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    New bottling line rounding out a “unified work of art”: Schlossbrauerei Maxlrain

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    Krones and Schlossbrauerei Maxlrain (the Maxlrain castle brewery) provide vivid proof of how tradition and state-of-the-art technology complement each other perfectly.
    • Prinz Peter von Lobkowicz is the Managing Director of the Maxlrain castle brewery.

    “In my view, Maxlrain is a unified work of Bavarian art,” says Managing Director Prinz Peter von Lobkowicz. “We’ve got something here for every one of our visitors: There’s a history-steeped castle, a timeless classic that has grown with the times, a brewpub with beer garden, a golf course. There’s our brewery, a vibrant enterprise with its intriguing product that is closely connected with the surrounding landscape.” And this unified work of art has now been substantially updated, by a new returnable-glass line from Krones rated at 20,000 bottles per hour.

    After marrying the daughter of the castle owner in the 1980s, Dr Erich Prinz von Lobkowicz swiftly discovered his enthusiasm for the brewery. At the time, the brewery was small and not exactly in prime condition. Step by step, he set about modernising the production operation in the Art Nouveau-style brewery that has retained its rustic charm of yesteryear to this very day. Tradition is everywhere here. Josef Kronast, Senior Master Brewer and Technical Director in charge of production, has been part of the process since 2008. “We started very small here, working our way up the technology ladder and putting in place a distribution network,” he says. “Since I joined the brewery, there has been a never-ending stream of construction projects and upgrades.” New indoor tanks were added to the fermentation and maturation cellar again and again. The 180-hectolitre stainless steel brewhouse, which has meanwhile given reliable service for 45 years, is still used today. Back then, it was designed sufficiently large, so it could to keep up with the increase in sales over recent decades. “Since the 1990s, we’ve been able to secure a stronger market position for ourselves by purposefully reconnecting with our long-standing tradition of producing top-quality beers while making some long-overdue investments,” explains Prinz Peter von Lobkowicz.

    Since I joined the brewery, there has been a never-ending stream of construction projects and upgrades. Erwin HächlJosef KronastTechnical Director and Senior Master Brewer

    “All income from our family business goes toward preserving the listed buildings,” he emphasises. “We’ve developed a cross-generational mindset and aim to pass the estate to the next generation. That is why for us sustainability is more than just a buzzword. Here it is translated into everyday reality.”

    Castle in a fairytale setting

    You will find the brewery on one side of the road and on the opposite side the beautifully preserved four-storey Renaissance castle.

    The castle owner gazes out over lush green meadows towards the Bavarian Alps to the south. The castle restaurant is located slightly off to the west and invites its guests to savour haute-cuisine delicacies. East of the castle, visitors will find one of Germany’s most beautiful golf courses. On the other side of the road, right next to the brewery is the Bräustüberl, Maxlrain’s brewpub, with broad vaulted ceilings and a large beer garden seating over 1,000. This site located only about 60 kilometres south of Munich is a popular destination for excursions and offers plentiful highlights like large open-air concerts, a vintage car show and medieval tournaments.

    Awarded the title of “Germany’s Brewery of the Year” twice

    In 2021, installation of the brewery’s new bottling line was green-lighted. The existing line is rated at 10,000 bottles per hour and housed in a very convoluted and crowded space of about 200 square metres with vaulted ceilings.

    An important driving force behind the decision to buy this line was the brewery’s plan to launch a new beer – Maxl Helles. Bavarian pale lager is very popular throughout Germany, and the benefits for the castle brewery have been huge. Today, Maxl Helles is Maxlrain’s best-selling brand – and since the brewery’s portfolio comprises 16 different beers, that is definitely saying something. The quality of the Maxlrain beers is spot-on, a fact confirmed year in, year out: The brewery in Upper Bavaria has won the German Agricultural Society (DLG) Award for the quality of its beers every year for the past 15 years, even earning the title of “Germany’s Brewery of the Year” in 2012 and 2016.

    Clear agreements

    In November 2021, an agreement with Krones was reached on placing an order for a new bottling line rated at 20,000 bottles per hour. “The way Krones manages to combine world market leadership and sound mid-tier commitment is quite unique. They speak in terms we can understand, and they deliver on what has been agreed.”

