Saturday 20 July 2024

A visit to Guinness brewery

Back in Dublin for the first time since 1911 I finally got to go round the Guinness brewery at St James's Gate

Diageo own "46-50" breweries, of which only five brew draught Guinness, most making the far superior Foreign Extra Stout (FES). It has a lot of diacetyl though  (>250ppb!), which just shows that it's not always a bad thing. 

They were in the process of commissioning two new 1000 keg per hour kegging lines when we visited. The fill 20, 30 and 50L kegs, with high gravity beer being cut to sales strength just before packaging. The beer gets 25 Pasteurisation Units (PUs). CO2 is 1.8-2.4 volumes and nitrogen 2.5-4. Which sounds quite a wide range to me but  you can't argue with hastily scribbled notes when you try and decipher them. 

After its initial hiccup Guinness Zero has been way more successful than anticipated. They are however extremely cagey about how they make it and we had one of the strangest experiences I've seen on a brewery tour talking to they guy in charge of it. We only got as far as the outside of the building in which it's made and most of our questions were nervously answered with "I can't tell you that". The smart money was on it being dealcoholised by reverse osmosis. The lack of alcohol means it gets 80 PUs. In Ireland you can get Guinness Zero on draught, an opportunity I did not take up as you can also get Guinness draught on draught. 

In the traditional Irish manner the lauter tuns are called kieves on the information display but they seem to have forgotten when making the banners. 

Whatever you call them though they're bleedin' huge. They make 7 million hl a year of beer at high gravity. Which I think it's fair to say is lots. There are three Steinecker brewing lines, the Guinness one making 1000hl at a time from 20 tonnnes of grist, 11 times a day. The ale and lager (Smithwicks, Harp, Hophouse, Carlsberg) goes at the same rate but with a brew length of 650hl. Due to demand some Guinness is also made on the ale and lager line. Lastly there's a roast malt barley extract stream. Given the awkward experience with the Guinness Zero guy I didn't ask about the Guinness Flavour Extract so the secret of the ooze will stay secret. 

They have four roller wet mills, Mash Conversion Vessels (MCVs), Lauter Tuns, Kettles and Whirlpools. The barley used is all Irish, Planet being the current malting variety with presumably feed barley for the raw and roast barley. The weak worts are recycled. The roast barley is unmilled and adds colour, flavour and aroma. The roast malt extract is combined with the Guinness stream in the kettle for a one hour boil. 

They mash in at 64.5°C rising to 72°C. There are two MCVs and one lauter tun for each stream. 

Fermentation takes two and a half days at 22°C with the ABV reaching 7.2%. The yeast is used for eight generations. They have 100 tanks ranging in size from 1200 to 4000hl. 

The roast house uses converted three tonne coffee roasters. They have bigger blades as barley grains are smaller than coffee beans. They are indirectly heated up to a maximum of 232°C (that's only for 90 seconds!). The last 20 minutes in a process taking two and a half hours are critical. The roasting chamber has water sprayed on at the end of the cycle to lower the temperature immediately. We were told 10% of the grain is roasted (though I'd heard 8% before) but my mind really got to boggling when I heard it's 20% in FES. It definitely has a darker head then draught Guinness. It will be as Guinness Flavour Extract that's added though. FES also has three hop additions. Probably extract there too mind. 

Sixty breweries worldwide produce Guinness under licence and samples from all of them are sent to Dublin for analysis. The lab has lot of shiny kit and sensory analysis also takes place by a 12 strong panel of trained tasters. They also deal with RTDs and the spirits Diageo makes for Africa. Local raw materials such as sorghum, millet and maize can be used and they have to be careful about Phenolic Off Flavours (particularly with sorghum) as the Guinness yeast is POF+. The limit for 4VG and 4VP is set at 0.25mg/l as that's the flavour threshold for most people. And they may allow a lot of diacetyl but they keep acetaldehyde low. 

pH and total acidity as acetic acid is measured. The haze meter uses 90° light at 650nmhey need to use a smaller cell for stout than lager though! 

