Low-Alcohol Beer: How to Answer This Global Trend?

The global beer market, both in volume and value, has seen great expansion for many years. This growth in demand has seen both a rise in the number of breweries and an expansion in beer style diversity. Among these styles, one of them is emerging significantly around the world: no and low-alcohol beers (NAB-LAB).

A bigger market provides a larger consumer panel with different expectations and desires. Low-alcohol beers emerged to meet a need which only existed moderately in the past. Indeed, an entire segment of consumers has grown with an education around well-being, the “well-eating” and now the “well-drinking”. Modern beer drinkers pay special attention to the product’s caloric intake, have an increased knowledge about a product’s health benefits and the desire to consume locally if possible. While the third point is not always substantiated, low Alcohol answers the two first consumption trends: in a consumer mindset, less alcohol implies less sugar and a better health benefit, and generally alcohol always has a negative connotation. All other factors being equal, especially taste and price, there is no doubt that for this kind of consumer low-alcohol beer is a viable alternative to “classic beer”. Generally, we can bring this low-alcohol trend closer to the “free” trends, such as additive-free, gluten-free and alcohol-free.

To these new consumers, we must add those who’ve always had this “need” for a low-alcoholic beer. For health reasons, like pregnant women for example or for a religious conviction. Although this need always existed, it has strengthened during the last few years, due to the fact that beer is now a societal phenomenon. Consumers, by wiling to be part of the society, wants to consume trendy product. Therefore, the product must adapt itself to the consumer and give him this possibility. This is the reason behind the rise of low-alcohol beers.

Although demand is quite recent, we must go back much further to find the origin of low-alcohol beers. It’s the year 1920, in the USA and it’s the Prohibition: this constitution signs the interdiction to produce, transport, import and sell alcohol in order to reduce criminality and corruption in the country. Taking place from 1919 to 1933, this law pushes breweries to reinvent themselves to survive. Low-alcoholic beers were born!

Although the style emerged under constraint, nowadays it’s really the brewer’s choice to produce no or low-alcoholic beers to answer the growing demand. When going for this particular style, the question of the process arises: how does a brewer significantly reduce alcohol quantity without changing production process? Because Yeast is the key for alcohol production, it was our duty to help brewers in this task. We, at Fermentis, have been solicited to develop a solution.

Firstly, we had to do the work of screening among all the strains we know, a long-term task to select the ones that could match our research criterion: technical criteria but also sensorial criteria to answer to brewers need. Simon Jeanpierre, Technical Sales Support Manager Asia Pacific, tells us more about it: “To perform our first screening, our target was to list Saccharomyces and non-Saccharomyces strains able to produce only little alcohol. To narrow this list, we looked at microorganisms also able to reproduce as much as possible the expected beer flavours, as we traditionally know. This naturally led us to maltose-negative strain unable to ferment complex sugars (i.e. polymers of glucose), with yet a strong ability to produce higher alcohols, Esters and phenols, participating into the beer aromas.”

To understand our decision to steer our choice towards maltose-negative strains, you just have to look at the classical composition of a beer wort on the schema here below. Unlike the other strains of Fermentis range, maltose-negative strains only have the capacity to ferment glucose (DP1, single sugar chains), the equivalent of 10 to 15% of total sugars in wort.  Less fermentable sugars imply a lower alcohol production in the final beer.

low alcohol yeast selection

This done, the next step was to verify our hypothesis with a trial protocol, it’s Simon who explains it: “We started with the beginning: a recipe. This recipe had to produce a classic wort at a standard density of 15, 10, 8 and 6°P (1061, 1040, 1032 and 1024 in specific density) fermented at 20°C (68°F). It was then fermented with all screened strains and accurately followed-up on sugar consumption and alcohol production. A tasting with a panel of experts finally allowed us to choose the winning strain that would not only perform well in low alcohol production but also provide essential aromas expected in the beer during a proper fermentation.”  Moreover, this yeast produces “clean beers” without off-flavours that are commonly found in NAB.

The strain we have selected after duplicating this trial protocol many times is a Saccharomyces chevalieri that we named SafBrew™ LA-01, LA simply for Low Alcohol.  We chose this strain because it showed excellent results during our fermentation trials as demonstrated hereunder. For every tested density, the fermentation reached its plateau after 60hrs for an alcohol level between 0,4 and 1,2% ABV, corresponding to an apparent degree of fermentation about 14%. We have noted a positive correlation between final degree of alcohol and wort initial density, so we are able to say that an initial density of 7°P (1028 in specific density) is ideal to reach 0,5% ABV which is the maximum alcohol level tolerated in many countries to write “No-alcoholic beer” on the label.

