Ten years ago, an organic sweet cherry farmer, Brian Tennis, was looking for a new way forward—one that would differentiate him from other farms and would grow, develop and sustain his growing operation. He found what he was looking for in growing hops, and becoming part of the seed-to-spirit movement in the craft beverage market.
“Our farm is right on the 45th Parallel, the sweet spot for growing hops, so it was an easy decision despite never having farmed hops before,” said Tennis.
Tennis knew he needed to find a way to diversify and financially grow. “The immediate benefits to our changes were that it gave us an immediate crop to harvest, instead of waiting five to seven years, we could plant hops and have a crop the same year. It gave us a unique plant to grow for our region, as well as something that was relatively easy to grow and not overtly impacted by climate change,” he said. “The hurdles were the startup costs, the learning curve, equipment needs, and the fact that no one else in the state was growing hops on a commercial scale, so there was very little support or knowledge leveraging. It was also an untested market here in Michigan.”
Tennis is now President of the Michigan Hop Alliance and one of the many growers and distillers leading the craft beverage movement. He has learned a lot about the process along the way, and it was often not easy.
“Idiot tax is not cheap,” he said. “Hops were the first crop we tried to grow on a commercial scale and really had no background with this plant whatsoever. We had to purchase or build everything from the ground up — tractors, sprayers, water wells, a hop picker, as well as a hop dryer and pellet line. All this equipment was expensive and specialized. All this on top of trying to source hop plants and pick which varieties to select. Unfortunately, we purchased plants were supposed to be ‘clean,’ and they were found to be infected with viruses. This really set us back financially and pushed back our timelines. We also had a few business partners, not a good long-term fit. More importantly, the learning curve was steep especially for a first-generation farmer with no background in agriculture. The first several years were like going to school for another degree. Even after 10 years of growing hops, there is still a great deal of knowledge we acquire each season. The learning never stops.”
Farm-to Craft Beverage Market
What was learned and implement successfully by Tennis has become pretty standard for many growers experimenting with or changing in their growing operations. Many consumers are aware of or participate in, the farm-to-table movement every time we go to a local farmer’s market, however, some may not be familiar with the farm-to craft beverage market. However, it is here, it is growing, and it is a boon for hops and grain growers, brewers and distillers. Thanks to the loosening of Prohibition-era laws in many states, the number of craft distillers has grown from 21 in 2000 to 1,835 as of August 2018, according to The Craft Spirits Data Project research initiative.
The whole movement has inspired some growers to implement changes in their operations, making them part of the seed-to-spirit market. They are taking bold new steps and changing the current end user of their corn, wheat and rye crop and beginning to create their own spirits.
Why Isn’t Every Grower Creating Craft Beverages?
Some farmers haven’t jumped on the craft beverage and distilling bandwagon because of time, effort and cost. Growers who make the dive into both growing and distilling learn that while the two businesses work hand-in-hand, there is an abbreviated and harsh learning curve. Researching and implementing state and national requirements for farm distilleries as well as training in proper, legal and successful distilling practices doesn’t come quickly or cheaply — all of this to create a business that may not necessarily be successful. The risk is real.
Yet, the dream endures for many farm distilleries regardless of the steep learning curve or unexpected upfront costs. Seed-to-spirit growers want to create something unique that tells a story about their crop, their business, and their authenticity. What better way to do that than through craft beer or spirits?
Craft Beverage Statistics
The Fort Worth Business News reported in August of 2018 the global craft spirits market was valued at $6.13 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow at an impressive compound annual growth rate of 33.4 percent from 2017 to 2025, owing to increasing consumer tastes and preferences towards unconventional and experimental alcoholic beverages.
According to the Brewer’s Association, in 2017, overall beer volume sales were down by one percent, but craft beer sales continued to grow at a rate of five percent by volume and totaled 12.7 percent of the U.S. beer market by volume. As the craft-beverage craze continues to grow today’s market is more competitive than ever. In response, some brewers are beginning to shift gears and are implementing craft distilleries side-by-side with brewing operations.
Benefits of Tourism
The seed-to-spirit movement offers yet another revenue source for growers when they provide visitors with guided tours or samples of craft beverages made with their crops. This source of revenue is considered by some to be the one sure thing farmers can count on year-to-year even when the weather adversely affects their yield. No matter the size of their harvest, tourism keeps them steady and stable until the next growing season.
For craft beverage producers, tourism has benefits for both their business and the communities where they reside. No matter where they are, craft beer and spirits lovers seek out breweries and distilleries to have a taste. For farm distillers and brewers, in particular, tourism can sometimes help farmers withstand the economic pressure that comes from larger competitors. So next time you pass a small grower distilling craft beverages, stop and see if you can sample or purchase. You will be happy with the quality and taste, and what’s more, you have been a part of the unique movement momentously impacting the adult beverage market forever.
In 2008, just as the craft spirits boom was beginning to take off, Prairie Organic Spirits was founded by Phillips Distilling Company to meet the demand from consumers looking for an elevated cocktail experience. Today, the Minnesota distillery has become the leader in certified organic spirits, guided by a commitment to creating a more sustainable company and industry.
According to Kevin Papacek, Prairie Organic Spirits’ Director of Marketing, their goal is “to handcraft organic, world-class spirits using the fewest natural resources possible.” The distillery bases their vodkas and gins on single-vintage yellow corn grown on family-owned organic farms. The grain is free from harmful chemicals and GMOs and leads to the smooth, award-winning taste of Prairie Organic Spirits.
Producing this grain often means farming “the hard way,” like the original settlers on the prairie. “Farming without the use of herbicides and pesticides requires more time in the field, as farmers must often weed by hand to cultivate the nutrient-rich soil and organic corn,” Papacek told Beverage Master Magazine. “Even before farmers plant a single seed, they spend three seasons carefully preparing their fields. Once the soil is ready, they plant a 25-foot buffer crop to ensure that chemicals from neighboring farms don’t contaminate the corn.” To help control weeds, farmers use flamers, which create old-fashioned “prairie fires.”
Since the farmers don’t use pesticides, they rely on native birds and bats to consume the insects. Wildlife plays a vital role in organic farming and the lifecycle of their corn. Pheasants eat weed seeds such as ragweed, smartweed and foxtails, often scratching through ground litter in farm fields. Farmers help sustain the pheasant population by leaving rows of unharvested corn next to native grasslands used as protection from the elements.
It’s not just organic farming that helps explain the quality of Prairie Organic gins and vodkas, it’s also the production process, where the spirits are distilled to taste rather than a prescribed number of times. Production takes place in Princeton, Minnesota, in a custom-build, small-batch copper still that is used solely for certified organic spirits. “We choose copper stills because they consistently produce the high-quality, great-tasting organic spirits that meet the Prairie Organic standards and that our consumers expect from the brand,” Papacek said. “Our spirits have a distinct and unique taste that our distillers and farmers have worked hard to differentiate. This is partly due to its corn base, lending a subtle sweetness and rich, smooth flavor, and partly due to the work of our Master Distillers.”
Complementing the Master Distillers is an elite, employee-led group called “Guardians of Prairie,” who ensure that each batch of spirits meets exacting standards. “We keep distilling until it tastes just right,” Papacek said.
Prairie Organic produces three spirits, each expressing a unique flavor profile. According to the distillery’s website (www.prairieorganicspirits.com), “Prairie Organic vodka has hints of melon and pear on the nose, is creamy on the palate and bright and smooth at the finish. Prairie Organic Cucumber Flavored Vodka has a mild cucumber note on the nose, is fresh on the palate and crisp at the finish. It’s pure and refreshing until the last sip. Prairie Organic Gin has bursts of herbs, sage, juniper and exotic spices that complement a dry and refreshing taste with a long, delicate finish. It’s smooth from the ground up and easy going down.”
After distillation, Prairie Organic returns the leftover grains to local farmers for use as animal feed—part of the company’s commitment to One Team G.R.E.E.N (Growing Responsibly, Ethically & Environmentally Now), which works to increase corporate sustainability practices such as reducing electrical usage; establishing better water sources; and promoting recycling within its facilities. Prairie Organic is also a partner of the Organic Trade Association, the only trade association exclusively dedicated to helping and protecting organic standards and organic trade.
