Tech in the Brewhouse

  • November 23rd, 2018
  • By Jeremy Moore

What a time to be alive.

In the past few years we have seen advances in technology that science fiction writers of bygone days would be proud of: electric cars that can drive themselves, 3D printing, and lightning fast internet in our phones. The latter is something that we are taking advantage of here at Cowbell Brewing Co.

In combination with our Newlands Systems Inc (NSI) brewhouse and Rockwell Automation, we have the ability to login to our brewhouse computer from our cell phones and laptops. This allows us to access anything that we would be able to control from the brewhouse Human Machine Interface (HMI) in the palm of our hands. The ability to control the brewery remotely permits us to perform tasks that would normally require coordination with a secondary individual on our own. It also ensures that we never have to lose sleep over whether or not the Hot Liquor Tank (liquor is the term brewers use for treated water used in brewing processes) was filled at the end of the day or if we inadvertently left something running.

The ability to manipulate functions on the brewhouse HMI remotely from the cellar also helps to create a safer work environment. It does so by removing the need to rush from the brewhouse to throw open a valve or to catch some other sequence that is time sensitive. Cowbell is a large facility and the brewhouse is a fair distance, across a generally wet surface, from the cellar.

The same convenience also extends to fine folks in our cellar. The cellar HMI is located on our north wall and at times they are required to be operating pneumatic valves on this screen while toggling manual valves in other areas of the cellar - perhaps at our Brite Beer Tanks (BBT is the tank where beer is carbonated and waits to be packaged) in the South-East corner. In addition, we are able to operate our GEA Centrifuge, which we use for filtration, remotely. This not only makes operation more streamlined, it minimizes exposure to the centrifuge itself. When the centrifuge discharges, it produces a loud bang that registers at approximately 160 decibels. For reference, glass has the potential to shatter starting at 163dB, which is also the internal sound pressure of a jet turbine. The further removed we are during this process, the better!

So, if you see a brewer with their phone in their hands in the brewery, there is a good chance that we aren’t checking last night’s hockey scores, although with hockey season underway this might happen occasionally, we are actually working!