BrewLab set to launch in 2020

Owner of Rockstar Brewer Academy Steve Hendo Henderson talking to Senior Food Scientist Andrew Forrest

Owner of Rockstar Brewer Academy Steve Henderson with senior food scientist Andrew Forrest.

Queensland’s craft brewers are to have access to a BrewLab from next year, enabling them to test their beer for quality, develop test batches and access a sensory testing suite to improve beer quality and troubleshooting.

The state government has announced, as part of the Department for State Development’s Craft Beer Strategy efforts, an investment of $220,000 annually for the next five years into the BrewLab.

It will be located at the Coopers Plains Health and Food Sciences Precinct, which is part of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ existing Food Pilot Plant facility.

It will also be the base for a Certificate III in Food Processing (Brewing) which will be operating from 2020, according to the department, although this has yet to be confirmed by TAFE Queensland.

Steve Henderson of Rockstar Brewer Academy, a ‘champion’ of the Queensland BrewLab, said it would be a “positive thing” for not only Queensland but potentially the whole Australian brewing industry.

“There is still a little bit more industry consultation that needs to happen to iron out exactly what the offering is going to be and what they plan to charge for it,” he told Brews News.

“The key offerings that I can see are first of all the pilot kit, which can be used in two different ways – firstly as the home of TAFE, where students can do practical units and get hands-on skills, which is super awesome.

“The other part is that its a space for established breweries or breweries in planning to understand new product development work – if you’re wanting to try new ingredients or processes and might not have a reasonable pilot kit in your own brewery.”

The Craft Beer Strategy stipulated that a brewer would be spearheading the BrewLab, which the department said they were on the hunt for, with adverts live on Seek for the role as well as being sent to the IBA for circulation.

New equipment has reportedly been purchased, including a Spark brewery consisting of a 2.5hL compact brewhouse and fermentation cellar which contains a 2.5hL fermentation vessel, a 5.0 hL fermentation vessel and a 2.5hL brite beer tank, the department said.

For training, it has also invested in nine 0.5hL micro fermenters and a CASK ACS canning line to enable trainees to engage in full production from initial brew through to finished product.

Services will not be entirely free, with technical services including microbiological testing and sensory services available through the Department of Agriculture, and the costing model for this “will be based on a cost recovery model” according to the departments.

“The key thing with the Queensland BrewLab is that they don’t want to step on the toes of things that are already provided in the private sector,” said Henderson.

“It comes back to what’s already available in the market. If you want to test for lactobacillus or wild yeast, or get your alcohol or IBU tested, there are places already to get that done. That’s something I don’t envisage them providing because it already exists.”

He did say that the BrewLab would help the brewing industry focus on the quality of their beer to an even greater level.

“The lab can be used to train brewers in sensory analysis which is cool, as sensory analysis is something that’s really lacking in craft beer at the moment.

“We’ve got brewers who don’t even know how to smell and taste their beer and they’re putting it out in the market. If something does go wrong they don’t know what it is. Let’s train those brewers to evaluate their own product so they can make better beer.”

He said the next logical step after sensory testing was shelf life testing, which Henderson said didn’t exist anywhere else in the market.

“Here is a way for breweries to put their products in for testing, put it in front of supertasters and see how their product fares over time.

“You can sit down with Dan Murphy’s and have that conversation about best before dates, and you’ve done that testing so you can say, hand on heart, my product is good for 9 months or 6 months or whatever it might be.”

Henderson said it would allow Queensland’s brewers to access the “next level up” when it came to testing and understanding their products, and was something that could be extended to the industry as a whole in future.

“In my opinion any brewer seeking to punch through that magic 1 million litres per annum mark, should be seeking the services of the Queensland BrewLab to make sure their product is ready at that scale.

“There’s no reason why the services of the BrewLab couldn’t be made available nationally. They’re filling a gap that’s not going to be filled by commercially available labs – it’s about supporting and growing the industry.”

The Department for State Development said it would be working with the IBA an industry to further the discussion around costs, particularly when it came to tailored services.

“Providing craft brewers with state-of-the-art facilities to create new recipes will ensure the local industry continues to grow and more jobs are created for Queenslanders,” Minister Cameron Dick said.

Brewers can register online.

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