Raising a glass to award-winning beers

GEA remotely upgraded pFriem Family Brewers' craft brewhouse.

Here at GEA we like to forge enduring partnerships with our customers. We always welcome opportunities to help them innovate, drive efficiency and sustainability, and push the limits of their GEA process systems in developing new products.

It really makes us proud when we can help to turn our customers’ visions into real world success. So we raise a glass to our longstanding partner, pFriem Family Brewers, and say congratulations to them for winning a gold award at the 2023 “Olympics of Beer” – the World Beer Cup. pFriem’s Japanese Lager was awarded the top accolade in the International Lager category. The beer is produced at commercial scale, using a cereal cooking process on the GEA CRAFT-STAR® XL craft brewhouse, which has been made possible thanks to new automation software developed by GEA.

In fact, it was just a year previously, during 2022, that craft brewer pFriem Family Brewers told us that they wanted to expand the range of beers that could be brewed using their established GEA CRAFT-STAR® XL craft brewhouse, using recipes that included raw adjuncts and traditional decoction mashing. We listened to their needs, established a project team from both sides, and got to work on the automation.

Award winning pFriem Japanese Lager.
Process automation for exciting new brews

Our experts reviewed pFriem’s very exacting, detailed technical requirements, and developed and remotely delivered software that would add the necessary process flexibility to the five vessel GEA 50 hl CRAFT-STAR® Craft Brewhouse at their Hood River, Oregon facility. The primary objective was to enable pFriem to automate processes for decoction mashing and conversion of unmalted cereal adjuncts. Given the current brewhouse design, they needed the existing mashtun kettle to be able to process both the primary mash, and the cereal adjunct. Within a few months of starting the project and armed with the new automation software and an additional valve – the only hardware modification required to the CRAFT-STAR® equipment – pFriem confirmed that the first CRAFT-STAR® brew enabled by the upgraded automation was a complete success.

Award-winning beer

The additional functionality driven by the software has allowed pFriem to harness the CRAFT-STAR®’s versatility to process commercial quantities of beers brewed using techniques and ingredients that could previously only be managed using its smaller, manual brewing system. Within just a year,  one of these brands, Japanese Lager, won the prestigious gold award.

Clear expectations

One of the key factors that allowed us at GEA to achieve all the expected endpoints of the project was the ongoing support and close relationship that we’ve maintained with pFriem since 2020, when pFriem commissioned a CRAFT-STAR® brewhouse, MILLSTAR® milling system, GEA wort treatment skid, and GEA automation system. Just as importantly, pFriem outlined to us exactly what they required from an automation perspective that would allow them to brew their new beers using the CRAFT-STAR®. Their technical knowhow and understanding of their endpoints gave us the information and insight that we needed to carry out our part of the project effectively, and within a short timeframe.

Remote delivery, but always on hand

Our GEA team in Germany worked remotely with the pFriem brewers in the US to design, configure, deliver and test the software modifications. Removing the need for international travel to the pFriem site reduced costs dramatically, and helped to prevent any delays, and meant that we were always in direct contact with our pFriem partners. And while we were able to advise and provide drawings for minor hardware changes, it made sense for pFriem to have the minor physical modifications to the brewhouse setup carried out by their local contractors, which further helped to temper costs. GEA and pFriem have maintained a collaborative spirit to their ongoing partnership, so our experts are also always on hand to answer queries, provide technological help and advice, troubleshoot and support.

New brews at commercial scale

pFriem brews about 30 different recipes every year on the CRAFT-STAR® brewhouse. The ability to harness the CRAFT-STAR® to brew using raw adjuncts, and carry out decoction mashing, means that pFriem can now efficiently and sustainably brew many more brands at commercial scale. And this new capability has been instrumental in allowing pFriem to convert its ideas and originality into exciting new beers and realise award-winning success.

Cost savings and flexibility

There are significant cost saving benefits associated with using raw adjuncts – typically cereals such as rice and corn – rather than relying on expensive, processed ingredients. Working with raw adjuncts also provides the flexibility to fine tune the characteristics of the final brew. The automation control added to the pFriem CRAFT-STAR® brewhouse offers the brewers new opportunities to create new recipes, maximize flavor, and increase capacity for some legacy brands.

This project has enabled us to sustainably scale and market new beers in commercially meaningful volumes. This previously wouldn’t have been possible, in part because of the costs of purchasing the raw materials for only small batches, and as a result of the inefficiencies associated with our older systems.”- Campbell Morrissy, Director of Brewing Operations, pFriem Family Brewers

- Campbell Morrissy, Director of Brewing Operations, pFriem Family Brewers

Continued communication

At GEA we never underestimate how much can be learned from working with our customers. Continued open, honest dialogue helps us to understand the pain points, bottlenecks and hurdles to efficient manufacturing and innovation. Our project with pFriem has given us process and automation insight that we can now leverage to help other customers benefit from exciting new functionality that can be retrofit at relatively low cost into their existing CRAFT-STAR® brewhouse setup or built into their new brewery.



The skidded GEA CRAFT-STAR® XL for medium-sized craft breweries with a cast-out quantity of 40 hl (35 US bbl). GEA´s state-of-the art brewing technologies gives you unsurpassed efficiency in the use of raw materials. And, thanks to the all stainless steel design, reliable components and solid craftsmanship, this sturdy workhorse brewery will serve you for many, many years.
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