Beer’s not beer without right gas: Area company expands with popularity

8:23 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 Local News
Kaitlin Schroeder
Aaron King, front, works with the three person team from Weiler Welding on the initial CO2 tank installation at Caddy’s Tap House in Beavercreek. The other members of the team are Jeff Ungerecht, back left, and Michael Butler, back right.

Your local craft beer wouldn’t be beer without the right hops or malted barley. But it also wouldn’t be beer without the right gas.

As Ohio craft beer grows into a more than $2 billion industry, the economic impact of the more than 1.3 million barrels brewed goes deeper than craft breweries, with suppliers like Weiler Welding and its beverage gas division getting in on the action.

“Beer becomes beer when oxygen hits the yeast. And that’s when it creates the aroma, the smell, the flavor. And that’s when beer is actually beer, when gas is supplied to it,” said Weiler salesman Michael Butler.

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The Moraine-based specialty gas company that sells to everyone from industrial companies to hospitals in recent years invested in its beverage division and now does business with almost every brewery in the region, selling carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas blends for their beers.

“There’s stout blends. There’s lager blends. There’s pilsner blends. The brewmaster drives that to a degree, but if they don’t know exactly what they need for a beer or there’s a new taphouse and they want to know what they need for all these different beers, then they can rely on our sales guys,” said Jim Weiler, company vice president.

This is on top of Weiler working with bars, restaurants, wineries and even starting to sell nitrogen to coffee shops like Ghostlight for the latest trend of nitro cold brew coffee, which pours and tastes somewhat like a Guiness. There’s a specific difference between drinks, with even Coke and Diet Coke getting different carbon dioxide blends.

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The third-generation family business that dates back to 1920, now just off Interstate 75, invested about $4 million into a new fill station and gas lab that let the business do more work in house. The automation and new software that it added at the new fill plant, which opened in May 2014, let it control its costs, turn around orders faster, and blend gases in-house for specific orders.

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“We’re a small company that’s competing here with billion dollar companies, so we have to invest so when we go up to compete against them, we can be as good or better. We like to think we’re better,” said Weiler.

It also gave them the capability to go from from just dabbling in beverage gases to having a dedicated beverage division for customers like craft breweries looking for specialty blends of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

For the craft beer industry, brewers require specific gas blends for specific flavors and styles.

“The beer industry has changed where one size doesn’t fit all,” said Jeff Kellar, Weiler general sales manager.

The Weiler team last week had just picked up a new contract with Caddy’s and had stopped by to install their equipment. While working on the installation, pressurizing lines and making sure there’s no small leaks, Weiler employee Michael Butler said for his job he needs to be able to help everyone from home brewers to restaurant chains know what they need to do for that perfectly carbonated pour.

“It’s a lot of science and a lot knowledge. And continuous knowledge,” said Butler, who went to a special training with McDantim Gas Blending Technologies and attends brewing trade shows to keep up with what’s new.

The team has the perfect pour down to a science and can rattle off trivia on the right mix of specialty gases for a lager or the proper way to serve a Guiness, which can at times make it challenge not to back seat drive when out at a bar.

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David Radominski, general manager, said after focusing on their beverage division, they’ve been able to double how many customer accounts they annually add.

The business serves customers as east as Springfield, north as Sidney, west as Richmond, Ind., and as south as northern Kentucky.

“We’ve got lucky that the area has embraced craft beer,” said Radominski.