Long reads

Understanding Bitterness | Science

Late-hopping and dry-hopping can, and will, contribute to the measured IBU value of beer. By understanding these contributions and calculating the ‘utilisation’ of each addition, it becomes much easier to produce consistent flavour in your finished product, explains Dr Lee Walsh, account manager at QCL.

I think it is safe to say that the majority of beer styles being produced by craft brewers at the moment tend to be very hop-forward and of course to get this, the brewers are using a hell of a lot of hops (which can be costly!). It is surprising to me then to find that almost none of the breweries that I visit have a way to accurately measure IBU (International Bitterness Units) in their beer.

Well what is an IBU then? Traditionally, this is seen as approximately 1 mg/L iso-alpha acids in the beer being measured and iso-alpha acids would come from isomerisation of alpha acids found in hops during the boil phase of brewing. These iso-alpha acids can be measured using a solvent extraction and reading on a spectrophotometer to give a measured IBU value. 

In a previous case study that I wrote with Hackney Brewery, we found that IBU value doesn’t just come from boiled hops and you can actually have IBU value pick up from late-additions (whirlpool) and dry-hop additions. The important take-away message from this information should not be “what causes the increase in IBU value”, but instead “These hop additions have an effect on IBU value, that means I can have better control over this part of the process!”. 


Many craft brewers that I have visited will be using an online calculator to estimate the IBU value of a beer, based on the Alpha Acid % (AA%) of the hops being added. The main problem here is the ‘hop-utilisation’ quoted for each hop addition, becomes less accurate the further away from the boil (flame out – whirlpool – dry-hop). 

By measuring the IBU value at each stage – during boil, post-boil, during whirlpool, after whirlpool, before dry-hop, after yeast addition – you can begin to build up an accurate picture of hop-utilisation throughout the process. 

How many IBUs are you gaining from the late-addition and dry-hop addition? 

How many IBUs are you losing after you add the yeast?

bThe best demonstration of this, is in Figure 1 below where absolutely no hops were boiled and the resulting IBU value for the beer ended up at 62 IBU. The majority of this comes from the late-addition hops, but there is still roughly 20 IBUs contributed from dry-hopping and about a 25% reduction in IBU value after the yeast is added.

Using the data from this study, I worked with Jon from Hackney Brewery to create a digital brew-sheet with accurate hop-utilisation figures for each addition and included the rough IBU reduction from yeast addition. This meant that upon delivery of the hops to be used for each batch, the AA% is entered into the brew-sheet, automatically changing the weight of each hop-addition to achieve the desired IBU value of the finished beer.

Not convinced? 

In Figure 2 below is the spreadsheet showing calculated IBU for a recipe, using the new hop utilisation figures and the measured IBU on the printed result from the Hackney Brewery CDR BeerLab.


It should be clear that late-hopping and dry-hopping can and will contribute to the measured IBU value of beer. By understanding these contributions and calculating the ‘utilisation’ of each addition, it becomes much easier to produce consistent flavour in your finished product. 

If you would like to discuss how you can do this in your brewery, please feel free to get in touch: Lee.Walsh@qclscientific.com

Keeping it Dry | No-alcohol beers

It’s called non-alcohol beer, no-alcohol beer, non-alcoholic beer, very-low alcohol beer, NA, or malt beverage. It’s also been called a lot worse. However, thanks to a growing demand, both big and small brewers are putting out something you just might find yourself enjoying. Velo Mitrovich reports.

About a million years ago in the mid 1970s I was in the US Army stationed at Ft Bragg, North Carolina. It was not a good time to be in the army. The government was desperately trying to show that the all-volunteer peacetime army could work without a draft, so they took anyone and I do mean anyone.

One day in the middle of July, the powers that be decided they needed to throw a party to boost morale. “269 Aviation Battalion will celebrate this Friday from 1200 to 1600 hours. You will be there and you will have fun.”

While North Carolina is full of lakes, ponds, and natural beauty, they gathered all 200 plus of us in what looked like a giant dirt parking lot in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by scrub pines that were maybe about a meter high. There was absolutely nothing to do there except for one thing.

The barbeque that was provided – you had to pay for. Soft drinks, you had to pay for. But the beer – all 20 zillion cans – was free. 

