Best Practices

The CBG Technical and Education Committee provides opportunities, resources, and acts as a hub of communication for Colorado breweries to elevate their knowledge of quality and safety practices

Permit-Required Confined Space Determination

January 12th, 2018
Permit-Required Confined Space Determination

OSHA is on their way!

Well…potentially, so put down your beer because this is a serious topic. As you hopefully have been informed, OSHA is implementing a local emphasis program which includes inspections for breweries. (See OSHA Local Emphasis Program for Breweries blog, October 3, 2017 on Colorado Brewer’s Guild webpage.)

Small breweries have the same Confined Space hazards as large breweries and other manufacturers. Understanding these hazards and successfully identifying and addressing them will help keep your employees safe, which should be a critical part of everyone’s mission.

The safest situation for employees is to implement processes and equipment that do not require entry at all, such as tools with long handles or clean-in-place systems. If you cannot avoid entry, then a hazard assessment must be performed to determine if it a Permit-Entry Confined Space.

Click here for an example of a Confined Space Determination form. 

To Permit or Not to Permit? That is the question.

Once you have determined if you have a Confined Space, the next step is to determine if this space is a Permit-entry Required Confined Space.

First, the OSHA definition of Confined Space is a space that:

• Large enough for an employee to enter and perform work

• Has limited or restricted means of entry or exit

• Is not designated for continuous occupancy.

Second, in addition to the three criteria listed above, there are additional criteria that needs to be assessed in order to determine if your space is classified as a Permit-Entry Required Confined Space.

This additional assessment should be completed by a qualified person in order to fully understand the potential hazards of the Confined Space. If you are unsure if you have a Permit-Required Confined Space, then you should use a conservative approach and deem it Permit-Required.

If any of these hazards cannot be fully mitigated and verified through external means such as controlling hazardous energy (LOTO) of electrical, mechanical, chemical or water lines, residual content, and atmospheric hazards, then the Confined Space must be deemed Permit-Entry.

Examples of spaces typically found in breweries that are usually defined as Permit-Entry Confined Spaces include silos and fermenters, bright tanks, and serving tanks. Employees must be trained to your Confined Space program, and follow all requirements of the permit; which includes having an attendant, performing Lock-Out-Tag-Out of hazardous energy, conducting atmosphere testing, and having proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Click here for an example of a Confined Space Permit. Keep in mind that all sections of a permit must be filled out, and posted outside the Confined Space being entered.

Other Requirements for Confined Space Entry

As you may have gathered from reading the Confined Space Permit, there are additional requirements for making a confined space entry. This includes additional tools and equipment, such as an air gas monitor, respirators, and potentially rescue equipment, such as life-retrieval systems.

Stay Safe

Okay, now that you have learned more about how to identify and properly enter Confined Spaces and how to help protect your employees, you can pick that beer back up.

Yeast Storage

October 30th, 2017


One of the most common questions that we get from our customers is what are the best methods for storing yeast for reuse between batches?

When should yeast be collected?

Yeast should be collected no more than 24 hours after being crashed in the fermenter. Conical fermenters help to collect yeast in cone so it can be harvested and re-pitched into a fresh batch of wort. However, this creates a somewhat inhospitable environment for the yeast to live in. First off, the yeast is starving since it has consumed most if not all of the fermentable sugars in the current batch. Second, through fermentation, the yeast has produced a significant amount of alcohol, which adds stress. Finally, pressure adds stress to the yeast, and it doesn’t have to come from the overall pressure in the vessel. Hydrostatic pressure from all the beer sitting above the yeast in the fermenter can lead to significant yeast viability loss. Anything over 2psi can begin to kill yeast over time, and this viability loss increases with increasing pressure and time. If we assume the density of beer is close to that of water (it’s slightly higher) then we can use the following chart to determine how much pressure yeast is being exposed to in a fermenter due to hydrostatic pressure. As you can see, anything greater than six feet is going to start to cause a problem, and the taller a fermenter, the greater the pressure.


