ingredients, a splash of real fruit and five-times distilled corn-based vodka.

Gin & Tonic Canned Cocktails

  In the spirit-based RTD market, taste and innovation are already proving to be key market differentiators. Take, for example, the different ways three distillers produced a canned classic gin & tonic.

  Melissa and Lee Katrincic, co-founders and co-owners of Durham Distillery in Durham, North Carolina, launched their Conniption canned cocktails in 2018 and were among the first distilleries in the U.S. to add them.

  “We saw the increasing popularity of malt-based seltzers and with them mimicking cocktail flavors and/or names. We wanted to bring authentic, delicious spirits based cocktails in the convenience of a can,” Melissa Katrincic said. They chose rosé spritz, cucumber & vodka and gin & tonic because they found that these seasonable flavors are perfect for the warmer months in the southeast United States. Their gin & tonic emerged as the fan favorite.

  Durham’s canned cocktails must be prepared in large batches of approximately 5,000 cocktails. This process involves ensuring that the precise amount of ingredients are measured and pumped into their 450-gallon tanks, then mixed and carbonated. They have an automated canning line for getting the product into containers, whereas their spirits are hand bottled. The canning line is made of hundreds of working parts that are finely tuned but can sometimes be problematic if out of adjustment. Carbonated products can also be prone to “misbehaving,” leading to the final product being foamy or difficult to get into the cans at the right volume.

  Freeland Spirits added canned cocktails to their lineup following the success of the kegged ver-sion of their Gin and Rose Tonic, which they offered in their tasting room. They launched their canned version in 2019, followed in 2020 with the French 75. The latter is a collaboration made using women winemakers and distillers and features Freeland Gin, Chehalem Chardonnay, lemon and simple syrup.

  According to Troupe: “While canned cocktails add an additional step to spirits production, play-ing with carbonation levels and different cocktail ingredients is a lot of fun.” Also, stability is a more significant issue because these canned cocktails are lower-proof than their bottled spirits.

  As the makers of Aria Portland Dry Gin, Martin Ryan Distilling Company in Portland, Oregon, is known as a gin house. So rather than develop another product in a different spirit category, a G&T seemed like a natural extension of the Aria Portland Dry gin brand. Ryan Csansky used his background in the bar and restaurant industry to create an in-house tonic using a proprietary blend of lime, bergamot and lemongrass, hints of allspice, orris and star anise, a flavorful tonic that complements the classic London Dry style of Aria Gin. The result is a G&T canned cocktail made using all ingredients with chemicals or artificial sweeteners and one of the lowest sugar counts of any tonic on the market. Since a canning line is an expensive system to purchase, they work with a mobile canning company that brings their system and operating crew to them as needed.

Other Non-Carbonated Bartender Inspired Cocktails

  Drnxmyth, a collective of drink makers with a shared interest in bringing fresh craft cocktails to people everywhere, invented an ingenious bottling technology that, in their estimation, unlocks the freshest cocktails ever produced. Each drink created is a collaboration between them and a bartender, drink maker or drinksmith, who shares in the sales profits for this particular drink.

  The TTB licensed Drnxmyth’s factory to handle bulk spirits and fresh cold press juicing, batch-ing and filling. A patent-pending bottle separates the spirits from the fresh ingredients, since al-cohol alters the sensorial nature of juice and freshness over time. Then the drinks are pressurized at 85,000 psi, which brings the microbial count in the juice close to zero. After that process, the beverage will remain fresh for five months while refrigerated and unopened.

  Through his work in the music festival industry, Neal Cohen, co-founder of Atlanta-based Tip-Top Proper, saw demand growing for quality cocktails, though in his assessment, the category had yet to deliver the quality and convenience for classic, spirit-forward, non-carbonated cock-tails in high volumes. “We fantasized about creating a world-class cocktail in an easy-to-serve vessel, thinking maybe we could help solve a problem for venues, events, restaurants, bars, air-planes and regular folks at home on the couch. Eventually, we stopped fantasizing and started actually doing it,” Cohen said.

With that mindset, Tip Top Proper was founded in 2018, focusing first on the trifecta of bitters-forward, stirred, high-proof cocktails—Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Negroni. Next, they gravi-tated toward a “Shaken Line”—Margarita, Daiquiri and Bee’s Knees—all cocktails that allow for warm weather, outdoor consumption. Their products come in 100ml sizes, which Cohen said is the appropriate single-serve size for a cocktail.

  In 2016, The Perfect Cocktail began offering classic cocktails—Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Negroni—packaged in mini bags. Their “made in Italy” production process and functional and sustainable packaging are patented to ensure the best mix of convenience and flexibility.

  Alley 6 Craft Distilling in Healdsburg, California, first came out with their canned Old Fash-ioned in 2019 in response to consumer demand for a portable version of the drink made in their tasting room using rye whiskey or apple brandy and candy cap (mushroom) bitters. A bottle didn’t seem to fit their purposes when compared to a canned cocktail that could be enjoyed while on the go, traveling or adventuring.

  Oregon-based 503 Distilling offers their canned Mt. Hood Old Fashioned, a blend of their rye whiskey, hazelnut bitters and maple syrup. This canned cocktail follows their first release, the Wicked Mule, along with other offerings—Blood Orange Greyhound, La Vida Mocha, Five-O-Tea and Huckleberry Lemonade.

  For a Brazilian twist on the Old Fashioned, Novo Fogo is launching a Brazilian Old Fashioned Highball hybrid that features tropical flavors of orange and vanilla. Their initial foray into the canned cocktail market was their Sparkling Caipirinha, a canned version of Brazil’s national cocktail available in three flavors found across the Brazilian food and drink spectrum—lime, passion fruit and mango.

  Finally, for consumers looking to savor a hot, after-dinner hard coffee that’s easy to make, Cask and Kettle produces small-batch hard coffees in flavors such as Irish, Mint Patty, Hot Blonde or Mexican Coffee, and a Spiked Cider in a k-pod. The k-pods, packaged and distilled by Temper-ance Distilling in Temperance, Michigan, contain liquid distilled spirits, concentrated coffee and flavorings, and can be placed into any pod home brewing system or poured into hot or iced water.

Adding New Revenue Streams to Boost Your Distillery’s Bottom Line

By: Gerald Dlubala

“Any craft beverage producer looking to develop their business to the point of allowing consumers to enjoy their product at home needs to ensure that their packaging choices can protect the product right up to the point of consumption,” said Steve Davis, Product Line Director, Metal Packaging for Industrial Physics. Industrial Physics is a global test and inspection partner providing first-class solutions to industries, including the beverage industry, to protect the integrity of brands and manufacturers across the globe.

  “The aluminum can is perfect for this because it’s light, chills the product quickly, protects it from the UV light, is robust, endlessly recyclable and offers great opportunities for the beverage owner to market and brand their product in their way,” said Davis. “Checking the packaging components before assembly and assuring the finished container is assembled correctly is where we come in. Our range of beverage can and end gauging solutions allow the user to check that the components supplied by the packaging manufacturers meet their required specifications. For example, our PAT 2100mk2 is a gauge that checks the opening ability of the beverage end. It mimics the customer pulling on the tab and checks that the force required to open the can is within specification and that the tab will stay properly attached while opening. After all, if you can’t open the packaging, you can’t taste the product inside.  Once the can is filled and sealed, our range of video seam monitors and X-ray seam inspection equipment allows the producer to check that the seaming operation is performing correctly and preserving the contents of the packaging as best as possible.”

  Industrial Physics includes a family of CMC-KUHNKE, Eagle Vision and Quality By Vision brands within their portfolio. Their expertise in designing and manufacturing quality control and assurance systems for the metal packaging industry has been relied upon for over 30 years and is unrivaled. Quality By Vision is proud to have invented the practice of using cameras to inspect the seams on beverage cans.

