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

Playing tunes with malt | Carl Heron

British maltsters provide an incredible palette of colours, flavours and aromas for craft brewers all over the world. The craft beer scene has never been so diverse, and brewers are experimenting with new or underutilised ingredients to make interesting tasty beers that will delight drinkers. Malt is at the forefront of this experimentation, argues Carl Heron, craft brewing sales manager at Crisp Malting Group.

Malting is nothing new – the process has been around for thousands of years, with historical documents showing malted grains used to make beer in ancient Egypt and China. That said, maltsters are still, millennia later, creating new and exciting malts, which in turn make for unique and interesting beers.

The process begins with steeping. Barley grains are soaked in water to increase the moisture content from around 12% to around 46%, taking two days. 

The barley is then moved to a germination floor or vessel. Here the conditions are optimised for growth – with both air temperature and humidity under careful control to maximise enzymic activity. If left too long, the precious extractable sugars will be lost to the roots and shoots of the grain, so timing is imperative.

The grains are then transferred to the kiln, where they are suspended above streams of warm air to drive off the moisture and dry the malted barley until it is stable. The drying process determines the malt’s potential to produce sugars in the brewhouse. It also controls the colour and flavour of the finished malt.

Pale Malt

The majority of the malt in beers is pale malt. This has a sweet, slightly biscuity smell – think of Horlicks and you’re there! These can be made from different varieties of barley, with each variety having its own subtle distinctions. Historic varieties tend to be the most flavoursome. Maris Otter is a prime example of this – unique tasting, and turning 52 years old this year – most barley varieties last just five.

Vienna & Munich Malt

If the malt is left on the kiln a little longer, deeper, more biscuity flavours can be developed. Used in golden lagers, pale ales, and milds, Vienna and Munich malts have relatively low colours but much richer flavour.

Other speciality malts are produced in one of two ways. Following germination, either the grains are stewed, or roasted fully-malted from the kiln.

Stewing Malt

Stewing creates cara and crystal malts, bringing sweet caramelised and toffee flavours in varying degrees. The process activates the enzymes that break down starches into sugar within the grains. These are then heated to cause the sugar to caramelise. 

Cara malts are light crystal malts – adding body and depth to beers. Lower colour crystals give lovely orange/red hues to beer and bring toffee sweetness. Medium crystals become more complex and can impart flavours and aromas of forest fruits, as well as a caramel like flavour. As they effectively balance out the bitterness of hops, no bitter should be without them!

The darkest crystal malts begin to approach the realms of roasted coffee and treacle toffee. They are fabulous for porters, bringing deep ruby hues of colour to these wonderful beers.

Roasted Malt

The second process involves the roasting of fully malted grains in a drum. Browning reactions create warm toasty flavours and aromas, which increase alongside colour with the roast.

Amber malt, the lowest coloured of this group of malts, has a warm, toast like aroma and flavour, working great in milds, best bitters, and light porters. 

Brown malt begins to taste more roasted and has a dryness on the palate. This malt brings burnt biscuit aromas and flavours, making it perfect for traditional bitters, and of course brown ales. 

Chocolate malt brings delicious dark bitter chocolate aspects to milds, porters and stouts.

Black malt is like a strong cup of black coffee, bringing a dryness and astringency along with deep roasted notes. When it comes to grains for brewing, the only thing stronger in flavour is roasted barley, used in the darkest stouts to bring burnt roast flavours and astringency.

Play more tunes with you malt

That’s a brief overview of barley malt, but that’s only scratching the surface of what’s possible. Brewers are now exploring other cereals varieties; wheat, rye and oats can all be malted, and each bring their own unique qualities. 

British maltsters provide an incredible palette of colours, flavours and aromas for craft brewers all over the world. The craft beer scene has never been so diverse, and brewers are experimenting with new or underutilised ingredients to make interesting tasty beers that will delight drinkers. Malt is at the forefront of this experimentation.

Science | Detecting toxic chemicals in your beer

The vast majority of beers around the world are made from three natural ingredients – water, malted barley, and hops. Together with yeast these ingredients are used in a centuries-old brewing process, to create high-quality beer.

Although wheat, rye, oats, millet, sorghum, rice and corn have all been used for brewing, barley is the preferred grain for beer. Malted barley gives beer its colour, malty sweet flavour, dextrins to give the beer body, protein to form a good head, and perhaps most importantly, the natural sugars needed for fermentation. The provisional barley production figure for the UK alone increased by 10.6% to 7.4 million tonnes in 2017 (1). 

Once the barley has been sourced, it is then taken to the malting lines to be processed to malt. Malted barley is the source of the sugars (principally maltose) which are fermented into beer. The malting process allows the grain to partially germinate, making the seed’s resources available to the brewer. 

The malting process from barley to malt is completed in one week. Once tested and approved the malt is then exported breweries, where the malted barley can be fermented into beer. 

The need for testing

One challenge brewing laboratories are faced with is the risk of the production of NDMA during the malting process. NDMA is a potentially dangerous compound which is formed in malt when nitrogen oxide from pollution in the air reacts with certain amines in germinated barley when it is kilned. High levels of NDMA can pose a number of risks to human health including, liver damage. NDMA is, therefore, now part of the malt specification for many brewing labs, meaning it is compulsory to test malt for any remnant of the harmful chemical.

Malting operations fully meeting the requirements of this specification will be able to demonstrate to customers and other interested parties that best practice in malting operations have been followed and food safety and quality hazards are effectively controlled. 

The use of a Gas Chromatography (GC) in combination with the Thermal Energy Analyser (TEA) detector is commonly used for the determination of NDMA. 

Large breweries have long used GC for quality control and quality assurance, but it has not been financially viable for craft breweries, until recently due to easy-to-use and affordable equipment.

The malting process

Stage 1: The first step is steeping, where the barley is submerged in water for up to two hours in order to increase its moisture content. During this process the natural germination process of barley kernels will commence.

