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The craft beer industry has taken off in the last few years. Beer drinkers seek out full, unique flavors and variety in their beverages. Craft beer drinkers also like to support local, small and independently owned breweries.
Fortune reported that the craft brewers increased volume by 13 percent in 2015, making this the eighth year in a row of growth rates of 10 percent or more. There are more breweries than any beer aficionado can keep track of: 4,269 of them, to be exact.
Another impressive statistic is that, even in a year when the total beer market for the country contracted by 0.2 percent, the craft beer industry managed to grow, now encompassing 12 percent of the market.
“The figures show there is still strong growing demand for fuller flavored products from small brewers,” Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist, explained to Fortune.
“It shows the premiumization trend that we’ve seen the last few years has room to run,” he continued, referring to consumers’ willingness to pay higher prices for beer that cost more to produce but have fuller flavor.
Recognizing obstacles in energy efficiency
As more craft breweries come on the market or expand, owners and operators are beginning to realize some of the obstacles that can come along with beer production. For instance, breweries are extremely energy-intensive operations. Between refrigeration, space heating, packaging and the actual brew house, there are many aspects to a brewery that require either a large amount of electricity, natural gas or both, the Brewer’s Association explained.
The Daily Energy Report said many breweries have put efforts into reducing their energy use. Anheuser-Busch InBev announced in 2013 it had reduced its energy consumption by 12 percent and carbon emissions by 16 percent in three years. That same year, $100,000 in grants were awarded to five Wisconsin breweries for their efforts to reduce energy use.
There are many ways to curb energy consumption in a brewery, as with any other entity. The owner can invest in energy-efficient lighting and Energy Star equipment as two surefire ways to begin conserving, Brewers Association explained.
Reducing energy in wort cooling
One piece of equipment many breweries have found various uses for is the shell and tube heat exchanger. These are versatile machines with a wide range of applications in the brewery setting.
“Shell and tube heat exchangers have a wide range of applications in the brewery setting.”
A sanitary shell and tube heat exchanger can be used in the brewing process for wort cooling. This is a crucial step, and a shell and tube heat exchanger is a great way to achieve this efficiently. According to Craft Beer & Brewing, a shell and tube heat exchanger can cool the wort to the desired temperature in just 10 minutes, and sometimes even quicker. This not only speeds up the brewing process, but it also results in a clearer product in the end. Shell and tube heat exchangers also use less water than some of their counterparts, such as an immersion chiller.
Reducing energy in wort boiling
Prior to the process of cooling the wort, there is a significant amount of energy used to heat up the mixture of water and malt. Chris Riphenburg, head brewer at Madison, Wisconsin-based Ale Asylum, told Craft Brewing Business that it’s essential to have the correct heating source for the kettle or hot liquor tank. There are three options brewers can choose from, though there is one clear choice if the brewer is hoping to reduce energy use and operating expenses. Three options are to use:
- A burner, which is an older method not used as often anymore.
- A steam jacket, a method adopted by many modern breweries today.
- A shell and tube heat exchanger, which can significantly reduce energy costs.
According to Riphenburg, a shell and tube heat exchanger can be as much as 80 percent more efficient than a burner and 50 percent more efficient than a steam jacket.
In addition to its environmental and financial benefits, a shell and tube heat exchanger also has the advantage of not having any moving parts and is easier to clean than other heating devices. This means brewers can spend more time making beer and less time worrying about equipment issues.