A New Era in Brewing

What's on tap at breweries today? The answer is energy efficiency.

09 Sep 2022

A New Era in Brewing

As someone who loves a cold beer and the experience of enjoying time with family and friends at a local brewery, it’s been great to watch the growth in the beer industry – particularly craft breweries – over the last 10+ years. The American beer market alone is valued at over $100 Billion dollars, with an average American adult estimated to drink more than 28 gallons of brew every year.  Craft brewery production (comprised of contract breweries, brewpubs, microbreweries, taprooms, and regional breweries) produced almost 25 million barrels of beer in 2021. Consider in 2005 that number was closer to six million barrels, that’s remarkable growth! This makes owning and operating a brewery an exciting business opportunity - but also one which is expensive to maintain. 

Alongside the high costs, some breweries have also begun to question their own carbon footprint, and the impact their operations have on the environment.  At present, studies and hard benchmarks are rare.  Although one particular brewery, Vivant, did an amazingly thorough study on their production process to discover that electricity and natural gas usage contributed to roughly 38% of their carbon footprint. 

One thing is certain: reducing energy consumption in brewing will improve the financial success and the environmental impact of any brewery.  This creates a win-win situation, and it becomes possible thanks to new innovations in monitoring and managing these resources. 

The Need for Better Resource Monitoring

By its nature, brewing beer is a resource-intense operation, requiring large amounts of water and electricity.  With energy prices continuing to rise, this increases operating costs and reduces the return on sales. But unlike other aspects of production like raw ingredients, aluminum cans, labels, and packaging, it’s not as easy to say whether the electricity or water being consumed is being done in an efficient manner. With limited visibility into energy consumption, the questions are plentiful. How much electricity is required for production versus post-production?  Are the walk-in storage coolers operating efficiently to keep the beer at a proper temperature? How much water is being wasted during the brewing process, including cleaning procedures? You get the idea.

This can be a major stumbling point for breweries.  As part of the Better Plants Program, Department of Energy (DoE) investigators worked with the Deschutes brewery in Oregon to find numerous examples of waste in their processes.  During their tour of the facilities, standing water was frequently seen on the ground, and even the tour guide acknowledged high levels of waste that they were having difficulty dealing with.

Working with the DoE, Deschutes was able to identify and contain so many sources of waste that their utility bills could be cut by almost $250,000 per year - a 41% reduction!

In all likelihood, breweries across the nation - and around the world - are facing similar challenges, and not all of them can partner directly with the government to achieve these insights.  New technological solutions are called for, and they have already hit the market.

New Monitoring Solutions Create Cost-Saving Opportunities

Using a combination of direct utility monitoring and Internet-of-Things (IoT) networked monitoring systems, it has become possible for breweries of any size to get a much more accurate overview of their energy use, water waste, and the associated costs.

For any brewing facility, monitoring systems can be linked directly to their water and electrical supply, precisely tracking utility use within any building.  These monitors do not interfere with operations and feed their data directly into a cloud-based analytics program designed to track usage. This helps provide a better understanding into a brewery’s ‘current state’ of resource consumption. Let’s face it: most business owners open their power bill or water bill only to see how much they are going to be paying this month. Afterall, the consumption has already taken place, so what’s the point in looking any further? An alternative is having real-time insights into the energy being consumed to compare trends in production over time, and to gain visibility into areas that have historically been ignored.

Once these key areas are identified, smart solutions can be deployed.  Automation systems can monitor energy and water use, sending out alerts should usage spike above a baseline - providing an early warning of wasteful problems.  Smart automation based on factors like occupancy, time of day, temperature, and humidity can also be used to control internal systems such as air conditioning and lighting, seeking optimal conditions for energy use.

All this can be delivered to brewery managers via the cloud-based analytics platform which can be viewed from anywhere, delivering easy-to-understand reports highlighting every opportunity for further cost savings.

Connecting Technology for a One-Stop Shop

There are so many moving pieces in a brewery and it may seem overwhelming at times, and things like energy spending and consumption can easily be overlooked. It’s apparent that the craft beverage industry works better together and the same attitude goes for businesses that provide smart solutions for breweries. For brewery operators that want complete visibility and transparency into their energy consumption, a central operating system that ties together energy-smart solutions will help make smarter and faster decisions. 

Leveraging the power of Ohanafy, a craft beverage operating system built on the Salesforce platform gives your brewery a place to track vendors, records, various bill costs, billed vs. actual demand, and much more.

Action-packed with data to help run a better business, leveraging the comprehensive reporting capabilities provides a track record of energy efficiency and consumption. Balancing and having a place to decipher and utilize this data in your decisions is critical.

Presenting all of this data in a way that allows you to easily find and manage, allows brewery operators to make the necessary adjustments and business decisions in real-time. This can be the deciding factor that saves breweries money and allows them to focus on other areas. 

Making smart decisions around energy consumption and utilizing data starts today. With the power of technology combined with an operating system that keeps everything under the same roof ensures a more responsible carbon footprint and better business.

A Path to Net Zero

A common mantra is Reduce Before you Produce. Making improvements in energy efficiency by reducing waste is typically being discussed as the first-step on a path toward Net Zero initiatives. Making investments in renewable energy resources like solar and wind are becoming more financially viable. According to the Brewer's Journal, use of solar panels are on the rise across the industry.  The cost of installing solar panels has dropped 80% in the last decade, making them affordable for a wide range of breweries, with the investment paying for itself in as little as three years.  Energy produced by solar can be as little as 1/3 the cost of traditional power generation.  With these systems expected to last for 25+ years, that represents huge long-term cost savings, as well as massive reductions in carbon emissions. 

Renewable energy is an important stop on the path to Net Zero, but should not be the starting point. Instead, understanding your current state of energy consumption through real-time monitoring, establishing opportunities for low cost/no cost energy savings, and leveraging technology-driven energy savings strategies are all needed first for any brewery to maximize the efficiency of their energy consumption. At this point, the financial considerations of investing in renewable alternatives becomes even more compelling.

As the costs of running a brewery rise, and pressures mount to improve standards in environmental sustainability, the need to innovate is ever present. With every challenge comes opportunity. Brewery owners are taking notice that a combination of smart monitoring, energy optimization, and waste reduction can represent a new era in green brewing. 

Interested in learning more for your brewery or distillery? Contact us today.