Industry Trends and Cold Storage Solutions with Amanda Welker from Craig Industries, Inc.

This post was first published on Brewers of Pennsylvania blog. The Brewers of Pennsylvania is a nonprofit trade association that brings together leaders of Pennsylvania-based breweries in order to promote and protect the brewing industry in the state. Established in 2011, the Brewers of Pennsylvania serves the consuming public of Pennsylvania by encouraging brand diversity in the market. We believe in the nobility of brewing and hold dear the great traditions and history of Pennsylvania brewing.

“Ice-cold beer” — it’s an iconic phrase, and one that you’ll still find on signs and menus all over the country. While at first glance, the slogan might seem trite, the idea of keeping beer cold is nonetheless integral. From storage and quality assurance to presenting the final product to the consumer, commercial cooling options are essential to breweries and taprooms. With the advent of the craft brewing industry, the invention of supporting technologies has boomed, and cooling and refrigeration equipment are no exception.

It’s a good thing, too! The growing presence of discerning consumers and the overarching demand for a large variety of beer styles to be available at once has made innovative cool storage options a necessity.

When U.S. Cooler (a division of Craig Industries) was founded in 1986, the craft beer movement was just beginning to gain momentum. At that time, U.S. Cooler focused on providing customized cold storage solutions. It’s been decades, but that is still the company’s focus. Its 58,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Quincy, Illinois, is the base of operations, and directly serves many industries, including breweries and tap houses.

Quite a bit has changed in the brewing industry since the 1980s, so what has changed in cold storage? “We’re seeing a growing trend of people wanting to taste beer on location at the brewery. Brewery tap houses and growler stations are thriving.” This is the insight of Amanda Welker, marketing and communications specialist for Craig Industries, Inc.

On-Site Tasting

To meet the demands for on-site tasting, U.S. Cooler has concentrated on customizing its Brew Cave©, a walk-in cooler solution for breweries and taprooms of all sizes. On a larger scale, U.S. Cooler installs full-size warehouses for its customers. “Your warehouse can be located indoors or outdoors with the use of a vinyl rain roof and sloped foam,” Amanda noted. “We can partition the warehouse if you need to have separate rooms with different holding temps. Our warehouses can be fitted with large doors to accommodate forklifts or built with openings for garage doors.”

Mobile Taps

Another industry trend that has developed is the need to serve draught beer in a mobile environment. Whether it’s outdoor festivals, weddings or concerts, the demand for fresh craft beer at certain events is now a consumer expectation.

“We produce a product called Brew Wagon, which is a mobile, walk-in cooler unit integrated with a trailer — refrigeration included,” Amanda explained. “A Brew Wagon allows you to serve at locations where you wouldn’t normally have access to refrigerated storage. Taps and drip trays can be installed on the side of your Brew Wagon, giving you the ability to serve straight from the tap, no matter where you are.”

Technology like Brew Wagon is evidence of how industries adjunct to brewery operations are developing ways to meet the needs of both breweries and consumers.

Taprooms and Growler Fills

For modern-day consumers, it’s almost become expected to find a number of beers on tap with the option to purchase a growler to go. This demand has created an increased need for effective tap solutions. That’s why companies like U.S. Cooler have designed technologies specifically for this industry trend.

“No matter how many kegs you have on tap, we can design a cooler to accommodate them all,” Amanda said. “We can work around the layout of your space with angled designs. Shelving is available to organize kegs and maximize space efficiency. It can be mounted on concrete. Additionally, insulated floors are optional for those looking to increase energy efficiency.”

In addition to interior walk-in solutions, U.S. Cooler has a Brew Wall product that can be installed directly to walk-in coolers. “Brew Walls are designed to be a visible, multi-use application of your walk-in cooler. We can install taps into your Brew Wall for quick easy access. No need for a separate kegerator when you can tap your kegs straight from the walk-in,” Amanda added.

Luckily, replacement parts for custom coolers are available, so brewers aren’t left holding the buck when items need maintenance. “If you need replacement parts for your walk-in cooler or freezer, visit our parts website at www.walkincoolerparts.com,” Amanda said.

With such a rapid pace of change in the brewing industry, it’s hard to imagine what new trends and technologies will emerge just 10 or 20 years from now. In the meantime, it’s a good thing that companies like U.S. Cooler are here to help meet the needs of brewers and taprooms nationwide.

Nathan Greenwood

Photos: Craig Industries, Inc. 