Stage 2: The steeped barley is then transferred to a germination room, where more moisture is added and ventilation takes place to allow the kernels to germinate properly. The germination process takes around five days and within this time the necessary enzymes are formed that the brewery will need to produce the beer. To prevent production loss the process must be stopped, and the third phase commences.

Stage 3: This final step is called the kilning phase. A kiln, described as a big drying oven, dries the germinated barley from a moisture content of around 45% to a moisture content of about 4.5%. At this rate a microbiologically stable product is formed with characteristics of pale malt that is advantageous for use. 

The testing process

Samples are taken from production batches and are tested for the presence of NDMA. The malt sample, in figure 1, showed no observable response for NDMA or any other nitrosamines. The 200 Series Gas Chromatograph (Ellutia) with an EL-WAX column was utilised alongside the 800 series TEA (Ellutia). GC conditions are included in Table 1.

Samples were extracted in duplicate. Each replicate had 50 grams of malt ground up and had 100 ml deionised water added. 

The extract was filtered through a Whatman Grade 1 filter paper and 1 ml of 10 ppm NDPA (n-nitroso di propylamine) internal standard was added to one extract (this generates a 100 ppb NDPA spiked sample). The samples were then made up to 100 ml with deionized water volumetrically.

To a vial, 10 ml of extract, 3 grams of sodium chloride and 10 ml of dichloromethane (DCM) was added and shaken for 5 minutes. Then the layers were left to separate for 15 minutes. The lower layer containing DCM was pipetted out into a clean vessel. 10 ml of DCM was added to the extract and the liquid/liquid extraction step was repeated. After this step, the DCM (final volume approx. 20 ml) was dried using 1 gram of sodium sulphate and then pre-concentrated to 1 ml under a nitrogen flow of approx.1 l min-1. A 1 μl injection of the concentrated DCM was directly analysed.

The identity of the internal standard was confirmed against the 8 component nitrosamine mix standard. This shows that the NDPA internal standard used has the same retention time as the NDPA contained within the standard (figure 1).

The peak areas for the spiked sample compared with the standard for NDPA showed good correlation, indicating a good recovery of the internal standard, and thusly, indicating very limited losses of any potential nitrosamines from within the sample during the preparation steps. The unspiked sample showed no peaks within the retention times of any of the nitrosamines in this standard mix.

TEA Technology

The TEA has been an industry standard for nitrosamine analysis since its introduction, thanks to its incredible sensitivity and almost infinite selectivity for nitrogen containing compounds. Within the brewing sector, complex mixes of compounds uniquely characterise each alcoholic beverage, creating the individual aromas and flavours consumers enjoy. 

Whilst the majority of added compounds enhance the desired aroma and flavour aspects of a beverage, trace components can contribute off-flavours and odours, such as nitrosamines within the kilning process. 

TEA detectors are used widely in the brewing industry, particularly since the craft brewing sector has been experiencing significant growth due to soaring consumer demand around the world.

Andrew James is Marketing Director at Ellutia. Andrew has worked at Ellutia for over 20 years, during this time he has been involved with many aspects of the business from product development to strategic planning.  

This wide range involvement has developed an extensive wealth of knowledge and experience in the chromatography industry.

References

Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, 2017. Farming Statistics – First estimates of 2017 UK wheat and barley production.

(Internet) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/649531/structure_jun17_wheatandbarleyUK_05oct17.pdf [Accessed 21/01/2019]

Firestone Walker to launch Mind Haze in UK market

FFirestone Walker is launching Mind Haze, its new hazy IPA, in the UK.

The beer, which launches in mid April, is the culmination of time spent tinkering with the style, retooling and refining the beer with several R&D batches.

Brewmaster Matt Brynildson said he and his team wanted to put their own stamp on the style and create a beer that would stand shoulder to shoulder with Firestone Walker’s other IPAs in terms of quality and shelf stability.

For Brynildson, the hazy IPA style doesn’t just have roots in the East Coast of the US, but all the way back to southeastern Germany and the Bavarian Hefeweizens of lore.

“I recently spent some time at Gutmann brewery in Titting, and they have this amazing beer called Weizenbock,” he said. “It’s this beautiful 7.2 percent ABV hazy beer with a creamy mouth-feel and a tropical-banana aroma that fits right in with the hazy IPAs of today—and yet they’ve been making it for more than 50 years.”

He added: “We’re not relying on residual yeasts or starches for turbidity. The haziness and mouthfeel of Mind Haze are cultivated by more stable means, namely using 40 percent wheat and oats in the grain bill while nailing the timing and interplay of our hop additions.

“We are drawing from our past experience in making Hefeweizens, and then aiming to amplify the esters gained from a specially chosen yeast and an array of really fruity hops.”

The branding of Mind Haze is a nod to the marine mists that routinely envelop California’s Central Coast—and to the idea of a beer that messes with perceptions of what a hazy IPA can be.

He said: “We are not claiming to reinvent the style—we want Mind Haze to offer the best of what people expect from a hazy IPA. That said, we’re going about it in a little different way, and I think that’s what gives Mind Haze its own unique signature.”

Greene King appoints new head brewer

GGreene King has appointed Ross O’Hara as its new head brewer.

O’Hara becomes the 17th head brewer to take the role during the Suffolk-based brewery’s 220 years in business.

He joined Greene King as a shift brewer in 2016 with a first class honours degree in brewing from Heriot Watt University. He subsequently became new product development brewer, as well as overseeing the brewery’s apprenticeship scheme.

Last summer O’Hara, 28, became the world’s youngest Master Brewer, when he completed the four year course from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, alongside his role at Greene King.

Since joining Greene King, O’Hara has been responsible for the development of new brands including the award winning Heritage range, Yardbird Pale Ale, Gluten Free Old Speckled Hen, and the brewery’s seasonal beer range.   

He has also been instrumental in the development of the new industry wide brewing apprenticeship scheme which launched earlier this year.

Matt Starbuck, managing director of Greene King Brewing & Brands said: “Ross is a highly knowledgeable and capable brewer, passionate about brewing with an excep-tional technical ability and flair for innovation.  

“He is a great advocate for brewing as a career opportunity, encouraging the devel-opment of others and driving forward our brewing apprentice scheme. 

