There has been a ton of talk lately about transparency in brewing ingredients. We try to be as transparent as possible but that also requires time to update our website and our labels which, as a small business, we are always short on it. If you ask me or any of our bartenders, we will let you know if one of our beers contains a possible allergen or anything that you may not feel comfortable putting in your body. My goal with this blog post is to breakdown some rumors, explain common adjuncts and clarifying agents most breweries use, and let you know which of our beers use what, if any, of them.
Let’s start out with the commercial that is causing the biggest controversy, the corn syrup delivery. Today I read an article that Miller/Coors has filed suit against AB/InBev stating that the whole understanding of how corn syrup is used in brewing has been taken out of context and how the corn syrup does not even wind up in the finished product. I have spent some time with both Bud and Miller brewers and learned about the practices of the big guys while in brewing school from some of their ex-brewmasters. To break it down simply, a large commercial brewery will run on 4+ vessels excluding the HLT (hot liquor tank) and the CLT (cold liquor tank). The four standard vessels are: 1. Mash Tun 2. Lauter Tun 3. Boil Kettle 4. Whirlpool. I say “4+” because larger breweries will add things like a pre-boil kettle, a second whirlpool, etc.… One of these additional vessels is known as “cereal cooker”. It essentially makes a thick mash that will get boiled and added to the brew during transfer from the mash tun to the lauter tun. This process gelatinizes these adjuncts allowing the enzymes from the malted barley to convert them into simple sugars. Yeast eats these sugars and converts it into CO2 and alcohol. The two most common “grains” used in cereal cookers in brewing are corn and rice. These cereal cookers make an extract which can also be known as a syrup (“corn syrup” or “rice syrup”). Breweries not using cereal cookers make an extract too, it can also be called a “barley syrup”. The reason I bring any of this up is that perception is reality to the general public. If you view a company receiving large shipments of corn syrup, you may be inclined to believe that is how it actually works. In reality, a company using a cereal cooker for corn can include that on their ingredient list the same way one using rice can. The practice of using anything outside the scope of traditional brewing grains (barley, wheat, rye, and/or oats) is known as adjunct brewing.
Here is the actual issue with all of it. Big beer lobbied the federal government for decades to keep certain ingredients from ever needing to be claimed that it has been used anywhere in the brewing process. What any brewery discloses as ingredients may leave a lot of it out (I have 93 chemicals in my head for some reason). Some of these ingredients are carcinogens. The argument on those is that it takes such a high amount of these chemicals to cause cancer that one will develop cirrhosis of the liver before causing cancer. In fairness, most of these do fall out during fermentation and/or are filtered out before the beer gets packaged.
Here is a quick list of the most common chemicals used in beer, both carcinogens and non-carcinogens:
· Irish Moss
· Silica Gels: Hydrogel, Xerogel, and Silica Sol
· Diatomaceous Earth
You can learn a little more here on some of them. There are also a lot more that I have failed to mention. If you want to learn more, research it.
We use Fermcap to prevent boil overs in the kettle. It was originally developed to reduce overactive fermentation, but we use it in our boil kettle. We also use Whirlfloc in our kettle. This is a concentrated version of Irish Moss and is used to knock down the protein (especially coagulated proteins) created in brewing and the spent hop vegetable matter, keeping it in the kettle instead of in the fermenter. We call this “trub”. The amount of Whirfloc we use per batch depends on the style. In the kettle, we will sometimes use Biofine. This is a clarifying agent that will speed up the falling of proteins, yeast, and left-over vegetable matter during cold crashing and make the beer much clearer. We use this instead of gelatin to keep our beer vegan friendly. Other than that, the only other chemical we may put in is called Amylo 300. It is an enzyme. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may want to research this product. We only use this in brut style IPAs at this time and we will disclose if used on our website. All of these items are not known carcinogens and are safe if used properly, which we do.
The other thing I want to mention in this long blog posting is that most craft breweries experiment with different ingredient all of the time. It is important that YOU ask a bartender if a beer includes X if you are allergic to it. The common concerns I have seen are lactose and coffee. We have a few beers that contain lactose: Murk, Random Rap Reference: B-Rock & The Biz (the rest of our R3 series to not at this point), and 46 & Two. With all of these they are labeled as a milk stout or a milkshake beer. We use coffee in our coffee Kölsch, Goobersmooches, and in our Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout, Saturn Ascends. We also use a small amount of a bittersweet chocolate in that beer which does contain a small amount of milk. We had one beer that contained peanut butter, labeled a “peanut butter porter” and we have two beers, JWR and Go Hop Yourself, that contain honey. You can always check our website under the beer tab to see if we use any of these ingredients.
That is all I have for you today. I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. We have our one-year anniversary coming up on 04/20/2019. We are releasing Saturn Ascends in bottles and on draft that day. Our draft list will also include a Mexican spiced version, a vanilla bean version, and a raspberry birthday cake version. We are hoping to add one more variant before our anniversary. Make sure you are following us on Facebook for updates!