In recognition of its green initiatives, in 2018 Prairie Organics was named the Best Craft Vodka Distillery in USA Today’s “10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards.” The publication, a trusted source for travel, food and beverage advice, honored not just Prairie Organic’s commitment to organic ingredients and sustainable practices, but also its “unmatched distilling process that leads to Prairie Organic’s award-winning taste.” Other awards include a two-time Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition; Best New Vodka by Food & Wine in 2009; a Gold Medal for its gin in the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and a Gold Medal in the International Prestige (SIPS) competition; and a Platinum Medal for its cucumber vodka in the 2013 SIPS event.
As Prairie Organic looks to the future, the distillery will continue to focus on promoting organics and sustainability. “We are very proud to stand by our partnership with the OTA to support their mission to advance organics,” Papacek said. “It’s important for us to take a more active role in the organic space, and we will continue to ramp up our participation in 2019.”
Papacek told Beverage Master Magazine that Prairie Organic Spirits is always looking for new ways to meet consumer desire for refreshing spirits with unique profiles. Those interested in mixology may want to visit the company’s website, which features an entire page dedicated to cocktail recipes. “When choosing organic, you are choosing a better spirit,” Papacek explained. “In turn, this means a better cocktail, too. Beyond a spirit that is free from herbicides, pesticides, gluten and GMOs, each expression brings a smooth, balanced taste to any cocktail. Some of our favorites include the Grapefruit Negroni made with Prairie Organic Gin, and the Jalapeño Cucumber Mule made with Prairie Organic Cucumber Vodka.”
Ultimately, the mission for Prairie Organic Spirits is the same one stated when the company was founded in 2008: to handcraft organic, world-class spirits using the fewest natural resources possible. “Our strong relationships with family farmers, their commitment to the hard work of growing organic, and our Guardians of Prairie who distill each batch to taste, are all factors that have helped Prairie Organic Spirits become the number one certified organic spirit brand,” Papacek said. “Creating great-tasting vodkas and gin, while continuing our commitment to the organic industry and sustainability, will always be our top priority.”
Opening a craft brewery is a dream many people have turned into a reality. Getting to do all the fun stuff like branding new brews, using all the shiny new equipment, and networking with those who share the same passion. But then there are all the other, not-so-fun tasks that need juggling, like maintaining property and equipment, getting licenses, fitting out the brewery, ordering supplies and hiring staff. Only after wading through all this can a brewery finally get to the reason for it all: making great beer to be proud of.
Keeping motivations firmly in sight and visions on track is important, but so is being realistic about the potential risks business owners face. One bad batch. One slip and fall. One severe workplace injury. All of a sudden, a claim has occurred causing disruption, an interruption in the brewery’s operation, or even worse, there’s no coverage under any of the insurance policies in effect. There’s lost time, lost revenue needed to fuel the brewery operations, and — depending upon the nature of the claim — diminished customer confidence.
Easing the blow when any of this happens is simple: have the right insurance in place. The right coverages that are crafted to the needs of a specialized industry that cover a broad range of exposures.
“It is important to choose an insurance agent that has worked with many different breweries” says Colleen Croteau of Maine Beer Company. “James and the staff at GHM Craft provide exemplary customer service and a high level of industry knowledge. Maine Beer Company relies on GHM for our comprehensive business insurance needs, state compliance bonds, and general questions related to our employees, a recent expansion project, and routine business operations. Their experience in the brewing industry is evident in the knowledge and recommendations they provide.” Selecting an agent who understands the uniqueness and complexities of brewery operations and who can identify and fix coverage gaps is essential – it is important to understand that fixing coverage gaps is not necessarily reducing risk; instead, it is transferring risk to the insurer and away from the brewery.
This article will run through the most common brewery insurance gaps, explain how different types and levels of insurance can protect a business, and show how important it is to get the right insurance.
Insuring The Prized Possession: Beer
There are lots of upsetting things in the world, but for a brewery, a ruined or bad batch of beer – or worse, batches – is right up there. It can hit a pocketbook hard. Inventory will need to be replenished by brewing more and, naturally, bad beer can’t be sold so there won’t be any revenue coming in.
In this scenario, you need the right coverage, which can protect against contamination, spoilage, and tank leakage. Understanding how beer is insured will help determine proper limits and make sure everyone is on the same page if something goes wrong.
Keeping The Doors Open After A Claim Happens
When a loss to property happens, it is important to have the right coverage to help keep brewery doors open. Having a revenue stream, even if production is halted, is critical. Say, for example, a brewery closes unexpectedly due to a fire and production is shut down for weeks or months. Revenue ceases or significantly reduces. There will be no beer for customers today. What happens next could be a make or break situation.
While things are being repaired or rebuilt, breweries will need coverage that provides a continued flow of revenue to be able to pay key employees, cover overhead, debt service, and other ongoing operational expenses that will continue even though revenue from beer sales cease. And having coverage for extra expenses like temporary offices, warehousing, and other expenses a brewery will incur while rebuilding its facility is essential. There are coverages breweries can purchase to cover these exposures. If a brewery already has these coverages, limits should be reviewed, at least annually, to keep up with growing sales. Failing to do this means the level of coverage originally purchased may be outdated as the brewery has grown and expanded.
Understanding How Property Is Defined
One of the biggest assets in a brewery is where the magic happens: the property of a brewery (building, improvements, brewing equipment, etc). So, it needs to be insured correctly. Problems may arise because all property insurance policies define business property differently than the brewery owner, his or her contractors or accountant may define it.
Understanding the definition of what constitutes a building, as defined in an insurance policy, is critical. The definition of brewing equipment is also critical. If space is leased, understanding the definition of tenant fit-up is critical too. When writing a policy, it is important to have an agent who will work as part of the team to properly classify property.
Correctly classifying brewery property means a) getting the right level of insurance in each category, b) potentially saving money since insurance rates on the building can be lower than rates on other types of property and equipment, and c) properly classifying property increases the chances a claim will be settled fairly and satisfactorily.
The Complexities of Liability Coverage
Getting into the fine details of liability insurance is like individually counting every grain of barley put into making beer – there’s a lot to it. For broader liability coverage, having the help of an experienced brewery agent who can tailor the policy for a brewery’s specific operations can make a big difference. As an example, anyone who has a tap room or attends brewfests needs to pay attention to his or her liability coverage.
Opening the doors of a tap room to the public is a great source of revenue. However, breweries with tap rooms have more risk. Unfortunately, customers occasionally have a slip, trip or fall. And then there’s the person who visits a brewery at the end of a pub crawl for one last beer. He leaves and get into an accident on his way home and hurts himself and others. Will this brewery have the right coverage, and enough coverage, for these exposures?
Another tricky exposure to navigate is insurance for events and brewfests. It’s great exposure for any brewery but how is the insurance impacted? Event organizers routinely ask to be named as ‘additional insured’ on general liability insurance and, possibly, liquor liability. Typically someone from the brewery contacts the insurance agent to request a certificate of insurance and off it goes. What this now means is that the brewery’s general liability policy will be sharing its limit with the event organizer – and others who may be asked to be added to the policy – should a claim be made. In this scenario, imagine someone trips and gets hurt at the brewfest and it’s the brewery’s fault!
This person then sues the brewery and the event organizers. Again, since the event organizers are an ‘additional insured’ on the policy, the brewery is now sharing its limit with them, which means there may be less coverage to protect the brewery. Now, imagine if the brewery is asked to add the city/town, license holder, or others to its policy and everyone gets sued. Now the brewery’s limit may be shared by multiple parties. Where does that leave the brewery? A brewery insurance expert can offer solutions to this concerning situation.
Correctly Classifying A Liability Policy Matters
Different aspects of a brewery need to be classified differently, and correctly. These are called ‘liability classifications.’ Similar to property, brewery owners need to understand how liability classifications apply to the business and make sure sales are assigned correctly. These classifications need to be kept up to date as the brewery evolves and grows.
To give an example, the liability classification for beer sold in bottles is rated differently than beer sold in cans, and kegged beer is different again. Merchandise sales have a separate class too. Do brewery owners want to pay the higher rate on the sale of a t-shirt as they would for the sale of a beer? Probably not! Most breweries have four or five different liability classifications, but there could be more, and if there is a missing classification, coverage could be in question should a liability claim occur!
When policies are classified incorrectly, issues surface when an insurance company audits the policy. Because sales are estimated at the beginning of the policy term, if the final sales end up higher at the end of the policy term, the brewery will get a bill it did not budget for. And if sales are incorrectly classified, the audit could cost the brewery even more.
Making sure liability classifications are correct and up-to-date is important, something that is easily done with the help of a craft beer insurance specialist.
Navigating Employee Related Insurance
Employees are one of the greatest assets of any business, but they can also be one of the biggest exposures to every business:
Workers’ Compensation – Protecting a brewery and its employees for workplace injuries means getting workers’ compensation insurance. But like liability coverage, there are different classifications for the different jobs and roles in every business. Getting this right ensures there won’t be any surprises with a big audit, and that employees will be covered if they get hurt on the job. Another important note about workers’ compensation, if there are family or friends who volunteer at the brewery, there may not be coverage for this exposure.
Employment Practices Liability – Employees bring other exposures to businesses such as claims related to harassment, discrimination, salary disputes, or wrongful termination. Neither general liability nor workers’ compensation policies cover these exposures. An experienced brewery insurance agent can give advice and information needed to make well informed decisions on handling these exposures.
Navigating Vehicle Insurance
As a small brewery, having a delivery van may be a ways off. For larger breweries, using a distributor means someone else is delivering brew. In both cases it could mean that a brewery does not own any vehicles, but there could still be auto related exposures the business may be subjected to.
For example, many brewers use personal vehicles to deliver beer, run to the bank or commute to events. These are all business journeys. If there’s an accident while doing official beer business, anyone injured as a result can bring a suit against the owner of the vehicle and the brewery. This is because the vehicle was operating on behalf of the brewery at the time. Without the right type of auto insurance, the vehicle owner and/or the brewery may not be covered.
So even if the brewery doesn’t own a van, truck or car, it could be exposed when using other people’s vehicles for company business. It’s worth discussing this exposure with an agent who has expertise with insuring breweries.
The Added Extras
These areas of insurance are just the froth on the pint. When it comes to insuring a craft brewery there are other potential gaps:
Data protection and cyber security
Theft — both physical & of intellectual property.
And Let’s Not Forget A Non-Insurance Exposure … Human Resources
As if there aren’t already enough exposures facing brewery owners but the importance of solid HR protocols are just as important and should never be overlooked. Things like properly completed I-9 forms, ADA compliant job applications and job descriptions, and a properly written personnel manual are just a few of the priorities when it comes to HR compliance.
All of this may feel overwhelming but building the right team of advisors, including an insurance agent who has expertise with insuring breweries, can make the process much less complicated so at the end of the day, after a couple cold brews, brewery owners can go to bed feeling comfortable that should something bad happen at the brewery the right insurance is in place to put the pieces back together and get back to brewing great beer. Cheers!
Craft beverage consumers are often quick to judge a book by its cover, or in this case, a beer by its packaging. The quality of beer comes first and foremost, but how a beer looks on retail shelves can also drive or sink a brewery’s profits. Packaging machines are useful to breweries for many reasons, including efficiently and attractively packaging beer and cans in cartons. Depending on the size of a brewery’s operations and its goals, these machines range from small hand machines to huge mass production models.
Uses of Brewery Packaging Equipment
These days, very few breweries are packaging their products by hand. Manual processing isn’t fast enough to keep up with demand, but unlike mechanization in the wine industry, there isn’t a strong stigma regarding breweries using machines.
For breweries, packaging equipment comes in the form of case packers and uncasers, can cartoners, case erectors and partition inserters. Innovative companies have developed robotic case packers to pack products into cases and trays, as well as multi-lane diverters to configure cans in the desired format for multi-packs. It may save time and labor if breweries use cartoners that convey, collate, and package cans into multi-pack cartons that are built and glue-sealed.
Meanwhile, other packaging machines work as case and carton sealers, stretch and shrink wrappers, and label applicators. Wrap-around tray packers are commonly used for beer bottles and cans, tray-formers are used for rollover locking, and open-top glue trays are used for 24-count trays of bottles or cans. Large brewery operations typically rely on fully integrated systems that include many of these features including product conveyors, uncasing, single-filling conveyors, lane dividers, dividing wheels, star wheels and sealing equipment.
Benefits of Packing Machines for Breweries
In the early stages of operations or for small and niche breweries, manual packaging may be the preferred operational method, or at least a good starting point. Packaging bottles and cans manually can serve as a preliminary method before growing and saving up for a more automated system. Temporary and transitional packaging services are available for breweries looking to outsource this type of work. However, having your own packaging line typically saves money in the long run and gives brewers greater control over their products.
Packaging machines provide breweries with speed, consistency and efficiency on their packing line, saving employees time and the brewery money. Packaging machines also help a brewery reduce packaging costs, ensure a more consistent appearance, and promote good hygiene to prevent beer contamination. Consistent, well-placed packaging can reinforce and strengthen a brewery’s particular brand and help establish brand recognition and loyalty among consumers.
Top Packaging Machines in the Industry
Packaging machines are used in a wide variety of industries, including food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, industrial products, and non-food consumer goods. In a market with so many choices, some companies now cater to the highly specific needs of breweries.
Based in Brewerton, New York, Schneider Packaging provides case and tray packaging, case sealing, palletizing, and complete end-of-line solution services for its customers. For the beverage industry, Schneider’s gable top packing solution is the stand-out solution designed to run at speeds matching the fastest filling systems. Meanwhile, Schneider incorporates FANUC robotics to create flexible palletizing solutions to meet facility and production requirements. The latest innovations used include ProAdjust technology to increase uptime, patent-pending Intelligent Illumination to maintain case packers, and the proprietary OptiStak software to optimize and simplify pallet generation. Other industries Schneider serves are dairy, food, industrial/chemical/household, paper, personal care/cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and plastics.
Douglas Machine Inc., a packaging solutions company based in Alexandria, Minnesota, specializes in high-quality automated packaging solutions for paperboard, corrugated and shrink-film. Douglas is a 100 percent employee-owned company that has installed more than 9,000 machines in at least 30 countries.
“Douglas provides paperboard horizontal cartoning, RSC, and wrap-around case-packing and tray, shrink, pad/film and film only packaging machinery for the brewery industry at a variety of line speeds and configurations,” said Brenda Larson, Marketing Communications Manager at Douglas Machine.
Meanwhile, in Eugene, Oregon, PakTech is a full-service manufacturing company that delivers environmentally sustainable packaging solutions to the craft beer industry.
“Our handles are simple to grab, carry, and remove your product using a 100 percent recycled handle,” PakTech Sales Manager, Keenan Hoar, told Beverage Master Magazine. “PakTech’s minimalistic design and extensive color options highlight your brand and eliminate the need for obscuring artwork with other types of packaging.”
Hoar also said PakTech offers automated application versatility for flexible production requirements.
“You can apply the handles by hand if you’re a startup or have a limited volume requirement,” he said, “or you can utilize their automated applicators ranging in speed from 120 cans per minute to over 1,500 cans per minute if you have a higher speed operation.”
Accutek Packaging Equipment Companies, Inc. is headquartered in Vista, California but has locations in Irving, Texas and Fort Myers, Florida as well. One of the largest privately-held packaging machinery manufacturers in the U.S., Accutek is a leading manufacturer and developer of complete turnkey packaging solutions. It offers consumers everything from filling to capping machines, conveyors, labeling and sleeving machines, and complete packaging systems.
Vice President Drake Chocholek told Beverage Master Magazine that Accutek often helps start-up companies make the best decisions for their operations. By partnering with a company experienced in this field, brewery owners can better assess whether potential packaging machines are easy to maintain, clean, adjust and upgrade.
“For example, a lot of new producers don’t know there are different grades of quality for glass bottles, or they may not know about bottle washers or rinsers used for cleaning containers before filling,” Chocholek said.
To take this a step further, Chocholek told us about the essential checklist his company uses to help new customers understand their full scope of operations and to make packaging simpler and more affordable.
“After we find out the product and container sizes, we ask them what their budget is, how fast they want the machinery to go, and if they’re in the market for more than one piece of machinery,” he said.
What Breweries are Using and Why
Aaron Williams of Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia told Beverage Master Magazine his brewery specializes in brewing balanced beers for weeknights that pair well with food. Monday Night Brewing opened up its second facility, The Garage, in September 2017 to feature its barrel-aged, sour, and experimental beers. This addition came with an upgrade in equipment.
“We recently upgraded to a 24/4 CFT canning line that we are running at about 250 cans per minute,” Williams said. “We use hi-cone rings packed into trays because it uses the least amount of packaging.”