  “Checking the seam on a filled can is a fundamental requirement for any beverage producer to protect the packaging integrity,” said Davis. “It ensures that the cans and ends pass through the production process without issues. Our solutions offer an inspection methodology that minimizes operator influence and provides trusted results. In addition, the reliability of the gauges provides concise and consistent data, enabling the beverage producer to optimize their process, reduce waste and ensure that their product reaches the customer in the best condition possible.”

  Industrial Physics designs its products to be as maintenance-free as possible. For video seam monitors and similar dimensional gauges, all required is an annual calibration to original specifications. Seam saws need new blades periodically, depending on use.

“Basic must-haves are a simple set of gauges to check incoming packaging,” said Davis. “Things like a can height gauge and a flange width gauge are a good start, and for seam checks, you would need a video seam inspection gauge with our SEAMview inspection software. The SEAMview inspection software automatically takes seam measurements and stores the results, so if the producer receives a complaint or comes across an issue, they can go back and investigate the test results. This system is scalable and used by small craft producers up through the world’s largest beverage manufacturers. An ultimate solution for larger-scale producers is our XTS online, a completely autonomous gauge that uses X-rays to inspect the beverage can seam without any invasion of the packaging. It makes all the necessary measurements and returns the container to the line for sale.”

  Davis told Beverage Master Magazine that being involved with a beverage producer as a true partner is very important. “We’re always here to support our customers with the highest level of service. The products themselves are simple to use, portable (except for the XTS products), powered by any standard electrical source, and only require a day’s training to attain proficiency. Refresher courses are available either remotely or on-site with our support team.”

Volumetric & Level Fillers For Glass Bottle Packaging: XpressFill Systems LLC

  Johannes Kollhoff is the Director of Operations at XpressFill Systems LLC, designers and builders of quality, affordable bottling equipment for beverage producers worldwide. He recommends a Volumetric Bottle Filler for distillers that need to comply with TTB regulations.

  “Our volumetric filler controls the amount of fill with the use of a precise timer. The filler is calibrated to your specifications and is capable of repeatable, accurate fills regardless of inconsistencies in the bottle glass. We also provide high-proof volumetric fillers that replace flow path components with more resilient materials to ethanol. The high-proof version is used extensively for our distillery customers and fills levels within TTB requirements. Volumetric fillers are suitable for bottling a variety of different sizes, even down to 50ml bottles,” said Kollhoff. “The four-spout unit can fill approximately 450 [750ml] bottles an hour and be used for bottle conditioned kombucha, olive oil and many other liquids. Level fillers can be used for all products, including wine and distilled spirits as well. Level fillers are ideal if the fill height in the bottleneck is a concern for shelf presentation amid glass variations.”

  Kollhoff said that XpressFill’s level fillers control the amount of fill with a level sensor. When the liquid reaches the sensor, the filler automatically stops filling. The desired liquid level is set by adjusting the shelf’s height in 1/16-inch increments.

   “All XpressFill machines are semi-automatic, tabletop, stand-alone fillers that are portable and operate with regular 110v outlets,” said Kollhoff. “They should be placed and used in well-ventilated and non-hazardous areas. A gas purge option is available to reduce the exposure to oxygen for products that are sensitive to oxidation. Our fillers would not be compatible with liquids that contain large amounts of pulp or particulates, so if you have questionable products, we recommend sending samples of questionable products for testing.”

  The volumetric and level fillers have self-contained, self-priming pumps that draw liquid from any barrel or carboy. They are manufactured from high-quality, food-grade components, and the only recommended maintenance is routine cleaning after use. There is no reservoir. The liquid flows directly from your bulk container through the filler into the bottles. The machines are easy to learn and operate, but XpressFill recommends familiarizing yourself with the device by initially using water for a test run. XpressFill has excellent customer service, and if needed, you will be in touch with a technician that knows the machine inside and out within a couple of minutes.

