How to Nail Down Your SOPs​

Breweries all share a common goal: the quality of beer.

Every process your brewery has helps achieve that goal and Sixpoint Director of Brewing Operations, Adam Gordon says it’s up to everyone to follow practices and identify opportunities to make changes and improvements.

“The checks and balances are requirements that we set internally,” he explained to Brewer. “Every element of our brewery and our production exists in a routine somewhere.

“Routine checks and evaluations may be daily, weekly, or even monthly. Everything gets assessed with the timing deemed appropriate and every overview is shared with the entire time for review.”

Creating a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) manual has been a learning curve, said Patrick Broderick, North Coast Brewing Company Brewmaster.

“I wrote our first manual 20 years ago and saw it become irrelevant as our plant physically changed over the years,” he said.

It was impossible for Broderick to keep up and eventually, he realized that to maintain any kind of strict adherence to protocol, an individual who updates SOPs is essential.

“That individual performs work audits to ensure everyone is following the written protocol,” he said. “Checklists are critical to this process. We have a detailed process for every task so everyone knows how to perform their duties.”

Glenmere Brewing co-owner, Shanna Sandor, stressed the same diligence on a smaller scale for the Florida, New York brewery.

There are SOPs in the brewery that were created by co-owner Mike Sandor. In the beginning, the brewery and front of the house tasting room were managed and operated mainly by the owners. After a bartending team was established, one of the bartender s was eventually promoted to Tasting Room Manager. In year two, Sandor brought in an assistant brewer.

“Mike makes sure that he and his assistant Ken follow the checklists,” Shanna Sandor said. “There is a cleaning and maintenance list that’s followed daily, as well as a schedule of specific maintenance that’s followed on a regular schedule.”

So how do you nail down your SOPs? Check and re-check and have someone write it all down.

“We have SOPs for everything and the key component is that we don’t just have procedures in place for executing tasks but we have procedures in place for checking and rechecking everything, including each other,” Gordon said. “Without a layer of redundancy built in, order can turn to chaos in an instant in any brewery. ”

Broderick added that once a company gets to a certain number of employees it must develop SOPs and perform audits to ensure they are followed.

“It is the only way to brew consistently,” he said. “Otherwise, the work will be performed differently depending on who is doing it. We call this ‘ drift.’

“Once individuals stray from standard protocol and develop new methods, they train others with these altered practices which end up becoming the norm.”

At North Coast, Broderick stressed that the brewhouse has very specific practices and philosophies that often differ from the norm of the industry.

“It’s what sets us apart,” he said. “It is critical, for the sake of quality and consistency, that everyone on the floor perform their duties exactly the same as the next person.”

So, following written SOP guidelines is the only way to ensure this happens.

Broderick noted that procedures always change as new equipment, new products, and ever-increasing efficiencies are developed. Unless there is an individual on staff who is following these changes and updating established SOPs, the written SOP becomes useless.

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