Brewing Beer is More Than Meets the Eye
The Master Brewers Association claims that people drink beer with their eyes. 1 If a beer has a nice big head of foam and no haze, most drinkers think those are the telltale signs of a good brew. For many beers, these attributes are highly desired, but brewers are the first to admit that there is a lot more to quality beer than meets the eye.
Beer consists of four main ingredients: grain (mostly malted barley), hops that come in a wide assortment, yeast for fermentation, and water, which accounts for up to 95% of the finished product. With such a basic list of components, the uninitiated might wonder what could possibly go wrong?
For starters, each of these four ingredients is responsible for a number of beer’s attributes. Malted barley, for example, needs to be germinated properly in order to provide a long list of attributes to beer, from its color and flavor to its foamy head.
Hops, meanwhile, add everything from flavor and bitterness to aroma and stability to beer. Depending upon the resins and essential oils in hops, they can greatly affect a beer’s consistency and quality. To hedge their bets in placing hop orders, brewers use many different suppliers and varieties of hops depending on the brew. Each batch of hops can affect a beer’s properties based on their quality parameters, ranging from head retention and clarity to a beer’s bitterness. 2
Finally, there is water. Brewers know that water quality is among the most essential elements of a beer’s consistency and quality. Any raw materials – from minerals and salts to suspended solids such as silt and microscopic organisms found in water – can influence a beer’s taste, consistency, and quality.
Dealing With Data
The real art to brewing good beer comes down to knowing exactly what happens at every step of the brewing process. Size does not matter. Data does. Major breweries spend millions each year on quality control and ways to process and analyze brewhouse data. Because of their size, they can invest in state-of-the-art instrumentation and sophisticated systems that monitor everything from volatile organic compounds to the most important determinants of all—consistent taste, aroma, and quality. 3
For the rest of the nearly 4,000 breweries now operating in the U.S., 90% produce 60,000 or less barrels of beer annually. Usually, their budgets mirror their micro-brew status. That means investing in monitoring equipment is kept to the bare minimum. It does not mean that small- to mid-size breweries (and even the big players) could not benefit from a little visual stimulation.
Enter TIBCO Spotfire®
We are not talking about adorable puppies, big horses, or even the classic wet T-shirt routines that have long defined the big brewers in the minds of the American public. This is the dawning of a new, technological age, and PerkinElmer, a world leader in life and environmental science, is offering something even better.
It is called TIBCO Spotfire®, a visualization software program offered exclusively by PerkinElmer for quality control and assurance applications in the consumer goods and food industries. With TIBCO Spotfire® loaded onto standard computer platforms and made available even on tablets, mundane spreadsheets can instantly be transformed into easy-to-read and understandable graphics that can help pinpoint trends and trouble spots in the brewing process quickly and cost effectively. That means even the smallest brewers can now eliminate the guesswork to make better decisions about how to optimize their procedures for quality beer time and time again. That is consistency, and we can all raise a glass to that!
Beer Stabilization Technology—Clearly a Matter of Choice, Master Brewers Association of the Americas Technical Quarterly, Number 4, 2005.
Hop Guide, Beeradvocate.com.
Monitoring Volatile Organic Compounds in Beer Production Using the Clarus SQ 8 GC/MS and TurboMatrix Headspace Trap Systems, PerkinElmer Application Note, 2011.