Now that you know that you should get the yeast out of the cone as soon as possible, what do you do with it? Well, the best thing you can do is get it into another beer as soon as possible. Cone to cone transfers are common, and brewers that use this technique are able to get many generations from a single pitch of yeast. The only issue with doing this is that you need another beer to immediately transfer the yeast into now that it is crashed, and the brew schedule doesn’t always allow for that. In this case you need to transfer the yeast into a sanitary vessel to be stored until it is needed. It is also best to feed the yeast a little sterile wort during storage so the dormant yeast doesn’t starve to death. Even yeast that is at 38°F can slowly metabolize sugars, and will be healthier if some are present.

Yeast Brink:

Although a yeast brink doesn’t need to be a masterpiece of sanitary stainless steel engineering, the more clean and sanitizable the vessel is, the better. Cross contamination in a yeast brink can be a huge issue since this yeast will be introduced to a fresh batch of wort directly from this vessel. Thus, anything in the brink is getting carried over to your next beer. Choosing a brink that has the least amount of locations for yeast and bacteria to hide in (valves, hoses, gaskets and agitator blades) will be the easiest to sanitize. I’ve seen many different versions of brinks, from collecting yeast back into the plastic vessels they were delivered in, too sophisticated jacketed, stainless vessels. The most common vessels for a small to midsized brewery are the converted half barrel kegs that can be handmade or purchased from multiple suppliers.

Vent your Brink!

The biggest issue I’ve seen in yeast storage is brewers that are worried about contamination from the environment, completely sealing off the brink and not allowing pressure to vent. You just went through all the work of pulling the yeast off the cone to avoid hydrostatic pressure, and now you’re going to kill it in the brink due to pressure built up during storage! Like I said before, yeast will slowly metabolize sugars even in the fridge, so giving it a way to vent is very important. This can be as simple as an airlock, or blow off tube into a bucket. Worst case, the brink will need to be ‘burped’ several times a day to avoid it building up beyond 2psi.

How long can I store it?

In biology, there is always an exception to every rule, but in general, you should be able to store yeast for at least a couple days, up to a week or so. I’m sorry I don’t have a hard and fast rule for this one, but the health of yeast in storage is based on several outside factors like strain type (some strains are hardier than others), health before storage (how healthy was the yeast at the end of the previous fermentation?), and storage conditions (how well does your cold room maintain temp?). The best way to know the answers to all these questions is to take regular cell counts, but that’s a rant best left to another post….

Written by John Giarratano at Inland Island Yeast.

OSHA Local Emphasis Program for Breweries

October 3rd, 2017
OSHA Local Emphasis Program for Breweries

On August 1, the Colorado Brewers Guild hosted a presentation at Phantom Canyon Brewing in Colorado Springs regarding the upcoming OSHA Local Emphasis Program (LEP) for the beverage manufacturing industry. If your brewery is in the Englewood Area Office (Southern Colorado) you have probably already received a letter outlining the program. While it appears that Northern Colorado has not yet instituted a LEP for our industry, it is apparent that it will in the future.

All breweries in Colorado should be prepared for an inspection. To assist in that preparation, here are some quick takeaways from the presentation:
1) Be prepared when OSHA shows up. They will show up unannounced and require access in a timely manner. Have a plan for who should be called (if not present) to accompany the inspector. There is a great publication by the Brewers Association titled “Surviving an OSHA Inspection” which outlines specific steps.
2) Top concerns for our industry are confined spaces, forklifts, occupational noise exposure and ergonomics.
3) Participation in OSHA’s SHARP program (designed for small employers with less than 250 employees) and fulfillment of its requirements can exempt an employer from an OSHA inspection for a limited time.
4) Be educated on the requirements. If you are not already an expert on workplace safety, spend some time learning. We have compiled some great resources to help get you up to speed at the end of this post.

The LEP inspections are planned to start around October of this year so it’s worth getting prepared sooner rather than later. If you have additional input or know of resources not listed below, please help us share them with the membership by emailing the CBG staff (Andres at

OSHA will also be providing another presentation for our brewers at the first annual Colorado Craft Brewers Summit on Monday, November 13. Stay tuned for more information.

• Powerpoint from August 1 presentation to Colorado Brewers Guild
• Info on OSHA’s SHARP program
• BA’s Best Practice for the Management of Confined Spaces in Breweries
• BA’s Best Practice for the Management of Powered Industrial Trucks
• BA’s Best Practice for Surviving an OSHA Inspection
• BA’s Best Practice for the
Sample Safety and Health programs from OSHA
MBAA safety resources, including templates and safety meeting topics

Post Written by Mike Bristol of Bristol Brewing Company Colorado Springs, CO

Enzymes in Brewing

August 16th, 2017

It’s no big secret in the brewing industry that yeast likes to gobble up sugar to create one of the most magical libations out there. Beer. But where do the sugars come from? How are they created?

Sugar Formation
The majority of sugars used in the brewing process come from starches that are derived from the malted barley used in the mashing process. During the malting process, maltsters trick the barley kernels into thinking it’s time to sprout by soaking them and getting them to spring into action. This germination process loads the grains with the carbohydrates and enzymes necessary to help the grain grow until it comes out of the ground and can start producing energy via photosynthesis.
This is where we humans hijack the process. Instead of letting the seeds sprout and grow, we dry them out to shut down the process, giving us modified malted barley that is loaded with the starches and enzymes necessary to create the sugars needed to make the nectar of the gods…

What are Enzymes?
So what are these magical molecules that turn starches into sugar? Enzymes are made of amino acids strung together to form a protein. The order of the amino acids is very unique and it is this uniqueness that allows the enzymes to unfold into very specific shapes to do very specific tasks. Because of this the enzyme is very limited in what it can do, but man is it effective at what it does.

How do they Work?
The basic function of an enzyme is to act as a catalyst for specific chemical reactions, helping to speed up the reaction. The shape of the complex, folded chain allows smaller molecules to fit inside and interact with the enzyme. The spot on the chain where the smaller molecules interact is called the active site and this is where the magic happens. For instance, if you take two glucose molecules and bond them together you get maltose.

The maltase enzyme is designed solely to take the maltose molecule and break it into two glucose enzymes. It’s the only thing it can do. But it’s a world leader at what it does. Nobody is better.

Types and Function
There are many enzymes that are active in the brewing process. Below is a table that lists several enzymes and their role in brewing.

The Importance of Temperature
When most brewers think enzymes, alpha and beta amylase come to mind. During the mash process alpha-amylase creates soluble, non-fermentable sugars out of the long, complex insoluble starch molecules that are then broken down even further by the beta-amylase enzyme into fermentable sugars. Similar to humans, both of these enzymes have a temperature range where they work best Alpha-amylase works best in the range of 145°F to 158°F while beta-amylase works best from 131°F to 149°F.

So here’s the tricky part. We need both of these enzymes to work to give us the sugars we need but there’s a fairly small range where both are effective. Both enzymes are most active at the upper end of their respective temperature ranges, but this is also where the temperature starts to deform the enzymes by changing their shape. This process is known as denaturing and it renders the enzyme unable to do its job. So we need to strike a temp that is near both ranges. If we run the mash at a lower temp, say 148°F-150°F the beta-amylase stays active and creates more fermentable sugars, resulting in a drier beer. If we have a slightly higher mash temp, around the 152°F-154°F range, we start to rapidly denature the beta-amylase, resulting in more non-fermentable sugars giving a beer with more body.

Time to Study
Obviously there’s a lot more going on than is talked about here but it gives you a quick look at enzymes and the importance they play in the brewing process. Other factors such as pH and mash concentration also effect enzyme efficiencies and should be considered in your process. Study up on these factors and learn to make your process the most efficient it can be. It’ll make better beer, and we’ll all benefit from that.

Jason Ford, Founder/Brewmaster Broken Compass Brewing

Water is Beer, Or at Least Most Of It

June 29th, 2017

Over the last few years in California where I worked brewing in the San Gabriel Valley there was a cruel and pernicious drought that dried several reservoirs and dropped the water table on several aquifers across the state. You can blame climate change or overexploitation but the fact is that this kind of situation will push everyone to reconsider their consumption habits, location selection, hell, even the product composition in some cases.

In blessed places like the Colorado Front Range, a lot of the supply comes from surface sources like reservoirs and streams that have a consistent, yet not constant supply from snow runoff and are reliable in composition. Other parts of the state are not so fortunate and have a mixed supply of surface and aquifer water while others only use wells as sources. In terms of availability a study supplied by the USGS in 2006 suggests that every state will be importing water from foreign sources (Oceans, Canada, other states) by the year 2050, except for those states around the great lakes.

In summary, water is variable, scarce at best and its use needs to be reduced. The fact is that as brewers we frequently care extensively for the quality and supply chain of malted barley or wheat, adjuncts, hops and specialty ingredients, often forgetting that without water we are…well, not brewing.

Water standard use for brewing ranges from “world-class” around 2.5 Barrels of water/Barrel of finished beer (BWBB) to “standard” 5.5 BWBB to extreme >10 BWBB. If you think of it, it is ridiculous to think we need 10 times more water than the beer we produce with it.

So, what’s the answer? The easy answer is “use less water”. Well duh, we know that, but when you have limited resources, low supply pressure, limited time for sanitation and the focus is on making killer beer, the usages generally go up and quickly are out of control. The fact is that a water-reduction approach needs to start with a process approach, more than a “shut the hose” thinking. A water reduction program is expensive, complicated and requires a lot of attention. Plus, we are brewers and brewing is what we do…so the answer needs to start with brewing.


If you work on your Lautering Efficiency (LE), you can save double the water. Here’s the math:

Think of a Lauter where you get 10 Bbls of a standard Plato wort and you use 20 Bbls of water (during sparge, cleaning, underlet, etc.) at a 70% LE. This is a use of 2 BWBB. If you, by means of process optimization (mill grind changes, mash mixer agitation reduction, enzymes, reduction of beta-glucan-rich materials, sparge temperature optimization) increase your LE to 80%, you will use THE SAME AMOUNT OF WATER and get 11.36 Bbls of wort at the same Plato. That mean you will go down to 1.72 BWBB which is a 12% reduction!!!

On the example above, you didn’t do anything but get better all around, no expensive system from your favorite engineering supplier, no reduction on sanitation (a classic) and you also increased your profitability by paying attention to the process itself.

Cleaning cycles on process equipment

Yep, let’s go there. And the first thought is to reduce them. Perfect. True. Ideal…Nah!

The schedule will give you many times the reduction than simply reducing the cycles. Here’s the math:

Say you have a cycle that lasts 60 minutes and uses 40 Bbls of water (overall including pre-rinse, makeup, cleaning and final rinse(S)). Say you have this cycle every day for 5 days…that means you have used 200Bbls. If you reduce the rinse cycle on each cleaning program lets say 20%, you will save somewhere between 10-15% of the overall water (remember you still have the pre-rinse and cleaning cycles).

If you only consolidate two days of brewing on an overnight or afternoon shift, you save 20% of the water by eliminating one cycle. Didn’t even touch the cleaning program or routine.

Fermenter Capacity

If you fill your fermenters to 50 Bbls and clean it with 40 Bbls of water every cycle, and you have 20 cycles a year, you use 0.8 BWBB. If you increase your fermenter capacity by 10% (using foam control, temperature cycles, etc.) you will go down to 0.72 BWBB which is a reduction of 10% also.

As you can see, there are significant implication to optimizing your process, reducing cycles and increasing equipment utilization. If additional to this you match it with a reduction campaign and a cultural shift to make all brewers conscious of the importance to reduce water usage, you’ll be on your way to achieve best-in-class status for any size operation.

Bernardo Alatorre. Production Manager, Avery Brewing Company.

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