“We are delighted to make this appointment as we look ahead to an exciting next chapter for Greene King brewing.”

Georgina Young departs Fuller’s for St Austell

SSt Austell has appointed Georgina Young as the new head brewer for its Bath Ales operation.

Young leaves London-based Fuller’s, which she joined as a production brewer back in 1999, to take up the role at Bath Ales’ Hare Brewery.

As head brewer at Bath Ales, which was acquired by St Austell in 2016, Young will report to St Austell Brewery and Bath Ales brewing director, Roger Ryman.

Young started her brewing career at Smiles Brewery working alongside Richard Dempster, one of the founders of Bath Ales. 

She then went on to run the pilot brewery at the Brewing Research Institute before joining Fuller’  in 1999, where she served in roles across all aspects of production. She ascended to the role of Head Brewer in 2017.

Young also holds a Masters degree in Brewing & Distilling and is a Master Brewer of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

Roger Ryman brewing Director at St Austell Brewery and Bath Ales, said: “George and I have known each other for many years, both as brewers and friends. I’m therefore hugely excited that she’ll be joining our brewing and production team at Hare Brewery. I look forward to working and brewing alongside her in the years to come.”

Georgina Young, added: “I’m delighted to be heading back to my home town of Bristol – it’s where my parents and sister still live and it’s something I’ve been mulling over for some time. So when a great brewer like St Austell offered me such a fantastic opportunity, I just couldn’t say no. 

“The role at Bath Ales will allow me to take total control of the operation – including brewing and packaging – which gives me a new challenge. It’s sad to be leaving Fuller’s after all these years – but I’ve left a first class brewing team at Chiswick and I know they will flourish in the future.”

Beavertown, Beaverworld and Beyond

Beavertown will throw open the doors to its new brewery, Beaverworld, early next year. Capable of producing up to a mind-bending 500,000hl per annum, the facility is the culmination of a journey seven years in the making. Here, Logan Plant, founder of Beavertown, tells all. 

By next year, the evolving, mutating landscape that is the UK brewing industry will have transformed once more. In London in particular, where there were a handful of breweries when Beavertown opened back in 2011, is now home to in excess of 100. And in 2019, Beavertown will have a second place to call home, too.

Beaverworld will be able to output up to 500,000hl per annum from its new brewery, which will be housed in a 129,000sqft building on a six acre plot in Ponders End. The build, which commenced earlier this year, comprises space for a brewhouse, packaging, warehouse, logistics hub, offices and visitor centre.

It’s a major project and one that will mark yet another milestone in the evolution of London’s brewing landscape. Only 500 metres down the road from Camden Town Brewery’s facility, Enfield will be home to two brewing powerhouses. And for Logan Plant, founder of Beavertown, he can’t wait to get started.  

“The dream has always been to create something otherworldly. It has been years in the making and the goal has been to do something that I feel is unique to the industry here in the UK,” he explains. “The scale is beyond my dreams as a humble homebrewer back in the day. We wanted to work with the best in the business, and we’ve been able to do that. It’s a fortunate position to be in.”

The notion of expansion, of growth, has been on Plant’s agenda since starting the business back in 2011. From a home brewer, to kit at Duke’s Brew and Que, Hackney Wick and then Tottenham Hale, Beavertown has been defined by growth. And the latest chapter of that story has involved the addition of another character in the form of Heineken. The brewing giant took a minority stake in the London business last year and with it, has helped inform the way Plant, his wife Bridget and Beavertown approach the future. 

“The world has become a small place. We’ve all worked hard in this business so the opportunity we’ve given ourselves with this wonderful brewery and brand has allowed us to work with the best,” he says. “You look back around two, two and a half years ago when we were expanding in Tottenham. We would be putting all the money back into Stainless Steel but we were faced with the unavoidable issue of running out of space. We were limited by where to go next.”

At that juncture, it became clear that further expansion at the Tottenham Hale site was a no-go. A hurdle that many breweries face when that adjacent unit is no longer available, or the idea of just squeezing in just one more FV is shot down.  So several years ago, Plant and Bridget looked at the options available. But the plans that would have cost £10m became £20m and then £30m, and then £40m…..

They asked themselves what can they do and how can they do it. Plant says It was very clear to Bridget and he that they would maintain control, regardless of who they worked with. They wanted the support but to be allowed to crack on, too.

He adds: “We spoke to seven or eight different groups. We had close to a year of conversations, understandings red lines, limits and opportunities. And we arrived at a partner in Heineken that ticked all of those boxes that we wanted. 

“They were very clear about the red lines. Their expertise and routes to market were there for all to see. On a human level there was a connection, too. We needed to work with like-minded individuals, people with a good heart.”

So with these positive conversations and the opportunity there to take, Plant had to make the decision of a lifetime. 

“I didn’t want to stand still I didn’t want our team to stand still. I believed we had a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he says. “So why would I, in my right mind, sit still and stagnate. I can’t be content with that, I’m not that kind of guy. I’m driven by making a difference every day and what we do, how we do it, and who we do it with.”

Plant adds: “The aspirations of what we wanted those few years back could probably have been raised through the bank or asset finance. But when the scope of the project grew, we knew we needed to look bigger. 

“My blood is Gamma Ray blue and Lupuloid pink. To stay in control, but benefit from the expertise Heineken offered was a no-brainer.” 

Such support manifests itself in the ability to brew something close to 88 million pints a year. Something that Plant finds daunting, but exciting. Just don’t ask him to think of those volumes in Olympic-sized swimming pools, that’s when the panic sets it.

“My saying over the last three or four years is that our mission is to get great beer on every street corner, working with the best people that we can, and to bring as many people on that journey as possible,” he says, “We want to elevate the reputation of brewing in London, in the UK. The penetration of craft beer in the UK is still five or six percent. Then you look to the US and it’s maybe 15. There is still a long, long way to go.”

Beavertown has changed a lot since 2011. Both in bricks and mortar and the people that make up its team. A starting budget of £300,000 allowed Plant to invest in kit and kitchen equipment for its Duke’s Brew and Que brewpub in London. But for Plant, it’s the people that have played the biggest part in his journey.