Sorghum in particular is high in oxalic acid which can lead to beer stone problems. They measure calcium content, treat with nitric acid and measure again to show calcium oxalate. Not entirely sure how that works but give me the SOP and I'd have a go. 

The pilot plant was spread over four floors with of course the hammer and roller mills at the top. 

They have 10hl and 5hl breweries, which use 300 and 90kg respectively. 

They have a mash filter as well as a lauter tun. Wort's heated with an external calandria. 

The keg filler will go at 30 kegs/hr and they have a hybrid can and bottle filler. 

As Guinness supplies the UK from Dublin a lot of beer is tankered out: 60-65%! Forty 300hl tankers a day leave the site, most going to Runcorn, some to Belfast. They can fill a tanker in 45 minutes. 

That was the last brewery I went to on the Irish study tour and they really had left the best till last, it was fantastic. But did it make the best Irish stout? More on that later. 

Sunday 30 June 2024

A visit to Rye River brewery

After our distillery detours it was back to breweries. Rye River brewery was founded ten years ago, initially by getting their beers contract brewed, including in the UK. This didn't go down well locally but when they build their own brewery it was Irish made, possibly the first Irish built brewery in a century? 

The 25hl kit has been kept busy with production currently at 38,000hl/pa. This means brewing six times a day, 24/7 or in layman's terms a lot of human misery. They have had a lot of staff turnover. 

Head Brewer Bill Lauktis

But the hard work, and selling a minority share to Warsteriner, has paid off.

The old kit

A shiny new 100hl brewery was being put through brewing trials when we visited. It's a five vessel system: Mash Conversion Vessel, lauter tun, pre-run tank, kettle and whirlpool. 40-50% of the wort goes to the pre-run tank and then on to the kettle. There's a two stage calandria for wort boiling and it can go in reverse on to the top of the hat/spreader to flash off volatiles. The boil is 30-35 minutes. The whirlpool has a shell and tube heat exchanger for cooling on the way in to 70 to 85°C for hop additions or to avoid DMS formation in lagers. A Plate Heat Exchanger is used on the way out. They're currently trialling aeration instead of oxygenation (on the cold side). The mash vessel can raise the temperature by 1°C a minute. A sugar dosing station is used for sugar additions. 

The new kit

Over 30 beers are made, plus seasonals and several supermarkets are supplied. Four yeasts are used: Kölsch, Ale, Lager and Belgian. They are propagated in house. 
Sixty seven people are employed, 15 on the brewing team. 
There are two 26 tonne pale malt silos, a four roller mill capable of 2.5 tonnes and hour and a three tonne grist case. It only takes 12 minutes to mash in through a vortex hydrator. 

Water is Reverse Osmosis treated, going into a 240hl tank. The Hot Liquor Tank is 540hl and the Cold Liquor Tank (kept at 3°C) is 530hl. 
Spent grain goes to a 24 tonne silo with the trub from the whirlpool. The silo has to have heaters to prevent it freezing in Winter!
Fermenting vessels are 25hl  x2, 50hl x4, 75hl x3, 100hl x15 and 200hl x3. There are seven Bright Beer Tanks. A decanter centrifuge deals with the dry hops. 

They have a 24 head, 8(?) capping heads, 7-9,000 bph bottling line and  smaller linear can filler. 

See how happy CPD makes people! They love learning!

We had lunch here so there was time to give the beers a proper organoleptic assessment. 

Monday 24 June 2024

A visit to Tullamore distillery

One's never enough. But we're not talking about my drinking habits, I was in Ireland for studying. So after the Midleton distillery visit, Tullamore (owned by William Grant and Sons) was next. 

Though Tullamore is not the same scale as our last visit that there's a lot of money in whisk(e)y was once again apparent. The impressive looking distillery started production in 2014 and they've been busily filling up warehouses with casks since then. 

Current production is 95,000 casks a year, an over production of 40,000 casks so an extra warehouse is built each year for storage. I told you there was a lot of money in whisk(e)y! 

