Exploring the Variety of Spirit-Based Canned Cocktails

By: Becky Garrison

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

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

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

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

Carbonated Canned Cocktails

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

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

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

Gin & Tonic Canned Cocktails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Non-Carbonated Bartender Inspired Cocktails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Gerald Dlubala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting a Bar Program With Oktober Can Seamers

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

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

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

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

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

Why start a bar program with

Oktober Can Seamers?

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

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

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

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

Brewery Pumps: Boosting Productivity & Lowering the Bottom Line

By: Cheryl Gray 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Choose the Right Closures for Your Beer or Spirits

By: Alyssa L. Ochs 

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

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

Overview of Beer Closures  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of Closures for Spirits  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trends in Craft Beverage Closures  

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

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

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

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

Addressing the Issue of Leaks 

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

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

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

Choosing the Best Closures for Your Business  

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

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

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

By: Gerald Dlubala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Cheryl Gray

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

VITOK Engineers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symbiont Science, Engineering and
Construction, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Müller Pot Stills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Basics of Nitrogen and CO2 Use in Breweries & Distilleries

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

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

Using CO2 in Breweries & Distilleries

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

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

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

Using Nitrogen in Breweries & Distilleries

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

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

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

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

Equipment Needed for CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanks for CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

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

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

Pros & Cons of CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

Safety Considerations for CO2 and Nitrogen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expert Advice Goes a Long Way

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

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

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

Barrels & Racking:

Modern Systems, Historic Preservation and Refurbished Options Producing Optimal Results

By: Cheryl Gray

In 1879, distiller Frederick Stitzel patented a revolutionary method that put a new spin on how barrels for spirits and other crafted drinks are stored.

  Some 150 years later, the practice of racking barrels, also known as ricking, is an industry-standard. Placing barrels on their sides, rather than upright, and supporting them underneath with either timber or metal, increases air circulation and space.  Racking keeps pressure off barrel staves, a problem that Stitzel and other early distillers learned could result in losing a barrel’s precious contents through leakage.

Space to Breathe

  Western Square Industries, headquartered in Stockton, California, has been in business for 43 years and is among the global leaders in its field. The company originally catered to the agriculture and livestock industries, specializing in two main products, steel gates and corrals. Western Square Industries now manufactures a broad range of barrel racking systems for distillers, breweries, wineries, meaderies and cideries. It serves clients across the United States, with a significant client base in California, Texas and the Eastern U.S.  

  President and CEO Trygve Mikkelsen took over the company in 1993 and quickly recognized its potential in manufacturing barrel racks. Mikkelsen told Beverage Master Magazine about one of the company’s most popular barrel systems for distillers expanding their operations.

  “The Barrel Master is our most popular model for distilleries in growth since the user can mix and match sizes of barrels in a safe forklift-able stacking system. The Barrel Master can also be bought with the barrels sitting on wheels for easy rotation if desired. This is possible because there is no weight on each barrel.”

  The Barrel Master 30/53 allows barrels ranging in size from 30 to 53 gallons to be stored on the same rack. The rack-on-rack design allows barrels to be more visible and accessible. There is also the opportunity to stack barrels higher without compromising stability. An optional wheel design provides 180-degree barrel rotation in either direction. Unlike other systems, which are more like pallets between barrels and require a uniform barrel shape and size, Mikkelson said Barrel Master’s rack-on-rack function eliminates any barrel putting pressure on another below. The rack also features a storage-saving design in that it can be nested into a stack when empty.  The racking system is manufactured from stainless steel and is available in several color and coating options.

  Mikkelsen said breweries and distilleries also use his company’s seven-inch two-barrel racks and another product known as Big Foot. Sometimes, Mikkelsen said, full access is less important than space.  In that case, clients choose the company’s low-profile rack, known as two-barrel four-inch racks.

Tradition and Preservation

  While newly established distilleries may look to modern-day solutions for ricking, the name Brown-Forman evokes a history like no other, including that it is the only distillery company in the world to make its own barrels, which are stored in a range of distilleries, some with warehouses and barrel ricking systems dating back to the late 1800s.

