• New Belgium: Burn Restoration Critical to Prevent Beer from Tasting Like Wildfire

    With the wildfires in Colorado there are a lot of things that need to be looked after when the fire is finally put out, and water source is one of those things.  We’ve talked a lot about water here before on Indy Beers, and this is another story in which water is the chief interest.

    Runoff from the burn area is likely to alter the flavor of tap water taken from the Poudre River, and the beer brewing process isn’t able to filter those flavors out of your Fat Tire.

     

    New Belgium Brewing is entirely at the mercy of Fort Collins’ water treatment plant when it comes to the viability of its business, and the speed with which the High Park Fire burn area is restored is vital to the brewery’s future, said Jenn Vervier, New Beligum’s director of sustainability and strategic development.

     

    “The health of the watershed equals the quality of our beer,” she said.

     

    Rain runoff from the burn area has caused a spike in iron and manganese in the river, and because of those and other pollutants and treatment for increased algae in the river water, there’s a risk the taste and smell of the city’s tap water could change once the city begins taking some Poudre River water sometime in the next month, she said.

     

    In terms of your Fat Tire or 1554, New Belgium’s chemists have identified six compounds in Poudre River water that could affect the flavor of your beer, Vervier said.

     

    Rainstorms cause turbidity in the Poudre to spike, leading to the change in the water’s flavor. So, to detect those changes, the brewery has set up a regular water tasting regime to determine if the brewery is receiving off-tasting water.

     

    “The most accurate test for compounds is just to taste the water,” Vervier said.

     

    Every time ill-tasting water is detected, the brewery will have to completely shut down for about 24 hours while the water treatment plant mixes more water from Horsetooth Reservoir into its system, providing clearer water to local taps.

     

    The brewery will have to wait at least nine hours for clear water to flow from the city’s treatment plant to New Belgium, and then the brewery will have to flush its entire system out with the clearer water before it can start brewing again.

     

    New Beligum has chosen not to purchase a $1 million filter that could strip out all the bad flavors, she said.

     

    Without the city’s conscientious water treatment efforts and access to Horsetooth Reservoir water, New Belgium could not survive in Fort Collins, Vervier said.

     

    The best way to ensure long term good-tasting water is to restore the watershed, she said.

    Source: http://www.coloradoan.com/

  • Sierra Nevada Finds Rich Water Source

    As I have discussed here before, water is a very important part of beer production.  Any well established brewing company will go to great lengths to secure and protect its water supply.  It turns out that Sierra Nevada brewing is sitting on a water gold mine.

    Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has learned it can supply most of the water the brewery will need from a well on its property in Mills River.

     

    In January, the California-based company announced it was building an East Coast expansion facility in Western North Carolina, and initial plans called for the company to purchase water from Asheville, whose water lines serve the site.

     

    After the announcement, Sierra Nevada decided to drill for water at Ferncliff Industrial Park, where the company has purchased 100 of the park’s available 262 acres for development. On the second attempt, officials tapped into a dream water source.

     

    According to Stan Cooper, who will co-manage the Mills River plant, the well will generate about 160 gallons of water per minute, which is roughly 50 gallons a minute more than Sierra Nevada needs for the brewing process.

    The water source is a good, pure one, and Sierra is going the extra step to protect the well.

    Sierra Nevada has lined the well, which is only about 500 feet from where the main building of the facility will be, with stainless steel — an expensive process but one that ensures higher quality water over time.

     

    “We have probably one of the only stainless steel-cased wells in Western North Carolina, or North Carolina,” brewery co-manager Brian Grossman said. “It’s encased down to 75 feet.”

    It’s good to see that they are doing this with an eye towards conservation, as well.

     While the brewery appears to have plenty of what it needs with regard to water supply, it will place great emphasis on conservation.

     

    “It’s going to take a lot of water to make beer,” Grossman said, “but this brewery will be very, very efficient.”

     

    He said Sierra Nevada estimates it will churn out about 1 gallon of beer for every 2½ to 3 gallons of water it brings in during brewing, compared to the 10- or 12-to-1 ratio of some other breweries.

     

    Sierra Nevada also plans to have an anaerobic wastewater digestion system on site, recovering bio-gas — a natural byproduct of the process — as an energy source for the brewery. It also has tentative plans for a unique rainwater utilization program.

     

    “We definitely want to be good stewards” of the land, Grossman said.

