Brewery Start-Up Tips for a Successful Launch

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

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

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

Initial Considerations

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

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

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

Physical Location

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

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

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

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

Brewing Equipment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ergonomics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Early-Stage Planning

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

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

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

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

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

Nitrogen-Infused Beers: Just the Right Amount and Voila!

Photo Courtesy of Chart (www.chartindustries.com)

By: Cheryl Gray

  Some aficionados of nitro-infused beers liken the sensory experience to downing a rich, creamy concoction from a dessert menu. The head of a beer created from nitrogen dosing ranks right up there with whipped cream atop a hot fudge sundae. For the consumer, the reincarnation of this draft beer experience in a single-serve can—and how that beer feels on the palate—is everything.  

  James Cain knows first-hand the difference that nitro-infused beer products can make for a craft brewery. Cain co-founded Vault Brewing Company in Yardley, Pennsylvania, in 2012. His aesthetic description of a nitro-infused beer rivals any marketing campaign. 

  “There’s nothing like watching the mesmerizing and physics-defying downward cascade of nitrogen bubbles in a properly nitrogenated and properly poured nitro beer. We are visual creatures—we drink first with our eyes—and the intrinsic beauty of nitrogen as it performs its brief dance down the sides of our glass is a special moment and sets the stage for a great tasting product to follow.”

  Experts say that smoother, palate-pleasing attribute is the result of the smaller bubbles produced when infusing beer with nitrogen rather than carbon dioxide gas, which produces larger bubbles. For the craft beer maker, liquid nitrogen (LN2) plays a host of multiple roles in the industry, not the least of which is the consistency of product that cryogenic nitrogen systems can produce. 

  In addition to attracting customers who enjoy the draft beer experience of a nitrogen-infused product, LN2 also helps to protect product shelf life. Nitrogen replaces the oxygen in the headspace of the beer container. While oxygen is important to brewing beer, it only takes a small amount inside a can or bottle to ruin the finished product, destroying taste and cutting shelf life. By contrast, nitrogen extends shelf life, leading to a potential increase in sales since breweries can widen distribution and create a larger footprint in the marketplace.

  Reduced shipping costs is another benefit to nitrogen-dosed beer. Infusing nitrogen pressurizes the can, and, as a result, it is lighter, sturdier and easier to store and ship because all of the oxygen is removed.

  Vacuum Barrier Corporation is one company helping its craft brewery clients achieve both product protection and popularity. The cryogenic engineering firm, located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, has been in business since 1958 and has a national and global presence, providing local support for its customers worldwide. VBC supplies custom-crafted cryogenic piping and machinery for its clients using nitrogen in multiple applications, including those for craft breweries.

  VBC has partnered with both large and craft breweries for more than 30 years with the aim, it says, of improving existing beverages, while at the same time, creating new beverage products.  Dana Muse is VBC’s International Technical Sales Engineer. 

  “Currently, VBC provides Nitrodoser liquid nitrogen dosing equipment to be used for three different applications: reducing oxygen levels to preserve quality and increase shelf life; pressurizing non-carb or low-carb beverages to provide strength; and stability to the package and nitrogenating beers for a smooth, creamy head,” he says. “If using an automated filler, the Nitrodoser liquid nitrogen dosing system would be installed either before the filler or between the filler and the seamer.” For smaller craft breweries or microbreweries that need a different option, the Nitrodoser can be mounted on either a can test bench or pilot line and operated by hand.    

  In its gaseous state, nitrogen is inert, colorless, odorless, non-corrosive, non-flammable and tasteless. It can also cause suffocation. That is why monitoring oxygen levels in an environment using nitrogen is essential, especially in a confined workspace. As is the case with nearly any combination of chemicals and technology, there is inherent value in knowing what safety measures to take. Introducing a cryogenic system using nitrogen into a brewery operation is no different, says Muse. 

