Tom Crowell has had a passion for brewing craft beer from the time he was a home brewer, to his years working in a brewery on the waterfront in Brooklyn, NY to his founding of Chatham Brewing in Chatham, NY. He and Co-Founder Jake Cunningham and their team have been brewing great award-winning craft beer in the Hudson Valley of NY for the past 15 years.
The two love the business of craft brewing but it’s not without its challenges. One of the biggest challenges that breweries face is the constant susceptibility to infiltration of microorganisms or contaminants that can cause deterioration of beer quality and can even lead to the loss of entire batches of beer.
According to Pro Brewer, “contamination can infiltrate from a number of sources: starting materials (raw materials and additives), the brewing plant (vessels, piping, etc.) and the brewing environment.”
Mold, bacteria, and wild yeasts are always present, and if not properly addressed, can have a negative impact on the profitability of breweries.
Microbes Are A Constant Battle for Breweries
“One of the key things about brewing beer is trying to avoid microorganisms,” Tom Crowell explained, “We have to work hard to make sure that bacteria or wild yeasts don’t get into the beer. It’s an ongoing battle that requires constant vigilance.”
Tom described the specific challenges in their brewery. “Keeping the space clean is a constant challenge especially because it’s a wet environment, creating the perfect conditions for various microorganisms to grow. Wild yeasts are naturally occurring and everywhere, if they get into your beer and infect it you can get off flavors. We had a recurring mold problem in one of our brew rooms, in a space behind the tanks that we had to address.”
At first the only solution was doing deep chemical cleaning frequently, at least every two months, in addition to regular cleaning. But this has a real downside in terms of the time it takes to do that cleaning, and the reliance on harsh and caustic chemicals.
Antimicrobial Light: A Cleaner Alternative
Tom found a better solution that offered an alternative to the heavy lift and toxic effects of such frequent chemical cleaning. “We were fortunate in that we had a friend, Clayton Besch, who is the Director of The NYS Innovation Venture Capital Fund, who was working with Vyv. He explained that their LED technology provided a visible light that had antimicrobial properties and he asked us if we saw any applications in our brewery for something like that.” The mold issue immediately came to mind. They decided to install Vyv light in the form of light fixtures in the brew room.
Tom and his team worked with the Vyv team to assess the environment and came up with a plan. Ceiling fixtures were installed in the brew room and then fixtures were mounted vertically on the wall in the hard to clean spaces behind the tanks.
The lights have a dual action — they emit a white antimicrobial light during the day, and then switch to a violet enhanced antimicrobial light when the space is not in use at night, creating a 24/7 microbial kill zone.
The Results: Lowered Risk of Contaminants and Real Cost Savings
The mold problem today? Essentially gone. Tom described the results “The mold is dramatically reduced. Our team member who is responsible for the facility told us that he’s gone from having to do deep thorough chemical cleaning every two months when the mold visibly returned to no more than twice a year. Visually, anecdotally, you just have to look to see that it’s definitely improved.”
The lower the microbe count, the lower the risk of contamination. And as Tom described, they’re happy to use chemicals much less, “They’re not great for you, they’re very caustic and they’re expensive.”
“The lights definitely help a great deal,” Tom concluded. The violet lights in the front brew room stay lit through the night creating a purple glow that is visible from the tasting room and from the main street outside. Tom has seen this bring in curious customers who then learn about how Vyv light offers a new kind of clean in breweries and in many other settings.
Overall, Chatham Brewing has seen many benefits from Vyv light technology. It adds a proactive, low-touch solution to their microbial challenges, the technology can be used around people without restriction (unlike UV) and it’s better for the environment and their employees’ health.
Most importantly, less time dealing with challenges means more time making great beer.
If you’d like to talk with the Vyv Team about using antimicrobial light in your facility, contact us here.