By Brendan McClatchey, Professional Brewer
Where do people in the craft beer industry like to frequent on vacation or work trips? A brewery of course! They go, not just to taste the beer, but to also have an opinion on how amazing, or appalling, the beer was. This is a holistic view of not just the beer, but the people and facility involved. From personal hygiene to facility presentation, your beer can be judged on a lot more than flavor. Many people have said of a restaurant, “Sure the food is delicious, but I can’t eat there anymore after seeing what goes on in the kitchen.” The same applies to breweries. Aesthetics on the production floor can go a long way in boosting your overall brewery image.
Keeping Your Facility Clean
Finding the balance to incorporate extra cleaning time into busy production schedules is something all facilities face but should be a priority. Scrub your buckets, swash buckle the spiderwebs, keep parts off the floor, and give the little details some love. It’s more than sanitizing the surfaces that touch your beer. Something as simple as a poorly attended chemical rack, dripping in coagulated neglect, shows an inattention to detail that can be assumed also applies to brewing practices.
Taking the time to run a comb through many of these issues frequently will result in uninterrupted operations and preparation for the prying eye of the public. Incorporating a policy of fastidious cleaning will make your operation more presentable and likely improve your quality of presentation and customer experience. With busy tasting rooms, tours, and events to consider, here are a few cleaning tips to showcase a polished facility.
- Be familiar with the materials you are cleaning. Whether stainless, plexiglass, insulated pipe, copper, or pvc, every surface will have its own tolerances to various chemicals. Knowing the materials you are cleaning will help you determine which chemical is best suited for your needs.
- Educate new employees on the why, not just the what. Having a better understanding of the applications of the parts, and “why” you clean with certain chemicals may just stop someone from unwittingly putting aluminum parts in the caustic bin. It may be as simple as educating on gauges, gas connections, and almost anything with threads and how they all have a component that is susceptible to corrosion. Other education might include best sanitation practices and using the appropriate PPE and protect yourself! Chemicals and parts are expensive, but eyeballs are in short supply.
- Clean, clean, clean, and then clean again. Grab a non-scratch scouring pad and handle extension with your foam gun, hose, or favorite bucket and a few passes with the right chemical on the appropriate surface will get your vessels on track. Birds, insects, the person who drank too much, muddy farmers picking up grain, old cardboard, regular production soil loads are all things working against your perfect world of clean and sanitized gear. Don’t give bacteria a place to hide and flourish.
- Follow ratios and instructions for your cleaners and sanitizers per manufacturer. A scorched earth policy toward cleaning processing surfaces and exteriors is not always the answer in the sisyphean effort of keeping a spotless brewery. Cleaners and sanitizers have been specifically formulated to be used in ratios where more is not always better.
The brewhouse, should be the centerpiece of the whole show and what most people stare at when passing through. Keep up on things like beer scale, spilled hops under the kettle, foam over messes, external debris on your heat-exchanger, and drip spots before they become a full-on project to clean up. Take apart clamps when possible to facilitate full cleaning (and gasket inspection) of pipe ways when scrubbing. There are a few approaches depending on the type of debris and soil load at hand.
- For organic debris, mix up a solution of PBW and water, and give it the scrub treatment. PBW is a great choice for external applications as it is exceptionally safe to work with compared to stronger chlorinated cleaners and is gentle on materials such as rubber and aluminum. Spray off your intended target with warm water. Dilute PBW at 1 ounce per gallon in 130° F water and use your scouring pad to manually eviscerate any built up debris. Once clean, spray off again with warm water; do not let PBW air dry.
- When a topical application is needed, Sparkle is a great product with foam to get in every crevice. Grab your foam gun, dilute one part Sparkle to two parts water under 130° F, foam down your target and let it soak for five to ten minutes. Sparkle is chlorinated, so be sure to spray off with a high-pressure hose.
- Another option is Starshine. Use at 2 ounces per 30 ounces of water (depending on soil load). Simply spray it on and wipe it off. This is a great way to keep up with spot cleaning on the fly to prevent accumulation. Starshine works well with non-stainless surfaces (looking at you, control panel!).
- For stubborn scale, spray down with water and give the area a spot scrub and scrape routine with a strong concentration of Acid #5 at 1 ounce per gallon of warm (50-140 degree) water. Then, allow to air dry. Acid #5 is always a great finishing touch for stainless.
In the cellar, things might not be as visible to the everyday customer as in the brewhouse, yet a brewer passing through your facility will certainly have an eye for what stands out. Caustic footprints, the drip side of clamps and pipe trees, dry hop dust, fruit puree, barrel and foeder goop, overflowing FV blow off buckets, and the turtle stink coming from the sump will always draw attention – and not the good kind!. A lot can be done with a quick spray of the hose or the manual application of a hot caustic dilution. For overflowing FV blowoff buckets, a dose of Defoamer 880 can alleviate a lot of upkeep. One ounce per 30 gallons of foam is recommended, but adding a dollop more as fermentation progresses will keep your mess in the bucket and not strewn about the cellar. Most everyone is in good practice of keeping up on floors with regular cleaning SOP’s in place utilizing foaming caustic cleaners. To give the floor some extra love for heavy soil loads, spray down with warm water and manually spread CMC. Give it a scrub with a deck brush and follow up with a squeegee and final spray down to remove all soils. This is a great practice for daily, if not weekly, floor cleanings, depending on your needs.
These are a few basic methods for regular upkeep and spot cleaning of some of the trouble spots that stand out in production facilities. Some messes may require several passes of stronger dilutions and a stronger will to overcome. Taking the time regularly, not just in preparation for a large event, can help you minimize time and resources involved in keeping your brewery in shape for game day when everyone is watching. For champions, every day is game day.
About the Author
Since 2009, Brendan McClatchey has made the sauce for breweries such as the Liberty Brewery and New South Brewing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as well the River Horse Brewery in Ewing, New Jersey and Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado. He has also worked as a consultant for wineries, cideries, distilleries, coffee roasters, bars and distributors throughout the Northeast Tri-state area and the American West. Lately he has been making cannabinoid seltzer’s for Oh Hi Beverages in Colorado. Nonetheless, beer will always reign supreme.