Determining the Need for Grain Silos

With the cost of grain being slashed in half on opening day as Jeremiah Johnson Brewing, the Great Falls, Montana brewery went with a grain silo for bulk ordering as soon as the facility switched its name and ownership.

Formerly known as The Front Brewing Company, Johnson ran the brewery for 18 months before formalizing the purchase in 2018.

Johnson said “from Day One,” silos were the plan to help save money on grain costs. Even though the cost is steeper per purchase, it’s the overall cost that saves a brewery money in the long run.

Jackie O’s has gone from bags to pallets to trucks over the course of the past five years at their production brewery in Athens, Ohio and they use a silo to house its 2-Row base malt, and that gets replaced every two to three weeks. Art Oestrike, the brewery’s owner said they also have a warehouse that feeds the following weeks grain to the brewery to keep spaces free and clear of too much grain.

“The ROI was about 24 months and [the silo] helps substantially with space and timing,” he noted.

When Cape May moved into its new facility in 2015 it strategically placed the first silo near the back loading area so it could be accessed by trucks for unloading their deliveries.

“We also wanted to put our mill — and other malt storage — just inside from this so the auger coming from the malt silo was as short as possible,” Cape May Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm told Brewer. “Long auger lines can break up the malt before it gets milled, which isn’t good because you want the mill to crush the malt in a manner that you have controlled, not by the auger in random ways.

The New Jersey-based brewery started plans on a silo at around 3,800 barrels.

The silo Cape May owns holds 60,000 pounds and each delivery is about 48,000 pounds, so the silo needs to be almost empty before it can accept a new delivery. Installing a second silo had been discussed by the staff as well so that as one silo ran low, switching to a second would give a larger window for delivery.

Weather can be a factor with outdoor storage of spent grain in the short term, especially for a place like Great Falls, Montana where the weather from winter to summer can fluctuate dramatically.

“We work to eliminate any lengthy time that grain sits in the warm months,” Johnson said. “In the winter — nobody knows it’s there.”

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