  “The number one concern when integrating a cryogenic system is always safety, and the first risk people tend to associate with liquid nitrogen is cold burns and frostbite. Because all of our equipment is fully vacuum insulated, the outer surfaces of VBC equipment is always at room temperature, even while the internal liquid nitrogen is at minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Wearing the proper protective equipment will help prevent any injuries that might be caused by direct contact with liquid nitrogen. Additional risks include over-pressurization of trapped liquid nitrogen, oxygen displacement from expanding nitrogen gas and embrittlement of non-cryogenic materials.” 

  On the West Coast is Chart Industries, located near San Francisco, California, with operations across the United States and a global presence that includes Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America. The company, with a 150-year history, is involved in virtually every industry sector of cryogenics application.   

  Juancho Tabangay is a chemical engineer with more than 25 years of experience in his field. As Director of Sales for Chart Industries’ Global LN2 Dosing, Tabangay says that the company has been working with craft breweries wanting to tap into the nitrogen-infused beer market for the past several years. He counts some 320 of Chart Industries’ LN2 dosing systems spread across North America and beyond.

  “We’ve had conversations with our customers about the difference a dose of LN2 can make to the shelf life of their products. As an example, one of our customers shared that they get an average of a two-month shelf life but, with a dose of LN2, they see that extending to six months.  Those four months can make a difference for the craft beer producers. Of course, the results vary from application to application, but the feedback from our customers proves the investment in dosers pays off quickly.”

  The CryoDoser FleX® Craft Custom LN2 Dosing System is among the company’s products and popular within the craft beer industry. Just recently launched, Vault Brewing Company’s Cain says that the product’s versatility is designed to fit the requirements of the craft breweries.

  This doser works in the same manner as Chart’s other models. It functions by delivering a small but precise amount of liquid nitrogen into a container as part of a packaging process. The doser is connected to a liquid nitrogen tank and uses one or more sensors to detect the can, bottle, or container and dose the liquid nitrogen. It has a removable arm that allows for extensions or custom dual-heads for dual-lane canning lines. It has an introductory price but can grow with the brewery as they expand. “

  This year, Cain joined Chart Industries as a liquid nitrogen dosing specialist. From what his brewery experienced, Cain sees the use of nitrogen in craft brewing as the new lifeblood for breweries and other beverage makers eager to grow. 

  “We first explored the use of liquid nitrogen technology in 2015 with the launch of the world’s first widget-less nitro beer in a can. We worked with Chart Industries in order to develop the process and have since taken the technology worldwide. Nitro beers, nitro coffee, nitro RTDs, and other nitrogen-infused products target a specific customer who is looking for something unique and may expose your brand to new markets. If a brewery is packaging a lightly carbonated beer, seltzer, tea or other product, dosing with liquid nitrogen can add rigidity to the can wall and allow the brewery or distributor to stack the cans higher, saving floor space.

  “Breweries can experiment with creating new still products such as cocktails-in-cans, hard water, or hard teas and use liquid nitrogen dosing to leverage the same filling and packaging equipment. The LN2 will expand into gas and pressurize the container, making it possible to package an uncarbonated product,” says Cain.

  Tabangay tells Beverage Master Magazine that the success of nitrogen-infused beer comes down to the basics, which he describes as the “three P’s”— preservation, pressurization and perfect pour. 

  “Craft beer brewers like to tell a story with their beer using the taste and elaborate labeling. The behind-the-scenes story is about getting the best possible product for the lowest production cost.  Discerning consumers expect a perfect pour from cans just as they’d get from a keg at a pub. They want a nice cascade with fine bubbles.”

  When asked about whether there is a downside to using nitrogen in craft brewing, Tabangay sums it up this way. “There are only pros, no cons. Not that we’re biased, but the only way to help achieve preservation, pressurization and perfect pour is through the use of nitrogen.”

  In the end, for craft brewers, it is all about pleasing the consumer, but doing so in a way that increases sales and keeps costs down.  Craft brewers are learning how to use nitrogen in developing product lines that appeal to buyers who want that “perfect pour.”