Walk-in Cooler & Freezer Online Buying Guide

Walk-in coolers and freezers are a very custom product. Standard sizes are available in the industry but they assume some standard specifications. Walk-ins are not a one-size fits all item like other foodservice equipment. If you are shopping for walk-ins online, make sure to review the specifications used in sizing that walk-in. Where the walk-in is located geographically as well as if it will be installed indoors or outdoors makes a difference in the required equipment needed to run your walk-in effectively.

U.S. Cooler indoor walk-in cooler without a floor.

Here are some important things to consider before purchasing a walk-in cooler or freezer online.

  • Indoor or Outdoor: Indoor and outdoor walk-in coolers and freezers are manufactured differently. Outdoor models require additional weatherproof items on the walk-in. If your walk-in will be located outdoors, it will require some type of weather ceiling strips or a rain roof to protect the panels from the elements. If refrigeration units will be located outdoors, they require a weather cover as well as all-weather controls.  An Indoor walk-in will not work properly outdoors without additional equipment. Indoor and outdoor refrigeration units are sized differently. Look closely at the description to make sure it will fit your location needs.
  • Floor or No Floor:  Whether or not you’ll need an insulated floor depends on where your walk-in unit will be installed.  Walk-in freezers almost always require an insulated floor unless you have an insulated concrete floor already in place with thermal breaks. Walk-in coolers do not always require a floor, but it depends on where the walk-in will be installed. For cooler units installed indoors on a bare concrete slab, a floor is not essential. In new construction, if you plan on carrying heavy loads in and out of your walk-in cooler, it is recommended to construct an insulated concrete pad with thermal breaks. This will help stop condensation from forming on your concrete floor. For a walk-in to be placed above-grade level such as over a basement or on a second story floor, an insulated floor is required.
  • Holding Product: What you are storing in your walk-in makes a difference in what refrigeration unit is needed. For coolers, many models are sized assuming product entering the cooler will be 55°F and the cooler will be holding at 35°F. For freezers, many models are sized assuming product entering the freezer will be entering at 20°F and holding at -10°F. Models vary, so make sure to check the specifications on how it was sized.  If product is entering or holding at different temperatures than what the refrigeration is sized for, the refrigeration will be sized incorrectly causing it to not work properly.
  • Airflow around the Walk-in: When planning your space, remember that there should be at least 2” around the exterior of the walk-in for airflow. Without the proper airflow around walk-in cooler or freezer panels, panels could sweat or cause condensation.
  • Refrigeration Systems: There are two main types of refrigeration systems used on walk-in coolers and freezers.
    • The “pre-assembled-remote” refrigeration is a split system with the coil inside the cooler/freezer and the condensing unit either outdoors or near the walk-in. Most often on remote refrigeration systems the condensing unit is installed outside of the building. Remote refrigeration units require a licensed refrigeration contractor to install and run lines. For refrigeration warranty purposes all refrigeration must be installed by a licensed refrigeration contractor.
    • The “self-contained” refrigeration system contains the coil and condensing unit all in one that is installed on the ceiling or on/in the walls of the walk-in. Typically, a hole is pre-cut in the ceiling panel or wall panel and the unit drops in. This unit is usually ready to be installed, however a licensed refrigeration contractor must start up unit.
  • Geographic Location: The geographic location where the walk-in will be installed makes a difference. Walk-ins that are located in warmer or colder climates require to be sized accordingly. Walk-ins being shipped to warmer climates, higher elevations or with warm product entering temperatures may need a custom quotation and may not work with a “package” available online. Make sure to check the ambient temperature in the specifications to ensure the refrigeration is sized properly and will suit your climate.
  • Delivery: Due to the large product size, walk-in cooler and freezer panels are shipped on pallets and banded together for protection. A forklift will be needed to unload the unit or the unit can be unpacked and unloaded panel by panel off the pallet while it is still on the truck. Two or three people will need to be available to receive delivery if this choice is chosen. You may be charged a surcharge if it takes too long to unload the truck. Many trucks do not have a large enough lift gate for the size of pallets being delivered, therefor this option may not be available for you. It is recommended to have a fork-lift onsite at the time of delivery. It is a good idea to contact the shipping company to make an appointment for delivery to ensure the delivery process goes smoothly. Residential deliveries and limited access locations may incur sur-charges from the shipping company.

