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Does Brewery Automation Take The “Craft” Out of Craft Beer?

For many brewers, beer is not merely a day job, but an art form

For many brewers, beer is not merely a day job, but an art form. The journey from pilot batch to production to tasting brings its own unique pleasures at every step, and the process can seem most “authentic” when done manually.

So it’s no surprise that as craft breweries grow beyond manual production, many brewers become concerned that excessive automation will take the “craft” out of their brewing process. 


After all, you’ve built a loyal following by putting a great deal of care and attention to detail into your brews, and that’s a tradition you want to preserve as you grow.


In addition, you might be worried about the quality of your beer, and how it will be perceived by customers. For some purists, “craft beer” should be made in small, hand-crafted batches, not through a set of automated processes focused on volume over quality. Some might even go further, seeing this as the first step to dilution creep and other cost cutting measures that devalue your beer in the long run.


How a Brewery-Specific Automation System Can Help


In our experience, while these fears are understandable, none of these outcomes need to happen, if you choose the right automation tools for the job. Many general-purpose automation systems have been designed for industrial applications, and can lock you into a path that maximizes efficiency over flexibility, experimentation and taste. On the other hand, a brewery-specific automation system that has been designed with your needs in mind can actually improve the quality and creativity of your beer, while helping you to scale at the same time.


For instance, aX Brew provides a number of powerful features that allow you to monitor, store and analyze key data for each of your brews. This batch-specific reporting allows you to learn more from each experimental batch, whether brewed last week or last year. As a result, you can greatly speed up your experimentation process, learning more from successful batches and avoiding the mistakes of unsuccessful ones.


And once you’ve developed a new successful recipe, an automation system can improve the repeatability and consistency of your production process, so you can count on having the same high quality in every run. At the end of the day, the “craft” of brewing lies in the intuition, experience and judgment that goes into the ingredient selection and recipe design, not in the repetitive physical labor that allows the beer to be mass produced. Using automated systems instead of human beings simply ensures that your creative vision is fulfilled reliably every time, without the risk of human error.

In turn, this gives you the peace of mind you need to focus fully on what you do best: developing creative new brews.


Case Study: Steamworks Brewery


An excellent example of how automation can enhance the “craft” of brewing is Vancouver’s Steamworks Brewery, which began bottling its beer in 2012.

Initially, there were grumblings that Steamworks was selling out and “going macro”, and that their beer would never be the same again. However, as it turned out, automation actually raised the quality of Steamworks’ beers in several ways. For example, the introduction of a Hop Back machine allowed them to infuse their beers with aromatic fresh-leaf hops, and a newly-installed centrifuge greatly increased the clarity of the beer. These systems could be precisely controlled to maximize flavour and minimize waste.


Thanks to these new systems, Steamworks went on to win a number of prestigious beer awards, including three gold medals at the B.C. Beer Awards and a silver medal from the World Beer Cup. Clearly, automation hasn’t harmed the quality of Steamworks’ beer one bit, and has in fact been instrumental in propelling them to the next level of success.


A brewery-specific automation system can do the same for you. To learn more about how aX Brew has been designed to facilitate the craftsmanship of brewing, contact us today.

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