“Starting out with people like Nick Dwyer, our creative director, and James Rylance on the brewing side made all the difference,” he explains. “If you can bring in people that share your drive and determination, people that want to make a difference, people that have that skill set. It changes everything. 

It hasn’t always been plain sailing, though. Like any growing business, it can take its toll on the human side of the equation. 

He explains: “Have I stayed sane? Some would have their doubts. I have an amazing wife in Bridget. She is everything, and I have amazing kids who are the backbone of everything we do. That is so important.

“I was in two bands before opening the brewery. Being a musician is not too dissimilar to being in beer. You have to give everything to be a musician as it’s your art, and I classify brewing as an art. Music taught be how far I could push myself mentally, and also how far I could push Bridget and the family unit. Sure, I’ve got more grey hairs now, and there were sleepless nights and anxiety. I feel like we’ve held it together, but it’s been touch and go at times.”

Plant’s realisation that during his first four years of Beavertown, he was away from home more than when he was in the music industry was a turning point. As a singer,  a dedication to keeping his voice in top condition meant a moderate alcohol consumption, something that’s easier said then done when representing the brewery at countless festivals, takeovers and other events. 

“In one year of Beavertown I was on the road for nearly 200 days so I had to dial that back in. It was a true crossroads. I’m still Mr Beaver, just singing from a different hymn sheet now!” he laughs. “You have to be very conscious of your surroundings, the people, and I’m very lucky to have a strong family around me.”

And the future is bright. 

From a technical perspective, Beaverworld will house some of the leading brewing technology on the planet. A Krones Steinecker Brewhouse will deliver a maximum capacity of 500,000hl per annum and allow the team to brew in 150hl batches. The five vessel brewhouse features a Variomill, Mash Conversion vessel, Lauter Tun, Wort Kettle, Whirlpool and an Equitherm energy recovery system. The manufacturer is supplying 38 fermentation maturation tanks ranging from 150hl – 600hl in size along with centrifuge, filtration and an automated dry hopping dosing system. 

On the canning front, an automated KHS can line offers capacity to fill up to 30,000 cans per hour (330ml). This increased firepower will enable Beavertown to brew more beer and more beers, than ever before. 

Plant explains: “Gamma Ray, Neck Oil and Lupuloid will be the heroes for forever and a day. These are the beers that built the house, but we will of course be looking a new beers expanding both the core and the seasonals, too.  

“There’s a lot of beer styles we haven’t brewed before such as low and no-alcohol numbers. As I get older, the hangovers get worse so I try not to drink too much during the week. If I can find a good low ABV beer then I like to sit on those as much as possible!”

Although Beaverworld will be capable of production that many, many breweries can only dream of, Plant still considers himself, and the business, very much part of the burgeoning UK brewing scene. 

“Whether you’re starting a brewery tomorrow, or been in the game for years, you need to approach what you do with absolute conviction, determination and to ask yourself how you can differentiate yourself from those around you,” says Plant. “You don’t need to start out wanting to make a Gamma Ray, a Jaipur or a Punk IPA. You need to ask how you can apply yourself and convey your inner personality in the beer you make. Because it’s an expression of your personality, after all.”

He adds: “Look for that freedom and flexibility to express yourself. Don’t feel like there are boundaries, break down those boundaries and look beyond them!”

Heading in the right direction | Track Brewing Co

Track Brewing Co drew upon global influences and in doing so, created a modern classic in the form of Sonoma. And with the imminent arrival of a canning line, it’s about to take the next step in its journey.

The world of beer is one that refuses to be restrained by geographical boundaries. It’s a rich tapestry of inspiration, influence and imagination that’s as likely to bear witness to a US brewer looking lovingly at well- conditioned cask from the UK as it is a Northerner putting their own stamp on traditional German styles.

It’s improbable though that a North American expat brewing hoppy pales on a makeshift kit just outside San Carlos de Bariloche, a town in Argentina’s Patagonia region, is aware they played their own small part in inspiring a visiting Brit to return home and start their own brewery. But here we are, and such life experiences would end up motivating Sam Dyson to throw himself into the brewing industry and found his own outfit, Track Brewing Co, in 2014.

“When I was growing up, and through my time at university, I can’t say the drinking culture really sat well with me. The homogeneity of the beer available, and the way people would consume it, didn’t really appeal,” explains Dyson.

But the combination of leaving a job that didn’t interest him, coupled with the ability to visit an uncle living on the West Coast of North America, would end up being the catalyst that changed Dyson’s outlook on beer. He just didn’t know it yet.

Dyson opted to traverse North America not by car or motorbike, but by cycling. 4,700 miles from the coast of Virginia through Washington state then eventually the Rockies and the coast down to San Francisco. A fairly circuitous route, as he recalls.

“In every state there were breweries in cities, towns,” he explains. “You’d be camping at the side of the road, or be staying in a little motel, after a day’s cycling and travel into town looking for something to eat and a cold beer. Trust me, you really want a cold beer after all that cycling.”

He adds: “Each and every time you’d encounter a brewery. Some small, some not so small. Once I started seeing these places, I found myself actively seeking them out at each stage of my trip. There would be beer styles I have never seen or drank before, breweries that were new to me such as New Belgium and Russian River. 

“But what was also just as engaging was the type of people you’d find in these places. There were people from all across the spectrum drinking together. It inspired me and made me question why more places like this didn’t exist back home in the UK.”

A friend’s wedding drew him back to the UK but instead of stopping there, Dyson was unable to shake the cycling bug.

“I should have thrown my bike into the sea at that point and started brewing. But with none of my friends or family involved in that industry, I parked the idea and ended up spending another two and a half years cycling around the world. New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, South America, the lot,” he recalls.

Just as breweries across North America captured his imagination, Dyson found inspiration in places he didn’t expect. Peru and Bolivia were home to microbreweries producing a number of styles. As was the aforementioned town outside Bariloche. 

