The 2015 Craft Brewers Conference and Exposition was, without a doubt, the single best trade show that CO2Meter, Inc. has ever participated in. And that was before we tried any beer.
From an operational standpoint, the Craft Brew Expo (CBE) was easy to register for, ship to, set up, exhibit, and tear down. But when you dig deeper it was the little things that impressed our team about the CBE: free public transportation passes included in everyone’s welcome packet, clear and concise scheduling of events, and preparation by the host city Portland, OR to handle the load. The CBE did a great job on all fronts. Sure, there will always be a few hiccups, but this expo was done fantastically.
From a sales standpoint our team was impressed with the intelligence and engagement of the Craft Brewers. These men and women brew beer for passion - not the money. From the team making kosher beer from quinoa - to the guys who converted and old church into their brewery - these people are making seriously fantastic products. But more importantly, they are all business people who want to make things correctly, make their products better, and in accordance with regulations that are in place.
By far the number one request this year was for a dissolved CO2 sensor. The brewers are looking to place the sensor in the beer in the brite tanks to understand the CO2 concentrations in liquid. The correct amount of CO2 in the beer ensures the correct carbonation. Nobody likes flat beer. But the most impressive part of this thirst for knowledge is that this type of curiosity and the pursuit to understand all the variables and inputs takes craft brewing out of the “hobby” realm and into a scientific world. It used to be that only the big brewers like Budweiser and Miller wanted to know and control every input. Today, craft brewers want to have that same information without brewing millions of barrels of beer to discover it.
CO2Meter offers our CO2 Sampling Data Logger as one solution to measuring the gas in the head space above the beer. Measuring CO2 in the head space relies on Henry’s Law of directly proportional gas concentrations in relation to the liquid below. However, most brewers are looking for a faster and easier method of acquiring these readings. Zahm & Nagle, Anton Paar, and Mettler Toledo all displayed devices that measured dissolved CO2 with costs ranging from $3,000 to $15,000. Those prices are too steep for smaller craft brewers to buy, but those manufactures are clearly hearing the call - and working to answer it.
The second most requested items at the exposition were devices to prevent accidentally exposure to CO2 leaks in the brewery. For this problem, we had the perfect solution.
We talked to more than 300 brewers from across the globe about the need to monitor for CO2 in their facilities. No matter the size of the brewery, the style of beer being brewed, the ingredients and processes being used, or the length of time the brewery has been in business they all know they have potential safety issues that they need to account for.
In fact the Craft Brewers Association recently published “Best Management Practice for the Management of Confined Spaces in a Brewery” that details the CBE’s recommendations about maintaining a safe work environment where confined spaces are present. However, what the CBE’s guidelines fail to mention is that exposure to hazardous situations like a CO2 leak are not limited to confined spaces. For example, purging of a brightening tank in the middle of the brew house floor can result in asphyxiation just as quickly as if the tank were in a storage closet.
The three areas of most concern in the breweries are: the cooler, the fermentation and brite tanks, and the CO2 storage cylinders. Each area presents its own unique challenges in the brewing industry when consider devices for safety.
The cooler is generally a walk-in or drive-in unit in which the brewer stores beer before shipping. Sealed coolers are prone to CO2 leakage from kegs, which makes them potentially dangerous. The two challenges for monitoring in a beer cooler environment are temperature and humidity.
That’s why we were happy to show brewers the RAD-0102 Dual Relay CO2 Storage Safety Alarm. It is designed to prevent the ingress of water and water vapor, as well as withstand temperatures below 0 Celsius.
The second area of concern is monitoring CO2 levels around bulk CO2 storage tanks and piping. Just like fast food restaurants or bars, pressurized CO2 tanks must be monitored.
The third area of concern is at the fermentation and brite tanks where CO2 is “bubbled” to create the carbonation in beer. The most dangerous situation during the process is at the end when the tanks are “purged” to begin the preparation process for the next batch. This purging process releases extremely high concentrations of CO2 that can lead to a serious safety concern. As one brewer put it, “I was passed out under the tank and the only reason I’m alive is because my monitor alerted a colleague to the issue. They pulled me out by my feet.”
One of the most exciting parts of this show and what we do overall is helping to educate our customers and the public about the hazards of CO2 and how to account for the gas. We love sharing with people what we do and how we do it on a daily basis. The Craft Brew Expo was one of those opportunities when our team gets to learn as much as we share. The brew masters we met were experts in their field. We brought back a wealth of information that is already helping us to develop new and improved products.
2016 will bring the Craft Brew Conference and Exposition to Philadelphia, PA. The “city of brotherly love” should bring out an entirely different group of brewers to learn and experience the CBE. In addition, Pennsylvania offers a great Brew Trail experience to visitors who have yet to venture outside of Philly or Pittsburgh. Personally, we can’t wait.