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General Category => Going Pro => Topic started by: nateo on April 22, 2012, 03:53:48 PM

Title: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: nateo on April 22, 2012, 03:53:48 PM
I really enjoy touring breweries and talking to different brewers. I'm always amazed at how much differing opinion there is about brewing.

The last brewery I went to had a German brewhouse, with a sweet mash agitator in the boil kettle (I assume for decoction mashing? I don't know why else your BK would need a mash agitator.) They didn't do any decoctions though, so I thought it was an odd choice. Maybe they got a good deal on it or something.

They also just used regular municipal water run through a whole-house filter. I asked about their water hardness, since most of the water I've seen in MO is hard as nails. They said their water was really hard, and they tried to brew a Koelsch and it turned out horrible.

I asked if they had tried any softening techniques, like boiling or lime treatment, and the brewer said he doesn't believe in adding any chemicals to his beer. He didn't believe in adding any brewing salts either.

Their beer was OK, not amazing, but above average. They just make the kinds of beer they can with their water, and don't worry trying to make other kinds.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: majorvices on April 22, 2012, 05:58:27 PM
I was talking to a fellow commercial brewer the other day and I mentioned the fact that it would be nice to make a kolsch but that you really needed at least part RO water to brew one properly (at least with our local water). He said to me that, yeah, if you are trying to win BJCP medals that's important but if you are just brewing for the public you just get it as close as you can. I didn't completely agree with him but I do see where he is coming from.

As far as the whole house filter goes, we use three whole house filters in a daisy chain. we will move up to a professional system eventually but can't right now. we have tested our water and no chlorine shows up on the test.

I'd love to go with some RO system but they are expensive and I have never really been comfortable with the amount of waste water they generate.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: nateo on April 22, 2012, 06:04:40 PM
With the system they had, it would've been easy to employ lime or boil softening. I've become more lax about brewing water, but I thought it was odd to say basically "I don't believe in using brewing salts, but super moss is fine."

I've always thought of brewing with salts to be like cooking with spices. The right one in the right amount makes a dish "pop" but the wrong ones, or too much, will make a dish just awful. I've never heard a chef say "I don't believe in using Tarragon" but I've heard a few pro brewers say they don't believe in treating their water in any way.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: boulderbrewer on April 23, 2012, 03:43:37 AM
I have been working on this for 6 months, I have come up with some things that work for brewing light beer with the high carbonate water. I would love to have a ro system but the water they waste I think it will not work for us on city water. Even though I could get it at cost saving at least 2k. Not doing the slaked lime thing.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: nateo on April 23, 2012, 01:12:42 PM
Not doing the slaked lime thing.

Most brewers (home and pro) feel the same way. I'm not really sure why. Kai's website leads me to believe that it's not that unusual in Germany, since the reference he provides is a book by Narziss and Back.

It's super cheap, easy, and very effective for water high in temporary hardness. It's not hard to do consistently either. I just kind of eyeball my measurements, and the water has always ended up within +/- 0.5*dH. My water goes from tremendously hard (30+*dH GH/KH) to 3-4*dH GH and 2-3*dH KH.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: majorvices on April 23, 2012, 02:21:36 PM
I tried the slaked lime thing a couple times but it was just easier to pick up RO water from the grocery store. On the commercial level all my water comes from an tankless hot water heat (dough-in and sparge) and that convenience trumps water softening. I brew styles that match my water, generally, and use salts and acids to adjust for pH, but I'm not going to be able to do much else about the water for a couple years.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: a10t2 on April 23, 2012, 03:21:04 PM
They also just used regular municipal water run through a whole-house filter.

I'd say this is true of the vast majority of breweries. Some will throw in a handful of gypsum for their hoppy beers, some will throw a handful of gypsum into all their beers, but almost no pro brewers I know obsess about water the way home brewers do.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: majorvices on April 23, 2012, 03:30:13 PM
That's my experience as well, at least on the smaller breweries.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: nateo on April 23, 2012, 04:28:08 PM
Without naming names, the brewery I'm talking about was hosting an AHA rally. The beers that the people brought were way better than the beers they made at the brewery. One of the guys was on his 5th extract batch, and his beer was the best there.

He was pretty science-oriented, and I don't think it's common for homebrewers to do that well when they just start out, but what's the point of being a brewery if you can't make better beer than average homebrewers? Why not just have a craft beer bar?

I don't think they need BMC levels of science-nerdery, but I'm pretty sure a little more attention to detail on the part of the brewers would have made better beer.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: majorvices on April 23, 2012, 04:36:50 PM
I thought you said their beer was "above average"? I'd never fault a brewery too hard for being a solid B. Regardless, maybe it wasn't their water that made the beer less than your expectations warranted. Perhaps it was their recipes. Or perhaps it was just your tastes.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: nateo on April 23, 2012, 04:52:28 PM
I thought you said their beer was "above average"? I'd never fault a brewery too hard for being a solid B. Regardless, maybe it wasn't their water that made the beer less than your expectations warranted. Perhaps it was their recipes. Or perhaps it was just your tastes.

