The One Thing that will Determine your Success as a Homebrewer going into your Own Craft Brewery
Get this right and you will be one of the few brewers that will brew consistent beer with a long shelf life.
Ok, now that I’ve got your attention, you might be saying that there are many factors that contribute to a successful running of a craft brewery. And I agree with you wholeheartedly.
However, the importance of what I am talking about is often underestimated and should you go into starting your own little brewery or are already running one this little bit of information could determine your survival in the next decade.
It is related to the fact that most craft brewed beer on the Australian market taste and smell differently once they leave the brewery and sit in a bottle shop! And worse still these changes can be noticed within a month of leaving the brewery.
Up to now the craft brewing industry has survived despite itself because the growth has been fueled mostly by other factors such as a desire for the consumer to have unique tasting boutique beers, not just guzzling bland lagers, much like what has been happening in the rest of the food industry.
Also there has been a turn on big corporations producing mainly one style of beer that is probably more concerned with their pockets and a return for their shareholders. So production is mainly revolving around cost cutting, hence the “cheapness” of the beer.
There is nothing wrong with that type of beer for the masses and those companies are at the forefront on producing consistent tasting beer, although it may be viewed as one dimensional. There is a growing demand for “hand made” unique, locally produced and loved boutique beer.
You may be surprised to know that decades ago mainstream beer used to have more flavour than it does today. It had hop character using real hops. In fact, one such beer was re-invented some years ago and I was a fan of it but it only lasted a short period before ceasing to be produced (probably because of relatively slow sales and high production costs.)
So back to the one thing that is often not given enough importance by many microbrewers.
And that is, being able to keep flavour, aroma and consistency of the beer long after it has left the brewery. This is what we refer to as shelf-life.
All brewers are aware of it but most do nothing about it.
The reasons are twofold;
1. it costs money to set up a quality protocol which cannot be assigned an immediate monetary benefit, and
2. The brewer may not have the confidence and knowledge to set up a proper QC protocol
They do not want you to know about it but we can no longer be fooled.
When tasting craft beer at the place of origin, the brewery, we enjoy it immensely. We also enjoy the atmosphere of the surrounding brewhouse, tanks that have been lit up with blue or red lights and of course the conversations that go with it all.
However, some brewers are unwittingly setting themselves up for failure because the person leaving the brewery (having had a great experience) is going to be disappointed when he searches the bottle shop for that same beer and ultimately tastes it again at home.
“Bang#*!! what the hec!!……………”
“This isn’t what I tasted at the brewery. I’ve been duped!”, he will say.
“I will not buy that one again.”
I’ve experienced it. We all have.
But good news is on the way. Some brewers are taking the lead with closing the gap between the flavour of their beers in the brewery and those on the shelf.
The next 10 years will see a growth in the number of brewers that take shelf-life seriously and actually employ tactics to minimise flavour and aroma change.
One well known head brewer emailed me regarding shelf life and beer consistency by emphasizing the following;
“You have to push QC, craft brewers in general think brewing is an art not science. I say they’re full of c#@*. Got to do QC as we get bigger it goes into the big boys (Dan Murphy’s, Vintage Cellars) and they charge a fortune for recalls. Dans charge$180 per store and they have may be 70 stores with our beer in it, possibly more. So the cost of a recall ($12,600) will buy me a DO meter… “
Those that don’t take quality control (QC) seriously will be signing their exit papers.
Craft brewing has entered a new phase and it is being lead by bigger microbreweries like, Little Creatures, Matilda Bay, Mountain Goat and the like.
Although we are in a growth industry we will probably see more start up failures than at the present time because of this. As the industry matures there will be an increased expectation of improving flavour profile with the freshest ingredients and long lasting shelf-life.
So you may be beginning to sense that it is well to have funky recipes, good brewing practices and a good distribution chain but if your beer is tired and flat when in the market place after a short period of time, beware, because you may be wondering why growth isn’t happening like it used to. In fact it could lead to the brewer’s demise.
And the brewer should not be surprised that failure ensues if you don’t have proper QC protocols to minimise deterioration of you beer in the marketplace.
Its like driving an expensive car without insurance. Sooner or later you wished you had insured the car.
Brewing is no different and you should ensure (not insure) your beer gets the best chance of survival in the marketplace. The only difference with beer is that the outcome is 100% predictable if you do not follow proper QC controls; the beer WILL deteriorate in flavour and aroma quickly, guaranteed.
As a homebrewer you may have dreams or a vision to entering the craft brewing industry and those that do will find the issue of QC will be more and more pressings in the next 10 years.
One of the major reasons for the demise of beer robustness has to do with oxygen, as you may already have gathered.
Buying an oxygen meter to measure levels of oxygen in beer is a major step forward for a craft brewer, but knowing how and where to use it and interpreting results and acting upon them is an entirely different matter.
Expertise in understanding the consequences of oxygen and other parameters in beer quality and shelf life takes many years to learn and grasp.
Fortunately there are specific brewing courses to bridge the gap in knowledge a brewer may have. If you are interested in this aspect of brewing or want to craft a better beer at home and want to learn more about beer stability and making consistent beer then check out these short brewing courses near you.
They are available in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Auckland, Wellington and Singapore.
Just click the link above and join us for a memorable experience at a course near you and see how you too can become the next generation of brewer.
These courses are run by Vincent Costanzo from Costanzo Brewing Academy who has 29 years experience in the brewing industry both as a brewer and quality control expert. He is accredited with a Certificate IV in Teaching and Assessment, and also involved in setting up microbreweries in Australia and South East Asia.