Gloriously glacial gratification

Sudhaus, Variomill

Over 300 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, Mack has been brewing beer now for more than 140 years and can truly claim to be the world’s northernmost brewery. When it comes to brewing, the Mack Brewery in Norway has long since been putting its trust in Krones’ technology, most recently for canning as well. This means Krones is handling the brewery’s core remit, since cans account for over 90 per cent of total beer sales.

Tromsö is the traditional home of the Mack Brewery. It was founded back in 1877, by Ludwig Markus Mack, nephew of a brewmaster working in Bavaria. Today, Macks Ølbryggeri is the fourth-biggest brewery in Norway, and one of the strongest brands from the north of the country. It is still 100 per cent family-owned and is currently headed in the fifth generation by Managing Director Harald Bredrup, who together with his brother holds 40 per cent of the stock. The historic Mack brewing facility, which is located in the centre of Tromsö, still houses the administrative offices, the beer shop Kjeller 5 and the legendary Ølhallen tavern opened in 1928, which with its 67 taps is the longest array of dispensers in Northern Europe.

What’s more, at the turn of the millennium, Mack had here installed a micro-brewery, initially intended for trying out new flavours. In the times of the craft beer boom, however, it progressively developed a momentum of its own, and nowadays has more than 30 varieties of craft beer in its repertoire, some of them exclusively for serving in the Ølhallen, some of them bottled or canned for national and international sales. Thanks to buoyant demand, the craft brewery well-nigh tripled its production output last year, to its 1,200 hectolitres. “The craft beer wave has lastingly changed the consumption climate for beer, dissolved the traditional brand loyalties, and heightened consumers’ taste-awareness” believes Harald Bredrup. “Beer is in demand again. And with our main brewery we’ve been benefiting from this trend as well.”

Beer is in demand again.
Harald Bredrup.

Building a new brewery

Though the old brewery in Tromsö grew over the decades, space gradually became too limited, and the logistics increasingly expensive. Which meant that a few years ago Mack was confronting a key question: cease operations or build a complete new facility? The decision was swiftly taken: to invest in the brewery and upsize its capacities. So in 2012 Mack relocated its main production operations to Nordkjosbotn, about 70 kilometres to the south of Tromsö. Here, among the rather steep-sided fjord valleys, a sizeable level site was available. The surroundings are magnificent: at the end of

Balsfjord and directly at the foot of the Lyngen Alps, an entirely new brewery was built for a capital investment of around 40 million euros.

Mack re-used some of the equipment from the old brewery, such as the fermentation and storage tanks, and parts of the filling kit. But the family firm also wanted to install new kit, such as the entire brewhouse. They opted for a CombiCube B rated at 100 hectolitres per brew, “the biggest CombiCube that Krones offers,” as Brewmaster Rune Lennart Andreassen proudly explains. In three-shift operation, ten brews a day can now be produced there from Monday to Friday.

CombiCube fans

The brewhouse also incorporates a Variomill wet mill, linked to a Botec F1 process control system. “Although the quality of the raw materials is subject to natural fluctuations, this means we can achieve very good stability within a recipe,” is Rune Lennart Andreassen’s verdict. “The CombiCube could be installed for a modest outlay, is easy to operate, and has proved its worth in actual operation. The 24-hour remote service by telephone, moreover, provides excellent assistance at need.” Harald Bredrup adds: “The CombiCube can be used flexibly for both small and large brews, and we can nevertheless brew continuously. Another plus is that the system works energy-efficiently at comparatively favourable capital investment costs.” Krones also installed the system for yeast propagation and recovery, and further additions are already being planned: “The next project with Krones will be a new CIP system,” says a forward-looking Rune Lennart Andreassen.

New canning line

In its filling operations, Mack uses lines for all container types:

  • A PET line for soft drinks, rated at 22,000 containers per hour
  • A glass line for 8,000 bottles per hour
  • The new Krones canning line with a capacity of 25,000 cans per hour
  • A kegging line for 30-litre PET kegs, featuring a semi-automatic manual filler

“When conceiving the new brewery, we attached high priority to having everything performed on a single level. So there are no elevators. What’s more, we produce only non-returnable containers, so nothing comes back. Given our geographical location, the returnable system doesn’t make sense,” says Supply Director Peter Calleeuw, who comes from 

Belgium. Mack fills its beer mainly in cans. For this purpose, the company had previously been operating an obsolete, combined line for bottles and cans with a low rating. Which is why replacement of the canning line had paramount priority. Here, following its choice of vendor for the brewhouse, Mack once again opted for Krones.

