Wisconsin Distillery ‘Dances’ with Innovative Boilers
EP Editorial Staff | May 17, 2018
Safe, efficient operation, along with consistent steam quality and pressure, were key considerations in equipment selection.
Michael Reiber knows a thing or two about food-and-beverage processing. His accomplishments are many, including being responsible for the design, construction, and operation of one of the largest craft distilleries in the state of Wisconsin. Thus, it wasn’t surprising, several years ago, that he received a call from a neighboring distillery start-up seeking advice.
“Located near Madison, Dancing Goat Distillery was a family business, with great people and a great future,” Reiber noted. “They called me after the family patriarch, Duane H. Maas, who had built successful distilleries in eight countries, passed on. I was happy to offer my expertise.”
Reiber’s experience and knowledge led to a complete analysis and review of what equipment would be required to meet the goals and expectations of the business. Switching to Miura boilers was one of the first recommendations that came out of the study.
According to Reiber, who now serves as COO of Dancing Goat, Cambridge, WI (dancinggoat.com), steam quality is critical in distillation, because it’s what actually makes the finished product. Since the operation’s previous boiler wouldn’t achieve what he felt was needed, the distillery ordered two LX-50 SGs boilers manufactured by Miura, Atlanta (miuraboiler.com).
The quality of the steam, as well as the consistency of steam pressure made the Miura units the perfect fit for Dancing Goat. They also provided benefits in the areas of safety (see “Safer by Design” below), productivity, maintainability, energy efficiency, and environmental quality.
Reiber pointed to various pieces of equipment installed at Dancing Goat that set the operation apart from most distilleries. “In addition to a pot still, we have a continuous full-column still,” he said. “This gives us a single-pass solution for producing spirits up to 95% ABV (alcohol by volume), in 50% less time, while recovering significantly more alcohol per hour than a traditional
To that end, one of the many advantages of Miura boilers is their on-demand steam capabilities.
“Miura claimed its boilers could produce full steam in less than five minutes,” Reiber stated, “and I timed it. The steam we needed was there in four minutes. That feature has saved us time and labor costs, while allowing us to be more productive.”
That type of improved productivity contrasts greatly with Reiber’s time running a facility that had 13 production lines and two extra-large boilers from a traditional boiler manufacturer. Back then, he would find himself deploying maintenance people “eight hours in advance” to make sure the boilers were online and the operation had sufficient hot water and steam to start all processes.
“At Dancing Goat Distillery, it’s completely different,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. Even our state inspector was blown away, not only by the boilers, but the entire boiler room that we put together.
Most of the time, a boiler room is deep, dark, and dank, tucked away in a corner or a basement somewhere. Our boiler room is the heart and lungs of our facility. It’s even part of our tour package.”
“With Miura’s units, boiler maintenance isn’t the monster it used to be,” Reiber said, suggesting, instead, that much of the time is spent making sure Dancing Goat’s water chemistry is properly managed. “We have an RO (reverse osmosis) system that feeds into that boiler,” he explained. “We have alarms to make sure that the operators know if the feed tank is running low. The overall maintenance is easier and can be handled at the operator level, versus needing an upper-level maintenance person. I don’t think we could have done that with an old traditional-style boiler.”
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy-cost savings and environmental concerns were other key reasons why Reiber encouraged Dancing Goat to switch to Miura boilers. It’s said that Miura customers typically save about 20% in fuel costs versus traditional boilers. Reiber expected Dancing Goat’s savings to fall into the 20% to 25% range, “just because of the efficiency level that these boilers provide that our other boiler just didn’t have.”
Regarding the environment, Reiber explained that the part of Wisconsin where the distillery is located and the executive team’s commitment to the environment and ensuring a highest-quality production process are important criteria in many operational decisions, including equipment purchases. According to him, one of the other features that stood out with Miura was the emissions aspect. “Limiting emissions, conserving resources, and sustainability are very important to Dancing Goat Distillery,” he said. Reiber explained that the distillery has a very environmentally conscious clientele. “When people ask how we outfit our equipment, some are curious about how we make spirits, but others really want to know about the stuff that makes the spirits: ‘What about your water system?’ ‘What about your boiler system?’ ‘What do you do with waste?’ How do you manage that?’ Those are all things that we’re developing into our brand,” he continued, “important parts that have to be incorporated into our identity.”
Acknowledging that people seem to be more educated on and in touch with ingredients and processes, he added that Dancing Goat welcomes their questions and concerns. “We enjoy telling them about our processing equipment that facilitates organic certification,” he said. “We boast about our stainless-steel steam feed and condensate return lines.” Asked whether he would consider recommending Miura to another brewer, Reiber responded, “I already have, to several companies.” EP
‘Safer by Design’
Miura’s “Safer by Design” reputation was a critical factor in Mike Reiber’s choice of boilers for the Dancing Goat Distillery. Among the things Reiber brought to the table were a focus on functionality, maintenance and sanitation, and safety—always safety. “If equipment doesn’t meet those checkpoints,” he stated, “I push back on vendors and suppliers to find a better way.”
As an example, Reiber described difficult-to-access equipment. “If it’s really hard to get to, people can get hurt, because they have to reach into things,” he observed. “With Miura, the design and layout of all the touch points ensure that personnel don’t come out with battle scars, so to speak, on their arms.”
Regarding process safety, Reiber noted that while the issue of exploding boilers may be a “huge concern for everybody,” he thinks Miura’s small-water-content feature minimizes the potential. As he put it, “There’s no fear of impending doom that the boiler’s going to explode and fly 800 feet into the residential area.”
History seems to prove Reiber correct: With more than 140,000 units in operation worldwide, Miura has never had a pressure-vessel explosion. According to the company, in light of its products’ low water content and unique boiler geometry, catastrophic vessel failure is practically impossible.
For more information, visit miuraboiler.com.
Supporting the selection of Miura boilers, and playing a critical role in the entire Dancing Goat Distillery installation, was the main mechanical contractor, AMS Steam Products, Milwaukee, WI (amssteamproducts.com), a wholly owned subsidiary of Hot Water Products Inc.
“AMS has been a great partner in this project,” said Mike Reiber, Dancing Goat’s COO. “Having worked with them at another distillery, I was confident that they could provide just what I was looking for at Dancing Goat. Ironically, they were already in touch with the operation before I got there, so it was very interesting to see the whole process come together.“
Still, the project was not without a few challenges, given the fact that Dancing Goat had already purchased a boiler from another company. “But,” Reiber said, “AMS didn’t penalize the distillery for that. Instead, they focused on helping correct the situation and mitigating any negative impact.
In short, he concluded, “AMS helped facilitate a replacement and a timeline. They set the company up with local maintenance. They even recommended water-tech folks to help take that burden off. That made my life much easier, and let me spend time on other parts of the operation.”