SafBrew LA-01 Fermentation trial

As previously presented, this strain is maltose-negative, it only consumes simple sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose) leaving behind the maltose and other complex sugars such as maltotriose and dextrins. Logically, we find more residual sugars in our low-alcoholic beer. The below graph confirms that in numbers, DP2 means disaccharides which are mainly maltose and DP3 means trisaccharides which are mainly maltotriose.

SafBrew LA-01 sugar consumption

We have seen that in purely scientific terms, SafBrew™ LA-01 allows us to brew a NAB-LAB, but what about the sensory profile of the beer itself? This is a legitimate question because such a high level of residual maltose doesn’t exist in “classic” beers. Maltose is a sugar able to bring a clean sweetness. In the majority of beers, it doesn’t have the chance to express its potential because it’s turned into alcohol and CO2 by yeasts. Therefore, it’s the alcohol which will mainly bring the roundness and sweetness perception in the mouth (or to Mouthfeel). In a NAB-LAB, residual maltose can play this role because alcohol is present in small quantity only. However, if sweetness level in your final beer worries you, it’s easy to balance it with several brewing tools as Simon explains to us: “Bitterness level plays a great role and anything above 15 IBU for 0.5% ABV is a good target to balance the sweetness level. Increasing your water hardness gives a firmer bitterness too. On the cereal side, limit the use of caramel malts and the sweet flavour associated with them. To finish balancing the bill, there is of course the acidity. You can either pre-acidify your wort prior to fermentation or use greater carbonation and its associated carbonic acid which also propels aroma.”

Another important thing when we are talking about sensory profile is the fact that SafBrew™ LA-01 is a POF + strain. By being classified positive (+), SafBrew™ LA-01 owns a gene which expresses the POF character, POF meaning phenolic off flavour. In other words, this yeast has a specific enzyme that decarboxylates phenolic acids, like ferulic acid and coumaric acid, present in wort and thus producing respectively the flavour-active compounds 4VG and 4VP. These compounds contribute to spicy, clove-like flavours which, depending on the concentration, may produce a spicy and complex character. Note that in a NAB-LABs brewed with SafBrew™ LA-01, this phenolic side will be very light as described by Simon: “From a sensory perspective we really enjoyed the slight phenolic expression it develops. Keep in mind that the expression of a POF character depends on the amount of ferulic acid you have in your malt. In a NAB-LAB, you will therefore only have a limited expression from the recommended lower amount of malt”.

Last but not the least, the pasteurization topic. Pasteurization is a technique invented in 1865 by Louis Pasteur for food conservation by killing all living microorganisms in the product. The process is theoretically quite simple: you heat the product between 62°C to 88°C (144 to 191°F) before brutally cooling it. Pasteurization is not popular in the craft beer industry because it’s linked to standardization of the product or because, with this process, the beer is not really “alive” anymore and will not evolve over time.

But in regard to our recommendation for NAB-LAB, pasteurization is mandatory. You are certainly aware of how much yeasts and microorganisms like sugars and how much residual sugars we still have in a NAB-LAB at the end of fermentation. If a pasteurization is not done, any living microorganisms could eventually ferment maltose and totally alter the beer or even create overcarbonation in bottles, which could be dangerous. Different Pasteurization techniques exist such as tunnel pasteurization, whichever technique is chosen, Simon explains how much you have to pasteurize: “As soon as you have reached your max ADF of 13-15%, it will be important to inhibit eventual living friends from further fermenting. We studied different cross-contamination levels with Saccharomyces cerevisiae and observed a minimum safe limit of 80 PU in order to prevent growth in a brew fermented with SafBrew™ LA-01. We recommend the range of 80-120 PU.” PU signifies Pasteur Units, in terms of affect, one PU is equivalent to heating to 60°C in one minute. To calculate your pasteurization level, the formula is the following:

PU= t x 1,393 (T-60)

Where t is the time you heat in minutes and T is the temperature in °C.

