What does your brewery need to do for Lot Tracking?

It’s official. Beer is food. That’s effectively what the Government of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said on January 15, 2019 when introducing new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) for Canadians, explains Steve Grundy from McRae Integration.

With this comes new requirements for manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, those containing 0.5% or more alcohol by volume, to have a traceability system in place by July 15, 2020. Google the topic using a logical set of search words and you will quickly find these new regulations on the CFIA website and through a variety of other government sources.

Prepare yourself though, the SFCR document isn’t a light read. We’re talking about a government document designed to drive processes and procedures that protect the health of humans, so it is very comprehensive.

You should care about these new regulations if you:• Produce beer, wine, spirits, kombucha, cider, mead, or ready-to-drink cocktails• Trade interprovincially• Import or export your product outside of Canada• Sell your product at the retail level

By the time this article is published, it will already be 6 months since the CFIA made its announcement and you will have roughly 12 months to get your act together. If you are a brewery owner or a manager in this space, the big question is what do you need to do between now and next July to be ready?

Ask yourself – what do you and your teams know about traceability and what is required to be compliant with the new regulations? How can you achieve this without disrupting your business and adding significant cost and complexity in an increasingly competitive market environment? Also, is traceability only the responsibility of the producer?

What role do ingredient suppliers and distribution partners play to ensure the entire food chain is safe for consumers? This article won’t provide the answers to all of these questions, but hopefully, we can stimulate a positive discussion and generate action toward solutions that drive compliance and safe food for everyone.

Let’s start by defining traceability. Basically, it comes down to lot tracking of where your ingredients come from (one step back) and where you provide your finished product (one step forward). The following infographic paints a simple picture of a batch manufacturing process with lot tracking of inputs, work in progress (WIP – not required for CFIA compliance), and finished goods. Depending on the nature of your operation, this may be familiar to you.

Many larger breweries with automated process controls and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have the ability to automatically collect this data, manage and track inventory from start to finish, and get reports and analytics with a few simple mouse clicks. How does that happen? Ingredients such as malt, hops, and yeast arrive at the brewery and are received by an operator who scans a barcode on the container with the lot number and quantity. A programmable logic controller (PLC) processes the transaction and shares it with a database or, as is increasingly the case, directly with the ERP which then provides a location and internal lot tracking number that follows those ingredients through the facility. Internal work orders move the ingredients through the manufacturing process and the resulting batches of beer and other beverages are given unique batch records, a birth certificate of sorts, containing the quantities and lot numbers of the ingredients used. We don’t need to belabor the point but you can see how this carries on through packaging, finished goods, order fulfillment, and shipping. Of course, mobility technology such as smartphones and tablets provide instant access and visibility to this data. Having access to all this technology is definitely an advantage when it comes to compliance. If an inspector should come calling and ask to see the brewery’s records, the conversation should be straightforward and compliance should be easy to prove.

Now consider the opposite end of the spectrum. Suppose you own a smaller brewery with manual processes, limited information technology, and a small part-time staff. It doesn’t mean you can’t be compliant like your larger automated competitor – but you will need to have solid procedures, a discipline for data collection and accurate record-keeping, and a commitment to quality above all else. You might not have a bar code scanner to receive your ingredients, but if you check your most recent invoices from your suppliers, you will likely find the lot numbers for what you purchased. Someone needs to record that data at the time of receipt. If you don’t have an automated brewing system with instrumentation to measure and validate the quantity and lot number of the ingredients used, you will need to include these fields in manual brew sheets and the brewer will need to record these values every time. The same manual data collection process continues through packaging, finished goods, order fulfillment, and shipping. It comes down to accurate record-keeping and a commitment to quality – but there are inherent pitfalls to manual processes. Data entry errors are common and while they can be relatively easy to correct, spotting them can be difficult and extremely time-consuming.

