Sunday, May 31, 2015

Start a Quality Program at Your Brewery, part 2

So, how’s my beer?
It’s heartbreaking to visit a new brewery and see the same avoidable off flavor in every beer while the proprietor waxes about how something seems just slightly off. You work too hard to produce sub-par beer. Solid sensory training and careful, consistent, observation with data collection are the foundation of a quality program.

Melissa Coles assesses visual characteristics

There’s trouble in River City!
Quality issues arise from ignorance to off flavors. Hands down the best quality equipment investment is in calibrating what you already have; your eyes, nose, and mouth. Beer fault training is the detection part of the answer. Aroxa and Seibel offer beer flavor training kits to program your schnozz to identify offending (or good) aromas. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) is specifically existent to train homebrewers to taste, judge, and offer technical brewing advice to one another. But wait, it’s not just for homebrewers! Every sanctioned homebrew competition and class I’ve been to has been a mix of equally passionate; on-the-cusp-of-pro hobbyists, happily amatuer homebrewers, and pros.

Back to School
BJCP classes covering styles, how to taste and judge, and identify beer faults are available nationwide. BJCP training materials are intensive on beer faults and corrective options. Your local BJCP class coordinator can also order off flavor kits at a reduced price. Beyond the basic training, I found judging at home brew competitions extremely helpful in understanding harmony, balance, and intangibles, knowing faults both fatal and incorrect for style, and becoming comfortable with deciphering the difference between mediocrity and true greatness.

Check out my profile
At the minimum breweries should have sensory profiles for each significant brand. List all aromas and flavors and their intensity. Note color, clarity, head texture and retention, mouthfeel, and alcohol strength. I use a modified BJCP score card for this purpose. Combine complete profiles at varying points in aging with exacting brewhouse and cellar records for a clear look at how process and recipe changes affect your final product throughout its life.

Example Conclusions:
1) tried malt type Z in IPA recipe 2. Found body and caramel aroma reduced compared to malt type X.

2) used 20 kg yeast, cropped day 9 for porter. Compared to 30 kg yeast cropped day 7 in same recipe, less alcohol heat and more body.

Wouldn’t you like to definitively know how slight variations alter your product?

Data are as data do.
Be on data collection and tracking like a rat on a cheeto. It's tedious, but it will build a map of how to improve in efficiency and quality.

Brewhouse: OG, amount of grain, mash temp and pH, KO volumes and temperatures, times on process start/stop.

cellar: cell counts and viability with microscope. yeast pH, FG, diacetyl by nose. Temperature and gravity daily.

final package: ABV%, send it out to a lab. Use White labs big QC day for a value on many analytical Packaged airs data by a Zahm and Nagel is a good place to start for in house package quality, oxidation flavor impacts should be avoided when bottling if possible.

Once you begin tracking data, each brew can be a little experiment. Slight variations can be controlled and implemented to improve a variety of parameters from yeast health to brewhouse efficiency.
Lactobacillus Brevis

If you’ve got sensory and faults on lock, identifying contamination should be a matter of dedicating time and product for long term storage. Understanding aseptic sampling technique and using it to collect and store beer for long term assessment trials can identify low-grade infection issues just by taste. Keep packaged product in sanitized vessels with as little air contact as possible in a cool, dark area for several months, tasting every month.

Wort stability is a good entry level test for microbe issues kettle to KO. Wort stability just requires sterile/sanitary vessel.

Unless your operation is adding a large packaging facility, farm out the intensive microbiological and analysis work out to White labs, Seibel, etc. If you're dead set on starting to plate for infection; Hsu's Lactobacillus/ pediococcus media (siebel product) detects lactobacillus and pediococcus without need of an autoclave. You would need the following: gloves, RO or distilled water, heat proof lab flasks (a few), a microwave, test tubes and caps, a .01g scale (jeweler's scales), and an incubator at 28C or a consistently warm spot in your building. I'd get single use sterile swabs and pipettes for sampling.

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