Some supply sergeant must have figured: Mmm, hot as hell day and no shade. “Sir, each soldier must be provided with at least 12 cans of beer for pure survival reasons alone. Anything less and we could have a medical emergency on our hands.”

Because this was survival we’re talking about, they opted to have about a dozen open trailers placed strategically around the area, filled with ice and beer so no soldier was ever far from a cold one and there would be no lines.

Sounds great? No, these guys were all idiots at the best of times. You did not want to get them drunk.

I don’t recall why, I suspect it was because Old Milwaukee was the beer they choose, but I choose not to drink. So there I was, the only one completely thirsty and sober person in a field of over 200 drunks.

Within an hour, the command had given up the idea of being in command, figuring the beer would ultimately run out and order and discipline restored.

It doesn’t require a vivid imagination to picture what was soon happening in the field. There were arguments, fights, smack-downs, and more fights. The two medics on duty were busy putting in stitches and bandaging noses. 

Because a couple of drunks decided it would be fun to push over the port-a-loos with someone inside, the porta-crappers were smashed and unusable. A few soldiers couldn’t be bothered to walk over to the scrub pines and pissed where they stood like mules. 

At one point, I watched a staff sergeant pass out drunk, face down into a beer trailer. If his friends hadn’t pulled him out, he would have drowned, or had his face frozen, or both.

Promptly at 1600, those still standing got into their cars and drove off like it was the start of the Indy 500 except on a dirt track.

Looking at these drunk dunderheads behind their wheels, I decided to be in no hurry to leave. I looked over the field that looked like it was out of a war zone – in hindsight, it just needed the end music from Platoon playing. 

The field was littered with hundreds of beer cans, overturned trailers, vomit, the smashed-up port-a-loos, and someone’s boots – how could you not notice your feet were suddenly bare? 

I shook my head and went dry for 10-years.

During this dry decade, I tried to find alternatives. There was near-beer, which was started in the US during Prohibition. It was horrible – and I’ll just leave it at that. 

After a long, long search I found a couple of German alcohol-free beers but these were so malty, they tasted like something you’d give your kids if they had whooping cough. 

Ten years later, I was living in Seattle, in the Coast Guard now, and was with some friends at a pub in Pioneer Square. While they were drinking their pitchers of Bud, I was getting ready to order a black coffee. The bartender though had other ideas for me. 

“You should try a Ballard Bitter.” 

“What’s that?” 

“It’s better than what they’re drinking,” she said, pointing with her chin over at my mates. “It’s an IPA from this small brewery – Redhook – that’s just opened up the road. You’ll really like it, trust me.” 

IPA? Small brewery? I had no idea what she was talking about, though I was 100 percent sure whatever it was, it had alcohol in it. But then, she did have an English accent so a course I completely trusted her. 

I took one sip and shouted out the F-word, so loudly, it’s still probably floating over Seattle. Ballard Bitter was everything that I had ever wanted in a beer, like I had spent my entire life waiting for that rush of hop flavours.

With that, my quest to find a non-alcohol beer that tasted like beer ended – until now.

It seems like about every decade or so for the last 40 years, the beer industry has rolled a non-alcohol beer and said this is the future, but if you watch the Simpson’s, you know how this always plays out. 

When Duff’s Brewery goes alcohol free – due to Springfield’s local prohibition – the owner comes out and says he knows Duff’s fans drink the beer for it’s great taste, not for its alcohol content. And then three hours later, he’s locking the gates of the shut-down plant.

Why will this time be any different for alcohol-free?

In asking random people at this year’s Craft Beer Rising Festival at Truman’s and at the Pure Gym I go to, it seems very much like you can draw a line. 

For those over 30, alcohol is part of the beer drinking experience, with numerous people – both male and female – telling me it was at least 50 percent of the reason why they drank beer. 

Those younger, however, said they were open to the idea of non-alcohol beer – if it tasted good – and could see sometimes when it would be preferable.

When pressed, the reasons given were: It’s in the middle of the week; or you’ve already had one regular beer so now you switch over to alcohol free; or you want to look like you’re drinking; or you’re in a situation where you need to keep your wits about you, i.e., meeting the future in-laws; or you feel better not drinking; or it seems healthier; or you don’t feel like drinking but still want a beer.

While my generation in the States sees shame in drinking alcohol free and it would be something you’d try to hide; for the Millennials, not at all. 

