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    Craft Beer
    Not normal
    Not normal
      The brewpub and the brewery itself are already sonically suffused with dark heavy-metal music in the morning.

      The walls of the bottling hall are adorned with fantasy and zombie pictures, and comic cartoons. The people working here are punk rockers, nerds, and bearded fans of tattoos and long hairstyles – the same sort of people who also constitute the biggest fan community of the beers concocted by Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana. “It’s Not Normal”, the motto to which the brewery has subscribed ever since its foundation, is still putting fire in the bellies of those creating ferociously fiendish beers that trigger taste explosions in people’s mouths, and out-of-the-ordinary designs for labels and packaging. But, of course, many “quite normal” beer aficionados also drink the beers from Three Floyds, the brewery could actually invest in a “normal” filling line – in fact they had to.

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      “Free-thinking encouraged”

      In 1996, Nick Floyd opened his own brewery at the age of 25, in a small warehouse measuring just under 500 square metres located in Hammonds, Indiana – “with 500 dollars in my pocket”, he recalls. In 2000, he and his brewery had moved a few kilometres further, to the present-day premises on an industrial estate of the small town of Munster, Indiana, just under an hour’s drive away from Chicago’s city centre. He was in 2006 joined by Chris Boggess as head brewer, who had likewise graduated from the Siebel Institute. In those days, output came to around 4,600 hectolitres. “Here at Three Floyds, free-thinking is the watchword,” says Chris, the brewery’s Chief Brewmaster. “Staff feel at their ease. Every single person employed here is a part of the brewing process. We operate like a big family: do what you love best, and it’s more than just a job. It’s a tough business, running a brewery. So you should at least have a bit of fun while you’re doing it,” is his firm conviction. “And the people visiting our brewery and our brewpub, they come here because they love our beers and they love our atmosphere.” Ever since he joined the brewery, output has soared, more than ten times over during the past ten years, to what is meanwhile (2015) around 58,000 hectolitres. But Three Floyds has nonetheless always remained a regional brewery. Besides its home state of Indiana, distribution has up till now only got as far as the surrounding states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Kentucky, with the biggest sales market directly on the doorstep – Chicago, Illinois, the USA’s third-largest city with a population of 2.7 million in the city centre and around ten million in the metropolitan area. The inhabitants of Chicago are famous for their beer affinity, and that of course benefits craft breweries like Three Floyds.

      Complete line from Krones

      In 2012, Three Floyds had commissioned a new and larger 35-hectolitre brewhouse. And meanwhile the 30-year-old pre-owned bottling line, rated at 4,200 bottles an hour, had become the production operation’s limiting factor. Due to exploding levels of demand, a new solution was urgently needed. And it was found in the shape of a complete line from Krones, which has now been dimensioned for a speed of 15,000 bottles an hour. Three Floyds built a new hall adjacent to the existing brewery to accommodate it. The line started operation in September 2015, and consists of a Pressant Universal 1N bulk-glass sweep-off depalletiser with low-level discharge onto a bulk conveyor. After being spaced, the bottles are passed directly to the rinser-filler block comprising a Moduljet rinser and a Modulfill filler. “We don’t need an empty-bottle inspector,” says Packaging Manager Travis Fasano, “because we’re using exclusively bulk glass and we put our trust in the rinser’s quality.”

      The Modulfill HRS filler does not have a front table; the bottles are conveyed in neck-handling mode by free-standing starwheel columns so as to ensure optimum hygiene. “The filler gives us excellent values for oxygen pick-up, of 50 ppb, coupled with very consistent fill levels,” explains Travis Fasano. The field-proven short-tube level-controlled filler with vent tubes operates with double pre-evacuation and an interpolated CO2-flushing feature. The filling valves are electro-pneumatically controlled. The bottles are inspected for correct fill level in a Checkmat FM-X, and immediately after that dressed in shoulder labels on a Prontomatic with a cold-glue station. Correct label placement is verified in a Checkmat E. Complete end-of-the-line packaging is handled in a Varioline with two modules, which produces sixpacks with twelve-ounce bottles as a basket and packs them in 24-bottle cartons. Or it directly produces 12-bottle cartons holding 22-ounce bottles. After that, palletising is at Three Floyds still done by hand. In order to ensure optimum protection for its kit, the brewery purchases lubricants from KIC Krones.

      Quite deliberately overdimensioned

      Three Floyds’ beers are filled mainly in 12-ounce bottles. Once or twice a week, the line is changed over to the 22-ounce bottle, which takes about two hours. The brewery performs product change-overs, by contrast, two to three times a day in single-shift operation. For this purpose, all that needs to be done in each case is make available the new labels, crowns and cartons for packing – plus changing over the beer type, of course.

      The line has now been dimensioned for a speed of 15,000 bottles an hour. “Theoretically, with this line we could fill 290,000 hectolitres a year in three-shift operation. Of course, this is at the present juncture completely overdimensioned. But I thought it was important to look ahead a bit, so we won’t have to install another line every few years while at the same time we’re using the best technology available. To begin with, we had the idea of initially just ordering a smaller line from the Krones group company Kosme. But then we opted for the larger one from Krones after all. With this, we’re definitely on the safe side in our bottling hall for years to come,” says Chris Boggess. Up until the new line was commissioned in September 2015, the ratio of keg to bottle was still running at 50 to 50, in view of the old bottling kit’s low capacity. After that, Three Floyds was at a stroke able to fill more bottles, which shifted this ratio to 70 per cent bottles and 30 per cent kegs.

      Plans for additional canning kit

      In early 2016, Three Floyds also commissioned a brand-new distillery in the same building, tasked with producing among other things whiskey and gin. “We do what we do, and of that we can’t do enough,” explains Nick Floyd. While so far output has already increased more than ten times over within ten years, to reach 60,000 hectolitres, this augurs well for another quantum leap. The plans are to install a new bigger brewhouse to start with, and then a new kegging line, and last but not least to expand the glass bottling line to include a Krones can filler and a fully automatic palletiser. The space for these two additional machines has already been earmarked in the line now newly installed. Such a breakneck tempo is certainly Not Normal. But then, what is at Three Floyds Brewing and indeed in the entire American craft brewer scene?

      Selected machines and solutions