It’s always been a challenge for brewers to understand what travails their beer undergoes on its journey through the logistics chain.
While a number of businesses are working to develop keg attachments to track temperature and location and report this back to brewers, to date these have proved expensive and don’t necessarily work.
However, some brewers are finding that viable solutions at a fraction of the price are already available.
At the US Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville earlier this year, Ballistic Beer Co Head Brewer Lachy Crothers heard about data loggers at a talk on quality control hosted by New Belgium Brewing.
Data loggers are USB keys designed to measure and store temperature over time and can be used by brewers in transit and storage environments.
For brewers the USB data logger is attached to a pallet or freight. It can then track the temperature of their beer in transit, recording valuable information on where and when temperature variances may occur. USB data loggers don’t report in real time, instead they store data until it can be uploaded onto a device.
Crothers said that for New Belgium, using the data loggers was about ensuring that the cold-shift freight they were paying for was operating effectively.
“We got talking about it but we weren’t sure if it was going to be affordable for us being a reasonably small brewery,” Lachy explained.
Lachy said the USB he uses costs about $120.
“We bought one a few months ago and then we sent it on a shipment to Perth and when our distributor gets it there he just shoots it back in the post and we plug it into the computer and download the info,” he explained.
“We’ve just done a second run to Newcastle last week, I just got it back yesterday.”
The basic principle of this technology, is better quality control and greater visibility for brewers.
“We look at those shipping dates and from where it was picked up and when it arrives, ensuring that it stayed within the designated temperature range for our shipping.”
“It was a bit of a test, we weren’t sure how it was really going to go but it seems to be working great.”
Lachy said that Ballistic will be purchasing a second one, allows the brewery to capture data on almost 100 per cent of all it’s interstate shipments.
Having just hired a Quality Brewer, Lachy said that part of that role will be to capture the data that’s been collected and draw it out in some sort of meaningful way – “in how it relates to batches and shipping companies and things like that”.
“I guess we’ll start to invest in some more… maybe have three or four around and I guess then we’ll start looking at Metro.
“All our stuff is cold stored so then we don’t know exactly what’s happening all the time so it’s nice to just have some visibility.
“We pay a lot of money to have things cold stored and cold shipped because we are passionate about beer freshness and quality.”