Brewing craft beer has become a huge business, but you can’t take shortcuts if you want to do it right. Allagash Brewing of Portland, Maine, has built its reputation for quality based on that understanding. But it took some heavy lifting by the company to get where it is today.
Allagash started out as a one-man operation back in 1995; its first release, modeled after the traditional “white” beers of Belgium, was christened Allagash White. Fast-forward 20 years, and the company has 85 employees and produces about 85,000 barrels a year. It now releases a variety of beers, but its most popular label remains the Allagash White. The beer has gained quite a following among those who appreciate its distinct flavors and the effort and craftsmanship that go into production. One crucial step in Allagash’s production is refermentation, an organic process also known as bottle conditioning that enriches flavors and prolongs their stability. It requires precise conditions and can’t be rushed.
For its flagship White, the refermentation process requires storing it at precisely 72°F (22.2°C) for 10 days. However, in the company’s old warehouse, poor air circulation made some areas too hot and others too cold. Keeping the temperature constant required endless testing and moving of pallets and even individual cases of beer to prevent the beer from going bad.
“ Happy employees make life a lot easier; constant air movement is a huge benefit to employees, and the quality of life on the floor has increased dramatically. Sean Diffley, plant engineer
It was a problem that traditional fans weren’t able to solve, so after hearing that Big Ass Fans had the same commitment to excellence as Allagash, the brewery got in touch to see if Big Ass could offer a solution. Company representatives looked at the facility, considered all the factors, and before long Allagash had two Big Ass 18-ft (5.5-m) Powerfoil®X2.0 fans keeping air moving quietly and evenly throughout the warehouse. That meant no more lifting of pallets and monitoring every corner of the warehouse. “With the fans, we know that the air will be distributed correctly, and the beer will ferment correctly,” says Plant Engineer Sean Diffley.
Conditions in the warehouse had affected more than just the product. People working on the bottling and kegging lines also suffered from a lack of air circulation. Employees were hot and uncomfortable in summer, especially around the scalding steam vessels used to sterilize kegs. So when the company moved into a new facility, leaders decided to go with a product that had proven itself. They installed two more Big Ass Fans, one above the kegging line and a second above the bottling line. The fans keep the temperatures even throughout the facility and saved Allagash the time and expense of installing ductwork for the air-conditioning. But it was worker comfort that was the company’s first priority. “Happy employees make life a lot easier,” says Diffley. “Constant air movement is a huge benefit to employees, and the quality of life on the floor has increased dramatically.”
Big Ass Fans made Allagash’s refermentation process easier and its workers more comfortable; the brewery was a “happy customer,” says Diffley. So when he heard that Big Ass Fans had designed light fixtures, he decided to invest in the new industrial Big Ass Light LEDs. Big Ass Fans helped Allagash earn immediate utility rebates for the energy-efficient fixtures, and Diffley is a big fan of the quality of light. Employees appreciate the brighter, more inviting work environment, he says, and that means they’re more productive.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for Diffley, though, was in the overall improvement to the brewery’s appearance. With 50,000 people touring the production floor every year, appearance counts for a lot.
What the public sees now is equipment that shines brighter and workers who are happier.
The Big Ass Light LED fixtures “improve how we work and how we present ourselves to the public,” says Diffley. “They look great.”