About the Author
Tim is the launch editor of The Brewers Journal and is a keen advocate of the brewing industry.

Keep it chilled | A focus on Coldchain distribution

Coldchain is a phrase increasingly prevalent in the British beer industry but what is it, does it really exist, and is it being used correctly? Yvan Seth from Jolly Good Beer takes a closer look.

Coldchain distribution is nothing new – you see refrigerated lorries and vans on UK roads all the time. It is used for many food products – often as a serious matter of food health and safety, but also to preserve the quality of fresh produce.

What it means simply is that the product being distributed is kept chilled all of the time including transport links. This is what makes it a “chain” – every link is chilled. If you remove the refrigeration from one of those links then you don’t have a chain any more. The important thing about the chain is that it should be connected up all the way from the producer to the consumer (see below). 

The Coldchain

Brewery Coldstore @ 4°C

⇒ Transport @ 4°C
⇒ Distro Warehouse @ 4°C
⇒ Transport @ 4°C
⇒ Retailer Coldroom/Fridge @ 4°C
⇒ Consumer

Why 4°C? At the most basic level the choice of 4°C comes down to food handling standards. The fact is that there is simply a lot of existing infrastructure and equipment set up for this temperature – “fridge temperature”.

I tend to regard our target storage temperature as “circa 4°C” and know a few cases where 6°C is used, and know a few breweries using 3°C for coldstorage. As 4°C is common for food storage it is also the temperature which most study and literature will refer to – such as “Freshness” by Dr Charles Bamforth.

In “Freshness” Dr Bamforth refers to the work of Swedish chemist Svante August Arrhenius that relates temperature to chemical reaction speed — and for beer uses a 3x faster reaction time for every 10°C temperature increase.

If you fit a curve to this trend and interpolate for 4°C versus 12°C the result is that at 4°C changes ought to be slowed down by approximately 2.4x – and versus 20°C this is 5.8x. In my own testing with 1-month changes in beers across 4°C, 12°C, and 20°C there was often a notable flavour difference between 4°C and 12°C for pale beers after just the one month (this is an experiment you can try at home!)

Of course the changes in a beer are on a continuum – unlike the general public view of “best before dates” being some sort of quality cliff-edge. The 4°C sample tasted fresh, and the 12°C notably degraded but quite drinkable, at 20°C it had become something I called “onion water” (the beer I have in mind here was a mid 4% pale dry hopped “session IPA”.)

In the associated diagram I have used the Arrhenius equation to show relative shelf life at 4°C, 12°C and 20°C. Beer aging is a complex and many faceted chemical, and biochemical, process — the key observation is the exponential nature of the rate of chemical change versus temperature.

Another way to think of coldstorage is as preventing heat exposure. Every bit of additional heat a beer is exposed to will push its chemical reactions a little further along that taste spectrum from “fresh” towards “stale”. By coldstoring beer we reduce this exposure and prolong the “fresh” life of the beer.

In the UK coldchain does not really exist for beer. There are a handful of cases where breweries both large and small have chilled vehicles. Stalwarts of British cask ale Timothy Taylor has curtain sided lorries with chiller units. The complex flavour nuances of traditional cask benefit from coldchain stability, not just the latest NEIPA juice bomb. And when Iron Pier brewery bought a dray van they took the plunge on getting a properly refrigerated vehicle. But these rare cases are an exception to standard UK practice.

Things get worse when you look at the wholesale distribution tier of the beer industry in the UK. Most distributors rightly have some cool-storage for cask ale, especially the larger well established ones. However there are many small distribution businesses, and surprisingly some large ones too, that don’t even have this for cask. It’s entirely the norm for all keg and smallpack beer to be kept at ambient temperatures.

I learnt this after I started my own distribution business. I started out by talking to brewers and asked them how I should do things. Every single one of them said I needed to get coldstorage for stock. So back in April 2014 that’s what I did – and that’s where Jolly Good Beer started. It wasn’t until months later I began to discover that what I was doing was unusual.

This put me on a path of promoting this missing link in British beer quality and ultimately to trying to achieve real coldchain for beer. The choice was to promote doing it right, or stop doing it right – because unfortunately the higher cost overheads make it a competitive disadvantage if the difference is not understood.

Coldstorage is not coldchain however – it’s just a link needed to create the chain. To achieve a chain we all need to move to refrigeration on the road as well as at brewery, warehouse, and retail.

A serious issue

There’s a combination of lack of knowledge and inertia. A lot of the problem at the retail and distribution level is simply a case of not knowing any better. Historically UK keg and smallpack beer has been predominantly the domain of stabilised products with simple flavour profiles — pasteurised and sterile filtered lagers for example. Even these beers are not immune to the depredations of time and heat, but a lot of work has been put into extending their shelf-life. I don’t think I need to convince brewers on the technical issues of beer stability – but if you’re unsure then look up the work of Dr Charles Bamforth, for example in his books “Freshness” or “Beer: A Quality Perspective.” These should both be mandatory reading.

