Between owning a brewery and insuring nearly 100 of them, Lebanon, Pennsylvania-based CraftBreweryInsurance.com has seen plenty of interesting claims on both the Commercial and Workers’ Compensation sides of insurance.
One of the biggest risks craft breweries face is related to secondary fermentation, a process that can lead to explosions when beers are bottled or canned too soon. In secondary fermentation, beer is transferred from one vessel to a second one to complete fermentation.
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The fermentation vessels have proper ventilation to allow gases formed by fermentation to escape. If a beer is bottled or canned too early, fermentation can continue and gases can build up in the airtight containers, causing them to explode.
“I personally had an unopened can of beer explode in front of me while it sat on the table,” says Kyle C. Rheiner, craft beverage and restaurant insurance specialist at Strickler Insurance Agency, which runs CraftBreweryInsurance.com. Rheiner explains that conditions like a change in temperature or movement can initiate secondary fermentation, and in rare cases the gases build up enough to cause explosions.
Video: Watch "Risks in Focus: Opportunity Brewing" to see how craft breweries operate and the risks they face
Other claims include liquor liability claims from breweries overserving patrons in their tasting rooms. “These claims typically arise when a patron drives home from the establishment and gets pulled over, or injures one or more lives in an auto accident.”
Rheiner says practicing alcohol-serving best practices and having servers partake in alcohol awareness training and monthly safety meetings can help prevent these types of claims.
Here are some claims from CraftBreweryInsurance.com that breweries need to be insured against:
1. Kegs freezing and exploding inside the walk-in cooler
Beer and the containers it is stored in need to be kept at certain temperatures, which can be regulated with temperature gauges. “In this case, the temperature gauge was old and faulty, and could've been avoided by routine refrigeration service,” explains Rheiner.
2. 200 kegs recalled because of over-carbonation
Modern brewing uses technology to regulate carbonation — but brewers still need to be attentive.
“The wrong carbonation level was chosen on the computer system and could've been prevented by paying better attention to detail,” says Rheiner.
Contract brewers want to make sure they have a contract in place with the brewery that's manufacturing their beer to determine who's liable with errors occur in the manufacturing process, he explains.
3. Bottles broken during distribution
To prevent broken bottles, Rheiner suggests using better quality packaging or even canning beer instead.
4. Bottle tops broken/chipped while opening
These claims are often caused when the wrong caps are used for certain types of bottles. Brewers should check that they are using the right caps for the bottles they are using. Again, this type of claim can be prevented by using cans.
5. Moldy beer under bottle cap because of bad sealing
Caps can seal improperly if they are defective or not the appropriate caps for a particular type of bottle. According to Rheiner, brewers can prevent mold by inspecting each bottle cap, using caps that are appropriate for the bottle they are using, or by canning the beer instead.
6. Contaminated beer because of unsanitary procedures
Brewers should have a cleaning checklist to ensure proper sanitation. Adding a supervisor to double check cleanliness of kegs is also helpful, says Rheiner.
7. Beer ruined because of power outage and temperature changes
During fermentation, beers need to be kept at certain temperatures, which vary depending on the style of beer being brewed. These temperatures can be closely regulated in fermenters. A power outage can cause a disturbance in temperatures, so Rheiner recommends having a backup generator to keep refrigerated conditions, or in extreme cases, to move beer out of fermenters before a potential storm.
8. Claims from dogs fighting at breweries
Most breweries have tasting rooms where customers can sample beers. Oftentimes with the laid-back atmosphere that comes with breweries, dogs are welcome in the establishments. Unfortunately, Rheiner says they have seen a number of claims involving dogs. He recommends breweries implement rules to keep pets and customers safe, or ban animals from establishments altogether.
9. Workers’ compensation claims
As with any business that requires physical labor, breweries need to educate employees on the risks they face. Many craft breweries file workers’ compensation claims that result from improper lifting techniques, pinching fingers between kegs and knees banging against kegs. Rheiner recommends breweries hold safety meetings and use safety training videos provided by insurance companies.
10. Burns from the steam during the brewing process
Burns are another workers’ comp claim Rheiner sees frequently. Before fermentation, beer is boiled as its main ingredients are added. Burns can be prevented by using proper safety equipment, including wearing protective glasses, gloves, long sleeves and proper boots.