Stoudt Breweries of Pennsylvania, US, has improved the efficiency of its brewing process by replacing an antiquated Hoff-Stevens keg-filling line with an automated washing and filling line from German company M&F Keg-technik.
"The filling line we had before was literally taken out of a museum," said Marc Worona, head brewer at the Adamstown facility. "Now we're at least up to the 20th century."
Worona added that the machine eliminates much of the strain that went into packaging the beer. "It's the Mercedes-Benz of keg fillers," Worona said. "It took what used to be the most strenuous job and made it easy."
The job used to be almost completely manual. The brewery's three-man unit advanced the kegs through the filling line, sealed them with a wooden bung and piled them against the wall. When full, the half kegs weighed 165 pounds.
"We can fill 200 kegs a day now," he said. "It used to take us three and a half days to fill that many."
The new filling line marks the transition to Sankey kegs, a newer keg featuring ball valves instead of prongs. The valves eliminate contact with the air making the beer taste fresher longer.
Worona said the new kegs are more consumer-friendly because they have handles and can be rolled with greater ease. "The old ones were like barrels," he said. "Plus the wooden bung would leak on occasion, causing mould or CO2 leakage."
The switch also eliminated the quarter keg, replacing it with the sixth keg, which holds 5.2 gallons, or about two cases of beer.
"People like it that they're not as heavy and they think it's a good amount of beer," he said. "Plus it opens up the possibility of new accounts because of the updated packages."
The new machine has also improved sanitisation, with chemicals being replaced by a less labour-intensive steam process.
Installed during the first week of October, the line was part of a $250,000 (€240,000) renovation in celebration of the brewery's 15th anniversary. The project also included upgrading the entryway in the beer garden, building a boiler room and installing a boiler.