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A brewer’s dream

A new brewery building like this one hasn’t been seen in Germany for years, if not decades. Not a multi-million-hectolitre brewery, but not a microbrewery either. Rather more of a craft brewery, with an annual capacity of 50,000 hectolitres. Backed up by the make-over of a once well-known and popular brand: the new Ratsherrn Brewery opened its gates in the early summer of 2012 right in the heart of Hamburg. With a highly idiosyncratic concept, whose one and only focus is beer-brewing while simultaneously celebrating beer-drinking and dining as a distinctive culture. The technology for this is “made by Krones” and was supplied as a turnkey order, and that includes the first CombiCube B brewhouse in Germany.

It took around ten million euros of capital expenditure and a conversion time of two years to revamp the listed buildings in what used to be the livestock halls of Hamburg’s abattoir right in the centre of the Schanzenviertel quarter. But it was definitely worthwhile. The result is a genuine gem of a brewery, brimming with the latest state of the art – a transparent brewing manufactory producing some excellent beers.

Just craft

The Ratsherrn Brewery has taken “craft” as its motto and indeed emblazoned it on its crates and cartons: “Just Craft. Real Taste.” What’s behind this craft beer idea is the eponymous trend, which started back in the 1980s in the USA, and has meanwhile arrived in Europe as well. Though “has returned to Europe”, would be a more apposite phrase, because – after all – Europe is indeed the cradle of craft beer-brewing. The fresh ideas, however, the irresistible urge to boldly create flavours nobody ever dared try before, the rediscovery of the huge variety of hops and malts, and of regional roots and focus, all of this can at present be found increasingly on the other side of the Atlantic. Ratsherrn perceives itself quite definitely as something of a path-breaker in establishing this craft beer trend in northern Germany, if not nationwide even.

Hydroclassic Compact reverse-osmosis system for water treatment

A total of 4,500 square metres of space are avail­able to the Ratsherrn Brewery, on which listed brick architecture featuring shed roofs fits in harmoniously with contemporary structural elements. The only new building is a somewhat higher hall, which houses the cylindro-conical fermenters.

Krones planned, supplied and installed the brewery’s entire technology, and that means the supply of all raw materials and expendables as well. This includes the compressed-air generator with only one compressor and an additional storage tank for all lines, plus the ammonia cooling system with two compressors, which uses glycol in the secondary circuit, as well as the steam supply. A neutralisation tank ensures that the wastewater exits from the brewing manufactory as specified, with a neutral ph-value and a low temperature. All of these units were outsourced by Krones from prestigious firms. For its water treatment operations, by contrast, the Ratsherrn Brewery uses the Hydroclassic Compact reverse-osmosis system developed by Krones. Since the brewery does not possess a deep well of its own, it uses municipal water, which may have different sources but usually comes from the Nordheide (Northern Heath) region. To quote brewmaster Thomas Kunst: “The Hydroclassic automatically adjusts to the various water qualities and runs like clockwork. You really can’t complain.” For purposes of quality assurance, the brewers have their own laboratory featuring analytical equipment that would make anyone proud.

Very happy with the CombiCube B’s wealth of options

The brewing process proper starts with grain intake at the silo or reception of special malts in bags. The malt room also accommodates the Variomill wet mill, “which adjusts automatically to suit the malt qualities handled in each case – really great”, comments Thomas.

For its brewhouse, the Ratsherrn Brewery chose a CombiCube B, the first of its kind in a German brewery. “I was very impressed by this concept right from the start, because it contains high-tech expertise in a simple and uncluttered layout”, admits Thomas. “The only challenge here was that normally the CombiCube B’s modularised design means the individual vessels are mounted in a frame construction, and we had no room for this, because we haven’t got a cellar. So Krones removed the vessels from the steel frames concerned, and now we’re the proud owners of a beautiful, highly polished showcase brewhouse with 50 hectolitres of cast wort, designed for 10 brews a day.”

At Ratsherrn, the CombiCube B comprises a mash tun, a lauter tun, a wort copper and a whirlpool. “This gives us a high degree of flexibility, because we can brew special beers, draw off partial mashes, or also use the lauter tun as a mash tun.” The brewhouse features a vapour condenser with an energy storage system for heating the lautered wort. “What I particularly appreciate in this boiling system is that it has neither internal nor external boilers but instead a frame heater, a successful marriage of Stromboli and Triton, plus an agitator as well. You see, the boiling effect is created on the surface of the rising bubbles. The longer these can be held in suspension, the larger the boiling effect. And rotating the wort further intensifies this boiling effect. The Stromboli spreader enables us to run technological variants as far as evaporation rates are concerned. We’re very happy with this sheer wealth of options in our new brewhouse”, explains Thomas.

Control via iPad

For producing the maximum annual output of 50,000 hectolitres, four brews a day on five days a week are sufficient. It would theoretically be possible to run up to ten brews a day. “At 3.00 a.m., the brewhouse starts up automatically, the first brewer then doses in the first hop strike later on, that saves us some worktime. We’re using iPads to operate the Botec control system, which – as far as I know – is something entirely new in the sector. For this purpose, we simply installed several WLAN access points in the brewery.” The brewhouse’s peripherals accommodate the tanks for hot and cold water, for deaerated and iced water, plus the energy storage unit and a central CIP system.

“Quite definitely a brilliant job”

“The whole job that Krones did was highly professional”, sums up Thomas Kunst. “It’s true, Krones does have its price, but once you’ve worked with them you know why. It’s very rare that I’m really satisfied with something. But I must say, this was quite definitely a brilliant job.” Thomas ran his first brew of Ratsherrn Pilsener on 13 March 2012. Will that go down as the magic date for a new craft-beer trend in Germany?!

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