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.”

Tanks & Tank Cleaning Equipment

Global Companies and Smaller Firms Handle the Universal Needs of Craft Brewers

By: Cheryl Gray

All craft beer must include two key ingredients that no brewery can do without – the perfect tank and the pristine cleaning of it. 

Companies making tanks and tank cleaning equipment know that cutting corners on these important steps can not only ruin a batch of beer but could also ruin a brewery’s relationship with its customers.  

  Helping breweries stay on top of sanitizing tanks and related equipment is the specialty of Butterworth, Inc., a global industry leader with representatives and supply depots in more than 25 countries, including beverage installations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, Belgium, Venezuela, Japan and China. 

  When Arthur Butterworth founded the Houston, Texas-based firm in 1925, company archives record how he invented and patented the process for tank cleaning and received a patent for the first automated tank cleaning machine. Started initially to address the needs of ocean vessels requiring improved safety measures to tackle the dangerous job of manually cleaning cargo tanks, breweries are among its 21st-century food and beverage industry customers.  

  Mark E. Murphy is Global Industrial Sales Manager for Butterworth, with a degree in Petroleum Engineering and more than 34 years of industry experience. Murphy provided an overview of Butterworth products for Beverage Master Magazine as well as innovations that the company has introduced to the market.

  “Stream impingement technology, a method by which a contiguous stream is delivered to the wall of the vessel being cleaned, such that upon contact, it shears to clean a larger area than just the stream. Our LTFT product in a 10 mm nozzle configuration is by far our best seller. We offer static spray balls, dynamic reaction drive rotating nozzles and our premium line of high-impact auto-indexing tank cleaning machines. We also build custom CIP solutions to our customer’s specifications.”

  A single Butterworth machine, Murphy said, can clean up to a 230-foot diameter tank. After point-of-sale, Butterworth provides custom on-site maintenance training, technical support by telephone, email or video, as well as start-up assistance and factory repair.  Butterworth products, Murphy said, are virtually maintenance-free.

  “Typically, little maintenance is required, given proper upfront preventative maintenance, such as filters and soft start systems on the CIP pumps. The high impact line will have seals that need to be replaced at 300 to 500 hours – about one and a half to two years for the average brewery,” he said. “The aforementioned filtration and soft start on the CIP pumps ensure longevity and productivity. As far as cleaning and sanitizing, our designs are self-draining, so as CIP chemicals are run through the devices, they are cleaned and sanitized. Our spray nozzles and CIP equipment are made of 316 stainless steel or higher metallurgy. “

  Breweries, large and small, have to make important decisions about what equipment they choose to keep their tanks and related equipment clean. Murphy told Beverage Master Magazine that Butterworth offers many options, including those that accommodate a brewery’s growth.

  “Smaller craft breweries will typically use static spray balls. As your equipment becomes larger, you start moving up the food chain of function. At 50 to 100 barrels, you start looking at more dynamic reaction drive rotating nozzles. Above 100 barrels, the high impact auto-indexing machines start to outperform everything else.”

  Ecolab is another global frontrunner with nearly a century of industry experience. Its focus is on maintaining clean and safe environments while, at the same time, optimizing water and energy use. The Minnesota-based conglomerate boasts nearly three million customer locations in more than 170 countries. That business portfolio includes craft brewery clients benefitting from an integrated brewery cleaning and sanitation project called the Ecolab Craft Brewery Program.  The program guides brewers on best practices for achieving product quality, flavor, operational efficiency, budget management, team building and safety.

  CraftMaster Stainless, based in California with clients in the U.S. and Canada, produces tanks using the material that its name implies. Owner and operator David Silva said that his company has invested a decade into providing a variety of stainless steel tanks, not just for breweries but also for winery and distilling operations. Silva told Beverage Master Magazine that CraftMaster Stainless has a roster of products to accommodate multiple equipment needs for breweries of all sizes.

  “We offer all sorts of equipment, from complete brewhouses, uni-tanks, brite tanks, lagering tanks, serving tanks, mixing tanks, mash tuns, cold and hot water, to keg washers, yeast brinks, brew hoses, down to just some basic hardware. If you need a custom tank designed, that’s no problem. We have our engineers design to your specifications to fit our customer needs.”

  Whether it is a first-time client or a returning one, Silva said that his company prides itself on a personalized customer experience from point-of-sale and beyond.

  “We also love to educate our customers when they call in to ensure they are getting the correct size, correct equipment, and just steer them in the right direction. There is nothing better than talking and educating our customers!”

  CraftMaster Stainless offers its customers a 10-year warranty and lifetime customer service on its tanks, made of 304 stainless steel. Silva said that it is good to periodically passivate all stainless-steel equipment with an acid-based solution to establish a uniform passive oxide layer that will maximize corrosion resistance.

  While stainless steel is tough, Silva warns that it is not invulnerable, which is why proper cleaning is a must. He considers heat as the best sanitizer but also recommends commonly used over-the-counter products for general cleaning and heavy-duty sanitizing. The exception is any product with chlorine bleach.

  Silva and other experts agree that using chlorine bleach on stainless steel is a recipe for disaster. Not only is its use potentially dangerous to the health of workers, but chlorine bleach can also damage the invisible chromium oxide layer that protects stainless steel from stains and rust.  If the layer is breached, rust can form on the surface, making way for what the industry calls pitting corrosion. Instead, proper cleaning with the right products can benefit the stainless steel tank and its invisible protection shield, that all-important chromium oxide layer.

