Cooling the Brew Starts During Fermentation
A brewing facility incorporates preinsulated thermoplastic piping system for secondary cooling.
Cooling is the fundamental requirement for beer making. Without it, the fermentation process cannot take place. Today’s new craft brewers are looking for — and indeed finding — more efficient and aesthetically improved cooling and refrigeration systems to use in the beer-production process.
Good Nature Brewing is an independently owned microbrewery and tap room — and the first farm brewery in the state of New York. As a farm brewery, Good Nature sources fresh ingredients for its beers from New York’s resident farmers, drawing from local sources as much as possible.
Owners Matt Whalen and Carrie Blackmore founded Good Nature Brewing as a tasting room in 2012. Back then, Good Nature was using preinsulated PVC plastic piping — installed against the walls behind the tanks — for cooling. This proved ineffective because it did not provide enough cooling. Also, there were always concerns that someone would bump into a pipe and break it. Frequent leaks were another problem.
After being open only one year, Good Nature replaced the PVC pipe with copper piping. Though it was the least expensive option at the time, with it came new problems. “There were a lot of issues with the insulation sloughing off,” Whalen says. “You have to be a real professional to make sure the insulation stays on properly, and it doesn’t tear away from the pipe.”
Whalen and Blackmore had decided early on that being a farm brewery was part of their mission. Good fortune contributed to achieving their goals when the state of New York decided to reward companies that used local ingredients in their beers. Fortune smiled when, in 2013, the state allowed farm breweries to open satellite locations. This allowed farm breweries to serve beer by the glass without having to get separate permitting. Whalen and Blackmore took advantage of this change and opened a new tap room in downtown Hamilton the same year. They closed the original tap room but kept the brewing process in its original location.
When Whalen and Blackmore decided to expand by building a completely new production facility, they knew it would be in stark contrast to their first brewery — built to the bare bones minimum. Good Nature Brewing launched the expansion project in late 2013. Whalen and Blackmore purchased a 5.25-acre property located about two miles from the old location and less than two miles from the tap room downtown. During design and planning for the new production facility, care was taken in every aspect of the design. No detail was too small, whether in the production process or outside and inside the facility. “We didn’t want to deal with headaches down the line. Longevity in the decision-making process was always a consideration,” says Whalen.
Drawing from their own experiences and experiences from other brewers, they came up with a list of “must haves.”
“We wanted a cooling system that would last a long time, plus we wanted to be able to easily add more lines later down the road,” Whalen explains. “Because our plan called for a VIP room with a half-wall that would overlook the brewery, it was also important that the whole system would be really sharp looking. We didn’t want people staring at ugly looking insulated things!” A low maintenance solution without drips, mold or corrosion, and the ability to keep the area clean were other must-have characteristics of the cooling system.
To meet cooling system requirements for the new brewery, Good Nature selected the Cool-Fit ABS Plus thermoplastic piping system manufactured by GF Piping Systems. The brewery purchased the cooling solution from distributor F.W. Webb Co. “Other brewers we knew didn’t have enough good things to say about this system, and it seemed to fulfill every aspect of what we were looking for,” says Whalen.
The preinsulated plastic piping system is corrosion free, requires little maintenance and has a lifespan of 25 years, according to the manufacturer. The system’s core pipe is made of ABS insulated with high density, closed-cell polyurethane foam and protected with a watertight, UV-resistant black polyethylene jacket. The entire system is diffusion and vapor tight. This minimizes energy loss along the lines and eliminates thermal bridges.
The main trunk line for the supply and return line of the preinsulated plastic piping system at the Good Nature installation is 4” in diameter and about 160’ in length, conveying glycol at a temperature of 27°F (-3°C). The pipe drops run 10’ from the header to the top of each tank. Another 100’ pipe run handles the cold storage area.
The preinsulated plastic piping system supplies fermentation tanks with cold glycol so they can maintain temperatures at 66 to 68°F (18 to 20°C) following fermentation. When the fermentation is complete, Good Nature performs a “cold crash,” meaning they quickly cool down the tanks to approximately 34°F (1°C) and hold the fermented brew there for about a day. Then, it is transferred to the bright tanks to condition the beer after the fermentation process. That process typically starts at about 32 to 34°F (0 to 1°C).
The system can be power washed without any damage to the insulation or the external pipe jacket. “It’s really nice to be able to spray everything down with hot water and not worry about stressing the pipe,” says Whalen.
GF conducted the installation training for Good Nature’s plumbing company Neivel Precision Plumbing, which installed the main trunk lines and some of the drop lines. Good Nature staff also was trained, and Whalen completed the remaining installation himself. “GF trained us,” says Whalen. “They went over all the parts and pieces and explained methods of cementing, how to clean up everything and make sure that you’re installing it correctly. When you do everything properly and put it all together, you have a really nice, sharp-looking place, and it’s definitely not going to leak!”
Good Nature’s installation was done differently than most breweries as per Whalen’s vision.
“Typically you run the cooling pipe down the sides or the backs of the fermentation tanks, where it connects into the outlets coming out of the jackets,” says Whalen. “Instead, we had our local tank manufacturer, Feldmeier Equipment, run the pipe up through the jackets so the inlets and outlets came out of the top. This not only saved money from having to drop more pipe length down the sides but also provided an extra savings in space. The design allowed the tanks to be placed much closer together because the pipes weren’t sticking off the back. In this way, we were able to save almost a tank’s worth of space.”
The brewer completed construction of its new 15,000-ft2 facility on 5.25 acres of land and began brewing in January. Since January, Good Nature has brewed a lot of beer using the preinsulated piping system. In all, they have two 40-barrel fermentation vessels, one 40-barrel bright beer tank, 100-barrel fermentation vessels and 100-barrel bright tanks. Combined (to fill all fermentation), the brewery produces about 180 barrels of beer per day.
There is room for four more tanks, but for now, those expansion ports are capped off with a valve.