Alarmist Brewery Discovers FireBoard Solutions
Founded in 2012, the multi-award winning microbrewery clearly knows their craft. But Gary recognized a need for improvement. “The problem I was trying to solve was how can we get alerts on our phones to let us know that the brewery glycol chiller is not working correctly, and do this on a budget?” A glycol chiller circulates a food grade mixture of glycol and water through pipes and into the hollow walls on fermenters and brite tanks. “This is how we control the fermentation temperature of beer,” says Gary, “And also how we ‘cold crash’ once fermentation is complete for conditioning and packaging.” The glycol chiller at Alarmist is a large mechanical/HVAC unit. “Unfortunately I had it installed on the roof back when we were building out the brewery.” This means the unit is exposed to very high temperatures during the Chicago summers. That heat puts additional strain on the chiller. Combine this with summer being the highest production demand of the year and it’s a recipe for disaster.
“In the past,” according to Gary, “If, or when, the glycol chiller went down, we had no way of knowing unless we looked up at the ceiling on a regular basis, which is a habit we all developed.” There was an analog thermometer positioned there, monitoring the temperature. Imagine a brewery staff continually looking up, as if praying to the beer-chilling gods. There was also a chance someone would notice the temperature on a fermentation vessel or brite tank was too high. But this was all based on being in the brewery and seeing the various thermometers or temperature controllers. “If no one is brewing or cellaring on a weekend,” says Gary, “We wouldn’t know we had an issue until someone returned on Monday! We had to train our taproom staff to go out and check the vessel and glycol system temperatures periodically if we were unable to be there on weekends.”
Cue the search for a solution, for a WiFi connected thermometer at a reasonable cost that could send alerts via text, email, and notifications to their phones. According to Gary, WiFi was the key. “There are a zillion digital thermometers with local alerts and such,” he says, “But very few connect to WiFi and feature temperature probes that can be inserted into equipment.” As luck would have it, Gary began exploring the hobby of smoking meat. “I found FireBoard and realized it checked all the boxes.”
He called customer support to see if the FireBoard could be used for sensing low temperatures and not just for grilling or smoking. “I was told about the cold storage ambient probe,” says Gary, “Which was great because it was 20’ long.” More on that in a moment. “There was really no competition out there. There are expensive industrial solutions, but I didn’t need that. Just a simple temperature logger with a robust alert system and a way to have the unit inside the brewery but have the temperature probe go up through the ceiling and into the glycol chiller unit.”
For Alarmist Brewery, installation was “mindlessly simple.” Gary ran the 20’ temperature probe cord through the existing roof penetration into an opening in the glycol chiller cabinet, placed the probe into a stainless thermowell that he had used back in his homebrewing days, and slid the thermowell underneath the pipe insulation for the glycol supply piping. The brewing staff downloaded the FireBoard App and they were up and running. It’s that easy.
According to Gary, the FireBoard has worked flawlessly. “If there’s a heavy load on the chiller,” says Gary,”Such as cooling wort during brewing knock out, we get alerts.” Knock out is when wort, or unfermented beer, is transferred to a fermenter. “We use a heat exchanger to quickly cool boiling wort down to yeast pitching temperatures, on the way to the awaiting yeast in the fermenter.” Most of this heat exchange is done with cold water, but there is also a glycol section of the heat exchanger that completes the cooling of the wort in warmer weather. “When we use glycol for this, the temperature will go up temporarily in the glycol chiller and we always get alerts, so we know the Fireboard is working. I get an alert, email, and text message immediately.”
Since the FireBoard supports multiple channels, Gary purchased additional cold storage ambient probes and connected them to other vessels, expanding Alarmist’s remote monitoring capabilities. “My favorite feature of the FireBoard is how easy we got it set up,” says Gary. “Physical set up was a cinch and it connected to our WiFi network immediately. Alert setup was also simple and works perfectly.”
FireBoard is proud to be part of the operations at Alarmist, helping them bring their award winning brews to consumers at the perfect temperature with an affordable, simple to use product. “I highly recommend FireBoard for any brewery or winery on a budget,” says Gary. We agree, and we’re eager to help others discover what FireBoard can do for their operations. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to find your solution.