  When a young Jack Daniel first learned the art of making whiskey under the tutelage of a soon-to-be ex-slave-turned-master-distiller, Nathan Nearest Green, neither could have imagined that the whiskey created would become synonymous with the tradition and preservation of some of the most historic distilleries in the world. Brown-Forman is the keeper of that tradition, in the form of four distilleries, three in Kentucky and, of course, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Tennessee. 

  With some 130 years of warehouses spread across four distilleries, the barrel ricking found in any given Brown-Forman warehouse depends upon many variables. Chris Morris, Woodford Reserve Master Distiller for Brown-Forman, explained that while a modern distillery can install all one type of ricking, the historical distilleries of Brown-Forman have operated on a different premise.

  “The date of construction for the numerous warehouses at our distilleries ranges from 1890 through 2020.  Needless to say, this means we have many types of barrel rick material, from wood to metal. Within those two groups, we find different types of wood and metal in use over the years. That depends on the era an individual warehouse was constructed and who built it. We also have some palletized storage as well as floor dunnage. The Woodford Reserve Distillery, for example, has warehouses with wooden ricks and others with heavy iron rails. Woodford also has some palletized space and floor dunnage. 

  “While our ricks are made of various materials, they are all using the same design that was patented in 1879: the ‘open rick’ design. Now, this again will vary in length and height, based on the size of the warehouse. Some wide houses will have a rick that holds 31 barrels, while others may only hold 11 due to the narrow width of the house. Most of our warehouses have ricks that are ‘three high’ or have three tiers of ricks.  However, we do have one house that has ‘six high’ ricks. Still, the design doesn’t change.  When our cooperage makes a barrel for a distillery, like a Woodford Reserve specific barrel, it doesn’t know which warehouse it is going to be entered into, so that barrel has to fit in every warehouse’s ricks.”

  When it comes to proper storage, Morris said, some things never change. “The proper storage for a barrel in the rick is simple. Rick it with the bung in the 12 o’clock position to minimize leakage. If a barrel already has a leak, rick it with the leak point at 12 o’clock. Otherwise, it is the condition of the warehouse that is important, rather than how the barrel sits in the rick.  We want clean, dry conditions in the warehouse.”

  Morris also said that there is no need to rotate barrels if there is good inventory control, along with batching barrels together to make a consistent flavor profile. A barrel matures based upon warehouse temperatures and the length of time the barrel spends in the warehouse, not by how it sits.

  “There has been a tremendous amount of study conducted on the impact temperature has on the maturation process,” he said. “Brown-Forman has research papers that date back to the 1920’s – we operated during Prohibition under medicinal permit KY—3. Based on these many studies, we never allow our Kentucky warehouses to drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. This requires that each of our warehouses be constructed with thick masonry walls so they can be heated as necessary. They will get as hot as they will in the summer because they can’t be cooled. Jack Daniels has ‘iron clad’ warehouses, so they can’t be heated and will, therefore, get cold in the winter. So, Brown-Forman matures its whiskies across a variety of maturation styles.”

Reusing Resources

  Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, is home to The Barrel Broker, co-owned by John and Kathleen Gill, who started the business 11 years ago in California. The company sources and supplies used barrels and racks for breweries, wineries and distilleries. While its clients are primarily in the Midwest, The Barrel Broker also has business overseas.  The company’s customer base prefers barrels freshly emptied and slightly wet. A lot of that barrel stock comes from bourbon distilleries which, by law, can only use a barrel once for bourbon.

  Accordingly, The Barrel Broker has some insight to share on how to store barrels and what its customers prefer when selecting used racks. John Gill, who has a background in the wine tourism industry and heads quality control for the company, said that for his clients, choosing a racking system really comes down to need, preference and budget.

  “Racks are designed to safely store barrels two wide and up to five stacks high while being able to be moved with a pallet jack or forklift. The seven-inch racks allow ample space to access the bungs while stacked for pulling samples or topping off.  We suggest used, refurbished or new two-barrel racks in three-to-seven-inch sizes.  We sell them all for barrels, 15 to 60 gallons.” 

  Gill agrees with other experts, such as Morris, who say that barrels don’t need to be rotated. He told Beverage Master Magazine that he also believes that keeping the proper temperature in a warehouse is key to a successful product outcome from any barrel.

  “Ideal for breweries is high humidity, 60% to 70%, and cool temperatures to minimize evaporation loss. Ideal for distilleries is a continuous change of temperatures and humidity to achieve complex flavors and complexity in barrel-aged spirits.”