  XpressFill also has customers who use a hot fill level filler to pack ready-to-drink cocktails, which has become somewhat of a trend. Trends happen for many reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as a demand that goes unnoticed and is now coming to the surface. In an extreme case, it may take a pandemic to give life to a trend that most didn’t even know was available or necessary. When the pandemic took away the ability to enjoy your favorite drinks at your local venue, a trend was born out of necessity to keep doors open for craft beverage producers. The packaging and sales of ready-to-drink beverages and cocktails became the way for craft producers to stay viable and in touch with their customers. They didn’t know that the ability to package their product in that way would turn into a valuable and sustainable revenue stream that was not part of their original business plan.

Starting a Bar Program With Oktober Can Seamers

  “Canning has turned into a new revenue stream for those places that never considered it before,” said Dennis Grumm, CEO and lead engineer of Oktober Can Seamers. “The main thing that came out of the pandemic is that new drinks packaged in ready-to-drink cans translate into new revenue. It’s like the seltzer craze when it began about five years ago. Then, they were new and different, and now they’ve blown up. That’s what our can seamers can do for whatever beverage you come up with and want to put into a can.”

  The pandemic brought the reality and usefulness of to-go drinks to the forefront. It allowed craft beverage producers the ability to get their products out the door when no one was allowed in-house. Now, as things return to normal, canning beverages to go or for the ready-to-drink market is a legitimate income stream.

  “When we go to a business for a demo, we usually bring bloody marys and mimosas to demonstrate our can seamers,” said Grumm. “Clients are blown away by the wide range of uses of our can seamers and the new business opportunities that open up as a result of owning one. By now, everyone has seen the classic cocktails canned and displayed as ready-to-drink. Successful classic cocktails breed new and different ideas, so a distillery or pub owner can add their twist or trademark drink and can them for their customers. Variations on margaritas and rum punches have done well, but a beverage producer can literally can whatever concoction or unique product they can imagine. Of course, you, as a producer, have to be aware of things like fermentation that can alter taste after time and adhere to food and safety regulations such as drink-by, best-by, or expiration dates.”

  Getting started is as simple as purchasing an Oktober Can Seamer and getting the cans and ends, which they can provide. Oktober units are plug and play out of the box, and their website has all the video tutorials needed to be up and running in literally minutes.

  “You’re easily able to go from canning one type or style of beverage to another,” said Grumm, “Especially when using the same size of the can. Switching can size is no big deal and can be done in a few seconds, with a 15 to 20-minute changeover for a 32-ounce unit. The busier bars sometimes use two or more can seamers situated at different ends of their bar to help facilitate traffic behind the bar or to keep different setups more readily available for fast service.”

Why start a bar program with

Oktober Can Seamers?

  “Our units are specifically designed for use behind a bar,” said Grumm. “We’ve worked with and had discussions with enough people in the food and service industry that we know the importance of saving space, reducing traffic congestion, and keeping machines running. Equipment can’t break down. It has to save space, and it has to be easy to use, clean and service. That’s us. Our tech support is on top of all things, and our machines don’t break down. There are minimal parts that wear under normal use and are subsequently very easy to acquire and replace. As to the calibration, sure, we sell calibration kits separately, but honestly, they’re just not used. We’ve had units in operation for years over thousands and thousands of cans, and they simply don’t require a lot of specialized calibration. It either seams a can, or it doesn’t.”

  “Oktober is one of the only companies that have this type of can seamer available to beverage producers of all sizes,” said Grumm. “It’s incredibly reliable, inexpensive, and looks good behind a bar. It’s easy to learn, easy to use, and provides instant effects to the bottom line by producing immediate revenue that the bar or distillery owner didn’t even know was there. It’s just the sentiment that restaurants, bars and pubs can more easily sling ready-to-drink cocktails through the door by providing them in a can. The machine just does incredible work and brings with it an immediate additional revenue source. And we can handle your labeling needs as well. Most customers have a logo or can design in mind and can order their cans directly through our site. However, if they want a simple generic label or need help with images or design concepts, we have a team ready for help and order processing.”

  Additionally, Grumm told Beverage Master Magazine that Oktober Can Seamers is kicking around the idea of subscription services to make sure customers are never out of cans.

  “We ship fast, and we ship now,” said Grumm.  “And we are finalizing plans for a distribution center in Nevada to take care of our West Coast clients even better than we do currently.