  CraftMaster Stainless has created some innovative products for craft brewers. “We have a very unique ½ barrel yeast brink (shown above). We designed it to be user friendly by adding rolling casters, an oversized yeast outlet, large 6-foot manway opening [and] CIP ball for easy cleaning,” Silva said. “[There’s] also a unique stir paddle to agitate your yeast without having to expose the yeast to extra oxygen, or lifting the bring to shake the yeast to keep it activated.”

  A brewery’s size dictates what tanks and tank systems it should use in its operations. Growth has a lot to do with the clients’ equipment choices.  “Most systems in breweries range from three and a half barrels to 30 barrels,” said Silva. “For instance, if you have a five-barrel brewhouse system, you would yield five barrels of beer. As the brewery starts to grow or gain more popularity, the brewery might start looking into doubling the size of [its] tank by going to a 10 barrel. Then, on brew days, the brewer will brew the same recipe twice, usually the more popular recipe, making 10 barrels of product and storing it in the bigger vessel for fermentation, streamlining their process. This is called double-batching. Most breweries will double the size of the tank to the size of their brewhouse.”

  Experts say that brewers need to factor in the initial capital costs and maintenance expenses when selecting tanks and tank cleaning equipment. Additional costs include water and chemical consumption needs. As with any industrial process, safety precautions should be exercised when cleaning and sanitizing tanks and using tank cleaning equipment. One of those precautions includes using standard PPE when using chemicals or when using water at high temperatures. 

  Shared information about tanks and tank cleaning equipment is helpful to craft brewers looking for affirmation on how some products and methods have worked for others.

  Additional resources are available through the Master Brewers Association of America, a nonprofit organization with more than 4,000 members in 25 regions from more than 50 countries. The organization offers many professional development opportunities and technical information, including safety in cleaning and sanitizing tanks.  Here is their website link…https://www.mbaa.com/Pages/default.aspx

https://www.mbaa.com/Pages/default.aspx

In the Can & Out the Door: Canning Systems Adapt to Current Market Needs

By: Gerald Dlubala

“The situation that we’re all in just adds to the advantage of selling beverages and cocktails in cans,” said Dennis Grumm, CEO of Oktober Design, manufacturer of can and crowler seamers for the craft beverage industry. “With the COVID-19 situation, the lifeblood of many bars and restaurants is the sale of their beer, wine or mixed drinks to-go, for pick up or for their patrons to buy and enjoy at a nearby outside area. Having one machine that can deliver all of these in a quality canned form at any given time is a huge advantage.” 

Can Seamers

  Oktober Design’s can seamers, such as the Model-7 series, are designed for easy plug-and-play installation and operation. Right out of the box, the can seamers are calibrated and ready to go using standard 110v power. There is minimal maintenance, involving only user related adjustments. Additional customer support is available if needed, but Grumm said that’s usually not the case. 

  “It’s as easy as putting the can in, clamping it down, closing the door and rotating the handles,” he said. “Our seamers handle any U.S. can and some non-U.S. sizes. You set it up depending on the size of the can end you’re using, with different tooling sets available for different ends. Switching end sizes takes about 15 minutes using standard tools. Maintenance generally involves keeping the unit clean, so wiping it down and performing a weekly cleaning on a quick release shaft is recommended. Honestly, most customers are doing these things daily or at the end of each shift as their normal cleaning process anyway.

  “Can seamers are common-sense purchases right now. Whether canning for individual purchases or small batch runs, with the quick changeover ability, you can see what is working with your customers and what isn’t. Then you know where to spend your time and effort.”

  Grumm told Beverage Master Magazine that Oktober Design’s Series-7 units are incredibly reliable, easy to care for and available at an entry-level price point friendly to the brewer’s budget. The units can handle 100,000 cans or, in some cases, upwards of 200,000 cans without any issues. Oktober Design also sells can ends in smaller lots to match the needs of craft brewers, and soon it will offer brewers the ability to order fully labeled and designed cans right from its website.

  “We want brewers to remember that when looking for a machine like this, that even though we call it a plug-and-play can seamer, it is still a precisely engineered and fine-tuned machine,” Grumm said. “You’ve got to look for quality, and all of our moving parts are stainless steel or aluminum, with a minimum of normal wear parts involved. We’ve sold thousands with great success because we started as engineers and designed a quality machine with that mindset.”

Filling Systems

  XpressFill Systems LLC offers fillers designed and manufactured for the modern-day artisanal beverage producers. Weighing in at under 35 pounds, these compact, easy-to-use machines are built for tabletop portability and easy use by a single employee.

  “XpressFill offers two types of fillers for carbonated beverages,” said Rod Silver, Marketing Coordinator for XpressFill Systems. “A counter-pressure, air-operated system capable of filling up to 200 12-ounce cans per hour, and an open fill, 110v or 220v, two or four spout system capable of filling between 300 to 600 cans per hour. They’re pretty simple to calibrate. A scale is used to verify the fill levels in the cans. Our counter pressure fillers come with a clear can so pressure and fill rate is optimized for each beer and the needed corresponding carbonation level. Once calibrated, you’re ready to fill.

  “Our open can fillers feature a moveable shelf that is easily adjusted for various can sizes, with a maximum diameter of four inches. The counter pressure filler features stoppers that fit snuggly into the can opening to seal and pressurize. The standard setup is for the 202-lid size, but custom stoppers and other components may be required for different sizes of lids. Our fillers provide a cost-effective means to distribute a product in cans or bottles without the prohibitive expense of an automated production line. But, even larger breweries use our fillers for canning small batch or specialized runs. It saves them the expense of starting up their automated lines or calling in mobile canners for a less than normal size run.”