It’s not the brewers who need convincing – it’s everyone else. A common sort of challenge I hear is “everyone else is doing it this way, why should I do it any differently”. Which is a sort of defeatism really. “Why try any harder?”

If we all took that attitude, where would British beer be now? (See also: food and coffee.)

The fundamental problem is that doing beer better costs more money. At retail the start-up costs and running overheads of a warm shelf are a lot less than a fridge. In distribution a large shed costs a lot less than a large coldstore. And if you’re already operating with beer at ambient, it is a big jump to upgrade to full coldstorage. Significant inertia exists within the established retail & distribution sectors — which is why most of the fully chilled operations in the UK are new businesses.

I know many great breweries who really care for the beer they produce and have full cold-storage at the brewery… when traveling around the country I am often saddened to see their beers sat on a shelf in an 18C room – heated in winter, not cooled in summer. Kegs under a counter or in an ambient back room, often actively being heated by a nearby integral flash cooled. It’s a sorry state of affairs. (There are also very good business reasons to do keg dispense better in terms of yield as well as quality.)

Where does the responsibility lie

Everyone in the chain has a part to play – everyone needs to really care about getting the product to the consumer as good as it can be. This includes the consumer! In his book “Freshness” Charles Bamforth states “Ultimately, substantial responsibility lies with consumers if they are to enjoy a beer with the characteristics that you expect them to appreciate”. The phrase “vote with your wallet” comes to mind – although how do you do that without retailers to buy from who take beer quality seriously? I firmly believe this is a natural result of caring for beer better and businesses that take quality seriously will benefit. So what can we do to even give consumers access to the better option?

One approach is to encourage better practices and push that message whenever possible — this very article for example. The use of good marketing, with the right amount of education. BrewDog have done the UK a fantastic service by educating many bar staff to Certified Ciderone® level – arming them with a degree of beer quality knowledge practically non-existent at retail level before.

Interestingly this meant enough knowledge to realise that BrewDog’s own bars and processes were not equipped to US quality and coldchain standards. It’s a powerful indirect endorsement of everything UK coldchain advocates been doing, that BrewDog is now rolling out chilled central warehousing and properly chilled direct-draw dispense in bars. Ultimately we’re all taking lessons from the top standards of the American craft beer industry.

When you own the whole process from brewery to bar you can properly solve these problems. What about all the independent operators?

That’s where the brewers come in and ultimately the responsibility for their product rests on the shoulders of the brewers. It’s massively in their best interests to encourage better standards to ensure their beer reaches the consumer at its best. The better a beer is the more consumers will come back to it – and to your brand. Ultimately this is a matter of brand protection for the long term. It can only take one bad beer to drive a customer away from your brand forever – how tragic it is when fantastic beer is brought low by bad keeping.

So what now?

Right now there’s very little chance you can have your beer distributed via a coldchain. Typically beer is moved around the country by ambient pallet networks and vans. Breweries need to encourage better practices – and give recognition to businesses that take this duty of care more seriously. They also need to bite the bullet and plan for investing in refrigerated vehicles and shipping. Take the case of Gravesend-based Iron Pier brewery – unwilling to compromise, they acquired a refrigerated van.

For us refrigerated delivery was something we knew we wanted to do from day one, and it will become more important as we grow and as our delivery area, and therefore transit time, grows. We try and control every process we can in the brewery to ensure consistency batch to batch, so I just see controlled temperature in storage and delivery as an extension of that. It’s effectively a chain of custody, we’ve treated this beer as well as we can, and we would like to expect the same from the publican.

“In the keg market we see a lot of places with kegs at room temperature, often under the bar, and just running through a flash cooler of some kind. That beer is going to age so much quicker than even a beer kept in a regular 10c cellar, let alone if it was kept at 4c like some of the direct draw systems. Any instability in package is going to show up much more quickly for these people than someone with a cold cellar. Refrigerated delivery for us is about taking the best care of our beer, but also setting an example to our customers of how they should be looking after beer,explains  James Hayward from Iron Pier Brewery

I think this is key all the way down the chain. If you’re delivering beer “warm” to distributors, then why should they see any reason to do better after that point? If you’re delivering beer warm to retailers – same again. At Jolly Good Beer we have convinced several trade customers to improve simply by the fact the beer we deliver arrives cold and it feels somehow wrong to then let it warm up. But ultimately a larger industry change needs to come top-down from breweries.

That doesn’t mean the rest of us should sit back and wait for them mind – at Jolly Good Beer we’ve started working from the middle to implement coldchain where possible, having deployed our first refrigerated HGV this March. Coldchain is an achievable goal.

One of the most shocking things to me is that in five years of trading I have only ever had a single brewery request a site inspection, albeit many others have visited on my own invitation. I would welcome more inspections with open arms. If I was a brewer I’d be much more interested in how my beer is being cared for down the supply chain than seems to be the norm.

There is probably call for a brewery-backed scheme to verify supply chain standards. A more modern-beer targeted version of Cask Marque? There’s nothing like getting a check-mark of approval to motivate people to up their game.

A changing landscape 

It’s pretty much coming hand-in-hand with industry adoptions of other aspects of American “craft beer” practices. The popular new beer styles are so sensitive to time and temperature that awareness of the need for better practices is growing – and I’m talking session IPAs and West Coast IPAs, not just NEIPAs. It’s all starting off in ones and twos. One of the first fully chilled retailers to be fully coldstored was The Stoneworks bar in Peterborough – somewhat unsurprisingly one of the partners in this business is from the US. Steve Saldana looked around and wasn’t happy with what he saw so in opening the bar decided to do something about this.

“There was no other place doing it right.  It angered me that when asking people why beer was being served this way (bad dispense) they said it was the best way and there were no other options… I wanted to prove them wrong,” says Saldana.

The bar is going strong, now well into its third year of trading, and I use it as a prime example of good practice. This year, via Jolly Good Beer, they will start receiving beers from key brewers via a full coldchain on a regular basis – I believe this may be a UK first.

I have started building a map of UK “coldchain-ready” retailers. I tried this two years ago and decided a map with just 3 pins on it wasn’t much use to anyone. Today, not including brewery taps, I am up to 9 – which is certainly an improvement but it’s a miniscule proportion of the total number of beer retailers in the UK.

The most positive thing right now is simply that people are actually talking about coldstorage and coldchain more. It is becoming “a thing”, per se. Our fellow wholesalers The Bottle Shop also moved to full coldstorage at their warehouse in 201X(?), and last year BrewDog announced they were moving their central distribution warehouse over to full coldstorage. Through the work of businesses like The Bottle Shop, importers Cask International, and ourselves we’re seeing more importance put on imports being fully coldchained to UK coldstorage facilities.

It is a bit of a joke that we don’t show British beer that same level of respect. It’s even reassuring, albeit disconcerting, that people have been caught out lying about having coldstorage and coldchain … it means the right questions are being asked, and those without the correct answer are feeling compelled to lie.

We have discussions in place to help four venues this year launch coldchain-ready, and a long-term goal of connecting up coldstore dots to form a chain to all these sites. My hope is we can encourage more people at all levels to move in the right direction, for the sake of awesome beer.

The future is brightly flavoured: the future is chilled.

Leading a Lager revolution in London | Bohem Brewery

In an age of countless one-offs and seasonal beers, the team at London’s Bohem Brewery have nailed their colours to the mast of perfecting a core range in the challenging lager market. And by offering an authentic taste of the Czech Republic, they’re winning over drinkers left, right and centre.

A lot can happen in seven months.

On a blistering afternoon at the end of June last year, the team at Bohem Brewery were in the company of 40 or so other outfits pouring their beer at the London Brewers’ Alliance festival. An event held in the venerable surroundings of the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, West London.

The festival, spearheaded by Fuller’s ambassador and former head brewer John Keeling, its then head brewer Georgina Young, and members of the London Brewers Alliance, was a resounding success.

The sun was shining, excellent beer was pouring, and everyone was having a jolly good time. 

But things change

The impending completion of Fuller’s sale to Japanese brewing giant Asahi surely puts this year’s event in doubt. 

The aforementioned Young, in the role of head brewer at Fuller’s since 2017, has departed to pastures both new and old. Returning to the area she grew up to take up the position of head brewer at Bath Ales, a business acquired by St Austell back in 2016. 

Heading up Bath Ales’ Hare Brewery, she reports to Roger Ryman, the group’s brewing director and a figure understandably delighted to be working with a brewer he respects on both a human and professional level.

Weeks before said appointment was announced however, Ryman was busy swapping the South West coast for a sojourn to England’s capital for a brewday with the team at Bohem. 

There’s perhaps some circle of life irony to unravel there, or maybe not. But what is certain is the lager brewed on that day is likely to be very good, very good indeed.

Ryman teamed up with Petr Skocek, Bohem’s co-founder and head brewer as well as Bohem brewer Matej Krizek (below) to produce Otakar Brut Lager.

St Austell’s brewing director transported the yeast used to brew the Cornwall brewery’s Korev lager to London. The recipe, originally developed for a one-off beer called Korev Brut, was given a new twist by being brewed by Ryman and Skocek on Bohem’s decoction brewing kit.

The result is a 6.4% ABV beer named for the several King Otakars who ruled Bohemia, which today sits within the Czech Republic.

Lagered at a low temperature for six weeks, Otakar Brut Lager was brewed with Pilsner, Cara Gold, Acid Malt and maize, along with Magnum, Hersbrucker and Saaz hops, as well as Nelson Sauvin in the dry hop.

Described as having a fresh, vibrant aroma, and initial light citrus tones of lemon and grapefruit, Otakar has low hop bitterness, which combined with the soft carbonation delivers an easy drinking beer that belies its strength. It was also the first time Ryman had made a decoction mash.

Such collaborations, and there’s more to come, are effective indicators of how far the brewery, completed by co-founder Zdenek Kudr and chief tapster Marek Průša, have come since the early brews of Victoria, their 4.2% Session Pils, back in May 2015.

Kudr (above) previously drove trucks across Europe before moving to London in 2010, where he started his own lettings business for Czechs and Slovaks arriving in the capital.