    Source: http://www.blueridgenow.com/

  • Chilling Your Wort: The Low Flow Water Option

    Starting the process of chilling the wort at 7:29pm.

    Previously I posted a link about chilling my wort using ice in the article Going Green with Your Wort Chilling Process.  Based on some feedback I received I wrote the follow-up article The Greenest Wort Chilling Process I Found.  That second process works fine, but I prefer to pitch my yeast right away instead of having to wait several hours.

    As reddit user rotomd quoted from Palmer’s book in the reddit comments of the second post:

    At the end of the boil, it is important to cool the wort quickly. While it is still hot, (above 140°F) bacteria and wild yeasts are inhibited. But it is very susceptible to oxidation damage as it cools. There are also the previously mentioned sulfur compounds that evolve from the wort while it is hot. If the wort is cooled slowly, dimethyl sulfide will continue to be produced in the wort without being boiled off; causing off-flavors in the finished beer. The objective is to rapidly cool the wort to below 80°F before oxidation or contamination can occur.

    Going back to the comments from reddit regarding the first post there was another option for chilling wort that I still wanted to explore.  It was stated that the wort could be chilled by simply running the water from the garden hose through the wort chiller.  I thought this would be a waste of a lot of water, but some others stated it wouldn’t.

    reddit user javabrewer stated it could be done using only 15 gallons:

    More like 15, in my case. And I save the water in a bucket and my 10 gallon cooler to wash things out. 5 gallons (the hottest runnings) goes into a bucket with PBW for washing gear, 10 gallons goes towards rinsing out the MLT.

     

    I open the faucet very little and run it for maybe 20 minutes. Any longer than that and it’s diminishing returns. Any faster than that and water streams out of the connectors.  Also, I stir the wort frequently. This is probably the best way to make the process “green”.

    reddit user zymologist had a similar statement:

    I just run my wort chiller from the faucet in my basement, straight into the washer. I can cool a 5 gallon batch down to 70F with almost exactly the amount of water it takes to do 1 large load of laundry.  If I don’t have any laundry to do or just have half a load, I use the remaining lukewarm water to wash my equipment.

     

    I didn’t blast the water, I ran it pretty slowly to avoid overflowing the washer. I also stirred vigorously every few minutes.

     

    My object is to have the water flow just hard enough to fill the tubing/chiller completely so you get maximum surface area for cooling, while running it as slowly as possible so it has the maximum amount of contact time with the wort. It does slow down my process, but it’s worth it to me to not waste the water. I also stir vigorously and often, and “precool” my wort chiller by immersing it in a cold tap water bath, which I later use to clean my chiller/other equipment.

    reddit user sailorh echoed the statement that low flow water and stirring are the key points:

    Most people seem to run their faucet at a low pressure. In my case, my copper tubing is pretty narrow but 50′ long. That gives a fair amount of surface area to chill and only a bit of water needs to flow to carry out the heat. Stirring and moving the chiller around also makes a big difference. You can feel the outgoing water get a lot warmer as soon as you start moving the chiller around. I usually chill 5 gallons in about 10 minutes, maybe less.

    It was time to test the low flow water theory and see how well it worked.  Last week when I brewed beer my brother and I used the low flow water method and we were able to cool 2.5 gallons of wort in 35 minutes using 10 gallons of water.  Here are the pictures for the test.

  • To Make Beer, MillerCoors Helps Farmers Save Water

    I’ve written articles before about the importance of water in making beer.  It seems that even the big beer companies struggle with water issues.  When a brewery needs a local water source to brew its beer, it is in the best interest of the brewery to protect that water source.

    “It is not going to be one organization or one company or one government that is going to solve this problem. It is going to take all of us collectively,” said Kim Marotta, MillerCoors director of sustainability.

     

    MillerCoors acted after an internal assessment showed that three of its eight U.S. breweries, including one in Fort Worth, Texas, faced potential water shortages. The company is working on water conservation at its breweries, but also is identifying large agricultural water users near its breweries and asking to partner with them on conservation.

     

    “We’re just starting that work,” Marotta said. “You have to start farm-by-farm.”

    I’m glad to see a company like MillerCoors taking an interest in the environment, even if it is self serving.  The initiative is a good start in the right direction and may lead to better brewing processes with less of an environmental impact.  Clean, pure water is a resource that is increasingly difficult to come by in many parts of the world and large corporations are taking notice.