  Codi Manufacturing has made a name for themselves with their professional counter-pressure filling and canning systems, offering whole systems from depalletizer units through filled container conveyance. They design systems for individual spaces and provide specific upgrades for components that have reached their maximum limits. They offer that same knowledge and technical expertise in their smaller machines.

  “There has been a massive uptick in the demand for counter-pressure filling because of the need and desire to package items other than just beer,” said Andrew Ferguson, Sales Manager for Codi Manufacturing. “We’re talking the ready-to-drink canning market, and the rapid spike of popularity in seltzers, which have a more rapid foam cap dissolve rate than beer. Counter-pressure fillers can reinvigorate that foam cap right before seaming, which has shown to increase seltzer shelf life from the standard three months to up to a year.”

  Ferguson said that to meet the demands of today’s world, brewers have different priorities in canning systems. Those include smaller, more economical builds that offer a path for future growth and expansion when allowed. It also usually means more modest in-feed options with a plan for automation down the road.

  “But just as critical right now is the option and availability for complete sanitation and sterilization of the filling and canning lines,” said Ferguson. “We always recommend using stainless steel systems and components that can handle this type of cleaning. Aluminum components prohibit the use of any sanitization or sterilization process involving caustic methods.”

  Ferguson said that craft beverage producers should always, but especially under current conditions, make sure there is a reliable aluminum can supplier with adequate inventory for the system they’re using, especially if it requires a specific size. Will you always have the cans and ends that you need? What happens if the supply dwindles? Yes, you can switch seamers and get new tooling, but that will cost you. Brewers must have a supplier that fills their needs both now and for future upgrades.

  “Hopefully, restrictions eventually ease up, and you find a need for faster production,” he said. “Sometimes this is as simple as a faster filler, but sometimes that means a better in-feed system to keep up with that filler. Always research future possibilities.”

  Codi Manufacturing researches future possibilities as well, and Ferguson told Beverage Master Magazine that soon they will roll out a single canning machine that will run every can on the market worldwide. 

  “As far as we know, we are the only ones to do this,” said Ferguson. “That’s quite an advantage when you think about it because we don’t believe that the canned beverage and ready-to-drink market is going to stop or slow down anytime soon. In other countries, especially in places with high alcohol taxes like Australia, the canned beverage and ready-to-drink market is very heavy. It’s likely going to remain a way of life, and a good one at that.”

Moving on Up: Automation in Times of Increased Demand for Canned Beverages

  Like other manufacturers, Jim Mackay, CEO of SKA Fabricating, has seen a mad dash by craft brewers to install smaller canning lines to fit in with the new economy and get their products packaged and out the door. SKA offers automated lines and accessories designed specifically to utilize available floor space and footprint. They offer everything needed before the filler and then from the filler to packaging operations.

  “We help craft breweries with automating their can depalletization before the filler and then the repalletization for packaging,” said Mackay. “A lot of the time, the main issue with small craft breweries is the limited amount of available space, so smaller footprint machines like our Half Pint OD (orbital discharge) mobile depalletizer are designed to solve this problem specifically. Any astute brewer can set it up and have it running in minimal time, but we also will consult by phone if needed.”

  SKA’s first of its kind rotary design is a 30-inch wheel featuring a better drop angle for the rinse cage, allowing for more accumulation and higher line speeds in a smaller footprint. The rotary wheel can run both clockwise and counter-clockwise, making it possible to install two discharges for different can sizes with minimal changeover. The Half Pint OD requires no specialized installation, increasing its value and popularity with craft breweries and mobile canning operations. The unit is on wheels for ultimate portability and the ability to safely store it out of the way when not in use. 

  “Before purchasing any system, the brewer has to ask critical questions and know their limitations, goals and future projections,” said Mackay. “Honestly, packaging is, a lot of times, the last consideration, but in most areas of production, we believe that any automation is better than the manual option. Your automation needs are determined by how quickly you need a new pallet of cans when canning your product. If you’re canning at 200 to 250 cans per minute, you should probably start looking into some sort of automated in-feed and out-feed to keep up.

  “When considering Ska equipment, we’ll need to know what type of filler you have or are planning on having. Different fillers have different characteristics and needs. It’s critical to maintain both mechanical compatibility and upgrade capability regarding can sizes used now and in the future. What capacity can your filler accommodate? You may need to address your filler capability before your lines. You don’t want a filler that can’t keep up with your lines, and you don’t want your lines running dry waiting on cans. Brewers should always consider future growth in their machinery choices, and we, along with our trusted partners, can design your whole system from start to finish if needed.”

Sealing in the Craft Brewery Difference

  OneVision Corporation leads the industry in providing advanced measurements and information systems that help users predict and prevent double seam quality issues. They have been providing seam inspection solutions to the food and beverage industry since 1994, installing more than 300 SeamMate Systems for food and beverage canners. Their proprietary, ready-to-use system includes a video module controlled by SeamMate software for use in a standard or networked Windows environment. It quickly takes the user through a process of cutting, measuring, viewing and recording double seam dimensions for ongoing comparison against the original can manufacturer’s specifications.

  “Craft brewing is all about taste, so it’s critical to retain that taste and freshness in the can to guarantee a quality consumer experience. That’s when a system like our SeamMate Craft Beverage System becomes essential,” said Neil Morris, CEO of OneVision. “Simply put, our system helps brewers ensure leaky can seams don’t sabotage the taste or integrity of their beer. It includes all the necessary equipment and software that craft brewers need to properly inspect and track the quality of can double seams in a low maintenance, dependable and affordable system, including on-site installation, training and unmatched support from our OneVision team. The OneVision team member installs the system and provides a full day of training. After startup, telephone and email support are available free of charge. Except for the occasional saw blade and seam stripper cutter wheel change, the system requires little maintenance.”

  SeamMate software runs on a Windows 64-bit PC, which is included in the SeamMate Craft Beverage System package. It functions as a standalone system or is connected to the customer’s network with optional SeamMate reporting software. 

  “Brewers should be regularly inspecting and tracking internal double seam dimensions to prevent leaking seams and flat beer issues,” said Morris. “Being proactive and inspecting and tracking the double seam saves brewers money and headaches down the road and is an integral part of delivering quality canned beverages to customers. We provide everything the customer needs to get started using the SeamMate System. Breweries only need to be canning and commit to quality.”

21st-Century Growlers: Pairing Innovation and Convenience

By: Cheryl Gray

Portable beer containers earn their reputation not only by how convenient they are to transport but also by how well they protect the beer inside. In the age of COVID-19, these portable options have also become a lifeline for craft breweries whose businesses have turned to beer-to-go sales to survive.

  The growler has been around since the late 1800s when beer was transported from saloons in a rickety metal pail with a not-so-secure lid. Fast forward to 1989, and the year historians say that Charles Otto, founder of Grand Teton Brewing in Wyoming, introduced the half-gallon glass growlers we see most commonly today. Since Otto’s reinvention, the growler has come a long way. Many 21st-century growlers have little resemblance to their predecessors.

  However, the demand from consumers remains the same. Beer lovers want their favorite craft brew to stay cold, fresh and ready-to-pour in a container that can go anywhere.

Craft Master Growlers

  John Burns knows a thing or two about the creativity and technology required for manufacturing the perfect growler for beer lovers on-the-go. He is CEO of Source Management Limited, the 22-year old parent company of Craft Master Growlers, Inc., based in Tacoma, Washington.

  Burns told Beverage Master Magazine that craft breweries can truly benefit by marketing products through the use of growlers. This is especially true for onsite brewing operations that don’t distribute their beer to wide areas. Pressurized growlers can help unlock a key market for those breweries because these growlers bring the convenience, portability and attributes of kegs down to an individual level. 

  “The craft beer industry is a dynamic industry with constant innovations,” he said. “But they need to get their product out to the public. There is nothing like a fresh beer direct at the brewery or brewpub, but you are limited to customers who visit your establishment. Growlers have a high demand and are encouraged by the industry because it allows more people to enjoy the breweries.”  

  While growlers are becoming more widely used, Burns said not all produce the same results. He compared glass and insulated-style growlers to his products.  

  “Unfortunately, the most widely used growlers–glass growlers–have a very limited shelf life. If not consumed within hours of filling, the beer changes. The experience is diminished,” said Burns. “A thermos-style growler is slightly better, keeping the beer cold for a certain period of time. But with Craft Master Growler’s pressurized systems, brewery customers can give a true, just-poured-by-the-brewery experience in any location and on their own schedule. By preserving the carbonation, the beer stays fresh, one glass at a time, for a period of weeks.”

  Craft Master has a variety of growlers, kegs and portable containers available for industrial and consumer use. They use only food-grade materials in production, an important factor, Burns said, because it protects the beer’s flavor integrity. Among the materials used is SUS304,  food-grade stainless steel that is standard in commercial kitchens and breweries.

  “We currently sell two lines, Craft Master CO2, a heavy-duty, high-end line of pressurized growlers for hotel/restaurant, breweries/brewpubs, home bar and homebrewers. These come in the legal filling sizes of 64 ounces and 128 ounces,” he said. “We also sell a lightweight, portable growler, ‘Growlveller,’ which comes in various finishes and is a 64-ounce capacity.”

  Burns, who built Craft Master by keeping pace with new technology and developing innovative products, shared the marketing logic behind its earliest innovations.    

  “Our first step was to create a square growler. This is very important for commercial establishments where refrigeration space and counter space is at a premium. The nature of metal fabrication is such that pressing a round container is straight forward, but to create a square is technically a lot more difficult.

  “Growlers are put into residential refrigerators, but round containers take up too much space.  The square enables the growler to be placed, for example, in a refrigerator door. And we created a tap which can swivel 180 degrees.” 

  Craft Master is currently developing integrated caps with PSI dials that perform functions such as pressurizing, maintaining safety, regulating CO2 and controlling pressure release. The company is also responsible for creating the Perfect Head USB pump. This patented system uses ultrasound to stimulate the release of CO2 into the beer and create a perfect head.

GrowlerWerks

  Tap on-the-go with a flair for style is the signature mark of GrowlerWerks. The Portland, Oregon firm enjoys the benefit of a team of engineers and product design experts whose focus is to provide consumers with unique and functional products. Its flagship growler is the ProSeries uKeg. This product’s features include an internal variable pressure CO2 system, a sight tube to check beer levels, a pressure gauge to dial in the perfect carbonation and a pour tap for tapping off beer when and where the consumer wants it. Fiona Berry is President of GrowlerWerks Canada, the company’s Canadian distributor. 

  “Craft breweries want to create a buzz about their products, so they should want their beer being served in ultimate condition. A growler from GrowlerWerks does that job exceptionally well,” she said. “Our growlers have been designed to serve craft beer the way the brewer intended.  Because of the variable pressure regulator cap, you can serve your craft beer exactly as it would be from the brewery’s tap line.” 

  GrowlerWerks products come in a standard 64-ounce size and a double-sized 128-ounce version and feature a stainless steel tank and brass fittings. For carbonation, the growlers use eight and 16-gram food-grade carbon dioxide cartridges that provide head pressure in the growler. The regulator cap is made mostly from plastic, silicone seals. 

  Aside from functionality, GrowlerWerks is big on appearance. “The brass fittings on our growlers give it a stylish appearance that attracts a lot of attention when seen going out for fills,” Berry said. “Our clients all comment on how many people ask questions and start up conversations with them because of their growler. It is a very social item.” So much so, she added, that GrowlerWerks is branching out with new products for new markets.  

  “Our line of growler products has expanded into nitro cold brew coffee. You can now brew and serve an excellent cup of nitro coffee with that signature cascade of bubbles from your own home,” she said. “Our recently released GO growler is designed for the outdoor enthusiast. It has a simple and rugged design yet delivers all the functionality of the Pro Series uKeg. We will be releasing a GO 128 in November. We have just signed a deal with the NHL to apply team logos on our GO growlers.” 

  In addition to marketing strategies, GrowlerWerks also considers itself a competitor when it comes to innovation. Berry pointed to one key component that she believes is superior to others on the market. 

  “I think our most innovative accomplishment is our variable pressure regulator cap. It allows for stylish integration of CO2. Other pressurized growlers on the market have their CO2 cylinders attached externally to the growler.”  

TrailKeg

  For consumers who already own a non-pressurized growler and want to upgrade, TrailKeg provides some options. The Lexington, Kentucky-based company offers its brand of growlers as well as the TrailKeg Lid Package, a conversion kit that makes it possible to transform an existing non-pressurized growler into a pressurized one. TrailKeg markets its growlers for more than craft beer. 

  The company promotes its growlers for multiple uses, including creating carbonated sodas, draft cocktails, seltzers, nitro coffees and kombucha. Sold in half- and one-gallon versions, TrailKeg growlers are double-wall, vacuum-insulated containers designed to keep beer and other drinks cold for 24 hours and hot beverages, such as coffee, hot for 12 hours.

American Keg

  For bigger options in portability, there are always kegs. In Pottstown, Pennsylvania, American Keg manufactures and supplies stainless steel kegs for the craft brewing industry. According to the company, it is the only steel beer keg manufacturer in the United States. Its team touts the use of domestically sourced AISI 304 stainless steel to produce 1/2bbl and 1/6bbl kegs. American Keg also offers custom embossing and silk screen printing on orders, which craft breweries find cuts down on keg loss.

  No matter whether the container is a keg, growler or the like, all breweries have to factor in return, refill and exchange policies that are governed by state and local laws. Now that COVID-19 has become part of the business climate for beverage service nationwide, many breweries have incorporated multiple safeguards, including curbside growler fill-ups and suspension of container exchanges. The aim, naturally, is to protect their employees and customers.

  In doing so, many breweries continue to promote their products by drawing on the convenience of growlers, kegs and other portable containers that allow consumers to enjoy a tap fresh, chilled craft beer experience–exactly what the brewer had in mind.  

All About Boiler Use in the Distillery

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

There are many different things to think about when operating a distillery. However, one often-overlooked detail is the distillery’s boiler and its quality, condition and features. There are various kinds of boilers available to craft distilleries today, which is why it’s a good idea to learn more about them and know what questions to ask before either buying your first boiler or upgrading your current one.

The Importance of Distillery Boilers

  Boilers are used in distilleries to heat the kettle, for sanitation and sterilization, for pasteurized heating, to maintain precise temperatures and to meet production demands efficiently. Boilers are essential in the distilling process because making spirits requires hot water to be at specific temperatures, and a boiler helps the distiller control temperatures. The ability to control this heat improves the quality of the spirit and ensures the distiller’s safety.

  Boilers create high-quality steam that impacts a spirit’s taste and are commonly used to sanitize and sterilize distilling equipment. In some instances, boilers can even help control a distillery’s air temperature where tastings and tours take place.

Boiler Types

  Modern water tube boilers start producing steam faster than older models, while older fire tube boilers take longer to heat up and can be out of commission for longer during servicing. Distilleries use low-pressure and high-pressure steam boilers or steam injection boilers that are typically affordable to buy and install, supply steam with no filters needed and provide hot water for various distillery needs. Low-pressure steam boilers are efficient and low-cost to operate, less noisy than steam injection boilers and pass inspections more easily.

  Dave Baughman, President of Allied Boiler & Supply, told Beverage Master Magazine that low-pressure boilers produce and supply steam below 15 PSI. These boilers come in various designs, including fire-tube, water-tube, tubeless and cast iron sectionals.

  “Some of these boilers are great at handling low-pressure steam heating loads, such as a church, school or apartment building,” Baughman said. “But they aren’t as conducive to a production type of application.”

  He also said that the type of boiler used in a distillery should be dictated by the distillery equipment and the associated steam load requirements.

  “A small craft distillery may be able to utilize a boiler that produces steam up to 15 PSI, which is ASME Section IV construction,” Baughman said. “As the pounds of steam per hour load demand increases with larger distillery equipment, then a power boiler of ASME Section I construction–which produces steam greater than 15 PSI–may be required in order to hold a steady steam pressure at the equipment. Holding a steady steam pressure at the distillery equipment is extremely important as steam pressure relates to temperature. The distillery equipment needs to have steady pressure in order to perform properly. If the steam pressure fluctuates, then temperature fluctuates accordingly, which affects the performance of the stills and other distillery equipment.”

  Allied Boiler manufactures fire-tube and tubeless boilers, both Section I and Section IV construction, from six to 2,000 horsepower. Baughman said that each installation and its particular steam load determines the type of construction the boiler needs to be.

Boiler Features

  Many modern boilers are narrow enough to fit through a standard doorway and easily install into a distillery building. Boiler companies make over a dozen different sizes ranging from five to 150 HP. Options for craft beverage producers of varying sizes are generally between five and 120 barrels per batch. Commercial distilling boilers are usually over 50 gallons. For example, a distillery can get a 150-gallon steam injection boiler that produces 337 pounds of sanitary steam per hour. For regulatory purposes, boiler and pressure vessels should have a stamp of approval from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Boiler

  One crucial question to ask about is the start-up time for a new boiler. It is usually unnecessary for a boiler to run 24 hours a day and waste energy, so quick-start-up boilers are designed to be turned on and start producing steam within a few minutes. Also, ask a boiler salesperson about energy efficiency because you’ll want to pay attention to fuel costs and not run up utility bills unnecessarily.

  Confirm the exact boiler measurements to ensure that it fits in your distillery space and also fits well alongside other equipment and any tasting or tour areas. Ask about the maintenance process, because if routine maintenance shuts down the distillery for a long time or if repairs are complex, this could hurt future business. Newer models of boilers typically have lower emissions for a reduced environmental impact. However, it still doesn’t hurt to ask about any emissions or harmful substances that may come from the boiler. It’s also good to know if extra parts will be readily available if they’re needed later.

  “The boiler itself is a powerful piece of equipment,” said Baughman. “If operating personnel are not properly trained, or if the boiler and support equipment are not properly maintained and serviced, then the boiler can be deadly.”

  He recommends asking the following questions before purchasing a first boiler or upgrading a current one:

•   Do you offer boiler training?

•   Do you perform start-up commissioning, boil-out, combustion tuning and jobsite operator training with the purchase?

•   What are some installation references from distilleries that have had your boiler for at least three years?

•   Do you have 24/7 personnel available for service?

•   What makes your boiler, support equipment and company different from others?

•   Why should we purchase this design boiler versus a different one?

When to Upgrade a Current Boiler

  For existing distilleries that have been in operation for a while, the time may come when you need to consider replacing or upgrading your current boiler. Common reasons to upgrade are a boiler that’s too noisy in public areas, high utility bills resulting from energy inefficiency and inconsistent steam pressure. It may also be time to replace your boiler if it can’t produce steam quickly and on-demand.

Maintenance Considerations

  No one likes to think about a brand-new boiler breaking down, but maintenance should always be part of the decision-making process when making a significant distillery investment. Fortunately, many modern boilers require minimal maintenance and need to be blown down at the end of the day to flush out the sediment that settles at the bottom. The blowing down process should be quick and help prevent damage to drains and plumbing lines.

  Routine maintenance should also involve checking chemistry levels to ensure the pH is ideal for steel. There are mandatory state inspections to adhere to as well. For ease of operation, consider installing an alarm system to tell if the feed tank is running low. Some boiler systems can be easily maintained by distillery staff; however, older models may require an expert maintenance specialist to come onsite for repairs.

Boiler Placement

  Concerning placement, it’s vital to keep boilers away from other equipment and isolated with a vapor barrier. Place the boiler at least six feet from still parts that are 18 inches or less from the floor. Also, place the boiler at a minimum of two feet from still parts above that 18-inch mark.

  Most boiler experts recommend placing boilers as close to the still and fermenters as possible to minimize the distance that cold water and steam have to travel to and from the equipment. This placement helps control heating and cooling loss, as well as piping costs. Boilers are often located in a separate room from other distilling equipment, but not every distillery separates their boiler in this way.

  Another consideration is the floor strength in the distillery. Older buildings may require custom installation because of inadequate floor strength, building materials or availability of utilities.

  Baughman said that the best placement of a boiler is in a separate boiler room because the boiler is a pressure vessel that is hot and typically has a water level sight glass, gaskets and other parts that can leak or blow.

  “By definition, wherever the boiler is placed becomes a boiler room,” he said. “Because of this, the boiler room has certain code requirements that must be met. From an environmental standpoint, a boiler likes to operate where there is not a lot of moisture. A separate boiler room affords this environment typically, whereas, if the boiler is out in the distillery, it may be subject to moisture from the wash down of the floors and cleaning of the equipment. So, from a safety and operational standpoint, a separate boiler room is the best.”

Boiler Accessories

  New boilers come with accessories that need to be added to the budget and stocked for repairs and maintenance. For example, CRT and VRT return tanks are used to collect condensate from the system and recycle it back to the boiler. Copper coils are used to make potable hot water for sterilization and keg wash-down. There’s also the blow-down separator used to flush out sediment and keep everything working well.

Choosing the Right Boiler

for Your Distillery

  Like grains, extracted juices and sugars, boiler steam is an essential ingredient in many spirits. The right boiler will meet your steam demands at production time without waiting hours for it to provide steam. It should be able to handle multiple processes simultaneously for greater efficiency and be capable of adjusting the steam supply on demand to save fuel costs and reduce energy waste. Other things to think about when choosing a boiler is proper roof venting for boiler operation, and whether to hire a licensed steam boiler technician to install the boiler and service it in the future.

  No matter what you’re looking for in a boiler, ask a lot of questions. There is a lot more that goes into this piece of distillery equipment than you might think. And, as Baughman said, the only bad question is the one that doesn’t get asked.

Distillery Startup: Where the Journey Begins

By: Gerald Dlubala

“You want to start a distillery? Try not to be overwhelmed, but by all means, prepare to be overwhelmed,” said Patrick Kelty, President of VITOK Engineers, Inc. VITOK Engineers help design and optimize every element of the distillation process, from raw material receiving to proofing and bottling. Their clients range from craft distillery startups to the likes of Wild Turkey and Jack Daniels. And if nothing else, Kelty wants potential distillers to remember a few things.

  “Educate yourself about the distilling process and business,” said Kelty. “Talk to other owners. Learn from their mistakes and successes and apply them to your situation. Get to be best friends with your Fire Marshal, insurance agents and inspectors. They are the ones with intimate knowledge of the specific rules and regulations of your location. Base your design on your current situation, your forecasted production numbers and goals and your target customers and marketing plans.”

  Kelty said that too many distillery startups begin with the owner blindly agreeing to options and amenities before obtaining proper cost estimates, causing hard decisions regarding cost-cutting and expense squeezing later. Collecting accurate cost measurements before startup is a lot of work, but it ensures that the owner gets the equipment and machinery based on what they have right now and what they want in the future.

  “For example, going with a column still means you’ll be installing the entire system upfront, even if you don’t yet need it,” said Kelty. “You may only run it on a part-time basis, but with a column still, once you reach max productivity, you have to install additional column stills to increase production. One fermenter is generally needed per eight-hour shift, so if you run continuous shifts, you’ll need up to three fermenters per 24-hour cycle. A simpler pot still can be run on a batch basis and, if needed, can also be used after fermentation as pre-bottling holding bottling tanks. They are multi-functional and can be added to, but they require more attention than a column still.”

  Kelty told Beverage Master Magazine that using experienced professionals in distillery design is a must. Roughly half of VITOK’s distillery design business includes the trendy retrofitting of old buildings into new distilleries. Often, these buildings need redesigning to accommodate the potential hazards of distilling. New construction is costly upfront but allows optimal design based on current and future plans. 

  “All architects, designers and engineers must have a safety-first mindset because of the inherent dangers of distillery operation. VITOK started as chemical plant engineers, so safety is ingrained in our way of thinking. Others may not necessarily have that same mindset,” Kelty said. “Did you know that commonly installed PVC drains installed under slab concrete floors can melt if distillery wastewater is pumped through them at too high of a temperature? Neither did the particular distiller that this happened to. That’s just one example of things that experienced distillery professionals know, and some unexperienced general contractors in the distillery construction field may not.”

  Future goals and expansion plans should include the possibility of increased deliveries, the need for additional raw materials storage and what happens to your spent grain. Farmers used to take all they could, but in Kentucky, Kelty said there’s now an overabundance of distilleries and spent grain, so farmers are now charging to haul it from the distillery, meaning additional costs.

  A project manager is also critical, he said, to keep the project on deadline, within budget and moving smoothly.

  “And then assemble as much of a dream team as you possibly can to keep all parties moving in the same direction towards the same goal. The owner, architects, engineers, lawyers and marketing consultants need to start at the same time to be on the same page and working towards the brand story or identity that the distiller wants to convey. Having that singular vision helps avoid cost overruns and delays.”

  “Just learn as much as you can, talk to those that have gone through it, and partner with those having verified experience in distillery startup equipment, procedures and practices,” Kelty said.

Don’t Forget About Grain Handling

  “Grain handling is usually an afterthought,” said Adam Dubose, Sales Engineer at ABM Equipment (See their ad on the Inside Front Cover). “It’s just how it is. By the time we get involved, it’s usually the last step, and we have to deal with the leftover space. But that’s okay because that’s what we do.”

  “Most brewers will mill their grain if they can,” said Dubose. “If you can do that, you have total control over the coarseness, the makeup and the content while saving significant money. You’ll find out just how quickly you go through grain when you only buy small bags of pre-milled grain. The costs will add up quickly, so if possible, it’s best to mill it and start with one silo. Just keep in mind a plan and a place to install two or three more down the road.”

  ABM Equipment helps brewers design a future-friendly brewery layout to efficiently use the available space to maximum advantage. They take the needed time to go through plans and goals and develop an agreed-upon design to match each brewery’s specific needs. This method heads off potential problems and headaches before installation begins.

  “Good planning with good future projections is the key,” said Dubose. “With grain, milling and conveyance equipment, you need to plan as far into the future as you can. Budget will always be a factor. Get what your budget allows, and add the needed equipment later, but good planning and foresight with design and space will make any future additions easy to implement.”

Been There, Done That, and Willing to Help

  Starting up a distillery is unlike any other business startup. It’s critical to take advantage of the information and help from those that have traveled the path. People like Patrick Heist, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of FermSolutions and Co-owner of Wilderness Trail Distillery, are a wealth of knowledge, from questions about the startup process through full-service consultation and design of your distillery.