As far as tasting good, at the CBR show, there were numerous offerings of non-alcohol beer, with some brewers such as BrewDog and Brooklyn Brewery offering it alongside their regular. Mitch Adams of Euroboozer plied me with bottles of German non-alcohol beers that they import along with regular European beers. Online beer shops such as Beerwulf and Dry Drinker have a huge assortment to try.

Thrown into this mixture of no-shame and tasting good is the report last August in which The Lancet said no level of alcohol consumption improves health, and the massive marketing campaign that Heineken is doing on both sides of the pond with its Heineken 0.0 lager in the familiar green bottle. 

Suddenly an ice-cold non-alcohol beer starts sounding good.

Taking Europe as a whole, around 10 percent of all beer sales were non-alcohol last year. All are expecting this figure to jump for at least the next five to six years.

How big of jump, that’s the question.

Some market research groups are claiming that worldwide it will double in growth, being worth a staggering £20 billion by 2024. But, knowing how many of these research groups operate, I find it even more staggering that people believe them.

The UK papers have reported that last year our supermarkets saw a jump of 27 percent in the sales and/or consumption of non-alcohol beer. A magazine article said that in the UK, the sale last year off non-alcohol beer rose 60 percent. 

While that sounds like every shopping trolley no longer has room for food – just non-alcohol beer – without knowing the actual figures behind the 60 percent, that could be six bottles or six million. Percentages are too easy to exaggerate and blow out of proportion as we know from the weekly health scare in any newspaper. You sold one can last year and five this year, way-hey, you just had an increase of 500 percent in sales.

But, what we can agree on, however, in talking with brewers and distributors, sales are rising and as I mentioned, the stigma that used to go with drinking non-alcohol beer is disappearing, especially with Millennials here in the UK.

Dry opportunities

In a December Brewbound podcast, Brooklyn Brewery CEO Eric Ottaway said that breweries needed to quit thinking of themselves as only makers of beer, but to look at other potential revenue streams, which includes non-alcohol beer.

He said that Brooklyn’s entry into non-alcohol beer is a way to diversify Brooklyn’s products offerings and build a buffer against beer’s overall slowing sales in the US. 

Brooklyn spent a year developing its non-alcohol Special Effects lager that is now available in Sweden and which they had at the Brick Lane show. When will it be available Stateside, Eric wouldn’t say, but did say said that the US has had it backwards when it comes to non-alcoholic beer.

“If you were drinking a non-alcohol beer, there was something wrong with you. It was kept in the back of the bar fridge and carefully poured into a glass and given to you so nobody would see that you’re drinking non-alcoholic beer,” he said. “It was kind of an embarrassing thing. Whereas you go in Europe and it’s celebrated. It’s treated as the opposite in most countries. People would never sneer at you or look down at you like you have a problem.”

Ilaria Lodigiani, head of global marketing innovation, Heineken brand, characterises this as moving away from a focus on “can’ts” – such as pregnant women and designated drivers – to “don’t want tos”, who “like the taste of beer but just don’t want to drink alcohol at a particular moment.”

Lodigiani agrees that alcohol free beer is seen as something that’s “not cool”, but believes the brand equity of Heineken can play a big part in transforming perceptions. The business is putting its money where its mouth is: it has committed to spend 25 percent of Heineken’s marketing budget on its non-alcohol in every market

She thinks the potential for the product is broad. “It’s a zero-alcohol beer, but also very low in calories, low in sugar. The consumer mind-set is changing quite a bit – they’re looking for 100 percent natural products, but with less sugar, less alcohol.”

CMO Jonnie Cahill of Heinekens says: “It’s for beer drinkers who love beer…but sometimes just don’t want the alcohol. We are going to change the game, it’s like nothing else in the market.” 

NA controversy

Non-alcohol beer first made an appearance in the US in 1919. Why, you ask? That’s when Prohibition became law. It was decided that the strongest a beverage could be and considered non-alcohol was 0.5 percent ABV and that’s where that magic number comes from – at least in most of the world but not here.

At present, to be “Alcohol-Free” in the UK, a beer brewed here has to be 0.05% ABV or below, while products at 0.5% have to be called “De-Alcoholised”, although some non-alcohol beers don’t have to have alcohol removed to be at 0.5 percent. 