Special Considerations and Latest Innovations for Growlers & Kegs

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

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

Types of Portable Containers

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

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

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

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

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

Best Materials for Growlers and Kegs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refill Policy Considerations

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

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

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

Return Policy Considerations

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

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

New Technology for Portable Containers

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Modern Portable Containers

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

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

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

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

Expert Advice About Growlers and Kegs

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned from Opening a Taproom-Focused Brewery

By: D.C. Reeves, CEO, Perfect Plain Brewing Co., Pensacola, Florida

Blame craft spirits, seltzer or industry saturation, but the reality today is that craft beer is going to face its biggest challenges yet in the coming years. This is a turning point for the industry, and at a micro level, this challenge can present a turning point in your own market.

  Every brewery should be assessing what it does well, what it doesn’t and coming up with a plan to set itself apart. I wanted to share more of the more unique lessons we’ve learned about where we concentrate our time and resources that could help those thousands of taproom-focused breweries around the U.S. build and sustain their niche.

If you have a brewery you understand the value of top-quality product. We don’t need to cover that part. Let’s dive in on things that can separate you from your competition.

  I discuss a multitude of ways to do this in The Microbrewery Handbook. Graciously, Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head, Jeffrey Stuffings from Jester King and other experts shared their thoughts in the book about what they’ve learned along the way.

  Here are three key things that we learned and adapted as we opened and ran Perfect Plain Brewing Co. in Pensacola, Fla. starting in 2017 that helped us grow to one of the busiest taprooms in the state of Florida.

Taproom Vibe Matters (More than equipment sometimes)

  We spent a great deal of time deciding on the marriage in our budget between equipment “nice to have’s” and taproom. We ultimately decided to gear money towards the taproom and the taproom experience, and we’re thankful for that.

I visit breweries all over the nation that have sparkling new brewing systems and a neglected taproom. Imagine if a restaurant hired the most accomplished chef in New York City, built the most expensive kitchen, then left the dining room with bad lighting, plastic tables and old carpet? Would the chef and kitchen be worth the investment? Of course not.

  Don’t overlook the expenses of creating a great taproom. Having good furniture and fixtures. Good doesn’t mean expensive, it just means if you can afford a $300,000 10-barrel turnkey brewing system, you shouldn’t have your taproom look like a mismatched thrift store.

We can always grow into and upgrade equipment. It’s much, much more difficult to pick up and move a taproom or overcome a lacking first impression if your taproom isn’t up to par when you open.

  We are about to expand into a wood-aging program next door – it’s called The Well and will open this fall. This growth is attributed to us focusing on taproom first, and that success allowing us to do even more on the beer equipment side later.

Focus on Programming Your Space

  In the taproom model, the taproom is your sole business engine. We need to fuel it with events and fun to keep it busy, not just sit back and hope people come in.

  This is something we focused on from the start, but we’ve ramped up significantly in the past year or so. We wanted to be proactive about what brings people into our taproom. When we moved from one manager to two managers, we created an events position that would be charged with just one responsibility: Bring people into our taproom.

  So we’ve done all sorts of things: Drag shows, Harry Potter nights, trivia, we decorate the entire taproom for four days for Pensacon (our community’s version of ComicCon), we do pop-up theme bars in Garden & Grain, our cocktail garden behind the brewery.

  There are other things you can do: Synergize and integrate your brewing schedule and batch planning with your programming calendar from the get-go to give your patrons an immersive experience that has fun beer releases tied to it. A shared calendar with reminders set three months in advance can give you enough time to plan a special beer release, prepare a one-off pilot batch, or order seasonal ingredients for use in a beer for an approaching holiday. At Perfect Plain, we’ve found success with this simple reminder system that we check when we sit down to do our batch planning and raw material orders.

  What NOT to do is get desperate and offer deep discounts on your product as an attraction model. While you may see an increase in taproom foot traffic, you slowly devalue your product to the point that customers no longer desire to pay “full price” because they know they can get it somewhere else.