Skocek (below), originally from Pilsen, had made London his home five years prior to Kudr’s arrival. While, he admits, the USA was his planned destination, the opportunity of work proved too much and here we are, 14 years on. 

But there was one part of London life Skocek couldn’t get on board with and that was the lofty price of a pint in the capital. So naturally, he turned to home brewing.

“I knew Petr from games of football we played in Finsbury Park. He’d often bring bottles of beer for people to try, which was very welcome,” explains Kudr. 

Kudr would soon find himself in need of beer, a lot of it. He’d be hosting a party and as was customary at such gatherings, he needed a keg to keep the thirsty guests watered.  Conveniently for Kudr, Skocek had recently brewed a Belgian-style beer with orange peel for the Christmas that has just passed. However the 8% number ended up not being ready in time for the celebrations.

“I bought it off him for £120 and the whole keg, all 50 litres of it, went in about three hours that night. The Czechs, the Slovaks drank every last drop!” he laughs. 

Returning the empty keg, Kudr would regale the beer’s virtues to Skocek, encouraging him to take his beer-making prowess to the next level. But for the brewer, he wasn’t sure where to turn in order to move from a labour of love that enveloped every Saturday, to something more viable.

“The paperwork, premises, resources, finances, the lot,” recalls Kudr. “It was clear he had given it some thought before, but these were all hurdles in the way. “However, we worked things out. I felt I could help, and we shook hands there and then. Bohem Brewery would be established in 2015.”

A modest premises in North London, towards the outer reaches of the capital’s Piccadilly Line, was secured and with it, an equally unassuming one barrel kit and 200 litre kettle. 

Beer produced on that kit include Victoria, a 4.2% Session Pils with a sweet butterscotch and floral aroma. The flavour has a little grapefruit and a touch of sweetness, as well as notes of fresh baked bread, and a building bitterness on the dry, subtly spicy finish.

Amos, its 4.9% Czech Pilsner has subtle lemon and honey in the flavour, balanced by a dry bitterness and a spicy burst that lingers in the aftertaste, while Amber Lager Sparta has bitterness and hop spice complementing the honey and Dundee orange marmalade notes. The aftertaste has orange peel, toffee and a building dry spiciness. 

Though amber beers have fallen out of fashion in the UK market, Sparta had the opposite effect for Bohem. The beer resonated so much with one local drinker, known for his love of variety, that he stuck on the lager for a whole evening during a session at nearby pub, The Prince N22. Not only that, he and another friend sought out the brewery to offer investment.

Such an approach was well-timed, enabling the team to move to a significantly larger facility in Tottenham in early 2018. Beers made here, much like those produced at the existing site, help serve a range of customers including the company’s taproom near Bounds Green, North London.

Its Tottenham brewery comprises 215 square metres, with a brewing capacity of 6000hl a year and, currently, a lagering capacity of 2400hl a year. Bohem produces its beers through decoction brewing, the traditional European brewing style which sees part of the mash boiled, and returned to the main mash to raise the temperature. The process adds the depth, complexity and flavour which characterises authentic Czech lagers. 

2018’s expansion at Bohem not only enabled the brewery to grow but also its team, too. Matěj Křížek, awash with experience from Břevnov Monastery Brewery, one of the oldest micro‘s in the Czech Republic, joined Bohem that March.

At High School, he gained his Maturita certificate, similar to A-Levels, in Food Technology, specializing in brewing beer. Upon joining Břevnov, Matěj brewed many different styles but found he was particularly excited by lagers, and so wanted to specialize in that area.

“I was looking for something that I could do for the rest of my life. I went to a small event where lots of different schools would attend and I saw some demonstration of fermentation,” he recalls. “And there and then my father told me that’s what I was going to do. Why? Because people are going to drink beer for the rest of time. They’re never going to stop, so I’d always have a job!”

Moving to London to be with his girlfriend studying in the captial, Křížek emailed many of London’s breweries but with no luck.

“I had zero responses but thankfully got wind of two Czechs running a brewery in London. I got in touch, they replied within minutes and two weeks later I was here,” he laughs. 

Křížek says the most automated kit he encountered at the Břevnov Monastery Brewery was the keg washer, so to be part of a growing, evolving outfit at Bohem offers up a whole new, exciting experience. But he’s in no rush to push things too fast, either. 

“We are just doing our best and we don’t want to rush things so we opt for quality over quantity,” he says. “As a result, we’re maybe not as visible as we’d like but we have to do what’s right for us.”

Křížek adds: We want to perfect our core range of beers because that’s what our reputation relies on. They are always improving because you have to be honest, there is no such thing as a perfect beer. You can always improve somehow, no matter how minor the detail.” 

Skocek, Kdur and Křížek are passionate about making the best beer they can, trying to reverse the reputation lager has long held in many circles. 

“All lager, regardless of quality, is too easily associated with the cheap and fizzy liquid produced by major brewers and dismissed by CAMRA. The media still uses the term ‘lager louts’ to describe any alcohol-related disorder,” explains Kdur. “However, in the Czech Republic, lager is rightly celebrated for quality. We believe that the same quality standards should be applied in the UK, and is making its quality pledge through the Bohem Lager Manifesto.”

