May 16, 2012 – A new relationship began on February 14, 2012, when the perfect Valentine’s Day gift arrived. For Erica Nelson, flowers and chocolate pale in comparison to an Anton Paar Beer Analyzer. Erica manages Quality Control/Quality Assurance at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC. The Anton Paar catapults the capabilities of her department and Highland beer to world-class levels and she’s loving it.
Still the only one in a NC craft brewery, the Anton Paar takes up about as much room as a microwave and is a $60,000 investment in beer quality. It has a modular design, with a base unit that measures specific gravity. The other modules measure alcohol, color and carbonation. In the future, the haze module may be added, which measures clarity.
“It calculates anything you want to know: ABV, original gravity, final gravity, apparent efficiency, real efficiency, apparent extract, real extract, and the number of calories in a 12 oz. bottle.” Much more information than the average beer drinker can see, smell or taste, but all required for exceptional quality. Erica has been happy to find that beer color is very consistent within each style. Carbonation levels have become more consistent thanks to the test she conducts on every batch of beer — every day during fermentation, several times in the packaging line, and in the final package. Erica exports data to Access and collaborates with brewers John Lyda and Joey Justice to look for trends and improvements to be made.
Bottles are enclosed in the explosion-proof base unit, then put under 85 pounds of pressure per square inch. The pressure is needed so that when cap is punctured by a metal straw, the beer is least affected from the change. The beer is analyzed right from the bottle.
Equipment this sophisticated “gives us the ability to further refine our processes for many years… This machine will take us as far we can go. We’re getting great information now, but it does so much more, and we will grow with it.”
Erica cleans and calibrates the machine almost every day for the most accurate readings — a labor of love that began on Valentine’s Day.