Canadians drink more beer than any other alcoholic beverage. In fact, Canada’s beer brewing industry is at least three times bigger than its wine and spirit industries combined!
Even more staggering is the fact that one in every 100 jobs in Canada is related to the beer economy, which generates $5.8 billion in government tax revenues each year! So it’s no surprise that brewers constantly look for ways to boost productivity to keep pace with demand. But they also look for ways to standardize hygiene and decontamination processes so that their products offer consistent taste and quality – the two biggest challenges for brewers.
The quality of any beer obviously depends first and foremost on its ingredients. That being said, it’s next to impossible to brew a good beer in dirty or contaminated facilities. Cleanliness rules in brewing, because even the slightest trace of contamination can ruin the best batch.
Unclean equipment and facilities can lead to an absence of foam as well as to the development of wild yeasts and/or bacteria, which can alter the taste of beer.
Clean, sanitize and sterilize
There are many specialized cleaning products and process aids that have been specifically designed for use in microbreweries. These include caustic cleaners, degreasers, sequestering agents, chlorinated sanitizers, descalers, peracetic acid and others. Properly cleaning, sanitizing and sterilizing facilities is the baseline for any good brewing process, and brewers who care about the quality of their products cannot afford to cut corners.
- Cleaning essentially means ridding surfaces of residue, be it solid (hops, yeast, malt flour, dust, etc.) or liquid (fat, beer, etc.). Cleaning is done with a detergent and often followed by a clear water rinse, which leaves the surface clean and free of chemical residue. This step typically involves some sort of elbow grease and cleaning tools (brush, sponge, high pressure, etc.).
- Cleaning is basically a maintenance issue. Equipment and tools that are properly maintained simply work better and last longer.
- Sanitizing involves neutralizing (killing) any microorganisms that could contaminate the beer, such as yeasts, moulds and bacteria. Sanitizing is done on surfaces that have already been cleaned and rinsed. A sanitizer will not kill all microorganisms, however; just those that can cause the beer to spoil. It’s the fermentation process that destroys those other unwanted microorganisms, including pathogens.
Why bother sanitizing?
Beer is fermented by certain types of yeasts. Not only do these yeasts convert sugar to alcohol, they also give beer its appealing flavour and aroma. On a poorly cleaned surface, however, wild yeasts can develop and contaminate the beer, making its taste and aroma downright unpleasant – something brewers work so hard to avoid.
• Sterilizing, on the other hand, kills everything on a surface. Nothing is left living after sterilization.
So the next time you’re enjoying a cold one, remember that it has gone through a rigorous cleaning and hygiene process so that it tastes exactly the same as the one your friend is drinking!