It is not the size of your brew house…

There is one thing that many start-up breweries and wannabe brewers simply do not get.

The actual size of your brew house is not the determining factor, but actually how you operate the system you have.

Careful planning and management of the process can make immense differences in how much you can produce.

Over-sizing your HLT or adding an in-line water heater results in less waiting time.

Combine that with an under-back or dedicated whirlpool vessel and you can increase your production from 1 or 2 batches per day to 3 or 4 batches per day.

For roughly 30% to 50% extra investment in equipment you can increase your output volumes 300%
(That is assuming you can sell all of the beer…)

To get your thoughts going, have a look at the following sites for some inspiration:
Portland Kettleworks
Ss brewtech

Do not spread yourself too thin…

This is probably the biggest piece of truth from the Allagash founder. SA breweries should take note…

Don’t be a mile wide and an inch deep. Jerry Sheehan, who runs a number of our distributors, told me this.

And we learned it the hard way. By 2005 we were selling about 5,000 barrels of beer in 30 states and frankly not doing a great job anywhere. Around then, we made the tough decision to walk away from a fair amount of this volume and pull back — eliminating territories where we did not think we could be competitive and relevant.

Now we’re selling 80,000 barrels of beer in 17 states, and I’m much prouder of the job we’re doing today in all of our markets. Better to do a great job in a small pond than a not-so-great job in a big pond.

I think every business has concepts like this that are so simple they easily are overlooked.

Craft Beer Styles

The Brewers Association recently published a comprehensive style guide.

To satisfy your inner beer geek… download a copy of the guide here.

“2014 Beer Style Guide, published by the Brewers Association, located at:”

Beer 101 - Quick Guide to Beer Styles Part 4

Finally the last bit of “work” before the beer starts to flow.

Even though we South Africans do not have the stout drinking culture like the Irish, we do love a pint of the black stuff. Most of our craft breweries have a rich, dark beer in their line up.

For some new beer drinkers a stout or a porter may be a little overwhelming, but can still be very enjoyable.

The word stout, meaning a strong black beer, goes back at least to 1630. The term was applied to the “stout butt beers” that would later go on to be named “porter”. Stout forms a widespread and varied family of beers whose members all share a deep, dark, roasty character.
Origin: Stout is the son of porter and largely outstripped it and has various sub styles from dry to sweet, weak to strong.
Flavor: Always roasty; may have caramel and hops too.
Aroma: Roasty malt; with or without hop aroma.
Balance: Very dry to very sweet.
ABV: 3.8-5%
Body: dry to full bodied
Bitterness: medium to high (30-40 IBU)

Far from being invented porter emerged over a generation or more,transforming itself from an assemblage of brown ales into a pedigreed family of chestnut-colored brews that was eventually named after transport workers who were its most visible fans.
Origin: London, about 1700.
Flavor: Creamy roasty-toasty malt, hoppy or not.
Aroma: roasty maltiness; usually little or no hop aroma.
Balance: Malt,hops, roast in various proportions.
ABV: 4.0-6.5%
Body: Medium
Color: Brown to black.
Bitterness: Low to medium-high (20-40 IBU)

With most of these beers on show at Cape Town Festival of Beer, try them all and better yet compare different ones form different breweries. You may just be able to charm a brewer with your new found knowledge out of a free pint or two.

(This post is adapted from Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher)

Beer 101 - Quick Guide to Beer Styles Part 3

Next up would be the European Styles of beer.

These are not grouped together because of the use of European malts or hops but rather because they can not be separated from their European origin no matter where it is brewed. A weissbier will always have you order your second pint in German.

The Reinheitsgebot has but one loophole and this allows for the use of wheat in weizens and by the sixteenth century wheat beer was solidly established as a regional specialty in Bavaria. Brewed with 50-60% malted wheat and the balance of malted barley, these beers are pale to deep golden with a definite yeasty haze. They are lightly hopped with no apparent hop aroma. Carbonation levels are high and because of the protein content of wheat, the beer should have a dense, meringue-like head.
Origin: Munich, Germany; originally a monopoly of the royal family.
Flavor: Light graininess, not much in the way of hops; highly carbonated
Aroma: Fruity (bubble gum, bananas), spicy (cloves)
Balance: dry malty/grainy
ABV: 4.9-5.5%
Body: thick but dry
Color: Straw to pale amber
Bitterness: Low (10-15 IBU)

