Thursday, 16 July 2020

Fruity folly and pasteurisation perils

Another brewery has come a cropper with cans of their fruit beer exploding. This time though a novel approach to the problem has been taken as they say they "are obsessive in our focus on quality" and it's up to the customer to keep their beer in a fridge if they don't want it to explode!
They also waffle on about their robust laboratory programme and expensive equipment, despite the fact it has obviously failed.

Of what they mention it appears they're actually relying on flash pasteurisation (i.e. heating the beer rapidly for a short period of time in a plate heat exchanger and holding tube) to prevent microorganisms growing in their beer. Beer, already having been fermented, is quite a hostile environment to most microorganisms and only requires a low level of pasteurisation to become microbially stable. Since the work Del Vecchio in the 1950s the amount of pasteurisation a product has is measured in Pasteurisation Units (PU). I won't go into the details about PUs here but the higher the number the higher the degree of pasteurisation and the more heat and/or time needed to achieve it.

The level required to might be 15 PUs (or sometimes even less). As the table below shows fruit juice requires considerably more:

Twenty times more in fact! Hardly surprising that beers with a large amount of added fruit continue to have problems with fermenting in the can. If you're going to include new ingredients in your beer you may need to change your processes too if you want to avoid problems.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

First the Whorst

The current plague situation has definitely caused in upsurge in internet beer nerdery. Reports have come in that ex-beer blogger Whorst has been sighted on a home brew forum. Back in the days of coal fired computers, when people still paid attention to blogs, he very active in the blogosphere. Though he had it in for the Tand for some reason. At this rate it seems I'm going to have to pull my finger out and do more blogging myself.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Desperate measures

As I've still had to bleedin' well go to work the current plague situation has affected me less than many. But I haven't managed to escape its effects entirely. There's the queuing two metres apart to get into supermarkets...where  it then reverts to the usual free for all. And my current training regime is entirely limited to what I can do on my own in my living room, so Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has gone out of the window but I'm doing alright at re-learning side kicks. Then there's the pubs. Shut, shut, shut.

This has not done any favour for my weekend enjoyment but it was only recently that I realised there were more serious spiritual implications. As I've been able to fulfil for cask beer at work I arrogantly assumed I'd be able to live through the lockdown with no risk to my immortal soul, until The Beer Nut reminded me that May is the month of mild. I had entirely forgotten, which I suppose shows how my routine has been upset more than I'd realised. 

May being the beery month of obligation the faithful are called to promote mild during this time, and I always make sure I drink a pint and sometimes even two. How could I do that when the pubs are shut though? Working at a brewery wouldn't help as we don't make mild. In fact there's four breweries on site and not one of them makes a single mild. Our mother church makes allowances for when you can't get to pubs but who makes bottle conditioned mild? No one I know. So in these desperate times desperate measures are called for and I improvised as best I could. 

We make an old ale, which I think can be considered a strong mild. 

It's filled with extraneous CO2 though, which as we know is the essence of evil. So I used a fork to drive it, and Satan, out. 

Then to try and restore the beer to how god intended I poured in the dregs of a bottle conditioned beer:

Was this enough to fulfil my obligations? I really don't know, I haven't seen CAMRA issue a special dispensation during these troubled times. I can only hope that on the day of judgement my efforts are taken into consideration. 

Friday, 8 May 2020

Love Beer, Love Pubs

Due to the current lockdown situation many people find themselves in there has been a welcome upsurge in the amount of beer blogging, a pastime that had become much less popular since it became possible to say so much less in 280 characters on twitter. My own blogging has also been withering away, as to be honest I’ve got better things to do with my time. But Boak and Bailey reviving their call for Beery Long Reads has once again motivated me to get back to the keyboard about something I’ve been meaning to post on for some time, with an added topical twist.

Since the corona virus crisis started a number of theories have been offered about the origin of the virus. Most people are blaming the eating of bats, but eating bats is nothing new. We’ve had it happening years ago and I don’t remember any problems arising when Ozzy Osbourne ate a bat. Others blame a Chinese laboratory for creating the virus, but I think they’ve just been getting reality mixed up with The Survivors programme. 

Strangest of all, some conspiraloons are blaming 5G masts. Electromagnetic radiation creating a virus? I don’t get that one at all.

No, none of these theories ring true. As a person of faith the real cause of this terrible disease is clear. And his name is Des De Moor. This might come as a surprise to some, but bear with me. To his shame he wrote on his blog a screed titled “Love Beer, Hate Pubs”, much to the approval of a baying mob of godless beer geeks. As a punishment for this, and admittedly three years later but you know god does move in mysterious ways, a pestilence has been unleashed upon the land forcing pubs to close. And killing tens of thousands of people, but as I said, mysterious ways. Now that the pubs are shut are the pub haters happy I wonder? That god has shown us what the world is like without pubs will I hope force them to repent their wicked ways and beg forgiveness. Certainly a few Acts of Contrition and Hail Protzes are called for. But as we now have more free time on our hands let’s look at what Des wrote and highlight the error of his ways.

