Enjoying more of the 'Creature Comforts'
A fully automated brewhouse that produces 50,000 barrels of beer annually has been opened by Creature Comforts Brewing in order to keep up with the increasing demand for its craft beer.
Creature Comforts has made an indelible mark on the Georgia brewing scene in the US since it first opened its doors in downtown Athens, Georgia, four years ago. The site, located just about an hour outside of Atlanta, contains a four-vessel, 30-barrel brewhouse which, after just four years in business, could no longer keep up with the company’s increasing demand.
“It is a very manual system,” said Adam Beauchamp, co-founder and brewmaster. “We wanted a bigger and better solution able to produce higher volumes.”
When the company started its expansion plans in early 2017 for a second location, it was looking for state-of-the-art equipment for brewing, filling and packaging that would fit its high-quality standards. The system had to produce more efficiently, in higher volumes, and be a fully automated processing system.
After conducting extensive research and visiting several facilities with equipment similar to what the company had envisioned, Creature Comforts chose a four-vessel Steinecker CombiCube B brewhouse from Krones. Now, it’s able to brew 85 barrels of beer per brew, which more than doubled its previous output immediately. “The quality of the brewhouse was evident and the price was better than the competition compared to other fully automated systems,” Beauchamp said. “And from start-up we never had to throw out a batch — not even the first one.”
Some of the things Adam Beauchamp likes about the Krones Botec process control system — besides it meeting his quality expectations — are its ease of use, the myriad recipes available for the batch process and how easy it is to train people on it: “You have ultimate control over the process — every single detail,” he said. “Nearly every batch is consistent. For craft brewers with hundreds of brewing options, this is very key to a quality brew. I think Krones really understands craft brewers better than a lot of companies.”
Creature Comforts demands quality not only for its brewhouse but also for its can filling operation. That’s why the craft brewery chose the Krones Craftmate filler, which can fill 250 12-ounce cans per minute. Daniel Sossa, Packaging Manager for Creature Comforts, had worked on Krones equipment before at another brewery and said he appreciates the technology because of its precise fills and ease of maintenance: “I like that the filler is infinitely scalable. It’s a perfect option for a counter pressure filler that isn’t mechanical.”
Creature Comforts’ new facility is in a renovated textile mill that is over 100 years old, which presented some retrofitting challenges when the time came for installation and integration. For example, the cellar needed to be installed in the basement, but the can filler was located on the second floor. So the beer needs to be pumped upwards. An extensive conveyor system was also needed to connect the machines in their various locations in the basement and second floor. Krones provided the technological support to integrate the line controls and get the job done quickly and effectively, tapping into the expertise of its subsidiary, Process and Data Automation (PDA), to tie it all together. “Krones brought in the full force,” Beauchamp said. “The project was on a time crunch with the renovation and Krones met the challenge. They were great at getting the service, technology support and training to get us to close the time gap.”
PDA is an industrial control systems integrator within the Krones Group and implements the group’s digitalisation strategy in the US. “I think what I was most proud of was that the process felt seamless to the customer,” said Jeremy Anderson, Service Manager for PDA speaking of the integration of the Krones equipment. “All they knew was Krones stepped up to the plate and brought everything together on time and met their expectations.”
Beauchamp said what impressed him most was that the Craftmate can filler reduced the total packaged oxygen (TPO) by 50% over its original operation.
Creature Comforts’ new 40,000-square-foot (3700 m2) facility produces 50,000 barrels of beer at current annual capacity. Its new 4-vessel Steinecker CombiCube B brewhouse is a concept for cold wort volumes of up to 85 barrels per brew. It comprises a mash tun, lauter tun, wort kettle and whirlpool. The brewhouse also features a special automated wort souring capability that Creature Comforts uses for its Berliner Weisse ‘Athena’ beer.
The brewhouse is fully automated, using Krones’ Botec F1 process control system, which monitors and controls every stage of batch production — so every batch is consistent and 100% reproducible.
The Krones Craftmate can filler is good for the low output range. It safely cans even small production quantities starting from 12,000 containers per hour. Creature Comforts’ 24-valve Craftmate can filler can fill 266 12-ounce cans per minute.
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