There were loads of fascinating facts to be had on this visit so I even got in touch with them afterwards to fill in some of the details. They don't just have continuous stills but continuous mashing too! Does it get more exciting than that? I don't think so! Still can't quite get my head round it all but here goes:

The continuous mashing can be thought of as like a tower of overflowing champagne glasses. Mash moves from the mill through a series of vessels where conversion takes place then on to the fermenter and then stills. They have two mashing streams which run alternately for approximately two weeks at a time. 

They start with the hammer mill which mills 3,360kg/hr of wheat. No Steel's masher here, they have a plough mixer and and wheat slurry vessel. Steam is injected into a jet cooker giving a target temperature of 87°C. This will gelatinize the starch. As this is Irish Whiskey exogenous enzymes are used for starch breakdown. Alpha-amylase will help with liquefaction of the starch and break down long chain molecules in the starch exposing non-reducing ends which beta-amylase can act on to make fermentable maltose. 

In a flash drum (a sealed pressure vessel run under a vacuum of 0.25barA) excess heat is flashed off bringing the temperature down to 67°C. The recovered heat is used to pre-heat the mash liquor. In a Conversion Vessel at 63°C beta-amylase and malted barley (2.5% of the grist) are added. Irish whiskey rules may allow the use of added enzymes but they still require at least some malted barley to be present. 

The mashing process having higher then lower temperatures gets around the problem temperature stepped mashes commonly used in brewing have. By heating up the mash and getting to 63°C then going to 67°C you get the optimum temperature for beta-amylase action before the optimum temperature for alpha-amylase action so there are less of those non-reducing ends for the beta-amylase. 

There's no grain separation so the mash/wash is cooled in a shell and tube heat exchanger on the way to fermentation. Having two of them allows CIP (Clean In Place) to be carried out on one whilst the other is in use. The total residence time of grain in the mashing system is around 50 minutes.

Fermentation takes 67-72 hours and then the wash and grains go to the Continuous Stills. Those of you that have not had the benefits of a distilling education may not be aware how wondrous these are but I hope the pictures capture some of their majesty. 

I can also highly recommend looking at a diagram of a Coffey Still and following the flow round until you've worked out what on earth is going on. Then you'll truly appreciate continuous distillation! They get 99.5% efficiency compared to the Predicted Spirit Yield when making grain whiskey.

Going from right to left in the picture above is the wash column, purifier and rectifier. Further left there are another two smaller columns for the heads and tails which feed back into the purifier. 

The wash column is run under 0.45barA of vacuum so raw alcohol is drawn at 72.6°C under normal running conditions. The top trays are a degassing section to remove CO2 and help prevent the carcinogen ethyl carbamate getting through to the final spirit. 130hl/hr of wash is run through the still. Spent grains carry forward from the distillation to a spent wash tank and are then separated out from the liquid "centrate" by a decanter centrifuge. The centrate, along with pot ale from the pot stills, is then evaporated making distillers syrup for animal feed and organic condensate which is used as process water. 

The purifier has 40 trays and is packed with copper to remove unwanted sulphur compounds. The rectifier has 50 trays. Each of the trays can be thought of as a mini still so you can see why much purer spirits come from continuous stills than from pot stills. 
Speaking of which, we saw them too: 

The stills are in two sets of three, so wash, low wines and spirit stills. Products leave the stills at 26, 57 and 81.5% ABV respectively. The lyne arms, as you can see, slope down. I believe that's a lantern neck on the left still, though god knows what's going on with the off centre neck on the still on the right. 

The mashing for the malt and pot (50/50 malt/barley) whiskey. The have one of those less efficient temperature stepped mashes for a 9.6 tonne grist (malt) or 8.5 tonnes (pot). Enzymes are added for the pot whiskey. The grist is wet milled and has a 20 seconds wet rest before milling. 

Fermentation in the 12 fermenters (washbacks?) takes 72 hours, with a temperature ex-lauter tun of 22°C rising to 30-31°C during fermentation. Dried yeast is used and they do three brews a day. 

