HAMPTON - Smuttynose Brewing Co. reached a significant milestone in its journey to a new operation at the 14-acre Towle Farm property on Wednesday with the installation of imported brewing equipment.
The equipment traveled from northern Italy and southern Germany through Hamburg, Germany and Reykjavik, Iceland, to Portland, Maine, and was then transported by truck to the brewery.
A giant crane continued to lift equipment on Thursday as inside work continued to fine-tune the brew house.
Smuttynose has set up a webcam at www.smuttynose.com that allows those interested to watch the installation process.
This marks one of the final steps before Smuttynose begins transferring production from its facility on Heritage Avenue in Portsmouth to Towle Farm. Company leaders anticipate starting the first brew in mid-February as they also begin celebrating the brewery's 20th anniversary.
The nearby farmhouse will be transformed into a restaurant and brewpub in time for the summer tourist season.
The brew house was made by Steinecker in Bavaria, Germany, while the bottling equipment was made with German technology in Italy by Kosme. Both companies are part of the Krones group, which has been installing brew houses for more than 150 years.
According to Smuttynose, both pieces of equipment feature a great deal of automation and instrumentation, which will provide more consistency in the process, leading to a higher quality of beer in regard to shelf stability, efficiency and flavor.
The four-vessel CombiCube system is capable of producing eight full brews in 24 hours, although Smuttynose does not plan to grow into that for some time. The bottling line provides a 60 fill valve, double pre-evacuation filler capable of doing 450 bottles per minute, though the line will max out at about 350.
Smuttynose also has a new labeler and said beer drinkers can expect some slightly new label designs that will go on straight every time.
In addition, a new centrifuge will help with the clarity of the beer without filtering it by spinning out the solids.
It will also help utilize more beer from the fermenters than can currently be collected.
It also allows them to control turbidity.
"With the IPA, we still want a little bit of haze so we can dial in how clear or 'unclear' it is going to be," JT Thompson, "minister of propaganda" for Smuttynose, said.
Thompson said they chose to purchase the equipment from Krones because German brew houses are state of the art and deliver a lot of value for the product, including service and support.
"The Germans have the best equipment in terms of fully automated and level of consistency we wanted to bring to the process," Thompson said.
Günter Baumeister of Krones has been in Hampton overseeing the installation, and will be back after the Christmas break to finalize it and hopefully partake of a brew from the first batch out of the new equipment.
"The first brew is still something special," Baumeister said.
Baumeister said the CombiCube system is a creation of Krones that is used more for the Smuttynose kind of brew house arrangement, as it allows for extremely quick installation.
Baumeister said the Smuttynose installation should not take more than three or four weeks.
A more conventional installation Krones is involved with near New Orleans will take at least three months before it's up to get up and running.
He said the equipment is also easy to dismantle and move.
Baumeister said Krones works with brewers large and small, and craft brewers tend to be very loyal customers.
He said coming from Germany, which has a purity law associated with its beer that limits what it contains in relation to hops, malt, water and natural ingredients, he also appreciates the craft brewers respect for the product.
Germany may be the capital of small breweries with nearly every town and community featuring one of its own, including one in Baumeister's hometown near Munich that was started by monks in 1340 and remains in operation today.
The new fermentation tanks at Smuttynose came from Müeller, a company in Springfield, Ill., with each tank offering a 270-barrel working capacity, representing about three batches of beer each.
"It's freaking incredible," Thompson said of the new facility as he unpacked boxes of equipment in the new warehouse space.
Thompson said this year Smuttynose estimates it will put out about 43,000 barrels of beer, and the Hampton facility will allow it to produce about 1½ times more, or between 60,000 and 65,000 barrels.
But Thompson said the new facility and expansion is not so much about increased volume, but improved efficiency, higher quality and a better experience for brewery tourists in New Hampshire.
"It will become a popular tourist spot as well. There is not much to show at the old location," Baumeister said. "Being so close to the seaside, having a beer garden in the summer months, I foresee the place will be packed."
And that is exactly what Smuttynose wants to hear after some delays with the long-anticipated project, which has overall been in the works for about a decade.
When visitors enter the building, they will be greeted with a view of the bottling line, with a retail store to the right of the foyer that features wood shelving milled from trees that used to stand on the property.
Smuttynose is striving for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification, and energy efficiencies are evident throughout the building, from an excess of natural lighting, to automated interior lighting settings and LED bulbs. Solar tubes are also used to capture natural light and bring more of it into the building.
"Everything we need to make beer is dependent on climate stability . so the less impact we can have on what we do, the more we are investing in our future stability," Thompson said.