Originally brewed by farmhouse breweries for agricultural workers to sustain them in their summer “season” of labor. One of the defining things about the style is the yeast that can tolerate very high fermentation temperatures - up to 30 degrees, this would lead to other beer to be undrinkable.
Origin: French speaking part of Belgium
Flavor: Creamy pale malt, clean hops, slight tang, may use spices. very crisp and dry on the palate.
Aroma: complex, peppery spice, hints of malt, hops
Balance: super-dry, with clean hoppy finish
ABV: 4.5-8%
Body: super-dry
Color: gold to amber
Bitterness: medium to high (20-45 IBU)

Witbeers were the first hopped beers, although ironically today they are thought of as one of the few styles for which seasonings other than hops are essential.
Origin: Belgium
Flavor: Dry creaminess; soft, acidic finish
Aroma: Spicy yeast plus subtle notes of orange and coriander and possibly hints of other spices.
Balance: Dry, a touch tart
ABV: 4.2-5.5%
Body: Dry to Medium
Color: pale straw to gold, hazy
Bitterness: Low to medium (15-22 IBU)

All that is left then is the Dark side of beer…the stouts, porters and follow shortly

(Post adapted from Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher…..Great book to read for anybody with a interest in beer)

Beer 101 - Quick Guide to Beer Styles Part 2

Part 2….American Styles

American brewers have perfected the art of adopting European styles and reinventing it as their own. With the unique flavors of American hops and loads of it nobody can mistake an American IPA for anything else. But that is not the only style they excel in.

American Pale Ale:
This style defines America craft beer more than any other. They are built on a base of pure malt, usually with the caramel & raisin flavors of crystal, counterbalanced by the fresh, pungent flavors of American hops with their piney, citrusy notes.
Origin: Around the 1980’s, as American brewers tried to satisfy their thirst for hops.
Flavor: Fresh hops plus a nutty maltiness, hint of raisins and/or caramel, crisp finish.
Aroma: Malty, fruity, but with American hops in the foreground.
Balance: Medium body; crisp, bitter finish
ABV: 4.5-5.5%
Body: Medium
Color: Dark gold to dark amber
Bitterness: Medium to high (28-40 IBU)

American IPA:
A paler, stronger, hoppier style of pale ale, showcasing American hop varieties.
Origin: Around 1985, as American brewers looked for other hop-delivery vehicles.
Flavor: Fresh hops plus a clean, bready maltiness, perhaps a hint of caramel and a clean crisp, bitter finish.
Aroma: American hops in the foreground and some malty, fruity aromas.
Balance: Medium body; crisp bitter finish.
ABV: 5.5-6.3%
Body: Crisp, dry
Color: Gold to light amber
Bitterness: Medium to high (35-70 IBU)

Amber Ale:
Ambers are basically a beefy session beer, so good drinkability is important. The key is using hops in a way that is assertive without being tiring; building a malt base that is profound but not cloying. Emphasis should be on bitterness rather than aroma.
Origin: Ambers appeared in America in the about 1990, as brewers searched for a way to find discriptors for beer that were neither intimidating nor linked to specific historical traditions.
Flavor: Plenty of caramel malt, delicate hop finish
Aroma: Clean caramel malt plus a hint of floral hops
Balance: Malty to somewhat hoppy
ABV: 4.5-6%
Body: Medium
Color: Pale to dark amber
Bitterness: Medium (30-40 IBU)

Part 3 next….European styles followed by Part 4 Dark Beers

(Post adapted from Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher…..Great book to read for anybody with a interest in beer)

Beer 101 - Quick Guide to Beer Styles

With the rise of craft beer, terms are being flung about like IPA, Pale Ale, Porter and Stout and to confuse it just a little more a few additives like “American” or “English” are also mixed in.

With Cape Town Festival of Beer just around the corner here is a quick guide to a few of the style that you can expect to sample. Hopefully it will help clear up some of the confusion and help you with your choice when you get to a stand.

Just to be clear it’s not a set of rules or laws that brewers have to adhere to, but a brown colored beer is clearly not a pale ale or a beer with only the faintest hop aroma or bitterness just can not be called an IPA. It is better used to compare apples with apples and help you with choosing a beer you will enjoy.

