In 2007, an offshoot of Ballast Point Brewing took off into what has become one of the West Coast’s largest distilleries. In 2016, that offshoot, Cutwater Spirits, built a 50,000-square-foot (4,645.2 m2) production facility in San Diego, California. Since then, a tasting room and kitchen have been added. Cutwater produces a full line of spirits, but they specialize in ready-to-drink canned cocktails made with those spirits. Their website boasts, “We are dauntless spirits.”
From the Bottom Up
Craft brewers and distillers know a lot about beer and spirits. And they know a lot more than they probably ever wanted to know about floors. The first time a keg is dropped on an uncoated concrete floor, a brewery owner sees the importance of having a high-quality floor system.
Distillery operations are very similar to those of a brewery. Yussef Cherney, one of Cutwater’s founders, said, “We have a lot of the same components that a brewery would have. We also have a full canning line that runs at about 300 cans per minute. These floors are constantly wet.”
A brewery or distillery floor has to stand up to a tough, even caustic, environment. “There’s lots of cleaning that’s taking place, which involves chemicals that are very low pH and very high pH,” said Cherney. “In the past, we have had regular, sloped concrete floors with some type of admix to help with the durability, but even just the beer alone would end up eating through the concrete. A lot of friends’ breweries have tried a regular ‘garage epoxy,’ and I’ve seen them fail within a year. They don’t stand up to the heat and the acidic and caustic nature of the fluid that’s constantly flowing around on the floor.”
For the Cutwater facility, Cherney knew from past experience what flooring would work and what wouldn’t. He confessed, “Pretty much every flooring I’ve seen has had issues other than what I would call this U-crete.” In this case, he was referring to Westcoat’s Fast Stain Grind and Seal system in the warehouse, their DUBRO Quartz system in the kitchen and lab, and their Temper-Crete system in the production area.
A Long-Lasting Foundation
Cherney had previously worked with coatings contractor Life Deck Coating Installations, which has served the San Diego area since 1981. Brian Oberman and the team at Life Deck were called upon to turn the concrete floors at Cutwater into durable, long-lasting foundations for the distillery. To get there, Life Deck worked closely with Westcoat in providing floor coating systems.
With the kitchen and tasting room not yet open, but the warehouse and production areas already operating, Life Deck spent six weeks on the project. The 20,000-square-foot (1,858.1 m2) warehouse had to be cordoned off into 5,000-square-foot (464.5 m2) sections, so that the coating could be done a section at a time while operations continued. Each section was completed in a week’s time.
“In the warehouse,” said Oberman, “we started off by grinding and shot blasting the concrete, patching any joints, and filling the joints with polyurea joint filler. Then we applied Westcoat’s Fast Stain acetone dye and two coats of polyurethane sealer.” The grinding was done with a Diamatic 780 walk-behind concrete grinding machine, while a Blastrac shot blaster was used. The SC-36 Fast Stain was applied using a pump sprayer at a rate of 200 to 400 square feet per gallon (4.9–9.8 m2/L). For the sealer, EC-11 Water-Based Epoxy was applied at 300 to 600 square feet per gallon (7.4–14.7 m2/L).
Between two and six Life Deck crew members were on the job depending on the task. Each day, the crew donned safety glasses, gloves, boots, ear plugs, and hard hats to protect themselves while working. During surface preparation, the crew utilized 3M respirators, but these weren’t needed during the coating application due to the low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the products. The biggest safety consideration, according to Oberman, was “just keeping our equipment out of the way and having the appropriate signage so that other trades and the Cutwater staff could remain on a safe path throughout the warehouse.”
“Feeding the Chickens”
The Life Deck crew had a one-week window to coat 1,900 square feet (176.5 m2) of flooring in the kitchen and lab before the restaurant opened. Westcoat’s DUBRO Quartz system was applied in these areas. That system is a 100 percent solids epoxy floor coating system with quartz sand aggregate broadcast into the clear basecoats and sealed with clear epoxy.
After grinding the surface and patching any cracks, the Life Deck crew applied EC-12 Epoxy Primer at a rate of 250 to 300 square feet per gallon (6.1–7.4 m2/L), using a trowel and then backrolling to ensure complete coverage. Next, a basecoat of EC-34 Epoxy Topcoat was applied at 125 to 150 square feet per gallon (3.1–3.7 m2/L). Then, pre-mixed silica sand aggregate, TC-65 Quartz Sand, was broadcast into the wet basecoat at a rate of coverage of approximately 160 square feet per 100-pound bag (14.9 m2/45.4 kg), until no more shiny spots were evident. A second coat of EC-34 was applied at the rate of 150 to 200 square feet per gallon (3.7–4.9 m2/L) on top. Quartz was again dispersed evenly into the wet epoxy, this time covering approximately 200 square feet per 100-pound bag (18.6 m2/45.4 kg).
Oberman described this last part of the process: “When we disperse the quartz, we just use a bucket and our hand and throw it up in the air. We call it ‘feeding the chickens.’”
All the floors at Cutwater Spirits were purposefully done, and so were some walls. “Even under the canning floors,” said Cherney, “we have the U-crete material for any liquid that’s flowing. Each floor has a trench drain, and the U-crete slopes down along all the flooring that’s prone to have any liquid. In the distilling room, it’s actually coped up the walls for containment.”
Life Deck spent a week coating the distillery’s 1,400-square-foot (130.1 m2) production floor with Westcoat’s Temper-Crete system. Temper-Crete is a self-leveling urethane cement that gets poured at 3/16-inch (4.8 mm) thick. The system comprises EC-24 Temper-Crete Resin, TC-02 Smooth Texture Cement, TC-70 B-125 Monterey Sand, and TC-45 Dry Pigment.
The concrete surface was first ground and shot blasted, and keyways were cut around all perimeter points and any drains. Between coats on the floor, the crew hand-troweled a cove that runs 6 inches (15.2 cm) up the base of the wall. “We troweled the cove base with the same urethane cement product,” said Oberman. “The floor and the cove were then sealed with a pigmented polyurethane [Westcoat SC-67]. That way it’s all one continuous, seamless floor.” Coves were also troweled in the kitchen and lab.
Oberman continued, “We installed Temper-Crete on the floor and cove, but we needed to apply the topcoat over it and then go vertical. We have never taken the Westcoat SC-67 vertical, but we successfully coated the Temper-Crete floor, cove, and walls in the back production room.”
Dauntless and Determined
Cutwater Spirits’ biggest innovation is its ready-to-drink canned cocktails made with real spirits. “It’s a new category that’s really booming now,” said Cherney. The market is opening up to the idea, and the distillery’s floors should last the entire journey.
Editor’s Note: This project won 2nd place in the Industrial Concrete category in CoatingsPro’s 2018 Contractor Awards Program.