What a show, featuring one of my favorite products, beer. So many different beers to sample and only two days.
Not having been to the craft brewer show I had no idea of the industries size and diversity. It may be a timeless product but the science and technology is definitely dynamic.
Over 500 international companies were represented, supplying everyone from the home brewer to the established regional brewer with everything from analytical instruments to washing systems. Almost everything is the eye catching food grade stainless steel with so many temperature and pressure gauges that some of the equipment look like Russian space craft. “Press button go moon,” said Boris to Natasha.
We meet with our friends and distributors Jesse and Tom from GreenAire, and Rob from Foxx. We also visited the McDantim friends of GreenAire that build gas mixing systems.
What they all had in common - other the beer and fermentation - was CO2. CO2 in the beverage world is everywhere in the process, from preparing the fermentation tanks, to packaging, to displacing oxygen (very bad for beer).
CO2 Recovery, purification, management of consumption, safety for storage and at the dispensing point are all relevant topics to this audience.
I had always presumed that the CO2 used in the process was top the best available. Well that’s not always the case, according to Mark Taylor from Airborne labs, an analytical lab that gets into the minutia of CO2 gas for brewing.
For example, I learned that CO2 USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia) purity is 99.0%, USDA food grade is 99.5%, and ISBT (International Society of Beverage Technologists) is the target at 99.9%. Therefore, that small unknown fraction can have a lot of effect on the process and flavor. 50ppm (.005 %) of SO2 (sulfur dioxide) can become a very rotten smelling 50ppm of H2S (hydrogen sulfide) when the bottle is opened. P CO2 is essential for great beer.
I also learned that CO2 recovery is being done by many, collecting the overflow from phases of the process, then filtering, chilling and compressing at critical points back into a liquid to be recycled. Lot of innovation in this area, with compressors using proprietary refrigeration gases allowing the equipment to become smaller, more energy efficient and affordable.
Then there are the filter people who offer a myriad of filters to remove solids, VOC’s, and other contaminants that are by-products of the distillate / extraction / condensation processes.
The process measurement tools rely on physical measurement. While rock solid and reliable, they are not of the precision necessary for long term process control - particularly as parameters are tightened for more consistent product results. Sophisticated process instrumentation is definitely being used by all of the larger brewers. All of the large instrumentation houses and equipment suppliers from Europe and North America had elaborate presentations, incorporating excellent process automation.
We were fortunate to meet with some fellows that specialize in insurance for Craft Brewers, it was interesting that they were writing the safety / best practice guidelines that will cover CO2. There are many work place and process points where they have identified a potential hazard and loss risk potential.