There are upwards of 24 Craft Breweries in the state of Alabama. This can be solely accounted for by a grassroots movement in 2006/2007 called Free the Hops. Before the state law was changed in 2009, beer with an alcohol content greater than 6% (alcohol by volume) was unlawful in the state of Alabama.
With the help of many great citizens of Alabama, The Brewery Modernization Act was signed into law in 2011. This law reformed many restrictions on breweries’ ability to provide a tap room and restrictive regulations regarding brewpubs. This sparked the Craft Beer boom in Alabama!
Before this “boom,” I was just a regular ol’ “beer” drinker. I dabbled in beers such as Milwaukee’s Best Light, Natural Light, Miller Light, and the occasional high-end beer – Heineken. But with the guidance and direction of a few good friends, and the change in the legislative laws that governed beer brewing, everything changed. Now I have been shown the light of good, craft, local brews that consist of Pale and Scottish Ales, IPAs, Double IPAs, Wheats, Porters, and many more varieties. As this boom started from a spark to an inferno, so did the challenges of the brewers to go from a garage to a warehouse.
What makes Craft Beer so good is the quality of the beer – a distinct byproduct of the care and attention to detail the brewmasters put into their work. I have spoken with many brewers in Alabama and some have expressed an emotional dilemma over the “necessary evil” of scaling up their production. Let me assure you, conflicted brewer, that there is nothing to fear!
Automating Craft Beer
First of all what is a “Craft”?
Craft is defined as “An occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill”.
Making an assumption from this definition, developing a craft is something that is hands-on and takes a lot of manual input to do. Touch, feel, smell, sight, and taste can be essential in the decision making of crafting their product (result). Craft Brewing in its early stages is a craft of sight, touch, smell, and taste. A honed skill by which the Craft Brewer creates his masterpiece for his or everyone’s drinking pleasure.
When that Craft Brewer is in his garage or basement brewing beer for the local street party or fantasy football draft kickoff, then he or she has few worries. But when the Craft Brewer sets him or herself on the bigger stage – one that involves a large investment – s/he needs to not only have full monitoring and control of a suddenly large process, but peace of mind becomes paramount. The Craft Brewer needs assurance that the garage brew will be the exact same every time scaled up.
- Repeatability: Creating the exact same brew recipe every time by different employees at different times with the same raw materials – can be the single largest heartache for all growing breweries. The brew master cannot oversee everyone and everything all the time. S/he relies on his trained employees to implement his honed craft. This consistency in the brewing process can be assisted or by an automation process for the brewmaster, while still maintaining the brew master’s “Craft”.
- Reliability: Ensuring that the quality and reputation of that crafted beer is maintained throughout the entire process. For larger scale brewing processes, can the brewmaster 100% ensure that the process is reliable from start to finish with his trained employees? Automation can ensure that the process measurements and controls are tuned to the “Craft”. Ultimately enabling the process to run more efficient and be more productive.
All in all, automation does take away the “hand turning” of valves, “sticking” tanks for level, “taking samples” of the temperature throughout the process, and “slapping” labels on bottles. But does this really take away from the “Craft”?
Automation only enhances the quality – and ultimately the quantity – of the craft beer.
What Automation Entails
Automation in a Craft Brewery can be as simple as taking a temperature measurement and controlling the temperature based on a pre-defined fermentation profile. Or it can be as complex as fully automating the brewery, where all anyone has to do is push a button and watch the beer be made.
The latter is certainly achievable with the Simatic PCS7 with Braumat Compact Craft Brewing Libraries solution, but the reality is that most Craft Breweries cannot afford the fully automated technology. Siemens has purposely designed the Simatic PCS7 and Braumat Compact Craft Brewing libraries with the Craft Brewery customer in mind.
Any number of manual and automatic operations can be entered into the system to allow the brewer to concentrate on making High Quality Craft Beer, all while eliminating the mundane tasks that only distract from the brewer’s CRAFT.
With Simatic PCS7 and the Braumat Compact Craft Brewing Libraries, a brewery can realize any level of automation they desire, while simplifying the start up process and maintenance for any engineering company doing the project (this is all just a standard Simatic PCS7 based control system and not a fully customized solution).
The benefit to this is that the customer can rest assured that the solution was fully tested and developed with the Craft Brewer in mind so they can easily call for support on their system without having to call that “ONE PERSON” who wrote their programming logic!
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