  Price and preference dictate what racking systems a brewery or distillery may choose. However, experts agree that controlling warehouse temperature, avoiding undue pressure on barrels, and keeping tabs on inventory control produce the best results.  Whether wood or metal, racking is a matter of knowing what will stack up as the best outcome for the product inside a barrel.

Up Your Consistency and Repeatability Game With Quality Testers and Meters

By: Gerald Dlubala

Testers, meters, monitors and probes make it possible for craft alcohol producers to raise their standards and improve their craft. The overall move from older, unreliable, visual-based testing to greater process control with more accurate and precise analysis means repeatable sample measurements and more product consistency for reporting purposes.

Quality Control and Analysis at Your Fingertips

  “Measurement and meter use within the distillery are critical for quality analysis and quality control,” said David Zavich, Applications and Technical Support Manager for Mettler Toledo. Mettler Toledo is a leading provider of precision instruments and research and development-related services, quality control and production across numerous industries.

  “At the very least, the distiller should possess a quality pH meter and density meter for help in making informed decisions throughout the production process, and know if and when to intervene and make any needed adjustments. The best way for a distiller to know when the mash is within the acceptable pH range – 5.2-5.8, 5.4 being optimal – for the enzymatic activity to convert starches to sugars is with a quality pH meter. It also helps monitor the critical fermentation activity of a distiller’s beer, when pH should decrease to 4.0-4.5 as yeast metabolize ammonium ions and excrete organic acids. A pH remaining above 5.0 indicates a lack of activity, and pH below 4.0 may indicate the presence of undesirable bacterial contamination.

  “Benchtop density meters are invaluable for determining the proof and quantity of distilled spirits for TTB reporting purposes,” said Zavich. “Handheld versions can determine mash extract efficiency before fermentation, measure distiller’s beer to ensure fermentation is complete, calculate alcohol by volume, and measure proof during the distilling process that aids in making cuts.

  “To measure density, the distiller has three available options,” said Luke Soposki, marketing specialist for Mettler Toledo’s Analytical Chemistry division. “They can use a hydrometer, which is inexpensive and offers several industry measurement scales, but they are fragile, dependent on the user for results and have longer measurement cycles. Pycnometers are also inexpensive and can achieve a level of accuracy, but they require a higher level of training and have limited measurement scales available. The best choice is a digital density meter. They are more expensive but easier to use, more consistent and reliable, and have a shorter measurement cycle. They cover a wide density range, have automatic temperature compensation, and are available in a variety of models to meet the specific needs of the distiller.”

  “Density meters are quite durable,” said Zavich. “Benchtop units are quite self-sufficient with a suggested yearly preventative maintenance. They have an expected lifespan of around 10 years, but we’ve seen operational units well beyond that mark. Handheld units have no specified terms of use but are equally self-sufficient and expected to last many years under normal use.”

  “The main thing is to ask questions before purchasing,” said Soposki. “Mettler Toledo offers a full suite of testing solutions that include density meters, refractometers, titrators, spectrophotometers and pH meters. We can also talk about automation and multi-parameter options when needed. Distillers’ needs are always evolving, and we know that they are still looking for an easier way to release product after testing, specifically with TTB approved handheld density meters. Ask specific questions about the instruments related to your process applications. Ask for a demo, either onsite, virtually, or even in a try-and-buy program when available. Look for manufacturers that can support you across your business needs and offer service and support beyond just the equipment purchase.”

All in for Peace of Mind

  Or, you could go all in and buy the Rudolph Research Densitometer, the same machine that the TTB uses to send off samples for auditing. That’s what Greg Pope, Master Distiller of Missouri Ridge Distillery, did when he opened his distillery in Branson, Missouri.

  “It was pricey for sure,” said Pope. “At the time, it was a huge investment, around $6,500, plus another couple of thousand in training costs. It easily outpaced the cost of other densitometers, but it’s the one piece of equipment I thought was worth it based on time value savings, and in our case specifically, the frequency of the breakage factor of common hydrometers. I use it every day for my spirits as well as my beers, so for me, it’s a quality investment.”

