Micro breweries: Recipe for success

Local microbreweries with a nostalgic flair and cutting-edge technology are capturing the U.S. market. Thanks to double-digit growth rates, microbreweries already have a market share of over ten percent.

The old factory building in Stratford, Connecticut is filled with gleaming steel brew kettles. Pipes are visible everywhere, and the sound of hissing steam fills the room. Baird is a U.S. company that used to manufacture machinery here. Now it is a beer brewery.

Two Roads Brewing Company is a microbrewery, one of countless that have been springing up around the country for years. More than 200 million hectoliters of beer are brewed in the USA every year, taking second place worldwide behind China and ahead of Brazil. In terms of quantity, although a few large breweries such as global market leader Anheuser Busch In Bev have shaped the business, small and medium-sized breweries with high growth rates have been on the rise for several years.

In the 1980s, less than 100 breweries existed in the USA; today, that number has grown to around 3,400 – many of which are local microbreweries. These craft breweries employ artisan production methods, rely on customer proximity, creative marketing ideas, a nostalgic flair, and regional sales. “People enjoy experimenting and discovering new tastes,” remarks Brad Hittle, the founder of Two Roads. “We are not just a flash in the pan – this is a trend.”

Success thanks to cutting-edge systems

Yet this nostalgic trend would hardly be economically feasible without state-of-the-art technology. In many places, Siemens Braumat automation systems help the new master brewers with their work. In the U.S. market for brewery technologies, Siemens commands a market share of approximately 20%. Sales to large breweries account for most of that share, but Siemens has already supplied turnkey systems to U.S. microbreweries as well.

 

Two Roads brewery has been using the Braumat Compact system for production since the fall of 2012. “The most important factor for success is a consistently high-quality beer,” says Hittle. In 2011 he resigned from his secure job as head of marketing in the beverage industry to found the start-up.

To fully exploit its brewing capacities, the microbrewery also operates as a contract manufacturer for other breweries experiencing production bottlenecks. “Having the best state-of-the-art facilities is the key factor in securing these kinds of orders and having the flexibility to manage them,” says Hittle. A “sight for sore eyes” is how he describes his gleaming brewing equipment, which he had built by Rolec, a German specialist. Rolec also recommended the control systems from Siemens.

Coping with variety

The Two Roads customer list includes around a dozen brand-name companies that commission Hittle to brew 40 different types of beer. But the brewery’s own beer is enjoying tremendous success as well. Depending on the season, Two Roads offers as many as 30 different beer types.

The variety of recipes would bring a master brewer with no control software to the brink of despair. With Braumat technology, however, variety is not a problem. Braumat can be used to produce a nearly limitless number of beer types – the number is limited only by the performance of the computer to which it is connected. “Experimenting with new recipes is a very user friendly process, because Braumat Compact records every step and makes it reproducible,” says Hittle.

Experimenting with new recipes is a very user friendly process, because Braumat Compact records every step and makes it reproducible.
Brad Hittle, founder and CEO of Two Roads.

Braumat is a system that is similar to those used by Siemens in other sectors of the process industry. With the Braumat Compact turnkey solution, the entry-level costs for brewery automation have dropped to significantly less than US $50,000 – an amount that even start-ups can shoulder. The investment pays for itself starting with an annual production volume of approximately 5,000 hectoliters.

A constant overview of the brewing process

Many craft breweries begin as the proverbial garage operation. If the beer is well received by customers, however, manual production can often not keep pace with the growing demand for very long. Such was the case with Schlafly Bottleworks: Six years after its launch, the craft brewery from St. Louis that had been founded in 2002 reached its capacity limit. Master brewer James Ottolini and his team were regularly putting in overtime and working night shifts.

 

 

Along with the purchase of a fifth brew kettle, in 2009 Ottolini brought in Braumat Compact to automate the brewing process. That same year, the production volume increased from 24,000 to 30,000 barrels – without working additional shifts. According to Ottolini, the brewing process is now 30% more productive thanks to Braumat Compact. “We are working less and accomplishing more.”

 

 

Increased safety

 

Safety is an additional benefit: If, for example, the refrigeration fails in the fermentation and storage tanks, Braumat in conjunction with an alarm control system automatically sends a warning message to the master brewer’s cell phone. By contrast, breweries that are manually controlled run the risk of the entire batch being ruined. “That represents a tremendous financial risk,” says Edward Montgomery, responsible for business with U.S. breweries at Siemens.

 

 

Braumat is a standard turnkey product with uniform quality regulations, support, and a training hotline. By contrast, competitors in the U.S. market typically only supply individual components that the breweries have to assemble themselves. According to Montgomery, the weakness of individual systems is often maintenance, because it can only be provided by the specific plant builder: “Siemens, on the other hand, offers superior hardware as well as incomparable customer service.”

We are working less and accomplishing more.
James Ottolini, Schlafly Bottleworks

2016-11-07

Industry Journal 2/2013

Picture credits: Two Roads Brewing Company, Siemens AG, Thinkstock (2x)

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