- Siemens technology combines old and new at Palmers Brewery to maximize on efficient brewing of draught ale
- Consistency and repeatability achieved through Simatic S7-1200 PLC for successful results
As independent craft UK brewers go, Palmers Brewery in Dorset is one of the oldest, producing its first batches of draught ale back in 1794 on the banks of the River Brit in Bridport, and proud to continue to be a family business today. It is also the only thatched brewery building in the UK, and a tower brewery, in that the process is gravity fed from the top of the building downwards, rather than from tank to tank horizontally.
Although much has changed in the food and beverage world, the process of brewing draught ale has remained very similar for centuries. At Palmers, the 19th century brewing kit with its open top Copper is still used daily and much remains unchanged in the actual brewing process. But, the brewery was seeking to combine its long-term focus on the finest ingredients to make the distinctive flavours for its fine ales with better accuracy during the fermentation process, where consistent temperatures are crucial to successful results, and where repeatability was an ongoing challenge.
Head brewer Darren Batten was tasked with improving the efficiency of the brewhouse through investment in future-proof technologies, and he turned to Siemens to see how temperature control during the brewing process could be made even more accurate – and to take some of the time-consuming manual control out of the process. As he explained: “The old system featured diaphragm valves, which had to be manually checked. We were looking to modernise to a more accurate and reliable system, with the added benefits of freeing up some of the time we were spending doing these checks and adjustments.“
The fermentation process governs how much alcohol ends up in the end product – and brewers pay duty according to alcoholic strength. As Sara Nichols, Siemens Account Development Manager, explained: “The pinchpoint is the fermentation part of the brewing process as fermentation generates heat. Too much cooling stops the fermentation, so keeping accurate and consistent control at this stage has a significant impact on consistency and quality. It is this part of the process that will challenge the brewer the most for repeatability, to keep the alcohol levels within certain parameters and the brew consistent. So, by closely controlling this area, consistency can be assured.“
Ambient temperatures can vary considerably, too, also adding to the consistency challenge.
The Siemens Simatic S7-1200 PLC fully controls the temperature during the fermentation section, and the benefit of using a 1200 includes the ability to run a profile – for example, a controlled temperature rise and a specified hold time at a top fermentation temperature. For the final duration of the process temperatures are dropped by around 15 degrees to stabilise and condition the brew. The 1200 brings a consistency the brewery did not previously have and acts as a blind device working for the team and supplying info on screen. It can be viewed or adjusted from anywhere in the plant, which standalone controllers cannot do. So, when ambient temperatures vary in the winter and summer months, the 1200 can easily be programmed to incorporate cooling capabilities, for example by running mains water round a tank.
At Palmers, the fermentation process is happening year round in the traditional open top vessels, and the company was looking for an appropriate control option that didn’t cost the earth. The Simatic S7-1200 has been successfully operating for around six months, as Darren affirms: “The new system features a percentage opening of a rotary ball valve, which is much simpler, more reliable for us and recipe based. We’re very happy with it and how it will help us develop our speciality brands in the future.“
The modular Simatic P7-1200 PLC is extremely flexible, scaleable and seamlessly integrates into Total Integrated Automation (TIA) portal. It works perfectly with HMI, I/Os, drives and software, and can be controlled from a smartphone.
As Sara confirms: “Regional specialist brewers are pleasantly surprised by how economically they can update their processes using Siemens technology. This is bringing them big benefits and in turn helping them more fully integrate and future-proof their systems, which is all great news for their businesses.“
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Siemens AG (Berlin and Munich) is a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality for more than 165 years. The company is active in more than 200 countries, focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalisation. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is a leading supplier of efficient power generation and power transmission solutions and a pioneer in infrastructure solutions as well as automation, drive and software solutions for industry. The company is also a leading provider of medical imaging equipment – such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging systems – and a leader in laboratory diagnostics as well as clinical IT. In fiscal 2016, which ended on September 30, 2016, Siemens generated revenue of €79.6 billion and net income of €5.6 billion. At the end of September 2016, the company had around 351,000 employees worldwide. Further information is available on the internet atwww.siemens.com
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