Published in October 2005

Brewery Offers More Than Suds
By Jim Stokes

Prairie Rock offers sight, sound and beer.

     An upgraded AV system keeps customers and venue staff happy at the Prairie Rock Brewery in Schaumburg IL. Ambient noise-compensated multiple audio zones and high-definition video displays have brought the AV system into the high-performance era. Those sound and video improvements further enhance the enjoyment of Prairie Rock’s foods and selection of beer from its own award-winning micro-brewery on the premises, which features a fascinating direct view of the brewery tanks by patrons.

Schaumburg History
     Before we take an AV system tour, let’s get a perspective of the city setting. The heritage of Schaumburg dates back to the middle of the 19th century when settlers arrived in this Midwestern locale from Germany and the eastern United States. Although Schaumburg Township originally had the quaint name of Sara’s Grove, the present name resulted from a forceful statement by Frederick Nerge during a lively discussion.
     The prominent local German landowner put his fist down decisively on the table, exclaiming, “Schaumburg ichall et heiten!” That is, “It will be called Schaumburg!” From this outburst came a consensus on the Township’s official name, which came from the Schaumburg-Lippe region of Germany, the origin of many of the Township’s residents. It was a nostalgic link to the old country.
     The area’s main occupation was farming amid an idyllic countryside with abundant wildlife such as geese, prairie chickens, rabbits and deer. The dominant rural life gave way to urbanization and industrialization as sparked by the city’s close proximity to Chicago.
     For example, Schaumburg is a large retail center and the corporate headquarters of Motorola. And there was a groundbreaking in July 2004 for the Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel, further advancing the area into commerce and tourism. More industrial development is expected to occur in the Spectrum Industrial Park, Copley Center and Woodfield Business Center.

Brewery History
     The Prairie Rock Brewing Company of Elgin and Schaumburg brew such handcrafted beers as Clock Tower Amber Lager, Pale Rider, Vanilla Cream Ale and Prairie Light. Both venues feature a micro-brewery and a restaurant. The Original Prairie Rock Brewery, Elgin, opened in October 1995 in the historical setting of the renovated 1920s Grove Theater.
     Located 11 miles east of Elgin, Prairie Rock’s Schaumburg venue was built in 1999. The two-story, 28,000-square-foot facility seats up to 1100. It features two floors of dining, including the Chicago Room downstairs, which leads to a patio, and the Grove Room upstairs, which is private with a fireplace. There’s a large bar downstairs and a wine bar upstairs.
     Schaumburg’s Prairie Rock is characterized by its open and airy architecture combined with beautiful wood, stone and iron decor. Customers delight in a direct view of the brewery tanks. Large plasma displays ensure that popular sporting events can be viewed. Upstairs features plush leath- er couches or cozy chairs surrounding a warm stone fireplace. The facility is located two blocks from the Woodfield Mall Shopping Center and a block from the new Schaumburg Convention Center.

Patrons can watch sports from different types of environments; it’s not all bar stools and tables. There’s not a bad seat at the Wine Bar (right) offering one of several TVs modulated for a centralized game server.

     The AV upgrade was done by Pinnacle Audio & Video Systems, Elgin IL. Designer and lead installer Rick Bjorkquist is our guide here. Project manager was Steve Kish. John Kissel was supervisor/sales/Biamp programmer. Crestron programming was by Caroline Gunn-Bjorkquist.
     On the client side, managing partner Stuart Goldstein talked about the impact of the upgraded AV system on the venue. “It’s helped business because it’s brought us into the 21st century. I’ve had great response from our customers. It helps increase our sales because we have the best sound and video system in the area at present. So the word’s getting out. The system is easy to operate because it goes on and off automatically. And volume is automatically adjusted as well.” Goldstein added that everyone loves the five hi-def plasma displays as well as the music from the audio system, which radiates from all around you. He noted the clarity is 100% improved.
     When Pinnacle arrived for the new install, Prairie Rock’s existing audio/video capabilities included only single-zone audio throughout the building, with rotary volume controls. There was a basic cable feed for seven TVs with modulated channels for an NTN game server. The new upgraded touchpanel-controlled AV system features automatic level controlled sound, which maintains intelligibility and allows easy conversation among patrons, plus high-definition plasma TVs for a pleasant, entertaining experience.
     Bjorkquist pointed out that, on the audio side, the original installation “just wasn’t cutting it. They had a couple of speakers scattered throughout the facility. And there were only four volume controls to ramp the volume up and down. So we added more zones and more ability to control volumes. The way it was, the whole second floor was on just one volume control, and the bar and dining room were on their own. We also got away from the volume controls located in the main office, stashed away where nobody could see them.”
     Pinnacle specified separate mid/high and subwoofer ceiling-mounted SoundTube speakers for the main zones. In addition, the main bar and main dining room downstairs have two subs because they’re much larger areas. “We liked how they sounded. It gave the facility all the coverage they wanted,” said Bjorkquist. “We added the subwoofer to get the feeling of bass into the system. With such openness, we decided to not use the mid/high to try to push the low frequencies. Each of the amplifiers has separate outputs for the subwoofer and the mid/high speakers. The Biamp Nexia processor is able to separate out the low frequencies, which we send specifically to the subs. And we send the rest to the midrange and tweeter. This keeps the sound cleaner.”
     Pinnacle decided, for aesthetic purposes, to mount the sub and the mid/high straight to the ceiling so the sound is coming right at you. In contrast, the former system had speakers mounted on the sidewalls and pointed in, like a giant pool effect. Rounding out the speakers, the patio has Electro-Voice 70-volt speakers. Then there are owner-furnished JBL 24s in the restrooms.

     The Prairie Rock Brewery installation is based around 11 music zones throughout the building. Each floor has the ability to have two separate music sources playing simultaneously, and/or play a CD from the shared 50-disc player, and/or play the audio that matches what’s being displayed on the 60-inch LG plasma in the main bar downstairs.
     Two Biamp Nexia CS audio processors contain an ANC (ambient noise compensator) that’s used to make automatic volume level adjustments to seven of the 11 zones. “It’s based on each of the building’s seven major zones, each of which has a dedicated, ceiling-mounted Audio-Technica hypercardioid microphone for sensing changes in each zone’s noise level,” explained Bjorkquist. Specifically, the ambient noise level sensing mics and audio sources from each of the nine ComCast cable boxes feed into the Nexias, which feed into nine dedicated-zone Crown amplifiers.
     Let’s take a sound trip through the Prairie Rock Brewery’s 11 music zones. The seven Nexia-controlled zones include the four upstairs: front and back line bars, loft and dining room; and the three downstairs: main bar, main dining room and Chicago room. The four remaining unprocessed zones include two patios, the Grove Room and both restrooms, which just have a steady light background volume.
     Getting back to the Nexia CS, its “conference system” application fit the brewery’s zones as well, automatically adjusting the music levels to maintain a preset music-to-ambient zone noise ratio. This application frees the managerial staff from having to frequently manually adjust each zone’s music level.
     Let’s take an example of a typically very busy 7 o’clock on a Saturday night inside Prairie Rock. There’s certainly enough to do for the management and staff tending bar and waiting tables than to be burdened with turning the background music up or down. “Riding gain” becomes even more of a yeoman’s task if there’s a sports event, such as a Chicago Cubs game, on the big main bar plasma. As more and more people converse and join in the excitement, the music gets louder, competing with the noise level. Taking this scenario further, let’s say it’s the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and the Cubbies’ big slugger is at bat. All conversation ceases as the devoted fans wait in a tense silence. What silence? Had the music been manually turned up without automatic level control in place, there would have been ear-splitting music playing. To which Cub fans would be very vocal with such comments as “Turn down the (expletive deleted) music!”
     But not to worry with Nexia ANC. The Nexia CS takes care of that task with Crestron switching and routing via three strategically placed TPS-3000 touchpanels in the venue. The two permanent touchpanel locations are in the downstairs Chicago Room and in an equipment rack. However, Crest- ron jacks are scattered throughout the building, including such prime locations as the downstairs main bar and the upstairs bar. Just plug in and control!

Automation: Key Control Factor
     Thus automation is the key control factor in Prairie Rock’s entertainment system. Bjorkquist noted that this facility was an early user of the Nexia CS audio processor as well as the new Crestron Event Scheduler, which work together. In addition to the “hands-off” design, the automation also provides a manual override. This allows the staff to go into the system and plan different dates and times for TV or music up to a week in advance. Crestron’s Event Scheduler allows the staff to turn it on or off, if needed outside of the initial automation presets. It also gives them the ability to have the plasmas switch to a set TV station on specific days or nights for events or keep the music system on for longer or shorter times because of banquets, parties or holidays.
     The system design is not only about saving staff time via programmed scheduling, it’s also about saving wear and tear on the equipment. Specifically, Bjorkquist explained that each morning, the system is preset to turn on when the Crestron trips the Elkay power relays that turn on the amplifiers. And at a preset time throughout the week and the weekends, it powers down. “That way, you don’t have your amplifiers going nonstop and baking,” he said. “They’re analog amps, so there’s going to be heat built up. Even if [it] has an efficiency of 20% or 30%, that’s considered pretty decent for an analog amplifier. Then the rest is generated as heat.
    "So we make sure the amps are shut down at certain times. With Prairie Rock being a restaurant and a bar, they don’t use the second floor except for banquets or later in the day or evenings. So, the whole second floor amplifiers don’t turn on until about 4:30 or 5 in the afternoon. Why have music playing upstairs if nobody’s there to enjoy it?”
     Therefore, the bottom line is that the whole AV system with the plasmas and amplifiers is set up on the Crestron controlling system to help minimize wear and tear. In contrast, here’s a scenario without any scheduled power control: The staff could be cleaning up for an extra two hours after closing with the AV equipment still powered up. And if they came in at 7 the next morning and powered up but the open time wasn’t until 11:00am, that’s an extra six hours that the AV equipment would be baking. “Multiply that by seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, and all that extra power really adds up,” he said.
     Taking a look at power conditioning, Bjorkquist said, “I like using the Elkay relays because they have dual receptacles for each relay, and each of them has one always on with five switched.” The Furman power conditioners feed the relays, and the relays feed each of the corresponding amplifiers. “That way, everything is getting clean power and we’re not overdrawing anywhere.”