A true alternative to pasteurization doesn’t really exist, it remains the best technique for ensuring optimal microbiology of a beer. We know that this technique is not accessible to every brewer and as Simon explains, we are constantly looking for solutions for small breweries: “Fermentis is aware that such equipment can be limited to big scale breweries. This is why we are working on alternatives to offer craft brewers the best performance in fermenting flavourful NAB-LAB with our SafBrew™ LA-01. Such alternatives exist through intrusive (biotechnology) or non-intrusive methods (cool chain). Feel free to reach out to us to learn more and receive tailor-made advice on your NAB-LAB fermentation management and hygiene practices.”

Simon Jeanpierre, Hugo Picard

Palate-Pleasing Chemistry: Keep Taste Buds Excited with New Twists on Flavor

By: Cheryl Gray

In the flavoring industry, it’s all about chemistry. Literally. Food chemists work to identify, develop and improve upon a good thing. For beverages regulated by the TTB, the balance is in creating new tastes for drinks such as beer, distilled spirits, sake, wine and kombucha without comprising the integrity of the product.

Food scientists pair expertise with artistry, combining knowledge of the chemistry of flavor with the analytical techniques involved in creating new flavors. 

If You Can Imagine It, We Can Create It

  Just ask Mother Murphy’s Flavorings, headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, and servicing multiple industries in 30 countries around the globe. In business since 1946, its research and development team has created a catalog of more than 60,000 flavors,  lending credence to the company motto: “If you can imagine it, we can create it.”

  For the beer and spirits industries, Mother Murphy’s focuses on fruits and botanicals to enhance the naturally occurring flavor notes and characteristics in aged alcohol and infused liquors. It also works with craft brewers and distilleries to develop trademark, recognizable flavors. Neither size nor season matter – the company provides small-batch flavoring needs for small breweries and distilleries and much larger orders for international conglomerates. 

  Al Murphy, whose grandfather and great uncle started the family-owned business, is co-President of Mother Murphy’s. He is a member of several industry trade associations and has traveled abroad to learn about the beer and spirits industries. His knowledge includes the processes involved in producing gin, whiskey, botanical spirits, brandy and wine.

  Murphy told Beverage Master Magazine why creating flavored beers and distilled products requires specific skills. “A person that knows how to create flavorful beverages has a unique skill set in itself,” he said. “It takes a different skill set to make a blended spirit, unique skill set to create a distilled spirit, a different skill set to be a brewer and different skill set to create a flavored product.”

  Murphy said business savvy brewers and distillers recognize how uniquely flavored products can draw new consumers.

  “Flavors create memories, and people want to have a product that tastes good,” he said. “The spirits industry has been able to achieve a lot of success through flavors, which brings more people that wouldn’t drink a traditional non-flavored spirit to try a product.”

  There are some precautions, though, Murphy warns, that every craft brewery and distillery should heed when entering the flavoring space. 

  “Flavor by itself is one aspect of building a flavorful product. There are other factors, such as acid blends and sugars, that are a part of the overall experience of tasting a product. If you don’t know how to build a beverage product without the other ingredients, then it is like building a car without an engine.” 

  Beyond flavorings, Mother Murphy’s provides various services for its craft brewers and distillers, lending invaluable expertise in many different areas.

  “We have expert folks within our organization and a variety of solutions to help all types of people in the category,” said Murphy. “We are constantly solving problems for small guys that need more than flavors. We provide market trends for different aspects. We also offer beverage services depending on the customer needs in the marketplace.”

Made From the Real Thing

  Potomac Distilling Company knows its way around the world of flavored rums. When Todd Thrasher launched his Washington, D.C.-based distillery in the wharf district near the banks of the Potomac River, he did it with his flagship Thrasher’s Green Spiced Rum, created with an original blend of herbs that he started out growing in his backyard.

  Now, nearly four years later, Potomac Distilling Company grows those same herbs on its rooftop garden. A combination of green cardamom, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and lemongrass creates the spirit. The distillery uses it in cocktails like Thrasher’s signature Rum and Tonic, conjured from his traveling adventures to the West Indies and South Pacific.

  “There are many contributing factors to the increased popularity of flavored rums. I like to think of Thrasher’s Rum as ‘vacation in a bottle,’ and I think we all crave a dreamy sense of escapism!” said Thrasher. “Flavored rums also make it really easy to mix cocktails at home because the spirit provides a depth of taste. Flavored rums and their aromas have provided a true sense of place for me – transporting me to my island-hopping adventures as a scuba dive instructor.”

