Unfortunately, we at the SBR very rarely receive articles about large technological projects carried out in or with craft breweries in our region. So it is with much delight that we bring you this article, written by Jesper Troelsen from the major equipment and technology supplier, GEA. On top of this, the brewery partner having worked with GEA is a very new brewery on the Danish craft beer scene, namely Skanderborg Bryghus. This article more than clearly reflects a highly unusual level of ambition – and the willingness to invest the money such ambitions cost – in the craft segment of our brewing industry on behalf of Skanderborg Bryghus on one side. On the other side, it demonstrates just as clearly that GEA intends to be a turn-key – or total solution – provider to the booming craft beer industry in our region. And probably also beyond it! Happy reading…


Author: Jesper Troelsen

Having invested in a new state-of-the-art brewery plant supplied by GEA, Skanderborg Bryghus is blazing the BEER trail with respect to automation, process documentation and contract brewing. And, the brewery facilities being without any hosing, it hardly needs to be added that this is about beer production of a very special quality.


Though a relatively new player within the concept of craft beer, the history of Skanderborg Bryghus indeed goes back many years. The origins of the brewery can be traced back to the recreational – or hobby – brewhouse Nonnebjerg, which, similar to so many other recreational brewhouses, started in the basement by a local group of young beer enthusiasts. With the establishment of Skanderborg Bryghus in 2015, investments were simultaneously made in two 500-litre brewing tanks, which signified a considerable increase in brewing capacity.


As was the case in 2015, the capital for the latest new brewery plant, fermentation tanks and renovation of the new domicile was raised via a share-capital increase; and in the words of brewmaster Lars Kromand: “Since our establishment in 2015, we have experienced tremendous backup from the local community. Contributing with many hours in our operations, volunteers have helped to boost business considerably. As in 2015, we once again succeeded to secure local capital for our most recent investment – an expansion of the brewery in all matters that will benefit all beer loving individuals. And here I mean beer-lovers in general – not just people from around the town of Skanderborg”.


The reason for this latest investment and expansion is to prepare Skanderborg Bryghus for the future, and it was imperative that the decision was taken now. Skanderborg Bryghus experienced success to such a degree that it was hard to keep up with demand – such as, for instance, when the brewing capacity was tied up by the collaboration between the brewery and the local, annual music festival SMUKFEST. SMUKFEST is also known as “Denmark’s most picturesque festival”, representing 8 days of festival and visited by around 55,000 guests – most of whom are fond of beer.


With the investment in new brewery facilities and the substantial expansion of capacity, Skanderborg Bryghus is not only secured in relation to future capacity shortages but, in fact, the brewery also takes on a new role as a provider of contract brewing. In the words of Lars Kromand, who is also the principal investor in the brewery, “The 700 investors in Skanderborg Bryghus do not only share the love of hand-crafted quality beer – we are so much more than just that. Our aim is to contribute to the definition of new trends and standards within the concept of craft beer; and we have more than a few ideas about what a high-technology brewery system – like the one supplied by GEA – may lead to. As regards my personal passion, I want to dedicate more time to the making of amazing beer – quality beer that, owing to our new set-up, can be documented down to smallest detail”.


In addition to brewing their local SB beer, Skanderborg Bryghus also plans to enter into other interesting partnerships. With a capacity of approximately 40,000 hl/year, the brewery is now paving the way for others to make use of their revolutionary facilities for brewing beer of particularly outstanding qualities while, at the same time, having the increasingly mandatory documentation in place. Being a contract brewer, the brewery will provide the customers with the opportunity to submit their own recipes for production or develop new recipes in collaboration with the brewmaster. The potential is extensive, or as the brewmaster puts it, “We will go to great lengths in order to provide everyone with a unique opportunity of brewing craft beer where we stand as the guarantor of the brewing process and beer quality. Well – the market for craft beer is indeed going our way as well,” Lars Kromand concludes.


And, over the years, the Danish beer market has definitely undergone a change; and requirements for price and quality of craft brewing have become increasingly demanding – facts contributing to the brewery’s decision to opt for this investment.


