The beer industry has long been dominated by big players. For decades, commercialized beer was the norm, and there was little innovation in terms of the brewing process and the taste of beer. Small craft breweries had yet to find their footing in a world crowded by industrial corporations and their larger-than-life brewing systems.
Thankfully, the beer industry landscape doesn’t look like that today. Craft breweries are springing from the ground on every corner. Business partners, families, and regular people can now open a microbrewery of their own and start producing a signature beer that will wow their local community (and perhaps even a wider audience). There is so much beer to try and so little time.
On the one hand, this staggering development of craft beers is remarkable for both the consumers and aspiring brewers. On the other hand, for the brewers, it can also pose a challenge. If they’re not efficient enough in their brewing process, or if their recipe is not appealing to the public, they may not be able to break through the craft beer clutter.
The name of the game in beer brewing is efficiency and originality. Streamline your process, follow the latest equipment innovations and recipe trends, and put your own spin on it. Here are some general guidelines on how to improve your beer brewing process.
Reduce Manual Labor
If your brewery isn’t fully automated yet, you should look into ways to make it so. Automation is key to a (relatively) fast, reliable process that produces consistent brew. It eliminates the human factor from the equation, allowing fewer errors in the brewing process and fewer workplace injuries.
Repetitive physical strain leads to the deterioration of your workers’ health, and operating heavy machinery is an accident waiting to happen. Reduce these risks by introducing automated brewing equipment, such as grain transportation via conveyor systems.
Conveyors move specialty grain from the grinder to the mash and the rest of the process without human interference. Cablevey systems, in particular, do this in a gentle, slow manner that prevents the breakage of grain – all you get is good malt that you can use for making good pale ale and other types of beer.
You may worry that your brewery doesn’t have enough space for a conveyor system; while that may be the case with other conveyor systems, it is not a problem for Cablevey. Cablevey’s engineering department specializes in designing custom solutions for large and small spaces, depending on the customer’s needs. A large library of system parts in all sorts of sizes, diameters, and materials ensures that any type of brewery can get its own reliable Cablevey conveyor transport, optimized to meet its brewing needs.
Aside from protecting your workers’ health and reducing manual labor, conveyors ensure the smooth flow of the grain. Breweries of any size use conveyor systems in practically all steps of the beer production process, often for 24 hours a day. This kind of flow increases production and efficiency, consequently increasing profitability as well. Automated systems are a lifesaver in a process as complex as brewing beer.
Introduce Brewing Analytics
One of the major problems the craft brewing industry faces today is not knowing exactly what is going on in each step of the brewing process. With brewing equipment primarily made of stainless steel, the visual factor is eliminated – you need to rely on readings and gauges to tell you what is happening with the current batch of beer.
However, you will come across situations where you don’t even have any readings to check. When it comes to the carbonation levels of your tanks, for example – how can you know exactly how much CO2 is left in the tank before you have to switch it out for a new one? Do you know how much ingredients you lose on a daily basis? Do you know which processes are taking too long and could be improved?
Brewing analytics – more specifically, brewing software – can help you answer all of these questions.
The advantages of using software to keep track of your brewing are
- Data validation in real time – When you look at data after a brewing step is complete, it is too late to do anything about it. You have to wait for the next batch until you can refine your brewing techniques. However, software allows you to validate information in real time, giving you the chance to react more quickly and potentially come up with a solution on the spot, saving you time, money, and a headache later.
- Better consistency – Perhaps you noticed that your beer styles have inconsistent flavors between different batches, and you’re not sure what’s causing this. Through visual data representation over a longer period of time, you will easily track changes in factors like pH levels, gravities, alcohol level, and fermentation process metrics between batches. (Not least of which is fermentation temperature control.) This allows you to have a consistent brew in the future.
- Efficiency analysis – To track how efficient you are with your brewing, you need to assess things like profit per unit, batch costs, amount of wasted product or ingredients, and more. Doing this by hand is difficult; software will help you gather all the relevant information in one place. You won’t have to use average numbers but actual values, making the calculations more precise and allowing you to maintain costs, price new products, and even compare against other brands.
- Key performance indicators – If you wish to see whether the changes you make have any effect, you should keep an eye on key performance indicators that accurately reflect these changes. Brewing software will do that for you, making sure that your workers meet the beer production goals, don’t run out of fresh ingredients or waste too much time on packaging, and so much more.
Turn to Food Science
The idea of brewing beer in a lab may be an objectionable one to you. After all, beer is meant to be a welcoming, refreshing experience, not a clinical one. But the truth is, while beer is a social drink more than anything else, beer brewing is a type of food science. You are essentially making alcohol out of carbohydrates through a series of complex processes. These processes occur in nature, but they are irrevocably linked with science.
You’re not playing around with home brewing. You are serious about your business, and you are always striving to brew better beer. Sneaking a peek at what food scientists are doing and the new chemical innovations in beer brewing will allow you to perfect your beer recipes, no matter what beer styles you’re producing.
A common belief is that the more hop you add to your brew, the stronger the hoppy aroma and flavor will be. However, recent discoveries are telling us that is not the case. Different hop plants produce different types of hops oil that can greatly vary in their potency. You can add the same amount of hops oil from two different plant strains and achieve completely different tastes.
With further research on this, beer brewers should ultimately be able to choose the exact variety of hops and add just the right amount of it to always achieve the precise flavor profile they are aiming for.
Yeast Starters and Strains
Almost every microbrewery has its yeast strain or yeast starters for its signature brews. An average brewer can’t determine where a yeast strain came from or what its genetics and physiology are like. It may work for their particular purpose, but it might not be the best yeast culture to use overall.
Scientists have started cataloging yeast strains that are used in baking and brewing. They’re analyzing around 157 strains of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in the hopes of determining the exact potential each strain has in food making. In 2016, Cell published what looks like a guidebook for brewers, where you may find better yeast than what you’re currently using to improve your process.
The amount of innovation you’re going to introduce in your brewery depends on several factors, namely on the extent of your budget and what your goal is. Expanding a brewery is a much more significant undertaking than merely reducing the amount of ingredient waste, and you should plan accordingly.
To improve your brewing process, consider what equipment you can add (or take away) to streamline the workflow. Special mash filters, conveyor systems, and brewing tools that help the fermentation process are just the tip of the iceberg. Consider investing in software that will simplify your data collection and analysis before, during, and after brewing a batch of beer.
Finally, don’t shy away from food science. It may seem daunting and too complicated at first, but modern-day additions to age-old techniques will not only lower your costs and increase productivity but will also help you brew the best beer styles anyone’s ever tasted.