Best Practices

The CBG Technical and Education Committee provides opportunities, resources, and acts as a hub of communication for Colorado breweries to elevate their knowledge of quality and safety practices

So You Want to Add a Brewing Lab?

February 19th, 2018
So You Want to Add a Brewing Lab?

A Primer on Adding a Brewing Lab on a Budget

Quality control, in brewing and other industries, is one of those things that produces dollars indirectly. This is done by increasing process visibility, reducing risk and minimizing destroyed product. When used effectively, it should help to protect a brewery’s reputation. In today’s Colorado craft beer market, your reputation is as valuable as ever.

When you decide to build a lab for your brewery, the first thing you need to do is determine how it can add the most to the bottom line. Labs in our industry range from roller tables in brewhouse corners to large designated rooms filled with rows of laminar flow hoods, instruments, and microscopes. There’s no right answer, as every brewery has different priorities, but I firmly believe that something is better than nothing. Start with what you can afford, and expand as you are able. Note that this blog post is inherently scientific. Feel free to reach out with questions.

A lab can serve many functions:

• Sensory analysis – threshold evaluation, diacetyl test, true-to-brand compliance, barrel-aging

• Yeast health – pitch rate, viability, vitality, morphology

• Microbiological contamination – isolation and identification of bacteria and wild yeast

• Instrumental analysis – DO, FAN, IBUs, diacetyl, acetaldehyde, etc via spectroscopy and/or PCR

While every brewery faces different and specific challenges (and available dollars to tackle each of these), there are several things that you can quickly put into place to maximize the quality of your beer. There are volumes of information on each of the items listed below. This is simply meant to help you organize your thoughts and quickly put some quality control measures in place. Once all or most of Tier I is up and running, move on to Tier II, and so on. Or mix and match!!


Tier I: diacetyl test, HLP tubes, basic sensory panel, yeast counting                                                                      $800

Basic sensory panel – true to brand definition and compliance, training on diacetyl, acetaldehyde, oxidation, DMS

• Cost is $135 for 12 vials of Siebel flavor attributes for training…use these to train and sign off colleagues so that you know who your super tasters (sub 1x-2x threshold) are for each flavor attribute

• For most breweries, sensory should gate product release…don’t get lost in lab la-la-land by solely relying on a bunch of micro and instrumental data…you should understand how the lab data will affect sensory and perhaps shelf-life

Diacetyl rest and test – recommended prior to crashing fermenter temperature for both ales and lagers…also an ideal time to check for acetaldehyde and other fermentation byproducts…great to do in the morning before your first cup of coffee

• This is a simple, and highly effective way to check that your yeast is given the chance to clean up VDKs and precursors (diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione)

• Once the fermentation is ~70% complete, simply bump the temperature 5-10oF to assist the yeast while they’re still active

• When active fermentation subsides, perform a side-by-side sensory comparison, preferably blind, of a control and a sample that has been heated and cooled (to convert the precursor chemicals into the offending VDKs). Check for the usual diacetyl smell, taste, mouthfeel attributes

• Cost is <$50 for a small cooler, a few small Erlenmeyer flasks, and some aluminum foil to cover the flasks and keep volatile VDKs trapped inside

HLP tubes – an easy way to check for lactobacillus and pediococcus contamination…samples pulled post-HX during knock-out, from the fermenter after pitch, once the beer crashes out, from the BBT, and from package

• Cost is ~$120/1000 tubes + $195/500g of media = ~$0.35/sample = $315 for ~875 samples

• Requires an incubator to maintain samples at ~28oC for at least 4 days (this can be as simple as a cooler or dorm fridge retrofitted with a heating lamp and a Ranko thermistor)…cost ~$100

See reference (5) for more information

• You’ll need sterile test tubes and a heated stir plate to prepare HLP tubes

• FastOrange also offers a few media that let you easily check for contamination

NOTE: Before putting any contamination control practices in place, make sure that you brush up on aseptic sampling techniques. Also, be sure to use control samples to check your sampling and inoculation technique, and reduce false readings.

