Lax quality alarms veteran brewer

IBD secretary Rob Greenaway

Recent brewing history is littered with examples of breweries that have gone out of business due to inadequate quality systems, warns Institute of Brewing and Distilling secretary Rob Greenaway.

Greenaway is a 41-year veteran of Foster’s Group who specialised in quality assurance. He told the recent Brews News Q&A that he does have some concerns about the current proliferation of small breweries in Australia.

“What I can see at the moment, is the massive need for brewing skills. What people have also got to recognise is there’s more to it than that, there’s the quality systems [and] quality control of your product,” he told the forum.

Greenaway said poor microbial control had put many brewers out of business in Australia, prior to the last decade of industry growth.

He said one major company was the dominant brewer in its market until it suffered a serious quality issue.

“Their market share went from 70 per cent down to 30 per cent pretty well overnight – great pickings for another company to come in and buy them,” he said.

Untidy breweries
In a follow-up interview, Greenaway told Brews News that quality control starts with simple brewery tidiness.

“There are a number of breweries that are particularly untidy, and that reflects into the handling of their process stream, particularly in cleaning,” he said.

“I’ve seen a couple of companies that have processed their wort and then gone home and haven’t ‘grained out’, and it’s very vulnerable to aerobic infection.

“Once that starts and it gets engrained into your lines and in your tanks and in your seals, you will struggle to get it out.

“It’s just the education that once you’re done and processed, clean straight away. And there’s a number of people that don’t know the strength of their caustic that they’re cleaning with, the temperature that they’re cleaning and they haven’t standardised on the circulation time.

“If there’s inconsistencies in process streams, you’re going to get inconsistency in product, and that will lead to infection.

“A lot of it’s understanding what they’re doing, which is formal education, and documenting what they’re doing,” said Greenaway.

Brett experiments ‘frightening’
It is also worrying how many brewers are experimenting with brettanomyces and other micro-organisms in the same facility where they are making their core products, Greenaway told the forum.

“That scares me, because once you get brettanomyces in your system… I tell you what, it’s pretty hard to get out, so you have to be very very careful,” he said.

“If you’re going to make that style, do it separately, do it away from your current plant. If it means that you’re going to have a saison plant versus a lager plant, by all means do that.

“But don’t have them together, because sooner or later you’re going to have cross-contamination and you’ll never get rid of it,” he said.

Clarifying these comments, Greenaway told Brews News it is certainly feasible for brewers to work with both brettanomyces and saccharomyces yeasts at the same facility, but only if they are very highly skilled.

His concern lies with unskilled, inexperienced brewers rather than the likes of Bridge Road Brewers’ Ben Kraus, who professes that proper sanitation practices ensure against cross-contamination in his brewery.

“They’re very technically minded and they are very scrupulous in the way they run their business,” said Greenaway of Bridge Road.

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