Meanwhile in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Marble Brewery’s president and brewmaster, Ted Rice, told us about the packaging system that his team currently uses.
“We use a 12-head CFT for canning,” Rice said. “From the CFT, the 12-ounce cans run to a Switchback cartoner for six or 12 packs. The cans can also run to an American Canning Machine PakTech applicator.”
However, finding the best options for machines that carton beer bottles and cans seem to be more of a challenge for breweries.
“Right now, we don’t do any bulk beers in cartons but are actively looking at machines to handle this in a more automated system,” Williams of Monday Night Brewing said. “There are many machines, but it doesn’t seem there is a clear winner based on conversations with other breweries. We currently hand-package our limited sampler packs.”
Douglas Machine may have the solution, however, since they offer a variety of cartoning machinery models that fit a wide range of canning and bottling line speeds and pack configurations.
“For lower speed lines, the intermittent motion Vantra offers an unparalleled speed of 40 plus cartons per minute with range capabilities offering of four to 24 count flexibility,” Larson said. “For higher speed lines, Douglas offers the Spectrum in many models for mid-high-speed lines with speeds up to 250 cartons per minute. The Vantra and Spectrum Center Select offer flexibility to run different diameter and height cans, while the cost-effective Spectrum Center Select offers mid-high-speed capability on a single can diameter capability at a very cost-effective price.”
How to Choose the Right Packaging System
As with every decision made in a brewery, owners must make considerations before investing in a packaging system. Short-term and long-term costs, ease of ongoing maintenance, opportunities for customizable design, integration with existing bottle and can filling systems, as well as choosing the correct machine size are only a handful of things to analyze before purchasing.
Breweries can also reduce their carbon footprint and sustain more eco-friendly operations if they choose packaging products made from 100 percent recycled materials.
“Our products provide an end market for recycled HDPE, helping the economy and environment by providing jobs and keeping plastics out of the landfills and oceans while providing a second life for recycled HDPE plastic,” said Gary Panknin, PakTech’s Sustainability Officer. “Our handle recycling program also provides the opportunity for breweries to participate in keeping our products in the recycling stream and out of the waste stream.”
According to Panknin, 102,592,428 milk jugs were kept out of landfills and repurposed into PakTech handles in 2018, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. “In total, we have diverted 338,267,223 milk jugs from entering the waste stream, kept 20,973 tons of plastic out of the landfills and oceans, and saved 17.90-acre feet of land from being used as landfills for waste,” he said.
PakTech’s system isn’t merely a sustainability badge of honor, however. “The PakTech applicator makes our line far more efficient, and our operators do not experience wrist fatigue from manually applying the PakTech,” said Rice of Marble Brewery. “Having the Switchback cartoner allows our brands to have a clean billboard on the shelves. Using the PakTech allows us to run smaller volumes of seasonals in shrink sleeve cans without designing a carton with its associated costs and minimums.”
Williams of Monday Night Brewing suggests brewers ensure that any company they partner with for packing is credible and trustworthy.”I think the key is to really do your homework and ask around,” he said. “Find out who uses the equipment you’re interested in, what the manufacturer support is like, and if the manufacturer really will stand behind it for the long term. I’ve talked to many breweries that got a great up-front price on their equipment only to find the supplier didn’t really stand behind it.”
With this in mind, Mike Brewster of Schneider Packaging Equipment advises breweries “to do their due diligence on what they foresee their operation looking like in the future. Today, more than ever, consumer trends in the marketplace are changing at a rapid pace. With that, it is critical to align with a manufacturer who offers flexible and scalable solutions to assist you as your operation encounters changes.”
Concerning functionality, Hoar of PakTech said that his team looks at the fill rate when helping a brewery choose the right application for its operations. “It is extremely easy to manually apply PakTech carriers, yet the feasibility of doing so is all dependent on volume,” he said. “It is necessary to look at the cost of utilizing employees to apply the handle against the return on investment of our automated solutions.”
Hoar emphasizes the importance of packaging presentation as well because “by focusing on originality and creative expression, breweries have turned artwork into brand identity.” He also points out the need to know your brewery’s customers and consider portability and sustainability when choosing packaging products because many customers care about these things.
“We understand that many customers have a ‘pack it in, pack it out’ mentality, and we need to support the idea of a circular economy in any capacity,” Hoar said.
Finally, Larson of Douglas Machine recommends that breweries consider future packing patterns and configurations when specifying packaging systems for canning and bottling lines.
“Too often, brewers will select machinery based upon their immediate pack patterns or speeds, therefore buying a machine that cannot handle future pack patterns and speeds due to a lack of flexibility in some machinery offerings,” Larson said. “Additionally, the robustness of machinery is critical as brewers grow their operation and volumes increase to the point they need to add production shifts. It is imperative to consider the design and build design to ensure that a packaging system they purchase is robust enough to run multiple shifts, seven days per week. Initial low costs are long forgotten when experiencing poor or inconsistent performance.”
Head Brewer Joe Kesteloot of Peace Tree Brewing Co. in its Des Moines, Iowa-based innovation brewery. Photo courtesy of Peace Tree Brewing Co.
The long game of brewing isn’t always obvious in the glass. Some producers spend up to two years evaluating what to brew and what equipment will craft the best product. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, but for brewers eager to get started or respond to an expansion demand, it’s critical to have a long-term mindset to produce creatively with fiscal responsibility.
When choosing tanks, especially fermentation tanks, there are numerous questions to answer before snapping up a standard model and placing it in the rack. The equipment in the brewhouse reflects as much about your approach as the end result: attention to detail and processes, ease of production and quality standards.
Patrick Mears is the sales and marketing manager for Marks Design and Metal Works, operating in Vancouver, Washington. Since 2008, Marks Design has specialized in designing custom stainless steel fermenters to brewers’ unique specifications but also fabricates brite tanks, cider tanks and other stainless steel vessels. Mears told Beverage Master Magazine the brewer’s personality, and approach helps inform his company to meet your needs.
“We’ve happily helped many groups who didn’t have a clue what they needed other than a produced volume and a budget. However, our expertise can be more useful if you’ve had a chance hammer out your vibe,” Mears said. “I know that sounds crazy, but it tells us a lot! Are you nerdy about beer and want extreme control over every aspect of the process and log all the data to look for trends? Are you super laid back and simply want to provide your neighborhood with an alternative to Applebee’s? Do you want to be innovative, or are you looking to perfectly reproduce old world beers? Your brewhouse is an extension of you.”
For new producers, knowing what’s needed beforehand can be difficult. Evaluating potential tank requirements by nebulous considerations of volume, beverage, processes and other factors sometimes makes the choice more challenging.
Joe Kesteloot is the head brewer at Peace Tree Brewing, Co. based in Knoxville, Iowa. Peace Tree, established in 2010, now has three taprooms in Iowa and an extended retail presence. They produced approximately 5,500 barrels in 2018. Kesteloot agreed the decision is tough, especially when “you don’t know what your flagship beer(s) may be yet,” but offered particular sources of insight. “It helps to get out in your market and talk to your potential customers, and weigh that information with your strengths. If you have a distributor, you ask what the market needs are. You can also look at the current market trends, but those trends are always evolving.”
Brewers should consider tank choices and sizes by determining, “some multiple of the brewhouse size,” said Bryan Boynton, Ph.D., brewer for Snake River Brewing, a brewery and pub located in Jackson, Wyoming. Established in 1994, Snake River is the state’s oldest brewery, and they now sell their beer throughout the U.S. The company produces an average of 8,000 barrels annually. “A 15 barrel brewhouse would lead to 30 or 60 barrel fermenters, bright tanks and serving tanks.” He suggested, “top manway tanks are ideal for all brewing styles, and especially important for ease of dry hopping; and tanks with racking arms that can rotate in the tank are ideal again for all styles, allowing for ease of transfer and filtering.”
Another consideration that factors into tank selection is the potential for multi-purpose use. William Stacy is the managing director of THIELMANN, a European company with U.S. headquarters in Houston. THIELMANN has produced containers for all types of products for more than 275 years, now with a particular focus on aseptic stainless steel tanks and kegs. In his brewery visits, Stacy said he’s continually impressed with the way producers ask double-duty of the company’s fermenters to maximize their investments.
