When craft brewers and equipment makers work together, special things happen. Here’s a real special thing we heard last week: Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and AC Beverage (a leading beer and draft system design and installation company based in Annapolis, Md.) announced the Rack AeriAle, an innovative barrel-aging, nitrogen draft-dispensing system developed and designed for restaurants, bars, tasting rooms and breweries.
Rack AeriAle is a hybrid-design, draft beer dispensing system utilizing technology from the original beer dispensing systems that allows for beer to be poured from wood barrels. It incorporates advanced technology to extract barrel-aged beer that is chilled and infused with nitrogen and CO2 gas.
“Aging beer in wine or whiskey barrels creates a soft, complex flavor profile which is best enjoyed straight from the barrel,” said Charles Kleinrichert, president of AC Beverage.
How does this work?
Dogfish Head and AC Beverage developed a process to perform beer transfers into the wine barrels for aging and nitrogen preservation to keep a blanket of N2 on the beer, protecting it from oxygen which can permeate a wood barrel.
A Nitrogenator mixed gas system was installed to provide a continuous supply of N2 gas, feeding the wine barrels and dispense system requirements. Customized wine barrel extractors allow beer to be pumped under low N2 pressure to a heat exchanger which chills the beer to a desired temperature.
Once the product has been chilled, it feeds to a CellarStream in-line Liquid / Gas Contactor to infuse the desired gas content into the beer. The CellarStream provides a custom-tailored gas blend that compliments the beer style. A full range of flavor profiles, from a crisp carbonated brew, to a soft, velvety Nitrogenated beer can be created.
The finished product is integrated into a typical draft beer dispense system using a slow pour style faucet with a restrictor disc which strips the gas while being poured.
“The process is like watching a theatrical performance in a glass as it creates a unique, cascading effect resulting in a thick creamy head that looks as appealing as it tastes,” said Kleinrichert. The retention of the head is achieved by the amount of gas infusion that can only be accomplished using a CellarStream and Nitrogenator as they are the heart and lungs of the Rack AeriAle system.
Collaboration between pals
AC Beverage designed and installed Dogfish Head’s first draft system in 1995 at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, a brewpub located in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
“Charlie and I have worked on many projects together and through the years I have seen that he and his coworkers are among the most creative and technically knowledgeable draft dispensing experts I’ve ever met,” said Sam Calagione, president and founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. The Milton brewery began crafting wood-aged beers in giant ten-thousand gallon wooden tanks starting with Immort Ale in 1996.
“I thought it’d be cool to work with AC Beverage to design a system that brings barrel-aged beers from the barrel directly to the tap system and incorporates a smooth creamy nitro head into the process,” said Calagione. “I shared my initial idea with Charlie with some notes and images of what I was thinking about and he took it from there and made the technical and mechanical magic happen.”
Dogfish Head and AC Beverage collaborated on the concept, creation and design of the cask Rack AeriAle draft system and the construction and sales of the structure will be conducted and owned by AC Beverage, solely. The first Rack AeriAle system was sold by AC Beverage to Eataly Boston’s Terra Restaurant and will be operational and open to the public for enjoyment in 2017.
“I love assimilating, getting to know different cultures, swapping ideas and always improving. This is who we are, an Italian and American company that imports products from abroad while taking the time to learn from the surrounding locals,” said Nicola Farinetti, Eataly CEO. “We combined beer and wine because we think it’s the perfect way to express this idea. Assimilation is what allows us to grow and we can’t stop it.”
Dogfish Head plans to purchase the second Rack AeriAle system to be installed in the tasting room at the Milton brewery in Spring 2017.
The cask Rack AeriAle system at Eataly Terra in Boston will be unveiled as a sneak peek to a handful of beer media and brewers at the Thursday evening, opening event of Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Festival in Boston on February 2. The second Rack AeriAle will be on display at AC Beverages booth at the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C., from April 10-13.