  Accuracy and repeatability are always priorities in the distillery, and Pope told Beverage Master Magazine that he’s tried all the gadgets, getting hands-on experience at American Distilling Institute conferences and conventions. With the Rudolph Research Densitometer, he proofs a barrel in 25 to 30 minutes versus the 24 to 36 hours needed using traditional proofing methods.

  “When I got audited, and the agents saw that we have the same equipment that the TTB uses, we were already in favorable standing for trying to do the right thing,” said Pope. “This one piece of equipment holds all of our historical data that is time-stamped, properly labeled as tester batches, bottling runs, etc. and is transferable to a thumb drive for easy auditing. It’s designed for upgrading rather than obsolescence, saving money in the long run. We added the refractometer package when it came available for true and corrective proofs on our line of cordials.”

  Pope said that the training was an intensely monitored, two-day affair, but by the end of those two days, he was comfortable using the equipment for all of his applications and performing all necessary tests independently.

  “The only hiccups I’ve had with this equipment has honestly been because of human error,” said Pope. “Our machine is set to give us a recalibration reminder every Monday at midnight, and we can’t do any further testing until that recalibration is completed. The process is easy, and then we’re good to go for another week. This densitometer also has international settings, and because we export our bourbon to the U.K., we can provide their required test results.”

  Pope said that he also helps other distillers by testing and auditing their samples, providing another way to grow and support the distilling community.

Quality H2O: Good Water Equals Good Beer

  “That’s what brewers will tell you, and it’s certainly a good rule to follow,” said Mike McBride, marketing, IT and social media manager for Industrial Test Systems, a leading American manufacturer of instruments and chemistries designed to test water quality parameters. “It’s just a fact because beer is over 90% water, so it follows that good water makes for good beer.”

  Industrial Test Systems offers their popular eXact iDip Smart Photometer and their eXact pH meter to help brewers stay on top of their water parameters.

  “Visual testing only gives the end user a baseline guide or range versus digital testing that is much more precise and provides exact, repeatable results,” said McBride. “Our meters bring those types of laboratory quality results to you, and that’s important because of the many different tests performed on the water within a craft brewery. One example is testing for water hardness because different beers require different levels. Dark beers require harder water, while lighter beers use softer water. You have to have an accurate, quality test to determine what type of water you’re using.”

Brix and pH Meters: A Brewer’s Best Friend

  “Measuring pH and Brix levels in brewing is essential,” said Jason Brown of Milwaukee Instruments. “Both units are a must because those measurements ultimately determine the type of beer you will brew, how the flavor will turn out, and what percentage of alcohol the brew possesses. To measure alcohol content with a meter like our MA871 digital Brix refractometer, you take an initial Brix reading of the unfermented wort and then a follow-up reading once fermentation is complete. Those values are plugged into a conversion chart to determine the percentage of alcohol in your final product. Taking pH readings on a meter like our MW102 within the brewing process takes place from the beginning of the brewing process to the end, using it for multiple applications and processes.”

  Brown told Beverage Master Magazine that brewmasters typically already have basic knowledge of pH testers and refractometers. Still, even if they are new to the game, Milwaukee Instruments provides user-friendly equipment, with complete YouTube tutorials instructing the user on the operation, maintenance, storage and calibration of the meters. Most units come with a two-year warranty on the base unit and six months on the electrodes. Their bench meters offer data logging that is an advantage over comparable handheld units.

  “It’s recommended that both types of meters be calibrated before each use to maintain accuracy across all samples tested,” said Brown. “Our units can be calibrated by the end-user with no issues.”

Steam & Water Flow Measurement: Going with the Flow

  “Given the need for accuracy, consistency and repeatability, brewers should always choose the highest quality meter they can afford,” said Marc Bennett, regional sales manager for McCrometer, Inc., worldwide providers of precision flow meters for liquid, steam and gas applications. “Flow metering is all about optimizing production to give the brewer consistent and reliable results through understanding the precise temperatures, pressures and flow being used.

  “The best way to measure steam is through equipment like our V-Cone Meter. It helps a brewer understand the precise temperature, flow and measurement of their team processes, allowing them to optimize their consistency,” said Bennett. “We know craft brewers are frequently tight on space, so our V-Cone Meters are designed for tight fit and retrofit applications while handling most operating environments. Some of the largest, most well-known breweries use V-Cone meters for steam measurement, but they are very applicable for smaller brewers as well.”