  Potomac Distillery boasts six signature rums. Among them is Thrasher’s version of a dry – not sugary sweet – Thrasher’s Spiced Rum, made from a combination of allspice, cinnamon, clove, orange peels, star anise and vanilla bean, all steeped in Thrasher’s White Rum to create a flavored product.   

  Still another of the distillery’s flavored spirits is Thrasher’s Coconut Rum, among the few on the market made without extract. Instead, Thrasher uses 60 pounds of raw Thai coconut heated at 180 degrees Fahrenheit. He then places the coconut mix into a gin basket to transform its vapors into liquid. From there, the liquid is “proofed down,” dehydrated, toasted and left to sit for 80 days at room temperature. The result is a coconut rum made from the real thing.

  These variations of flavored rum do not come by accident. Thrasher has an extensive background in spearheading multiple well-known bars throughout Washington, D.C. He received his training at Moonshine University in Louisville, Kentucky, alongside gathering information from other distillers.

  In all, Thrasher has created six rums, including one just introduced last year, called Relaxed Rum, which is aged in American oak barrels for 24 months. The result, Thrasher said, is a rum with a smooth flavor touched by hints of vanilla and the smoky notes of tobacco. The Thrasher Rum collection is featured at the adjoining bar, Tiki TNT, and is also available for ordering through partner locations.

Teasing Taste Buds With Flavor

  Cream Ale is just one of the creations of 2 Silos Brewery in historic Manassas, Virginia. This award-winning brewery has launched flavored beers and ales with catchy monikers like Citralicious American IPA, featuring whole tangerine puree, and Squared Pants, a fruity sour made with pineapple and guava purees.

  The idea for 2 Silos Brewery took shape in 2014 when co-founders Forrest Morgan and Marcus Silva began trading ideas for creating a brewery that could become a hub for hospitality. That idea is now a popular destination spot in Northern Virginia on the Farm Brew LIVE campus at Innovation Park in Virginia’s Prince William County. The brewery draws locals and tourists alike, who come to sample beers flavored by a combination of fruits, spices and other natural sources. The facility also houses canning and keg operations and an in-house quality control lab.

  2 Silos creates products with the goal of teasing taste buds with flavors that are familiar but with surprising twists. Its Hua’ekola – translated as fruit beer – is ladened with purees of passion fruit, blood orange and pink guava. Seasonal options include a Gingerbread Ale infused with ginger, cinnamon and clove. Another is Pumpkin Ale which, as the name implies, features pumpkin puree. The brewery’s Indulgence Series showcases a dessert-worthy Fudgetastic Imperial Stout –a blend of the brewery’s Old Dominion Barrel Reserve Series with an infusion of chocolate fudge, coconut and natural almond flavors. 

  Though the flavor names are quirky, 2 Silos Brewery is committed to serving its area through philanthropy, funded by one of its flavored creations. One hundred percent of the proceeds from sales of its Raspberry Cream Ale support The Sweet Julia Grace Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit servicing children with serious medical challenges.

  Blending flavorings for beer and distilled spirits is a craft unto itself. Get it right, and breweries and distilleries can create a niche market for their products that broaden their appeal to consumers looking for new ways to enjoy old favorites.

Vegan-Friendly Beer

A Growing Trend To Watch This Year

By: Natasha Dhayagude, CEO, Chinova Bioworks

In an industry as competitive and ever-changing in terms of new products and trends, the ingredients for developing beer are constantly evolving. One trend to watch is the plant-based movement. Whether consumers are vegan or not, many consumers are paying more attention to what is on the ingredient label before they consume their favorite foods and beverages.

  Examine most beer labels carefully and currently, you will find that many beer brands are using animal-based compounds to process alcoholic beverages. Some animal-based compounds that are widely used throughout the production process of beer and alcoholic beverages are pepsin, a foaming agent obtained from stomach enzymes of pigs; chitin, derived from lobster and crab shells; and carmine, which is found in the crushed scales of cochineal insects. Another commonly used compound is isinglass, which is a kind of gelatin obtained from fish swim bladder. These compounds are often used in the alcohol production and filtering process to make drinks appear clearer and brighter. Clearing is an aesthetic concern and stability issue; it does not only look better, but it is more stable than cloudy beer.