But eventually, it was time for Dyson to return to the UK. His passion for beer remained but the landscape had started to change. BrewDog had since started business as did Evin at The Kernel in London. Potential sites for what would become Track Brewing Co fell through while the cost of starting a brewing business in London continued to escalate. So Dyson ended up joining Camden Town Brewery, becoming one of the first members of the brewing team in the process. 

However, he just couldn’t shake the desire to have his own operation. 

“It became obvious quite early on that London wasn’t going to be a viable location for the brewery. I’m from Chester originally and was up visiting my sister when it dawned on me. Manchester is such a big city. 

“It’s a cultural centre and somewhere I’m familiar with. So I made the decision to start Track there,” he remembers.

A year was spent putting together a business plan, raising finance and securing the property in an area that would become synoymous with brewing in Manchester. Brewing started on a Pureweld brewhouse, two 1,200 litre fermenters and a firm focus on cask beers.

“Operating in the North West, I believed that the best way to get into bars and pubs was through cask beer,” says Dyson. “In my opinion, if you could make really good cask beer that would get you listed and then eventually, people would allow you to make whatever you like because you’ve proven that you can make good beer. So that’s what I set out to do.”

Setting up in December 2014 saw Dyson visited by the team at Cloudwater who were busy setting up their own operation just around the corner. 

“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t familiar with anyone apart from James Campbell (formerly of Marble, Cloudwater and now SSV Limited),” he says. “But before I knew it, they were helping me build the cold store!”

With that done and dusted, the first beer to emerge from Track arrived in the February of 2015. Ozark, named after the Ozark Mountains that span a good 47,000 square miles across Arkansas and Missouri, offered up a blueprint and direction of where Dyson wanted his beers to take. 

“I wanted a beer to replicate some of my experiences in the States. Something that was light, drinkable but with an eye on UK ABV sensibilities. At 4.4% it would be an easy drinking pale ale and a good starting point for Track Brewing Co,” he explains.

Ozark was well received by local drinkers and Dyson was happy with the outcome but he already knew he wanted a beer that the brewery could “hang its hat on”. This beer would come in at 3.8%, it would be a super drinkable, zesty pale that could work on cask as well as keg. That beer would become known as Sonoma.

“I’m grateful that we could produce a beer that resonated with drinkers, especially locally. And to this day that beer accounts for around 50% of our production. We sell it in cask, keg and also in bottle,” says Dyson. “But if you look at rating sites it’s probably one of our worst performing beers on those platforms. It’s a crossover beer. It’s something appreciated by brewers and also an older drinker that has spent their life drinking cask.”

Dyson says Sonoma has allowed Track Brewing Co to grow as a business. What started out as an operation with two FVs is now one with 16. And yet, they still can’t make enough beer. But they’re doing their level best to do so. 

Team Track in 2019 includes Dyson who says his role is “Chief panicker, painter, driller and everything in-between”. Head brewer Matt Dutton has just celebrated his second year at the brewery while Will Harris joined in 2018, leading the brewery’s sour and barrel-aged output. 

Lewis Horne joined from Northern Monk and heads up the cellaring side of the brewery while Harry Clouston recently graduated from Heriot-Watt University handling packaging and a myriad of other roles. The team is completed by Stefan Melbourne, who heads up sales and marketing.

While cask and keg continue to play an integral role for the brewery, it’s small pack where Dyson and the team see the major growth opportunity. 

“For a brewery like Track, and the wide variety of beers that we make, small pack is very important to us. It’s the reason we bought a Meheen bottling line from Cloudwater 18 months ago. Something that has been very good for us,” says Dyson. “But going forward, canning will play a much larger part of what we do here.”

Dyson highlights his observations and experiences working with breweries such as Deya, Left Handed Giant, North Brewing Co, Verdant, Cloudwater and Wylam.

“You speak amongst yourselves and learn from others. We’ve not seen a drop off of bottle sales as we never produced that many to begin with. But we know we can do far more by canning our beer,” he explains. “As a brewery we like keeping things in-house. We like the control that gives. In my opinion, you can’t run the risk of the potential problems and issues that can arise when you’re allowing others to do it for you. If you can shout about your successes, then you should be able to pinpoint your problems, too.”

Before settling on the upcoming canning line investment, Dyson did his due diligence on what would work best for Track. And he identified some parallels in the brewing world that also exist in his other passion, the world of cycling.

“There are a lot of strange and interesting people in beer. I see that in cycling, too. For a long time in cycling, you’d also have entry level bikes and the stupidly expensive ones,” he says. “There was a floating middle that was under-serviced and suddenly manufacturers saw the opportunity and started building and selling bikes with components and specifications that came from the much higher-end models to that middle ground. Bikes that are incredibly popular.”

It’s something he also sees in the world of canning lines. Dyson feels that the cheapest available were often not worth the investment while the top end ones were in-line with buying a house.

“Manufacturers started to see that breweries frequently reinvested into the business and that there was an appetite for canning lines in that mid-range, much like in cycling,” he explains.

Track opted for a machine from Micro Can in Bolton. It has a rated speed of 1,500 cans an hour but Dyson anticipates the brewery will run it closer to the 1,000 mark.

“We are sensitive and cautious like that. That’s just how we are,” he laughs.

Once the line is up and running, the business expects to sell much more of its beer directly. From the brewery itself and through its online shop. Either way, it’s fresh beer into more people’s hands and increased revenues directly back into the brewery.

Dyson adds: “Track was built on local distribution and we have a loyal following. So if we can serve the local market with fresh beer then we’re doing what we set out to do. Using distribution has many purposes but I feel that you get to the point where you realise that there are better margins and levels of control through doing things yourself.

“Even if it doesn’t strike you when you first start out, driving around with those few casks hoping someone will support you and take your beer, sooner or later you’ll come back around, square the circle, and realise self distribution is the way to go.”

The investment in a canning line is arguably one of, if not the biggest, step change in Track’s four years in business. What is currently a split of 30% cask production and 70% keg is expected to transit to 50% canned output and a 25/25 split between cask and keg.