  McCrometer also offers a line of electromagnetic flowmeters (MAG) for accurate water flow measurement. Their pumps rely on velocity and pipe diameter information to determine flow over wide ranges with high precision accuracy. Their SPI MAG measures everything from in-flow water through wastewater, including industrial flow processes involving potable water, slurries, sludge, cooling water and pulp stock.

  “Whatever the choice, brewers should always choose U.S. manufactured meters,” said Bennett. “U.S. manufactured meters are often more readily available and more quickly shipped than the non-U.S. manufactured counterparts. If you choose a high-quality meter with a long lifespan and U.S.-based support, you’re getting a great return on your investment. The last thing you need or want is to have your brewing process impacted or even halted because of support issues.”

  Bennett told Beverage Master Magazine that McCrometer meters have great attributes, including the aforementioned long lifespan and support. Perhaps one of the best advantages of both their MAG flow meters and the V-Cone DP meters is the advantage of having no maintenance or repair schedules.

  “That’s a big load off of a brewer’s calendar and his mind,” said Bennett. “Our new ProComm converter on the MAG meters is available with built-in verification that uses stored data to check a meter’s operation against its baseline. That’s true peace of mind. Our V-Cone Meters have been around and studied in applications that are a lot more rugged than what the typical brewery would put them through and have shown no shift whatsoever in their calibration coefficient.”

Enhanced Yeast Strains Follow Distilleries’ Desires for New & Unique Profiles

By: Gerald Dlubala

The world of yeast strains is large, diverse and ever-changing. Used in commonly recognized applications, including baking, brewing, wine production, plant care, cosmetics and dedicated spirits production, the strains can contain similar attributes. The differences come in how they react under varying conditions and temperatures, and those are both noticeable and noteworthy.

Experimentation and Exploration Contribute to New and Enhanced Choices

  “These days, craft distillers are experimenting with virtually everything to provide differentiation in their spirit, and that means with yeast strains, too,” said Denise Jones, Technical Sales Support Manager with a focus in fermentation for distilling for Fermentis, experts in the fermented beverages industry.

  “If it converts starch into sugar, any yeast can theoretically be used to make a wash that can become distillable alcohol. Variations in yeast strains produce varied metabolic byproducts that translate into different congeners in the fermentation and final spirit post-maturation. Some distillers are trying different individual or combinations of yeasts, including Belgian ale yeasts, traditional American ale yeasts, or even Champagne yeasts to ferment their mashes. Individual fermentations can be distilled as a blend or be distilled individually and blended later. When you consider how these then respond to different process conditions, temperature conditions, the initial sugar concentration, inoculation rates, nutrition values and more, either individually or in combinations, you can significantly affect the behavior of some yeasts and, consequently, their flavor profile.”

  Jones said that distillers play a crucial role in yeast strain development by selecting and successfully using strains adapted for the products they want to manufacture. Yeast strains prove to be successful and reliable by distillers regularly practicing their craft while continuing on their quest to manufacture a product that offers unique characteristics, including sensory values, fermentation speeds, efficiency in sugar conversion and more.

  “Distilling yeasts do possess similarities to those commonly used for wine, beer and cider. But many of the distilling strains have properties that keep the fermentation progressing in the more stressful and challenging sugar substrates present in distillers mashes and musts. Distiller’s yeasts are more efficient in converting sugar into alcohol, meaning the final fermentation is faster and drier with fewer residual unfermented dextrins left over. These strains work at a higher temperature and ferment more quickly, typically within 72 hours versus a beer fermentation that can last up to 14 days,” said Jones. “Additionally, yeasts that work quickly are advantageous to distilleries that look towards higher efficiency to maximize production and capacity within the shortest timeframe. Some strains address the need for greater heat tolerance, furfural tolerance, or the need to adhere to enzyme use regulations. Genetic compositions allow these strains to ferment larger sugar molecules and increase congener development that translates into more desirable aromas and flavors in the final product.”

  “For example,” she said, “to produce whiskey in Scotland, the use of enzymes is not allowed, so strains that can ferment complex sugars are required. Whiskey also requires an aging process in barrels and some specific congeners produced by yeasts. Rum uses different types of cane sugar substrates, ranging from exhausted molasses with a high non-fermentable solid content to juice directly extracted from the cane. They are different worlds in terms of substrates, requiring strains that resist specific conditions. In short, we cannot pretend that a strain selected for wine and that has evolved in that environment can efficiently ferment a rum or whiskey. Likewise, a strain used to ferment sugar cane juice cannot properly ferment exhausted molasses. But cross-functionality is often possible and encouraged as an important tool for innovation.”