Brewery Pumps: Boosting Productivity & Lowering the Bottom Line

By: Cheryl Gray 

Whether a small craft brewery or a large-scale operation, pumps play a vital role in making beer. While breweries large and small understand the invaluable relationship between pumps and products, such a capital investment begs the question, “Which pump is best?”  

  Pumps are used in breweries for a wide range of functions, from handling yeast to managing filtration to dispensing measured doses of additives. According to industry experts, the most popular pumps are the most versatile, meaning they can be used in multiple areas of a brewery operation. That math adds up to money spent that can result in a solid return on investment when it comes to improving a product, boosting productivity and lowering operating costs.     

  FLUX Pumps Corporation has spent 70 years being a global leader in making pumps used in virtually every industry, including craft brewing. Its six subsidiaries and a huge roster of distribution centers give FLUX the capability of servicing customers in more than 100 countries.    

  The company’s innovation streak began in 1950 when it earned a patent for the world’s first electric-powered drum pump. A year later, FLUX introduced the first explosion-proof drum pump designed to be used in hazardous areas. In the years since, FLUX has firmly established itself as a frontrunner in drum and container pumping technology. The company’s global headquarters and manufacturing plant is located in  Maulbronn, Germany. It also operates corporate offices in the United States, India, Thailand, France, United Kingdom and Belgium.  

  Glenn Mulligan is the President of FLUX. His product advice, he says, is the same for all craft breweries, no matter whether it is a start-up or an established operation.    

  “Whether a new or old facility, I would offer the same advice to both customer types: Product longevity and performance is critical. Performance keeps your process running efficiently, perhaps even helping to increase productivity by moving away from tasks operators had to complete by hand. Product longevity helps to keep operating expenses low, which increases the bottom line. When you are using a pump, which offers an overall cost of ownership second to none, you know you have the right equipment in place. Don’t let drum pumps become ‘throwaway’ equipment.” 

  Mulligan shares why FLUX products are a versatile choice for breweries:   

  “By default, the most popular products in the brewing industry are those which conform to sanitary and hygienic standards. Brewing customers need to meet the strict sanitary standards of food and beverage processors, but typically also need the flexibility to use their equipment in various areas of the facility. Simple product disassembly, assembly and cleaning are crucial to minimize downtime and increase productivity.  

  From versions that can handle thin, water-like products, to models which can pump honey, fruit purees and products as thick as peanut butter, FLUX has the solution you need. Some models can quickly and easily be broken down into two main components for cleaning. This allows a pump to be used in multiple areas of the facility.”   

  Mulligan cautions craft breweries against investing in pumps that may seem simple to operate and don’t cost much. What might be a bargain at first sight, he says, can quickly become a drain on finances as well as valuable production time.    

  “It is a common misconception that air-operated, double-diaphragm pumps are best suited in these applications due to their cheap costs and simple operating principle. However, these pumps can very quickly become expensive to maintain as well as run with compressed air. A recent brewing customer had purchased one of our units to move a fruit puree from 55-gallon drums into their process. They were using 1.5” air-operated, double-diaphragm pumps to transfer the puree, which would take about an hour to empty the drum. When they switched over to FLUX progressive cavity drum pump technology, this transfer time was shortened to under six minutes.” 

  Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group is another global leader in providing pumps to the craft brewing industry. The company, based in the United Kingdom with operations worldwide, was founded in 1956. It entered the United States market in 1991 by establishing Watson-Marlow, Inc. The company offers a broad range of peristaltic and sinusoidal pump products designed to handle nearly every pump requirement for every stage of brewing.    

  Among other features, the products boast a rapid cleaning time and simplicity of use. Watson-Marlow explains that by reducing CIP cycles, along with the amount of water and cleaning agents needed, its pump designs save breweries money over time.    

