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.”

Special Considerations and Latest Innovations for Growlers & Kegs

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

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

Types of Portable Containers

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

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

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

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

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

Best Materials for Growlers and Kegs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refill Policy Considerations

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

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

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

Return Policy Considerations

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

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

New Technology for Portable Containers

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Modern Portable Containers

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

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

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

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

Expert Advice About Growlers and Kegs

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned from Opening a Taproom-Focused Brewery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taproom Vibe Matters (More than equipment sometimes)

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

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

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

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

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

Focus on Programming Your Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a Few of the Things We Installed at PPBC

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

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

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

Questions Like:

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

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

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

•    Do I feel connected to my coworkers?

•    Is the work I do meaningful?

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

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

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

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

By: Cheryl Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Becky Garrison

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

ShiftNote

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

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

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

Whiskey Systems Online

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

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

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

Daruma Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

KegID

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

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

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

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

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

Kegshoe

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

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

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

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

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

Small-Batch Maps

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

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

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