“Some popular applications for our fermenter include brite tank, carbonation vessel and also a yeast propagation vessel. Large breweries use it for running small batches and test samples, and some even as a serving tank,” Stacy said. “This versatility and competitive price allow for the breweries to afford accessories and customization for the applications they require.”
Kesteloot sometimes takes this approach in the brewhouse. “One of my small-scale tanks doubles as a fermenter and a brite tank. However, I always transfer from fermenter to brite: I don’t ferment in it and leave it in there as brited beer. That tank rotates as one or the other function,” he said. “With most of my beers, I like to make sure they are off as much yeast and sediment as possible before serving or especially packaging.”
“I personally believe using fermenters as unitanks provides the most flexibility,” Mears said. He suggested buying the same amount of tanks as if you were pairing with brites, “but all the tanks would be conical fermenters. This way, your production doesn’t have to slow down because one of your brites are still full—you can just flip the fermenter to brite mode.”
While Boynton believes tanks can be multi-purpose in some instances, he offered a word of caution: “A fermentation tank doubling as a serving tank only works for certain styles of beer,” he said. “Most styles don’t allow for this combination. The removal of old yeast, dry hops and sedimentation that will push through to a consumer usually needs to be avoided.”
Stacy added that some producers intending to diversify their product lines often shop for tanks that can provide the most versatility. “Similar to root beer, sparkling or bubbling water is another offering brewers are moving into—filtering the water and just adding C02 to the tank prior to canning or bottling,” he said. “This is why we encourage brewers to think ahead about tank use and talk with their vendor about what type of kit specifications to accommodate other needs.”
Peace Tree Brewing Co. also crafts root beer, and often uses existing tanks for the process—but carefully. “We have designated hoses, carbonation stones and filler parts for root beer only. Many of those flavors can carry over to other brews, so we keep those pieces of equipment completely separate,” he said. “Even a mixing tank other than our brew system is used for root beer ingredients. Any tank used for root beer goes through a rigorous cleaning to remove any residue. This also applies to any sour beer we make with wild yeast.”
“If I Knew Then What I Know Now….”
The camaraderie of the brewing industry means the portal to quality information is always open. We requested our experts provide candid insight into tank, fitting and equipment decisions, and how they influence processes.
Boynton of Snake River Brewing stressed the significance of many factors. “Pressure Relief Valves (PRV) are very important for safety. If possible, buy tanks that are larger than expected brews to allow for a vigorous fermentation and not clog PRVs—which can lead to an explosion with grave consequences,” he said.
“Also, temperature probes that control the fermentation temperature need to be placed where one brew from the brewhouse is within its contact. If the first 15 bbl brew goes into the 60 bbl fermenter and doesn’t reach a temperature probe to turn on the cooling system, you have an uncontrolled fermentation,” Boynton said. “Finally, ease of cleaning without shadows, which are areas that the clean-in-place system doesn’t connect with well; and multiple zone cooling controls are the most important.
When asked what he wouldn’t do again, he replied: “No side manway tanks would have been purchased, and there was no need for conditioning tanks.”
Kesteloot of Peace Tree Brewing Co. seconded Boynton’s reference to temperature probes. “Probe location in fermenters and brite tanks are important. If you’re brewing multiple brews in a single fermenter, make sure the temperature probe is able to read the first brew, or maybe add multiple probes,” he said.
He also explained why tank shape and cooling jackets might matter to your processes. “We look at height-to-width ratios and cone pitch. Yeast can react differently in certain shape vessels. The right cone angle is necessary to collect healthy yeast,” Kesteloot said. “Even the way the cooling jackets are spaced or separated can help with certain applications. If you’re packaging from a brite tank and unable to finish the tank, the cooling jackets need to be located in the right spot to keep beer cold until packaging can resume.”
He added that learning how to accommodate Peace Tree’s expansion pointed to one crucial detail: “Anticipating the amount of cold storage we needed was a big challenge. It seems like we could always use more. Maximize the efficiencies in your processes as much as possible, so you have more wiggle room to be flexible later.”
Manufacturing experts Mears from Marks Design and Stacy from THIELMANN highlighted a fundamental but critical factor: bad tank quality reduces output and increases contamination.
“We offer field services in addition to tanks and systems, and have spent many field hours fixing tanks from other manufacturers that took shortcuts during fabrication or used low-quality material,” Mears said. “Within the past year, we fixed four 240 bbl fermenters at a single location! The tank manufacturer took shortcuts during fabrication, causing cracked welds on the inside of the tank within just a few years of purchase. Those cracks not only caused the tanks to leak precious revenue but also put the tank at risk of producing off-flavors due to the now unsanitary environment.”
Stacy echoed choosing a quality product and encouraged producers to “specify in tank selection aseptic characteristics and polished welds. This assures breweries that if operated properly, these aspects can reduce the risks of contamination. THIELMANN tanks, for example, are a fully aseptic design for easy cleaning with a simple spray ball,” he said. “We’ve recently seen some poorly-welded vessels in breweries and wineries. This substandard welding and lack of polished welds allow for severe risks with contamination.”
Invite the Vendors to Come to You
The nuts and bolts of tank decisions come down to what your vision is, and how well you communicate this to your equipment vendors.
Each producer has a different purchasing method—some buy tanks outright, using finance options that make sense within the guidelines of individual business plans. Others may lease or rent—an especially popular choice for seasonality spikes, short runs or additional product lines.
What does the typical fermentation tank cost? It depends. Establishing a base of $6,000-$7,000 or more per unit provides a launch pad, but what if the tank is multi-purpose? A standard brite tank may start at $2,500, but be as high as $6,000. Does this leave more wiggle room for additional equipment or change what you’ll produce? Should you utilize a turnkey system and work from that for a while?
Mears told Beverage Master Magazine that customization is what saves money in the long run. “The biggest mistake I see over and over is a brewer simply sending an email or filling out an online form and asking for a standard quote on a system,” he said. “If you take the time to have a conversation with us, we can put together a real quote that fits your specific needs. Explain what you really want, and if it isn’t in your current budget, we can help you decide what comes now vs. later.”
Stacy added: “We find budgets are a large factor, especially for new breweries. I would suggest they ask about the versatility of the systems. To be able to buy one piece of equipment and get three or four different uses out of it is a rare find,” he said. “For specification purposes, we have added many of the popular fittings and connections to make a tank a versatile, multi-use vessel. We also can customize the manways and connections to meet the specific needs.”
Producers that take advantage of customization find it allows for better operations. “We had vendors come to look at our space, and scale our square footage vs. ceiling height to maximize the most volume possible,” Kesteloot said. “They also examined our layout to see if things were going to flow from tank to tank, to packaging and out the door.
Based on increased demand, Boynton at Snake River Brewing said the company scaled up as needed. “We have a hodgepodge of tanks purchased through different sources. The new large 60 barrel tanks we purchased are very nice.”
While no one can predict the future, these experts suggested using your objectives to determine tank needs. “Right now, with the popularity of IPAs, there are many specialized tanks for dry hopping as well as techniques for dry hopping in standard tanks,” Kesteloot said. “Breweries are using this equipment to maximize flavors and aromas. These are some things we’ll take into account in future expansions. We may even go backward in some applications and add some old, traditional methods.”
Maximizing budget. Providing quality products. Preparing for growth. It’s incredible to think your tank selection is a primary catalyst to accomplish these and other objectives. So take time and let the experts walk you through a set-up that fits your needs. “It’s important to brewers to be innovative, but it’s also important to be consistent and crank out the moneymakers,” Mears said. “Why not have a system that can do both?”
Marty Jones of Cask Global Canning Solutions has worked tirelessly for nearly twenty years convincing brewers that cans were the right way to package craft beer. He was one of the founders of Oskar Blues Brewery’s “Canned Beer Apocalypse” and remembers the pioneer days of canned craft beer. “I would serve canned beers at fests, and folks would walk by and wave and say ‘I don’t drink canned beer,’ and follow that remark with some additional misinformed comment, such as ‘Cans are bad for beer,’ or ‘Cans impart metallic flavors to beer.’ Many brewers thought we were nuts, heathens, committing sacrilege by questioning the long-revered brown bottle. A few breweries wished misfortune upon us! I always made a point to talk about the benefits of cans, not the negatives of bottles, and that helped to temper some of the backlash. Most consumers loved the idea.”
Many of those benefits include fitting in with into the younger generation’s more environmentally conscious and active lifestyle.
