Does Your Brewery Need a Pilot System? Probably, and Here’s Why!

What is a Pilot Brewing System?

A pilot brewing system is a smaller version of a full-scale brewing setup, typically 1/4 to 1/5 the size of the main brewhouse. These systems are used for research and development batches, allowing brewers to experiment with new recipes and processes on a smaller, more manageable scale. This helps in fine-tuning and scaling recipes for larger production runs.

The Benefits of a Pilot Brewing System

The primary benefit of a pilot brewing system is cost efficiency. By brewing smaller batches, breweries can test new recipes without the financial risk associated with full-scale production. This minimizes material and utility costs and reduces the sunk cost if a recipe doesn’t turn out as expected. Additionally, pilot systems allow breweries to create smaller batches for market testing, seasonal beers, or award submissions without tying up resources in large-scale production.

The Importance of Pilot Brewing Systems

Pilot brewing systems are vital for innovation and experimentation in the brewing industry. They provide a platform for testing new ingredients, techniques, and recipes before scaling up to larger batches. This flexibility is essential for maintaining competitiveness and meeting market demands for unique and high-quality products. Furthermore, pilot systems serve as training platforms for new staff, helping them learn brewing processes on a smaller, more manageable scale.

Ensure Consistency and Quality

Custom-designed pilot brewing systems ensure that the pilot system replicates the main production system as closely as possible. This consistency is vital for scaling recipes accurately. By matching the design and functionality of the pilot system to the main brewhouse, breweries can ensure that recipes developed on the pilot scale will perform similarly when scaled up. This alignment helps maintain the quality and consistency of the final product, which is essential for building a strong brand reputation.

Pilot System Controls

Modern pilot brewing systems often include advanced control systems similar to those in larger setups. Deutsche can integrate these controls to automate and monitor processes such as water flow, temperature regulation, fermentation, auto knock-out, and lauter transfer, ensuring consistency and precision. Deutsche can provide integrated controls can operate both the pilot and main systems, often through a single, or separate control panel or even remotely via an iPad. This integration allows for seamless operation and simplifies the training process for staff.

Mechanics and Layouts

Pilot brewing systems can be designed as standalone units, integrated into existing brewhouses, or as part of multi-tiered setups. They typically include key components like a mash/lauter tun, a kettle/whirlpool, and support tanks such as lauter tun, mash kettle/whirlpool, hot liquor tanks (HLT) and cold liquor tanks (CLT). Depending on the brewery’s needs, pilot systems can use direct fire, steam, or electric heating methods. These systems can also be designed to share utilities like grain handling, boilers and chillers with the main brewhouse, optimizing resource use.

The Importance of Custom Design

Custom design is crucial for pilot brewing systems. Each brewery has unique requirements, and a tailored system ensures that these needs are met effectively. Deutsche specializes in designing systems that fit the specific production goals, space constraints, and operational workflows of each brewery. This customization maximizes efficiency and ensures that the pilot system integrates seamlessly with existing operations.

Breweries Using Pilot Systems Built By Deutsche

  • Penguin City Brewing (Ohio): Features a multi-tiered system allowing for efficient navigation and operation. Their system integrates the 3.5-barrel pilot system with hot liquor tanks (HLT) and cold liquor tanks (CLT) of their main 20-barrel production brewhouse, showcasing a highly coordinated setup.
  • Tupps Brewery (Texas): Employs a 15-barrel system alongside their 60-barrel setup, offering flexibility in production scales. This allows them to run high-production batches on the larger system and smaller, seasonal batches on the pilot system.
  • Greater Good Brewing (Massachusetts): Utilizes a 2-barrel pilot system integrated into their 30-barrel brewhouse. They use this setup for training, scaling recipes, and award submissions. The pilot system can be operated via an iPad, providing convenience and advanced control. Additionally, their 2-barrel pilot system integrates seamlessly with the 30-barrel production setup from 2017, highlighting Deutsches’ capability to retrofit new systems with existing ones.
  • Obscure Brewing (South Dakota): Leverages a 3.5-barrel pilot system alongside their 15-barrel production setup. This smaller system is essential for brewing seasonal beers and optimizing production during slower months.
  • New Terrain Brewing (Colorado): Operates a 10-barrel pilot system in conjunction with their 30-barrel production system. This configuration allows them to cater to varying market demands, running high-production batches on the larger system and experimental or limited releases on the pilot. The terraced setup enhances operational efficiency and offers flexibility to meet market demands.
  • Noda Brewing (North Carolina): Added a 3-vessel, 5-barrel pilot system to their existing 60-barrel brewhouse. This pilot system has been noted for its high efficiency and is used for award submissions, scaling recipes, and seasonal beers. The pilot system was integrated with their existing brewhouse (built by another manufacturer), grain handling, and process piping, showcasing Deutsches’ capability to retrofit pilot systems into existing setups no matter the manufacturer.
  • Hatchet Brewing (North Carolina): Features a 15-barrel 3-vessel system and a 3.5-barrel pilot system. The integration of hot and cold processes, automation, and grain handling between the two systems highlights the versatility and efficiency of their setup.
  • Gaston Brewing (North Carolina): Utilizes a 10-barrel production system alongside a 3-barrel pilot system. This setup allows for flexibility in production, catering to different scales of brewing needs.
  • Deutsche Beverage + Process Showroom (Charlotte, NC): Features a 10-barrel four-vessel system integrated with a 2-barrel pilot system. This setup demonstrates the advanced capabilities and customization options available, allowing potential customers to see the system in action. Want to see this system in action? Reach out to Deutsche, they welcome visitors and encourage them to witness the quality of their equipment in person.

Why Deutsche is the Ideal Partner for Pilot Brewing Systems

Deutsche Beverage + Process is the ideal partner for pilot brewing systems due to their expertise in customization, automation, and integration. They offer tailored solutions that meet the specific needs of each brewery, ensuring that the pilot system integrates seamlessly with existing operations. Deutsche’s pilot systems replicate commercial scale on a smaller level, ensuring accuracy and consistency when scaling recipes. Their advanced controls and automation provide brewers with the tools needed for innovation while maintaining quality. Additionally, Deutsche’s track record of successful implementations across various breweries demonstrates their capability to deliver high-quality, efficient, and flexible brewing solutions.

Deutsche’s systems are designed for future expansions or integrations with existing equipment, even if the original system was not supplied by Deutsche. This adaptability ensures that breweries can continuously evolve and innovate without being constrained by their equipment or original equipment provider.

In conclusion, a pilot brewing system is a valuable asset for any brewery looking to innovate and expand their product offerings. With the ability to conduct small-scale experiments and training, and the flexibility to integrate seamlessly with larger production systems, these systems provide significant long-term value. Deutsche, with their expertise in custom design and integration, stands out as the ideal partner for breweries seeking to implement or upgrade their pilot brewing systems.

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