He starts by describing the link between beer and pubs as an accident of history, as it has always been possible to enjoy beer outside of pubs. These are the sort of words the devil might whisper in your ear to keep you away from pubs. For the evil lord knows that cask beer, that is beer served as god intended, is only found in pubs. So by staying away from pubs and drinking at home you are doing the devil's work.

Des does admit the symbiotic link between cask beer and pubs, but down plays the significance as beer can now be found in other places, like bars, coffee shops and farmers' markets in bottles, cans and 'craft keg' form. Note the dispense format conspicuously absent from that list! He then compounds his grave errors by actually encouraging people to drink from bottles when they're in a pub! After doing Satan's work he then praises cask beer, presumably to disorientate the faithful. Anything that stops people going to pubs and drinking cask beer is surely advancing Satan’s plan and being hateful to god. Besides which, cask beer really does taste better than beer served from inferior packaging formats.

He then moves on to pub closures and seems to me to be strangely ill informed. Talk of the smoking ban is dismissed as inconclusive, but whatever your views on it, it undoubtedly discouraged some regular pub goers. The high tax we pay on beer is also discounted as off trade beer is also taxed. That the high taxes means the price differential between on and off trade beer is increased due to the mark up, making pubs even less economically viable, is not discussed but surely is another big factor working against pubs.

That there are "certain problems with the pubco model" is conceded, shortly before he starts talking about how it works for some companies, presumably ones based in the Cayman Islands. If perhaps Des didn't hate pubs he would have talked to a few more publicans and found out how long they can work for so little return. Pubcos are certainly not an innocent party when it comes to pub closures, and Des does admit that the financial interest of pubcos might have nothing to do with running successful pubs compared to selling them for other uses. The Market Rent Option, which is meant to allow publicans to become free of tie on the beer they sell has not just been “slow and dogged by controversy”. It has been fought tooth and nail every step of the way by the pubcos, and they’ve been very successful too, which shows exactly how hard things are for publicans.

We then get on to trends in society and how people's homes are now more comfortable. Which I'm sure is all true but I don't see why it would make you hate pubs. Pub campaigners are characterised as being old fashioned and resisting social change as much as the loss of amenities that pub closures bring. That UKIP have a campaign against pub closures is said to be "no great surprise", but people from all sorts of political tendencies have also campaigned against pub closures so I really don't see what this is supposed to prove except trying to smear pub campaigners as being right wing little Englanders. 

Strangely he doesn't see how pubs are uniquely British, though he can see how Scottish pubs differ from English. I'm not really sure what to say about that one, other than I've drunk in a lot of establishments in a lot of countries and pubs are definitely distinctive. Though he's quite right about Scottish pubs, they tend to be more like bars than English pubs and all the worse for it if you ask me.

Rather disparagingly it's also claimed that pub campaigners are only interested in old wet led boozers with wizened regulars glued to the bar. No evidence is presented for this, but wet led pubs have certainly suffered more from closures so it's quite possible that there have been more campaigns to save them. That micropubs, tap rooms and restaurants are opening is praised which is where we get to the heart of matter. He really does hate pubs. That a dozen or so have closed near his flat doesn’t bother him as he doubts they sold any interesting beer. There’s a couple of things to say about this. Firstly not many places can lose a dozen pubs and still have plenty of good places to go drinking in. It might not be a problem if you live in London but what if you live in a village with only one pub and that closes? Mind you, Des does have previous form for London imperialism. Secondly, he is clearly the type of beer geek that is always seeking new things to drink and doesn’t care where they drink them or in what format. Which is fine if that’s what floats your boat, but personally if I can get decent beer in a decent pub I’m happy to stick with the same drink all night and though I’m pleased how the range of beers available has expanded over the years I don’t feel the need to be always seeking something new. 

Though alternative to pubs are opening, of the pubs that close no mention is made that many end up as shops or flats with nowhere for anyone to drink beer, traditional or modern. Instead we hear about the hard times he had in some pubs in his youth, and how social conformity was enforced. Before contradicting himself by mentioning how different groups and cultures had their own pubs. Certainly there are rough pubs, but there are also great pubs that make everyone welcome, and these include wet led traditional boozers. That pubs reflect society is hardly surprising so I don’t see why they should all be tarred with the same brush as the worst examples. And though he might not be sad when they shut are the wizened old regulars likely to start going to start drinking in trendy new tap rooms? I suspect not. Some might like to embrace the latest fashion, but if you’ve already found something you like I don’t see why fighting to defend it should be considered a problem.