“Cans are welcome in loads of places where bottles are not,” Jones said. “They dramatically shrink shipping costs and energy consumption for shipped beer. They are Mother Nature’s preferred beer package and the most recycled beverage package on the planet. They make it super easy to take goose-bumping beer to the beach, the boat, the backcountry, the bathtub, and other places where beer is a treasured life enhancer.”
Cans also provide protection that isn’t necessarily guaranteed with bottles.
“Cans lock in the flavor of beer better than even dark glass bottles,” according to Mother Road Mobile Canning’s website, motherroad.com. “In glass bottles (especially green and clear ones) beer can become lightstruck, a condition caused when ultraviolet light breaks down hop-derived isohumulones, breaking them apart and allowing them to bind with sulfur atoms, creating a skunky, off-flavor. This flavor is so common that some people think the skunky character is a normal flavor in some beers. Oxidation is another problem for bottled beer. Bottle caps allow oxygen to pass into the beer making it stale.”
Cans provide a full 360 degrees chance for advertising as well, which according to Sarah Brennan, Marketing and Sales Coordinator for Palmer Canning Systems, “is a draw when you want your product to stand out on a shelf.”
Canned Beer Apocalypse
While working at Oskar Blue’s in 2002, Jones recalls, “We purchased Cask’s original tabletop one-can-at-a-time seamer/filler and became the first U.S. craft brewer to brew and can their beer. At that time a couple of craft brewers had beer in cans that was brewed and canned by others under contract.”
Jones and Oskar Blues went out of their way to make cans exciting, crushing stereotypes and creating the kind of beers that consumers wanted, attracting a following of beer drinkers who helped change the industry.
“For the first few years, I spent most of my time debunking the myths about aluminum cans and talking about the many wonders of cans, rather than talking about the beers we squeezed into those cans. That helped change the perceptions. We made a point of putting especially luscious beers into those cans, to inspire more craft beer lovers to give them a chance. That was super helpful, too,” said Jones. “Slowly, other risk takers took the chance on cans and started to reap the benefits and fast-rising sales. Nowadays the perception of cans in comparison to bottles has changed about 180 degrees. There are still a few can cynics and doubters out there, and people who simply prefer the feel and time-tested merits of bottles. But the most maligned and scorned package a craft brewer could once consider has now become the package of choice for many discerning brewers and beer drinkers. Brewers who swore they would never put their beer in a can have now added the mighty aluminum can to their packaging, or tossed out their bottles completely.”
Purchase vs. Mobile Canning Lines
There are many considerations when deciding whether to purchase, lease or rent a mobile canning unit. Mobile canning services are a great way to get into cans without any capital outlay. Many brewers start with a mobile canner and then eventually move to purchase their own canning lines.
Mobile canning lines offer the convenience of coming to you, no matter the size of your brewery. Every state has a variety of companies to assist you. The advantages of their systems are that they have provided the capital outlay for the equipment. Most mobile canning companies will help with inventory management of cans, ends, handles, case flats and off-site storage options. They focus on the canning so you can focus on the brewing.
However, with the rise in cans and use of mobile canners, some brewers find the service not quite worth it.
“While they can make your packaging very easy, their service comes at a cost. We often hear complaints that busy mobile canners are hard to schedule, and their quality control in terms of dissolved oxygen and product loss rates can be lacking, depending on the quality of the operator. Many brewers also don’t feel comfortable turning something as crucial as their packaging over to someone else,” said Jones.
For those canning less than 300 cases a month, mobile canning is often a great choice. However, for those filling 300 cases or more each month, it may be more beneficial to buy an in-house canning line. Often, an in-house system pays itself off within one to two years, and brewers have complete control over all aspects of packaging and filling.
“If you plan to put your product in cans for the long term, the point to purchase your own canning line is right away. The payback period on a purchase is two years at 300 cases a month and one year at 500 cases a month. On top of that, you’ll have full control over your packaging schedule and quality control program. At 500 cases a month, we have literally saved some customers thousands of dollars per month by helping them buy or finance their own canning system,” said Russell Love, President of Cask Global Canning Solutions.
Creating Your Canning System
Canning system manufacturers like Cask Global and Palmer Canning Systems work with breweries to ensure they make the right choice of canning line for their size, output and budget.
“As you build the system that works for your brewery, keep in mind that Cask offers systems that cater to all budgets down to the nano-brewery level and an entire range of systems from manual systems with as little as a two, three, six or 10-head fill stations systems. We can customize canning systems and accessories for just about any beverage type, and we also provide brite (unpainted) or printed aluminum cans to our customers as well,” Love said.
Palmer Canning System’s Brennan told Beverage Master Magazine that they can customize a system for beverages from beer, wine and coffee to energy drinks and infused juices. “The market is really dictating the rise of canning now. There has been so much data to support that canning your beverage is the better process for quality in things like total package oxygen and DOs. Canning is the way to go, we have just been a part of the steady incline of cans,” she said. “We fabricate fully customizable entire systems at our manufacturing facility in Lafayette, Indiana. We have no problem working with other vendors to incorporate ancillary items to a line, although we also design things like weight checkers and date coders in house.”
Palmer Canning offers fixed and mobile versions of Craft-in-Line can filling and seaming systems, as well as Craftbulk, an empty can de-palletizer; Wavegrip, an auto carrier applicator; Propurge, can filling valves; Craftrinse, an empty can rinser; and Craftdry blower systems.
Cleaning Your Cans
Whether you purchase a custom designed system or put together a variety of components that fit your brewery or a combination thereof, Carleton Helical Technologies has created a can and bottle cleaner suited for existing production lines.
“Our equipment is very versatile. We can easily integrate it into existing lines which is easier than developing a new line,” said Nick Carleton, President of Carleton Helical. “The beauty of our cleaner is that it is very simple to install and operate. It is very rare that we have to install or do start-ups, although we do offer the service. Our cleaner has been used in both can and bottling lines, providing easy change-over with our proprietary HP Inverters [that flip] the cans over for cleaning and back.”
Carleton Helical’s cleaners provide customers the option to clean with ionized air, water or any cleaning solution, starting at 10 cans per minute. “This system is also being used for code dating, flipping the can over for the code date and inspection. This provides a very simple method to place the cans in position for the code date,” said Carleton.
What’s on the Horizon
A trend that’s already common in the brewing world seems to be reaching out into the canning world as well: collaboration.
“We are seeing a real interesting growth in the collaboration space where breweries are partnering with other local craft beverage producers (coffee, cider, Kombucha, craft sodas or craft spirits, etc.) to provide affordable co-packing,” said Cask Global’s Jones. “We design all our canning systems to be very easy to switch between slim, sleek and standard diameter cans which allows a brewery the ability to run 250 mL slim nitro cold brew coffee cans or 12-ounce sleek Kombucha cans one day a week. It’s a great model for cool collaborations and also financial efficiency.”
As a craft beverage manufacturer and business leader, you’re probably familiar with the term cloud computing – but may still have questions about the benefits, costs or risks associated with “moving to the cloud”. This article will answer some of those questions and demonstrate how cloud computing can positively transform your business from the inside out.
What is cloud computing …and why does it matter for my business?
In its most simple form, cloud computing is the use of a shared resource on the internet to store, manage and process data. The cloud allows unique users to access the same software application from any device, anywhere, at any time. Information is easily updated and shared between team members without the need to print files, manually input reports or be in the same physical location.
As an example, take a moment to imagine this structure in place for your accounting processes. With data available in the cloud, your accountant can access and adjust your records in real time.
So, why should you care about cloud computing? The threat of being left behind for one. Cloud computing is quickly becoming a new organizational norm. Emerging research on the topic speaks for itself.
Nearly 90 percent of all financial decision makers are already aware of cloud computing and the overwhelming majority believe cloud computing brings quantifiable business benefits critical to the success of their organizations.
The cloud is the new normal for enterprise applications, with 70 percent of all organizations having at least one application in the cloud today.
Wikibon is predicting enterprise cloud spending will grow at a 16 percent compound annual growth (CAGR) run rate between 2016 and 2026.
Business/data analytics and data storage (both 43 percent), so critical in the competitive craft beverage industry today, are projected to lead the decision for cloud adoption in 2019 and beyond.
Benefits of Cloud Computing
How can cloud computing improve my business?
