Nova Scotia beer gadget making life easier for craft breweries
The FizzWizz automates carbonation, a process that has traditionally been time intensive for brewers
Just like pop, beer has to have just the right level of fizz — it can't be too flat or fizzy.
For craft breweries, getting the carbonation right is a challenge. Traditionally, there's been equipment available, but it's been too expensive for most craft breweries. As a result, many brewers spend a lot of time doing calculations, sampling the beer and making adjustments.
Adding to the challenge, different types of beer require different levels of fizziness.
"No beer connoisseur wants to drink a fizzy stout and nobody wants to drink a flat pilsner," said Guy Tipton, a Nova Scotia technology developer who created a device called the FizzWizz that solves this dilemma.
Tipton's wife Emily is one of the founding partners in Boxing Rock Brewing, a craft beer company in Shelburne that opened in 2013.
"When you first get a business off the ground, it's all hands on deck, so I spent a lot of time on the bottling line trying to get the beer to stay in the bottles," said Guy.
The amount of fizz is important for the bottling process. If there's too much, it results in the beer foaming over, which means there is spillage and the bottles are short-filled. Short-filled bottles can't be sold.
"We like to have a few short-filled bottles because that's what we get to take home and keep, but more than a few becomes product that we could have sold and ... beer on the floor is just a disaster," said Emily.
In the early days, she would spend a lot of time trying to get the carbonation levels right.
"My husband got kind of sick of me going back to the brewery after supper every night," said Emily with a laugh.
So, Guy created a "rubbish-looking device" in his attic about two years ago to automate the carbonation process. It's placed on the front of the bottling tank and hooks up to the brewing equipment, and it also measures temperature. Brewers simply select their desired level of carbonation and adjust the flow rate of the carbon dioxide being injected into the beer and the FizzWizz goes to work.
Time and money saver
Emily says the device has reduced short-filled bottles and wastage during bottling by about 80 per cent to 90 per cent.
While Boxing Rock's problems were solved, Guy didn't realize the device had potential commercial appeal. When Mike Hogan from P.E.I.'s Upstreet Craft Brewing came to the brewery for a visit and encountered the device, he wanted to buy one.
Sensing a business opportunity, Guy worked with his employer Allendale Electronics Ltd., an electronics assembly company in Lockeport, to create a more polished version of the product.
In January, the FizzWizz was launched.
That same month, it was announced as the winner for Innovacorp's 2015-2016 technology start-up competition in the agriculture technology sector. The competition bills itself as recognizing Nova Scotia knowledge-based companies with lots of potential.
Guy says the FizzWizz is being used by almost 20 breweries and one cidery, including Tatamagouche Brewing Company, Sea Level Brewing and Bulwark Cider.
Units were just sold to breweries in Alberta and Ontario, and inquiries have been coming in from as far away as Saskatchewan and the U.S.
"The word is getting out on the product," said Guy.