  “Our distiller’s strains have been selected for their tendency to be robust in high-stress situations that can alter and restrain sugar metabolism of the cells. The distiller’s choice of strain can depend on different conditions related to heat development, fermentation substrate conditions, or desired production efficiencies. Fermentis yeasts are adaptable to various substrates under different conditions and can ferment in multiple mediums. In many cases, multiple strains offer the right characteristics to ferment a specific wash for a spirit. We also offer strains that demonstrate the ability to ferment just about any sugar they encounter. Having choices helps distillers by offering a wide range of possibilities when selecting a yeast for their unique facility and specific type of fermentable sugar substrate. Some distillers will use the same strain on many different products helping them streamline their protocol systems and manage their supply purchases.”

  Included in those strain choices are the SafSpirit and SafTeq lines. SafSpirit yeast strains are selected to give a range of choice for an array of different sugar substrates to help the distiller more easily reach their goals. SafTeq yeasts are primarily chosen to ferment agave-based musts, which are very rich in fructose and can have larger amounts of furfural and saponin, both considered toxins and inhibitors of the fermentation process. Providing strains that tolerate these toxins helps the distiller achieve complete fermentation of the agave sugars.

  “Fermentis offers a wide range of yeast strains for the distilled spirits world,” said Jones. “Our yeast’s ease of use and directed capacity to ferment various sugar substrates give distillers many choices with regards to their fermentation challenges while keeping the process as simple as possible. Understanding that no facility or situation is the same offers Fermentis an opportunity to assist the distiller in finding the best yeast and protocol to reach their goals. Every distillery has different equipment and support services for fermentation, so each producer must consider fermenter size, shape, cooling capacity, desired alcohol targets, intended flavors and desired aroma. Then, having a yeast supplier that can successfully assist you using these parameters ensures that your production expectations are met while saving time and money.”

  Jones said that many distillers come to Fermentis aware of their production capacities and are absolute in what they want as far as fermentation goals. Others will have a general idea but are searching for the right product to develop new functionality and flavor ideals. Most want to find a way to differentiate their product from others by choosing a strain and protocol that provides uniqueness. All of these methods are successful and can result in a significantly different product from other market offerings.

  “Fermentis will always be there to offer help, advice and information to steer a distillery towards a successful product delivery,” said Jones. “We are finding that many fermentations still won’t have the complete nutrition needed to have proper growth and metabolism. Finding the yeast strains and derivatives that work well with nutritionally deficient sugar substrates seems to be a general need within the industry. Fermentis has taken the lead in producing yeast-derived products that enhance those sugar substrates lacking the necessary nutrients needed for optimal yeast performance. Then, once a distiller becomes accomplished in fermentation, they’ll usually begin to consider flavors and aromas. The aroma of spirits consists of several hundreds of flavor active compounds produced at every stage of the process. Most of these substances are yeast metabolites produced during the fermentation process. Favorably enhancing the development of these metabolites seems to be the trend in spirit designed fermentations.”

  Jones told Beverage Master Magazine that Fermentis adds incredible value to each of their customer’s fermentation needs by consistently providing their technical and sales managers with the latest research information from their France-based research and development facility, including intuitive conclusions and details about each strain within a variety of different fermentation situations. With this information, distillers can make the right choices in yeast strains to reach their fermentation goals.

Experience and Expertise Lead to New and Successful Adaptations

  Reaching fermentation goals is also a priority of Maryse Bolzon, Global Craft Distilling Manager of Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits, a global leader in the development, production and marketing of yeast, bacteria and specialty ingredients.

  “In a distillery, whatever the size, the only way to produce ethanol and get that desired distinctive and unique aromatic profile is to choose the right yeast strain and use it in the correct conditions during fermentation,” said Bolzon. “One of the magical qualities of yeast is that you can make changes within the conditions of fermentation while using the same yeast and get noticeably different results. Subjecting the same yeast strain to different temperatures or different feedstocks will give similar yet distinctively different aromatic profiles to your spirits. Distilling yeast uses various types of sugar depending on the raw materials used and can reach higher ethanol content, ferment in stressful conditions, and develop deep aromas and flavors. Ultimately, the strain you choose should be aligned with the substrates used and under what conditions your fermentation occurs.”

  For example, Bolzon said that in the production of whiskey, scotch and bourbon, selected yeasts should work well on grain under a wide range of temperatures, and as long as the substrates are similar, you can use the same strain of yeast with all of them. Conversely, different substrates, like those in rum, produce different sugars, requiring different yeast strains. If you work with 100% malted grain at 34 degrees Celsius throughout the fermentation process, you couldn’t use the same yeast strain when working with molasses under the same conditions. Rum uses glucose, fructose and sucrose, while whiskey will have glucose and maltose.

  “Saying that, we understand how important it is to take the time to research and choose the correct yeast strains by researching and matching them with the types of sugars that they ferment,” said Bolzon. “Some ferment glucose and fructose, others fructose, maltose and maltotriose. Some will never ferment fructose under any conditions. There are a lot of choices, so consideration is always given to the spirit being crafted and the substrate in use, whether it’s grain, molasses, agave, syrup, fresh juice or something else, and we always look at the distillery’s fermentation and distillation conditions.”

  A yeast supplier should be both a partner and assistant in the craft distiller’s process. They should understand the distiller’s identity and branding needs as much as the fermentation process and distillation conditions to provide the appropriate yeast strains to fit the distiller’s needs.

  “Of course, choose a supplier that will provide dedicated technical support,” said Bolzon. “Within LBDS, our technical support is the cornerstone of our identity, with all team members having practical backgrounds in fermentation and distillation. We work closely with craft distillers to ensure that the yeast, nutrients, enzymes and bacteria chosen will provide the desired results. Our yeasts are stored in warehouses under optimal conditions, meaning no heat or direct sunlight. Our yeast is distributed in a dried state, meaning that we have removed the water, including the membrane. The membrane is critical to where the sugars, vitamins and minerals enter and the ethanol and other metabolites exit. If these exchanges do not work optimally, the yeast will not work properly and cause weak, sluggish or stuck fermentation. Making your yeast happy is always the key to successful fermentation, so if you’re working under potentially stressful conditions and want higher ethanol content, we recommend rehydrating the yeast before adding it to the fermenter. After purchase, the yeast should be stored in dry areas away from heat or direct sunlight. Because our yeast is sparged with inert gas and vacuum packed, you have up to three years shelf-life storage capability as long as the vacuum packaging remains intact.”

  Bolzon said that LBDS is always happy to work with the distillers and assist them with producing dedicated spirits. Some distillers know exactly what they want in a yeast strain, others ask for help and support in developing their spirits, and others already have the knowledge but prefer to collaborate.

  “I think as an industry, we cover the basic needs of distillers, meaning good fermentation kinetics, quality stress resistance and exceptional aromatic profiles,” said Bolzon. “But within LBDS, we believe that a distinctive spirit needs more than the basics. Perfection comes in the details, so we are constantly working to make improvements and offer new and stronger yeast strains that bump up bacteria synergy, impact nutrition and deliver more distinctive profiles. Every day, we have new questions about fermentation on specific substrates like coconut juice, exotic fruits, various syrups and more. These types of questions push us to a better understanding of raw material characteristics, leading to better yeasts, processes and partnerships with distillers.”

  “To me, the most important thing is to make sure that the craft distiller receives quality technical support when needed to assist not only in yeast choices but also on processes like fermentation times, temperatures, nutrition information, and distillation procedures,” said Bolzon. “Within LBDS, we have Research & Development labs in the United States and Canada. We focus on the kinetics and aromatic profiles of our current strains. We work on adapting new strains to be successful under stressful conditions, and we work on providing strains that work under higher temperatures, benefitting the craft distiller that finds the cost of fermenter cooling prohibitive. We follow current trends, including the development of strains that enhance the aromas of distilled spirits.”

  “In the end, the most important thing for us as a yeast supplier is to understand what the distiller is looking to accomplish with their product,” said Bolzon. “After all, that spirit will reflect their personality, brand and identity, so we must do all we can to help them with their goal of distilling a distinctive, unique product.”