Beers with English roots:

English Bitters:
Origin: Developed 1850-1950 as draft pale ale that grew lighter in alcohol and body over time. Usually brewed with adjuncts (sugar) in addition to malt to lighten body and improve drinkability. Despite their low alcohol and adjuct recipes these beers can seductively complex and appealing.
Flavor: Fresh hops plus nutty maltiness, crisp finish.
Aroma: Hops first, plus nutty/woody malt; spice and fruit also evident.
Balance: hop or malt balanced; bitter finish
ABV: 2.5-5.0%
Body: dry to medium
Color: light to dark amber
Bitterness: medium to high (25-55 IBU)

English Pale Ale:
Nearly impossible to completely differentiate pale ale from the bitter family, but pale ale is a more substantial beer and you are more likely to find an all-malt version. American brewers have made this style their own, but proper English pale ale always display English hop character.
Origin: descended from amber-colored “October” beers brewed in the English countryside, it was adopted in London well before 1800.
Flavor: crisp; nutty malt; spicy hops
Aroma: clean malt plus a good dose of spicy/herbal English hops.
Balance: even or dry/bitter
ABV: 3.8-6.2%
Body: crisp, dry
Color: gold to amber
Bitterness: medium-high (20-50 IBU)

India Pale Ale:
Very much part of the pale ale family. In any given brewer’s portfolio, the IPA is just about guaranteed to be just a little paler, stronger and more bitter than their pale. One brewer’s pale is another brewer’s IPA.
Origin: True Indian Pale Ale evolved from October ales shipped to India.
Flavor: Plenty of malt, but dominated by hops.
Aroma: Spicy English hops in the foreground, plus a nice backup of nutty malt.
Balance: Always hoppy
ABV: 4.5-7.5%
Body: crisp, dry
Color: gold to amber
Bitterness: High (40-60 IBU)

Tomorrow more on the American styles. Then still the dark beers and continental Europe to follow.

(Post adapted from Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher…..Great book to read for anybody with a interest in beer)

Beer 101 - Making the most of beer festivals

Beer festivals are great… Acres of beers lined up for you to enjoy; a years’s worth of pub crawling in a few hours; shoulder to shoulder with a crowd of beer fans: nirvana!
But festivals can be a little bit too much at times… Large crowds, too many choices & uncomfortable conditions. A good strategy and a little bit of self-restraint can go a long way to make the event even more enjoyable. Here are some tips.

Know your limits…
…of alcohol, heat, sun, being on your feet and dealing with crowds. Be aware that brewers often bring their biggest, baddest beers for these events. This is great but you have to respect these bold beers.

Go when the crowds are lightest…
…get there when it starts, or for a longer festival pick a slow day. Know when to quit - missing the last hour is sometimes a very wise decision.

Do some research…
…find out who is making the beers you are interested in. You may even discover a few brewers and beers unknown to you thanks to the bit of effort.

Don’t be afraid to dump…
…there is just no point in drinking a beer that you don’t like. You won’t offend anybody.

Have a purpose…
…focus on something specific, such as beers you haven’t had before, a particular style, breweries you have never heard of, or finding the perfect session beer. Take notes. Discuss.

Talk to brewers…
…this is a great opportunity to find out more about their beers, how they are brewed, how they think of them, what inspired them to make these beers, and maybe you can find out a few brewing tricks for your home brewing experiments.

…events are often more fun on the other side of the taps. You get the opportunity to spend time with beer people; get to spread the word on good beer; the chance to interact with loads of other beer lovers. It may very well come with a few perks as well… After parties, T-shirts, etc.

Hydrate… with water, not just beer !!


Make sure you have a safe ride home…

(Post adapted from Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher…..Great book to read for anybody with a interest in beer)

Beer 101 - Causes Of Sour Taste In Beer

(This piece is based on an article from and a few other books)

There is a vast difference between savoring a proper sour beer like a Belgian Lambic and spitting out a sour Pale Ale while dropping your glass in disgust… Whether intended or due to defects the sources of the sour taste are pretty much the same.
In some beer styles, brewers purposely add souring agents, while in other styles the presence of sour notes or even overpowering sour flavors are simply due a defect in the beer or brewing process…

Typically beers that are supposed to be sour are: Belgian Lambic beers, Berliner Weisse, sometimes Belgian Witbier, Belgian Oud Bruin & Flanders Red.
Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, English Ales / Bitters, normal Weiss beers, etc. are not supposed to be sour, unless intentionally soured by latter additions of souring agents.

Now the question is: What causes the sour flavors?

First and foremost lactic acid is one of the most common souring agents found in beer. Lactic acid is produced by Lactobacillus.

The next unwanted bug commonly known to get into beer is Acetobacter. Acetobacter produce acetic acid - a vinegar-like acid. This can make the beer taste a bit like cider. Acetobacter needs oxygen, which means it’s likely to get into your beer if you are allowing air and oxygen in during transfers.

Pediococcus is another bacteria which produces the same lactic acid that lactobacillus produces. Unlike lactobacillus this bacteria also produces a buttery flavor when consuming the sugar in the wort or beer. Buttery is another common off flavor in beer.