Bourbon, refills and sherry casks are used for the malt and pot whiskey, bourbon and refills for the grain whiskey. The warehouse contain a mixture of cask types and ages so if one catches fire it won't leave a gap in the inventory!

My best guess from my scrawled notes for annual output in litres of pure alcohol is:

Pot whiskey 1.5 million
Malt whiskey 2.2 million
Grain whiskey 9.25 million. 

I could have spent a lot longer here, I'd have loved to have seen the continuous mashing system. Chemical engineers don't always get things right but they do have their moments. 

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Going bankrupt

In the world of beer there has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about companies going bankrupt...and then re-opening immediately free of the debts they had to their suppliers.  I have personal experience of this from the inside so it seems a good time to write down what I can remember.

When I worked as a microbiologist the company I was at went bankrupt and managed to re-open a soon after with a slightly different name doing the same business. It had been obvious the company was not doing well for some time. A big customer had been lost so the work just wasn't there like it once was. When I saw the owners daughter updating her CV on a work computer I thought the company was definitely going under, but despite this it still came as a shock when it finally happened. I'd worked there for years so though intellectually I'd guessed I'd soon be on the sausage it hadn't prepared me emotionally for when reality hit. 

The old laboratory building

I went down the dole office straight away as they only start paying you from when you first tell them you're unemployed. The amount of money you get is pitifully small compared to a wage, so anyone who tells you benefits in this country are generous is an idiot or a liar. And speaking of wages when a company goes so does whatever money you're owed. There is some sort of statutory redundancy payment you'll get but again it was shocking how little it was.

When I found this out it all added to the shock as neither myself nor the owner when he was telling us the company had gone bust had realised quite how shit it was. I had agreed to stay on to finish the work in progress, cultures take a few days to grow so a microbiologists work is usually not something that's can be completed in a single day. When the owner asked us a few days later to stay on longer I did think that was pushing it. We weren't getting paid for the work we'd done or the work we were doing. One of the office people had in fact left immediately. But the boss said there was a chance the company would be bought and not losing customers would help. So I did stay on, it's not like I'd had any other plans. The owner of the industrial estate was not keen on the idea though. I guess he was one of the creditors getting shafted. He was persuaded to allow us to continue even though this was trading whilst insolvent which is definitely dodgy legally. 

The company did get bought, from the receiver though not as a going concern. Which I guess is the "pre-pack" bit that looks so cynical. As I understand it limited companies have their own legal existence so none of the owners were liable for any debts and creditors and the bank got whatever scraps, if any, they could get from the receiver. We stopped working for the old bankrupt company on a Friday and started for the new debt free company in the same premises, doing the same work, on Monday. We all kept our jobs, except the woman who'd stopped working immediately. I don't know how much redundancy money she got. We got paid for the work we'd done. I think all our suppliers continued to supply us, though for six months or so everything had to be paid for by pro-forma. I remember some awkward conversations when I phoned in orders and had to explain that we in fact a new company so any unpaid debts were nothing to do with us. 

The old owner was kept on as managing director but I did get a new immediate boss from the parent company and we did start to get corporate guff coming our way. I successfully used TUPE to not sign the new worse contract though all my co-workers did. Remember you don't have to sign everything put in front of you! See also forms requesting to voluntarily opt out of the 48 hour maximum week

How much debt was written off and what the creditors thought of all this I don't know. Though as I'd said apart from lots of pro-formas things carried on as they had before. I don't think any of the suppliers were small enough or owed enough to have their businesses seriously damaged, the thing that causes such upset. It seemed to me that's just how modern capitalism works. Looking up the wiki on limited liability I see that even when it was brought in (1855 in England):

"There was a degree of public and legislative distaste for a limitation of liability, with fears that it would cause a drop in standards of probity"

I seems this distaste continues to this day, and certainly there's a strong suspicion some of the brewery pre-packs have been lacking in probity. 