     “You have to do more with less,” said Ken Klaveness, executive director of Trinity Waters, a non-profit conservation group focused on the 512-mile-long Trinity River, which supports water needs for over 40 percent of Texans.

     

    “If you want your business to be here 15 to 20 years from now, you need to be proactive,” Klaveness said.

     

    Projects with farmers can range from planting of grasses with deeper root systems that hold water and reduce erosion to installing high-tech monitoring stations in pastures.

     

    Farmers are being asked to change irrigation techniques and equipment and plant a mix of different crops. Ranchers are asked to alter the ways they rotate their cattle grazing.

     

    MillerCoors is also working with 800 barley farmers in Idaho to alter their irrigation practices in ways that use less water. MillerCoors will not disclose how much it is spending, but Marotta said the effort was a high priority.

    When water is the largest ingredient in your product, I can absolutely see a need to make saving and protecting that resource a high priority.  Hopefully it will be done in a manner that doesn’t horde that resource and keep others from getting their rightful share.

    Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/

  • Good Beer Starts with Good Water

     Beer, while being comprised of malt and hops (and whatever special ingredients may be added), is mostly made of water.  It should come as no surprise then that the water used in a given beer has an impact on the flavor profile.  It’s for this reason that a local regions water supply has often played a big part in the taste of a beer.

    “People have always thought about the water, because if you went back 100 years ago, when maybe you couldn’t do anything about the water — people put breweries where there were great water supplies,” Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver says. “The flavor of the beer would often be based upon the local water. And they would position the brewery in the right place to take advantage of that.”

    The unique, local water characteristics are can sometimes be a the reason for success or reputation of a small beer.

    For instance, consider the famed “Burton snatch” — a term for the sulfurous quality of certain beers, especially those made in Burton-on-Trent, England. As Oliver wrote in his Oxford Companion to Beer, “high levels of sulfate in Burton waters (up to 800 ppm) bring a hard dry mineral edge… and this makes the water ideal for the production of pale ales.”

    What happens, however, when a small brewery gets bigger to the point that a second brewery is needed.  One located in a separate geographic location as to take advantage of a wider distribution.  For example, east coast and west coast breweries.

    Matching flavors can be a long and painstaking process, even when you use the same water. Michael LaLonde, COO ofDeschutes Brewery in Bend, Ore., says his company ran into a flavor challenge when it added a new brewery in 2003.

     

    “We actually took five years to flavor-match our old brewery to this new brewery, before we could actually sell that beer brewed in the new brewery,” LaLonde says.

     

    After a batch of beer has been made, brewers then have specially trained staff taste it, to be sure it matches the flavors the brand is going for. LaLonde explains how the process works.

     

    “The way we do it is, we actually have a triangle test,” he says. “So, we’ll have one beer that’s different than the other two. Our sensory panel tastes them all, and if they can identify the different beer, then we know we have an issue. If they can’t, then we know that we have a flavor match.

    While a good clean water source may literally be located in the aquifers under a brewery, not all breweries are so lucky.  Even so, could it be that with better filtration, and the ability to add minerals and other components back into the water, that local water characteristics are no longer a factor in a beer?

    Craft beer expert Julia Herz, of the Brewers Association, says no.

     

    “No, it’s not history,” she says. In fact, we’ve been drinking taste-manipulated beers a long time. “I think that you have to look at New World brewers making Old World styles… when they’re trying to make a classic Bohemian pilsner, or a U.S. small brewer is trying to make that German-style bock beer, they’re going to mimic the water mineral content from those regions.”

    So why not just completely filter out the water and then build a water profile by adding needed elements back into to make the perfect water for beer?

    But it’s not good to use completely neutral water to make beer, Herz says — the intense filtering “strips everything. And yeast need manganese, zinc, copper and iron to survive and thrive. So a lot of the time, what’s in the water is helpful for the yeast — it ensures a healthful fermentation.”

    In the end, it comes down to consistency in flavor.  Consumers want to know that when buying a certain beer it is going to taste the same as it did the previous time they purchased it.

    Brewers’ manipulation of water might surprise some craft beer fans — especially those who feel a swell of local pride when they sip a brew made just down the road. But to brewers and beer fans alike, the only thing better than a great beer is a consistently great beer — no matter what the hops harvest was like last year, or where the water comes from.

    Source: http://www.npr.org/