What would happen if today a government inspector were to show up unannounced at your facility and ask to see your traceability records? How easy would it be to comply with that request? Take it a step further. What would happen if you were forced to do recall right now? Imagine you get a phone call from a distributor because a consumer complained of an “odd” aroma from a beer you just released. Upon further investigation, you discover that a significant portion of last month’s production is contaminated due to a yeast issue. How easy would it be for you to identify and quarantine all the products from that lot? How easy would it be to identify the lot numbers for the ingredients used? How confident are you be that you could contain the risk to the public and your brand? Have you ever done a mock recall to test your existing systems? If not, try it sometime and see how vulnerable you are. It might be a little uncomfortable, but it will reveal your blind spots and benefit you in the long run.

There is no step-by-step guide to traceability compliance, but there are plenty of great examples in other segments of the food industry where traceability has long been a requirement. There are people with years of industry experience that can help make your journey toward traceability compliance more efficient and effective. As you might expect, there are software packages available on the market that are designed for food and beverage batch processes. They use electronic procedures that allow manufacturing teams to gather the required data with minimal errors and make reporting simple and consistent.

To help prepare brewers for the new CFIA requirements, Beer Canada has put together an industry working group tasked with creating a template that brewers can use to implement a traceability system into their operations in advance of the July 15, 2020 deadline.

Members of the Beer Canada Working Group are currently touring breweries of different sizes to get a picture of how ingredients flow into and throughout the brewery before the finished product exits the brewery and enters the market. The Working Group is aiming to have the excel-based template available for brewers to use by the end of summer 2019.

“The ability for brewers to trace their ingredients back to the supplier and their finished products to the retailer is not only a requirement under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations but also a commitment to quality. A greater emphasis has been put on the importance of traceability in recent years and Beer Canada is taking a leadership role by ensuring that breweries of different sizes have the tools needed to seamlessly implement traceability principles into their brewing processes.” – Luke Chapman, Director, Federal Affairs, Beer Canada

This initiative by Beer Canada will provide breweries and other alcoholic beverage companies almost a full year to examine the template against their existing tools and procedures, figure out where they have gaps, and make changes if necessary to ensure compliance with the new CFIA regulations. Some may use this as an opportunity to up their manufacturing technology game and take advantage of the efficiencies and operational insights that follow. Others will do the bare minimum because that’s what they can afford and that’s OK. End of the day, this is going to shine a big light on how things are done in breweries and has the real potential to give a substantial lift to quality across the industry. As spirits, wine, and other beverages continue to put pressure on the beer industry, perhaps this couldn’t have come at a better time.

End of the day, it comes down to having a solid strategy built around a combination of people, processes, and technology to ensure the quality and safety of your products. Are you ready?


This article was originally published by the Brewer’s Journal Canada, and republished with their permission. Brew Ninja’s inventory system provides a simple easy way to do lot tracking, plus a lot more. Please reach out to ask us how we can help you.

3 Easy Ways to Streamline your Brewing Process

Whether your brewery is just starting or is already pumping out a few thousand barrels a year, there’s nothing more important to your bottom line than efficiency. An efficient brewery minimizes costs and maximizes profits, and that could be all the difference when it comes to keeping the lights on.

If you’re looking for ways to streamline your brewing process and maximize efficiency, there are three places to focus your attention. It all starts with your staffing, brewing process, and software.

1. Streamline Your Staffing

It takes a team to brew, bottle, and distribute beer at volume. But it’s easy to let that team grow unsustainably—after all, what’s the fun in having a brewery if your friends aren’t part of the success?

That line of thinking can quickly lead to unnecessary staffing, which will lead to no fun at all. You’ll face a nightmare when it comes to scheduling and balancing your budget, and your friends won’t appreciate being part of an overstuffed workforce that can’t guarantee them enough individual hours (or dollars).

