This Florida brewery made its piping selection based partly on material installation costs, but also to ensure effectiveness in dealing with low-process temperatures over extended periods of time.

The owners of Aardwolf Brewery in Jacksonville, FL, are not taking any chances when it comes to their up-and-coming business. That attitude is what led them to select Aquatherm as an important component for their brewing room.

The 9,000-sq-ft brewery is contained within the exposed brick walls of an old icehouse. It includes a cellar and a taproom where customers can see into the brewery space where a variety of beers are produced, including highly hopped beers, barrel-aged strong ales, and sour ales. The beers will be sold in the taproom as well as in local restaurants and bars through distributors. Within the next couple of years, the owners expect to add several more fermentation tanks – a process that will be made simpler thanks to their selection of Aquatherm pipe.

With its polypropylene-random (PP-R) pressure piping increasingly being used on a wide variety of applications, Aquatherm is beginning to carve out a niche in process piping brewery applications. The new Aardwolf Brewery selected Aquatherm Blue Pipe® as the primary piping component in its fermentation process.

The pipe is used to transfer a glycol/water mixture from the 5-ton Aqua Products Company chiller to the fermenting tanks and the cold-water storage tanks. Aquatherm Blue Pipe was the only piping option that met the unique demands of this newly opened, up-and-coming brewery.

First and foremost, Aardwolf owners, Preben Olsen and Michael Payne, wanted a product that could withstand the daily stresses of the low temperature glycol/water mixture for many years. These entrepreneurs were in it for the long haul, with plenty of space for growing their operation, so product reliability and longevity were a major concern. A process failure could damage not only a lot of product but also the growing reputation of this already popular neighborhood brewery and taproom. 

“The glycol system is critical to the brewing process because excessive temperatures during fermentation can be very detrimental to the flavor quality of the beer. This means the glycol system must be as reliable as possible, with minimal downtime,” explained Payne, co-owner and brewer for Aardwolf.

Olsen, Payne, and their contractor initially considered copper, PVC, and CPVC piping for the fermentation and cold storage processes. Ultimately they eliminated these options for various reasons.

Copper piping was too expensive in terms of both materials and installation labor. It was nearly twice as expensive as the Aquatherm piping and would require double the labor to install. PVC and CPVC pipes, though far less expensive compared to copper, might not be able to endure the low process temperatures (+/- 24°F) over extended periods of time. These temperatures would have made the pipes fragile.

Brewing a strategy

Aquatherm had been recommended to Olsen and Payne by their mechanical engineer, Allan Grinnan, Jr. of Sunbelt Engineering, and their mechanical contractor, Bernhard D. Echt, owner of Bernie’s Boiler & Cleaners Equipment Service, Inc.

“When it came down to making a decision on the material for our glycol plumbing, … investing in quality equipment that I know I can rely on and expand on easily was the only logical thing to do,” explained Payne.

While the investment in PP-R might have been greater than PVC or CPVC, it likely saved Aardwolf on installation costs.

“I believe I was able to save the consumer around 50% in material and labor compared to a copper or black iron pipe installation. Also, I believe the main savings will be long-term in the durability, corrosion resistance, and maintenance,” said Echt.

Prior to the installations at Aardwolf, Echt and his men participated in a four-hour training session held by Aquatherm and its local representative and distributor, Ferguson Enterprises. Glen D. Drummond Jr., product manager of the Florida & International Commercial Business Group for Ferguson, explained that the training session is essential to successful Aquatherm installations.

“A quality craftsman understands and appreciates the Aquatherm system. As an Aquatherm Master Trainer, you have a great level of comfort knowing the end user will not only get an exceptional product but top-quality workmanship as well.”

 It was time well spent. Echt and his installers were able to complete the entire Aardwolf installation of Aquatherm pipe in only three days. Meanwhile, Aardwolf patrons were still able to enjoy signature Aardwolf flavors brewed on a pilot system put into place before the primary brewing system commenced operation.