Personally speaking after the bankruptcy I was less happy with how the company was now run. This in the end lead to me retraining and moving into the brewing industry, which has mostly been a good thing. After I'd gone the lab was sold on and eventually when the lease came up for renewal the site was closed down. In a strange twist of fate a microbiologist made redundant then got a job at the brewery I worked at. And he's still there though I've now gone!

Monday 20 May 2024

A visit to Midleton Distillery

Since I've been a member of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling the importance of distilleries to seems to have been growing. There is a lot of money in spirits which I'm sure is entirely coincidental. Whisk(e)y distilleries are great places to visit though, usually old buildings, gleaming copper and dusty oak barrels. 

Which is also all that you're usually allowed to photograph and they tend to get twitchy about electric devices in alcohol rich atmospheres. 

Copper has to be used in stills to get rid of unwanted sulphur flavours and  wood is required for flavour and colour development. 

The Midleton distillery is big, Jamieson whiskey being one of the brands made there. Current output is 68-69 million litres of alcohol per year, grain whiskey making up 48 mla and pot whiskey 20.5 mla. Not being a distiller myself it's not obvious to me how big that is so lets see what I can convert it to in language I understand: 

My notes are a little confusing on the whiskey washes, as I have them down at 12-15% ABV and 10-12%. I'll take 13.5% as the average and 68.5 million litres of alcohol would take just over five million hectolitres of whiskey wash to make. So in brewery terms we're talking large multinational size. There are 500 people on site so that fits in too.

100,000 tonnes of maize, 35,000 tonnes of barley and 20,000 tonnes of malt are used annually. I'm not really up on Irish Whiskey regulations but using unmalted barley is distinctively Irish, as is triple distillation in pot stills (double distillation being preferred in Scotland).

We did get a good look at the six pot stills but sadly not the continuous still, a much more complicated bit of kit where the grain whiskey is made. Continuous stills give a purer spirit too: 94.4% ABV in this case, whereas the pot stills' new make spirit comes out at 84.5% ABV after the third distillation (first the wash still, then the feints still, then the spirit still). The wash is pre-heated from 25°C to 50-60°C on its way to the stills, which have a capacity of 385hl. Production of low wines at 45-50% ABV takes six to seven hours with the cut giving a short head and long tails. From the second still they get a 70% ABV product (high wines?). The stills have straight necks with lyne arms at 90°. There are horizontal condensers. The spirit is cut to 63.4% ABV for maturation. The stills are cleaned using 3% caustic.

For the pot whiskey the wash is made from 60% barley and 40% malt using mash filters. The grains are hammer milled before going to a mashing in vessel then into Mash Conversion Vessels followed by mash filters (they have three mash filters and MCVs). Enzymes are added to the mash, something they don't allow in Scotland. The mash starts at 52°C, has an hour at 60­°C and is raised to 77°C before going to the mash filter. The mash filters take at least 2.5 hours to separate the wort, 300hl of strong worts (75°S if all goes well) going to Fermenting Vessels (or should that be wash backs?) and 60hl of weak worts are recycled into the next mash. Eight tonnes of grist are used and usually there are 26 brews in 24 hours, though they can do 30 at a push. FVs are 2,000hl. Fermentation is carried out using M yeast supplied as a cream to 10-12% ABV (so I guess the higher figure I had is for the grain whiskey washes). 

They fill 3,000 barrels a day, mostly 200L. The barrels are filled from the top  through a hole drilled in the head. Evaporation and filling/emptying losses work out at 2% a year plus 4%. The barrels get three uses. Before packaging the whiskey goes through a vibrating sieve to remove char and wood before going through 150 and 110μm filters.  

We had time for a quick taste and they were kind enough to give us a sample to take away too.

It managed to make it back home before being guzzled. Aged in port casks and sweet it was ideal for a whisk(e)y lightweight like myself. 

Sunday 12 May 2024

Saving mild for another year

People think it's all milk and honey 'Spoons vouchers and discounts being a CAMRA member. But as CAMRA is a campaigning organisation there are responsibilities and obligations placed upon the membership. 

