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Small batches in a big brewery

We’ve just happened upon an issue of the 4/17 magazine. And there we found loads of interesting articles: like a report on the Brewery Mahou San Miguel. And because we immediately started browsing, we want to share this rediscovery with others. Here, however, there’s space for only a brief summary; there’s more about the subject on the magazine article.

The Alovera (Guadalajara) brewery just outside Madrid boasts an installed capacity of seven million hectolitres, which makes it the biggest in Europe. Here the brewery operates a total of 13 filling lines, handling non-returnable and returnable glass, cans, kegs and tanker trucks. And for many of these lines, Mahou San Miguel has already been putting its trust in Krones’ machine technology.

Two of the three returnable-glass lines, for example, have each been dimensioned for an hourly output of 100,000 bottles; one of the three canning lines is rated at 90,000 cans per hour. Filling small batches of only a few thousand containers an hour, entailing frequent format change-overs, on these high-speed lines would have been difficult, or at the very least highly unprofitable.

The line has been designed to handle bottle formats ranging from 200 millilitres up to one litre. Javier Carballo Penvela explains: “We insisted on a series of technical refinements.

Upgrading the bottling quality of the small batches

Almost all bottles filled on the line since it was started up have been new formats – and the company, spoilt as it was by its high-performance lines, was not used to the frequent change-overs either. This line now enables the brewery to guarantee maximised bottling quality for small batches as well, while at the same time reducing product losses and upgrading the company’s innovative vigour. “We’re brewers, and we enjoy developing new beer recipes,” emphasises Javier Carballo Penvela. “Our mutually supportive relationship with Krones goes way, way back. So we regarded it as vital to be able to cooperate with Krones in the low output range as well for this project of maximal strategic importance. The line gives us precisely what we had in mind and what we need.”

Craft beer: developing a taste for it

In Spain, too, as in the rest of the world, beer drinkers have meanwhile acquired a taste for craft beer. In the metropolises of Madrid and Barcelona, particularly, and also in the tourist centres like Córdoba, Sevilla or Granada, the “new” beers enjoy an ever-growing level of popularity. Mahou San Miguel took this trend on board at a very early stage:

– In 2013, the brewery launched its own family of craft beers under the “Casimiro Mahou” brand, in four variants.

– In late 2014, the leader on the Spanish beer market acquired a 30-per-cent holding in the extremely successful American craft brewery Founders (see also Krones magazine 2/2016). One year later, Mahou San Miguel presented the pub clienteles of Madrid and Barcelona with no less than 16 variations of the Founders specialty beer, thus enriching the Spanish beer culture.

– They weren’t going to stop at that – no way: Mahou San Miguel went on to strengthen its craft-beer portfolio by

*buying a 30-per-cent stake in the La Salve craft brewery of Bilbao in northern Spain;

*acquiring a 40-per-cent holding in another jewel among the Spanish craft breweries, in Nómada Brewing.

The brewing nomads at Nómada Brewing

It was as recently as 2011 that Javier Aldea and Sami Claret had founded the Nómada brand, with quite an out-of-the-ordinary corporate philosophy: they’ve been brewing beer without a brewery of their own – rather, they’ve been travelling the world as beer nomads and produced their creations together with craft-beer buddies in the latters’ breweries, in the USA, Germany, Denmark or the UK, for example. This is why Nómada Brewing’s beers were not very markedly anchored in Spain itself.

Now their idea has been given a home, so to speak – and the beer nomads have settled down a bit, because the Nómada beers are meanwhile being brewed in the pilot brewhouse of the Alovera facility and bottled on the new Krones line. This alliance is intended to help the brand focus more closely on the Spanish beer market.

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