The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

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The science of alcohol

2.1 Important considerations for commercial brewing

Brewing can be considered in the same way as any other commercial manufacturing process – essentially you are scaling up a small-scale production (comparable to your own home brew) to an industrial process used by many of the leading breweries today.

Activity 1 Scaling up brewing

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

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In the following video James from Hook Norton talks about the challenges involved in scaling up from their microbrewery to the main brewery.

Download this video clip.Video player: soa_1_w4_s2_vid_scalingupproduction.mp4
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So we're actually very lucky here. And then, we have the main brewery plant. But three years ago, we installed a small microbrewery, which is about 1/10 of the size of the main brewery. And the reason for that really was to do some research and development work with the changing market, changing tastes, lots of new styles and flavours coming out. We wanted to be able to do some more of that work but without committing ourselves to a full commercial brew in case we didn't get it right. Because the more experimental you become, obviously, the higher the risk that it might not be what you're looking to do. So we installed a small five brewers barrel brew plant, and we've done quite a lot of new work in there. And it's been very exciting, the different beers we've been able to develop. Two or three of those have been upscaled to the main brewery so they have actually been in research and development or new product development, and they've been successful, and they've then been scaled up into the main brewery. However, scaling up isn't a straightforward linear or arithmetical calculation because we're dealing with quite small vessels in the microbrewery. So things like your surface area to volume ratio are very different. Has an impact on your heating processes and cooling processes. It does also have an impact on your fermentation because fermentation is impacted by the depth of the work. Also your Brewers yeast, different yeast behave in different ways. So scaling up, you're still into a trial system when you do scale up. You may have the recipe and the flavour, but it won't necessarily be absolutely right first time but, hopefully, within the boundary so that it's still commercial. And there's lots of considerations when you do scale up, it's not a linear relationship. And then when you do scale up, obviously, things like the food safety have to be absolutely-- make sure we're ticking those boxes. Extremely important. Make sure everything we have here is entirely traceable. You could point to a sack of malt here and within about two hours, I could tell you which farm it was grown on and which area of the UK. And that that's really, really important. So when we are doing research and development work, we have to follow all of the protocols and standards of the main brewery and then scale up. But say the recipe will still need some work and development. And, likewise, if you were going to scale up further than that as you get bigger, it's important and, obviously, maintaining the flavour is absolutely key. So we do lots of laboratory checks. And we check things like alcohol. We check colour. You can even check hop bitterness. But all of that is actually led by sampling by human beings. Because we're producing a product, which is a foodstuff, hence, we need the really high standards. And we need to make sure we're continually tasting the beers to make sure that they do conform, and they have got the flavours that we want and they do appeal, hopefully, to the market. So we have a broad range of tasters here as well to make sure that we are producing beers to the standard we want. And when we're developing new beers, are we actually achieving those characters that we want? But it is still a challenge to go from in a trial in the microbrewery and then to scale up. And then, if you wanted to go further, you are still doing development work and flavour analysis all the way through that process.
End transcript
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  • Based on the video, what specific challenges are involved in brewing on a commercial scale?

    • Trial and error is still needed to progress from brewing on the laboratory scale to commercial manufacturing.
    • Beer is technically considered a ‘food substance’ and hence is subject to food safety guidelines.
    • Flavour, taste, odour and appearance all have to be consistent in commercial brews and so frequent human sampling is required.
    • All ingredients used for commercial brewing must have traceable origins.

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