But, products from the EU and elsewhere, distributed in the UK can be 0.5% and still labelled “alcohol free.”

Confusing? Oh yeah. 

Why doesn’t the government then put the marker at 0.5 percent and call it a day? Because, not all want this.

Steve Magnall, chief executive at St Peter’s Brewery, a producer of a range of 0.05% alcohol beers, says: “We’ve put time, effort and money into producing a zero-alcohol range of beers, so why should a 0.5% beer be branded as zero alcohol when it isn’t. Someone wishing not to drink alcohol doesn’t want a 0.5% ABV beer, that would be like feeding a vegetarian a tiny bit of thinly cut ham.”

A course, if someone comes out with a 0.04 percent or lower beer, they’ll be making the same argument against St Peter’s Brewery.

In Germany, where 0.5 percent is treated as the gold standard of alcohol free, there have been numerous tests regarding 0.5 percent and complete alcohol free. Their researchers didn’t see any difference in the effect it has on people.  

Making it dry

Most of the time it starts off like a regular beer, from making a mash to the fermenting stage. But, while regular beer will now be bottle, canned or further aged, non-alcohol beer has to have its alcohol removed.

If you remember your school chemistry, alcohol has a much lower freezing temperature than water – thus the reason for that bottle of vodka in the freezer – and it has a much lower boiling point than water – around 78 degrees C. You can in effect, boil off the alcohol before the water starts boiling. 

This additional cooking, however, gives alcohol free beer the taste we all can’t stand and it’s why most have been in the past heavy on the malt flavour. Hop flavours, forget it, they’re not going to happen with all that additional heat and cooking time.

The problem with boiling beer is that it doesn’t just remove the alcohol, it also destroys other flavour compounds that give beer its fullness and character. According to Brew Your Own, “The hop aromas will usually be driven off within the first five minutes, while the hop flavours will be gone within the first 15 minutes.” Which is why finding a decent alcohol-free IPA can be a challenge.

One thing most people notice with non-alcohol beer is that quite a few have a metallic taste that ranges from being very slight to quite pronounced. 

Regular beer can have the same problem but we don’t notice it due to the hop flavours. 

When brewers inject CO2 in alcohol-free beer, besides tiny bubbles in your drink, it also adds carbonic acid, which can give off a metallic or sour favour – which could be one reason why non-alcohol seems to work extremely well with sours.

Some brewers boil under vacuum pressure to reduce the boiling point thereby mitigating damage to flavour. A course, you need the additional equipment to do it.

That said, two American craft brewers, Jeff Stevens of WellBeing Brewing and Philip Brandes of Bravus Brewing, have taken on the challenge of creating craft non-alcoholic beer by using the vacuum boil method. Depending on the power of the vacuum, the alcohol’s boiling point can be lowered to around 40 degrees C.

A couple of friends and I tried WellBeing’s Heavenly Body Golden Wheat and Hellraiser Dark Amber. We all agreed if we were offered a Diet Coke or either of these two, we’d take the non-alcohol beers in a heartbeat. If we were offered the real thing or these two, that’s where opinions differed.

Another dealcoholizing technique that’s sometimes employed is reverse-osmosis. As Chow.com explains it, “…beer is passed through a filter with pores so small that only alcohol and water (and a few volatile acids) can pass through. The alcohol is distilled out of the alcohol-water mix using conventional distillation methods, and the water and remaining acids are added back into the syrupy mixture of sugars and flavour compounds left on the other side of the filter. Bingo—a non-alcoholic brew.” 

Because the main ingredients aren’t heated, this technique causes less flavour degradation, so it gives generally preferable results, though it’s more labour intensive and requires even more equipment.

Regular beer drinkers will tell you that no matter what brewers do, non-alcohol beers won’t taste completely the same because there’s no alcohol.

And they’re actually sort of right. While alcohol doesn’t really add any flavour, alcohol adds to what is called the mouth-feel of the beer. It gives it that dryness, and according to some, it can accentuate some of the sweet flavours in the malt. If you don’t believe me about the lack of flavour, next time you’re in the USA’s Deep South, try having a swig from a bottle of Everclear which you can sometimes find being sold at 190 proof.

