How Buffalo RiverWorks brewery solved its space constraints
Building inside old grain silo forces Buffalo RiverWorks to get creative in moving spent grain.
The summers have gotten a lot busier for Chris Herr, head brewer for Buffalo RiverWorks brewery in Buffalo, NY.
The $2.3 million facility, constructed entirely in an abandoned grain silo along the Buffalo River, is the center of an entire entertainment complex, complete with sports arenas, an indoor rolling skating rink, restaurants and climbing walls. In one week alone, 1,000 gallons of beer were sold to eager patrons at the bar within the formerly abandoned silo.
“It’s like Disneyland for adults,” Herr says. “We knew it would be popular. But we didn’t know it would be this popular.”
The RiverWorks brewery is a first: a complete brewery within one of Buffalo’s historic grain silos. The silos, arranged and painted to look like a six pack, are an integral part of Buffalo’s past as a shipping town along the Great Lakes. The brewery took 16 months to build, after breaking ground in late 2015. During that time, Herr and his team sought a creative, tailor-made solution for almost every application—from installing basic electrical wiring to handling the grain in the brewing process.
Moving the grain posed a particular challenge. Typically, breweries give their spent grain to local pig farmers, loading the mash into trucks that supply nearby farms. However, building inside a grain silo means tight floor space and elevation. The spent grain at RiverWorks is almost two stories above ground level.
“If we went down to basement level—just put a hole to drop grain straight down—we still had to go up half a flight of stairs to get to it,” Herr says. “If we did go up to the upper level, the amount of grain we would have to carry was far too heavy, and we would still be on the second floor. So, we were stuck with about a half-ton of grain with nowhere to go.”
Herr looked for a pumping solution that could carry the grain to ground level without compromising the limited space inside the renovated grain silo. Most market solutions were far too large for the brewery and were cost prohibitive.
SEEPEX provided the perfect solution: a progressive cavity pump at the right size to fit inside the brewery and equipped with Smart Conveying technology. This gave the brewery a space-saving footprint, a cart for mobility and a simple plan for maintenance in the future.
The BT10-6LS with Smart Conveying Technology is a progressive-cavity pump that moves the spent grain through a 4-inch stainless-steel tube Herr had specially engineered to carry the grain to a tank at ground level. The pump, which has a split stator and two-piece rotor, sits on a custom, portable sanitary cart about 70 feet above ground in the silo. The grain can vary in weight depending on water content, from a half-ton to almost 3,000 pounds.
The Seepex pump primes the grain with water and rapidly removes it in a hygienic, enclosed pumping system that is simple to disassemble, inspect and service in place without removing the piping. Plus, the pump handles the spent grain with efficiency and care.
“The repurposed semisolids pump can handle anything with a thick, granular texture—from cake batter to peanut butter,” Herr says. “We didn’t want to liquefy the grain, because we wanted to see this grain make it to our farmers.”
While many other engineers had suggested a screw auger to handle the grain, Herr knew that his floor space constraints prevented him attaching and detaching the auger every time he needed to move grain. Working with Seepex’s engineers, he was able to rely on a progressive-cavity pump to get just the right amount of flow without compromising his space needs.
Removing the spent grain is far from a waste operation. The spent grain plays a critical role in RiverWorks’ total commitment to feeding Buffalo’s local tourism and entertainment industry.
“I can say our spent grain makes some of the best pork in town,” Herr says, laughing. “A lot of the high-end restaurants in town go and buy their pork from the farmers we give our grain to.”
For more information: