Denver, Colorado, is hosting this year’s U.S. Craft Brewers Conference (CBC). The Brewers Association expects to have more than 13,000 professionals from the brewing industry attend its diverse seminar program and BrewExpo America trade show ¬– all taking place against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. GEA will, once again, be in attendance. This year, the company will showcase its brewing and filling expertise and present their specialized technologies for forward thinking craft brewers. (April 8-11, 2019, GEA stand 12003).

GEA will be premiering the Craft Yeast Propagator, a system specially designed for small and medium-sized craft brewers. In addition, attendees will get a sneak preview of the latest generation craft brew centrifuge, the “HB i” or “Plug & Win i”, which is equipped with a direct drive motor and the latest efficiency and serviceability upgrades.

“For decades, Denver has been the center of the craft beer movement,” explains Gregg Norris, who oversees the North American craft brewing business for GEA. “The legendary Great American Beer Festival, for example, takes place here each year, celebrating the nation’s dynamic craft beer culture in this sunny, mile-high setting. We at GEA always feel energized when we’re with our customers in Colorado.”

Staying competitive and sustainable over the long term

A local cutting-edge enthusiasm led to a boom in the craft scene over the last few decades, and Denver is now home to around 100 craft companies. As craft continues to grow – with over 7,300 breweries in the US, all of the players need to find their niche for a successful long-term future. “A successful craft brewery needs an entrepreneurial spirit and has a vision that accounts for quality beer, creativity and adaptability,” says Norris. “Our mission is to translate dreams into a successful business reality with smart and flexible brewing solutions. 

Yeast management on a craft scale

GEA Craft Yeast Propagator with semi-automated control

GEA will be showcasing its pilot Craft Yeast Propagator – which was announced at the 2018 BrauBeviale – for the first time at a trade fair. With production volumes ranging from five to 25 hectoliters (up to 20 barrels), the propagator is sized to work with GEA’s craft brewhouses, the CRAFT-STAR™ and COMPACT-STAR™ (25 to 125 hectoliters brew size).

Yeast is the most important component in beer production. It influences taste, quality and filterability. “This makes it all the more important to select the right strain, maintain and propagate healthy cells and utilize the surplus yeast,” says GEA Product Manager Torben Bauch. The growing number of varieties available on the market in recent years has led to a steady increase in technical automation, explains the yeast expert: “However, this is exactly where the views of craft brewers differ from those of larger breweries. And this is why we've converted our YEAST-STAR™, a solution for high capacity utilization with full automation, into a little sister version. Designed for smaller budgets and smaller capacities, it offers the same functionality as the GEA YEAST-STAR™: providing gentle homogenization, highly efficient aeration and precise temperature control.”

Vital and highly fermentative yeast

The propagator is equipped with a recirculation pipe, an internal aeration system and a sterile air measuring unit. During the propagation phase, the yeast cells in the reaction tank are intensively supplied with oxygen in order to keep them in a state of aerobic metabolism – thus stimulating rapid growth of the yeast cell population. The assimilation takes place directly in the propagator, which also conveniently serves as a yeast storage tank to harvest the yeast from the large fermentation tanks and store it until the next propagation. 

The London-based craft brewery, Fourpure Brewing Co., will be the first customer to benefit from the new propagator. The optimized design features several high-tech functions for manual operation and a control system tailored for this purpose. “On the one hand, this matches the craft brewer’s budget and on the other hand it, matches the way brewers want to work,” adds Bauch.

A sneak preview of the first craft beer separator equipped with a direct drive

GEA plug and win craft beer skid

At this year’s CBC, brewers can take a close look at the new “Plug & Win i” GEA Separator Skid. This latest generation of the highly successful beer centrifuge skid, sold more than 400 times in North America alone, is now available with an integrated direct drive. “For years, our HB Series centrifuge skid (“Plug & Win”) has been about what craft brewers are passionate for: simple, highly reliable and efficient beer separation,” says Paul Battaglia, Head of Separation Sales Beverage, North America, GEA. “Compared to other filtration processes, we significantly increase the yield per brew while reducing fermentation tank retention and speeding up processing time. The Plug & Win demonstrates our commitment to innovation through the automation concept, extended service intervals and a compact skid design. These are key issues for brewers who must pay close attention to their operating costs.” 

Clarifying instead of filtrating

The degree of clarification and turbidity during the beer production process can be set very precisely and reproducibly with a centrifuge. When used as a fine clarifier, centrifuges can completely replace the filtration step. This is good news for craft brewers, whose often strongly-hopped and malty creations were previously considered unfilterable. The “Plug & Win i” accelerates the entire brewing process, because separated beer requires less clarification and maturing time in the storage tanks. Brewers can therefore utilize their tank capacities more efficiently. 

With the direct drive at the heart of the highly automated separator skid, the “Plug & Win i” helps to keep batch quality consistent and further optimizes the brewing process. The latest model is even more compact than its predecessor and can therefore be moved more easily. Thanks to the interchangeable drive module and the modular design of the motor and spindle, service intervals have been increased, simplifying maintenance.

Brewing and filling from GEA

“Last year, we also expanded our offering to include flexible and efficient filling solutions with the acquisition of GEA VIPOLL,” says Norris. The lines with low and medium processing speeds are ideal for the needs of craft brewers. Demand for can filling in the craft market continues to dominate, but filling into bottles is making a comeback in some sectors. GEA will be presenting its ALL IN ONE filling and sealing heads, which can be interchanged for multiple sized cans, bottles, and even PET, at the event. 

GEA at the CBC, Denver, USA

April 8 to 11, 2019, stand 12003

Special education program presented by GEA at the conference:

April 11, 2019, 11 am, Room 402: “Creating a Diverse Product Portfolio with New Technology”: 

  • Cross-flow filtration for beer recovery from yeast, final clarification and de-alcoholization
  • Yeast propagation system designed for craft breweries with volumes up to 25 hectoliters of fresh yeast slurry
  • “All-in-one” filling equipment capable of rinsing, filling and capping-seaming cans, glass and PET bottles at a rate of 4,000 to 20,000 containers per hour (machine not showcased)
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