Host a Brewing Event

To balance this out, many smaller breweries host community brewing events, where friends, family, and fans come together to help you brew or bottle your latest batch of beer. These events are decidedly non-corporate, and they can be a lot of fun—but most importantly, they let you get a lot done without taking on extra costs. Volunteers get to learn what it takes to make the beer they enjoy, and you may find that offering a few take-home samples will be all it takes to encourage a decent turnout. 

Track hours of work

When it comes to maintaining a streamlined staff, keep track of your team’s hours and the work that’s being done in those hours. When you find areas of inefficiency, take action—whether that means scaling back your workforce so they’re not wasting time, or adding to it so that tasks aren’t falling behind.

Sure, tracking project hours is the sort of corporate overhead that you probably wanted to get away from by starting your own brewery. A little bit of corporate discipline can go a long way.

2. Build an Efficient Brewing Process

Keeping a streamlined staff is only part of the equation. The other big piece is maximizing the efficiency of your actual brewing process. Basically, how good are you at turning grains into beer?

Since every brewery is going to operate differently depending on size, equipment, and style, it’s important to focus on finding individual solutions rather than sweeping generalizations.

In general, there are a few steps you can take to maximize the efficiency of your brewing system. 

Visit established breweries 

One of the best ways to start examining your own efficiency is by seeing what others are up to. Arrange visits with other breweries, talk through their techniques, ask how they solved issues you’re dealing with… brewers love to talk shop and share their wisdom (and their tastiest brews).

Measure and minimize losses

Losses happen in brewing, even for the biggest and most efficient breweries. The trick is minimizing them, and to do that you have to measure them. Remember, the earlier in the brewing process your losses occur, the more impact they make on the overall production. 

Use the right gear

Having the right equipment makes a huge difference. Look for gear you can “grow into” but that won’t break the bank. Little timesavers, like quality labelers, will pay big dividends as you increase your output.

By putting the proper processes in place to ensure communication at each stage of production, you and your brew team will create delicious product that can scale for any amount. 

3. Get smart about software

Brewing is an ancient art, but that doesn’t mean it won’t benefit from modern technology. By using software to help with the tracking, selling, and operations, your brewery can run more efficiently and alleviate stress on your staff. 

Brewing software, like BrewNinja, allows you to streamline inventory tracking and get your sales and production teams on the same page. We often see inefficiencies, like staff texting in sales orders, and deliveries being organized on whiteboards, but with BrewNinja, you can remove these major sources of inefficiency. 

As with any endeavor, the better your data, the better your outcomes.  You need to be able to track your inventory—not just in the storage room, but in your tanks, coolers, and taps. This will give you a more complete picture of your brewery’s production, and let you make all the important efficiency adjustments we talked about above.

As with any work, the more effective your process is, the better your results will be. That’s why it’s important to evaluate and streamline your staff, maximize the efficiency of your brewing process, and trust your numbers to the right software system. Do all that, and you’re sure to find success.

Brewery Taproom

Why Independent Brewers Matter

There are plenty of reasons to drink craft beer instead of the big name brews—it tastes better and offers more variety, for starters. But the craft beer revolution isn’t just good for your taste buds. Supporting independent breweries is good for the community, the economy, and the planet as a whole.

That’s right—drinking locally comes with some major benefits outside of just drinking better beer.

There were over 7,300 craft breweries operating in 2018, up 13% from the previous year and nearly doubling the amount operating in 2013, just five years previous. It’s a booming industry, and yet all those breweries combined to make up just 13.2% of the market by volume. Import beers grabbed up 18.4%, while the remaining 68.5% of the market went to the domestic big boys—mainly MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev.

This means that, even though craft beer drinkers are a growing population, they’re still a major minority of the beer-drinking world. And that’s a real shame, since there are so many reasons to choose craft breweries.

1. Independent Breweries Offer More Variety

Let’s start with the obvious benefit of the independent beer scene—variety. Each of these breweries is following its own recipes, which means that you have thousands upon thousands of beers to choose from. Trends like the recent boom in IPAs and the current popularization of sour beers are a direct result of this variety.