In the grand scheme of breweries, they were above average. I've been to some really godawful brewpubs, and drank some beer that I would've dumped if I had made it at home, so my baseline for quality isn't that high. I'm definitely picking nits here. I was never happy in school to get a B. Others may have been thrilled to do that well, so maybe I'm being too hard on them.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: a10t2 on April 23, 2012, 05:03:49 PM
what's the point of being a brewery if you can't make better beer than average homebrewers? Why not just have a craft beer bar?

The margins are better on brewing your own beer, and breweries are businesses first and foremost. You don't need to make world-class beer if you're selling every drop of average-quality beer you brew.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: majorvices on April 23, 2012, 05:23:51 PM
So, you are saying that the average beer you have had from local breweries sucks and this one was a little better than those?  :o ;)
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: nateo on April 23, 2012, 06:04:10 PM
So, you are saying that the average beer you have had from local breweries sucks and this one was a little better than those?  :o ;)

I guess I should clarify. Their IPA, double IPA and ESB were easily in the top 20% of small brewery's beers I've tried. Their lighter beers had some issues. The brewer seemed to think it was because of their hard water. I thought that was a reasonable assumption. That's when we got to talking about water treatment.

He said he had looked into a commercial RO unit, but those are expensive and really wasteful of water (which costs money if you're in the city). I mentioned a few other methods that commercial breweries use (decarb by boiling and lime treatment), which was when he said he didn't believe in adding anything "weird" to their beer.

I just thought it was strange that this brewer both saw that there was an issue with their water, but also didn't believe in changing their water.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on April 23, 2012, 06:15:21 PM

As far as the whole house filter goes, we use three whole house filters in a daisy chain. we will move up to a professional system eventually but can't right now. we have tested our water and no chlorine shows up on the test.

I'd love to go with some RO system but they are expensive and I have never really been comfortable with the amount of waste water they generate.

Do you know how much hardness/TDS the filters take out of your water?

How often do you have to change the filters?
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: majorvices on April 23, 2012, 06:40:10 PM
I doubt they take any hardness out. My water is not super hard anyway. I change them every 3 months or so.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on April 23, 2012, 06:56:22 PM
Quote
Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
I went on a trip to Germany with a group of homebrewers in 2002 and took a tour of a medium-sized brewery.  We were shocked when the tour guide told us the wort in the brew kettle was heated to 90c.  The tour guide swore that was correct.

Anyone heard of that, before?
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: richardt on April 24, 2012, 02:24:55 AM
Throwing the idea of solar H2O distillation out there.  Not that hard to build some of the DIY versions.  Certainly not as wasteful as RO.  Might be useful on a commercial scale although unnecessary for homebrewing unless you're really into being green or being a prepper.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: a10t2 on April 24, 2012, 03:07:44 AM
We were shocked when the tour guide told us the wort in the brew kettle was heated to 90c.  The tour guide swore that was correct.

What was the elevation? I boil at 90°C.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on April 24, 2012, 09:01:58 AM
We were shocked when the tour guide told us the wort in the brew kettle was heated to 90c.  The tour guide swore that was correct.

What was the elevation? I boil at 90°C.
Not high enough to boil, I don't think.  So, we assumed they were not boiling their wort.  My only thought is they might not be heating to a boil in order to conserve fuel costs.  They made a good Pilsener, though, so it was not affecting the quality of the brew. 
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: hopfenundmalz on April 24, 2012, 12:16:35 PM
The highest point in Germany, the Zugspitze peak in the Bavarian Alps, is only a little higher than where Sean lives.

More likely they were using an vacuum evaporation system to save energy. These system are made in Germany, one manufacturer is Kaspar Schultz of Bamberg. Look for the odd gizmo in the brewhouse picture gallery. It is behind the large kettle in the first picture.
http://www.kaspar-schulz.com/index.php?article_id=22&clang=1#

Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on April 24, 2012, 12:44:54 PM
The highest point in Germany, the Zugspitze peak in the Bavarian Alps, is only a little higher than where Sean lives.

More likely they were using an vacuum evaporation system to save energy. These system are made in Germany, one manufacturer is Kaspar Schultz of Bamberg. Look for the odd gizmo in the brewhouse picture gallery. It is behind the large kettle in the first picture.
http://www.kaspar-schulz.com/index.php?article_id=22&clang=1#
Very interesting!  The tour guide didn't mention anything like that and it was back in 2002, so I don't know if that device would have been around back then.  But, I'm sure they were saving energy somehow. 
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: nateo on April 24, 2012, 12:48:49 PM
Very interesting!  The tour guide didn't mention anything like that and it was back in 2002, so I don't know if that device would have been around back then.  But, I'm sure they were saving energy somehow.