  Pumping brewer’s yeast is a tricky business. One wrong move can ruin the delicate yeast and, in turn, an entire batch of beer. That’s why a number of breweries are looking for the latest technology in pumps that offer features that provide, among other things, low shear and low pulsation, which experts say is ideal for transferring yeast. Watson- Marlow offers its MasoSine Certa 100 pump. The product is fully portable and mounted on a specially designed cart for easy transfer of yeast. Unlike more traditional pumps with rotors cutting through the fluid, Certa’s sinusoidal rotor gently moves fluid through the pump to significantly reduce shear. Russell Merritt is the company’s marketing manager. 

  “Certa sine pumps accurately dose the yeast while maintaining its quality. Certa pumps reduce shear damage to yeast cells by eliminating backflow seen with screw and lobe pumps. Also, with the high suction capability of the sine pump, even challenging yeast strains can be transferred at full capacity. Due to the virtually pulsation-free flow, the transfer rate at the yeast harvesting pump can be accurately controlled. Certa pumps can handle variable viscosities with ease, which means the yeast dosing process is under control regardless of the type of beer and yeast strain.” 

  Another key function of pumps in brewery operations is resolving wastewater, which is often injected with chemicals not environmentally friendly. As such, that wastewater has to be filtered and purified before it is discharged.  

  Blue-White Industries, Ltd., based in Huntington Beach, California, touts a solution through its Flex-Pro A2, a peristaltic chemical metering pump designed to tackle the kind of harsh chemicals found in brewery wastewater.    

  Among the company’s success stories in helping brewery clients achieve optimal wastewater treatment is California’s Stone Brewing, the ninth-largest craft brewery in the U.S. With brewery operations on both coasts, Stone Brewing celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. It recently installed four of the Flex-Pro A2 pumps. Blue-White says that the product’s ease of use and electronic features offer the kind of precise chemical metering that Stone needed to meet industry-standard wastewater purification requirements.    

  Carlsen & Associates, a family-owned business based in California’s Sonoma Valley, services wineries, distilleries and craft breweries. The company, founded in the 1980s by Jim Carlsen, is a manufacturer, fabricator and customer service enterprise with representatives covering all 50 states. Carlsen & Associates thrives on the industry knowledge base of its founder, whose background as a manager and electrician helped to distinguish the company’s products as those with precision and ease of use at the forefront of all design.   

  Jon Johnson, who has been with Carlsen & Associates for 24 years, is well-versed in the pump needs for brewery clients. He offers some recommendations from the company’s extensive product line, starting with the Waukesha 30, which features single o-ring seals for easy cleaning and replacement, stainless steel housing and rotors, along with 50-foot remote speed control.  Additional options include pressure, float and timer controls.   

  The  features a flow of up to 90 GPM, variable speed control, pressures up to 20 psi and auto cavitation correction. Options for this pump include float and timer controls as well as remote start and stop. Johnson says that both products rate high with craft brewery clients.   

  “For brewing, the Waukesha 30, for barrel work and transfer, is very popular. The Waukesha 2045 Centrifugal is primarily for transfers. A less expensive option for start-ups is the NDP-25 air diaphragm pump. Both will provide about 30 GPM of flow. The Waukesha 30 and the Centrifugal 2045 are electric and can be used in single or three-phase applications. The NDP-25 does require an air compressor to provide its power. For distilling applications only, the air pump can be used in the explosive environment. Please check your local codes for these restrictions. We also offer a full line of valves, fittings and hoses for either application.”  

  Time spent on research is one of the most critical investments for craft breweries when deciding which pump is best for any operation, large or small. Experts agree that a full consultation with an industry specialist is by far the wisest upfront investment that a brewery can make before any money is spent. This important step ensures that the brewery can fully assess pump needs for the long and short term and, with the help of an expert, can objectively navigate through the innumerable pump options on the market. It is the best way to look forward to a return on investment into an essential equipment item that should operate to maximize production efficiency and product quality. 

How to Choose the Right Closures for Your Beer or Spirits

By: Alyssa L. Ochs 

Creating drinkable products in large tanks is just one part of what it takes to run a successful craft beverage business. Brewers and distillers need to find effective, affordable and reliable ways to package their creations. That is where traditional and specialized closures come into play.  

