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.