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Automation frees up the mind

Several brewing copper inside a brewery

Brewery boss Jeff Maisel on the art of combining modernity and tradition with intuition, digital and technology


"If you think of automation as economisation, then brewing is no longer a craft. It should still be one though. That’s why the degree of automation is crucial. We want to maintain our flexibility and not operate in a fully automated way. This way, our brewers and master brewer can intervene in the brewing process using their experience and love for the craft.

Automation doesn’t involve – at least not yet – machines thinking for themselves. Some weather conditions in the field severely affect the quality of our raw ingredients. Varying amounts of water and sunshine will lead to grains of varying sizes with varying starch contents. Being able to respond to this requires a lot of brainpower and energy from an experienced brewer who knows what to do under the given circumstances to continue making the best possible beer.

The advantage of automation here is that everything is automatically recorded, and the brewer can use the data that is collected to evaluate exactly what effects poorer raw ingredients will have on fermentation and the resulting beer. Accordingly, the brewer can also analyse exactly which adjustments have to be made, such as how to blend the malts to achieve a consistently high quality for their beer.

Automation enables and ensures a consistently high quality for beer. This is also the reason why we have automated our Maisel & Friends workshop brewery to the same extent as our other plant. The workshop brewery is also controlled from an iPad.

After all, automation gives us more time and freedom to work on new recipes and think about how to optimise our products. Our master brewers are now working with their heads more. There’s hardly any hard, physical labour anymore. Brewers used to have to pull up their sleeves a lot and shout through the brewhouse: “Open this... Now close that...” Today though, they can concentrate on data analysis and mechatronics instead.

Last but not least, automation ensures that our employees enjoy working here. Nowadays, everyone wants a future-oriented workplace – and we can offer them that. There’s no question about it: it’s a great advantage that, today, the master brewer doesn’t necessarily have to drive to the brewery at night when they’re on standby – they can check what’s going on at the brewery on their mobile phone first.

Of course, there is always a romantic longing for the ‘good old days’. But, in fact, I think this is quite a transfigured view of things: Our task is to produce the best possible beer. That was true in the past and it’s still true today. As brewers, we are still working towards this just as we did back then: all that’s changed is our tools of the trade. They’ve improved! All for the sake of good beer.”

Jeff Maisel

Owner of Brauerei Gebr. Maisel brewery and head of Maisel & Friends, both in Bayreuth, Germany

Jeff Maisel brews with a 320 hl GEA Huppmann brewing setup, and a 25 hl Kaspar Schulz setup at the Maisel & Friends workshop brewery. Both breweries are controlled by a ProLeiT system with the latest update (V9).