    Construction of the new bottling hall on a useful area of 880 square metres started in January 2022. To match it to the site’s style, it is encased in wood, almost all of which comes from Maxlrain’s own forest, thus fitting in neatly with the company’s philosophy of sustainability and its focus on regional sourcing, emphasises Master Brewer Josef Kronast.

    Turnkey line

    The first Krones machines were supplied in October 2022, and shortly after the Christmas break, on 10 January 2023, the first beer was bottled. February 2023 then saw the technical acceptance test, with the technological one following in March 2023, achieving optimum oxygen values.

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    Schlossbrauerei Maxlrain has now been substantially updated, by putting into operation a new returnable-glass line from Krones rated at 20,000 bottles per hour.

    The new line begins with a Robogrip combination palletiser and depalletiser. New bottles are fed in by a Pressant Portal lift-off depalletiser for bulk glass. A foreign bottle detection system is installed downstream, and foreign bottles are then fine-sorted by hand. If necessary, any bottles still closed are decrowned/decapped in the crate. An unpacker takes the bottles out of the crates which are then passed to the crate washer, while the bottles travel to the single-end Lavatec E bottle washer with sedimentation and caustic-dosing systems. After that, they are checked in a Linatronic 735 empty-bottle inspector with separate caustic detection sensors before they are filled on a Modulfill HRS machine. Two closers are installed in the enclosed filler room – one for traditional crowns and one for ring-pull caps for the Zwickl Max bottles.

    The downstream Checkmat FM-G inspector checks the bottles’ correct fill level, after which an Ergomatic labeller uses two cold-glue stations to apply back, shoulder and neck labels. Another inspector, a Checkmat E that can be operated at the labeller’s touchscreen, checks the bottles for correct label placement. A packer puts them into crates, after which yet another Checkmat handles full-crate inspection. Before the crates are loaded, the pallets are passed through a pressure-controlled empty pallet inspection unit to make sure that only flawless pallets leave the brewery. A VarioClean CIP system and a VarioFlash B thermal product treatment unit with buffer tank have also been integrated into the bottling hall.

    As agreed with the castle brewery, Krones integrated decrowner/decapper, packer and unpacker, crate washer, pallet wrapper and cap feed units from third-party manufacturers, whose machines are designed for the output range required here.

    The line is set up to handle the following bottles: 0.5-litre euro, 0.5- and 0.33-litre NRW, and 0.33-litre Vichy. The filled bottles are packed in two different 20-bottle and two different 24-bottle modular crates.

    “Upgraded to an entirely different technological level”

    “The Krones line has raised our operation to an entirely new technological level,” says a gratified Josef Kronast, and continues: “What’s more, thanks to Krones’ technology the new bottling line consumes less power, water and chemicals than the old one, even though it produces twice the output. For example, we’ve more than halved the consumption of caustic,” he says. Besides that, a 100-kilowatt photovoltaic system has been installed on the roof of the new bottling hall. The electricity it generates is used in-house to cope with peak power loads.

    The new line can be run by three people and is currently used in single-shift operation – in contrast to the old line for which staff for two shifts were needed. “That is yet another crucial benefit for our employees,” says Prinz Peter von Lobkowicz. Needless to say, the new line is also an exciting challenge for the operators, who were involved in its commissioning and then received training through the Krones Academy.

    Master Brewer Josef Kronast is happy about the new layout providing better accessibility and self-explanatory user interfaces, which makes it easy to operate the line. What’s more, he says, change-over times are now significantly shorter than before. When you are handling 16 different types of beer and four different bottles, that is a crucial aspect.

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    “Quite simply good machines, it’s just great to work with them. Everyone is full of praise, including our trade visitors.”

    It was plain sailing

    Another important reason to opt for Krones was that the plants in Rosenheim and Neutraubling are not far away. “That means we can do without an in-house spares store because it will just take a few hours until we get support from Krones at need,” says Josef Kronast. “And it also fits in with our ‘Use regional sources’ philosophy.” Prinz Peter von Lobkowicz is also very pleased: “Project implementation went off without a hitch – it was plain sailing of a kind we’d never dared to dream of – with a phenomenal result: Together with Krones, we were able not only to keep to the time schedule agreed but also to largely remain within our budget. Cooperation was fabulous.” What more can you possibly want?

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