But what if you Live a Vegan Lifestyle? Can You Still Enjoy beer?

  Because the vegan lifestyle is grounded in plant-based products, beer manufacturers must ensure the animal add-ons are completely taken off the list during alcohol production. With new technology, leading beer makers, including Budweiser, Coors, Corona and Heineken, have already begun shifting its processing to incorporate vegan-based ingredients instead of animal-derived ones.

  Vegan brewing is a growing trend, as more consumers are looking towards environmentally sustainable, plant-based options when purchasing food and beverages. While the market for vegan, gluten-free and low-calorie beers is still somewhat small, this industry is set to begin expanding as future generations become increasingly aware about the ingredients in their food and beverages. The growing trend of vegan brewing stems from millennials who are making more conscious decisions about what they consume, even when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Vegan beverages require a series of preparation and ingredients to meet the expectations of vegan consumers. Veganism has inspired the alcoholic beverage industry to incorporate plant-based and animal cruelty-free products. For many, being vegan has gone farther than just a trend; it is a lifestyle that many live by.

  Chinova Bioworks launched a major research initiative with College Communautaire du Nouveau Brunwick’s (CCNB) INNOV centre, supported by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Voucher Fund in 2021 to develop a new fining agent for vegan-friendly beer. Fining agents are used in breweries to clarify and brighten beer. The term “fining” is used to describe the forced clarification process. It increases the brightness of the finished beer by removing suspended yeast and haze-forming proteins and polyphenols. A beer with elevated levels of haze tends to deteriorate rapidly. This process also shortens aging times by removing the excess flavor-destabilizing components from the finished beer.

  For years, CCNB’s Grand Falls campus has developed technologies around brewing and distilling. Now, our company, Chinova Bioworks, has provided CCNB with a viable product and is putting its clean-label expertise to leverage the vast depth of brewing expertise at CCNB’s campus. Through this research, Chinova Bioworks will develop a new application for its proprietary white button mushroom fiber, Chiber, as a rapid fining agent for breweries. White button mushrooms contain many health benefits. Aside from the white button mushroom improving the quality of a product, it also has a notable amount of vitamin D minerals infused within the mushroom itself.

  Chinova’s mushroom extract is also a natural solution to reducing food waste and assisting in the production of vegan-friendly alcoholic beverages. Chiber is a cost effective, sustainable and vegan-friendly solution for the brewing industry. Before being used by breweries, Chiber has also been used for plant-based meat, dairy alternatives, sauces and condiments. It is a pure fiber extracted sourced from the stems of white button mushrooms that help improve quality, freshness and shelf-life and does not contain any allergenic materials from the mushroom, which results in increased consumer satisfaction and reduced food waste. Testing is also conducted to confirm the absence of regulated allergens. Chiber is odorless and tasteless; it does not alter the taste, color or consistency of beverages.

  Early results have shown that Chiber works eight times faster at settling yeast post-fermentation and can leave residual antimicrobial benefits to the beer, which makes it stay fresh longer. Chiber is a one-for-one replacement for artificial preservatives that provides the same protection from microbial spoilage, while being a natural and clean label ingredient. Chiber holds many certifications including: vegan, kosher, halal, organic compliant, non-GMO, declared allergen-free, paleo, keto-friendly, low FODMAP, gluten-free, Whole 30, and it has no sodium contribution.

  This research initiative comes at a time when many breweries are working to shift to vegan-friendly beverages to keep up with consumer demand for more sustainable products. Chinova Bioworks’ technology would provide brewers a vegan alternative to animal-based, isinglass fining agents and synthetic polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP) that has long been used in the beverage industry as a processing aid. Because many people are searching for vegan and plant-based options in every aspect of their lifestyle, Chinova Bioworks is committed to providing sustainable solutions through our white button mushroom fiber. Our goal is to help manufacturers produce clean-label ingredients and reduce food waste. Alcoholic beverages, beers in particular, are filled with animal-derived and synthetic ingredients, so we believe Chiber can make an impact for beer brands looking to expand their offerings to consumers. With this research, producers in the beverage industry will be able to consider the opportunity to incorporate vegan-friendly and sustainable products into their own beverages using clean ingredients. This research initiative will pave the way toward more vegan-friendly and sustainable beer and alcoholic beverages.