We’re glad you asked. Here are a few ways cloud computing can positively impact your operational, financial and organizational goals:
Reduced IT and operational costs
Enhanced efficiencies through automation and collaboration
Information mobility and accessibility
Greater visibility into your competitive advantages
Scalability: Successful craft brewers are growing at an unprecedented rate and the ability to scale on an as-needed basis is one of the biggest advantages of cloud computing. Accelerated business growth typically leads to growing pains and missed opportunities resulting from the mismanagement of more data, infrastructure and customers. The right cloud computing solution will grow alongside your business to meet market demands and accommodate growth as technology shifts, revenues grow and your business needs evolve.
Reduced IT and operational costs: When it comes to budgeting for infrastructure, the cloud eliminates hefty upfront costs for computer hardware and licenses. Instead, you pay a monthly software subscription based on usage that can be adjusted over time. Cloud computing allows craft beverage companies to work with business professionals with expertise in areas where your team may be
lacking from a skill set standpoint. It allows you to share information in real time for consultation in areas you would rather outsource such as CFO services, IT, human resource management, sales analytics, accounting, and payroll / performance compensation so you can focus on what you do best which is brewing quality beer. Cloud computing isn’t just good for business – it’s good for the environment, too. In one example, the U.S. General Services Administration reduced server energy consumption by nearly 90 percent and carbon emissions by 85 percent after switching users to a cloud solution.
Enhanced efficiencies through automation and collaboration: Craft business owners are always looking for efficiency savings and implementing a cloud solution means you can say goodbye to manual entries or physical backups to secure data. For example, cloud-based accounting software typically automates processes by importing transaction data on a real-time basis. The cloud computing model empowers team members to collaborate and share information beyond traditional communication methods – allowing multiple facilities and/or taprooms to co-manage production, raw materials, packaging levels and distribution scheduling.
Information mobility and accessibility: Information mobility and accessibility are two major benefits associated with the widespread adoption of smart phones and tablets across the global workforce. Cloud technology gives business owners access to critical data and reports on the go with anytime-anywhere access for quick and more informed decision making. In today’s market as a craft beverage manufacturer, it is critical to maintain ongoing communication via a CRM tool not only within your own sales team but with your distributor partners to ensure opportunities are addressed quickly and everyone is executing as planned. As a business leader, you can customize authorities and grant individual user access through a comprehensive authorization process.
Greater visibility into your competitive advantages: Taking it one step further, the ability for craft beverage companies to access data in real time also makes that data more useful in identifying trends, comparing results to industry benchmarks, monitoring key performance indicators and, ultimately, being a better business partner to your distributors and retailers. Harvard Business Review Analytic Services reported that 74 percent of cloud computing businesses feel they have a competitive advantage.
Increased productivity: The blend of increased collaboration, added efficiencies, enterprisewide visibility and more informed decision making can only lead to one thing: more productivity. In fact, a survey by Frost & Sullivan found companies that invest in collaboration technologies increased productivity by as much as 400 percent.7 Cloud solutions allow employees, service providers and senior leadership to devote more time and energy to achieving strategic business goals. In some cases, it can also free up resources for the other ongoing capital investments required from beverage companies such as marketing, point of connection materials, event activation, research and development and employee training.
Disaster resistance: Paper files and hardware systems run the risk of being destroyed by natural disasters like fires, hurricanes and earthquakes. While cybersecurity remains a top concern for potential cloud adapters, losing important data to a disaster can completely devastate your business. Cloud technology recovery methods mitigate this risk by securing a copy of your data in a centralized server location, should a natural disaster occur.
What’s the catch? Is security a concern?
Cloud security is a hot topic, and rightfully so. Critics argue the risks of turning your data over to an external provider need to be taken seriously, and data security is the leading concern for IT professionals when it comes to cloud computing.8 Additionally, a mere 23 percent of organizations today completely trust public clouds to keep their data secure9 and many surveyed professionals attribute a delay in cloud adoption to a lack of cybersecurity skills.
There is a widespread misconception that keeping IT operations in house is safer when, in reality, a third-party firm may be more capable of looking after your data. Unlike the IT management process a typical craft beverage company has in place, third-party providers offer devoted cybersecurity professionals with relevant technical credentials and a business model focused predominately around data security. As a result, they bring the expertise required to handle (and alert clients to) threats that include data breaches, insecure interfaces, system vulnerabilities, account hijacking and malicious insiders. Third party providers also keep up with the latest technology and industry developments, bring best practices forward based on interactions with other similar businesses, don’t require a benefits package including vacation and remove the threat of leaving with critical intellectual property such as recipes or brewing process insights.
Cloud Computing: Next steps
Okay, I’ve bought in to the benefits of cloud computing. Now what?
The majority of businesses hire an external consulting firm to help implement a cloud strategy.Working with an outside service provider gives you access to A) the latest and greatest technologies, B) industry specialists with an objective opinion and C) a reduction in both risk and cost.
Look for a firm that will work collaboratively with you to demystify the cloud to help your business thrive while making you a more informed and – as a result – more successful business leader throughout the process. Though the main focus may center on how cloud computing integrates with your financial reporting, cloud computing extends across many areas and is not limited to accounting functions.
Going beyond the basics, your chosen firm should assist you in understanding your data and leveraging it to make better business decisions. Every beverage company is different, so you should handpick a cloud solution customized to your unique needs and use that platform to transform what was once static accounting data and boring operational and sales statistics into a robust business management dashboard.
Business intelligence through analytics – dashboards – help identify trends, benchmarking comparisons, investment choices, planning opportunities and, most importantly, what your next business move should be. The beverage business is becoming less predictable with fewer loyal consumers. Staying a step ahead of your peers in this rapidly changing environment is critical to maintain a competitive advantage and realize long term success.
Cloud computing is more than just a technological fad. It represents the future of business and can transform your data whether it be sales, marketing, inventory/production or accounting records into a useful business tool.
Wade Huseth is a partner with Baker Tilly and has more than 26 years of experience in providing financial accounting advisory services to companies in a variety of industries. Wade also leads the Advantage practice firmwide and specializes in leveraging best-in-class technologies and industry expertise to deliver customized accounting, finance and operational assistance to clients of all sizes
Don’t want to leave the party to pick up the missing ingredients to make your signature cocktail or to try a new recipe? Wish you had options to save time, or you don’t want to head out into the elements to go pick up your favorite alcoholic beverages? Canadians can now enjoy greater options for their alcoholic beverage home delivery, including a wider selection of craft beverage products with Drizly.
In Canada, liquor laws are regulated by each province individually, and some have permitted home delivery of wine beer and spirits for decades. The original alcohol delivery service, Dial a Bottle, was taking orders by phone and delivering bottles before apps or even the internet existed. Today, the home delivery marketplace is flooded with options that make home delivery of alcohol nearly as easy as Uber Eats, and the competition is fierce, leading to lower delivery fees and extra service perks. E-Commerce companies are working with the complete inventory of local, leading liquor retailers and delivering them within 60 minutes to adults of legal drinking age at their homes and even to their offices.
Amazon for Liquor
Drizly, a pioneer and the world’s first and largest alcohol e-commerce marketplace is now launching their services in the city of Vancouver, the province of Alberta, and throughout 26 U.S. states. They’ve been called the “Amazon for Liquor” or “Uber Liquor,” and their approval to operate in Vancouver has been noted as quite the accomplishment, considering that legislative regulation has so far prevented the actual Uber from being allowed within the entire province. Drizly has already been serving consumers in parts of the neighboring province of Alberta for over two years.
Drizly works with local retailers, including Liquor Depot, to bring adults of legal drinking age a wide selection of beer, wine and spirits, with delivery in under 60 minutes through Drizly.com and the Drizly app.
By providing access to inventories from local retailers in each market, the service gives customers a wide selection of beer, wine and spirits at reasonable market prices. In addition to a wide variety of adult beverages, Liquor Depot’s range of popular soft drinks, juices, ice and other mixers, are also be available on the Drizly platform. Customers schedule a delivery or in-store pickup. The Drizly’s mobile app and website are deep wells of information, offering cocktail recipes, pro tips and popular adult beverage trends.
Delivery in Vancouver is a flat $4.99, and customers have to purchase a minimum of $20 worth of products from Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn to qualify for delivery.
Simplified Age Verification
Alcanna, formally known as Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd., is North America’s largest publicly traded alcoholic beverage retailer and includes a chain of more than 240 stores operating in Alberta, British Columbia, Kentucky and Alaska, with both Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn under its banner. They carry a vast selection of craft beers, ciders and spirits, some of which are not available in provincially run liquor stores.
