EconomyFinancialCraft brewers in Monterrey switch from cans and glass...

Craft brewers in Monterrey switch from cans and glass to kegs to reduce their water consumption

MONTERREY. “Since the pandemic began, one challenge after another has appeared,” says Patrico Ferrara, founding partner of Cervecería Rrëy , a brewery located in Santa Catarina, a municipality that is part of the Monterrey metropolitan area. The beer entrepreneur has them fresh in his memory: the closure of bars and restaurants was followed by the imbalance in the logistics chain. Then the rise in raw materials -such as malt-, the shortage of glass, and recently the lack of water.

Unlike the big manufacturers, its craft beer plant, which produces about 200,000 liters of beer a year, does not have a water concession, and so far, it has not suffered from supply cuts, so it has not had to stop its production. However, the recent shortage of the liquid in royal homes was one of the reasons that led the company to deploy a series of actions to save water in its processes.

Cerveza Huerca is in a similar case. The craft brewery, located in the Nueva Estanzuela neighborhood, cooks 35,000 liters of beer a year, has a water concession, of which it occupies 35%, and although it has experienced supply cuts, it has seen increases in the cost of resource, which are generated because the pipes do not have a valve to release the air accumulated due to the lack of liquid. They were paying for air instead of water.

Until now, all the actions to save water that these small businesses have implemented are voluntary. And without any approach or indication from the authorities, each brewery has found a way to adjust its operations, from cleaning the plants to cleaning the containers.

Pack in barrel to reduce water consumption

One of the most representative changes that the producers made was to move part of their production from cans or glass containers to 30-liter barrels, which they have managed to place among their restaurant clients, especially those that do not offer draft beer. in its offer of alcoholic beverages. Although it has not been difficult, since the water crisis is an issue that keeps the city on the lookout and receptive businessmen.

The results are already beginning to be visible for companies. Ferrara, from Cervecería Rrëy, reports that with this change, they stopped using water in procedures such as washing cans and containers, and it also allows them to overcome the lack of glass bottles, whose price rose between 20 and 30%.

“It’s about promoting draft beer and craft beer. Consumption has grown, more restaurants with barrels have been opened and it is a trend that we see in other markets, such as the United States. In Mexico, the more the beer culture develops, the more people are going to look for these specialty bars,” says Ferrara.

This trend was a palliative for the craft beer manufacturer during the water crisis, which managed to displace 30% of its production in barrels.

Cerveza Huerca also saw an opportunity to pack in barrels, but it is not the only maneuver. Fernando Garza, director of operations at the plant, explains that bars have been installed in restaurants to serve craft beer, and they have already raised the barrel share from 10% in 2019 to 38% today, which is also an option to reduce operating costs in logistics and raw materials, as well as water, without disclosing the amount of savings.

Although packaging in barrels also has some disadvantages: this packaging is not viable to market beer in other sales channels, such as supermarkets or specialized stores, since it is necessary to have a specific system to serve the beer.

“We try to save water everywhere”

Saving water has become one of the priorities of the brewing industry, which was publicly pointed out by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for its high consumption of the resource. For Cervecería Rrëy, one of the short-term goals is to establish a production process that requires fewer liters of water per liter of beer, from the seven liters of water used.

For now, they made chemical changes for tank washing and less rinsing, in order to be ready to make production stoppages if necessary.

“We are very concerned about the situation and have tried to save water everywhere we can, from increasing the efficiency of the kitchen to having to cook less often, to stopping washing the floors. Everything that comes to mind we do preventively, and until now, voluntarily”, he declares.

In Cerveza Huerca, in addition to changing chemicals, they have a team that reuses water for rinsing beer containers, and they have planned their production. “We are limited in water storage capacity, we have two 5,000-liter tanks. What we have done is compact the days of production and push the activities with the greatest use of water towards the end of the week, knowing that we have the water stored to produce,” says Garza.

The head of operations of Cerveza Huerca considers that there is an area of opportunity in the communication of the authorities to adopt a strategy to make the use of water more efficient, because although drought is not a new natural problem for the entity, there were no approaches with the industry to cause savings, or incentives for companies that have achieved efficiencies and encourage the return of water from business concessions to the public network.

The royal industry is one of those that sets the pace in the craft sector. Of the 303,337 hectoliters of beer brewed in Mexico last year, Nuevo León produced 15.69%, placing it in the third producing state, after Baja California with 18.01% and Jalisco with 17.41%, according to data from the Mexican Brewing Association (Acermex).

And, although there are calls – from the presidency – to move production from Monterrey to other states, this could be far from happening. Ferrara, from Rrëy, does not see an option in this, since it would generate the loss of the investment already made to install the plant. “We are already asking for a hurricane to come and save us,” he says with a laugh.

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