Yeast counting – easily done by the brewer from the brink or fermenter…all you need is a microscope, a hemocytometer, a few drops of stain, and some water to dilute your sample…the math to account for dilution is probably the hardest part of this exercise

• Cost is $100 for a microscope + $75 for a hemocytometer and some cover slips + $15 for crystal violet or methylene blue stain

          • Crystal violet stain attaches to live yeast cells, but does not adhere well to dead cells

          • Methylene blue stains dead yeast cells, but is metabolized to appear clear by live cells

          • Track the viability by comparing stained cells to unstained cells across yeast generations

          • Ensure your lager yeast isn’t invading your ale yeast by studying cell shape / morphology


Tier II: bacteria and wild yeast plating, intermediate sensory panel                                                                $1,500

Intermediate sensory panel – add evaluation and 3x threshold sign-off of Tier I attributes plus several more (lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, isovaleric acid, mercaptan)

Micro plating – more detailed attention to aseptic technique is required to prepare and inoculate various media for growing bacteria and wild yeast both aerobically (in the presence of oxygen) and anaerobically (in the absence of oxygen)

• Brewer’s yeast plating on WLN for yeast morphology analysis (sacch ale vs lager vs other)

• Bacteria plating on WLD (brett, candida, some sacch wild yeast, lactobacillus, acetobacter)

• Wild yeast plating on LCSM or LWYM to test for non-sacch yeast as well as some weizen and saison (i.e. diastaticus) yeasts (LYWM can be very messy to prepare, so watch out for boil-overs)

• Catalase test, oxidase test, acid test, gram staining to help identify any colony growth

• These techniques help to see if the colony might be a spoiler…see page 8 of reference (1) as well as reference (4) for more information

• You’ll need 3% hydrogen peroxide, crystal violet, methylene blue, iodine, safranin reagents for colony identification

• Additional supplies are as follows:

• Laminar flow hood to create a sterile environment (not too difficult to make yourself)

• Sterile plates, inoculating loop, sterile pipettes, torch or Bunsen burner

• Heated stir plate to mix growth media and autoclavable sample jars for sterile collection

• Autoclave or pressure-cooker (15 minutes at 15psi to sterilize)

• Growth media (WLD and LCSM

•WLN & WLD are $110/500g

• LCSM is $200/500g

• Other reagents are required (cycloheximide, Tween, agar, CuSO4)

• Anaerobic storage box and catalyst packs if performing anaerobic growth

• Incubator to maintain a healthy temperature for growth (~80oF)…easy to make out of a dorm fridge, a heating pad or light bulb, and a Ranko temp controller

Barrel sensory panel and tracking – add sensory evaluation of THP, acetone, vanillin, tannin…measure pH and titratable acidity of each sour beer barrel monthly or quarterly. Titratable acidity measurement requires lab glassware, a pH meter and 0.1N NaOH for a potentiometric titration. See references (2) and (3) for more information.


Tier III: advanced sensory panel, instrumental analysis (VDKs, IBUs, FAN)                                             $10,000+

Advanced sensory panel – possible format change to incorporate enough data for statistical analysis…add evaluation and sign-off of ethyl acetate, ethyl hexanoate, caprylic acid, indole, others

Filtering for micro plating – increase the sample size of wort/beer to increase your sensitivity to contamination

• You’re essentially running a controlled volume (100mL or so) of sample through a sterile filter, and then placing the filter on the growth media…this allows you to estimate contamination density in your fermenter, etc…

•Requires filtration stand, sterile filter paper, a vacuum pump, and other materials

Spectrophotometric analysis of VDKs, IBUs, FAN, etc… – Many options out there for the instrument, but Thermo Scientific offers options in the $5,000-$7,000 range.

• VDKs – spectrophotometric analysis of diacetyl pre-cursors measured by absorbance at 530nm…can also be used to confirm diacetyl test…requires additional distillation labware

• IBUs – spectrophotometric analysis of emulsified hop oils in the wort measured by absorbance at 275nm

• FAN – spectrophotometric analysis of free amino nitrogen measured by absorbance at 570nm

PCR analysis of contaminants

• Many options out there, but one of the more affordable ones is from brewPal (~$10,000 for the instrument plus ~$20 per sample in consumables)


NOTE: There are several ways to solve most problems. The information above is from my experience, a fair bit of research, and conversations that I have had with various colleagues from the Colorado brewing industry. If you know of a more accurate or more efficient way to describe anything above (or if I’m just plain wrong about something), please submit it to the Comment / Feedback Form on the CBG’s Best Practices page (




Post written by Cy Bevenger of Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, CO

Techniques for Cask Conditioned Beer Production

February 5th, 2018

With the 14th Annual Firkin Rendezvous approaching on February 17, it seems like a good time to discuss cask conditioned beers.  This post is meant to give some examples of procedures to ensure that the beer in the cask is in great shape at the time it’s ready to be tapped and served.  While many American craft brewers have certainly strayed from the traditional English cask ale beer styles, we can learn a lot from the traditional techniques used to achieve a lightly carbonated, brilliant beer upon dispense.  There will also be some links to additional resources, including instruction on the proper venting and tapping of a cask, which can be particularly challenging for a festival such as Firkin Rendezvous due to the travel and timing for event delivery and set up.