Learning to care about your employee culture, engagement and hiring well

  One distinct advantage I was fortunate enough to have when opening Perfect Plain Brewing Co. was working for Quint Studer, who pioneered customer service and organizational change in healthcare with his company, StuderGroup. They taught hospitals all over the nation about how to treat patients, treat employees and build winning cultures.

I was able to learn from Quint and adapt some of those tools to the beer business. That said, this also made me realize how much of a forgotten piece of the puzzle hiring and employee culture are in our business. We like to talk about how collaborative we are as an industry, but ask yourself, how are we when it comes to focusing on treating our own employees well?

Here are a Few of the Things We Installed at PPBC

  We have a three-interview hiring process for all positions that ultimately ends with peers making the decision on who to hire. I know, sounds like overkill. Maybe a little crazy. But it works. It allows all parts of the organization to have ownership of new hires and it gives employees the sense of ownership that their opinion on employees matters.

  We are one of the only bars or restaurants in North Florida with less than 50 employees to start offering comprehensive health benefits to our employees for 2020. It’s a significant expense, but an important one to send the message that these jobs are important, these people are important, and their work is important. I’m not saying you have to go to that extreme but think about measures you can put in place that build your employees’ sense of ownership.

  Another key piece to caring about your staff and culture – and a must for us each year – is doing an employee engagement survey. This is an assessment of how your employees feel in many different categories. The value of this is to not only know where you and your company stand with your employees, but it lets your staff know that their opinion counts and is heard. We have made some adjustments each year based on this feedback, so it has proven immensely valuable.

Questions Like:

•    Does the organization employ people whom I like to work?

•    Do my coworkers and I share a strong work ethic?

•    Are many of my coworkers performing at an acceptable level or better?

•    Do I feel connected to my coworkers?

•    Is the work I do meaningful?

  In The Microbrewery Handbook I have more details of how we conduct this survey (it’s not hard!) and the complete list of the 34 questions I ask my employees that could help you get started with your own survey.

  These tactics are especially important with a taproom focused staff. Your taproom staff is the face to your entire revenue stream. You want them happy and feeling a sense of ownership about the company.

For more information about The Microbrewery Handbook or brewery consultation email dc@perfectplain.com

Making First Impressions Count: Smart Math & Creativity Produce Innovative Design and Manufacturing of Labels

By: Cheryl Gray

Whether beer or bourbon, a distinguishing label serves a dual role in either identifying an old standard or giving consumers a reason to try something new.  

  Craft breweries and distilleries count on the design and production of their labels as a key marketing strategy. Labeling is part of brand identity, a creative process frequently handled by specialists in the field. Among them is Argent Tape & Label, a global, woman-owned business headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan, which makes labels, tapes and adhesives for the automotive, pharmaceutical, industrial, healthcare and food and beverage industries. While it considers itself to be a small company, ATL is big on customer service. Bekah Keehn, who spearheads quality assurance for the company, says its customer service goes well beyond the sale.

  “We are a small, dynamic company whose hallmark service begins with the personal interactions between customers and sales account managers,” she says. “Our sales account managers and customer service representatives are in continual contact with our potential existing customers, and we pride ourselves on listening to our customers. From the moment an inquiry comes through our website or an introduction is made at a trade show or other industry event, and even through successful delivery of the finished label, our sales account managers are engaged with the customer base.”

  Experts say that attractive, cost-effective and environmentally friendly are among the characteristics that craft brewers and distilleries want in their labels. Keehn says that finding the right combination of standard elements and unique creativity is what ATL strives to produce for its clients.

  “Every customer requires different characteristics for their labels,” she says. “Once we speak to our customers and have a thorough understanding of their requirements, we work with our material suppliers to provide the material substrate (underlying layer) for label production.”  