One of three separate dining rooms that feature omni-directional speakers mounted from the 30-foot-high ceilings, flooding the room with music from a CD player.

     The upgraded video displays include four 42-inch LG plasmas and one 60-inch LG plasma, which are used downstairs. These five high-definition displays can show the same channel or a different channel. This capability is achieved by routing the video from five ComCast hi-def cable boxes through a Knox hi-def video matrix. “Although we know that’s a little bit overbuilt for what they’re currently doing in the facility, this allows them to integrate more high-definition displays down the line, instead of spending more money again,” said Bjork- quist. “So the system is designed to be expandable with the major controlling processors being the Crestron, the Nexia and the Knox.” In addition, the upstairs has four owner-furnished 32-inch Toshiba CRTs.
     The downstairs display feed normally has two of the four 42-inch LGs playing the NTN game server, while the other two LGs show regular programming. Of course, the Crestron touchpanel can configure to suit the wants of the venue. And the 60-inch LG serves the main bar. Distribution is via Cat5e. The signal from the Knox video matrix feeds the MuxLabs video baluns into Cat5e. “In this application, we ended up pulling out the previous coax cable,” explained Bjorkquist. “And we used that for a pull-line to pull in two new Cat5es and two new RG6s because we also have a video feed that ran to each of the plasmas besides the hi-def component feeds.”

This touchpanel is used to provide an intuitive interface to control all the systems in the facility, including AV, 11 audio zones, lights, HVAC and ceiling fans.

     Because of Prairie Rock’s open-architecture style, concealing the wires throughout the building was a challenge. Although it’s great that advanced technology is seen and heard, seeing exposed cables and components that make them perform effectively is another matter. Bjorkquist noted that having two of the five plasmas mounted to a block wall forced the installers to utilize niches in the building and color match the wire track to minimize the appearance of cables.
     The 60-inch LG plasma suspended directly behind the brew tapper tanks posed another challenge. The wall directly behind the beer tapper tanks has an arch that made mounting this 150-pound plasma an issue. Being open architecture, there’s web truss corrugated steel in some sections such as on a flat roof. The more cathedral-like ceilings are made of plank and beam, where it’s all open wood. “To resolve this issue, we utilized a Unistrut framework on both sides of the 16-foot-thick wall and tied both frames together with 3/8-inch threaded rod,” he reported. “With the framework in place, hanging the 60-inch plasma took merely minutes.”

Rack ‘Em Up
Within the two Middle Atlantic equipment floor racks are temperature-regulated fan kits that control the four fans per rack. Once a thermostat gets up too high, the fans kick on. The racks are staged so the heavy heat-producing power amplifiers are on the bottom and the ComCast cable boxes and processors above them. “Again, the use of rack thermostats is another way of saving and extending product life,” concluded Bjorkquist.

The 28,000-square-foot Prairie Rock Brewery in Schaumburg IL.

Pinnacle Audio & Video Systems
Pinnacle Audio & Video Systems, Elgin IL, offers design and install services. Main areas of concentration include corporations, schools/education, home theater and churches. Regarding corporations, Pinnacle sees businesses using videoconferencing as a tool to keep closer contacts with their customers, allowing more staff to have contact with the customer and reducing expenses.
For schools/education, distance learning encompasses all technologies and supports the pursuit of lifelong learning for all. DVD’s cinema-quality video combined with surround sound is becoming increasingly popular for home theater installations. In churches, the message can be more dramatically enhanced via video projectors and sound reinforcement.


7 Audio-Technica ES933PM/H hypercardioid mics w/ceiling power module
2 Biamp Nexia CS audio processors
9 ComCast digital high-def cable boxes
1 Crestron Pro2 AV processor w/aux relay card, IR Card, Com-Card
3 Crestron TPS-3000 color touchpanels
9 Crown CH1 amps
4 Electro-Voice 4.2 wall-mount speakers
2 Elkay relay controlled 5-outlet strips
2 Furman 20 amp power conditioners, power strips
1 Knox Video Technologies MediaFlex 16x16 hi-def component video matrix
4 LG MU-42PM12X 42" high-def plasmas
1 LG MU-60PZ90V 60" high-def plasma
2 Middle Atlantic WRK 44RU floor racks, accessories
4 MTX in-ceiling speakers
2 Muxlabs 500050 component video/digital audio baluns (pair)
1 NTN Game Server (provided by others, integrated into the system)
30 SoundTube RS800I 8" speakers w/ceiling mounts
8 SoundTube RS801I 8" subwoofer speakers w/ceiling mounts
4 Toshiba 32" CRTs (owner furnished)
Unistrut framework

List is edited from information supplied by Pinnacle Audio & Video Systems.

Contributing Editor Jim Stokes has been involved in the AV industry for 33 years as an AV technician and recording studio designer among other areas.

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