Beer 511

Exploring Craft Beer and Homebrew in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Category: Suppliers

The CO2 Shortage

On April 7th the Brewers Association, along with the Beer Institute, and several other industry groups, including the Compressed Gas Association, signed a letter to Vice President Mike Pence expressing “strong concern that the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic creates a significant risk of a shortage in carbon dioxide (CO2).” The letter further noted that “A shortage in CO2 would impact the U.S. availability of fresh food, preserved food and beverages, including beer production”, and requested emergency federal assistance to forestall a CO2 shortage.

The Brewers Association’s concern is understandable. Carbon dioxide gas is an essential component of beer manufacture and dispensing. It is also a byproduct of fermentation, but fewer than 10% of craft breweries have CO2 capture technology in place. Most simply don’t have the resources to invest in the costly technology, so they must rely on commercial suppliers of CO2 for their production, packaging, and dispensing needs.

Normally, about 40% of US supply of CO2 is derived from ethanol production, 15% to 20% comes from refineries, and the remainder comes from fertilizer production or from geological sources. According to Independent Commodity Intelligence Services, about 1/6 of US production of CO2 is used in the beverage industry. Among the Brewers Association member breweries, about 44% of their CO2 needs are met from ethanol-derived sourcing.

Due to lowered demand for ethanol brought about by reduced travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 33 of the US’s 46 CO2-selling ethanol plants had been idled or had cut production by the end May, according to gases industries reports. At one point, more than half of the US ethanol industry’s capacity was shut down.

By late April overall CO2 production for resale was down 20%. By the end of May it was down by 30% according to the Compressed Gas Association. Normally, US production of CO2 is approximately 1 million barrels per day, since April it has mostly been in the range of 700,000 barrels per day.

So, there has definitely been a shortage. However, due to the high freight cost associated with it, sourcing of CO2 is relatively local, and because of differences in sourcing the shortage can be fairly regional in its effects. In Michigan, for example, Bell’s Brewery, the US’s 7th largest craft brewer, has said that they’ve not experienced any issues with their CO2 supply. In other places there have there have been reports of customers being able to get only 50% of what they usually contracted for. Overall, prices for CO2 have been driven up by as much as 25%.

It has been enough of a concern for the American Homebrewers Association to open the July/August issue of its journal, Zymurgy, with an editor’s commentary on the CO2 situation. The supply issues have also led the Brewers Association to warn its member breweries against the risk of lower-quality CO2 gas entering the supply chain.

Food-grade CO2 must be at least 99.9% pure. The remaining 0.1% could consist of water, oxygen, nitrogen, and even hydrocarbons – some of which we can detect with our senses of smell and taste. In a letter to its members, the BA noted that 0.1% equals 1000 parts per million, which is as much as 4 times the concentration at which we can sense some flavor-active components in hops.

Fortunately, according to gases industry reps the situation is returning to normal albeit with some “ongoing allocation” issues.

One thing that may have helped prevent things from getting worse overall, was the Federal Government sensibly declaring the production, warehousing, transport, and distribution of “medical gases” an “essential industry”. Another, likely has been the partial “re-opening” of economic activities across the nation that followed upon Memorial Day weekend, which has meant an increase in driving, transportation of goods, and travel.

As for California, we might have been helped by the fact that in May, industrial gases manufacturer Messer Americas brought online a new CO2 production facility in Keyes, that can produce 450 tons of CO2 per day, including food-grade CO2 .

At any rate, as long as the pandemic continues to spread pretty much unchecked, we may expect perhaps several cycles of shut downs and quarantine, with the attendant effects on fuel -and thus of CO2– production.

Breweries can adjust by investing in CO2 capture technology or by fine-tuning their existing CO2 systems to eliminate leaks and reduce waste. They can also expand their use of nitrogen gas in moving and dispensing of beer.

As for homebrewers, our smaller volumes do give us a bit of flexibility over commercial breweries. Not only are the volumes of CO2 that we require much, much smaller, but it is a relatively simple matter to use a bit dextrose or sucrose to naturally carbonate a few dozen bottles for a typical 5-gallon batch. The same can be done in a keg or a cask.

In the meantime, don’t let yourself be caught off-guard. Get your CO2 refills when you can. Preferably before you run out.

La Red Cervecera Perú (Lima)

During my last week in Lima, at the beginning of August, I took myself to Barranco to get acquainted with the Red Cervecera Perú.

Red Cervecera is arguably one of Peru’s premiere homebrew supply retailers.  Located in a remodeled old early-Republican house on Avenida Francisco Bolognesi,  the Red Cervecera combines a homebrewing supply retail shop, a brewing school, and a brewpub under one roof.