  Durability, Keehn says, is also important. “Some need a very durable label to withstand the outdoor elements, very moist or high heat conditions, while others may need something delicate and attractive or flashy and eye-catching for prime shelf appeal. We consider all conditions the label must ultimately withstand, we review the effect or finish the label should have, we address the color and graphic requirements and we employ several different pricing methodologies to achieve our customers’ requirements. Most recently, we have experienced a demand for sustainable material from our customers, and we now offer metallic, clear and white sustainable materials that we can print on. You would never know the label is specifically designed and considered environmentally friendly!”                                

  With design demands constantly changing, technology plays an integral role in the design and production of product labels. Keehn says that digital processing gives customers a heads-up on possibilities.

  “We employ digital processing and are able to show our customers online samples of what their finished product will look like,” she says. In this way, customers can ask questions, and we can discuss changes without always running numerous, costly physical samples. We can refine the outcome well before running a physical sample so that when and if we do require a physical sample, it is as close to production-ready as possible. Employing technology in this process is invaluable in allowing flexibility and efficiency through the product and design development phases.”

  Some craft beverage makers find inspiration through other kinds of collaboration. Todd Thrasher, owner of Potomac Distilling Company in Washington, D.C., teamed up with a graphic designer to get just the right look for his product labels.

“I hired a graphic designer that I knew and trusted,” Thrasher tells Beverage Master Magazine.

  “I showed her vintage labels for inspiration. We primarily concentrated on bottles from the 1960s and 1970s. I completed a marketing course at Moonshine University (in Louisville, Kentucky) that was focused largely on labels, so I was excited for the opportunity to apply what I had learned in this process. After we met a few times and sketches were developed, I sent three versions of the logo for review via email to a group of 30 people—close friends, family, business owners, etc.  A large majority favored the label that had been my favorite. It was really validating to have the opinion and feedback of others.“

  Thrasher, well-known in the Capital Beltway as both a sommelier and bartender, wanted creative labeling to showcase Thrasher’s logos for his five signature rums—Spiced, Green Spiced, White, Gold and Coconut, all produced in an urban, waterfront D.C. setting on the Potomac River known at District Wharf. For Thrasher, making products instantly recognizable was vital.

  “The most important element is that the label is easy to read and identifiable from across a bar!  I also wanted the aesthetic of a more vintage bottle. I decided not to use shrink wrap and instead went with waxing the bottles for a more handmade approach.”

  Owner input also goes into label designing at family-owned and operated Bron Yr Aur Brewing (pronounced “bron-yar”), located in Washington State’s Yakima Valley. Amanda Hatten, co-owner and Operations Manager, says that in the beginning, the brewery utilized an outside design company, but it wasn’t long before she took over the task. Becoming the brewery’s solo in-house label designer was less about saving money and more about adding a personal touch to the brewery’s brand.

  “This is a passion of mine, and it’s a great way to express who we really are as a company when it comes to working so closely together on designs,” Hatten says. “We have them printed elsewhere. For our crowlers, the main thing is to create fun graphics that are filled with adventure.” 

  There is adventure, too, in developing new innovations for labeling, led by companies like ATL, which tracks market trends. ATL’s sales force has identified a rise in the use of sustainable materials in labeling and packaging. Keehn says the information was priceless. 

  “They brought this trend information in-house, and we put together a cross-functional team that identified, tested and priced out a line of sustainable label substrates,” she says. “We partnered with new and existing material suppliers who pioneered the introduction of sustainable materials into the label market, and now ATL has its own line of sustainable material offerings that are proven compatible with our traditional, Flexo and Domino N610i, digital presses.  In this time of environmental consciousness, we are excited to meet the demand for recyclable labels that utilize less material and may be biodegradable with a low carbon footprint.”

  Above all else, a quality label is long-remembered by the client—and consumers.

  “Producing a quality label is paramount at ATL,” says Keehn. “We take quality seriously, employ standard procedures and processes to assure consistent outcomes, and we spend time prior to production reviewing our customers’ needs and whether and how we can produce their quality label.”