  “We engage with customers from the conceptual phase through the distillery construction,” said Heist. “FermSolutions was started in 2006 and works directly with hundreds of distilleries on process optimization and problem-solving. By starting Wilderness Trail Distillery as an extension of FermSolutions, we have real-life experience in the right versus wrong ways of doing things to help solve issues for other distillery startups. Once they are running, we offer our expertise-driven fermentation products like yeast, enzymes, lab services and more to make sure the process is optimized and producing the best possible yields and flavor. We’ve expanded three different times since, from a one barrel per day operation to now being the fourteenth largest bourbon producer and the eighteenth member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.”

  Heist said that there are numerous questions to consider when starting a distillery, and as expected, the big one involves funding. “Make sure you are properly capitalized, not only for seeing the project through but for any unforeseen situations that will arise. Make sure you can wait, if you haven’t already, for the aging process before you start realizing a cash flow. Some distillers are trying to get initial cash flow through products that can be ready to sell in short order, like moonshine, vodka or gin. I will warn you that sometimes the marketing required to get any meaningful revenue out of these types of spirits is cost-prohibitive. Make sure you have your priorities in order. You should already know the types of distillate you plan to produce along with what feedstock you’ll use for each type. What recipes will you follow? Are your sources reliable? What are your plans to meet future growth and demand? What type of equipment do you need to meet these goals? Are your building utilities proper for your distillery plans?”

  Heist suggests that just as you use your budget efficiently and wisely, so should you use your time. For example, if you’re planning on making a straight whiskey, you likely have at least two years to design a bottle and work on marketing plans, so stay focused on the current operation itself, including yields and great flavor profiles. Legalities, laws and regulations must be precisely met and followed, so it’s mandatory to get help in these areas. FermSolutions can provide guidance, but the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) are also great resources. Tap into other nearby distilleries that have already navigated those waters, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance.

  “Be a student of the process,” said Heist. “Take the initiative to get yourself going and choose help based on actual need. A lot of money can be spent on non-essential consulting services that could be put to use in production. Because when you get down to it, it’s about what you can afford. Some say to go with bigger equipment, like stills, to support future growth and production increases, but along with that comes more energy requirements, the need for bigger boilers, chillers and so on. Focus on getting equipment that will serve your immediate needs within your current budget constraints.”

Addressing COVID-19 During Startup

  “You normally have the big five concerns when starting a business: namely, your business model, portfolio mix, funding, appropriate licensing and equipment, but 2020 has put a whole new spin on things, especially where the public is concerned,” said Donald Snyder, founder of Whiskey Systems, a complete craft distillery management service. “You’ve now got to also ask yourself how you’re going to comply and maintain the safety requirements for your area, including OSHA-based requirements and more, and of course, social distancing if it’s still mandated later this year. In my experience, most new startups don’t consider the current requirements for their locality. How are you going to achieve and continually manage the mandates needed to comply with your local safety, health or fire regulations?”

  Snyder told Beverage Master Magazine that while opening and building anticipation of a new distillery in today’s market can be done within local requirements, it’s a different story moving forward. “You’ve got to have some sort of system in place to build on and meet your needs while remaining current on, and working within, those state and local allowances and restrictions. You may, for example, have to prepare to spend money upfront and wait the necessary number of years to age and produce a quality product. White spirits and moonshine age faster and are available to sell quicker, so you just have to be creative and use what you are given.

  “A good example is the option to sell your full bottles, mixed cocktails and related items to go,” said Snyder. “If you’re in one of the states that allow that, then great, that’s a quality feature you can build and design your business model around while waiting for the restrictions to ease up, hopefully in a reasonable time. If you aren’t allowed to do that, then for now, at least, your storefront has to be built around merchandising and awesome consumer experiences. When I walk into your place, the customer experience should be your number one concern, followed by the tasting and the tasting room experience.”

  Snyder believes in having something to show for your investment, so it’s best to purchase or lease-to-own quality equipment. Financing can work, but the thing to remember is that, unlike the beer or wine industry, distilling equipment holds its value exceptionally well. It won’t depreciate like other manufacturing machinery, so, many times, you’ll get your full or near full investment back. With leases, it can be easier to have someone take over the lease and be on your way. A lot of the equipment for wine and beer can be interchangeable, but distillery equipment is different.

  “Little things that have big meaning for distilleries can be overlooked if you’re not using engineers and architects experienced in distillery design,” said Snyder. “One mistake I see made a lot is the absence of roll-up or dock doors. How are you going to move your glass, cans, grain, spent grain and materials? Prepare for the cost of employees, rent, any leases, etc. You’ve got to stay aware of long-term logistics for business expansion or the addition of future lines or products. Don’t layout your distillery in a way that restricts or financially inhibits future growth and expansion. Safety is another important area of concern, so it’s important to consult with engineers and architects that are familiar with and understand the workings of a distillery and the relatable OSHA regulations. Distilling and grinding your grain produces natural explosion hazards, so it’s critical to design your spaces accordingly.”

  “As important as all these other things are, it’s just so critical to stay in compliance with state and federal reporting regulations,” said Snyder. “It’s so important to start your reporting and tracking before you get audited. Choose a system similar to Whiskey Systems that fits your needs and provides an audit-ready place to manage your records.”

Brewery Start-Up Tips for a Successful Launch

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

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

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

Initial Considerations

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

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

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

Physical Location

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

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

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

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

Brewing Equipment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ergonomics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Early-Stage Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of Chart (www.chartindustries.com)

By: Cheryl Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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