Quality Begins from the Ground Up

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Every day in Mills River, North Carolina, we cross off to-dos and reach new milestones at our brewery site. One such task—the laying of thousands of tiles throughout the brewery—seems small but is very important to what we do and how we do it. These tiles and the artistry of their installation are remarkable, really, and the first step in making the great beer folks expect from us.

There’s a saying among brewers that making beer is 10% brewing, 90% cleaning. In a business that depends on microscopic organisms to do much of the work, that ratio rings true. It is impossible to make great beer without being passionate about cleanliness. Without this zeal, a brewer might make good beer for a while, but off-flavors, spoilage and bad beer are not far down the road.

We realize that tile is not the most interesting aspect of the brewery. It’s certainly not as compelling as the ribbons of stainless steel or the polished copper or the incredibly intricate machinery of the bottling line, but without it, the best equipment in the world could be doomed from the start. This tile is specifically designed for use in a brewery whose hostile environments would destroy a garden-variety floor. High heat, moisture, heavy loads, machinery traffic, and strong alkaline and acid cleaning solutions—everyday occurrences in a brewery—are the bane of lesser building materials.

Years back, we discovered this tile and used it to floor the room in our pilot bottling line (where we bottle smaller runs like our Ovila series). We were so impressed that we then used it in every cellar area we have in our Chico brewery. When it came time to design the new brewery in North Carolina, this tile was a must; it covers every surface from the kegging line through the brewhouse. The Kagetec workers installing this floor have flown from Germany to practice their patented tradecraft with skill and precision on every individual tile.

Each of the nearly inch-thick hexagons is made of ceramic aggregate and able to withstand the weight of massive mechanical systems. The specialized acid-resistant grout will not degrade from the use of cleaners, and the epoxy used between each individual tile has important microbial-resistant properties, ensuring that spoilage bacteria are unwelcome in our brewhouse.

Soon, there will be hundreds of feet crossing these tiles daily as brewery staff busily goes about their work, barely thinking about the tile or why it’s there. But it stands to reason that if this much thought went into the quality of something so small, imagine what happens with everything else.

May 15, 2013 - 12:27pm