  Some craft breweries and distilleries are opting for full-body shrink sleeve labels. A shrink sleeve label provides top to bottom coverage because it conforms to an entire container’s shape, allowing a complete label identity for any product. It is one of the specialties of PDC International Corporation, a 50-year old company based in Norwalk, Connecticut.

  According to PDC International, converting to a full-body shrink sleeve not only boosts a product’s shelf appeal and visibility but does so at significant savings. A regular, stock container (bottle or can) is generally used, and, with a full-body shrink label, there is no worry about aligning front and back labels. One sleeve, the company says, does the job of three labels, improving consistency, lowering costs and requiring only a single application. In the spirits industry, one full-body shrink sleeve can brand a product on the front, back and at the neck. 

  For breweries, a full-body shrink sleeve conforms to the entire can, covering it 360 degrees. Rather than having to store large quantities of pre-printed cans, full-body shrink sleeves allow a brewery to decorate blank cans when needed. PDC experts say that the process saves warehouse space, pares down logistics and saves money.

  Increasing the bottom line for companies in the labeling industry sometimes means anticipating client needs before even the client can pinpoint it. ATL’s Keehn underscores how communication and innovation go hand-in-hand, citing an appreciation from clients to a commitment to stay on top of industry trends.

  “We attend trade shows and review trade publications to keep abreast of new offerings in materials, inks and methodologies, and we continually expand our product line to offer new and innovative materials and printing effects. As high shelf appeal and unique design are common characteristics of our customers’ labels, we strive to meet the next level of creativity, quality and excellence.”

  That said, creativity, quality and excellence of any label are perhaps best measured by how consumers respond as they peruse store shelves for the multiple craft beer and spirits options competing for their attention—and their money.

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

By: Becky Garrison

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

ShiftNote

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

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

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

Whiskey Systems Online

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

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

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

Daruma Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

KegID

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

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

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

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

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

Kegshoe

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

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

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

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

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

Small-Batch Maps

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

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

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

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

By: Cheryl Gray

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

Print-on-Demand With Abbott Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shrink Sleeves With PDC International

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

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

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

Release the Pressure With

R&S Supply Company

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

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

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

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

Pour One Out With Xpressfill Systems

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

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

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

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

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

Expand With iStill

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

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

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

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

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

Important Tank Supplies & Accessories for Your Brewery or Distillery

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

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

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

Basic Tank Needs

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

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

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

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

Top Tank Supply Products

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Tank Accessories to Consider

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

Choosing the Best Tank Products 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finishing and Aging Options Evolve with Booming Secondary Barrel Market

By: Gerald Dlubala

Those barrels hanging out in the distilleries, whether new, used or refurbished, are just getting started. Oak barrels have a full and varied life, complete with occasional travel between distilleries, breweries, wineries and back again, sometimes internationally.

  Just within the Kentucky commonwealth, there is an inventory of over eight million barrels of Bourbon and other spirits in various stages of the aging process. It’s the highest inventory in 40 years and represents almost a two-barrel per person ratio. That’s a lot of barrels coming onto the market, which coincides with a booming secondary barrel market.

Impacting Flavors By Following The Seasons

  One company helping those previously used barrels live their best life is Moe’s Barrels, with locations in Galt, Lodi and Fairfield, California. COO Dean “Deano” Wilson is a winemaker and self-proclaimed foodie, so he found it natural to follow his passion by selling previously used wine and whiskey barrels for secondary, flavor impacting purposes.

  “We source our barrels from both the big and small producers,” said Wilson. “The boutique producers are our preferred source for quality used barrels simply because they tend to take care of them a little better. We buy our barrels in lots, with 99% of them coming in already cleaned and sanitized. But we’ll look at, inspect and grade them, giving them a wine or beer grade. If they don’t qualify for that, we can use them as furniture or décor grade. A trend that has grown recently is to sell the parts of used barrels to the artistic community, selling the individual staves, barrelheads or barrel rings for creative endeavors.”

  Wilson told Beverage Master Magazine that his formula for success is to try and follow the season for selling a certain type of barrels. 

  “We get a lot of first and second use barrels at harvest time, which is very good for cross-utilization. White wine barrels are excellent for reuse with wine, Belgian style beers, Cognacs and more. The barrels we get immediately following the crush are great matches for repeated wine and bourbon use.”

  Wilson gets his used barrels delivered with blue painter’s tape over the bunghole. The tape covers the hole for sanitary reasons but still allows the barrel to breathe. If they sit around too long with the bung in, there’s a chance for mold growth. If the barrels are left with the openings uncovered, they could dry out and start to split. Moe’s does the rest, performing sanitation, rehydration, steam cleaning and hot water rinsing.

  “Communication is key for customers looking to purchase used barrels,” said Wilson. “The buyer needs to be comfortable in the relationship with the supplier. First and foremost, look for quality, but be comfortable enough to ask for what you need. Know what flavor profiles you’re looking to build. Use your nose and trust your smell when inspecting the barrels that you are buying. Some staining and minimal hairline cracks are fine, but larger, deeper cracks around the bunghole can be a sign of a problem, and it’s always best to stay away from any hardened purple stains. Check for holes or damage that could be related to borer beetles. We invite all buyers into our warehouse, where you can completely inspect the barrels you’re looking to purchase. Inspect them from head to head, inside and outside, noting the year on the cooperage. Know the barrel’s origin, exactly what it was used for and how many times it’s been used. A quality supplier will know and willingly share this information about the barrels they’re selling. Cleanliness and smell are your two biggest assets when looking at used barrels, so always follow your nose.”

  Moe’s Barrels keeps all of its inventory inside a warehouse and available for buyer inspection.

  “We want to recycle these barrels and give them another life in the business, whether it’s for additional distilling and brewing, for use as furniture and décor or ultimately selling the parts to the artistic community. It’s a way towards sustainability.”

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel: The Name Says It All

  What better place to source local Bourbon and whiskey barrels than in Kentucky, the birthplace of Bourbon and home to the renowned Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Noah Steingracher is the man to talk to for North American and international craft sales at Kentucky Bourbon Barrel, a full service used barrel cooperage, offering used Bourbon and exotic spirit barrels.

  Being right in the heart of the Bourbon Trail in Louisville, Kentucky, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel primarily sells Bourbon barrels sourced locally from all of the familiar names. When Steingracher joined the company, he brought his international sourcing experience with him, so exotic and international barrels are now in play as well. He has sourced used barrels from spirits distributors, breweries, meaderies and wineries for use in finishing and aging a potential customer’s product.

  “We do it all,” said Steingracher. “We sell the used barrels from barrel to stave, depending on every customer’s unique needs. We have contracts with reputable and well-known distilleries to empty and ship their used barrels directly to us. We inspect them using our stringent guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable issues, including the size of any distinguishable cracks. If needed, our experienced team of coopers repair the barrels and make them fit to fill. We fill the used barrel market for customers that may not have the time, expertise or source to fill it on their own, and our experience and reputation are such that we have customers worldwide. I’ve shipped to islands that I’ve had to find on Google Maps. I’ve delivered barrels to the base of the Himalayas. There’s nowhere we won’t deliver.”

  Steingracher told Beverage Master Magazine that the used barrel market is affected by the same seasonal changes that affect all brewers and distillers, as well as how the barrel will be used.

  “A used barrel can function as either a vessel or an ingredient,” said Steingracher. “As a vessel, used barrels are just the holder for the product. For example, if a brewer wants to offer chocolate, porter or coffee stout, a used bourbon barrel fits the need and will provide the expected stone fruit and vanilla notes. But if you want to put out the best coffee stout, you should use a rye barrel so that the unique flavor from the barrel imparts a distinguishable, peppery infused difference. The right barrel will be a noticeable and valued ingredient in your formula.”