In the course of the last decade, the market share of Danish brewed craft beer has undergone a twofold increase, equalling 6.1% for 2016 (Danish Brewers’ Association). In all probability, this trend, which is not solely a Danish phenomenon, will continue. In fact, 1,722 new Danish beers saw the light of day in 2017 as did 30 new breweries, and, in the US, the market share of craft brew has now reached 11%. Likewise, the share of beer from abroad having entered the Danish market increased to 8% in 2016 (Danish Brewers’ Association). This means that, collectively, the share of foreign and Danish brewed craft beer has now reached a 14.1% market share on the Danish beer market. The expectation is that the numbers will continue to rise in future years; and, as the brewmaster says, ”In addition to the indisputable success we have experienced from day one, we are also benefitting from the cyclical upswing that speciality beer or craft beer has undergone in recent years. Hence, our investment should also be considered in this perspective – a perspective that clearly states that craft beer is gaining ground and that quality requirements are becoming increasingly important, just as the ability to document everything. With our most recent investment, we make sure that for many years to come we will remain a significant player in the craft-brew market and, naturally, the process preceding our investment involved a lot of careful consideration.”


Which factors where considered by Skanderborg Bryghus?

Several models were in play prior to the final decision as to the equipment in which the brewery should invest. For instance, Skanderborg Bryghus visited a GEA reference brewery in Belgium – Brouwerij Anders – where they operate with a system similar to the one chosen by Skanderborg Bryghus. Here, there was ample opportunity for careful inspection of the brewery in action and to ask questions about the local brewer’s experience with the brewing equipment, and, of course, to taste a few of the great beers that await you on the other side of the investment. Skanderborg Bryghus opted for a 40-hl craft-beer plant of the type CRAFT-STARTM supplied by GEA and every piece of equipment, from malt silo to bottling machinery, is engraved with the GEA emblem. As a matter of fact, GEA is also represented locally in Skanderborg, which made it feasible for Skanderborg Bryghus to investigate the opportunities for a “local” supplier to the benefit of both parties. “We are highly focused on establishing local collaborative relationships. The fact that GEA is located in the immediate vicinity of our brewhouse, giving us direct access to a supplier of excellent global repute with experience within installation of high-end brewery solutions only adds additional value to this collaboration,” Lars Kromand explains. GEA and Skanderborg Bryghus have entered an official partnership, which means that Skanderborg Bryghus will feature on the list of GEA’s reference breweries when the project is finalized.


Hoses are banned!

To the beer novice, the slogan “hoses being banned” may sound contradictory in this context. However, in matters concerning brewery plants, this aspect is of paramount importance. The system chosen here is designed with a solution of solid piping, and neither hoses nor flow plates are permitted options. Skanderborg Bryghus chose a plant designed with automatic sanitary GEA valves. As to the background for the design, the brewmaster states that, “We invest in state-of-the-art equipment; and, owing to the system’s degree of automation, we will have complete control of processes and, consequently, the need for error-handling procedures will be minimal. In the end, we will get a better return on our invested capital because the plant’s effective production to capacity will increase.”


Why GEA as you preferred supplier?

The new plant and the major capacity increase entail entirely different manpower requirements as compared with the previous voluntary workforce that has up until now been sufficient. Lars Kromand has the following comment with respect to the desire for an automated plant: “Obviously, a high level of automation demands a considerable investment. However, automation naturally means that our headcount requirements will be considerably lower, and we will obtain enhanced utilization of the plant and lower losses. All in all, this justifies the major investment”.


With the degree of automation Skanderborg Bryghus has opted for, the brewmaster’s mission, to produce beer of a particularly high quality, is definitely within reach as the new brewery plant acknowledges the following:

  • Guaranteed uniformity from one batch to the next – i.e. the taste will always remain the same for the individual brews
  • Absolute process control – e.g. the control procedures concerning brewhouse temperature profiles, fermentation and storage.
  • Minimised oxygen pick-up – an incredibly important quality parameter
  • Prevention of contamination risks – which in the new plant will be practically non-existent
  • Documentation of all process quality parameters


Or as brewmaster Lars Kromand’s puts it: “It is better to spend time on quality control and thus make sure that one’s craft is carried out in the best possible way,” adding, “AND we will be able to provide a precise match of the customers’ desires, regardless whether it’s a matter of certain styles or taste nuances to be emphasised. Likewise, we will be more flexible with respect to changeover of the plant from one beer type to another”.


Project implementation

At the time of writing, the project planning is well under way, and, with the delivery of most parts expected to take place in late May, the brewhouse as such is anticipated to “roll” through the gates one month later. Installation is expected to be completed by the end of August/the beginning of September. All the GEA equipment will be drawn in 3D, which will provide Skanderborg Bryghus with a unique opportunity for equipping the plant precisely the way they want. Further, this layout also facilitates the positioning of sewage and drainage at the exact spots where they will be needed.


