One brewery's experience with distribution growth.
In markets outside of North America, in-line Flash Pasteurization has been adopted as the technology of choice by many breweries. In North America the technology is now seeing a broader acceptance when compared to the traditional Tunnel Pasteurizer. Both technologies are met with similar challenges in the current dynamic and experimental environment at craft breweries. This case study focuses on the challenges faced by Wallace Brewing located in Wallace, Idaho.
Wallace Brewing is known for their “Beers of Historic Proportion”. Huckleberry Shandy is one of their beers that is very popular in the region. As the popularity of Huckleberry Shandy rose, the team at Wallace Brewing recognized an opportunity to increase sales through a wider distribution network. It is common at this point in the growth of a brewery to consider pasteurization due to the cost benefit of non-refrigerated transport.
The Business Need
The Founder of Wallace Brewing, Chase Sanborn, started running some different business models. The savings generated using unrefrigerated transportation combined with increased sales were factored into an overall Return on Investment (ROI) calculation. The financials worked so Wallace investigated the available technologies to pasteurize the beer- Tunnel vs Flash. Flash pasteurization technology was found to be the right solution for Wallace due to lower energy usage, smaller footprint, and lower capital cost. Wallace contracted with Goodnature to purchase a small Craft Beer Pasteurizer (CBP) for their Brewery.
From Goodnature’s perspective nothing seemed to be outside of the normal beer recipe to warrant any special pasteurization requirements; the CBP was deemed a good fit for Wallace Brewing. The pasteurizer was installed and commissioned successfully. The CBP was operated at what is considered safe operating setpoints for neutralizing yeast; 165°F with a hold time of 20 seconds. The Goodnature Commissioning Engineer left the facility after the operators at Wallace were comfortable operating the equipment on their own.
After a few weeks ofoperation, Wallace contacted Goodnature with reports of beer cans bulging in the field. The temperature setpoint on the CBP was appropriate for traditional yeast neutralization, so the entire process needed to be evaluated. The first place to look was the probability of downstream contamination. That was reviewed and did not seem likely with the reputable canning service used by Wallace. Wild yeast was then considered as the next possible issue. Many breweries will use aseptic packaged fruit or purees in their recipes. Wallace was using locally sourced huckleberry that contains its own strain of yeast. The consensus was to run the pasteurizer at a higher temperature to achieve the necessary neutralization of the unknown strain of yeast. Even at temperatures of 180°F the beer still did not pass the challenge studies done at the brewery; cans were still bulging!
After further conversations and additional trips to the brewery by Goodnature, it was decided to bring in the big guns from White Labs and the Siebel Institute of Technology. The microbiology of the beer needed professional analysis to identify the ‘troublemaker’ in the beer and advise the appropriate operating conditions to achieve the goal of properly pasteurizing the beer. It was found that the specific strain of yeast introduced with the huckleberries would need a temperature of 195°F for neutralization. Other minor recipe changes could also be made to reduce available sugars for the yeast. The resulting operating parameter changes combined with the formula changes were the final solution, no more bulging cans!
As brewers expand on the ingredients used and employ new, non-traditional steps in the brewing process, there will be unforeseen challenges to making great new products. What is important is to have the support of a good internal team and reliable external partners to help you solve the challenges of the modern craft brewery.