  Steingracher noted that brewers and distillers sometimes become too easily attached to the brand stamped on the barrel rather than going with barrels that fit their actual needs, if for no other reason than to associate their brand with that of a particular distillery. 

  “A mindset of only looking towards a brand name rather than filling your flavor profile defeats the purpose of striving for reliability and availability of your product offerings. Craft distillers and brewers can always run into a situation of not being able to find that particular distiller’s used barrel for the next batch. Frankly, they usually don’t even have the marketing rights to use that particular distiller’s name in their marketing. Jim Beam can release up to ten thousand barrels a week, with Buffalo Trace releasing around six thousand a month, and then others like Pappy are obviously extremely limited.”

  “Relationships matter when discussing that reliability and availability,” said Steingracher. “You need to know the type, origin, and age of the barrel you’re getting. With all the variants and combination spirits being distilled these days, what specific type of Bourbon was the barrel last used for? Was a char put on it? What level? Was it toasted? Repaired? How many years has it been used? Barrels can last a hundred years or more if used and maintained properly. The oldest is probably in Scotland, but I’ve personally seen some from aged before World War II. We do buy some back from the distillers that we know care for them the right way, and having access to our cooperage allows us to be able to make the repairs necessary to keep them in circulation. You can certainly come through and check on barrels yourself, but with our regular buyers, they know that the barrels we send them are fit to fill.”

  The flavor and use options for used barrels are indefinite. With many craft distillers and brewers now openly sharing their barrels between multiple brewing cycles, with proper use and care, barrels can last indefinitely. It’s what you can do with them after extensive uses and fillings that become limited.

  The Barrel Mill’s Infusion Spiral Technology Offers More Flavor Options While Decreasing Aging Time

  Options for those barrels, whether new or extensively used, have gotten much greater due to Infusion Spiral technology from The Barrel Mill, a central Minnesota-based cooperage that specializes in premium new oak barrels.

  Len Napalitano is an infusion spiral expert with The Barrel Mill and told Beverage Master Magazine that their infusion spirals are perfect for creating unique flavor profiles and helping distillers get their product to market faster.

  “Sometimes, you won’t find the right barrels for the flavor profile that you want to build for your customers,” said Napalitano. “With each fill, a wooden barrel loses part of its flavor offering and balance, and after three fills, barrels can be neutral regarding any noticeable flavor profile. These barrels are still obviously good for use, and now they can benefit from infusion spirals to regain that lost flavor profile.

You can achieve new oak flavor without the new oak barrel, which can be in short supply at times. Even when used with a new oak barrel, infusion spirals help get your product to market quicker. Our spirals are cut from premium oak, maximizing end-grain exposure for full extraction in weeks instead of months, saving the distiller money in labor, cost and time. The spirals are formed from barrel stave wood, cut through, then put into a convection oven to get their desired toast or char by way of our proprietary formula.”

  Jeremy Wochnick, Sales Professional for The Barrel Mill, said “The spirals range from a light toast to a #3 char depending what the distillers want, and are available in not only the standard, premium oak, but also in French oak and more exotic species like sugar maple, cypress, cedar and more for experimental and unique small-batch flavor profiles. Barrel quality results are obtained using any type of barrel, carboy or stainless tank. The spirals have proven to be successful in spirits, beers and wines as well as hard ciders and nonalcoholic drinks like ginger ale and regular ciders. Infusion spirals can be used to add a flavor profile to anything. We also have packs with blend options featuring different toast levels. The spirals can be used once, and are inserted into your barrel through the bunghole by way of netting or some sort of daisy chain for making retrieval easy.”

  And those infusion spirals, after being retrieved from their time in the barrel? Well, it turns out that they’re a pretty good addition to your outdoor barbecue.

Lessons for the Start-Up Brewery

By: Tracey L. Kelley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Time to Learn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose Your Equipment Wisely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Patient, Young Jedi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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