As of the end of 2017, there were 6,266 craft breweries operating in the U.S., more than double the total from 2013—and a 16% increase from 2016. Just under 1,000 opened in 2017 alone (with 126 going out of business).
This increasing competition is making it more difficult for brewers to operate profitably. Another big concern for these breweries is the level of quality of beer they produce, not necessarily individually, but as a whole industry. Poor quality by one craft brewery can cause a beer drinker to associate the entire category of craft beers with poor quality. Quality, which translates into taste, must remain high while the operation must continue to reduce operating and energy costs to maintain profitability.
One other trend is that mega-breweries are acquiring craft brewers and shifting their operations from regional to national distribution. The challenge is to scale up, while maintaining a consistent quality that resembles the hand-crafted roots of the production process.
To contend with these trends and concerns, the efficient and profitable craft breweries have consistent process control to maximize yield and minimize waste. This consistency also produces repeatable product quality and is delivered through precise measurements and control during the brewing process. These measurements and controls need to be scalable as production increases to larger volumes when distribution expands.
Areas to apply measurements and control occur at different points along the production process from milling of the grain through packaging of the final product for sale.
Once the grains have been malted and milled, the mash goes into the lauter tun to separate the liquid containing the sugars—the wort. A critical measurement for quality is to measure the amount of sugar in the wort. A Micro Motion CMF100 Coriolis flowmeter on the outflow of the lauter tun measures the concentration of sugars in the wort. This measurement is called degrees-Plato. With small production volumes, this measurement is typically done manually and sent to a lab for analysis.
This Coriolis flowmeter performs this measurement automatically and consistently. Automatic controls based on this measurement can determine whether the brew goes out to the kettle or gets recirculated to the lauter tun. This measurement and automation helps improve efficiency by ensuring proper levels of sugar and reduce energy consumption by optimizing the steam needed to further condense the wort to the optimum concentration of sugars.
In subsequent posts we’ll look at the measurement and automation opportunities around the downstream processing and packaging operations.
You can see these technologies and expertise to apply them on Brewing page on Emerson.com or at the April 30-May 3 Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit the Emerson team in booth 2650 for additional information on how Emerson expertise and technologies can help you maintain quality and achieve efficient, reliable and scalable craft beer production.