Microbreweries gaining ground in the beer making industry

Craft beer companies are increasing and need the appropriate heat exchangers for the job.

Craft beer companies are increasing and need the appropriate heat exchangers for the job.

In the last half-decade, the number of microbreweries filling Americans' pint glasses has skyrocketed. It's hard to go to a non-chain restaurant and not get handed a list of all their microbrews. In the past, it was common to expect a list of the three major beer manufacturers, but craft beer is gaining significant popularity.

According to the U.S. Brewers Association's 2013 American Craft Brewers report, microbreweries only made up 4.4 percent of the volume share in 2009. However, in 2013, the share for craft brewers hit 7.8 percent and could double this year or the next.

While the volume shares might not be eye-popping numbers, the amount of retail dollar value has grown rapidly. According to the Brewers Association, in 2013, craft beer sales represented a $14.3 billion industry, which was 20 percent higher than 2012.

Additionally, brew pubs have grown by 7 percent since 2010 to equal 1,237 facilities throughout the nation. In 2013, there were 1,412 microbreweries reported, which was a 23 percent hike from 2010.

Maintaining a solid microbrewery
Last year there were 413 microbrewery openings in the U.S., and only 43 facilities closed their doors, the Brewers Association report stated. Also, there are 110,273 small brewing company employees in the nation, which is a 1.7 percent increase from 2012.

With the market growing and competition expanding, breweries have to invest in processing equipment that will bring a return on investment. One of the most common pieces of equipment is shell and tube heat exchangers. According to Brew Like a Pro, heat exchangers are needed because the equipment uses two liquids, which can be either the same or different. The heat exchangers do not mix the liquids or gases together, but the heat from one fluid is utilized to warm the other.

The main purpose of this in brewing is to kill the bacteria in yeast, one of the main ingredients in beer, the source reported. The bacteria in most yeasts in the beer need to be boiled first and cooled afterward. Also, the bacteria is known as thermophilic, meaning it can withstand higher temperatures.

Having a custom shell and tube heat exchanger allows breweries to reach proper temperatures to kill off the bacteria without damaging the state of the product. According to Serious Eats, there is such a thing as "friendly yeast," which can be introduced to add numerous flavors while breaking down the sugar.

Heating these products can kill off the appropriate yeast needed to craft beer. According to Brew Like a Pro, cleaning and sanitation is essential for the "cool side" of the beer-making process because the thermophilic bacteria can multiply and double every 20 minutes.

The brewing process can be greatly affected by the rolling action of the boil. The heating process needs to be relatively precise, which calls for custom heat exchanger solutions.

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