Propane use on rise in local beer, wine and spirits industry

October 1, 2013 By    

Sometimes we overlook smaller opportunities for propane sales when we chase those large markets such as home heating and autogas.

The local beer, wine and spirits industry is a good example of a somewhat hidden, but growing, private and commercial market for propane sales.

Homebrewers, or hopheads, as they fondly call themselves, usually use lots of propane in the beer brewing process. Brew kettles require large capacity high-pressure propane burners for the mash cooking process. High output burners of 60,000 to 100,000 Btus are commonly used by homebrewers. They also use a large quantity of hot water for bottle washing, equipment cleaning and other processing uses. There is no better answer for a homebrewer’s hot water needs than a propane tankless water heater.

Often homebrewers expand to the commercial production of beer and make propane the first choice for their expanded craft brewing energy needs. Propane serves microbrewers well, whether they use direct fire on the brew pots or a hot water bath process. Lots of hot water is also needed for small bottle and growler washing and other sanitation needs. Propane for space heating, water heating and cooking also can be provided for accompanying sampling rooms and restaurant operations that many microbrewers are including in their business plans.

Vineyards, wineries and winegrowers are a major part of the agri-tourism boom that is sweeping across many parts of the country. Vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms are usually located in rural areas where propane is the best answer for space heating and water heating needs. Wineries use large quantities of hot water in bottle washing, equipment cleaning and other processing needs. Propane tankless water heaters save space and provide a continuous flow of hot water during those critical winemaking periods. If the winery is producing spirits such as brandy, a steam boiler usually is used in the distilling process. Steam boilers are a propane load you won’t want to pass up.

Growth area

Licensing can vary by state, but many areas of the country are now seeing a growth in new small batch distilleries that make whiskey, vodka, gin and other spirit products. I recently visited a new distillery near where I live that has a 4-million-Btu steam boiler for the distilling process. Watch for these small batch distilleries popping up in your marketing area.

Anytime you see a cider mill, it is in rural America. Cider mills can use large amounts of propane for space heating, water heating and other energy needs. Commercially licensed cider mills need lots of water to help clean and sanitize equipment.

One of the hottest areas of development in the adult beverage market is hard cider, applejack and other distilled versions of apple cider. Heat is used to start the fermentation process for hard cider, and propane is the ideal energy for this processing. Hard cider and related products have a cult following that is growing fast.

Make sure you add your propane energy to this growth.

Here are a few tips on how to sell more propane gallons into the local adult beverage business.

■ Call on wineries, distillers, microbreweries and cider mills in your area. Become their energy consultant and help them smooth out their operation with propane and related equipment. A dependable and abundant supply of hot water is generally their biggest challenge, but there are other opportunities as well.

■ Look for new locations being built in your marketing area. A good place to start is with local building permits or your state’s licensing division for these types of businesses. Contact the business owners and become their energy consultant.

■ Join state and local grape growers associations, brewers guilds and other groups related to the production and promotion of locally made adult beverages. Attend their meetings and trade shows and network with the business owners. Become their energy consultant.

■ Buy, sample and enjoy local wines, beer, spirits and cider. It can be a fun way to meet your next propane customer.

Tom Jaenicke is the owner and principal adviser at ATomiK Creative Solutions LLC, a company that provides marketing services, technical advice, continuing education solutions and business development assistance to energy companies and support organizations. He can be reached at or 810-252-7855.

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