One that I struggle with each year is the requirement to drink mild in May. It's not that I have anything against mild in itself, it's just I seldom see it on the bar. So each year the search begins again and often I have to make a detour via the Royal Oak when on a trip to London to fulfil my obligation. This year I started May in Ireland, a country that fell to evil keg where few pubs serve cask beer so I didn't rate my chances. When I tweeted this I was admonished by The Beer Nut for my defeatist attitude and he valiantly tried to help me in my quest. What a coup that would have been! To have saved mild in Ireland! But sadly it was not to be and I failed to find mild poured from the devil's drainpipe on keg, let alone served as god intended. 

Back in Britain I could constantly feel the pressure from my undischarged duty. As it can be surprising how quickly a month can fly by I was determined to get the saving done soon. Advances in technology were my salvation as the beers on at The Crown are regularly updated on Real Ale Finder. 

Having a quick nose on Saturday afternoon I was delighted to see that the unambiguously named Dark Mild was on the bar so I hot footed it over for a pint. 

Very nice it was too. Mild, and my immortal soul, are saved for another year. 

Thursday 9 May 2024

A visit to Molson Coors' Franciscan Well brewery

After the Murphys visit I popped back to the hotel. Which was just as well really as my room had been totally cleared out: bag, jacket and even toothbrush gone. I figured I hadn't been hit by an unusually thorough burglar but instead it was a hotel cock up. The woman on reception had no idea what had happened but said "we'll find it" and was true to her word which was a great relief. I'm glad that one got sorted whilst it was early and I was sober, would have been a lot more agro when I rolled in at midnight. 

It was then on to Molson Coors' Franciscan Well brewery down on the quay. 

It's in a spacious building with lots of shiny kit. A lot of money has been spent on the brewery. which with an annual production of 16-20 thousand hl a year Molson Coors won't be getting back for in a hurry. But hey, it's nice to see a brewery that's not cramped and has decent equipment. A third of the beer made goes to the UK.

The brewhouse is a Braukon 50hl four vessel system, currently run at 4% evaporation after optimisation with the help of the parent company. A brew every four hours is possible. The vapour condenser on the copper stack recovers 12-15hl of water at 60°C. 

The site has a soft water supply which is carbon filtered to remove manganese and iron.

The centrifuge can handle from 12-16hl an hour for dry hopped beers (200g/hl) up to 35hl an hour for non-dry hopped beers. Dissolved oxygen pick up is negligible. 

The 20-22 tonne malt silo only has 17 tonnes added at a time so they don't have to flatten it with a shovel at the top! I guess not all the kit is flash!

There's a one tonne grist case and a 4-roller mill. 

The tanks are Dual Purpose Vessels used as FVs, CTs and BBTs and go up to 200hl in size. 

15% of the beer is canned. Printed cans with a minimum order of 480hls worth are used! That's a lot for a canning line that will run at 36-37 cans a minute. The keg line will do 100 x 30L kegs an hour. 

After the Franciscan Well brewery we went on to the Franciscan Well brewpub which rather confusingly is independently owned. It was rammed and took us a long, long time to get fed. The pizza was good when we got it but I'd still rather eat at 5pm if I can. 

I did manage to check out some more of the Cork nightlife after that. The bar serving a beer famous for its long largering time and not for the overwhelming taste of diacetyl we got won't be named but my cousin Rosi's recommendation, Sin É (That's It), will. It was cracking and good beer too:

After that I'd had enough CPD for the day so it was back to my belonging filled hotel room. 

Monday 6 May 2024

A visit to Heineken's Murphys brewery

As someone who takes my Continuing Professional Development very seriously it was without hesitation that I booked on to the IBD Study Tour of Ireland. We started in Cork, a city I liked the look of:

Connolly was a Wobbly too and the influence of the IWW could still be seen on the side of the building...

... along with some nationalist drivel.

