Located in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, with an additional brewing facility and taproom in Detroit, Founders Brewing ranks among the top ten largest craft breweries in the US.

The company, which produces ales with huge aromatics and lots of flavour, wanted a lifting solution that would support how it delivers hops into the brewing process. So it turned to a local crane and lifting specialist, Grand Rapids-based Wolverine Crane, for assistance.

Founders had designed and commissioned the fabrication of its own vessel specifically for the task of dry hopping. This vessel holds around 1,200lbs of hop pellets that are tipped into beer. The company needed a crane that could easily lift and position the vessel, enabling Founders to dump the hops into the beer tank. The crane also needed the capacity to periodically move giant stainless-steel tanks to enable cleaning and other maintenance tasks, such as overhauls for the centrifuge and lifting items to upper-level storage.

Wolverine specialises in the design, manufacture and installation of overhead bridge cranes and the runway structures to support them. Established in 1994 – three years before Founders was created – it provides 125 cranes per year to clients across North America and for export.

Wolverine supplied Founders with a 20-ton crane from R&M Materials Handling. This crane package included the Spacemaster SX6 wire rope hoist and bogey trucks for ease of installation.

“We chose this route specifically to perform the task of dry hopping profusely that we are known for,” says Alec Mull, vice president of brewing operations for Founders Brewing. “We didn’t want to choose the common solution of pumping the hops in the tank, nor a ‘hop cannon’. We wanted to drop the hops in the top of the tank and designed the crane specifically to do this.”

Mull continues: “The bridge crane was purchased to move our tanks around the facility and as a novel way to dry hop. The crane has been incredibly helpful to many facets of our job. It works wonderfully.”

Craig Maclean, who has been with Wolverine Crane for 25 years, adds: “It has a full-length foot walk on the bridge because it is so high up – the ceiling is 70ft and the crane sits right at the top so you don’t want to be working off an aerial lift up there. You can stand on the platform to easily and safely access the control panel and all the electronics and wiring, for ease of service.

“R&M has a fine product line that covers a wide range of applications. We felt this was an application where R&M would excel in providing a long-lasting solution for the customer.”

Sign up for Hoist Magazine’s weekly newsletter