They use those vac-evaps for making malt extract. On an industrial scale, energy bills add up. I wonder how they're getting their hot break? I guess if you leave it at 90*C long enough you'll get break to form?
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: majorvices on April 24, 2012, 01:18:54 PM
I believe it forces it to boil at a lower temp, that's the point. I remember reading about them a little but know very little about them.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: richardt on April 24, 2012, 01:36:49 PM
90 C = 194 F.  Proteins denature at temperatures lower than that, so I wouldn't expect to see any issues with an inadequate "hot break."  The vacuum-evaporation systems simply reduce the surface tension required for boiling, and thereby reduce the energy (and $$) needed to produce beer.

You may remember one of the BJCP exam questions had to do with explaining why boiling wort was important to making good beer, namely:

You're still achieving all these goals with a vac-evap system.  Pretty brilliant, those German systems, I'd say.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on April 24, 2012, 02:20:54 PM
90 C = 194 F.  Proteins denature at temperatures lower than that, so I wouldn't expect to see any issues with an inadequate "hot break."  The vacuum-evaporation systems simply reduce the surface tension required for boiling, and thereby reduce the energy (and $$) needed to produce beer.

You may remember one of the BJCP exam questions had to do with explaining why boiling wort was important to making good beer, namely:
  • Extracts, isomerizes, and dissolves the hop alpha acids
  • Stops enzymatic activity
  • Kills bacteria, fungi, and wild yeast
  • Coagulates undesired proteins and polyphenols in the hot break
  • Evaporates undesirable harsh hop oils, sulfur compounds, ketones, and esters
  • Promotes the formation of melanoidins and caramelizes some of the wort sugars
  • Evaporates water vapor, condensing the wort to the proper volume and gravity

You're still achieving all these goals with a vac-evap system.  Pretty brilliant, those German systems, I'd say.
That's great info!  Thanks!
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: a10t2 on April 24, 2012, 02:54:23 PM
The tour guide didn't mention anything like that and it was back in 2002, so I don't know if that device would have been around back then.

Here in the US, the big lager breweries have been using them since at least the 80s.
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: FirstStateBrewer on April 24, 2012, 03:01:11 PM
The tour guide didn't mention anything like that and it was back in 2002, so I don't know if that device would have been around back then.

Here in the US, the big lager breweries have been using them since at least the 80s.
Really?  Well, maybe that solves the puzzle, then!  Thanks!
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: narcout on April 28, 2012, 11:29:57 PM
  • Promotes the formation of melanoidins and caramelizes some of the wort sugars

Everything I've read suggests that sugars do not caramelize during normal wort boiling.  The temperature is too low. 
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: nateo on April 29, 2012, 12:17:47 AM
Everything I've read suggests that sugars do not caramelize during normal wort boiling.  The temperature is too low.

Well, if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. . .

From: http://brewery.org/library/Maillard_CS0497.html
"MAILLARD browning reactions involve simple sugars and amino acids and simple peptides. They proceed during the kilning of malt, and during wort boiling. They begin to occur at lower temperatures and at higher dilutions than caramelisation. The rate can increase by 2-3 times for each 10C rise in temperature. However even long term storage of malt extract will Maillard-brown at room temperature. Prize winning dark beers have been coloured by this method as they had none of the harshness of some high temperature Maillard reactions in roasted malts.

Maillard reactions have three basic phases. 1/The initial reaction is the condensation of an amino acid with a simple sugar, which loses a molecule of water to form N-substituted aldosylamine. This is unstable and undergoes the famous "Amadori rearrangement" to form "1-amino-1-deoxy-2-ketoses" (known as "ketosamines") which can undergo complex subsequent dehydration, fission and polymerization reactions.

But wait, I here you say! "A sugar loses a water molecule and undergoes further dehydration?" Sounds like a Caramelisation reaction?

*And it is!* One of the reasons Caramel and Maillard reactions are confused in brewing and food processing literature is that one of the Maillard paths is a simple Caramel reaction, catalysed by amino acids. But now in Maillard, there are a few guys called Schiff, Amadori and Strecker in your beer!"
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: narcout on April 29, 2012, 06:52:58 AM
I don't have any independant means of gauging caramelization, but according to Brewing Classic Styles "Caramelization is a sugar-to-sugar reaction that occurs at high temperatures and low moisture. (It does not happen during normal wort boiling.)"

According to Brewing Better Beer "Boiling the mash encourges the Maillard reaction, which creates Maillard products . . . Note that this is not the same as caramelization, a related process involving the melting and browning of sugar.  The Maillard reacton involves amino acids (which contain nitrogen, coming from malt or proteins), reducing sugars, moisture, and heat.  Sugars are corbohydrates and don't contain nitrogen."
Title: Re: Brewers have all kinds of beliefs
Post by: nateo on April 29, 2012, 01:13:34 PM
The difference between "caramelization" and one Maillard pathway are basically just semantics. I would argue the defining characteristic of caramelization is the dehydration of sugar molecules. If that dehydration is catalyzed by amino acids, is that really any different, in practical terms? I don't think the sugar cares why it lost its water.

You can argue about semantics, I guess, but if language is a tool to convey descriptions of natural events, it's not incorrect to call what happens during a wort boil "caramelization."