A Cleveland Brewery Upgrades Capacity In Tight Space

In Cleveland, OH, the award-winning Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) produces a variety of year-round and specialty “seasonal” beers which are very popular around the Great Lakes region, and, where available, throughout the rest of the country.FE-WebOnlylogo

Founded in 1986, GLBC has been growing by leaps and bounds, and the decision was made back in late 2013 to undertake a $7 million expansion of the brewery’s tanks in 2014. “The decision was based on our 20% growth in 2013, plus future plans to expand to new markets, while meeting growing demand in existing markets,” said Greg Lemermeier, manager of engineering and technology for GLBC.

The challenge? The brewery is in a tightly packed, urban area, and the four new tanks would be installed on the edge of a busy parking lot. There would be close by buildings, vehicles, and overhead power lines to contend with during this project.

The project would take an entire year in planning and execution, and was handled in phases during the summer of 2014. GLBC called on Superior Erection, an Ohio-based provider of skilled millwright, maintenance, rigging, steel erection and machinery-moving services to assist with rigging and setting the new tanks. First, two new 600 bbl Brite storage tanks, which hold finished beer that is ready for packaging, were to be installed. Each was twice the size of the brewery’s older storage tanks, literally quadrupling the brewery’s storage capacity. The two tanks are expected to last two to three years, depending on future expansion.

New tank being installed at Great Lakes Brewery Company
New tank being installed at Great Lakes Brewery Company

For the next phase, four new 600 bbl (18,000 gallon) fermentation tanks would be installed. The new fermenters would hold the brewery’s most popular, high volume beers, such as Dortmunder Gold Lager and Burning River.

Because finished beer has to be chilled when stored, and with an increased need for cooling due to the new tanks, the brewery had to upgrade to a new chiller, first removing the two old ones from the brewery’s roof. Superior installed the steel work and rigged the new, massive chiller into place, which was three times the size of the two old chillers combined.

To install the new Brites, fermenters, and chiller, the brewery needed to take over part of the adjacent parking lot. Superior and GLBC worked with the lot’s owners on scheduling temporary closure of the lot, including compensation for lost parking revenue during that time. They also had to work around the schedule of the nearby, very popular West Side Market, a destination for locals and out-of-towners alike.

Because of the size of the tanks and the nature of work to be performed in lifting and setting them into place, GLBC and Superior obtained numerous permits, escorts, and even permission to close nearby roads at times, to ensure safety of visitors, cars, and other businesses in the area. And they were on a tight timeline — permits could only be issued for a day at a time, so when closures were in place, the team had to work quickly.

For the Brite tanks and fermenters, Superior used a 250-ton Grove GMK crane with a 50-ton Grove TMS acting as an assist crane in lifting and tilting each tank into the upright position with a tight, 125′ radius. The 250-ton crane then set the tanks up vertically, and lowered each through the roof’s open hatch onto wheeled skates. Once set upright, they were wheeled into their final positions.

Everything went as planned, and the brewery proceeded with the rest of the project, including new electrical work and mechanical install of process piping. The new tanks were operational just before Christmas 2014.

“This was our first time working with Superior. They were recommended by a general contractor and were great to work with,” said Lemermeier. “Through the various stages of the project, they have had several different crews out and all have been professional, efficient, and very flexible with the various changes and surprises that tend to come up on complex projects. They were also very safety conscious, and always followed our safety guidelines. We plan on working with them in the future.”

As GLBC’s popularity continues to expand, the increased capacity has helped ensure that the future is bright for the brewery—and that cold beer flows freely from the taps.

Editor’s Note: June 22 marked the anniversary of the infamous fire on Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River. To read a blog post from GLBC’s sustainability manager, Saul Kliorys, visit the company’s website.