There, owner Joe Forte and manager Francisco Tapiago, among others, provide invaluable suppor to the country’s homebrewing and craftbrewing community by lead courses in brewing, provide opportunities for other homebrewers and microbrewers to gain experience with new ingredients, and offer a venue for beer-oriented events.

I happened to stroll in off the street on a Wednesday afternoon and, though a stranger, was warmly welcomed as a homebrewer and invited in to observe a brew that Francisco was brewing in order to represent the Red Cervecera at the then-upcoming Craft Beer Sessions festival.  While there I also had the opportunity to meet and chat with Joe, and with Megan Garrity, of Greenga Brewing Co., who were collaborating on a Chocolate-Peanut Butter Porter for the same event.

Franscisco was kind enough to take time out to give me a tour of the place and to show me the shop, which sells some thirty varieties of malt and carries a couple of dozen hop varieties as they become available.  One of those was a surprising experimental hop from Hop Breeding Company, HBC 472, which provided all the coconut notes to a Coconut Golden Ale on tap at the bar.

I returned the next evening for World IPA Day, and was again embraced and made to feel at home, and introduced to other craft brewers from across Peru.

At the Red Cervera, Joe, Francisco, and the rest of the team, more or less created one of those brewer’s dream spaces in which all elements of the hobby –from brewing, to owning a homebrew shop, to having your own brand, to serving your beers (and your friends’ beers) at your own bar– are brought together under one roof and shared with wider brewing community.  Their openness exemplifies an attitude of sharing and cross-pollination with, and among that community, that is a hallmark of the homebrew and craft brew community in the United States but is, I’m told, still a bit harder to come across in Peru.

 

Red Cervecera Perú
Av. Francisco Bolognesi 721
Barranco, Lima, Peru

www.facebook.com/redcerveceraperu/
www.redcervecera.com

Admiral Maltings’ “Open Malthouse Day”

On February 10th, I attended Admiral Malting‘s “Open Malthouse Day”, hosted by Admiral’s founders, Ron Silberstein (of ThirstyBear Brewing) and Dave McLean (of Magnolia Brewing), as part of San Francisco Beer Week.

Guests were taken on thirty- to forty-minute behind-the-scenes of the malthouse, where we were able to learn about and observe the full production process. Both farmers and brewers were also on hand to experience the tour and to share their stories and speak about their experiences with Admiral’s malt.

Ron Silberstein, co-founder of Admiral Maltings, explains the malting process, accompanied by UC Davis biologist, Lynn Gallagher (at center), who developed the strain of barley used in Gallagher’s Best malt, and Bob Schaupp, a barley farmer, here enjoying his first glass of beer brewed from his crop.

 

Today, industrial malting is typically done in what is referred to as the “compartment process”, in which grain is passed through large, stainless-steel tanks able to accommodate tens, or even hundreds, of tons of grain. The grain is agitated with auger and aerated with large fans, as it passes through a series of alternating wet and dry stages, before being kilned.

Floor malting, on the other hand, is a more traditional, slower and more labor-intensive method, which is said to produce superior malt with deeper, richer flavor.  Upon opening in July of last year in an old dry-goods storage facility on the former Alameda Naval Air Station, Admiral Maltings became the first commercial floor malting facility in California since before Prohibition, and California’s first maltster with a California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) certification.

On my tour Silberstein explained that the barley spends 38-42 hrs steeping in the hydration tanks, then 4-5 days germinating on the malting floor, before being sent into the drying kiln for 24 hrs.

The malt is then passed through another machine which removes the rootlets before it is bagged.  A ton of rootlets are removed from each 10 ton batch of barley. With the addition to husks and other debris that is removed, there is a 20% loss, per weight, in the malting process, such that each 10-ton batch of barley results in 8 tons of finished malt. Currently, Admiral is approaching ten batches per month, but are looking into some material improvements which would enable them to attain fourteen batches per month.

With the Bay Area being a hub of the growing farm-to-table (or in this case, farm-to-glass) movement, the opportunity to avail themselves of locally-produced, small-batch, and certified organic, malt has generated a great deal of interest among local brewers.  Enough so that Admiral has been able to outfit it’s own taproom exclusively serving beers brewed using its malts.

The tour ended with tastings of Admiral malts and of beers made with those malts, guided by the brewers who made them.  On hand were brewers from Harmonic Brewing Co. (serving Prague Rock, made with Admiral Pils malt), Armistice Brewing Co. (serving Berthday Beer English Golden Ale, made with Feldblume malt), Social Kitchen & Brewery (serving California Grown Lager, made with Gallagher’s Best malt), and Independent Brewing Co. (serving Escaped the Island Blonde Ale, made with Maiden malt).

Eddie Gobbo, co-founder and head brewer of San Francisco’s Harmonic Brewing Company, talks bout his experience brewing with Admiral’s malts and leads a tasting of his Prague Rock Pilsner (brewed with Admiral Pils malt).

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén