K-Malt, a U.S. Engineering Innovations subsidiary, helps revive a historic brewery in New Orleans

Jul 24, 2020

The K-Malt team recently flexed their range on a complex project in New Orleans. At the beginning of this year they designed and provided the grain handling systems for a 113-year-old brewery formerly known as Dixie Beer. K-Malt—a subsidiary of U.S. Engineering Innovations that specializes in raw material handling systems for breweries, distilleries, malteries and coffee roasteries—performed double duty on this project, designing, supplying, and installing two systems of drastically varied scales: one for the brewery’s giant production line and another for its smaller craft cousin, both housed in the same complex.

The storied brand of New Orleans beer was founded in 1907 and operated in the city for close to 100 years until Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters forced it to close. Operations moved out of state until 2017, when Tom and Gayle Benson, owners of the Saints, bought a majority stake in the company and vowed to return production to the Big Easy. Due to the rising volume of conversations around terms that many Americans find offensive, the brewery decided in June 2020 to drop the name “Dixie.” The brand plans to announce its new name in the coming months.

When the brewery moved back to New Orleans, it hired K-Malt to design, build and install a complete turnkey, fully automated solution for its grain-handling needs. K-Malt designed and installed every piece of grain handling equipment in the brewery, from the pre-production grain silo to the supersack stations to the spent-grain silo, plus the conveyors in between.

Mike Oleander, K-Malt’s Design Engineer, custom designed the supersack stations (holding 2,000-lb. sacks of grain) with an integrated bag dump station (holding 55-lb. bags of malt and an FEA—finite element analysis—to ensure structural integrity). The team also designed a top-of-the-line, automated conveyer system to transport grain through the process. They customized connecting points and integrated the grain handling systems with the brewhouse’s other processes. K-Malt offered the brewhouse systems architect a detailed process description, a sequence of steps to program the grain handling system’s motors and sensors to function with the rest of the brewhouse processes. The system included components fabricated at the U.S. Engineering Metalworks fabrication facility in Johnstown, Colorado.

Bryan Hermann, Technical Director

K-Malt’s goal? As Technical Director Bryan Hermann puts it, “We show up for the install, and when we walk away, you have a fully integrated system and no headaches.” On keys to success on this job, Hermann praised his team for its flexibility, composure and innovation. “Because projects of this size can evolve as you go, the initial drawings we had of the rooms didn’t quite match the actual rooms. So when we arrived for the installation, some existing equipment was blocking our conveyers; some dimensions had changed slightly. And when presented with these challenges, Mike, Pete [Weatherhead, Installation & Logistics Manager] and I redesigned our systems on the fly.” Hermann continued, “In the end, aesthetically it looks really nice, and we didn’t lose any functionality. Our ability to be flexible was a huge key to success this time.”

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