  In 2021, Chinova Bioworks worked on the research portion of the vegan beer initiative and with early adopters for market testing, while actively seeking innovative companies to take part in this initiative. Once this research initiative phase is completed, we expect that Chiber for alcoholic beverages will become available during the first half of 2022. The future for beverage companies is exciting and new technologies like Chiber may help many expand beverage offerings to a wider range of consumers looking for a good brew.

  Natasha Dhayagude, CEO and co-founder of Chinova Bioworks, a food technology company founded in 2016 to develop natural, clean-label preservatives extracted from mushrooms for the food and beverage industry. Chinova is headquartered in New Brunswick, Canada, and 90% of her team is made up of women practicing in STEM fields. Dhayaguede was named Startup Canada’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and Startup Canada’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019 for her role in co-founding Chinova. Since then, she has raised $4.5 million in capital investment from major food-technology venture capitalists and has formed strategic partnerships with major multinational producers in the food-technology industry. Dhayagude earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of New Brunswick.

 For more on Chinova Bioworks, visit https://www.chinovabioworks.com

Packaging With a Purpose

How the Right Packaging Can Protect, Promote & Preserve Your Craft Beer

By: Cheryl Gray

Putting a distinctive face on a craft beer product means giving it a good chance to shine in the marketplace spotlight. However, that’s only part of the role of packaging. It should also protect craft beer from outside contamination while preserving its flavor integrity.

Equipment

  Enter the expertise of companies that shape the multiple roles of packaging for breweries. Among them is SKA Fabricating of Durango, Colorado. Founded in 2012, SKA Fabricating is the result of a demand for a can depalletizer designed by Matt Vincent, one of three partners in Durango’s award-winning SKA Brewery. SKA Fabricating now employs more than 70 people and manufactures and sells depalletizers, conveyors and packaging line equipment to businesses worldwide.

  Ska Fabricating has more than 1,000 clients in 23 countries, providing them with depalletizers and other custom packaging line equipment. Beyond the craft beer industry, the company also provides packaging line equipment to producers of food and beverages such as coffee, tea, water, kombucha, soda and orange juice. Non-beverage industries include aerosol, paint cans and spice jars.

  The size and capacity of systems built by SKA Fabricating fit virtually any brewery packaging line need. They range from a 20’ x 20’ square at 20 containers a minute to a 60’ x 60’ square running 250 CPM and above. The company is big on automated packaging line systems, touting them as more economical since automation requires less manpower. However, SKA Fabricating provides manual systems for clients who prefer them, such as start-up breweries on a tight budget. Those manual systems are available for half-height use and do require more personnel. As breweries grow and want to advance to automatic packaging systems, SKA Fabricating can help with the transition. 

Filling

  Another part of packaging is filling the cans and bottles that craft brewers use as containers for their products. XpressFill offers multiple fillers for the craft brewing industries. Rod Silver spearheads marketing and sales for the company.

  “XpressFill’s filling equipment is suitable for breweries that are not ready to invest in a full-blown production line. Our artisan brewers can realize significant savings in their efforts to grow their markets before making such a significant investment.”

  Since XpressFill offers fillers specifically with start-ups and smaller craft brewers in mind, the company promotes its products as the gateway to an opportunity for artisan brewers to run efficient, cost-saving packaging production lines. The company cites its products as top industry choices when it comes to being affordable, compact, user friendly and easy to maintain.

  Silver added that customer support is an important key to client satisfaction and that XpressFill has products for production brewing lines, large and small. He described how brewery clients are already benefitting from the range of products that his company has on the market, all designed to optimize productivity.

  “We offer counter-pressure fillers for both bottles and cans. We also offer an open filler that will fill both bottles and cans,” Silver said. “The XF4500C is a counter pressure system for cans capable of filling 200 12 ounce cans per hour. The XF2200 (two-spout) and XF4400 (four-spout) are open fill systems for cans capable of filling 300 to 600 cans per hour. The XF2200 and XF4400 can also be adapted to open fill bottles. The XF2500 (two-spout) and XF4500 (four-spout) are counter pressure systems for bottles capable of filling 200 to 400 12 ounce bottles per hour.”