First, let’s start with some definitions.  One of the great things about playing with cask ales is the fun nomenclature involved.


Typically this would be a British Firkin that holds about 11 gallons.  There are other sizes of casks (Pin and Kilderkin) but the Firkin seems to be the easiest to work with and the most common.  To really geek out about cask sizes, check out this entry on Wikipedia.  Typically the cask will be stainless steel but it could be plastic or wood.  The cask has two openings – a two-inch round opening on the curved side for the shive and a one-inch round opening on the end towards the rim for the keystone.


This can be wood or plastic and is pounded into the two-inch opening to seal the cask. The hole in the center of the shive allows the tutt to be in place during conditioning, but later replaced with a spile.


The tutt is a small, non-porous plastic piece that seals the hole in the shive until the spile is needed.  It is generally in place when you receive the shive from your supplier. (Edit: Some shives have a thinner cut-out section instead of a tutt, which breaks when hit with the spile.)


The spile is a tapered cylinder of porous wood that allows pressure (CO2) to escape.  It’s like a large wooden nail.  A hard spile is less porous and is generally longer, while the soft spile if fairly porous and will allow pressure to release faster and air to replace the headspace when serving.  The spile is pounded into the hole of the shive forcing the tutt out the other side (into the cask).


                                                                                                                                                                                  The keystone can be wood or plastic and is pounded into the 1-inch opening on the end of the cask to seal the cask before filling.  This piece has a thinner cut-out section in the center for accepting the spigot when tapping the beer.


Also called “tap” or “gravity tap”, this is how we’ll dispense the beer from the cask!  It is pounded into the keystone and displaces the center section of wood (or plastic), causing a nice seal with the remaining keystone.  The tapping of a cask beer can be a beautiful and ceremonial act but can also be a mess if not done correctly.


Now that we’ve got the great terminology down, let’s talk about making a cask beer.  The beautiful thing about making cask beer in a brewery setting is that you can pull base beer from a fermentation vessel and then modify it for cask as appropriate.  This allows for a true one-off beer that will most likely never be duplicated.

There are multiple techniques to accomplish the secondary fermentation in the cask – the “conditioning” part of cask conditioned beers.  Following are 4 techniques that are easily achievable in the small brewery setting.


1.  Spunding (or bunging).  This technique involves transferring from the fermentation vessel while the beer is nearing the end of fermentation.  I have found that 1.0º – 1.5º Plato from terminal gravity is a good range.  The difficulty with this method is the timing – it’s not always easy to catch the fermentation at the optimum point.  If the beer has fermented too far but still has sufficient yeast in suspension, it’s fairly easy to prime the cask with sugar to compensate and create the secondary fermentation.  

2.  Krausening.  This technique involves transferring from the fermenter after terminal gravity is reached and then adding an amount of actively fermenting beer from another fermentation.  This addition of actively fermenting beer provides the sugar and the yeast to accomplish the secondary fermentation.  Generally an addition of around 5% of the volume of beer in the cask is sufficient – this would be roughly ½ gallon for a relatively full firkin.  The advantage of this technique is related to timing – it is usually easier in a brewery setting to have some actively fermenting beer than to transfer the final beer at the optimum gravity.  The disadvantage is that you may need to add a different beer style as the krausening beer, therefore changing the character of the final beer.  This could be good or bad depending on what you’re trying to achieve.

3.  Krausening with wort from original batch.  This technique is a variation on #2 above.  When the original beer is brewed, a small amount of wort is saved in an Erlenmeyer flask and stored in a cooler until a couple of days before transferring beer to the cask.  The wort is pitched with fresh yeast and allowed to reach high krausen before being combined with the fermented beer being racked to the cask.  A pint or two of wort is generally all that’s needed for this technique.  This alleviates the concern of krausening with a different style of beer but creates a bit more work to prep the saved wort.

4.  A final option, if using finished beer, is to add a small amount of yeast and priming sugars. These could be dextrose, sucrose, or sugars from an addition – e.g. fruit puree, maple syrup, or honey. Two good calculators can be found at Brewer’s Friend or MoreBeer.

Whatever method you use to set up the secondary fermentation, finings and dry hops should be added at the racking phase before the cask is sealed with the shive.  This would be the time to add anything else you wish in order to create your final elixir.  At this point, leave the cask in a relatively warm place for 3-5 days and then move to a cooler spot (50-55ºF) if available for another 5 days or so.  This time will greatly increase if the beer is particularly high gravity or has an addition in the cask that would require additional aging.

