Archive for October 2012

Day 421

October 31, 2012

In History of Rock & Roll, we got all cosmic, groovy and beautiful. Yeah man, it was psychedelia, mind-altering substances and love beads as we covered the period 1965-1969. Dylan goes electric. Summer of Love. Hippies. Communes. Sit-ins. Protests. Hendrix lights his guitar on fire. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Woodstock. And then <sigh> the Hell’s Angels kill a spectator at Altamont as the Rolling Stones watch. In a flash, the era of flowers and free love is over. Within a year, Hendrix, Joplin, Brian Jones, Keith Moon, and Jim Morrison are all dead. The Beatles break up. And rock again teeters on the edge of oblivion. Next week, rock & roll tries to survive the 70s (and disco).

In FCF, it turns out that we are now finished with the “F” in FCF (Filtration) and have moved on to the “C”: Carbonation. Carbon dioxide is a rather stable gas at room temperature, but for commercial storage, we apply a great deal of pressure to it and force it into liquid form, which we can then store (under great pressure) in gas bottles or tanks. From there we can dispense it via a regulator to carbonate our beer.

(You can also drop the temperature or apply even more pressure–or both–and end up with solid CO2, better know as dry ice. But I digress…)

However, it turns out that as much as we like CO2 in our beer, the CO2 doesn’t like being there. It only dissolves into water because it forms carbonic acid with water molecules, and it will flee from the water if presented with an opportunity–a rise in temperature, for instance, or a drop in the pressure of the gas above the beer (such as when you pop the top on a bottle of beer).

CO2 is totally ruled by Henry’s Law: “At a constant temperature, the amount of a given gas that dissolves in a given type and volume of liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas in equilibrium with that liquid.” In a nutshell, what this means is that if you hold beer under a head of pressurised CO2, some of the CO2 will dissolve into the beer. It seems that Mother Nature abhors having a lot of molecules of CO2 above the beer, and none in the beer, so over time, some of the molecules will migrate into the beer until equilibrium is reached.

However, simply putting the beer into a gas-tight tank, then pressurizing the head space above the beer with CO2 is slow. Really slow. It’s the “OMG This Is Taking So Long” method, since it can take hours or even days, depending on how much surface area of beer is exposed to the head space.

Then there is the slightly faster method of bubbling CO2 into the beer through a pipe. This may be a bit faster, since the bubbles do increase the amount of surface area touching the beer, allowing CO2 to dissolve a bit more quickly.

This method could be much faster though, if instead of making large bubbles, you produced eensy-teensy weensy bubbles, since overall, the smaller bubbles of a certain volume would have a much greater surface area than one large bubble of the same volume. That’s where a carbonation stone (or sintered stone) comes in. A carbonation stone is composed of sintered steel–steel that is fractured through and through with tiny passages and holes. If you force CO2 through sintered steel into beer, the gas emerges as a fine mist of bubbles–perfect for carbonating beer relatively quickly. The only problem is that you have to use extra pressure to force the gas through the sintered steel.

But if you’re really in a hurry, the way to go is a cross-flow system. This (expensive) carbonator has a large snake-like pipe that twists back and forth. Inside the pipe, running along the centre is a long tube of sintered steel. You pump the beer through the pipe in one direction, and push CO2 through the sintered steel tube in the other direction. The beer, as it travels through the pipe, is subject to a veritable blizzard of CO2 every centimetre of the way. By the time the beer has travelled the length of the pipe–a few seconds at most–it is fully carbonated. If you are very clever about it, you can even run your beer from the fermenter to the filter then through the carbonator and straight to the packaging line, obviating the need for a bright tank. However, getting the right flow of beer and counterflow of CO2 to produce exactly the right amount of carbonation can be tricky. In addition, if something happens and you have to bring the beer flow to a halt, even for a few seconds, the beer sitting in the carbonator gets over-carbonated and has to be dumped.

Next week, more fun with CO2, including exploding gummy bears.


Day 420

October 30, 2012

Back to class. Somehow those two papers never got done. Huh.