The new 1,100 m2 building has already been built and now stands without partition walls. From a height of 7 metres, the operators will have an excellent overview allowing them to operate several elements of the plant at the same time. Likewise, from the new viewing window of the tasting room, visitors will be presented with a view directly into the heart of the craft brewery.


The process

The following comprises a brief presentation of the equipment. From malt silo and a reception funnel for specialty malt, the malt is transported to a malt hopper which constitutes an element in the wet-process mill, GEA type MILLSTARTM. The advantage of using a wet mill is, for instance, that the processes of drainage and sparging in the lauter tun will take place at considerably faster speeds as compared with a dry-milling process. Also, ATEX (the international standard for protection against explosions and fire when handling dry cereal products) issues will be reduced.


The brewhouse as such is a 40-hl plant consisting of three vessels and supplied with a fully assembled unit comprising pumps, valves, control panels, etc. The three vessels are a mash tun, a lauter tun and a combined wort kettle/whirlpool. Heating is supplied via an external boiler. Capacity with the current layout is 5 brews per 24 hours. Future expansion is possible via a pre-run tank and a separate whirlpool. This would take plant capacity to 9 brews every 24 hours. The brewhouse is supplied with a condenser for energy recovery from the steam generated by the wort boiling.


After automatic wort cooling and aeration, the wort will be pumped into a number of combi tanks for fermentation. Typically, the tanks hold 2 brews each. They are equipped with automatic valves on their wet side as well as on gas and CIP side. A so-called ECO-MATRIX has been fitted under the tanks. This consists of a set of valves for wort, beer, yeast and CIP return. The valves are leak-proof double seat valves that are positioned under each tank and thus not taking up extra floor space elsewhere. The CIP process is automated and does thus not require operator involvement. The operating system will automatically put tanks selected for CIP in queue, and CIP will automatically commence when the CIP line is free. Tank pressure can be individually controlled, all depending on what will be optimal for the individual beer type. The yeast may be pumped for drainage or back into a smaller yeast tank to be reused in the next brew.

After fermentation, the beer will be pumped into the Bright Beer Tanks, but prior to arriving at this point, the beer will go through a centrifuge in order to separate any remains of yeast, trub, hop and other impurities. The centrifuge will moreover facilitate enhanced utilization of tank contents, as a large part of the beer from the sediment at the tank bottom will be recovered. This is of considerable importance to the brewery’s accumulated losses.

After centrifuge treatment, the beer is led to an HGB (High Gravity Brewing) unit, in which the brew can be reduced to the desired alcohol percentage through dilution with de-aerated gravity liquor, using a GEA VARIDOXTM system which produces gravity liquor with a maximum of 0.03 ppm O2. The de-aerated water is also used for downstream processing in connection with the completion of transfer between tanks. This protects the beer against oxygen uptake, and wastage can be even further reduced. Where necessary, the HGB system also takes care of adjusting carbonation to the right level. Similar to the fermenters, the Bright Beer Tanks (BBT) are equipped with ECO-MATRIX automated valves and will thus be subject to an identical automation level.


Yeast pitching may be performed using dry yeast directly through a manhole on the top of the fermenters, but it can also be done via a mobile yeast-dosing unit capable of dosing wet yeast to the brewhouse wort production line. After the wort cooling process, the installation of an automatic wort aeration system will ensure consistent wort oxygen content from one brew to the next. As an alternative, the yeast-dosing unit can be applied for yeast dosing between the flash pasteurizer and bottle filler. This function is applied in the event that bottle conditioning is required. For this purpose, an additional small tank will be installed for liquid sucrose dosing.


Skanderborg Bryghus’ existing flash pasteurizer will be rebuilt – partly for enhanced capacity and partly for PU-regulation. Also, a pressure tank will be installed. GEA will supply peripherals such as brewing liquor (hot and cold) tanks, CIP systems and the actual operating system. The GEA operating system, called GEARBOXX, includes visualisation and control from a pair of operator stations. GEA’s experienced programmers from GEA BREWERY SYSTEMS in Germany will be in charge of the programming.

Finally, it should be mentioned that, at the time of writing, the feasibility of installation and choice of a new bottling line is being investigated. The scope of the existing line is insufficient but will, however, remain in the brewhouse for the bottling of smaller batches. Moreover, investment in a new beer filter enters as an element in the longterm planning.


We will follow up on this project and publish another article or two in a later edition of SBR.


The plant is expected to be ready for first brew in August 2018, and it will probably be safe to say that everyone is looking forward to enjoying their first, well-earned and well-brewed mug of beer.