Brewing, and its products, have been central to our everyday existence for millennia. The science and art of brewing has inspired innovation and process improvement across each century. But the challenges presented by mankind’s lifestyle today is going to require brewing brains to think harder than ever before. But why?
Energy reduction is no longer a nice-to-have
Energy bills are only heading in one direction, and these costs are increasing exponentially. The problem for brewing businesses is that the process is very energy-intensive. In an industry already under the government cosh because of tax and licence restrictions, efficient use of energy and resources is the primary way brewers now have to decrease production costs without sacrificing quality.
The energy challenges facing brewers today
Energy costs are often deemed an uncontrollable but necessary evil. Energy is a key component in most brewing processes, so finding small efficiencies all along the line will inevitably give any business the competitive advantage.
The largest consumption components tend to be refrigeration, heating ventilation, and air conditioning, though this is outside the thermal energy required in the brewhouse itself, of course. This observation suggests, therefore, that focus on reducing electrical energy consumption is where brewers could look to cut their teeth in the first instance.
So what can brewers do to make these changes?
1. Understand their current energy consumption position – This means gathering the right data and analysing it. What is your current energy profile? What is the benchmark you’re challenging?
2. Identify elements within each process that can be made more efficient – Sometimes small changes can have huge benefits. It’s not always about large capital projects.
3. Set goals to achieve this – Don’t just pay lip service to the subject. Continue to monitor the data. Analyse your results regularly. Track improvement.
4. Take all employees with you on this journey of improvement - Get them working with you, not against you, for the good of the business.
A brief word about renewable energy
Renewable energy is a huge topic in itself but an article on energy consumption in the brewing industry would not be complete without at least reference to it. Renewable energy sources are an important consideration for a brewing business. It has to be said, though, that incorporating renewable energy sources into your processes is not necessarily a cost cutting exercise. This is because capital expenditure may often negate much of the financial benefit gained from ‘free’ solar or wind power. It also needs to be borne in mind that such energy sources are not always available on demand. Thus no business can fully divest themselves of consumption via more ‘traditional’ energy routes. However, as a means of supplementing energy requirements and looking to reduce a business’s carbon footprint, they are a must.
A final word
As was mentioned in the introduction, the brewing industry has been a trailblazer in innovative thinking across the last millennium. The challenges facing the industry today are tough, but they’re not insurmountable. With an intelligent and mindful approach, brewers will continue to surprise and delight beer drinkers in a cost-effective way… for many years to come.