Cold words of comfort are offered that "pub like establishments" will still cater for the demand for drinking beer in a social space. Which I'm sure is fine for those that hate pubs, but for those of us that love them nothing beats a proper pub. I've made so many friends in pubs, including many of my oldest and best friends. I had my living room furnished when I was in need thanks to learning who was getting rid of furniture via a pub, and if I want recommendations for a local tradesman I know where to ask. I might be wrong but I can't see any of that happening at a tap room, restaurant or shop. Pubs are a British cultural institution, and some of us happen to love them. They deserve to be defended.

Monday, 27 April 2020

Site Safety Checklist

Health and safety in breweries needs to be taken seriously*. Here's a something handy from the talk I went to at the SIBA AGM.

Site Safety Checklist
  • Fire equipment. Is the equipment in the right place and unobstructed?
  • Means of escape. Are escape routes free from obstructions and clearly signed?
  • First aid provision. Are first aid facilities available?
  • Fire safety. Are flammable substances kept to a minimum?
  • Electrical safety. Are all electrical appliance inspected prior to use?
  • Manual handling. Are measures taken to ensure the safety of people and equipment?
  • Slips, trips and falls. Have slip, trip and fall hazards been addressed?
  • Working at height. Is the equipment suitable and safe to use? Have you been trained for the task?
  • Food hygiene. Are food preparation and service areas kept clean and tidy?
  • Security. Are measures taken to ensure the safety of people and equipment?
  • Violence to staff. Have staff been instructed on how to deal with violent or abusive visitors?
  • Lone working. Are precautions taken when working alone?
  • Animals. Are you aware of the risks associated with contact with animals?
  • Personal Protective Equipment. If necessary is suitable PPE available?
  • Chemical safety. Are hazardous substances used and stored safely?
  • Accidents and emergencies. Is there a list of emergency contact numbers available?
  • Housekeeping. Is the site kept free from obstructions and waste?
  • Machinery Safety. Are staff trained in the safe use of equipment?
  • Vehicle movements. Are pedestrian and vehicle areas separated?
  • Lighting. Is there sufficient lighting?
  • Young persons. Do young persons work on the site?
  • New and expectant mothers. Do new or expectant mothers work on the site?
  • Noise. Are noise levels too loud for normal conversation?
  • Confined spaces. Are confined spaces identified and correctly managed?

*Particularly broken guards on kieselguhr filter dosing pots

Saturday, 11 April 2020

A German view on extraneous CO2

In these difficult times it has been encouraging to see many people return to beer blogging. But there has been a noticeable lack of pointless arguments, which as we know is what the internet is for. So you'll be pleased to hear I spotted in article in the IBD magazine where a German brewer gives his views on extraneous CO2. Always good for a pointless argument that.

Often I've seen Satan's minions dismiss any objections to artificially carbonating beer by saying that "CO2 is CO2", which is true on a molecular level, but misses the point that all bubbles are most certainly not the same.

Dr Frank Müller, Brewmaster at Riegele brewery, certainly holds this view as the article reports that he:
"describes fermentation derived carbonation as a more delicate, more integrated effervescence than the coarse bubbles that result from CO2 delivered by gas suppliers and injected in-line. One theory briefly mentioned in the course of this conversation dealt with saturation aspects of CO2 around haze particles, visibly perceived or not evident. Arguably, a slow evolution of CO2 leads to a more gradual saturation and better mouthfeel properties in the final beer."

Germany may sadly have been on the wrong side of the great schism and most of their beer is served in an illicit manner, but the German brewing tradition is still valid, as are the views of Dr Müller. The best information I've found on bubbles due to natural carbonation came from a book I read about champagne bubbles. It came to the same conclusion: that during secondary fermentation tiny particles make nucleation sites for CO2 bubbles, leading to smaller bubbles with a smoother mouthfeel. But you don't need to take my word for it, just say "Get thee behind me Satan" to the Lord of Lies and use your own senses when drinking a naturally carbonated beverage.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Cask in crisis

That the devil has long been trying to destroy cask beer is obvious to anyone who has eyes to see with. The mysterious creation of lager yeast paved the way for unnaturally cold and fizzy beer, and the invention of the infernal sparkler was clearly part a diabolic plan that culminated in nitrokeg bitter. But now the dark lord has gone further and unleashed pestilence upon the land to shut the pubs and deny people beer served as god intended.

Our mother church has long accepted bottled conditioned beer as real ale, and has recently declared that even some other lesser forms of packaging are also valid. But we know they're not the same thing. So as I still have to go to work whilst the rest of you are lying around all day wanking I did get to thinking that surely being in a brewery I must be able to find some cask beer. And as it happens it was dead easy. The shop is still open and they sell beer on cask.

So I helped myself to some on Friday and very nice it was too. Even in these times of lockdown there may still be opportunities out there to take communion and for the good of their soul I urge the faithful to be vigilant and seize these opportunities when they can. Whilst keeping social distancing and being hygienic of course.