But on to the studying. The first stop on the tour was Murphys brewery. The brewery dates from 1854 when a distilling family bought a hospital and converted it to a brewery. The company was bought by Heineken in 1983. 

It can be a difficult task getting into breweries owned by large companies and they can be restrictive on what you are allowed to see. In this case for Health and Safety reasons we couldn't get in the brewhouse which was a shame. They can do 12 six tonne brews a day in it in two lauter tuns. Heineken, Coors, Fosters, Tiger, Moretti, Lagunitas, Murphys and Beamish are brewed there, the stouts being perhaps four brews out of a weekly 35-40. Cider is also made there from sugar and concentrate.

They can mash every two hours and ten minutes, lautering takes three house. They have a holding vessel between the lauters and the copper, and unusually the yeast propagation plant is in the Hauppmann brewhouse. Overall extract losses are less than 7%.

They have heat recovery on the stack on the copper and a heat recovery tank holds hot water which is used to pre-heat the wort via a Plate Heat Exchanger. They have four 120 tonne malt silos and two wheat malt silos (though it's used at less than 5% so presumably they're smaller). Chocolate malt and roast barley are used for the stouts (Murphys and Beamish respectively) and colour adjustment. Maize goes in the Moretti. They have CO2 recovery and are self sufficient in it. They used to do a lot of filling of gas bottles do but not only do a small about of 20L gas containers. 

Heineken has a mashing profile 55, 64 and 78°C and is brewed at 17°P to 7.5% ABV before being cut to a sales strength of 4.3%. I'm also got something down about them mashing at 60°C not 55. For the stouts maybe? It's to prevent ferulic acid formation so they don't get a phenolic taste from 4 Vinyl Guaiacol. Mash pH is 5.5-5.7 and copper pH 5.3-5.5. Calcium carbonate is added in the Mash Conversion Vessel and phosphoric acid in the copper. 

Their 20 head keg filler can fill 850 x 30L kegs an hour. 

Maximum brew length is 330hl. Six brews of Heineken will go in a single Fermenting Vessel. Horizontal FVs have to be used for Heineken as they only allow a maximum height of 4m so they get the right ester profile in the beer. Wort is oxygenated to 20ppm. Fermentation is at 12°C for 10 days and it takes 28 days in total to make Heineken. Cider takes three weeks and stouts are filtered after 10 days. The stouts are carbonated to 1.5-1.8 volumes of CO2 in tank and nitrogenated just before packaging.  

Pentair cross flow filters are used and for lagers (but not stouts) PVPP is used for stabilisation. Total production is one million hl a year, at a push they could do 1.2 million.  

Friday 26 April 2024

On Brewing Education

This blog has lead me in some unexpected directions. Most recently to a very interesting conversation with Kathryn Thomson, the Head of Education and Professional Development at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD). So it seems rather appropriate to put something on the blog. 

The IBD is becoming the Chartered Institute of Brewing and Distilling, so we will have to start recording our Continuing Professional Development (CPD). I have for a long while been insisting that as a professional brewer every pint I drink is CPD but that does seem to have bitten me on the arse now that recording CPD is something I'll actually have to do properly. I don't suppose untappd submissions will count. The blog however might, my write ups of brewery visits whilst on study tours have been described as "great examples of reflective CPD". I may be a beer nerd but I'm also a technical beer geek! Well lubricated though those IBD study tours may be there's a lot of actual studying too. 

Kathryn is trying to develop a practical and pragmatic approach to CPD which sounded very positive to me. And I also got a chance to go off on one about brewing education which was great because I have opinions

Having studied brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt and completed the IBD Master Brewer qualification I have done a lot of formal brewing education and it is definitely weighted heavily towards giant lager factories. These places may be where most beer is made but with the proliferation of craft breweries they are not where most brewers work. The IBD does seem to have recognised this as the shorter courses they've been putting out recently seem much more geared towards to needs of the smaller brewers. Which is nice. But the short courses don't count towards the formal qualifications so we did get on to discussing more American or Scottish modular system counting towards a qualification. 