Now that you’ve made the cask beer, the preparation for serving it will be equally important.  The goal should be to serve a lightly carbonated (~1 volume of CO2 or slightly less) and clear beer from the cask.  Rather than try to describe the appropriate techniques for venting and tapping a cask, I’ll refer you to a short and informative video from UK Brewing Supplies – it’s much easier to understand when you see it (especially when described with an English accent!).

What are your techniques for cask beer in your brewery?  If you’ve got procedures that you prefer, let us know – email

Also, if your brewery hasn’t yet signed up to pour a cask at Firkin Rendezvous, there are still a few spots left!  Register at Firkin Rendezvous.

Additional resources – various articles on producing cask beers:

This post was written by Mike Bristol of Bristol Brewing Company – Colorado Springs, CO 

Draft Line Cleaning – Key to Quality Beer

January 22nd, 2018


Proper cleaning and maintenance of your draft system is just as important as the various CIP methods employed in production. If you neglect your draft system, your beers will suffer! Carbonation, off-flavors, and the appearance of the beer can all be affected by dirty draft lines. The following is a step by step process to ensure your draft lines are sparkling clean and will not have a negative impact on the flavor of your beer.

Various methods of draft line cleaning

There are two main draft line cleaning techniques; static and recirculation. The recirculation method is certainly superior to static line cleaning but, because of the additional cost and different draft system designs, this option may not be practical in every situation. The two methods both have their unique pros and cons and, depending on your draft system or cleaning needs, one may be better suited than the other (it just isn’t practical to set up a recirculation pump in the middle of service when tapping a new beer).

The How

All methods of draft line cleaning requires some sort of an alkaline solution, a sanitizer, and equipment needed to deliver those chemicals into the draft system. As with brewing equipment on the production side of a brewery, all areas in contact with beer of a draft system need to properly cleaned before they can be sanitized. Chemicals such as Powdered Brewery Wash (PBW) is an excellent, safe detergent for all types of line cleaning. 

With static cleaning the only equipment one needs is a cleaning pot. To start, fill up the cleaning pot with warm water and flush out all beer from a line. Next, fill the cleaning pot with the correct ratio of PBW (or equivalent) and warm water (not too hot!) and run through the line until the PBW solution flows through the faucet. I say “not too hot” because you do not want run the risk of personal injury or damaging a component of the draft system; pulling water off of the HLT is probably not the best idea. Keep the coupler attached to the cleaning pot for the 20 minutes need to properly clean the line. Note: If you uncouple the coupler from the cleaning pot your cleaning solution will leak from the system and you will have areas of the draft line not in contact with your alkaline solution.

After the cleaning cycle, rinse all traces of your solution from the cleaning pot, fill with water and then add your sanitizer into the cleaning pot (always add chemicals to water, never water to a chemical – this is extremely important when using caustic). Repeat the process of pushing your sanitizer through the line. Use a ph strip to test when the sanitizing solution has filled the draft line (or you can use the “gritty” test with your fingers if using Saniclean as a sanitizer). Let the sanitizer sit in the line per the manufacture’s recommended time and then rinse with cool water before hooking the keg back up to the draft line.

The use of a recirculating electric pump requires a bit more equipment and set up time but allows one to clean multiple lines simultaneously, the ability to “push” your cleaning chemicals against the normal path of dispensing beer (the flow direction should be alternated with each cleaning), and, because the cleaning solution is constantly in motion and the ability to reverse the flow, is far more effective than using a static cleaning pot. An additional benefit is the ability to clean your faucets while the draft lines are being cleaned. *Faucets will need to be removed after static cleaning, adding more time to the process. 

Recirculating cleaning pump.

When setting up a recirculating pump the system needs to be connected in a loop which will require the couplers to be attached to one another using a special coupler adapter and the faucets removed and their associated shanks connected via a cleaning jumper line. The last beer line in the loop will be connected to the cleaning solution “return” line (more of that to follow).

The next step is to take a 5 gallon bucket filled with warm water. Place the “supply” hose of the pump into the bucket and set the “return” line (see above) into the draft system drain. Turn on the pump (be sure that all FOBs are disengaged) and flush all beer out of the system with the warm water in the bucket. Once the lines are rinsed of beer, refill the bucket with warm water along with your cleaning detergent and place the “return” line into the bucket, completing the loop. Run the pump recirculating detergent throughout the system for 15-20 minutes. This is a perfect time to disassemble your faucets and soak them in their own cleaning solution, *Remember to use a brush to assist in this process. 