Cans will become the new go-to for many of Track’s beers, which include the burgeoning number of collaborations it takes part in.

“It’s important to learn from those you admire, those around you. It’s understandable to have a sense of beer fatigue every so often, but what reassures me is that at the heart of it all, there is a lot of very, very good beer out there. There are breweries across the UK producing genuinely excellent beer.”

And many of those beers are collaborations. Collaborations between UK breweries and also those further beyond. Long may it continue, according to Dyson, but only if they’re done for the right reasons.

He explains: “There’s no point putting out one of your normal beers with a new label on. I’ve learnt untold amount of things. You don’t work with breweries such as Wylam, Garage Beer Co, Deya, Cloudwater, Admundsen or Verdant and not learn something. And hopefully they’ve learnt something from us, too.

“It might not be something regarding hops, malt and yeast, but instead water chemistry and other process expertise. For a lot of breweries it’s about making new friends and contacts, drilling down to ask what you get from each project and challenging yourself to create the types of beer that people will enjoy.

“And if you’re a brewery that’s making beer people enjoy, then you’re doing something right in my opinion.”

Fuller’s and Asahi – An inside outside view | John Keeling

The news of Asahi’s proposed acquisition of London-based Fuller’s sent shockwaves through the beer industry. John Keeling, former head brewer at Fuller’s, says a great deal of uncertainty lies ahead but implores the new owners to make sure of a great asset, a great team and to make Fuller’s better than ever.

I wondered why my phone was ringing at 7.15am. I was just about to switch the TV on to watch the news. Who could that be? If I had not retired I would have immediately thought something had gone wrong at the brewery and I would be required onsite ASAP. Something like that had periodically happened ever since I joined Fuller’s in 1981 and indeed I had occasionally been the person making the phone call with the news that we had a power cut or something equally serious.

Not this time. It was Michael Turner and he had something important to tell me. The news washed over me, I didn’t feel shocked or gutted, it just felt weird. I knew that the Board had been looking at options but I knew nothing about a deal from Asahi. I thought that something like this would have to happen for the brewery to move forward because investment and change was needed. I had hoped, of course, that this investment would come from Fuller’s but in my heart, I knew that this was really wishful thinking.

If anything, the writing had been on the wall for some time. The roots of this decision can be traced back to the Monopolies and Mergers Act of 1989.  This had started the slow shift of Brewing margin into Retail margin. It had forced breweries to choose between pubs and breweries, they chose pubs. That is where the power lay when it became a competitive market. Slowly the brewing margin ebbed away in an attempt to maintain volumes. It is an old adage which says don’t chase volume, chase margin or put it another way don’t be busy fools. Well Fuller’s did not want to be busy fools so lacking the distribution they took the sensible rational business decision to sell the brewery. 

The only problem is that beer is not like that. Drinking Fuller’s for some people is like supporting your local football team. Working for them you put your heart and soul into because it’s doing something that isn’t just business, it is also putting your character into the team which then directly influences the character of the beer. It is a brewery not a factory as my old boss would say. The pubs now have lost their soul too, where will that business now go.  Some pub managers feel that they have lost a loved one. 

They need to find their inspiration now from the marketplace and not from their brewery and the marketplace can be a pretty soulless place. I wish them well and I hope the management can find that soul so that they don’t become just another high street brand. Like the brewery, the pubs are a people business, where Fuller’s pubs are successful it’s because they put a characterful manager in the right pub. The examples are many, The Churchill and The Red Lion, Barnes leap into my mind. 

But what of the people left in the brewery? Some of them will be made redundant and some will keep their jobs but now have new masters with a new vision. Does that vision include a place for them or will they be lost in a corporate wilderness? This does mean unplanned change and this leads to worry and stress. Change is OK when it is you instigating it, but when it is unforeseen, then it can be a problem. Sure – it is a problem that can be managed, but still a problem.

Redundancy is not all bad. For some this comes at the right time and they are the lucky as for others the worry and stress will be unbearable. I feel for them all. I have spoken directly to a number and they all feel the same. They belonged to The Fuller’s family, now that has changed. It is no longer the family they knew. That change has already happened and there is no going back.

Now what of the drinker? Some feel let down because they view everything that Fuller’s said about its independence as a lie. I can assure them that at the time everybody believed in what we were doing with the beer and with the brewery. This was not Fuller’s fattening up the business for a sale. It was Fuller’s trying to make a success of its business.  The brewery was between a rock and a hard place.

Fuller’s was too big and not big enough. Others will bide their time looking for any change in the beer. To them I say beer cannot ever be 100% consistent, nor would it be a good thing if it were because then it would be boring. Instead, if it continues as it has and changes are at the brewers’ and yeasts’ commands rather than at the accountants then it will be fine. Good breweries should be brewer led.

In the short term the beer will definitely not change, but after that who knows because Asahi have yet to state its vision. If I was Asahi I would still brew all the interesting beers that give the brewers something to get their teeth into – I suspect they will prove very popular in Asahi’s home market, as are boutique Scotch whiskies. That inspires them and inspires them to make London Pride better too. It must remain a living brewery not a soulless factory.  I am hopeful. People say Asahi has been good for Pilsner Urquell – including people I respect greatly. They will want to drive the business forward and this can only be a good thing.

Lastly, I hope that Asahi realises that Fuller’s is a unique business as most independent breweries are. This means that it is hard to apply formulas to it. Sure, Fuller’s has plenty to learn from Asahi but Asahi has things to learn from Fuller’s too. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Listen to the Fuller’s team and then form a strategy – rather than have a preconceived strategy. Make use of a great asset and make Fuller’s better than ever.

The Brewers Lectures come to Birmingham this month

Some of the industry’s finest brewers, brewery owners, events organisers and bottle shop innovators will be sharing their expertise and experiences at The Brewers Lectures in Birmingham this month.

The Brewers Lectures take place in Birmingham on the 14th March and with it, talks from leading lights in the fields of brewing, brewery ownership, retail and events planning.

Kicking off at 15:30 at The Old Library, the afternoon will feature insightful and engaging lectures from Russell Bisset, founder of Leeds-based Northern Monk, Earth Station founder Jenn Merrick and Adnam’s brewer Ed Razzall.

The event will also involves talks from Jen Ferguson, co-founder of London’s Hop Burns & Black, Elusive Brewing owner Andy Parker and Sam Millard, the brand and communications manager at Beavertown Brewery.

Check out the full line-up of speakers below.


Russell Bisset | Northern Monk

Russell Bisset is the founder of Leeds-based Northern Monk. In five short years, the business has grown into one of the top 100 breweries in the world according to Ratebeer, and exports to 23 countries worldwide. Northern Monk has recently just revamped its branding and, broadened its core range of beers and in 2018, opened its second refectory bar, this time in Manchester.

Jen Ferguson | Hop Burns & Black

Jen Ferguson is the co-founder of London’s Hop Burns & Black. Priding itself of being home to “the world’s greatest obsessions in one place”, the business specialises in craft beer, hot sauce and records. Operating two shops/tasting rooms in Peckham and Deptford, the business also sells craft cider, mead, organic and natural wine and small batch spirits. Since opening, it has been awarded Time Out Love London Winner: Peckham’s Most Loved Shop 2015/2016 and Celebrate British Beer Awards: London Retailer of the Year 2016 + 17 among others

Jenn Merrick | Earth Station

Jenn Merrick is an industry consultant to new and expanding craft breweries around the UK. She’s also a brewer and business manager with over 20 years’ experience running and growing innovative SME. Jenn, who has previously worked at Meantime, Dark Star and as director of operations at Beavertown, is also the founder of the Earth Station Brewery in East London’s Royal Docks, which will launch later this year.

Sam Millard | Beavertown Brewery

Sam Millard is the brand and communications manager at Beavertown Brewery. Celebrating his fourth year with the North London business this April, Sam has helped develop Beavertown’s brand identities, as well as establish the brewery’s hugely successful Extravaganza event. Attracting the best part of 20,000 drinkers over the 2017 and 2018 events? Not bad, not bad at all…

Andy Parker | Elusive Brewing

Andy Parker is an award-winning home brewer, author and the owner of Berkshire-based Elusive Brewing. The brewery has made waves across the UK, producing beers that have one eye on tradition and the other on taking things to the next level.

Ed Razall | Adnam’s

Ed Razzall is a brewer at Southwold-based Adnam’s. Ed, who holds a degree in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry from UCL, has worked at the Suffolk business since 2017 and carries out most aspects of brewing, as well as being in charge of its barrel-aged beer project. Along with head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald, Ed has helped ensure Adnam’s beers remain popular with drinkers new and old.

We want these events to be accessible to all so tickets are pay what you can and they’re available here.

For full information on the event, click here.

Wheat Beer, Esters and Phenols: How to influence them to your advantage

Weisse beer has undergone somewhat of a resurgence. Beers produced by traditional brewers of the style are popular not just in the traditional southern German heartlands but also worldwide. And there are practical steps a brewer can take to influence the yeast derived Esters and Phenols present in Wheat Beer as well as in other beers, explains Andrew Paterson, technical sales and support for the UK at Lallemand Brewing.

Wheat beer is a broad style of top fermenting beer traditional to the regions of Southern Germany, including Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, as well as parts of Austria. The terms Weissbier (white beer) or Weizenbier (wheat beer) are used synonymously to denote the style.

The first beers brewed and labelled as Weissbier were brewed in the 1500s by the aristocratic Degenberger family, who were awarded the exclusive right to brew the style in the Bavarian forest region, as well as in Bohemia, by Duke Wilhelm IV. The brewery itself was established in the town of Schwarzach and the beers produced were seen to be the preserve of the gentry [1]. 

On the subsequent death of the head of the Degenberger family, Baron Hans Sigmund Degenberger, the rights to brew Weissbier passed to Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria. Seeing the economic potential the Duke opened several more Weiss breweries including one in Munich, now the site of the iconic Hofbräuhaus, and one in Kelheim, which would later become the famous Schneider Weisse brewery [1]. 

The popularity of the style boomed through the 1700s but the invention of refrigeration and competition from the new bottom fermenting styles (lager) caused sales to decrease to the point of unprofitability.  Were it not for the insight of Georg Schneider who opened the original Schneider brewery in Munich in 1872 the Weisse style might have died out completely [1].  

These days Weisse beer has undergone somewhat of a resurgence with beers produced by traditional brewers of the style popular not just in the traditional southern German heartlands but worldwide. The style, while not as frequently reproduced as the now ubiquitous IPA, has also been much imitated by craft brewers across the globe

Key characteristics

When we think of Weissbier we think of an almost pearlescent, opaque beer with a large rocky head of foam, usually served in an oversized glass. Aromas of banana and clove hit the nose, (if the foam doesn’t first) and fruity flavours along with a slight tartness and zing due to very high levels of carbonation fill the mouth. Indeed the theatre and performance associated with drinking Weissbier may have much to do with its modern day success; you feel like you’ve won a prize every time you go to the bar.

This is the classic punter’s view of Weiss beer, in fact the style is quite broad and can be divided into Hefeweizen, (containing yeast) and Kristallweizen (filtered and bright). Hefeweizen is by far the more popular of the two. These two types can be further broken down into Weizenbier (Standard Wheat Beer), Dunkelweizen (Dark Wheat Beer) and Weizenbock (Wheat Beer brewed in the Bock style). Alkoholfrei (free from alcohol) beers are also popular in this category.     

Origins of key distinguishing characteristics

Two of the key distinguishing flavour characteristics of Wheat Beer, Clove and Banana, have their origins in both the raw ingredients used for the grist and in the yeast strain chosen for the fermentation. Chemically the flavours can be broken down into two distinct groups. Banana or Iso-amyl acetate is an Ester and is produced as a by-product of yeast metabolism, while Clove or 4-vinyl-guiacol (4-VG) is a phenol and is produced by the action of yeast on chemicals originating from Malted Barley and Wheat.

Phenol formation

The Phenol character present in Wheat Beer is derived from enzyme catalysed reactions with a series of chemicals called hydroxycinnamic acids. These chemicals are abundant in plant cell walls and have both a structural role as well as contributing to the plants defence mechanism against pathogenic micro-organisms [2].

The two most common Phenols present are the previously mentioned 4-VG (Clove), derived from Ferulic acid, as well as the related 4-VP, derived from P-Coumaric acid. 4-VP whilst usually present at low levels has an unpleasant character, usually described as bandaid or medicinal; its presence at levels above its flavour threshold is usually considered as a fault.       

Phenols are created from hydroxycinnamic acids by active enzymatic decarboxylation by yeast strains possessing the Phenolic Off Flavour (POF+) phenotype. The original wild type ancestor of modern brewing yeast strains probably possessed this trait. However, genetic selection pressures of continuous re-pitching has led to most brewing strains losing this ability. 

While no longer present in most brewing yeasts, the characteristic prevailed in many strains used for the production of Belgian Beers, Saisons and German Wheat Beers contributing to part of their distinct character. Examples of such strains are Lalbrew Abbaye, Lalbrew Munich Classic, Lalbrew Munich Wheat and Lalbrew Belle Saison.  

Controlling Phenol formation

As outlined above 4-VG is produced by the enzymatic transformation of Ferulic Acid present in Barley and Wheat. Understanding the role of yeast in the formation of the chemical is one thing but what are the practical steps a brewer can take to control the level and formation of 4-VG? 

Mashing – Studies have found that Ferulic acid is most often present in a bound (esterified) form in the cell wall and must be liberated by enzymes named Feruloyl Esterases in order to be released into solution. These enzymes are most active at a temperature of 45 degrees and a pH of 5.8 [3]. As such, and if mashing equipment allows, it is ideal to mash in at a starting temperature of 45 degrees prior to proceeding to the sacchrification step.  

Choice of grist – While overall, Wheat Malt has a marginally higher level of Ferulic Acid than Barley, studies have shown that more Ferulic Acid is released from a pure Barley Malt mash than one consisting entirely of Wheat Malt [3]. To further complicate the picture it would appear that bound Ferulic acid is also released from Wheat Malt worts during fermentation, indicating some level of Feruloyl Esterase activity in POF+ strains [3]. 

This does not take place in worts produced from Malted Barley showing specificity for the bound form of Ferulic Acid found in Wheat. Studies on the subject suggest the ratio of Barley Malt to Wheat Malt required to produce the most 4-VG is in the region of 70:30 [3]. 

Pressure – It has been shown that using open top tanks at atmospheric pressure increases the levels of 4-VG in Wheat Beers. Fortuitously this has also been shown to decrease the levels of Styrene, another related, but undesirable, hydroxycinnamic acid derivative in finished beer [4].

Yeast strain – As already mentioned, a yeast strain should be chosen which displays the POF+ phenotype if this character is required. There are many to choose from and care must be taken when making a choice. Your yeast supplier should be able to help in this regard. Some wheat beer strains are also classified as var. diastaticus meaning they possess the STA gene and are able to effectively metabolise dextrins. For a more detailed explanation of diastaticus yeasts and the STA gene please see the previous issue by Robert Percival [5].       

Ester formation

The classic Banana flavour, chemical name Iso-amyl acetate, in Wheat Beers comes from a group of chemicals called Esters. Volatile Esters are very flavour active and often form a significant proportion of the aroma profile in any beer. These volatile esters arise due to the enzyme catalysed reaction of an alcohol molecule with an Acetyl-CoA molecule.

The enzyme responsible for mediating the reaction is the alcohol acetyl transferase or AATase [6]. As these esters are soluble in the lipid based walls of yeast the smaller chain esters are able to leave the cell and contribute to the aroma profile of the beer [6]. 

Yeast metabolism and Ester synthesis is a complex process and certainly too broad a subject to be fully broached within the scope of this article. To simplify, essentially the production of Esters hinges on three variables. The concentration of the substrate Acetyl-CoA and alcohol molecules, and the concentration and activity level of the AATase enzyme, which catalyses the reaction [6]. The brewer can guide this process by manipulating the following variables.

Controlling Ester formation

Choice of yeast strain – The degree to which a particular yeast strain produces a specific Ester profile is greatly influenced by its genetic makeup. The possession and expression of genes encoding enzymes involved in Ester synthesis is strain dependent and will define the final Ester profile of the beer [7]. As with Phenols the best way forward here is to contact your yeast supplier and to ask for advice.     

Temperature – Raising the temperature of fermentation increases the expression of enzymes related to the synthesis of Higher Alcohols in yeast cells as well as the aforementioned AAtases [7]. The result is increased Ester formation with one study noting a 75% increase in Ester formation between 10-12 degrees [7].

Hydrostatic pressure – Tall, and or, pressurized fermenters increase the concentration of CO2 dissolved in solution. High dissolved CO2 inhibits yeast growth by slowing decarboxylation reactions involved in the synthesis of Acetyl-CoA and Higher Alcohols [8]. The consequence is decreased Ester production at high hydrostatic or top pressures [8]. 

Wort Composition, Sugars, FAN, Oxygen and Fatty Acids – Unsurprisingly the composition of wort greatly influences the final Ester profile of a beer. Studies have shown that rising levels of Glucose in wort increases the final Ester concentration in a beer; although the mechanism behind this effect has still to be fully elucidated [9]. 

Increasing Free Amino Nitrogen or FAN increases the synthesis of Higher Alcohols leading to greater Ester formation [7]. Finally, higher levels of Oxygen and Fatty Acid are known to decrease levels of Ester synthesis by reducing the expression of genes controlling the AATase [7]. 

Conclusion

There are practical steps a brewer can take to influence the yeast derived Esters and Phenols present in Wheat Beer as well as in other beers. Please see the table below for a summary. To this end, the relationship with your yeast supplier is key. They will know how their strains perform and can make suggestions to brewers for their best use. Included on the following pages are an example recipe for a classic Weisse beer as well as information on our Munich Classic and Munich Wheat beer strains.