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California Brewer Gains Peace of Mind With IoT-Managed Chiller Temperatures

Savagewood Brewing Co. has achieved a return on investment based on ensuring its glycol chiller doesn't fail and cause beer to spoil during brewing, using a Direction Communication Solutions system with CalAmp's cellular-based gateway and sensors.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 18, 2018

Craft brewery Savagewood Brewing Co. is ensuring the quality of its beer as it is brewed and served, by tracking the effectiveness of its glycol chiller temperature-monitoring solution and cold-storage area. The brewery has adopted Internet of Things (IoT) technology provided by Direct Communication Solutions (DCS) that employs gateways from CalAmp.

The technology has not detected any temperature problems since it was taken live a year ago, says Darrel Brown, Savagewood's owner and founder, but he has peace of mind in knowing he'll be alerted if that happens. The solution consists of a CalAmp asset-tracking gateway device, connected to temperature sensors and DCS's app, to capture and manage sensor data and issue alerts regarding any sensor reading changes that might require attention. DCS is now selling the solution, tailored for small- to medium-sized businesses.

Savagewood's Darrel Brown
Savagewood, a nanobrewery based in San Diego, Calif., opened in 2017 with its own brewing operation and tap room, Brown says. The company is what he calls a neighborhood brewery, and 90 percent of its products are sold directly at the tap room.

One stage of the brewing process is especially sensitive to temperatures, Brown says: fermentation. Beer is poured into fermentation vessels with yeast, where the beverage needs to be kept at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). If the liquid becomes too hot or cold, the yeast will die. A glycol chiller is used to ensure the beer remains at that temperature, even on a hot summer day.

The beer is stored in the fermentation vessels for 10 to 35 days. During that span of time, staff members typically check the temperature multiple times each day, in order to ensure the proper conditions are being maintained. In fact, glycol chiller failure is among the most common sources of concern for brewers, according to Brown. "Ninety percent of the time, it's fine," he says. However, when a chiller malfunctions, there's the potential for an entire batch of beer to be ruined. That happened last year during a weekend, he recalls, when one glycol chiller was unable to keep the beer cool enough. Brown didn't know the malfunction had occurred, and the resultant product loss cost the brewery about $20,000.

The system DCS customized for Savagewood consists of a CalAmp gateway installed inside the glycol chiller. The temperature sensor, in the form of a probe, can be inserted into the chiller tank, and is plugged into the TTU2830 4G LTE- and GPS-based gateway, according to Kevin Blakeborough, CalAmp's channel sales senior director. The gateway is plugged into an external power source, but also comes with a back-up battery in case of a power outage.

As the system captures temperature readings, it transmits that data at regular intervals to DCS's cloud-based server via a cellular connection. In the event that a temperature falls outside the predetermined threshold, the system will alert Brown to the problem. Up to six sensors could be attached to a single gateway. The device can also detect vibration with its built-in accelerometer, says Carl Burrow, CalAmp's senior VP of global sales. This, he explains, could indicate a future problem with the chiller.

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