Employee Highlight – Sarah Barry

Our employees are what truly make Craig Industries a great company. We are so appreciative of their dedication and hard work. This month we’re highlighting a long-time employee, Inside Sales Representative, Sarah Barry, who has been with the company for 10 years! 

Meet Sarah Barry!

How did you get your start at Craig Industries?

I was hired right out of college. I graduated with a Law Enforcement degree, so I thought this would just be a starter job. 🙂

What is your current role at Craig Industries and what other positions have you held in the past?

I am an Inside Sales Representative, but when I worked here before I was the Regional Sales Manager of the East Coast.

What do you like most about your current role?

I really enjoy working up pricing, and problem solving.

What kept you working at Craig Industries? And how has the company changed since you started?

I have been here a total of 10 years, with a little hiatus in the middle. I enjoy the work, and the smaller company feel. I think the company has made great strides not only for the employee’s but also in manufacturing.

What has been your favorite project at Craig Industries?

I don’t have a favorite project, but I do enjoy the company BBQ.

What is your motto or personal mantra?

“No worries” or “I will punch you in the throat” depends on the circumstances. 🙂

What three traits define you?

Laid back, Hardworking, Feisty (I am a ginger)

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

I run… not because I like to, but because I like beer and Mt. Dew. Enjoy being with my kids and family.

Tell us about your family. Any exciting developments?

I have been married to Chad for 13 years this August. We have a daughter Natalee Jo (10) and son Ryland (7). Also, have beta named King, a boxer named Sadie, and a rabbit named Frankie.

New development: My sister and I are co-owning a children’s clothing boutique off of 6th and Hampshire. We started it for our little girls.

Employee Highlight – Tia Albers

Our employees are what truly make Craig Industries a great company. We are so appreciative of their dedication and hard work. This month we’re highlighting a long-time employee, Regional Sales Manager, Tia Albers, who has been with the company for 8 years! 

Meet Tia Albers!

How did you get your start at Craig Industries?

I’ve been here for almost 9 years. I interviewed for a sales support position and then was hired for the inside sales position.

What is your current role at Craig industries and what other positions have you held in the past?

Regional Sales Manager. I’ve worked in marketing, recruiting, and sales in the past.

What do you like most about your current role?

Always something different.

What kept you working with Craig Industries? And how has the company changed since you started?

Nice people to work for and I have a 7 minute commute. The company has definitely grown in the time that I have been here and wow have there been a lot of new faces all the time.

What has been your favorite project at Craig Industries?

Not sure I have a specific favorite. Steve Reckers would probably say it is one that has a ton of different angles that he doesn’t want to do.

What is your motto or personal mantra? Glory be to God!

What three traits define you?

Faithful, Persistent, and Impatient (most times)

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

Anything outdoors when it is warm. I love sunshine and summer.

Tell us about your family. Any exciting developments?

I have one son (Jacob) and three stepchildren (Douglas, Jake and Chloe). I am almost an empty nester. 🙂

U.S. Cooler Receives Vendor of the Year Award

Quincy, IL, May 10, 2019 – U.S. Cooler is excited to announce that we have been awarded Vendor of the Year by the Excell Foodservice Equipment Dealer Network.  

Excell is a dealer-based equipment and supplies buying group recognized for its vendor partners. Five factories were presented with the Vendor of the Year Award based on how they supported the organizations strategic priorities. U.S. Cooler received the award in the category of partnership and loyalty.

U.S. Cooler has been a member of the Excell Dealer Network since February 2009. Accepting the award on behalf of U.S. Cooler was Josh Craig, V.P. of Operations, and Sylvie Schulze, Sales Manager Mid-South Territory.

For additional information, please contact Amanda Welker, Marketing & Communications Specialist, or visit www.uscooler.com.

ABOUT:

U.S. Cooler, a product of Craig Industries, Inc., manufactures walk-in coolers and freezers supported with a complete line of engineered refrigeration systems, glass doors, parts and accessories.

Employee Highlight – James Prewitt

Our employees are what truly make Craig Industries a great company. We are so appreciative of their dedication and hard work. This month we’re highlighting a long-time employee, Production Supervisor, James Prewitt, who has been with the company for 10 years! 

Meet James Prewitt!

How did you get your start at Craig Industries?

I started after high school, working in the Finish Department.

What is your current role at Craig industries and what other positions have you held in the past?