  Choosing the right types of caps, corks and closures depends on a variety of factors. Fortunately, there are some excellent industry-specific products available to get the job done right. 

Overview of Beer Closures  

  There are many ways to seal a beer, depending on the type of container, the beer’s style or brewer’s preferences. Beer closures give your brand more character and can serve a decorative purpose in addition to a purely functional one. For example, for Belgian beer, hooded wires and Belgian beer corks are often used to give beers a traditional and unique appearance. These cork and cage closures set the product apart as a premium style while ensuring safety and freshness.  

  Other beer closures include aluminum closures commonly used for aluminum and glass beer bottles, wire bales for flip tops, plastic screw caps and shrink capsules. You might also choose oxygen-absorbing bottle caps with liners to reduce oxidation in the beer. Meanwhile, there are special screw caps commonly used for growlers. Crown caps are popular in the beer industry because they reduce oxygen egress and can either be twisted off or be pried off with a bottle opener.  

  Tecnocap LLC specializes in closures for the craft beverage market. It is a worldwide metal packaging manufacturer that produces metal closures for plastic containers and glass jars. It is also one of the largest producers of tinplate and aluminum closures and aluminum bottles for many well-known consumer brands.  

  “For the craft beer market, Tecnocap offers the 38/400 continuous thread closure for growlers and is bringing to market a new aluminum closure, similar to a crown, called SuperClosure,” said Richard A. Smith, Tecnocap’s marketing manager. 

  The SuperClosure goes beyond a standard closure. According to Smith, it requires less than half the pressure to apply and works with both twist-off and pry-off bottles. Also, the SuperClosure is made from aluminum, so rust is not an issue, and it can maintain an internal pressure of over 150 psi.   

  “The most significant advantages are to the consumer,” Smith said. “There are no sharp edges as found with a typical tinplate crown. The SuperClosure is comfortable when grasping it to open, and the removal torque is significantly less. The lower removal torque allows for a greater potential market, now including individuals who have difficulty manually opening a beer bottle. The SuperClosure is more costly than typical steel crowns, but the advantages that SuperClosure offers can more than offset the additional cost. If a bottler uses magnetism to hold their crown during capping, Tecnocap can potentially retrofit the cappers, at no cost to the filler, to allow the capper to use an aluminum closure.”   

Overview of Closures for Spirits  

  For craft spirits, there are specialty screw caps commonly used among distilleries to ensure that the contents stay fresh and secure inside the bottle or other type of container. Bar-top, roll-on and swing-top closures are frequently used for spirits. Jarred spirits commonly have tinplate and aluminum continuous thread screw cap closures.  

  Overall, materials for spirit closures range from aluminum to wood, plastic and other synthetic materials. Tasting corks are also an option, with a plastic top and cork base, for temporarily sealing liquor bottles between customer tastings at the distillery.  

  Screw-tops are uncomplicated, screwing on and off easily. Bar-top closures offer more decorative options that highlight a spirit’s brand and set the bottle apart from others on the retail shelf. Roll-on, pilfer-proof closures are tamper-evident to ensure extra security and protection. Swing-top closures are more commonly used for beer and specialty food products, such as olive oil, rather than spirits. 

  “For distilled spirits, Tecnocap offers multiple sizes of continuous thread closures and the Espritbonnet with both a standard and a tamper-evident version,” said Smith. 

  He said that with continuous thread closures, there is a wide range of sizes available with various liners to accommodate essentially any beverage. However, due to the pandemic, custom printed closures have an extended lead time, as has become the norm with many closure manufacturers.  

  Tecnocap’s Espritbonnet closures are designed specifically for sprits to provide a more attractive, upscale appearance. “The tall, reinforced profile was a requirement requested by a customer to eliminate crushing of the closure during application,” Smith said. “The cost of metal is usually more costly than plastic closures, and plastic is found to be the most common alternative to metal closures. However, plastic allows for little-to-no customization and has limitations on its recyclability. Metal can be recycled indefinitely without any loss of functional properties.”   

  O. Berk Kols Containers is another company that serves the craft distillery market and makes closures for spirit bottles. O. Berk has been in the packaging industry for over 100 years and serves various markets, including food and beverages, beauty and personal care, cannabis, healthcare and pharma, household and industrial.  

  Claire Schilling, account executive for O. Berk Kols Containers, told Beverage Master Magazine, “O. Berk Kols Containers offers an array of various bar-top cork closures with synthetic shanks, and we stock a black plastic top, a café brown wood top and a natural wood top cork in our warehouse in both 19.5mm and 22.5mm sizes.” These are commonly used closures in craft spirit distilleries and part of the extensive catalog offered by O. Berk. 

  Shilling told Beverage Master Magazine that choosing the right closure relates to how imperative it is to select the correct size to fit the bottleneck finish. “An 18.5mm neck finish requires a 19.5mm cork, and a 21.5mm neck finish requires a 22.5mm cork,” she said.  

Trends in Craft Beverage Closures  

  Although it may seem like beer and spirit closures serve a basic purpose, there have been innovations in this space during recent years. The needs of craft beverage producers are constantly changing, so equipment suppliers must stay in tune with current demands to be competitive and provide the best service. 

  Smith told Beverage Master Magazine that a notable trend in the craft beer market has to do with the severe shortage of cans available. Cans have been incredibly popular in this industry over the last few years; however, some breweries have turned their attention back to bottles due to can shortages. 

  “Tecnocap also manufactures aluminum beer bottles,” Smith said. “With the bottle and SuperClosure, Tecnocap can offer a complete aluminum package. The aluminum beer bottles can be produced in various sizes, providing the bottles in a single color or highly appealing graphics. The bottles can also be reused.”  

  Schilling said that the primary trend she has noticed is that “craft distillers like to choose corks that are keeping with their brand’s attributes for packaging.” 

Addressing the Issue of Leaks 

  By far, one of the most important issues concerning craft beverage closures is leaks and how to prevent them. Leaks are a significant issue for breweries and distilleries because of wasted product, messes and compromised quality.  

  “The best way to combat leakage would be to ensure the closure and container are compatible and provide a proper fit and that the correct liner is used for the process and the product being filled,” said Smith. “Tecnocap always encourages customers to test the package before placing it into production, and we can offer closures for testing.”   

Schilling said, “There are single-form corks made by manufacturers to counter the leakage issues caused when the cork tops separate from the shanks.” 

Choosing the Best Closures for Your Business  

  As you can see, there is more to closures than one might initially expect, primarily if you work in the craft beverage industry. Closure choices affect total expenditures, product quality and the perception of the brand.  

  However, closures are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to packaging beer and spirits. There are also decisions about bottle size, labels, screen printing, digital printing and other customizations. These components work together to give the packaging the desired look and feel, ultimately setting it up to be enjoyed and remembered with every sip. 

Barrel-aging Beers & Spirits During a Global Pandemic

By: Becky Garrison

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

Copperworks Distilling Company, Seattle, Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecliptic Brewing, Portland, Oregon

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

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

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

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

Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon

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

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

Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Chimacum, Washington

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

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

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

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

Liberty Ciderworks, Spokane, Washington

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

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

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

pFriem Family Brewers, Hood River, Oregon

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

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

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

The Bitter Housewife, Portland, Oregon

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

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

Wanderback Whiskey Company, Hood River, Oregon

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

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

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

Westland Distillery, Seattle, Washington

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

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

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

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

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

Westward Whiskey, Seattle, Washington

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

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

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

By: Gerald Dlubala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Cheryl Gray

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

VITOK Engineers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symbiont Science, Engineering and
Construction, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Müller Pot Stills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Basics of Nitrogen and CO2 Use in Breweries & Distilleries

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

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

Using CO2 in Breweries & Distilleries

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

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

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

Using Nitrogen in Breweries & Distilleries

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

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

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

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

Equipment Needed for CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanks for CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

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

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

Pros & Cons of CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

Safety Considerations for CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expert Advice Goes a Long Way

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

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

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