It's the Little Things

Switchback Brewing Company Engineering

As the plant engineer, I have spent many days of the past 11 years troubleshooting little and big mechanical issues that come up around the brewery. Although, I am thankful for every large piece of equipment in the building that helps us make excellent beer, it’s these little things that help keep that equipment running.

Kroil: The Oil That Creeps – When you have a 52 year old brewhouse you sometimes need a little help loosening some bolts.

Sawzall Blade – We used this blade for the brewery’s first decade to determine whether or not our rooftop compressor was running. A solenoid valve controlled the flow of refrigerant into our glycol heat exchanger and the metal blade would tell us if the valve was open or closed (due to magnetic force) and therefore indicate if the compressor was on. This saved us many miserable trips to the roof in the dead of winter. Fortunately our new compressor is a little more sophisticated and this Sawzall blade is enjoying its retirement.

Kettle Bottle Opener – It’s just so cute and useful. Gifted to us by Hummer, the company that helped us find and relocate our German brewhouse and keg line.

Vernier Calipers – The only way to get precise measurements of our endless assortment of fasteners, bearings, o-rings, shafts, etc.

A Practical Dictionary of Brewing and Bottling: German/English – A lifesaver when Google Translate isn’t quite up to the challenge and you need a little help figuring out what Frieda (our keg line) is saying when she uses words like “steigrohrüberschwallung” and “dichtigkeitsprüfung”.

Dental Instruments – These precision tools have proved to be invaluable. Sometimes our fingers are a little too big to seat an o-ring or we need to see into a blind corner. Thanks for retiring and giving these to me, Dad!

Ice Pick – The brewery’s most versatile tool. Has been used to clean clogged Zerk fittings, remove baked on gaskets and o-rings in steam valves, and just this week (and the first time it’s ever been properly used) to chip ice from the freezer in our office mini-fridge.

Ratcheting Wrenches – A huge help when a socket wrench is too big and you can only get 15° on each turn. Our keg line and centrifuge overhauls would be a lot more time consuming if we didn’t have these wrenches.

Multimeter – For troubleshooting electrical problems…and keeping me from electrocuting myself.

Gretchen Langfeldt
Plant Engineer