Cambridge Beer Festivals – all the beers…

If you want to know more about the condition of our sample beers at the Cambridge Beer Festival, we have all the data you could want. So what’s the story?

Firstly, you might want to know what the ambient temperatures are in the tent:

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 16.13.21

And how that relates to all the beers:

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 16.11.40

Good to see a signficant difference between ambient and the beers!

We’ll put the views for each beer into separate posts, for technical reasons your author doesn’t entirely understand, but relate to inadvertent triggering of The End of Times, apparently.

Beer Festivals: too hot to handle?

Here at Purrmetrix we’ve been getting very interested in beer recently. And not just for the obvious reasons.

Fact is, beer, especially real ale, is a living thing, and sensitive to temperature. Good pubs put effort into making sure their cellars maintain the 11-13°c that is the optimum for keeping cask ales at their best. Organisations like CAMRA and Cask Marque offer training and accreditation, with an annual survey of pubs testing for temperature, taste and aroma.

Is British beer too warm?

Despite this, the old legend that British beer is served warm refuses to die, and in fact might be grounded in some truth. One of the earliest Cask Marque surveys reported more than 2000 pubs serving beer warmer that 13°, with a number consistently producing pints in excess of 20° and in one case even 35°C. Yuck.

Beer this warm not only spoils more quickly but also tends to ‘fob’ or froth, meaning a lot more is wasted. The British Beer and Pub Association estimates that for a 10 tap bar warm cellars can reduce yield and waste up to £14,000 of revenue each year. We’re guessing no landlord wants this to happen and warm beer is more often the result of a hidden problem – hotspots in the cellar, or brewlines run past a fridge outlet. Which is why we’re getting very interested, because one thing we love at Purrmetrix is finding hidden problems, bringing them out into the light, and giving them a good kicking.

Delivering quality at Beer Festivals

Meanwhile, whatever the difficulties in guaranteeing a decent pint in a pub, a different challenge faces the organisers of beer festivals. Beer festivals are enjoying a rennaissance, clocking up audiences of thousands. Imagine the problems a landlord for a large town centre pub with 8 ales on tap faces. Now multiply that by 10, and add in much more limited ability to control the climate and a clientele that really, really cares about quality. Once the sun comes out and your marquee warms up, how are you going to deliver?

Next week we’re going to have a look at this question at the Cambridge Beer Festival, one of the oldest and largest beer festivals in the UK. 200 beers, 60 ciders and Perries. Foreign beers, English wine and even Mead. And also: 50 kittens, sitting on the more popular casks and monitoring their temperature. We’re hoping to break some new ground here – we are measuring the surface temperature of the casks, not their contents, with the aim of gathering enough data to determine the relationship between the two. Other things that interest us: can we alert you, the Beer Festival customer, to ‘low beer’ status on each cask and let you get that critical last pint before it runs out?

So if you’re planning on going to the Beer Festival and want to do a bit of public science, check our data here for a sample of stock and see if you can determine the point at which the beer is getting low. There’s a live feed across the whole site and you can follow us on Twitter for more updates.

What’s the Grand Challenge?

COINS Grand Challenge award for R&D on temperature and HVAC monitoringWe’re very happy to be winners of the COINS Grand Challenge this year for our R&D in HVAC monitoring. If you don’t work in the construction industry you may not know COINS – they are huge supplier of enterprise software to construction companies. And they fund the COINS Foundation which uses enterprise to address issues of social justice.

A fundamental principal of the COINS Foundation is that if you have intellect and ideas they are more powerful when shared. This spirit drives the awards – set up to encourage innovation and big ideas throughout the construction industry they aim to give a leg up to small companies and young people who have big transformative ideas.

Other winning ideas like community led solar desalination and building government schemes to reward the development and construction of green homes – these are the sort of thing that will add technical impetus to the UN’s climate change deal. HVAC is part of this – it’s responsible for more than 5% of energy consumed in western countries and often shockingly badly run.

Preparing for these competitions is often a sweaty, nervous process but it does make you evaluate why you’re doing it. Which is a real benefit. For the pre-startup team sitting in the pub and dreaming of building a great company, finding your big challenge should be easy. Once you’re stuck in the middle of customer feedback, fixing bugs, scratching heads over cashflow projections, it can be less easy to remember why you’re there. That’s the real prize of a well run competition: a chance to get a bit of perspective.

And for us, the Grand Challenge still stands. Looking forward to dealing with it in 2016.

Merry Christmas!

Picture of the month: HVAC in hot weather

So summer is icumen in here in Cambridge. Here it is certainly following the traditional pattern of an English summer: three days of heatwave followed by a thunderstorm.

All of which has produced some hard times for the cooling systems in the facilities we are monitoring. Take this:

Air conditioning failure summer

July 1st was the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures over 32° following on from a couple of days with both warm weather and many hours of sunshine. So not surprising that at 12.15 the HVAC in this office gave up under the strain and couldn’t be bought back online until 15.30.

Picking this apart raises some fun details and questions. It’s worth comparing that week to the week before. Here are the plots for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with the temperature and sunshine plots for those days along side:

Air conditioning failure 29th JuneAir conditioning failure 30th JuneAir conditioning failure 1st July

And here are the plots for the same days (monday, tuesday, wednesday) on the preceding week.

Office air conditioning summer 3

Office air conditioning summer 2

Office air conditioning summer

In this case temperatures overnight in the preceding week were much cooler – you can see the cooling system is working for much less time in the morning to remove the heat. There’s no characteristic sharp drop in temp at 5.30 am.

By the time we get to the week of the 1st July though, external overnight temperatures have risen and the office is holding a lot of heat overnight. In the morning removing that heat is taking more and more time. Furthermore, evening sunshine on both the two preceding days has warmed a portion of the office (on the right hand side of plan) that has always had difficulty in removing heat, so the system was under an immense amount of strain.

Under the circumstances if the system was going to suffer a failure, this is the situation which is likely to trigger it.

After the temperature topped out at 28.2, the cooling was eventually bought back on line, but the damage was done: there was far too much heat in the building to be removed by the HVAC before it was turned off at 7.30 and another warm night overnight meant the repaired system had to work for a much longer period in the morning to remove it, churning away for twice as long as usual.

Lessons learned? If you have HVAC systems that are older and have already identified some hot spots, be ready to take drastic action if you have a period of warm nights and solar gain. You might be operating closer to the edge than you might think.

If you have similar troublespots in your facility and you’d like a better picture of how the summer is affecting them, contact us for a quote on a pilot deployment.