Although other liquor delivery services exist in the area, Drizly’s verification software ensures that liquor is kept out of the hands of minors. Age verification made the service even more appealing to Alcanna when it was looking for a platform to sell its products on demand.
“Vancouver has been thirsting for everything that Drizly facilitates, not least online access to our vast inventory, an intuitive shopping experience and the convenience of delivery in under an hour. It’s a win-win in every sense of the term,” Fran Coons, Vice President of Operations at Alcanna said in a press release.
By equipping retailers with technology that can verify age and identification, Drizly helps business owners protect their liquor licenses. Their retail partners are provided with a device to scan barcodes on official forms of identification. Drizly’s proprietary ID verification technology enables delivery personnel to verify IDs with accuracy that goes well beyond a manual review. The scans collect the customer’s name, date of birth and the ID expiry date, and the device can determine whether the ID is authentic. Once age and identity are confirmed, the scanned information is deleted from Drizly’s records, so there is no concern about collection or storage of personal information. Retailers aren’t required to use the device and can choose to use the scanner for every delivery or only when employees suspect the customer is underage.
Provincial regulations alcohol delivery services are required to follow under their licensing agreement do not allow delivery services to store liquor themselves. Instead, they must take orders from a verified adult, then purchase the order from a retailer or general merchandise liquor store licensees such as Liquor Barn or Liquor Depot, and deliver the liquor to the adult who ordered it at a place where it is lawful to store or consume. The delivery service license in Alberta is considered a Class D liquor license and costs $200 annually. In British Columbia, licensed establishments are permitted to sell their products online and deliver them to customers only between 9:00 am and 11:30 pm and orders must be delivered on the same day they were placed.
Additionally, in British Columbia, anyone involved in the selling or serving of alcoholic beverages is required to complete “Serving It Right” training. Serving It Right is British Columbia’s mandatory self-study course that teaches licensees, managers, sales staff and servers about their legal responsibilities when serving alcohol, and provides practical techniques to prevent problems related to over-service. This training is extended to and required for alcohol delivery personnel as well. All Drizly delivery drivers are Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn employees, so they go through the same training as in-store staff, knowing how to recognize whether someone should not be served and when a customer may be a minor.
Stop Contamination at the Door with Disinfectant Mats™ from Nelson-Jameson
MARSHFIELD, WIS., December 19, 2018 – One step beyond the ordinary sanitizing footbath, Disinfectant Mats both clean and sanitize footwear before workers enter any processing areas, or anywhere you want to limit the spread of contamination.
While ordinary footbaths don’t provide any scrubbing action to keep users from tracking sediment back into a clean processing environment, Disinfectant Mats feature hundreds of flexible rubber fingers to clean dirt particles from footwear. Constructed of a heavy-duty rubber that won’t sag or allow solution to run out, Disinfectant Mats allow users to wipe their feet while simultaneously lowering the sole of the footwear into the sanitizing solution. The finger design then lets contaminants settle undisturbed, while the footwear contacts clean solution only, and then steps off the mat clean and sanitary.
To learn more about preventing cross-contamination in your plant with innovative selection of Disinfectant Mats and accessories, visit nelsonjameson.com or call one of our product specialists today!
Is there a leading-edge post-season technique to make next year’s hop growing, harvesting and distributing more streamlined and profitable? There are always leaders in the industry who step up, take the risk and invest in the next season with new and improved methods for hop growing. Their plan of action usually contains strategies they’ve discovered with information not yet widely disseminated, which can bring them and the hop industry prosperity, growth and development.
When leaders within the hop industry concentrate on what needs to change or develop for better crop development, they do so knowing the key to success is ramping up during the post-season to acquire and implement new equipment or processes.
Ziemann Holvrieka, worldwide manufacturers of turnkey breweries, brewhouses and fermentation tanks, developed the Hop Back, a dosing vessel with an integrated sieve unit that provides dynamic hot wort hopping suitable for cone hops. Their Hop Slurry is a stainless-steel vessel that pumps, doses and controls fluid through pellets with the different flow direction.
Left Field Hops
Some growers implement strategies for the upcoming season immediately after harvest. They have learned if you wait, you may no longer be a part of the hop breeders, developers or distributors that are on the precipice of an unlimited future.
Rebecca Kneen of Left Field Hops in Canadian province British Columbia is one of those growers leading the pack in preseason preparation. She said there are plenty of tasks to complete during fall and winter to ensure idea rhizome propagation and hop health and keep growers ahead of the game.
“As a rhizome propagator and seller we make sure we do our fall applications of compost and kelp mean on each plant to allow integration of nutrients and bacteria into the soil,” said Kneen. “Fall planting of green manure crops (in particular fall rye) is done for ground cover over winter and added nutrients in the spring. Fall is also the time to check and tighten trellising. Over winter, consider how to adapt your growth strategies for spring, and make sure you have sufficient supply of anchors, twine, compost and cover crop seed.”
Kneen has a keen eye for what needs to change in the BC hop industry, and how to change it.
“We have a history in BC of over-planting one or two varieties (BC Golding for example), creating both a serious risk of vulnerability to disease and a lack of genetic diversity. We already see some issues with growers finding viruses and mildews in plants propagated in nurseries claiming to be part of the Clean Plant Network and having those plants distributed widely, contaminating a lot of new plantings. What is needed at this point is better oversight of nurseries so that plants being propagated are in fact free of disease, and more encouragement of the growing and use of more varieties.”
Mighty Axe Hops
There are many hop breeders with insights into improving not only their operations but also providing techniques, strategies and lessons learned to other hops breeders, farmers, distributors and entities. Eric Sannerud, farmer and CEO at Mighty Axe Hops is happy to provide advice to other growers for their off-season preparation.
“We make sure they all have a decent blanket of soil covering the crowns as additional winter insurance. We also mow down all the dead material from this growing season, one less thing you gotta do in the spring,” said Sannerud.
Sannerud is a leader in the Minnesota hops industry, encouraging future growth within the industry through partnerships between hop growers and brewers. “Mighty Axe Hops is already vetting for commercial production in the state of Minnesota, and we are leading that charge,” he said.
HAAS/Barth-HAAS Group takes a different approach to hop growing. As the world’s largest supplier of hops, they have the capabilities and resources to provide the most cutting-edge innovations and methods to their members. In addition to being a hops supplier, HAAS is also a breeder and research brewery with a focus on helping hop growers and brewers be their absolute best.
Roy Johnson, National Sales Manager with HAAS/Barth-HAAS Group, told Beverage Master Magazine that even though methods don’t change, their goals are always moving.
“We don’t change the irrigation or trellis management from one year to the next, but change out poles when needed. We haven’t had to change how we pelletize either for a while as this is consistent with us,” Johnson said. “However, we are seeing a thirty percent increase over last year in our Citra hops, so we are making adjustments to meet that hops growth rate in our post-harvest plans for the 2019 season.” By seeing the future and making plans to challenge themselves, HAAS/Barth-HAAS Group shows why they have consistently conquered and led the market.
Producing crops or products for any industry and taking the lead to help find solutions to current and potential problems, and sharing those solutions, will often lead to a healthier, more supportive industry. When others are aware and can learn from the intelligent, informed decisions made by a grower or developer, it benefits the end user as well.
Hard Work, Innovation and Timing
The post-season harvest has become one of the most critical times of the year for growers. This pivotal time allows growers to address any issues that they faced over the previous season and solve them using proven and innovated techniques.
Hop demand is as high as its ever been going into the 2019 season. The popularity of craft beer is not waining, and the need for hops will continue to grow. However, success is not guaranteed for every grower. Successful hops growers risk trying new things, strategizing and creating innovative developments to improve the crops and the bottom line. Those who never improve, develop or grow creatively, no matter how marketable the industry, will not meet the demands of the industry.
No one can tell the future, and you won’t know what sort of headaches you may face during the 2019 hops season until its here. However, using this post-season to solve what went wrong in 2018 will significantly lessen problems in the future. Invest in yourself by focusing on improving your operations, gaining more experience and create more hop innovations. Strategize, design and implement a unique plan of action. The new and innovative things you try will result in you looking after those who look after you–the customers. Grow for them because, in the end, they are the ones who not only grow your business but the industry as well.