Craft brewers enjoy putting their own spins on classic varieties. Take the Gose style, pronounced “goze-uh,” which originated in Gosler, Germany, hundreds of years ago… and pretty much remained there until very recently. Now it seems like every brewer is offering their own unique spin on this lightly sour style, which lends itself well to experimental combinations of fruit and herbs.

2. Craft Brewers Create New Styles

Revitalizing old styles is just one part of the game. Innovating them is the other. The immensely popular, and immensely hopped, IPAs are an example of modern craft brewers pushing the envelope and creating an entirely new style. What sort of innovations have the macro breweries offered us? Color-changing cans and Strawberry Lime-a-Ritas.

They’ll even go so far as to stymie innovation by hoarding resources, like the time AB InBev bought up the entire South African hops supply and kept it to themselves.

Need more reasons independent brewers matter?

3. Craft Brewers Support Their Communities

Not only do they make more interesting beers; Craft brewers tend to be more ethically responsible, and community minded as well. And not just because they don’t snatch up entire crop cycles for themselves.

Many craft brewers use locally-sourced ingredients, like hops, grains, and fruits from local farms. This allows for more variety, sure, but it also means more money and exposure for other small businesses.

Macro-breweries take the opposite approach. Often, they’ll force freshly acquired “zombie breweries”* to drop locally sourced or independently produced ingredients in favor of their mass-produced supply.

*[“Zombie breweries” are former independent breweries who were bought out by AB InBev or MillerCoors, but continue operations under their own branding. They look and act like independent breweries, but they are not. ]

4. Small Breweries Make Big Economic Impacts

It’s estimated that 85-90% of the beer made in Canada is also consumed in Canada, so Canadians are already doing their part when it comes to drinking locally. But local breweries are also doing their part for Canada’s economy—craft brewers purchased more than 300,000 tonnes of Canadian malting barley, for example. And it’s estimated that Canada’s beer industry has three times the economic impact of the nation’s wine and spirits industries combined

Craft breweries also employ local people. When AB InBev bought Rolling Rock and moved production out of Latrobe, PA, the resulting loss of jobs was so great that local unions boycotted Anheuser-Busch products for a full year. What had once been one of the country’s largest breweries, and the area’s largest employers, was shut down in the name of boosting profits for a multi-billion-dollar global conglomeration.

Wouldn’t you rather drink something made by the people in your town?

5. Drinking Locally is More Sustainable

Small breweries make more environmentally conscious decisions than the big guys. For instance, Florida’s Saltwater Brewery recently introduced biodegradable six-pack rings for their beers, which will hopefully become the industry standard. Beau’s Brewing Company in Ontario is powered entirely by renewable energy and is a registered B Corporation, meaning they’re allowed to follow their moral compasses and not just maximize profits at all costs. And since craft breweries rely more on locally sourced ingredients, and local sales, their carbon footprints generally remain smaller.

Going green isn’t a new trend in brewing—since 1990, the Canadian brewing industry has reduced its total energy consumption by 58%.

Many craft breweries are actively involved in environmental causes—and not just for altruistic reasons. Because craft beer is all about flavor, craft brewers have a natural investment in making sure they have access to fresh, clean ingredients—especially water. New York’s Brewery Ommegang led a high-profile fight against a planned fracking project in their state, which could have ruined the quality of the brewery’s water source. Since beer is mostly water, the brewery obviously had an interest in preventing this project from happening. The attention they brought to the project helped make sure the fracking project never got started.

Saving the environment, supporting the local economy and community, and just flat-out producing good (and innovative) beer—that’s what craft brewing is all about. The next time you take a six-pack off the shelf, make sure it’s a local beer and see what makes the little guys so great!

10 Tips for Starting a Brewery

With a bang, not a whimper

Starting a Brewery
Thinking of opening a brewery? Read our top tips for getting started.