He says: “It is not helpful for consumers that the term ‘lager’ is applied to such a wide range of products of differing quality. In the absence of EU appellation regulation being applied to the traditional lagering method for beer, as it is to Champagne and other food and drink, we are making the quality pledge for our own products and production.”

And in accordance with their own personal manifesto, Kdur says the brewery can guarantee the following: There are no additives, including no added sugar, there is no forced carbonation, its brewing equipment is a bespoke design for brewing lager, manufactured in the Czech Republic, its lager is unfiltered and unpasteurised, only specialist malts designed for brewing lager are used, its lager is always bottom-fermented using specialist lager yeast, no high-gravity concentrate is used, beer is lagered in a precise temperature-controlled fermenter and finally, all its beers are lagered for a minimum of five weeks.

This passion also extends to the way their beer is served. Marek Průša (above), the brewery’s chief tapster, is a Certified Pilsner Urquell Tapster and has more than 20 years experience in the Czech Republic, and latterly at Galvin Hop in Spitalfields. He is responsible for the expertly-poured beers found at the brewery’s North London taproom.

For Zdur, the taproom is an essential part of the Bohem jigsaw and something he’d like to see grow, too.

“Successful breweries tend to have their own retail source, which helps make a significant contribution to cash flow. It is so important,” he explains. “I’d like us to open more bars, giving us the opportunity to showcase our beers while offering guest taps to the many other breweries across London. We promote their beers, they promote ours, and everyone wins.” 

Zdur is particularly keen to push this aspect of the business in what he sees as an increasingly competitive market and one in which Bohem needs to stand its ground in. 

“Too many people are competing on price, and that’s not something we wanted to be involved in. Instead we remain focused on quality and creating a premium product,” he says. “Sure, you would never call it a premium product because that term is meaningless today. If something says it’s ‘Premium’ on the package it normally means the complete opposite.”

He adds: “We are not focused on producing many one-off beers. That works for some, but not us. I’m more concerned with cementing what we do and giving people confidence in what they buy from us.

“I think that the craft beer revolution in the UK is almost dead. It’s not going to move anywhere else because realistically, everything has already been done. So now is the time for a really good quality, consistent, core range of beers.

“There are many breweries in the UK but within the next 10 years I see 30% of those going bust because they’ve not prioritised correctly. People want reliability and they want consistency, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Ale Hunters Brewery Tours to explore the best of Belgium

A new brewery tour business, Ale Hunters, has been set up with the goal of showing guests the best of beer in Belgium.

Ale Hunters, founded by Beer sommelier Paul Davies, will take guests from London to the best breweries and beer festivals in Belgium.

Designed for between 8-10 guests, upcoming trips include the ‘Toer de Geuze’ in May which takes place every two years.

For wild beer fans, this trip will also include visits to Flemish Red and Oud Bruin producers. Future tours include the ‘Antwerp and Beer Passion Weekend’ in June and ‘Wallonia and Namur Capital de la Biere’ in July. 

Paul Davies, explained: ‘When I left Fuller’s last last year I had just returned from yet another trip to Belgium and managed to pack in six brewery visits.

“After visiting the country so frequently for almost 30 years I decided it would be a good time to share my knowledge and love for Belgium with fans of quality beer.”

Tate Modern to host Anzac Day Tap Takeover

The Tate Modern is to mark Anzac Day with its first tap takeover event to feature Australian and New Zealand breweries.

Beers from 8 Wired, Funk Estate, Yeastie Boys, Stone & Wood, Nomad and Young Henrys will be pouring as well as a range of meals and snacks inspired by both Australia and New Zealand. 

The full beer list is as follows:

  • 8 Wired: Ghost Chips IPA
  • Funk Estate: Afrogato Stout 
  • Yeastie Boys: The Droste Effect West Coast IPA
  • Stone & Wood: Killer Kween Imperial Berlinner Weisse
  • Nomad: Beach House Sour Pale Ale 5%
  • Young Henrys: Newtowner Australian Pale Ale 4.8%

In addition, future Tate Modern Tap Takeovers include Beavertown in May and Siren Craft Brew in June.

Northern Monk launches Henderson’s Relish collab

Northern Monk has collaborated with Sheffield sauce institution Henderson’s Relish to produce ‘Bloody Mary Porter’.

Leeds-based Northern Monk has today launched ‘Bloody Mary Porter’, a beer many thought was an April’s Fool’s prank when it was unveiled at the start of the month.

The Henderson’s Relish Bloody Mary Porter is a 5.0% rich, lightly smoked porter inspired by the savoury cocktail, infused with subtle spice and finished with relish.

The beer is brewed with Henderson’s Relish, cayenne pepper, ancho chilli and Szechuan pepper. 

Russell Bisset, founder of Northern Monk, explained: “Henderson’s Relish is without a doubt one of Yorkshire’s most-loved brands. It’s a true Northern institution.

