There is the facility, a rustic yet welcoming spot, borne from the ruins of an old bowling alley. And there are the many sustainability strategies used in the construction and functionality of the brewery. Most notable among these is the unprecedented use of clean effluent from a nearby water and sewer treatment plant to indirectly provide heating and cooling for the building and brewing processes.
The keyword is “indirectly.” The effluent, which is piped into the brewery from the neighboring Bigfork Water and Sewer District, is completely contained within a separate closed loop. It serves the typical role of a geothermal well field, something that was not possible for the brewery to install given its downtown location.
The effluent is the “heat-sink,” giving up or absorbing heat as needed in order to pre-heat or pre-cool the water used for heating and cooling the building and the glycol that is used in the brewing process.
It is a complex design that uses several thousand linear feet of Aquatherm Blue Pipe to transport both heating water and glycol to and from several water-to-water and water-to-air WaterFurnace heat pumps. A plate and frame heat exchanger is positioned between the closed effluent loop and the actual fluids used for heating and cooling. Before the water reaches the heat pumps it is pre-heated/pre-cooled via a plate and frame heat exchanger using the clean effluent. It is then routed through a Lochinvar buffer tank, which serves as a reservoir of pre-tempered water to be used downstream for HVAC and process applications.
A fitting choice
JE Engineering Inc. of Kalispell, Mont., designed the mechanical system, accumulating numerous points toward the owner’s goal of U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold certification.
“The building was designed to be as energy efficient as possible,” said lead designer, Tom Kientz of JE Engineering.
Efficiency was a challenge given all that is occurring under the roof of this particular brewery. Hot and cold setpoint temperatures must be maintained on various loops serving the building HVAC, snow melt system, fermentation tanks, keg coolers, brew kettles and more. It’s a lot of piping and a lot of fittings, almost all of which are Aquatherm — a strategic choice of material for many reasons.
“I don’t think we could have done it any other way. Aquatherm was by far the best choice,” said Jeremy Waters, COO of Van Dort Heating Inc., the mechanical contractor on the project.
According to Waters, the heat fusion process used to connect the Aquatherm piping systems saved an extraordinary amount of time and money.
“With Aquatherm you can drill into the pipe and with a fusion socket assemble your own reducing tee or manifold out of actual pipe.”
The Van Dort team worked closely with local Aquatherm manufacturer’s representative Ridgeline Mechanical Sales, Bozeman, Mont. Ridgeline, which has offices throughout the Northwest and a reputation for detailed product knowledge and support, works hard with the stocking distributors in the Kalispell area to promote the product and provide training and support for the users and specifiers of Aquatherm.
Van Dort used both socket and butt fusion to assemble the complex network of piping. The contractor used McElroy Spider equipment for fusion installations of Aquatherm pipe and fittings that were two inches and larger. This device features a worm gear drive with parallel link system to bring pipe and fittings together evenly and under control. For smaller pipe sizes, Van Dort used socket fittings and hand-held welding irons to join pieces of pipe together.
Clean, reliable, sustainable
Robert Millspaugh, operations supervisor at FLBC, did extensive research on what piping to use for the process side of the brewery.
“We were looking for products that would help us achieve a LEED certification and Aquatherm had a lot to offer,” said Millspaugh. “I also came across an article on Epic [Brewing Company in Salt Lake City] and how they used Aquatherm in a renovation and discussed the product with the brewer there.”
Aquatherm does not require any glue or solder on pipe joints. The heat fusion process used to join pieces of Aquatherm pipe together eliminates the need for either, which is a reason why this piping is utilized in some breweries.
Heat fusion works by using welding irons or a heating plate to melt the connection points of the piping components to be joined. This allows the polypropylene chains to join together as the connection cools for a permanent bond, as if they were one solid piece.
This seamless connection prevents any sort of chemical or physical weakness at the point of connection and results in a much lower instance of leaks or failures. The end result is a connection that is just as strong (if not stronger) than the pipe itself.
More than pretty pipe
When brewery patrons aren’t enjoying the lake view they can look through glass partition walls right into the brew house and see the impressive display of blue and green striped pipe, ranging in size from ½-in. to 4-in. They may not realize it, but that pretty pipe is transporting the very fluid that keeps them warm as they dine in the restaurant, or enjoy a beer flight in the tasting room.
It’s what transports the Btus from one place to another, so that the fermentation tanks hold the perfect temperature to craft an award-winning IPA. It even helps keep the sidewalks clear of snow when it’s time to go home.