After the cleaning cycle is complete, discard your cleaning solution replacing with warm water to flush out detergent from the system (put the “return” line back into the drain for this). The next step is to refill the bucket with water, add your sanitizer, complete the loop by inserting the “return” line back into the bucket, and cycle sanitizer throughout the system. Flush out the sanitizer from the system using cold water and check with a pH strip that the lines are free of sanitizer before hooking kegs back up. 

Additional notes

• If pneumatic beer pumps are being used the gas supply to the pumps will need to be turned off prior to using a recirculating pump and their flow setting will need to be changed to allow the reversed flow of cleaning solution (backflow setting). 

•It is important to turn off any glycol chillers associated with your draft system when cleaning; otherwise the chiller will cool down your alkaline solution below its effective temperature range.

•Draft systems that employ split lines may require additional equipment and steps not covered above.

How frequently do you need to clean your lines?

Draft lines must be cleaned using one of the above methods every two weeks for proper maintenance. You don’t skip cleaning a tank so don’t skip cleaning your lines! While we employ a recirculating electric pump for our line cleaning, we are frequently tapping new beers between cleaning cycles. Every time we tap a new beer (brand) we use the cleaning pot method before serving the new beer. That line will receive the recirculating treatment on the following line cleaning day. You never want to “push” beer brand “A” out of the line with beer “B”.

It is also important to switch up the chemicals used in your cleaning. Every quarter we rotate between a strong caustic and an acid cycle. For the acid cycle we use Acid Cleaner #6 from Five Star as this is great for removing beer stone. ALWAYS be sure that proper, safe chemical handling is used when working with caustics and acids (remember to wear googles and gloves!). 

While couplers, FOBs, and beer pumps are cleaned using the described methods you always want to set aside a couple times a year when you completely disassemble those devices and thoroughly clean them. Faucets should be taken apart and cleaned every two weeks when you perform your regularly scheduled line cleaning.

Remember to disassemble and clean your faucets!

The information above is just the tip of the iceberg for proper draft system maintenance. For more information, I highly recommend the “Draught Beer Quality Manual” published by the Brewers Association.

This post was written by Chad Pieper of Upslope Brewing Company, Boulder, CO

Permit-Required Confined Space Determination

January 12th, 2018
Permit-Required Confined Space Determination

OSHA is on their way!

Well…potentially, so put down your beer because this is a serious topic. As you hopefully have been informed, OSHA is implementing a local emphasis program which includes inspections for breweries. (See OSHA Local Emphasis Program for Breweries blog, October 3, 2017 on Colorado Brewer’s Guild webpage.)

Small breweries have the same Confined Space hazards as large breweries and other manufacturers. Understanding these hazards and successfully identifying and addressing them will help keep your employees safe, which should be a critical part of everyone’s mission.

The safest situation for employees is to implement processes and equipment that do not require entry at all, such as tools with long handles or clean-in-place systems. If you cannot avoid entry, then a hazard assessment must be performed to determine if it a Permit-Entry Confined Space.

Click here for an example of a Confined Space Determination form. 

To Permit or Not to Permit? That is the question.

Once you have determined if you have a Confined Space, the next step is to determine if this space is a Permit-entry Required Confined Space.

First, the OSHA definition of Confined Space is a space that:

• Large enough for an employee to enter and perform work

• Has limited or restricted means of entry or exit

• Is not designated for continuous occupancy.

Second, in addition to the three criteria listed above, there are additional criteria that needs to be assessed in order to determine if your space is classified as a Permit-Entry Required Confined Space.

This additional assessment should be completed by a qualified person in order to fully understand the potential hazards of the Confined Space. If you are unsure if you have a Permit-Required Confined Space, then you should use a conservative approach and deem it Permit-Required.

If any of these hazards cannot be fully mitigated and verified through external means such as controlling hazardous energy (LOTO) of electrical, mechanical, chemical or water lines, residual content, and atmospheric hazards, then the Confined Space must be deemed Permit-Entry.

Examples of spaces typically found in breweries that are usually defined as Permit-Entry Confined Spaces include silos and fermenters, bright tanks, and serving tanks. Employees must be trained to your Confined Space program, and follow all requirements of the permit; which includes having an attendant, performing Lock-Out-Tag-Out of hazardous energy, conducting atmosphere testing, and having proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Click here for an example of a Confined Space Permit. Keep in mind that all sections of a permit must be filled out, and posted outside the Confined Space being entered.

