Monday, September 30, 2013

Start a quality program at your brewery today

Down a damp corridor I hear The Cellarmaster bellowing. " I'm trying to protect the beer!" rings off the tanks, neatly lined observers to his frustration and dedication. Snatching glances through the stands of fermenters, I see negotiations have escalated.

Contests of will break out in breweries attempting to tame the often opposing goals of growth and quality. The brew must go on, and decisions need to be made, quickly. Will quality standards or "get the job done" win the day? What is most important for preserving quality and where can (or should ) we cut corners?

Integrating quality and consistency monitoring practices in your brewery will mean building a program from scratch to support the needs of your brewery. Always keep in mind " how does this serve the needs of the brewery?"

Building a program requires the entire staff to take a direct interest in beer quality. Open your discussions with your team by explaining the overall impacts of a quality assurance program on the business.

Why are quality and consistency important?
Success as a brewery means creating the best beer possible with the least amount of resources and risk. Risk equates to unsaleable beer due to contamination or low quality.  Q&C effects investor relations,customer satisfaction, growth, accountability, enforcing distribution contracts, and production costs. It’s about growing and protecting your business. Let your employees know how their participation (or lack of) affects the company as a whole.

What can we learn from very successful breweries?
AB, SAB Miller, Molson Coors, Sierra Nevada, Boston BC, New Belgium. All provide a consistent, high
quality product to their customers at national and international level. It’s about customer trust. You want your customers to get what they expect. All have invested in quality control measures to grow.

What are your goals?
What changes are coming for your business and how can implementing quality and consistency
tracking and evaluation help your product improve or maintain Q&C in spite of those changes?

Example goals:
Make 50,000 BBL packaged product with 120 day shelf life this year.
Increase brand consistency across multiple brewpubs
Increase consistency batch to batch
Troubleshoot obvious flaws
Track flavor changes over time
QC is the collection and tracking of data to make better decisions.

Once you have your goals in mind. Figure out the information you will need to make changes in process to achieve those goals. Let's use the example of  "increasing consistency batch to batch".

What information do you need to start? Identify the unknowns that if monitored and adjusted can impact you goals.
Examples of data gathering activities:
Brew sheet tracking
Tasting panels
yeast viability and counts
Fermentation profiles
mash pH
starch conversion test
wort stability
forced fermentation
VDK testing
Temperature tracking seasonally
microbe screening at each vessel transfer
grist sieve testing
For our sample goal of increasing consistency batch to batch, all of the above can be used to identify and reduce inconsistencies between batches of the same beer.

Create a plan with your team (foster the environment of quality and safety as a priority)
Set investment limits for goals. # employee hours, $ invested
Set a timeline for accomplishing goals.
Follow up with assessment at set times.
Identify missing pieces and supplement.
Train employees.
Invest in equipment
Write SOPs and logs for tracking info.
Outsource vital testing that cannot be accomplished in-house.
Review at 6 months, and annually.
Write Q&C tasks into every job description, employee handbook, and training session. From brewer to
tasting room, everyone should consider “what is best for our beer?”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Groovy! Acid wash yeast

Managing Bacteria in a Brewery
Even with using best practices to ensure sanitary equipment, the yeast may harbor an infection which grows with each re-pitching. Acid washing the yeast lowers the amount of bacteria passed from batch to batch. Brewers most often use acid washing as an emergency procedure to combat infection until fresh yeast can be obtained or as periodic maintenance. Some brewers wash every pitch to ensure absolutely every measure is taken to reduce bacteria in the brewing process. Unfortunately information regarding this practice is often conflicting or confusing.
How Acid Washing Works
Acid washing will lower the level of bacteria cohabitation with yeast. It will not rid an infection. We acidify the yeast slurry while keeping a low temperature to kill a large proportion of bacteria and weak yeast cells. Healthy, actively dividing and fermenting yeast produce an acidic environment naturally. We can utilize the ability of healthy yeast to withstand pH fluctuations to reduce the bacteria. Killing off weak and dying yeast cells is also beneficial because they excrete peroxides and autolysis factors which raises the pH of the total slurry and may contribute off flavors to beer.