“The way this product has united the Sheffield community is an inspiration. Like us, they came from humble beginnings, but through hard work, a consistent product, and clear focus on their local area, they’ve built a legacy. Here’s to the next 100 years of Hendo’s.”

Brewers Lectures come to Nottingham this June

The Brewers Lectures come to Nottingham for the first time this June as part of the 2019 Nottingham Craft Beer Week.

Talks on brand building, filtration, malt, marketing and brewing great beer are all on the agenda for the inaugural Brewers Lectures in Nottingham this June.

The event takes place at The Canalhouse on the afternoon of June 12th, featuring leading lights from across the brewing industry.

Tickets are available on a donation basis here, along with full details of the day.

The full line-up of talented speakers is below. Join us on what will be a great afternoon!

Hannah Davidson | Brewery Consultant  

Hannah is a freelance brewery consultant with a background in sales, events and communications who has over 12 years experience in the beer industry. Hannah has previously worked with Marble Brewery, East London Brewing Company, Fuller’s brewery, and several award winning pubs.

Stu McKinlay | Yeastie Boys 

In the four short years since moving to the UK from New Zealand, Stu McKinlay has become a familiar and popular part of the UK brewing industry. Beers such as ‘Digital IPA’ and ‘Gunnamatta’ are mainstays while a burgeoning number of newer releases such as ‘Joy Juice’ and ‘White Palace’ have ensured the business is finding new fans across the board.

Jamie Ramshaw | Simpsons Malt

Jamie Ramshaw is the UK Technical Sales Manager at Simpsons Malt. Jamie has more than two decades worked closely with most of the UK brewing industry in his previous roles at Murphy and Sons and Wells & Youngs.

Roger Ryman | St Austell

Roger Ryman wrote his name into UK brewing history when he created St Austell ‘Tribute’ nearly 20 years ago. Much has changed since he first produced that ale in 1999 but with the subsequent, popular creation of numbers like ‘Proper Job’, ‘Bad Habit’, ‘Gem’ and ‘Black Square’, beers that have picked up awards across the globe, Ryman, brewing director at St Austell, has helped guarantee ongoing success for the historic Cornish brewery. His expertise in brewing is difficult to rival.

Alex Troncoso | Lost and Grounded Brewers

Alex Troncoso is the co-founder of Bristol’s Lost and Grounded Brewers. Known for their standout flagship Keller Pils, this unfiltered lager epitomises which they are about: understated simplicity and creating something delicious and complex. Troncoso’s brewing journey is more than 20 years in the making. His CV includes roles at Little Creatures in Fremantle, Australia, Camden Town Brewery and most importantly, his own brewery co-founded with partner Annie Clements.  Alex has a BSc in Chem Eng, Grad Cert and Diploma’s in Brewing, and an MBA.

Meghan Waites | Beavertown Brewery

Meghan Waites is the events coordinator extraordinaire at London’s Beavertown Brewery. Before moving to London, Meghan spent four years at Thornbridge Brewery organising and executing events, travelling across the UK creating specialist events with a range of diverse venues from independent bottle shops to large scale pub chains.

Rod White | University of Nottingham

Rod White is the assistant professor at the International Centre for Brewing Science at the University of Nottingham, UK. A Master Brewer and Brewing Academic, he now runs the Global Filtration User Group at the International Centre for Brewing Science at Nottingham University. Rod was formerly a senior technical brewer with Bass / Molson Coors with experience in troubleshooting problems all over the world.

Dear John | A day in the life, or more like a few months

Retirement offers up a change of pace away from the full-time commitments of a head brewer. There are, of course, pros and cons to such a move. For John Keeling, it has been a case of making new priorities and catching up on lost time.

When I retired, I wondered what it would be like. Not to have to get up and go to work but to be able to do what you want and when you want to do it. I wondered what I would miss the most, because I already knew what I was glad to be rid of. That list included any form of management training, doing appraisals and being appraised. Lord protect us all from management gurus and the latest thinking on how to manage people efficiently. 

I quickly realised it was the people that I missed most and that daily interaction. I decided to counter this by going out for a pub lunch as often as possible and anyone who follows me on Twitter must know that already.

For the first few months I threw myself into the work I had left over from being employed at Fuller’s. This involved travelling to Milan, Prague and Barcelona in quick succession. I was discussing all things beer with many people but always with my Fuller’s hat on. Indeed, it still felt that I was still at work.

Gradually I started to think about things in a different way not just about how a Fuller’s head brewer should think about things. I then truly began to think of myself as ex-Fuller’s. It did help that I had chatted to Roger Protz and Pete Brown about the future of cask beer. Indeed, I did an article in this very magazine. 

I then went to see a group of people in Leeds organised by my good friend Ian Garrett. I found myself thinking more and more about this and wrote a discussion article for CAMRA and was asked by another friend Peter Alexander, aka Tandleman, to sit on the panel at the Manchester Beer Festival to discuss the future of cask beer. 

I have been thinking about the question of fairness in duty. People have argued that to treat cask beer differently to other beers is wrong and unfair to those beers. I would argue that duty is not applied fairly now and no matter how the government view duty, fairness is not high on the agenda.