Other Requirements for Confined Space Entry

As you may have gathered from reading the Confined Space Permit, there are additional requirements for making a confined space entry. This includes additional tools and equipment, such as an air gas monitor, respirators, and potentially rescue equipment, such as life-retrieval systems.

Stay Safe

Okay, now that you have learned more about how to identify and properly enter Confined Spaces and how to help protect your employees, you can pick that beer back up.

Yeast Storage

October 30th, 2017


One of the most common questions that we get from our customers is what are the best methods for storing yeast for reuse between batches?

When should yeast be collected?

Yeast should be collected no more than 24 hours after being crashed in the fermenter. Conical fermenters help to collect yeast in cone so it can be harvested and re-pitched into a fresh batch of wort. However, this creates a somewhat inhospitable environment for the yeast to live in. First off, the yeast is starving since it has consumed most if not all of the fermentable sugars in the current batch. Second, through fermentation, the yeast has produced a significant amount of alcohol, which adds stress. Finally, pressure adds stress to the yeast, and it doesn’t have to come from the overall pressure in the vessel. Hydrostatic pressure from all the beer sitting above the yeast in the fermenter can lead to significant yeast viability loss. Anything over 2psi can begin to kill yeast over time, and this viability loss increases with increasing pressure and time. If we assume the density of beer is close to that of water (it’s slightly higher) then we can use the following chart to determine how much pressure yeast is being exposed to in a fermenter due to hydrostatic pressure. As you can see, anything greater than six feet is going to start to cause a problem, and the taller a fermenter, the greater the pressure.


Now that you know that you should get the yeast out of the cone as soon as possible, what do you do with it? Well, the best thing you can do is get it into another beer as soon as possible. Cone to cone transfers are common, and brewers that use this technique are able to get many generations from a single pitch of yeast. The only issue with doing this is that you need another beer to immediately transfer the yeast into now that it is crashed, and the brew schedule doesn’t always allow for that. In this case you need to transfer the yeast into a sanitary vessel to be stored until it is needed. It is also best to feed the yeast a little sterile wort during storage so the dormant yeast doesn’t starve to death. Even yeast that is at 38°F can slowly metabolize sugars, and will be healthier if some are present.

Yeast Brink:

Although a yeast brink doesn’t need to be a masterpiece of sanitary stainless steel engineering, the more clean and sanitizable the vessel is, the better. Cross contamination in a yeast brink can be a huge issue since this yeast will be introduced to a fresh batch of wort directly from this vessel. Thus, anything in the brink is getting carried over to your next beer. Choosing a brink that has the least amount of locations for yeast and bacteria to hide in (valves, hoses, gaskets and agitator blades) will be the easiest to sanitize. I’ve seen many different versions of brinks, from collecting yeast back into the plastic vessels they were delivered in, too sophisticated jacketed, stainless vessels. The most common vessels for a small to midsized brewery are the converted half barrel kegs that can be handmade or purchased from multiple suppliers.

Vent your Brink!

The biggest issue I’ve seen in yeast storage is brewers that are worried about contamination from the environment, completely sealing off the brink and not allowing pressure to vent. You just went through all the work of pulling the yeast off the cone to avoid hydrostatic pressure, and now you’re going to kill it in the brink due to pressure built up during storage! Like I said before, yeast will slowly metabolize sugars even in the fridge, so giving it a way to vent is very important. This can be as simple as an airlock, or blow off tube into a bucket. Worst case, the brink will need to be ‘burped’ several times a day to avoid it building up beyond 2psi.

How long can I store it?

In biology, there is always an exception to every rule, but in general, you should be able to store yeast for at least a couple days, up to a week or so. I’m sorry I don’t have a hard and fast rule for this one, but the health of yeast in storage is based on several outside factors like strain type (some strains are hardier than others), health before storage (how healthy was the yeast at the end of the previous fermentation?), and storage conditions (how well does your cold room maintain temp?). The best way to know the answers to all these questions is to take regular cell counts, but that’s a rant best left to another post….

Written by John Giarratano at Inland Island Yeast.

OSHA Local Emphasis Program for Breweries

October 3rd, 2017
OSHA Local Emphasis Program for Breweries

On August 1, the Colorado Brewers Guild hosted a presentation at Phantom Canyon Brewing in Colorado Springs regarding the upcoming OSHA Local Emphasis Program (LEP) for the beverage manufacturing industry. If your brewery is in the Englewood Area Office (Southern Colorado) you have probably already received a letter outlining the program. While it appears that Northern Colorado has not yet instituted a LEP for our industry, it is apparent that it will in the future.