After sampling some of the non-alcohol choices at CBR, I wanted to see what else was out there. In the UK, online seller Dry Drinker in Staines has Britain’s largest assortment of non-alcohol beers – 103 at last count – along with wines and spirits, so I went out there to meet with founder Stuart Elkington and to do a bit of sampling.

A bet

While in the USA what seems to drive craft brewers into non-alcohol is an alcohol-related problem, joining a dry-religion such as the Mormons, or other guilt, in the UK we don’t carry all those same issues and Elkington is an example of this. He went dry to win a bet with his wife.

They were trying IVF treatment for a baby and the doctor told Stuart that he should cut back on his drinking. His wife said he couldn’t make it six months and the bet was on.

During this period, Elkington says that he found he was feeling and sleeping better so he decided to continue staying dry. However, he still wanted a beer. Elkington says that he searched locally but couldn’t find anything. Complaining to his wife about it – and how this lack also seemed like there could be a business opportunity – she told him to either put-up or shut-up. Dry Drinker was born.

“People ask me if I’ve stopped drinking? ‘No’, I tell them, I just drink dry,” says Elkington. “While for many people this is a negative thing, for me I see the positives.

“With Dry Drinker, we’re not a preachy brand; we’re here when you want to drink; we’re here when you don’t.”

In the three years that Dry Drinker has been up and running, he says that he’s seen a big change in the market, with more people drinking alcohol-free beverages. But, it’s not always an easy slog to try to convince people to try it.

“There is a pre-conceived notion here that it won’t taste good,” he says. “But for European drinkers, it’s not that big of deal with European breweries presenting non-alcohol beer as just part of their range and not plastering non-alcohol all over the label.”

In sampling non-alcohol beers, some styles do work better than others, a fact that Elkington is quick to point out.

“Sours work well, they’re a good fit in the range like BrewDog’s Raspberry Blitz. IPAs can be found that are full of flavours and hops,” he says. “If you start with good ingredients, you get a good beer.”

Lagers don’t work as well, but that said, Germany, Latvia, and surprisingly Russia, all make a decent lager.

Elkington says that he is lucky right now with Heineken’s big push for their alcohol-free beer. “When the bigger brands come into the market, it reassures the consumers that it must be a good thing because they’re doing it.”

I asked Elkington with something like Brewdog’s sour, is it his job or Brewdog’s to market it?

“Looking at Brewdog’s latest accounts, they have just a bit more money than me,” he says laughing.

“Any brand we’ll work with. I tell them that I want to be their biggest supplier and distributor, but they need to do their job as well,” he says. “With the small UK brewers who are doing alcohol free, they know us and we work together.”

The elephant in the room for all of us who are involved in the beer industry is alcohol. It’s there – it’s most definitely there – but it’s something we never discuss at beer conferences, trade shows, in bars or in tap rooms.

Which in a way seems a bit screwy on our part if for many people, one of the main reasons why they have a cold one is to enjoy a bit of buzz, enjoyment, and temporary mental escape from what life throws at us. 

Why do we pretend otherwise? It’s why people have been drinking for thousands and thousands of years, so why should we feel embarrassed to discuss it?

If we acknowledge that alcohol is an important part of our industry, then we should acknowledge, too, that sometimes we should be offering an alternative. Guinness has its H2O Guinness Clear – also known as tap water – in their campaign to drink moderately. Breweries across the world are offering up non-alcohol beers by the hundreds.

Should this alternative be, however, something coming from your brewery? For those of you who are small, no. It takes time and money to do it right and you have bigger things to worry about. For you medium to large brewers, let me pass on this bit of advice from the US Western days. The pioneer gets the arrow, the settler gets the land.

If this time around, alcohol free will be here to stay, which I suspect it will be, I don’t see much advantage in being the first out the gate. Let the big boys like Heinekens use their massive marketing budget to create the demand and then follow behind.

When visiting Stuart at Dry Drinker I enjoyed the Braxzz Porter. I’m not going to lie and tell you it was the finest porter I’ve ever had, but it was far from the worse, I’d place it right in the middle.

But, what in a way made it the best was, I had the enjoyment of the drink, without the sluggish feel afterwards. And, without giving alcohol blood levels a single thought, I got into my car and drove off, knowing I wasn’t a danger to anyone on the road – except for my usual crappy driving. 

I’d say that was a pretty great alternative.

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.”

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.

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.


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]

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!”