  Silver laid out the pros and cons of manual versus automated production lines. “The most obvious distinction is production capacity and cost. The XpressFill systems are affordable for start-up breweries, ranging from $2,500 to $6,500. Automated systems are, at a minimum order of magnitudes, more expensive. Often, brewpubs will provide cans or bottles to be sold at the pub in limited quantities. Brewers getting started in retailing their brews will want to start in a deliberate manner to test the market. Larger breweries will also use our fillers for small batch or specialized runs that do not require start-up of larger production facilities or mobile operators.”

  Silver described how XpressFill works to protect the integrity of the beer inside any container. “All of our fillers have a pre-fill CO2 purge cycle to minimize the oxygen in the container prior to the fill cycle. Our can-fillers also have a post-fill top-off function to ensure an adequate layer of foam on which to place the lid. The counter pressure systems require a minimal air compressor to operate the pneumatic actuators. Our fillers operate at 110 volts, although they can be provided at 220 volts for our international customers.”

  Ease of use is also important. Silver said that his company prides itself on the simple operation of its products.“XpressFill can-fillers can easily be operated by a single user. Weighing under 40 pounds, they are intended to be used on a tabletop for portability. A few test runs are required to dial in the settings and bring the equipment to temperature for best results. Our fillers will purge and fill the cans, and a separate seamer is required. To maximize the production and efficiency, many of our customers use a second operator for the seaming function.”

  Silver said that XpressFill products have state-of-the-art safety features, compliant with industry-standard safety measures, including all applicable electrical and mechanical requirements. All materials in the flow path are food grade and meet the standards set by the National Sanitation Foundation.

  Fillmore Packaging Solutions is another company focused on small craft brewers. Its history highlights how owner Tony Saballa, a craft brewer in his own right, founded the company because he couldn’t find products on the market catering to the needs of small breweries like his.

  Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Fillmore Packaging Solutions provides its clients with options for automated can filling machines that utilize an automatic shutoff feature. This prevents cans from overfilling, a costly and time-consuming production line mishap. The product’s four-head can-filler is designed to fit into small spaces and accommodate small budgets. The product features double pre-evacuation counter-pressure filling, designed as an effective method of reducing dissolved oxygen during beer packaging. It can fill 12 to 16 cans per minute. Standard features on the product include under lid gassing, automatic lid placement and seaming. Additional features such as tank and CO2  pressure sensing and temperature monitoring with onscreen readout help to enhance the product’s ease of use. 

  The firm has also created two- and four-head filler machines for bottles. The machines operate on 110v/220v and compressed air. Fill rates for the two-head machine range from six to eight bottles per minute. The four-head machine fills at a rate of 12 to 16 bottles per minute. Features for both include automatic filling and self-leveling to correct fill height. The four-head model has a feature that pushes bottles onto the production line’s packing table. The models are operator-controlled from start to stop, loading and unloading bottles and loading crowns onto crown heads for capping. Fillmore also created a keg washing machine featuring a 25-gallon detergent reservoir with heater and a 25-gallon sanitizer reservoir.

Labeling

  When it comes to the aesthetics of packaging craft beer, labeling is the star. Colorado-based Lightning Labels has provided clients with custom-designed labeling for nearly twenty years. The company uses HP Indigo digital printing technology, which combines the best features of traditional offset printing with digital techniques. This hybrid delivers top-notch quality whether the client’s order is large or small. 

  Lightning Labels prides itself on the vibrancy of its color palettes, produced in high-resolution and designed to be water-resistant. Labels can be affixed to bottles, cans, growlers and kegs in a wide range of finishes, using high gloss, matte or textured paper. There are separate front and back label options, or clients may opt for one large wrap-around. Lightning Labels touts that its print quality allows listing custom beer ingredients in a crisp, readable font. Bottle labels are available in paper,  vinyl and eco-friendly options as well as more durable alternatives. As the name implies, Lightning Labels touts a quick turnaround on product orders.

  Blue Label Packaging Company specializes in labels for beer cans. Headquartered in Lancaster, Ohio, the company also uses HP Indigo printing, offering its customers an array of materials and substrates, such as foil, film and paper cut and stack labels. Product finishes and decorative techniques aimed at creating high impact include hot foil stamping, die-cutting and embossing. 

  Cost, creativity, and careful planning matter when it comes to packaging for craft breweries. The combination results in products that distinguish themselves on store shelves and meet the benchmarks of industry standards and food safety requirements.

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. 

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.”