All breweries in Colorado should be prepared for an inspection. To assist in that preparation, here are some quick takeaways from the presentation:
1) Be prepared when OSHA shows up. They will show up unannounced and require access in a timely manner. Have a plan for who should be called (if not present) to accompany the inspector. There is a great publication by the Brewers Association titled “Surviving an OSHA Inspection” which outlines specific steps.
2) Top concerns for our industry are confined spaces, forklifts, occupational noise exposure and ergonomics.
3) Participation in OSHA’s SHARP program (designed for small employers with less than 250 employees) and fulfillment of its requirements can exempt an employer from an OSHA inspection for a limited time.
4) Be educated on the requirements. If you are not already an expert on workplace safety, spend some time learning. We have compiled some great resources to help get you up to speed at the end of this post.

The LEP inspections are planned to start around October of this year so it’s worth getting prepared sooner rather than later. If you have additional input or know of resources not listed below, please help us share them with the membership by emailing the CBG staff (Andres at

OSHA will also be providing another presentation for our brewers at the first annual Colorado Craft Brewers Summit on Monday, November 13. Stay tuned for more information.

• Powerpoint from August 1 presentation to Colorado Brewers Guild
• Info on OSHA’s SHARP program
• BA’s Best Practice for the Management of Confined Spaces in Breweries
• BA’s Best Practice for the Management of Powered Industrial Trucks
• BA’s Best Practice for Surviving an OSHA Inspection
• BA’s Best Practice for the
Sample Safety and Health programs from OSHA
MBAA safety resources, including templates and safety meeting topics

Post Written by Mike Bristol of Bristol Brewing Company Colorado Springs, CO

Enzymes in Brewing

August 16th, 2017

It’s no big secret in the brewing industry that yeast likes to gobble up sugar to create one of the most magical libations out there. Beer. But where do the sugars come from? How are they created?

Sugar Formation
The majority of sugars used in the brewing process come from starches that are derived from the malted barley used in the mashing process. During the malting process, maltsters trick the barley kernels into thinking it’s time to sprout by soaking them and getting them to spring into action. This germination process loads the grains with the carbohydrates and enzymes necessary to help the grain grow until it comes out of the ground and can start producing energy via photosynthesis.
This is where we humans hijack the process. Instead of letting the seeds sprout and grow, we dry them out to shut down the process, giving us modified malted barley that is loaded with the starches and enzymes necessary to create the sugars needed to make the nectar of the gods…

What are Enzymes?
So what are these magical molecules that turn starches into sugar? Enzymes are made of amino acids strung together to form a protein. The order of the amino acids is very unique and it is this uniqueness that allows the enzymes to unfold into very specific shapes to do very specific tasks. Because of this the enzyme is very limited in what it can do, but man is it effective at what it does.

How do they Work?
The basic function of an enzyme is to act as a catalyst for specific chemical reactions, helping to speed up the reaction. The shape of the complex, folded chain allows smaller molecules to fit inside and interact with the enzyme. The spot on the chain where the smaller molecules interact is called the active site and this is where the magic happens. For instance, if you take two glucose molecules and bond them together you get maltose.

The maltase enzyme is designed solely to take the maltose molecule and break it into two glucose enzymes. It’s the only thing it can do. But it’s a world leader at what it does. Nobody is better.

Types and Function
There are many enzymes that are active in the brewing process. Below is a table that lists several enzymes and their role in brewing.

The Importance of Temperature
When most brewers think enzymes, alpha and beta amylase come to mind. During the mash process alpha-amylase creates soluble, non-fermentable sugars out of the long, complex insoluble starch molecules that are then broken down even further by the beta-amylase enzyme into fermentable sugars. Similar to humans, both of these enzymes have a temperature range where they work best Alpha-amylase works best in the range of 145°F to 158°F while beta-amylase works best from 131°F to 149°F.

So here’s the tricky part. We need both of these enzymes to work to give us the sugars we need but there’s a fairly small range where both are effective. Both enzymes are most active at the upper end of their respective temperature ranges, but this is also where the temperature starts to deform the enzymes by changing their shape. This process is known as denaturing and it renders the enzyme unable to do its job. So we need to strike a temp that is near both ranges. If we run the mash at a lower temp, say 148°F-150°F the beta-amylase stays active and creates more fermentable sugars, resulting in a drier beer. If we have a slightly higher mash temp, around the 152°F-154°F range, we start to rapidly denature the beta-amylase, resulting in more non-fermentable sugars giving a beer with more body.

