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Keeping the Craft in Brewing With a Process Control System

When Mother Earth Brewing Co. grew into a new space near Boise, Idaho, with a 50 bbl, four-tank craft brewery, Chris Baker, the head brewer, had to be sure the new facility could provide the flexibility to maintain and grow the company’s diverse variety of craft labels.

The craft brewery reached out to Paul Mueller Co. for the process, brewhouse and piping engineering, and Stone Technologies, a Rockwell Automation Solution Partner, for the process automation.

The new system had to handle a wide variety of recipes. Mother Earth Brewing Co. typically brews seven varieties of beer in a given week, and 60 or 70 varieties over a year.

Along with recipe flexibility, the process automation system handles energy recovery, process-value-dependent routines, and an innovative approach to clean-in-place (CIP). It also needed to allow for expansion and handle several non-brewing capabilities, all with an information-driven interface for non-technical users.

Reliable, Repeatable

Automation can help make craft beer more reliable and repeatable— you’re just not dragging hoses around. Yet you can still provide the nuanced and precise experience that brewers need to keep the beer craft.

Mother Earth’s system uses Sequencer Object for sequencing control, Batch Scheduler for scheduling and starting times, and separate parameter values for non-brew operations including CIP. The CIP sequences are able to use the same Sequencer Object instruction as the brew process because all the control functions are the same.

Instead of a separate CIP skid, the process control system uses the vessels as washing machines. The process equipment has cycles to clean one, trigger the next, add caustic, etc. They can clean all four circuits at one time, which they couldn't do with a CIP skid.

Mother Earth Brewing Co. discovered that the kettle is the bottleneck now and might add another, with more pumps and valves.

Lessons Learned

Lessons from the project include involving the customer early and thoroughly from the process of functional spec creation and through factory acceptance test (FAT), checkout, water batching and commissioning. This helped speed the customer to ownership.

For Mother Earth, the system provides an intuitive interface, allowing users to control a process without needing to understand PLC programming.

However, no matter how much planning is done around the functional spec, there are always modifications needed during startup.

Mother Earth Brewing found that Sequencer Object and the PlantPAx system makes those modifications very quick, often with no need to open a PLC program.

Find out more about PlantPAx – the modern DCS from Rockwell Automation.

Chris Baker, head brewer, Mother Earth Brewing Co. and Ryan Williams, project manager, Stone Technologies, Inc. presented “A Greenfield Installation of the PlantPAx System Keeps the Craft in Craft Brewing while Automating Processes” at the 2016 Process Solution User Group (PSUG) conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

This blog is based off an article from the editors of Control.

Paul Studebaker
Paul Studebaker
Editor in Chief, Control Magazine
Paul Studebaker

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