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Waukesha-based Hydro-Thermal Corp. is set to build a demonstration brewery in Pewaukee to test brewing technology developed by the company. Hydro-Thermal, a manufacturer of fluid heating equipment, will be testing the use of steam injection technology in the brewing process. The company has developed brewing equipment that it believes could “significantly impact the brewing industry as we know it,” according to a project narrative submitted to the city. The demonstration lab will be located at N22 W23977 Ridgeview Parkway.
The company was granted a patent for their “system for wort generation” last year. The patent indicates that the company’s brewing system provides a solution to the inefficiencies found in the process and equipment commonly used in today’s breweries.
The patent explains breweries currently use tanks to mash, separate, boil and clarify wort for fermentation, which slows down production speeds. Hydro-Thermal’s technology uses steam injection heating in the design of a mash coil system, which can heat the mash at a faster rate.
Hydro-Thermal expects to add about a dozen employees to their brewing team in the next year and to “increase revenues upwards of $20 million to $40 million,” according to its submission to the city. During an interview with BizTimes reporter Ashley Smart, Hydro-Thermal president and chief executive officer Jim Zaiser shared more details about the company’s brewing technology.
How long has Hydro-Thermal been aspiring to get into the brewing industry?
“I would say for 10 years we’ve been thinking about it, and we’ve been actively working on our project for about five years.”
In layman’s terms, what are the benefits of using steam injection in the brewing process?
“We’re trying to really push high technology into an industry that’s not really known for it. They use gravity and tanks and it’s just kind of drained out instead of pumping out. Most of the time, wort generation is in tubing instead of in pumps. We heat the product directly on one pass rather than it sitting in a tank and continually being turned over. The process is faster, about 25% of the processing time of a traditional method. It’s got a footprint that’s about 25% of a full process and it uses about 40% less energy.”
What’s the timeline for some of the first test batches of beer being completed?
“We think it will be the first quarter of 2023. That’s when we’ll be ready for regular batch runs and in demonstration mode. It’s not like full production mode. We’re not intending to be a full-production brewery. It’s really running batches and then we send all of the wort that’s generated out for analysis. The rest of what we don’t send to analysis goes to fermenters to make actual beer.”
Will you only be brewing one kind of beer, or several?
“We have kind of a basis recipe that we’re using and always test against. The system will be making every kind of beer, if possible.”
Where will the batches of beer made at the demonstration brewery be available for purchase?
“The intention of our brewery is not to produce our own beer. The intention of the brewery is to demonstrate the equipment that we’re designing for our customers, and our customers would be brewing their own beer. We’re not going to have a Hydro-Thermal beer, we’re going to make other beer as a contract brewer. One of the huge advantages of such a system is when companies want to build their taproom, it takes them about a year and a half to get all of their equipment and their approvals to make beer. They can contract us while we’re making their equipment to make their beer as well. We can deliver their beer so they can sell it in their taprooms. Once someone buys our equipment, we can start training them in this demonstration lab, which takes about two months. They can develop their own recipes, they can make their own beer, and they’ll have an exact replica.”
Are there any area brewers that Hydro-Thermal is working with that you can share?
“That’s confidential because we don’t have any contract customers yet.”
What’s your overarching vision for where this new segment of the business is going?
“My vision for what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to bring the latest and greatest technology to the brewing industry. That technology has not been available because of limitations in the type of equipment and the old myth of the brewing industry. This new process completely revolutionizes the way beer is made altogether and the end result is the exact same beer. It’s just the process to get to that is completely more efficient. My dream for the full system is that the Milwaukee area and our partners who are working on this project will realize Milwaukee is the beer capital of the world again because of this new technology.”