Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) are the foundation for a successful quality program. SOP’s are a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved in production to think about how they perform tasks and share it with their co-workers. It also helps set a standard and at times even raises the bar at breweries where I have introduced and implemented the process.

I was fortunate to be introduced to SOP’s during my first professional brewing job and am thankful I had the experience early in my career. The process of writing down how I performed tasks and comparing it to how my co-workers completed the same tasks proved to be a valuable tool for several reasons. First, it was a learning experience that helped develop my skillset since I had very little (almost none!) experience working in a brewery. Second, methods were refined in regards to efficiency and best practices that saved time and beer while improving quality. I also believe creating SOP’s provides an opportunity for teams to develop better relationships by working together through a problem solving process.

At Diamond Knot Craft Brewing we have had several successes with SOP’s that come to mind. The first SOP’s we worked on dealt with Clean-In-Place (CIP) for our fermenters and bright tanks. Our head brewer and production manager collaborated and created step-by-step hand written documents, some of which was done while performing a CIP. Next, this was typed up and given back our staff for review after which a final edited version was created.

During the final review by our staff, an issue developed with our carbonation stones not performing as well as they had in the past, resulting in beer taking twice as long to carbonate. We carefully examined our current procedure and I offered a few suggestions. Our staff went on to develop a method that improved the performance of our carbonation stones while increasing their knowledge of how the stones function. This trend continued and we went on to improve the quality of our overall sanitation through more effective CIP’s, lower dissolved oxygen in our brew house, cellar, and package, which resulted in higher scores from our sensory panels and longer shelf life. One could say SOP’s created an exponential return on our efforts!

Basic or Detailed?

SOP’s can be simple by just listing basic steps such as the purpose, time needed, temperatures, quantities, and list of equipment, which meets the needs of many breweries. More in-depth SOP’s have the added benefit of also being used for training exactly how to complete certain tasks and operations. Further details could include exactly how to set up a diverter panel and may even include a picture. This is especially useful when someone is new and on their first graveyard shift trying to remember how and when to do a key step!

An abbreviated example of a SOP format is shown below. The first section is intended as a header and using a footer that contains “Page # of #” helps ensure the reader is aware of how many pages there are. I recommend using an outline form for the body of the document to make it easier for the reader to keep track of where they are in the document and to easily reference sections they may have questions about. Editing the document also tends to go quicker.

Include a Record of Changes page, which can be seen just below the SOP example. This is valuable for tracking when, who, and why a change was made. There have been many times when I’ve asked why or when a change was made and received different answers. Record of changes as a last page of an SOP helps solve this issue!

Getting Started

The hardest part of creating SOP’s is providing the motivation to start and dedicating the time and resources. Having a team leader for creating SOP’s helps both getting started and coordinating resources and time. Remember, SOP’s are also a good tool to help develop your team’s skill sets, something many breweries struggle with. If you need further motivation, inspections by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration now ask for documentation of how equipment is cleaned and sanitized. It certainly helps to have your SOP’s already in-hand for unexpected inspections!

SOP Example

Name of Company

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE FOR DEPT:Brewing             02-Cellar                             Issue Date: 9/30/2016                                                                                 Supersedes: 9/4/2015   Plant: Production Brewery                                                                        Document # 02-001


Title of SOP

Purpose: To ensure…

Safety Equipment: Gloves, safety glasses, boots, hearing protection (as needed).

Items Needed: Equipment such as brew hose, clamps, chemicals, etc.

Notes: List any important considerations or hints. May also list reference material to further explain certain items.


Title of Procedure

  1. Step 1
    1. Sub steps for clarification
  2. Step 2
    1. Sub Steps for clarification

Page 1 of 1 (Footer)


Record of Change

Date Change made by Approved by Description of Change and Why
1/26/2017 Head Brewer Head Brewer, Quality Manager Updated to show new procedure due to brew house modification.