Plan your microbrewery with the endgame in mind, and find an experienced partner that will work with you through the design, installation and commissioning process. That’s the basic formula for success at New Realm Brewing — which opened in Atlanta in January.
“Determine what your priorities are, and then be willing to invest the time and the resources needed to realize that vision,” said Carey Falcone, CEO and co-founder of New Realm Brewing. “And understand that launching a brewery will take a lot more time than you realize.”
Falcone, a well-experienced brewing industry professional, made “quality and consistency” a priority when selecting the new brewery’s equipment.
“Carey is all about top quality,” said Matthew Schnetzer, a southeast regional sales manager for Krones Inc. “And top quality is what they have, in every aspect at New Realm.”
That includes a 20-barrel, 4-vessel Steinecker MicroCube from Krones, and a cellar comprised of sixteen 42-barrel, multi-purpose vessels. There is also yeast storage and propagation and deaerated water equipment. It all gives New Realm Brewing, which can keg, bottle and can its brews, a production capacity of about 20,000 barrels.
Automation seen as key to consistent quality
Krones wasn’t New Realm’s initial choice for a brewhouse, however. Falcone originally budgeted for a more manual operation. But when renowned brewmaster Mitch Steele joined the New Realm team, automation became a key driver in brewhouse selection.
“Mitch really stressed the importance of quality and consistency in the brewing operation,” Falcone said.
Steele had familiarized himself with a Krones brewing system during his time as the brewmaster at California-headquartered Stone Brewing Co., which had installed a Steinecker brewing system from Krones at its secondary production facility in Virginia.
“It’s always been about high quality and consistency, and we realized the Krones equipment was the best to deliver that consistent quality,” Falcone said.
“Along with the great visitor experience the brewery provides, the founders wanted very consistent beers, and the ability to easily replicate recipes,” said Schnetzer. “They also wanted the flexibility to brew different types of beers.”
The fully automated MicroCube provides that consistency, quality and flexibility, according to Stephen O’Sullivan, the director of brewery process technology at Krones.
“The MicroCube makes Krones’ world renowned Steinecker technology accessible to the craft beer market,” he said.
The brewery founders were initially considering a smaller system, but after working with the team from Krones, they decided on a 20-barrel brewhouse that offered automation and that would accommodate the company’s anticipated growth. MicroCube brewhouses vary in size to fit multiple brewing applications – from 4 to 35-barrels.
MicroCube designed to accommodate brewery growth
“Krones has been an amazing partner,” Falcone said. “We were looking for a long-term partner, not just a one-time vendor. Krones, with its extensive experience and breadth of products and solutions, became the obvious choice.”
Design with the endgame in mind
For those considering launching a microbrewery, CJ Putnicki, director of brewing engineering at New Realm, stressed the importance of up-front planning, including an initial discussion on intent.
“The first thing you want to determine is your desire for the plant — whether that be capacity or beer type, design the brewhouse with the endgame in mind,” he said.
Beer types can drastically affect design, he noted. For example, basic ales can be brewed in as few as 10 days, but if you’re planning beers that involve dry hopping, the brewing process could extend to 18 days — a considerable increase in the time needed for the product to be available for sale, and a process that ties up the equipment.
Putnicki sees drainage capacity as another major issue for the initial planning stage.
“Breweries are heavy users of water, more so than many people realize,” he noted. “Once you’ve determined your desired brewing capacity, figure out your water needs and, thus, your drainage needs, and get a contractor to sign off on a drain plan, especially ensuring that the floor slope is sufficient for proper drainage. This is often a ‘surprise’ area for people launching a craft brewery.”
A related issue is the right water system needed for a steam-fired system, with its boilers, steam piping and steam traps, instead of direct fire.
“Once you have those basics figured out, start talking with suppliers, factoring in all your utility needs for power, gas, water and sewer,” Putnicki said. “In essence, you’re building a small manufacturing plant, so you need to engineer it well, and understand its total cost of operation.”
Another advantage of the Krones solution is its brewhouse energy recovery system, which allows use of surplus energy from the brewhouse for other purposes.
Energy recovery system an added benefit
New Realm brewed two commissioning batches to test the brewhouse — moving 1,000 pounds of grain through the system.
“We called the beer ‘The Commish,’ a light Belgian blonde ale, that turned out to be a very good beer,” said Putnicki.
Those “easy” brews were followed by a pilsner and an IPA, which also turned out well, he recalled.
“Normally, you wouldn’t expect your first few beers to be perfect, but these were delicious,” said Putnicki.
Based on the success of the commissioning beers, New Realm went bold with its inaugural beers, including its maiden beer, Radegast Triple IPA, along with Hoplandia IPA, Kikimora Imperial IPA, Euphonia Pilsner and Perun Pale Ale.
The commissioning displayed a common theme of success, he added, advising start-ups to get a performance agreement in their contracts. “The equipment should produce what they say it will,” said Putnicki.
MicroCube’s factory assembly ensures design integrity
The Steinecker MicroCube brewhouses from Krones are fully assembled on the factory floor to ensure production has fully met design, then modularly disassembled for shipping. Installation is commonly accomplished in four weeks, followed by another four weeks of training and optimizing — getting to acceptance level and ensuring the equipment’s actual performance matches its capability, noted O’Sullivan.
New Realm Brewing occupies 20,000 square feet of space on Atlanta’s beltline. The space includes a main dining room, a bar, a rooftop patio and a beer garden. It can accommodate up to 400 guests who have views directly into the brewing operation.
For more information on the Steinecker MicroCube from Krones, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch video of the brewhouse installation process: