Is there anything better than making your hobby your profession – and in doing so starting an extraordinary success story? Such was the case with the brothers Russ and Jim Klisch more than three decades ago with the present of a book on home brewing – the traditional and widespread art of brewing beer at home in Anglo-Saxon countries – and the first successful attempts at brewing.
Further milestones were the founding of a part-time sales business in a former bakery in Milwaukee in 1987, the shift to brewing as the main business in 1995, and the relocation of the brewery to a former power plant in 1998 with sales at that time of 3,000 barrels.
By 2006, the sales of Lakefront – as the company was called – had doubled, and since then have continued to increase unabated – to 33,000 barrels in 2012 and an estimated 40,000 last year.
Lakefront’s recipe for success is both typical of and exemplary for the round 2,500 craft breweries in the US: a large variety of very individual, high-quality beers, often with regional affiliations, and the courage to introduce new brands. “Our most important innovation was New Grist in 2006, the first officially recognized gluten-free beer based on rice and millet,” recalls Russ Klisch, in the meantime the brewery’s sole owner. He had already introduced the first certified US organic beer (Organic ESB) to the market in 1996.
Today, Lakefront produces more than 20 different styles of beer each year; there are no limits to the ideas, and members of staff chosen according to years of service with the company can even create and produce a beer of their choice in line with the motto ’your turn’, which – according to Klisch – is ’an enormous motivation’ for these key employees.
In order to satisfy the continuously increasing demand and to provide a basis for further growth, Lakefront has recently invested in an Innofill Glass Micro from KHS. This machine fills up to 17,000 bottles per hour in 12 and 22-oz long-neck bottles (0.355/0.65 liters), but in principle is able to fill bottles rang- ing in size from 0.1 to 3.0 liters as well as carbonated non-alcoholic beverages in glass and aluminum bottles. This creates flexibility for the future.
“In our opinion, KHS has taken the right step in developing this micro filler,” says Russ Klisch on a positive note. “We are pleased to be the second microbrewery in the world to be able to benefit from this innovation.”
The new Innofill Glass Micro filling system
Lakefront benefits above all from …
1 … Low-oxygen filling
KHS’ micro filler operates with a double purging system, the proven computer-controlled DPG-ZMS single-chamber filling system, and aseptic seals, membranes, and expansion joints in the product, gas, and CIP media feeds. The machine uses an extremely low-oxygen filling process and, at 230 to 250 grams per hectoliter, also consumes very little CO₂.
The benefit: The character of Lakefront’s high-quality beers is perfectly retained in the bottle.
2 … Simple changeover
The filling parameters for each product can be easily selected from the product-type memory at the operator panel. The filler can therefore be set quickly and is tailor-made for each product.
The benefit: during production, Lakefront can switch between its range of around 20 beers quickly and easily.
3 … Hygienic design
The Innofill Glass Micro features servo technology, a glass housing, a sloped stainless steel front table, and a hygienically designed conveyor for bottle infeed and discharge.
- External control ring with gear, spindles, and joint shafts are no longer required.
- Improved transparency and more space for cleaning and maintenance.
- Faster discharge of product residue, foam, water, and broken glass from the filler.
- Quick and easy manual cleaning of the conveyor.
- Safe, hygienic cleaning of product and process gas passages and the hygienically critical interior of the centering bells in addition to high energy efficiency
Russ Klisch, owner of the Lakefront craft Brewery, discusses the partnership with KHS, his recipe for success and plans for growth.
How did you get into brewing beer?
Through my brother – that was in 1981. He was given a book on brewing for his birthday by our parents and then brewed his first Amber Lager at home, which did not taste bad at all. Wanting to outdo him, I produced a Pilsner – and from then on we brewed together, initially for ourselves and for our friends.
Obviously with great success …
… as a matter of fact, yes. In December 1987, we delivered our first barrel of beer to the local pub. At that time, we both still had full-time jobs, brewed on weekends, and made our deliveries during the week after work. In 1995, I quit my job and have been brewing full-time since then.
What is your recipe for success?
It’s probably a combination of many factors: the high quality of our beer and our courage to follow innovative paths, brands, and niche products and also the great demand from our customers in general.
“We can continue to grow with the KHS filler!”
You have recently invested in the KHS Innofill Glass Micro. What were the main reasons for this?
We knew that KHS was one of the technology leaders for fillers in the high-performance range and also that it uses this expertise very successfully in the lower capacity range. Many craft breweries such as Lakefront need a reliable filling system that makes low-oxygen filling and thus high-quality bottled beers possible. The system also provides long-term stability and has a long life span.
What is your experience?
We are very satisfied with our decision. The filler has been running exceptionally well since it was installed and our laboratory repeatedly confirms outstanding filling results.
Where is Lakefront going in future?
Our objective is to supply all 50 US states with Lakefront beers in the future. At the same time, we would like to intensify our export activities.