Take the basic fact about duty that it increases as the alcohol content increases. Why should a strong beer pay more duty? It already has higher costs because it uses more malt. Cider is not taxed this way. It is banded. In fact, you can date this back several centuries when the government wanted grain to be grown for bread not beer.

Cask beer is already taxed differently because of sediment allowance so why can’t we take advantage of this?  In fact, why can’t we argue that bottle conditioned beers should have a sediment allowance too.

Small Brewers duty relief is not exactly a fair tax. Not that I think it should change. In fact, it is a good model for the argument for cask beer duty relief.

Many people have asked me what the biggest influence on my career has been. I always answer Her Majesty’s Government. The way they have changed duty rates, the way they calculate duty and decide how many pubs a brewery can own. This always have had greater affect of my career than anything else.

Gradually the old Fuller’s commitments died away and left me some free time. I was still in contact with many of my old Fuller’s friends but now it was different, I no longer had the “up-to-date “information, so I began to have different and more impartial views on Fuller’s and beer-related topics. 

I also realised that I could do things in beer that was impossible when I was at the brewery. They were impossible because I simply did not have the time.  For example, I started writing this in Sao Paulo and I am finishing it in Blumeneau the sight of the Brazilian Beer competition.

I have been a judge here tasting 45 beers per day. Judging is always fun, and I never had the time whilst at Fuller’s to accept these invites. Also here are two other Englishmen here, Bill Simmons who I worked with for many years at Fuller’s and Mark Dorber, who many will know and most certainly will remember him from his days at the White Horse in Parsons Green, London.

One of the great things about judging is of course meeting new friends and visiting new places. It is always gratifying for people to express their admiration of Fuller’s beer and to that end our importer, Boxer, have been very good at spreading the message in Brazil.

One of the things I can’t do anymore is offer to give my new friends a tour of Fuller’s when they visit London, so I hope the team doesn’t mind being overrun by Brazilian brewers in the not too distant future. 

Here is hoping that I get many more invites to future beer festivals and that Tim, your esteemed editor will foot the bill. At this moment as Tim reads this copy, he is having a heart attack.

Goodbye from Brazil…

Opinion | Is the filter really to blame?

Filter blockages can be frustrating, time-consuming and have a detrimental impact on beer production. Dr Carolyn Heslop, technical support team leader at Parker Bioscience Filtration, puts a blockage issue under the microscope. 

If you are employing sterile filtration technology, do you find your beer line filters block regularly? Are you spending valuable time and money replacing filters, only to see them block again and stall your beer production process?

It may not be the fault of the filters you are using. The problem can often lie elsewhere.

And in one case recently addressed by Parker Bioscience Filtration’s Technical Support Group (TSG) the problem had its origins millions of years ago…

We were working with a European brewery which was using technology supplied by Parker Bioscience Filtration to perform sterile filtration of its beer products. 

The brewery was using 126 30-inch Parker Bioscience Filtration Bevpor BR filters to remove yeast and other spoilage organisms to ensure microbial stability of its products – and was also employing our Prepor NG filters upstream for pre-stabilization. These provide fully validated yeast removal and bacterial reduction for the brewery.

The filters had been successfully trialled and had been operating without any issues for a considerable period of time. However, the brewery then alerted us to the fact that the BEVPOR BR filters were starting to block much earlier than they would have normally expected.

We removed the affected Bevpor BR filters from the brewery and performed an in-depth blockage analysis. This process included dissecting the filters to examine the filter membrane and media in more detail. 

By using a scanning electron microscope, we could see that there was a high level of diatomaceous earth present on the membrane. Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms (algae found in oceans, waterways and soils), the hard shells of which are rich in silica. 

It was the high level of this substance which was causing the filters to block.

We discovered that due to increased demand for its beer products during the summer, the brewery had switched the line over to a beer line which was not being filtered by the Prepor NG products and instead was being passed straight through the Bevpor BR filters. This beer contained a high level of diatomaceous earth – but the process was not being protected from this substance by the Prepor NG filters.  

What is the lesson here?

Breweries need to be aware that process changes can have an impact on the effectiveness and lifespan of the filters that they are using – with the subsequent impact being increased downtime (while filters are removed and replaced) and increased operational costs. 

If you are planning to change your process fluid, before commencing sterile filtration of a beer product, you should consider the consequences of this for its current filtration system and the level of protection that should be provided by upstream filtration systems.

It could help you avoid a great deal of frustration in the long run…

Dr Carolyn Heslop is a BSc Hons qualified Chemist with a PhD in Analytical Chemistry. She has more than 18 years’ experience working in the food & beverage industry in technical and scientific roles. 

Opinion | Don’t rush your brand identity

Great brand design is subjective and means different things to different people. But the marketing landscape is challenging and when your identity is right, it will be a much more enjoyable place to navigate, explains Lisa Desforges, Strategy Director, B&B studio.

Consumer desire within the thriving beer market continues to be strong, especially for craft and small batch breweries. And whilst there is a wealth of opportunities for both new and existing brands in the face of growing demand, this heightened competition means that brands are having to work harder than ever to stand out.