We also discussed the engineering part of the IBD Diploma (module three). As I went to Heriot-Watt I got the diploma by exemption... as soon as I'd sent the IBD a cheque. So my learning of brewing engineering come from a lecturer that I could talk to and ask questions and as a full time student I had a friend on the course who helped me work through the maths difficulties until I'd got my head round them. Rather a different situation from someone on their own staring at a computer screen with no one to ask about what it all means. I loved it though and the distilling part more so (though I haven't forgotten the betrayal of theoretical plates*). I also got one of my highest exam marks ever for an engineering paper: if you get the maths right they have to give you 100% whereas a good essay might get 70%. How to provide learning material that makes tricky maths something that can be learned on your own remains a problem that will be tricky to solve though. Online mentorship would help but is not without its own problems, when the IBD had a forum it was soon overrun with spam bots and the IBD's linkedin group has several times more members than the IBD has. 

Speaking of learning material we then got on to the Master Brewer qualification, for which the IBD provides the square root of fuck all learning material. This does not overly impress me but I have to say my views were challenged. Is module four (resource management and regulatory compliance) really something the IBD should be providing learning material for, as there are probably other bodies better suited to such things? This is a very valid point but as the IBD is running exams about such things they could at least give you some pointers on where to look. We both agreed that the demise of the examiners report is definitely a bad thing. Not sure how they managed to get away with it really. 

In general the IBD could improve on learning material. The magazine nowadays isn't much of a learning resource, being mostly filled with corporate financial reports, advertorials and press releases. The journal has some cracking articles, all of which are easily available online, but most papers published tend toward more obscure matters. I mentioned that the MBAA podcast is a great for accessible learning about a wide range of subjects and is often being linked to a paper or presentation. 

I will be getting back to my reflective CPD shortly as I'm off on another IBD study tour next week and I'm very interested to see how I will soon have to be logging it. 

*You probably had to be there

Sunday 11 February 2024

Finally visiting Sarah

I'd waited a long time for this. It was over thirty years ago that I first drank Sarah Hughes Original Dark Ruby Mild. I think they've dropped the "Original" from the name since then, but as I now know the locals simply call it "Ruby".

I have an 1990 programme from Farnham Beerex where I can see as a teenage beer bore I ticked it off:

I doubt I'd had it before then, and they'd only started brewing it a few years earlier in '87 anyway. I'm still a fan of the beer to this day and if I see it at a beer festival I'll drink it. I'd never actually got round to visiting the pub it's brewed in though. Over the years I have thought about it a few times and even looked in to accommodation but never actually pulled my finger out and made the trip. So when I saw work was taking me to Wolverhampton it was in fact to Sedgley that my thoughts turned. It's not blessed with a lot of accommodation so it's in Dudley that I ended up, a bus ride from my ultimate goal. 

I had another stop before that though. Pubs have a depressing tendency to close if not "spontaneously" combust so I made sure the route to my hotel took the past Ma Pardoes (The Old Swan) in Netherton. This is one of the few pubs that still brewed its own beer when CAMRA was formed and cask beer was saved. It has had hard times recently so really it's the duty of anyone in the area to call in. It's a cracking pub too.

I had a pint of the Original, a beer of modest strength, which was for the best really as I was driving and was on a mission for the rest of the evening. 

Once I got to my hotel room I checked the bus times and was off out in minutes as one was on its way. This did mean I got to the Beacon Hotel without eating but did that stop me charging in for a pint? Oh no!

The building is quite unassuming from the front and advertises wines and spirits. Wonderful interior though, with a little serving hatch in the room I ended was in. 

After my first pint of Ruby I nipped across the road to the chippy. The beer is 6% so best not drunk on an empty stomach. Then it was back for more. After finally getting there I wasn't stopping at one! It's great pub with great beer. More people were drinking Ruby than anything else as well despite the strength.

The closest I got the brewery was the brew house door so I really need to get planning another visit, and not wait so long next time!