And what better way to start the second half of the semester than with a few brewing calculations? First, a review of water chemistry, especially converting calcium and magnesium to equivalents of calcium carbonate, and calculating residual alkalinity. With our brains sufficiently woken up from their 10-day nap, we moved on to a few brewhouse design considerations: given the density of mash, what size of mash tun would we need for a given volume? Also, the difference between the angle of rest of a given substance (how steep a cone it forms when poured into a pile) and the angle of slide (how high you have to tilt a board holding a layer of a given substance before it starts to slide off the board.) Both of these angles will have a bearing on brewhouse equipment dsign. For instance, how steep does the cone at the bottom of a fermenter have to be to encourage descending yeast to fall to the bottom of the cone?

We also spent some time taking up the mid-term exam. Although I did reasonably well, I was annoyed that I thrown away 3 marks on simple arithmetic errors like misplaced decimal places, and another 2 marks for the complete mind blank of only completing the first part of a three-part question. D’ohh! Obviously I need to load up on more caffeine for those 8:30 a.m. exams.

Speaking of mid-terms, we wrote the History of Beer exam today. Well, not so much wrote it as checked it off, since it was 100 multiple choice questions. Afterwards, Bill White delivered a lecture on laws and beer–how the legal system has affected the production and consumption of beer through the ages. The four key dates seemed to be 1770 B.C., 1516, 1920 and 1979, which correspond to the establishment of Hammurabi’s Code in Mesopotamia (the first legal code that mentions penalties for serving bad beer, cheating customers and allowing seditious talk within the bar), the Rheinheitsgebot (the famous Bavarian Purity Law that only allowed beer to be made from malt, barley and water), Prohibition in the U.S., and the legalization of  homebrewing in the U.S. (which likely kickstarted the entire craft beer movement).

And now to make the perilous journey home in the face of Tropical Storm Sandy.

Day 410 – 419: Reading Week

October 30, 2012

Saturday, Oct. 19

Dear Diary:

Reading Week has arrived, and luckily I only have two papers to write, so I will get those done pronto and then spend the rest of the time relaxing. Just have to get a couple of family chores done and then  I’ll get right to it.

Monday, Oct. 21

Dear Diary:

Who knew chores would take up the entire weekend? I really needed to get to work today, but first I visited Peter Collins to brainstorm some ideas for a Christmas beer. Peter had some of his oh-so-good fresh-hopped pale ale on tap, but somehow the keg ran dry as we talked. Luckily I’d had the foresight to bring the last few drops of my Samuel Adams Utopias for Peter to taste. But alas, where did Monday go to?

Tuesday, Oct. 22

Dear Diary:

Off to to Rochester, New York for three days to celebrate our anniversary. I packed my laptop and notes so I could work on my papers in our spare time. Since our planned first stop was a romantic bed & breakfast in a beautiful historic neighbourhood of Rochester, I have absolutely no idea how we instead found ourselves at CB’s, a small craft brewery just south of Rochester. However, I definitely remember tasting several samples of their beers, especially their Caged Alpha Monkey IPA. Whew, good beer. Good thing my wife could drive the rest of the way to Rochester

Wednesday, Oct. 23

Dear Diary:

Okay, I had every intention of spending tonight writing my papers. But when we arrived at Rohrbach’s Brewpub for dinner, behold, they were have a special tasting of eight Oktoberfest beers. Well, I could hardly pass up an opportunity for that, could I?

Thursday, Oct. 24

Dear Diary:

The plan was to drive back from Rochester fairly early so I could get to work. Then we happened to round a corner in south Rochester, and there–illuminated as if by a beam of glory from heaven itself–was a store called “Beers of the World”. I knew each of us could take 24 bottles of beer back into Canada without paying duty. But how do you choose only 48 bottles from a store filled with hundreds and hundreds of beers from across the United States and around the world? Needless to say, it took a lot longer than anticipated.

Friday Oct. 25

Dear Diary:

More chores.  Sweep the leaves off the deck. Off to Canadian Tire for some parts. Catalogue the beer I brought home and see how much would fit in the beer fridge. Plan what beers I would taste at Cask Days. Wait, where did the day go?

Sat Oct 26

Dear Diary:

Cask Days! Although nominally an outdoor event, it felt more like we were indoors, or perhaps most of the way indoors, since the new venue for this 100+ cask event was a large metal barn with one wall missing. Good thing we had a roof over our heads, since it was pouring rain–a harbinger of the oncoming Hurricane Sandy.

First up was a brewers’ breakfast–good food, and a great opportunity to meet some of the creative craft brewers of Ontario.

Then, it was time to sample from over 100 casks–including my own “Call of Brew-ty: Black Hops” chipotle schwarzbier. I was the first to taste it, and wow, was it hot. Wow. Hot. Not as hot as the Great Lakes X Toronto Brewing “Curried Spiced Pumpkin Ale“, but darned close. Strangely, there was not a lot of middle ground about Call of Brew-ty: people either loved it and went back for more, or fell to the ground, clawing at their throats and gasping for air. Well, at least it was a beer that left a mark. (Some people claimed it left scars.)

I moved on to other beers, and by the end of the five-hour session, I had tasted a dozen samples on my own, and had probably sipped twice as many from other people’s glasses. (There are no communicable germs at a beer festival. No, really.) By the time I got on the train to come home, I felt great, ready to write both papers in one session! Strangely, that feeling of euphoria seems to be wearing off, and…


Sun Oct 27

Dear Diary:

Last day of Reading Week. Must write papers. Taking painkillers. Going back to bed.

Day 409

October 22, 2012

Friday, the last day before Reading Week, and I had no classes, which should have meant it was the unofficial start of Reading Week. However, I attended the first annual conference of the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) today, and since I’d been given the student rate for admission, I figured that means I’m still in class, sort of.

These one-day events always start with a bit of breakfast; even though it was the OCB conference, there was no beer served with the croissants. Alas.

The first speaker, Robert Rubinstein of Target Marketing, provided some trending data regarding beer sales:

  • From 2007-2011, mainstream beer’s share of the Canadian market fell by 4%. At the same time, the market share of premium beer (all higher priced beer, including imports and craft beer) rose 5%.
  • In the States, that trend is even more pronounced, with mainstream beers losing 17% market share in the past five years, while craft beer’s share is now 6% of the total market.
  • In Ontario, craft beer saw an increase of 10% in sales in 2011, while mainstream beer sales fell by 7%. (This translates to a 2.5% share of the market by craft beer, versus 43.3% share for mainstream beer.)
  • The forecast is for those trends to continue over the next three years; in 2015, craft beer will be up to a 4% share of the market, while while mainstream beer sales will fall to 39% of the market. (Rubinsteain also predicted that craft brewers will double their overall annual output by 2015, to 3,000,000 hL.)
  • The number of people employed by the Ontario craft beer industry, currently about 700 people, will increase to 900 by 2015.

All of this, of course, makes members of the OCB say, “Yay!”

Next up was the keynote speaker, Dr. Roland Folz of VLB Berlin. (VLB Berlin is one of the oldest and most respected brewing schools and research centres in the world.) Dr. Folz talked about designing new breweries in light of future consumer trends. He suggested that brewers need to

  • understand key variables of the supply chain for raw ingredients, and how those could impact brewing
  • minimize use of raw ingredients–and expecially waste of raw ingredients–to provide less exposure to those key variables
  • design a minimum number of “mother” beers, that can then be customized to provide a full line
  • ensure consistency of product through standard operating and sanitation procedures
  • cut manufacturing costs: efficient use of resources, proactive preventative maintenance of equipment, and a safe and healthy work enviroment will be more profitable than trying to increase sales.
  • Location of future breweries and how they look: since beer doesn’t travel well and transportation costs will continue to increase, brewery location that is both close to market and with a high visibility to encourage consumer traffic will become increasingly important

Dr. Folz also mentioned a few of the areas of technology that we might see in the near future, including a free-swimming detector that could broadcast analysis of fermentation from inside the fermenter vat, and solar heating systems that could significantly reduce the costs of heating brewing water.

Danielle Wedral of Advanced Microbial Detection reminded us that culturing a bacterial plate takes 10 days, and even then, we may not be sure of what we have cultured. She then showed us their microbe detector (called a PCR) that uses DNA analysis to provide exact results of what is swimming around in your beer or wort in only three days. A very shiny toy, although I’m not sure a small craft brewery could afford it and the ongoing supplies. However, perhaps two or three small breweries working together could afford it…

Time for a mid-morning break. Still no beer.

Uwe Jansen from Denmark talked about brewery designs that provided efficient brewery operations, but also looked shiny and nice for what was expected to be a growing trend in the industry: visitors who come for tours of the brewery.

Lunch time. Beer. Lots and lots of craft beer. Tubs of bottles and cans of craft beer. Oh, and there was some food too. I met many people I knew either from meeting them at the college, or through my summer job. Good times, good times.

In the afternoon, Sebastian Delgado of Krones showed us some mouth-watering bottling and canning machines. Because we seemed to be talking trends today, he gave us the newest things to watch for: cans that would have a label sleeve applied at the brewery (rather than being pre-labelled at the time of manufacture), and foil “caps” for cans to ensure that the lid area remained clean. Apparently those foil caps are already big in Europe, and have the added bonus of providing the brewer with another potential labelling area.

Ken Belau had recently translated some 1930s German brewing manuals concerning the style known as Berliner Weisse–an extremely sour style of wheat beer once favoured in Berlin but now largely forgotten. He had then translated his research into an actual beer brewed at Niagara College. (Yay Niagara College). Of course there were samples. Sour, really mouth-puckeringly sour. Wow, was it sour.

There was still one final speaker, and then dinner and the first OCB awards, but I had a family commitment, and many kilometres of rush hour traffic with which to contend, so that was the end of the day for me.

Okay, NOW it is officially Reading Week. Nine days. Two papers to write. Maybe a road trip to a brewery or two as well. Purely for research purposes, of course.

Day 408

October 19, 2012

Maybe I was a bit premature yesterday in thinking that Reading Week had already started. Although I didn’t have any classes today, I had an on-line Health & Safety exam for Practical Brewing, then some answers to post to the History of Rock & Roll on-line discussion group.

With the most immediate school work out of the way, time to head in to Toronto and move the Call of Brew-ty: Black Hops to a firkin for Cask Days. I brought a small container of perhaps 125 mL of pulverized smoked chipotle, courtesy of Chef Michael Olson of Niagara College. The question was, how much chipotle to add to 40 litres of schwarzbier? The assistant brewmaster looked at the container of chipotle, then at me, then at the container.

“Add it all,” he suggested.

“All?” I gulped.


So I added it all.

You have been warned.

Day 407

October 19, 2012

The day started at the uncivilized hour of 8:30 a.m. with another in-class case study in Business Ethics worth 5% of our final mark. This time, it was an examination of the American Red Cross and its ethical and organizational failures over the past 15 years– a clear case of the corporation that loses sight of its original purpose and instead becomes an institution that exists simply to exist.

For Sensory Evaluation, we met at the Wine Education Centre, then took a quick tour of the 16-hectare (40-acre) vineyard attached to the college as well as the college winery, courtesy of the college’s vintner. Pretty interesting stuff, and it was only grudgingly that we moved back to the tasting lab for… more wine? No, for a test about wine.

Then a lecture about local winemaking in Canada, particularly Ontario, and the grapes that are commonly grown in the Niagara region.

Then (finally) we tasted some more wine: a Niagara College chardonnay, a Niagara region Riesling, and a Niagara College Pinot Franc.

Time to go home and do an on-line mid-term exam on health and safety for Practical Brewing.

And then all the tests, presentations and mid-terms are finished. It must be time for Reading Week! No classes next week! Huzzah!

Day 406

October 18, 2012

Another day, another mid-term. But first, The Beatles! (Yeah, yeah, yeah!!)

Yes, in History of Rock & Roll, it was time for the British Invasion–where did it come from, why was it so fleeting, where did it go? And how and why did the music evolve–from light pop by the Beatles in 1963 to psychedelic grooviness in 1967 to heavy rock by Led Zeppelin in 1969?

As a bonus, the homework is listening to Beatles songs, so how cool is that?

On to Business Ethics, where we learned about the ethics of whistle-blowing. When is it ethical to blow the whistle on (perceived) unethical corporate behaviour, and when is it not?

Then, yes, what would a day be without a  mid-term exam? So let’s do one in FCF. Depth filters. Diatomaceous earth. Finings. PvPP. Collagen structures. π-bonds. Oh my.

Another long day, with more tests and mid-terms lurking in the shadows.

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