If these bugs are used in fermentation the usual method used to combat this buttery flavor is by using the wild yeast Brettanomyces, or more commonly referred to as Brett. Regular brewer’s yeast consume the sugars in wort and turn them into alcohol, but they don’t consume all sugars, only certain types. On the other hand Brett consumes all types of sugar. Brett is feared in breweries because it can really cause damage if not controlled properly.

What is “Craft Beer”

The term “craft beer” is being used widely lately.

But what is craft beer exactly? In South Africa the definition is loosely based on the guidelines provided by the Brewers Association Instead of the 6 million barrels number a volume of 6 million liters was used.

This is all good, but there is a further clarification that also needs to be factored in.
Craft beer is broken down into different segments. Some may argue that it is a matter of splitting hairs, but I think it is important that consumers know where the beer comes from.

The craft beer industry is defined by four distinct markets: brewpubs, microbreweries, regional craft breweries, and contract brewing companies.
According to the US definitions the breakdown is as follows:

A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels (17,600 hectoliters) of beer per year with 75% or more of its beer sold off-site. Microbreweries sell to the public by one or more of the following methods: the traditional three-tier system (brewer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer); the two-tier system (brewer acting as wholesaler to retailer to consumer); and, directly to the consumer through carryouts and/or on-site tap-room or restaurant sales.

A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar. The beer is often dispensed directly from the brewery’s storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer “to go” and /or distribute to off site accounts. Note: BA re-categorizes a company as a microbrewery if its off-site (distributed) beer sales exceed 75%.

Contract Brewing Company:
A business that hires another brewery to produce its beer. It can also be a brewery that hires another brewery to produce additional beer. The contract brewing company handles marketing, sales, and distribution of its beer, while generally leaving the brewing and packaging to its producer-brewery (which, confusingly, is also sometimes referred to as a contract brewery).
For more opinions on contract brewing read the following by Greg Koch from Stone Brewing Co.
Interview with Greg Koch
The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.

Regional Brewery:
A brewery with an annual beer production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels.

Regional Craft Brewery:
An independent regional brewery who has either an all malt flagship or has at least 50% of it’s volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

Large Brewery:
A brewery with an annual beer production over 6,000,000 barrels.

(1 US Beer Barrel equates to 119 liters of beer.)

India Black Ale / Cascadian Dark Ale / Black IPA

In the US (and a few other places) there has been quite some fuss over a new beer style and what it should be called. The style in question is known by basically three different names; Black IPA, India Black Ale (IBA), or Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA). Bottom line… it is a dark hoppy beer.

Oakshire Brewing one of the originators of the style defines Cascadian Dark Ale as follows:
It’s dark in colour, with a prominent “Northwest” hop aroma—citrusy, piney and resinous.
The body has some sweet malt flavours, with hints of roastiness and toasted malt.
The flavours should strike a beautiful balance between citrusy-resinous Northwest hops and, to a lesser degree, roasted, chocolate malt or caramel notes.
The finish should be semi-dry, not heavy like a porter or stout.
Hop aromas and flavours should be prominent, but the malt balance should not be lost in an onslaught of hops. In other words, when closing your eyes, it should not simply taste like a typical American IPA.

The dark beer is quite confusing to some and people easily mistake it for a type of Porter or Stout…
It is most certainly not a Porter or Stout… So, what differentiates Cascadian dark ale from a hoppy porter or stout? There are really three main differences:

The first would be the basic hop profile. These beers are brewed using traditional IPA bittering, flavour and aroma hops with citrus, spice and floral characteristics. Typical hop selections would be Columbus, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo, Simcoe and Cascade or hybrids of these like Warrior or Magnum.

The second would be the vastly reduced roast malt flavour contributions. This is done by using debittered malts instead of black patent or roast barley. These malts provide colour without the harsher, burnt flavour profiles of robust porters or stouts.

And finally, the third is the much drier finish. This is achieved through the use of very little light caramel malts and high attenuation yeasts.

The Brewers Association developed the following for the American-style India Black Ale category at the Great American Beer Festival:
American-style India Black Ale has medium high to high hop bitterness, flavour and aroma with medium-high alcohol content, balanced with a medium body. The style is further characterized by a moderate degree of caramel malt character and medium to strong dark roasted malt flavour and aroma. High astringency and high degree of burnt roast malt character should be absent. Fruity, floral and herbal character from hops of all origins may contribute to aroma and flavour.
Original Gravity = 1.056 - 1.075
Final Gravity =1.012 - 1.018
Alcohol by Volume = 5-6%
Color = 25+ SRM
Bitterness = 50 - 70 IBU

(Based on an article by Matt van Wyk - Oakshire Brewing & info from The Brewers Association)