Efficient Plant July 2018 - 23
feature | plant profile
Back then, in Ohio you couldn't have a
tavern, but you could self distribute. We
got launched into production, and rented a
small 2,000-square-foot facility-I called it a
shack. It was part of a commercial building
with 20 different tenants. We signed on with
a distributor pretty fast and then landed a
deal with Kroger. This was the big launch.
They told us we would have to service 30
stores. At the time I was thinking 30 stores?
How are we going do this?"
Today, Rivertown Brewery & Barrel
House sells its craft beers in 3,700 Kroger
stores and to retail giants such as Costco,
Walmart, and Aldi.
With the increase in business came growing pains. For Rivertown, having equipment
that is easy to operate and maintain is critical. But the product quality must not suffer.
"We are too big to be small and too small
to be big," Roeper explained. "We can't have
three mechanics on staff and, of course, the
problems always happen when the mechanics are not here."
One special challenge was finding the right
separation technology. Rivertown was using
a lenticular filter and allowing its settling
process to happen in fermentation tanks.
The newer, bigger brewery required much
more throughput so Roeper could do some
"When we started Rivertown back in
2009, the first beers we produced we didn't
filter or separate or anything, and we found
that the shelf-life stability was just not
there," Roeper explained. "We had limited
budget and invested in plate-and-frame filter technology, which is basically like a giant
coffee filter-you have press plates where
beer flows through one side and various
matter like yeast would get caught up in the
microfiber. Depending on the batch, you
would either get a very clear beer or a notso-clear beer."
The problem with this type of technology
is that any type of cotton fiber tends to
attract oxygen, which is a serious issue
in beer brewing. The other issue is with
sanitation. "Because we are using microfibers, different types of detergents and high
temperatures [are required to] help combat
pathogens and bacteria, but you can't be
100% sure because there is no way to test
the inside of a filter."
Then he was introduced to a centrifuge
technology that improved product quality
and accelerated production.
"We realized quickly that it would pay
us back in terms of efficiency and lowering
overhead costs," he said. "For starters, it
helped with employee retention because
it's so simple to operate. It also helped with
man hours because we didn't need an em-
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