I’m currently a 1st Shift Production Supervisor for the FIP/Finish, Foam, Setup/Enviro and Shipping departments. I’ve worked almost every department in the plant. I started in Finish before moving to Setup. I eventually took over the Foam department for 2 years before becoming the lead in FIP. I eventually moved on to do a year in Refrigeration, helping complete refrigeration units.

What do you like most about your current role?

I enjoy being in a position of leadership, overseeing multiple departments and increasing production numbers. I really enjoy working with the people in my departments and helping them grow and achieve their potential.

What kept you working with Craig Industries? And how has the company changed since you started?

We have become much more efficient as a company. I continue to work here because I love my job and I look forward to coming to work every day.

What has been your favorite project at Craig Industries?

I really enjoyed working in Drafting and also working in the field solving problems.

What three traits define you?

I am hard working, innovative and passionate about what I believe in.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

I enjoy bowling, working on my truck, and being a husband and father. I’m a big Chicago Cubs fan.

Tell us about your family. Any exciting developments?

I have the most beautiful 8 month old daughter. My wife Kayla and I have been married almost 5 wonderful years. My younger brother Kenny also lives with us.

Floral Storage & Display Coolers

Finally, spring is here! This means warmer weather, longer daylight hours, budding trees, and blooming flowers. And there is no better way to keep flowers fresh than with a U.S. Cooler Floral Cooler.

Floral coolers are essential to the flower industry when it comes to extending the longevity of freshly picked and arranged flowers. A U.S. Cooler Floral Cooler keeps flowers as fresh as the day they were harvested, longer than traditional commercial refrigerators.

Our floral coolers are made with the same premium quality materials as our other walk-in coolers and freezers. We can make floral storage and display coolers for florists, grocery floral departments, convenience stores and even for more nontraditional vendors like; hospitals, airports and for the small business owner. Our floral coolers are completely customizable which allows us to quickly produce any shape/size of cooler to best fit your specific needs.

U.S. Cooler’s Floral Coolers feature Low Air Velocity Refrigeration that holds the temperature constant while not damaging products with big gusts of air. Fluctuation in temperature and humidity can cause the stored flowers to wilt as they are exposed to frequent environmental changes. Extreme cold can also be more damaging to flowers than long exposure to room temperature due to frost damage. Our coolers are made with high performance insulation to keep the cool in so there is no need to excessively overchill your flowers. The influx of air is regulated and consistent, which allows for the proper storage of delicate plants and flowers.

Any size, shape or configuration, U.S. Cooler can provide you with a display cooler that will beautifully showcase your floral masterpieces. Our floral storage and display coolers are a great investment for your business and will perform for many years to come.

Floral cooler features:

  • High Performance Insulation
  • Custom Sizes & Options
  • Heated Glass Doors with LED Lighting
  • Interior & Exterior Metals
  • Low Air Velocity Refrigeration*
  • Sliding Doors

Call 800.521.2665 to be connected to a dealer near you or fill out this short form to get a floral walk-in or display refrigerator quote.

*Optional humidification may be necessary.

Click on thumbnail to see full sized images.

Employee Highlight – Steve Reckers

Our employees are what truly make Craig Industries a great company. We are so appreciative of their dedication and hard work. This month we’re highlighting a long-time employee, Lead Draftsman, Steve Reckers, who has been with the company for 26 years! 

Meet Steve Reckers!

How did you get your start at Craig Industries?

I was hired directly through U.S. Cooler where I have been working the past 26 years.

What is your current role at Craig industries and what other positions have you held in the past?

I am the Lead Draftsman.  Initially, I worked in the setup department for about 6 months.  Then, I moved to the metal line for about a year.  At that time, I became supervisor in setup for roughly a year and a half.  Then, I was the metal line supervisor for 7 years.  At that point, I moved to the drafting department and have been there ever since.

What do you like most about your current role?

I feel like drafting is a very good fit for my skill sets.

What kept you working with Craig Industries? And how has the company changed since you started?

I like the people I work with and I can be myself.  Obviously, technology has advanced a great deal since I started.  It is a more relaxed environment than it was 26 years ago.

What has been your favorite project at Craig Industries?

I like working with the guys from Joe’s Refrigeration.

What three traits define you?

Easy going, patient and aging.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

I like to watch sport:  Bulls, Cubs, and Bears.  I have bowled league for decades.

Tell us about your family. Any exciting developments?

I am married and have three children:  two boys (22 and 16) and a girl (14).  We have a 90 pound mutt named Jack and a recent addition to our family; Diane the cat.