For the world’s largest brewers of beer and for one of the most popular “craft” brewers in the Midwest, “keeping cool” is not a lightly used phrase -- it is critical for business. That is the reason Bell’s Brewery of Kalamazoo, Mich., is using inhibited glycol heat transfer fluids for its temperature-sensitive brewing operations.
In brewing operations, inhibited glycol heat transfer fluids can increase process efficiency, extend equipment life, ensure cleanliness and safety, and improve overall economy. But most importantly, these fluids help maintain temperatures during the entire brewing process.
Bell’s is the 30th largest of the some 1,500 smaller breweries in the United States. The company annually produces about 90,000 barrels of beer, with each barrel containing 31 gal.
Keeping beer cold from the brewery to the tap is a serious quality issue for Bell’s. Customers in the 14 states where Bell’s beer is available have high expectations. “We have been using Dowfrost* fluid here at Bell’s for about 15 years,” said John Mallett, production manager for Bell’s. “We would not be interested in considering another brand of coolant, because we know the high quality we are getting with Dow.”
Cooling beer too much during brewing or transport can lead to slushy or even solid, frozen chunks of beer. If the beer is too warm, shelf life and flavor suffer. A critical balance must be maintained. The ideal temperature for beer to be both stored and served is 38°F (3°C). Using inhibited glycol solutions in the process allows for precise temperature management.
“Using Dowfrost fluid keeps us plus or minus one degree throughout the brewing process,” Mallett said.
Benefits of Inhibited GlycolFor brewing beer, a 30 to 45 percent solution of glycol-based fluid is circulated through cooling coils, sometimes submerged with a tank or wrapped around the tanks used in processing. The inhibited glycol fluid provides dependable temperature control and lower operating temperature capabilities than water, so beer can be cooled to its optimum temperature. The fluid also is used to cool fermentation and other process tanks.
Refrigeration and cooling can account for more than 30 percent of electricity consumption because beer is generally cold during all three stages of manufacture: prior, during and after fermentation. With energy prices high and rising, using inhibited glycol solutions presents a savings opportunity for brewers by optimizing cooling system operations. These fluids hold their temperature and carry excess heat away from the beer during processing at efficiencies far greater than water, brine or other fluids. They also prevent corrosion of moving parts and pipes, which reduces maintenance. There is less downtime and fewer repairs needed because of the anti-wear and anti-corrosion properties of inhibited glycol.
Another benefit of inhibited glycol fluids is that they have low acute toxicity and no color or taste. Dowfrost inhibited glycol fluids are approved for use in beer brewing operations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The primary benefits gained with the use of inhibited glycol solutions by brewers like Bell’s are the fluid’s good thermal and hydraulic properties, which ensure conduction of the cooling effect and use distribution in the cooling system. In addition, the fluid provides good corrosion control in the pipes and pumps. In the event of an accidental leak, the food-grade status of the fluid’s ingredients eases any concerns about the possibility of incidental contact with any of the food process equipment. As brewers seek new ways to control beer temperatures and ensure high quality, inhibited glycol transfer fluids can provide a solution.
*Dowfrost is a trademark of the Dow Chemical Co.