Helios is the sun god of Greek myths. Each morning the rising sun marks Helios’ crossing over into the mortal world, driving a chariot drawn by wild horses that only he can control. Helios Brewing Company harnesses the sun’s power to sustainably create craft beer. Our brewing infrastructure has been custom-designed to maximise energy and water efficiency, minimize waste and carbon-footprint while capitalising upon Queensland’s renewable natural resources.
Currently, 59 x 335 w photovoltaic solar panels and a 15KW inverter power the brewery. During a typical Queensland day, we export 40% of our power produced to the grid – check out the daily watt production on the blackboard! To bank some of this power production, a logic panel controls electrical flow to our cold liquor tank, turning it on only during peak midday power production effectively storing some of our excess energy as cold water.
The powerful Queensland sun also boosts our hot water supply for the brewing process. In a first for an Australian brewery, we worked with Endless Solar in Melbourne to design an innovative solar thermal system where cold water is passes through 90 evacuated tube collectors on our roof and heated to over 90°C. The water is then stored within 3 x 315 l tanks before being transferred to our mash tun which requires heating to between 68 to 75°C, meaning that no power is required for the first half of the brewing process. Using solar thermal heating in this manner saves an estimated 30% of power that would otherwise be needed on brew day.
Moving forward, when battery technology is sufficiently advanced to support 3-phase power, we will link our solar system to batteries – then will strive to have Helios’ nighttime power usage also be entirely solar based.
Making 100% solar powered beer remains a personal goal for the owners. With power and gas prices rising steeply, using fewer resources than industry norms not only is a green option; it makes good business sense.
OTHER SUSTAINABLE INITIATIVES
Throughout its brewery production and practice, Helios aims to minimise its carbon footprint and maximise sustainability. Brewing can be a water-intensive process. Here at Helios, we re-use water wherever possible. After the wort finishes its boil, cold water crash-cools the wort via heat exchange - having absorbed much of the wort’s heat, the water exiting the heat exchanger is quite hot – rather than pour this water and energy resource down the drain, we pass this clean hot water over to our hot liquor tank where it is held warm for a variety of purposes (lautering, mashing, cleaning, etc. and sometimes passed back up to the roof for added heating).
In a brewery there is a lot of cleaning to be done – we use a special cleaning system that allows the acidic and basic cleaning solutions to be used up to 10 times, reducing water needs relative to a typical system of fresh water for each cleaning task. As a bonus, by mixing these solutions together after their final usage, they become close to neutral in pH and can be discharged safely.
Speaking of discharges, under the parking lot we have installed a waste water treatment vessel, which filters out anything solid coming from the brewhouse and buffers out spikes in pH and temperature, and greatly reduces sediment and nutrient loads.
In consideration of our neighbours who may not share our enthusiasm about hoppy beer smells, we have designed the brewhouse to not require an emission stack to the roof. Instead we trap our vapour emissions in a special condenser to keep aromas “in house”. Finally, after brewing, Helios’ highly nutritious spent grain and hop trub goes to local pig farmers for beneficial re-use instead of going to a landfill.
The owners, Scott Shomer and Tony & Jayne Rutter are combining their passions for great beer with their environmental expertise to push the limits of sustainable practice in beer production. As a team, they have 58 years experience working professionally in the environmental field across 3 continents in mining, industrial, defense, oil, gas, and energy supply projects. Scott has been an avid home brewer for over 25 years and has created many award winning beers including his Belgian Strong, Dubbel, and Scottish Wee Heavy, winning the silver and bronze medals respectively at the U.S. National competition. He has also been a certified beer judge (BJCP) since 1997, and a climate change, sustainability advocate trained by Al Gore in 2007. Scott loves tinkering with recipes – you might spot his custom designed three tier system for all grain brewing, which is now being used for small batch recipe testing.
Tony was an avid home brewer, who took up home brewing more seriously after a 20 year lapse before becoming an owner of Helios. He shares a passion for similar beer styles as Scott especially stronger maltier flavors, although is partial to almost any style. Jayne has dabbled in home brewing and enjoys the delicious flavors that characterize craft beer.
Head brewer Charlie Hodgson comes to Helios from Mash Brewing with 10 years of experience in commercial brewing and impressive accolades including the IPA of the year in 2014 for his “CopyCat IPA”. He has worked for both Gage Roads and Mash brewing in WA. Charlie is a firm believer in putting “layers of complexity” into beers so they are not two dimensional. His beers use the absolute best quality hops and grains to build the complexity in even seemingly simple beers.
Beyond a shared love for beer, Scott, Tony, Jayne and Charlie all share a love of cycling. Jayne is the reigning masters National Champion for cross-country mountain biking; Tony is also an occasional competitor and Scott is an enthusiastic amateur cyclist. Charlie concentrates on road racing, time trialing and long distance mountain biking events and commutes to the brewery by bike.
Helios strives to source local expertise and materials whenever possible, keeping economic benefits within Yeerongpilly and Brisbane. Instrumental to the factory fit-out were local contractors Sam Gardel electrical, Rhett Johnston Plumbing and Daxon Fabrication. The impressive wooden bar top at Helios was made from Mugga Ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) and it came from Tony’s family in northern NSW and was prepared by master carpenter, Lachlan Knuckey.
The malt backbone to our beers is provided by Barrett Burstons maltsters located across town in Pinkenba and we use Australian and New Zealand hops where possible.