So you wanna open a brewery? We don’t blame you! Breweries are becoming the center of communities. They bring people together for the brilliant beers, but they keep people coming for the connections they help create.

We’ve seen many passionate brewers in our day, and they all want the same thing: to create delicious beer. But sometimes, brewers don’t always get to focus on the beer when they first get started. There are so many operational details they have to manage like inventory, staffing, tank maintenance, sales, and more.

Brew Ninja wants to ease brewery management for breweries. These are our tips for starting a brewery on the right foot.

1. Be prepared for everything to take twice as long.

From zoning to brewing regulations, there is plenty of red tape that makes starting your dream brewery difficult. But, you know it’s not impossible with the craft brewing industry exploding as it has over the past 10 years. All we’re saying is that it’s wise to leave a time cushion for navigating the paperwork.

2. Lean on other craft brewers.

One of the best parts of the craft brewing industry is the camaraderie. Anytime you have a question, you can always lean on another brewer. The Craft Brewers Association is a valuable resource for our industry, so tap into that as soon as you can!

3. Choose your location wisely.

Your location becomes your community. When choosing a location for your business it is important to locate yourself as close to your customer demographic as possible. It also is beneficial to be within walking distance other breweries to be a part of the local brewery hopping. It helps being near facilities that add to your patrons thirst 😏

4. Launch with a bang 💥

As we see it, there’s no such thing as a “soft launch” in the craft brewery industry. BrewNinja’s founder, Shea Martin, says, “launch with a bang, not a whimper.” Your launch is essential for starting on the right foot for many reasons, including getting people in the door on day one.

Install your brewery sign before you even finish the interior to catch those curious looks from passers-by. Get your social media profiles live at least one month before the launch and start hyping up your new brewery. Word of mouth spreads like wildfire. Start by visiting neighbouring businesses to spread the word! By including your community, you will launch with a pre-established loyal customer base.

5. Keep Track of EVERYTHING.

Five years from now, you could forget all about the failed experiments you brewed featuring gummy bears and fuzzy peach candy. If you don’t track it, you’ll forget, and that leads to inefficient business.

Keep photos of brewery inspirations in your travels and note down any possible partnerships for swag, collaborations, and media. You never know how that information will help you in the future.

6. Work with an accountant that understands breweries and local regulations.

Having someone well-versed in this industry will save you so much time and, potentially, legal headaches. It may seem that you need to know it all as a brewery owner, but having the right partners will ease that stress for you.

7. Automate your processes with software.

Starting a brewery is hard. Don’t make it harder for yourself by using complicated excel sheets to keep track of production and inventory. Try to make it easy on yourself by automating tasks you can. With Brew Ninja’s software, you can easily track your inventory and see how much you are spending throughout your brewing process – right down to the final packaged product.

8. Test it and move on if it’s not performing.

Whatever you put out, keep an eye on its performance. Cans, tasting room pints, brewery swag – whatever you’re selling, be ready to replace it if it’s not selling! Test it out and move on. Don’t hold a sentimental attachment to a lackluster product.

9. Develop your flavour niche.

With so many breweries fighting for the consumer’s taste buds, it is crucial that you develop your own flavour. Producing a style that is unique from big brands or neighbouring breweries will help your product stand out. By focusing on beer with a certain twist, such as beer flavored with local fruit, your brand will be superior!

10. Know your distribution.

Now that you have good beer ready to serve, it’s time to get it in the hands of the consumer. Having a tasting room will let people try your product, but having it on the shelf at beer stores will boost your awareness even more. Research your local distribution channels and always factor distribution costs, which are not cheap, into your decision to start a brewery.

A sign that speaks to us!

Now, you have our top tips for starting out, so get that brewery going and invite us for a pint! Starting a brewery takes a lot of passion, but also a lot of planning, and we can help with the planning part. Brew Ninja helps you brew, track, sell, purchase, deliver and communicate to make your operations run smooth.

Want more tips? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us!