Time to Study
Obviously there’s a lot more going on than is talked about here but it gives you a quick look at enzymes and the importance they play in the brewing process. Other factors such as pH and mash concentration also effect enzyme efficiencies and should be considered in your process. Study up on these factors and learn to make your process the most efficient it can be. It’ll make better beer, and we’ll all benefit from that.

Jason Ford, Founder/Brewmaster Broken Compass Brewing

Water is Beer, Or at Least Most Of It

June 29th, 2017

Over the last few years in California where I worked brewing in the San Gabriel Valley there was a cruel and pernicious drought that dried several reservoirs and dropped the water table on several aquifers across the state. You can blame climate change or overexploitation but the fact is that this kind of situation will push everyone to reconsider their consumption habits, location selection, hell, even the product composition in some cases.

In blessed places like the Colorado Front Range, a lot of the supply comes from surface sources like reservoirs and streams that have a consistent, yet not constant supply from snow runoff and are reliable in composition. Other parts of the state are not so fortunate and have a mixed supply of surface and aquifer water while others only use wells as sources. In terms of availability a study supplied by the USGS in 2006 suggests that every state will be importing water from foreign sources (Oceans, Canada, other states) by the year 2050, except for those states around the great lakes.

In summary, water is variable, scarce at best and its use needs to be reduced. The fact is that as brewers we frequently care extensively for the quality and supply chain of malted barley or wheat, adjuncts, hops and specialty ingredients, often forgetting that without water we are…well, not brewing.

Water standard use for brewing ranges from “world-class” around 2.5 Barrels of water/Barrel of finished beer (BWBB) to “standard” 5.5 BWBB to extreme >10 BWBB. If you think of it, it is ridiculous to think we need 10 times more water than the beer we produce with it.

So, what’s the answer? The easy answer is “use less water”. Well duh, we know that, but when you have limited resources, low supply pressure, limited time for sanitation and the focus is on making killer beer, the usages generally go up and quickly are out of control. The fact is that a water-reduction approach needs to start with a process approach, more than a “shut the hose” thinking. A water reduction program is expensive, complicated and requires a lot of attention. Plus, we are brewers and brewing is what we do…so the answer needs to start with brewing.


If you work on your Lautering Efficiency (LE), you can save double the water. Here’s the math:

Think of a Lauter where you get 10 Bbls of a standard Plato wort and you use 20 Bbls of water (during sparge, cleaning, underlet, etc.) at a 70% LE. This is a use of 2 BWBB. If you, by means of process optimization (mill grind changes, mash mixer agitation reduction, enzymes, reduction of beta-glucan-rich materials, sparge temperature optimization) increase your LE to 80%, you will use THE SAME AMOUNT OF WATER and get 11.36 Bbls of wort at the same Plato. That mean you will go down to 1.72 BWBB which is a 12% reduction!!!

On the example above, you didn’t do anything but get better all around, no expensive system from your favorite engineering supplier, no reduction on sanitation (a classic) and you also increased your profitability by paying attention to the process itself.

Cleaning cycles on process equipment

Yep, let’s go there. And the first thought is to reduce them. Perfect. True. Ideal…Nah!

The schedule will give you many times the reduction than simply reducing the cycles. Here’s the math:

Say you have a cycle that lasts 60 minutes and uses 40 Bbls of water (overall including pre-rinse, makeup, cleaning and final rinse(S)). Say you have this cycle every day for 5 days…that means you have used 200Bbls. If you reduce the rinse cycle on each cleaning program lets say 20%, you will save somewhere between 10-15% of the overall water (remember you still have the pre-rinse and cleaning cycles).

If you only consolidate two days of brewing on an overnight or afternoon shift, you save 20% of the water by eliminating one cycle. Didn’t even touch the cleaning program or routine.

Fermenter Capacity

If you fill your fermenters to 50 Bbls and clean it with 40 Bbls of water every cycle, and you have 20 cycles a year, you use 0.8 BWBB. If you increase your fermenter capacity by 10% (using foam control, temperature cycles, etc.) you will go down to 0.72 BWBB which is a reduction of 10% also.

As you can see, there are significant implication to optimizing your process, reducing cycles and increasing equipment utilization. If additional to this you match it with a reduction campaign and a cultural shift to make all brewers conscious of the importance to reduce water usage, you’ll be on your way to achieve best-in-class status for any size operation.

Bernardo Alatorre. Production Manager, Avery Brewing Company.

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