As new brand creation specialists, every craft brewer we meet is ‘passionate about beer’ and ‘dedicated to their craft’. But when your consumer is faced with a well-stacked bar or supermarket aisle full of options, how can you make sure this passion and commitment cuts through the noise?

Be clear about your brand purpose

In today’s fragmented, two-way marketing landscape, brand identity has never been so important. It is the way a brand communicates, both visually and verbally, and needs to have the power to sustain lifelong growth and ambitions. 

As a category, beer has become so saturated that many of the traditional design codes and conventions have now disappeared. And this presents challenges as well as opportunities.

Modern brands must work harder than ever to gain the trust of marketing-savvy audiences who are quick to dismiss irrelevant or inauthentic brands, or simply those they find irritating. 

For a brand to make an impact, its story and mission need to be clearly defined. What is your brand’s reason for being – why does it matter? Does it solve a challenge or offer something entirely unique? Is there a social or ethical mission? Or do you simply create a delicious, refreshing and authentic craft beer?

Only once this purpose is defined can you begin to build the core brand identity. It is the foundation upon which the complete brand world will be designed. 

For example, with alcohol-free beer brand Infinite Session we created the brand’s philosophy – that beer is bigger than booze – along with a name that focuses on the social experience, with or without alcohol. This unapologetic attitude is combined with bold, confident branding for a refreshing take on the standard category codes. 

Engage in two-way conversation

Over the past few years there has been a dramatic shift in the power balance between brands and consumers. People are no longer passive recipients of a brand’s product and message. They are active collaborators and seek out brands that both understand them and listen to them.

Many brands are embracing this with gusto. Some rely on consumer feedback to shape their products and services. For others, crowdfunding enables consumers to become stakeholders themselves. BrewDog is, of course, a great example of this model, with its Equity for Punks programme having generated in excess of £50 million funding to date.

This two-way conversation means that brands now need to connect with their consumers on a higher emotional level. As public mistrust in traditional institutions continues to rise, services such as entertainment and social responsibility are falling within the domain of brands. 

This presents a fantastic opportunity as consumers increasingly align themselves with brands that they feel reflect their own values. 

Gone are the days of looking at your consumers as a demographic. Seek to understand the emotional drivers that unite your consumer groups so that you can craft an engaging, relevant brand identity that connects on a higher level. This is the basis of a long-standing consumer-brand relationship. 

Your brand identity should empower you to be free 

In such a competitive category, start-up brands are having to think about their long-term goals from day one. Are you happy sitting behind the bar at your consumers’ local pub or is national – or international – expansion on the cards? By setting strong foundations for your visual and verbal identity, you will keep the door open to greater levels of growth in time. 

Brands are living, breathing entities. Your visual identity needs to have the power to flex depending on who you are talking to and when. Although grounded in an overarching positioning, you will likely need the ability to be spontaneous and creative – especially when limited editions and collaborations come calling. 

This spontaneity will be empowered by the optimum brand positioning and identity. A strong visual identity will set you free to showcase the individuality of new brews, collaborations and different elements of your personality. Just make sure that everything points back to that core brand purpose.

Authenticity isn’t an aesthetic

Walk down your local supermarket aisle and you’ll see a mass of duplicate products from unremarkable brands. But there is a role for the right sort of brand. One that has a true purpose and reason for being. Brands that matter. And there’s a real appetite from consumers for authentic brands – those they can trust.  

The thing to remember is that great brand design is subjective and means different things to different people. But the marketing landscape is challenging and when your identity is right, it will be a much more enjoyable place to navigate.

Hop City returns to Northern Monk next month

More than 30 breweries from across the globe will be pouring a wealth of best-in-class beers at the third Hop City festival in April.

The event, which takes place from 18-20 April, features 33 breweries and will be held at Northern Monk’s Old Flax Store.

Representing the UK and Ireland is Cloudwater, Deya, Verdant, Track, Burning Sky, North Brew Co, Magic Rock, Wylam, Whiplash, Left Handed Giant, Burnt Mill, Donzoko, Glasshouse, Zapato, Brewdog, Boundary, Timothy Taylor’s and Gipsy Hill.

US breweries pouring are Equilibrium, Hudson Valley, Other Half, Bissell Brothers, Finback and Narrow Gauge.

Representing the EU is Mikkeller, Fuerst Wiacek, Popihn, Soma, Stigbergets, White Frontier, Garage Beer Co and Zagavor.

Russell Bisset, founder of Northern Monk, explained: “We really feel like we’ve pulled out all the stops for the third Hop City festival.

“This year will see more beer poured than ever before, there’s over 30 breweries attending – alongside some of Europe’s finest we’ll be pouring some of the most sought-after beer from the US, including a number of exclusive UK first pours.

“To complement that we’ve raised the bar on music and food, which will include fresh Maine lobster! Finally, having the opportunity to meet some of our Northern Monk Patrons is going to add a whole new dynamic to the experience. We’re all really excited about hosting our best festival yet.”