First of all, Krones replaced all container conveyors from the existing bulk can depalletiser, and in early 2017 installed a new Modulfill VFS-C can filler with a Modulseam seamer. “This was a very good project,” says Peter Calleeuw. “We knew there was a bit of a risk involved, because it was only the second seamer of this type in actual use. But Krones did an outstanding job with the installation and commissioning, and kept us fully informed throughout.”

“Quality and flexibility are excellent”

The filler was then combined with a Cantronic empty-can inspector, which is installed immediately downstream of the high-level discharge at the bulk can depalletiser, an inclined rinser and a Checkmat FM-G inspection system, which monitors the fill level. “Besides the normal 0.33- and 0.5-litre cans, we’re now the only canner in Norway who can fill the slimline sleek cans. This opens totally new product categories for us,” says Peter Calleeuw. Krones also changed the date-coding modalities: the cans no longer have to be turned, with concomitantly reduced mechanical stress.

This was then followed early in 2018 by installation of a new Variopac Pro FS packer. “This now enables us to produce not only 6-packs and 12-packs, but 4-packs too, so we’re able to fill Coca-Cola products in cans as well. The quality and versatility of our filling and packaging capabilities are now fully fit for purpose,” opines the Supply Director. An additional, existing packer can also place the shrink-packs in trays if required.

To quote Harald Bredrup: “With Krones, communication is excellent, particularly, too, when something doesn’t go one hundred per cent according to plan – which is quite normal with complex machines like this. We’re located so far north that we have to be able to rely on our partners. That provides a degree of reassurance that’s extremely important to us.”

We have to be able to rely on our partners.
Harald Bredrup

A complete-range brewery

Mack makes more than 60 different products – from beer and cider, ice tea with alcohol, all the way through to soft drinks and water. In the case of mineral water, Mack is successful with the Arctic Water product series in different variants. Since 1965, the company has also been producing Coca-Cola’s range of beverages.

Its people likewise have a sense of humour, as exemplified by the naming of a soft drink: when the French Champagne-growers in 2007 had the name of the Fruit Champagne soft drink prohibited, Mack simply changed the name to Fruktsjimpanse (in English: Fruit Chimpanzee).

When it comes to beer, Mack operates as a complete-range brewery with more than 20 varieties. The most successful brand, following a relaunch in 2014, is Mack Isbjørn (Norwegian for polar bear), which together with Mack Arctic are the first beer brands in the world to have taken part in expeditions to both the North and South Poles.

Optimistic for the future

Mack produces 170,000 hectolitres of beer in all, of which around six per cent is exported, plus another 150,000 hectolitres of soft drinks, principally from the Coca-Cola portfolio. The brewery thus generates a turnover of about 60 million euros.

Sales have been additionally boosted since Mack expanded its distribution network in 2014. Up to then, the brewery had been represented solely in the north of Norway (up to around 500 kilometres to the south of Tromsö), where it had achieved a market share of around 50 per cent. By entrusting its distribution to wholesalers, Mack is now available nationwide, even in Oslo 2,000 kilometres to the south. All that Mack still handles itself is deliveries to the HoReCa segment, but likewise with the aid of forwarding agents. “Our company has been completely transformed since the new brewery was built: firstly from a regional to a nationally distributing and additionally export-oriented brewery, secondly from a brewery with obsolete technology and complicated process sequences to a facility with state-of-the-art kit and clear structures,

” is how Harald Bredrup summarises the events of the last few years.

And the results speak for themselves: the beer output alone has grown by 90 per cent since 2012. “I’m very optimistic that we shall keep on growing,” says Harald Bredrup. “With this final phase of our business plan, we’ve now created an excellent foundation, and can turn to innovative ideas for the future.

Sudhaus, CombiCube, Sudgefäße

Dosenwender, Gestängewender