Acid washing after several pitches can prevent a buildup of bacteria and weak yeast, allowing the healthy yeast to replicate and ferment uninhibited by bacteria and autolysis factors. Pediococcus affects yeast health by depressing yeast in suspension by up to 30% and increasing fermentation length while also producing high levels of diacetyl.

Acid washing has the potential to negatively impact yeast health if performed inappropriately or on certain strains of yeast. Time, pH, and temperature must be balanced to achieve the goals of washing while maintaining highly viable yeast for pitching.

Recommended Procedures
Overall goal:
Reduce yeast slurry pH to 2.0-2.4 range with food grade acid by constantly mixing at temperature range of 32-40ºF for 90 minutes.

Sterile recirculating reservoir with pump or sterile mixing reservoir and paddle.
75% food grade phosphoric acid.
Ability to cool or at least hold cool temperature.
Take initial yeast pH and temperature readings.
Dilute 75% phosphoric acid to 7.5% by a 1 to 10 dilution. The amount of 7.5% phosphoric acid required will depend on volume of yeast. We used approximately 40L (10 gal) per 100 gallons of yeast.
Start mixing yeast by paddle or recirculation pump.
Add 7.5% phosphoric acid using sterile technique (sanitize all connections)
Mix for 2-3 minutes and check pH and temperature.
Adjust pH by adding more 7.5% phosphoric acid or more water or yeast slurry
once pH range of 2.0-2.4 has been achieved. Start timer. Wash for 90 minutes. Maintain temperature between 32-40ºF.
After 90 minutes pitch yeast as soon as possible. Maximum storage for washed yeast is two hours

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Winter Beer Festival Guide

NW winter beer events

There's chainsaw carving, gnomes and beer, lots of it. where have you landed in the soggy pacific winter? Probably a winter beer festival.So many to choose, so little time, here's my favorites thus far.

Chocolate and Beer – February 10- Seattle
Theo's chocolate pairs with Seattle hometown favorite; Georgetown brewing for a great event benefitting autism. Chocolate and beer pairings, blues music, Macrina Bakery, and georgetown brewing reveals Lisa's Chocolate Stout. This brew uses 76 lbs of theo chocolate. Oh yeah and they're doing chocolate stout ice cream floats. Count me in.
Klaus the Elysian gnome always makes an appearance at WBF

Winter Beer Festival - December- Seattle
This one is “ family” as one insider puts it. Pretty much everyone you'd like to meet in Seattle beer's scene without the overwhelming crowd. Enjoy wintery beers from within the cozy goodness of Hale's Palladium. Good if you like big beers and pretty lights. Bad if you need outdoors, sunshine, and huge crowds.
Funk band at Strange Brew keeps the crowd grooving

Strange brew -Late January - Port Townsend
Again, small and intimate. Taste the most interesting beers of the Northwest in historic hippie town. Everyone brings their weirdest to this one and its another small winter festival. Good if you like small events, interesting ingredients, being off the beaten path. Bad for those who abhor; road trips, sailors, funk bands.
more gnomes at strangebrew
Winter Beer Festival -Early December- Portland
Big, weekend long, high gravity celebration. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT. This is staged in downtown portland, the current epicenter of craft beer for the NW. Big crowds, long lines, and crazy-good winter beer selection from all over. As with all large beer festivals, I recommend showing up early on opening day. Volunteers are at their least cranky and you get the best selection. After 6pm, most everyone is very, very jolly so be a safe pedestrian.
check out local hotties in der town

Alefest- spring- Leavenworth Wa
Head over brilliant highway 2 to Alefest. Oktoberfest may get all the crazy kids in their trachten, but trust me Alefest is where it's at. Check out Icicle Brewing Company, enjoy the emerging spring beauty of the north cascades and indulge in some of the best East of the cascades has on offer. Many of these breweries rarely get any distribution in westside markets, so make sure to brag to your I-5 bound friends about your ultra rare finds.