Low-Alcohol Beer: How to Answer This Global Trend?

The global beer market, both in volume and value, has seen great expansion for many years. This growth in demand has seen both a rise in the number of breweries and an expansion in beer style diversity. Among these styles, one of them is emerging significantly around the world: no and low-alcohol beers (NAB-LAB).

A bigger market provides a larger consumer panel with different expectations and desires. Low-alcohol beers emerged to meet a need which only existed moderately in the past. Indeed, an entire segment of consumers has grown with an education around well-being, the “well-eating” and now the “well-drinking”. Modern beer drinkers pay special attention to the product’s caloric intake, have an increased knowledge about a product’s health benefits and the desire to consume locally if possible. While the third point is not always substantiated, low Alcohol answers the two first consumption trends: in a consumer mindset, less alcohol implies less sugar and a better health benefit, and generally alcohol always has a negative connotation. All other factors being equal, especially taste and price, there is no doubt that for this kind of consumer low-alcohol beer is a viable alternative to “classic beer”. Generally, we can bring this low-alcohol trend closer to the “free” trends, such as additive-free, gluten-free and alcohol-free.

To these new consumers, we must add those who’ve always had this “need” for a low-alcoholic beer. For health reasons, like pregnant women for example or for a religious conviction. Although this need always existed, it has strengthened during the last few years, due to the fact that beer is now a societal phenomenon. Consumers, by wiling to be part of the society, wants to consume trendy product. Therefore, the product must adapt itself to the consumer and give him this possibility. This is the reason behind the rise of low-alcohol beers.

Although demand is quite recent, we must go back much further to find the origin of low-alcohol beers. It’s the year 1920, in the USA and it’s the Prohibition: this constitution signs the interdiction to produce, transport, import and sell alcohol in order to reduce criminality and corruption in the country. Taking place from 1919 to 1933, this law pushes breweries to reinvent themselves to survive. Low-alcoholic beers were born!

Although the style emerged under constraint, nowadays it’s really the brewer’s choice to produce no or low-alcoholic beers to answer the growing demand. When going for this particular style, the question of the process arises: how does a brewer significantly reduce alcohol quantity without changing production process? Because Yeast is the key for alcohol production, it was our duty to help brewers in this task. We, at Fermentis, have been solicited to develop a solution.

Firstly, we had to do the work of screening among all the strains we know, a long-term task to select the ones that could match our research criterion: technical criteria but also sensorial criteria to answer to brewers need. Simon Jeanpierre, Technical Sales Support Manager Asia Pacific, tells us more about it: “To perform our first screening, our target was to list Saccharomyces and non-Saccharomyces strains able to produce only little alcohol. To narrow this list, we looked at microorganisms also able to reproduce as much as possible the expected beer flavours, as we traditionally know. This naturally led us to maltose-negative strain unable to ferment complex sugars (i.e. polymers of glucose), with yet a strong ability to produce higher alcohols, Esters and phenols, participating into the beer aromas.”

To understand our decision to steer our choice towards maltose-negative strains, you just have to look at the classical composition of a beer wort on the schema here below. Unlike the other strains of Fermentis range, maltose-negative strains only have the capacity to ferment glucose (DP1, single sugar chains), the equivalent of 10 to 15% of total sugars in wort.  Less fermentable sugars imply a lower alcohol production in the final beer.

low alcohol yeast selection

This done, the next step was to verify our hypothesis with a trial protocol, it’s Simon who explains it: “We started with the beginning: a recipe. This recipe had to produce a classic wort at a standard density of 15, 10, 8 and 6°P (1061, 1040, 1032 and 1024 in specific density) fermented at 20°C (68°F). It was then fermented with all screened strains and accurately followed-up on sugar consumption and alcohol production. A tasting with a panel of experts finally allowed us to choose the winning strain that would not only perform well in low alcohol production but also provide essential aromas expected in the beer during a proper fermentation.”  Moreover, this yeast produces “clean beers” without off-flavours that are commonly found in NAB.

The strain we have selected after duplicating this trial protocol many times is a Saccharomyces chevalieri that we named SafBrew™ LA-01, LA simply for Low Alcohol.  We chose this strain because it showed excellent results during our fermentation trials as demonstrated hereunder. For every tested density, the fermentation reached its plateau after 60hrs for an alcohol level between 0,4 and 1,2% ABV, corresponding to an apparent degree of fermentation about 14%. We have noted a positive correlation between final degree of alcohol and wort initial density, so we are able to say that an initial density of 7°P (1028 in specific density) is ideal to reach 0,5% ABV which is the maximum alcohol level tolerated in many countries to write “No-alcoholic beer” on the label.

SafBrew LA-01 Fermentation trial

As previously presented, this strain is maltose-negative, it only consumes simple sugars (glucose, fructose, sucrose) leaving behind the maltose and other complex sugars such as maltotriose and dextrins. Logically, we find more residual sugars in our low-alcoholic beer. The below graph confirms that in numbers, DP2 means disaccharides which are mainly maltose and DP3 means trisaccharides which are mainly maltotriose.

SafBrew LA-01 sugar consumption

We have seen that in purely scientific terms, SafBrew™ LA-01 allows us to brew a NAB-LAB, but what about the sensory profile of the beer itself? This is a legitimate question because such a high level of residual maltose doesn’t exist in “classic” beers. Maltose is a sugar able to bring a clean sweetness. In the majority of beers, it doesn’t have the chance to express its potential because it’s turned into alcohol and CO2 by yeasts. Therefore, it’s the alcohol which will mainly bring the roundness and sweetness perception in the mouth (or to Mouthfeel). In a NAB-LAB, residual maltose can play this role because alcohol is present in small quantity only. However, if sweetness level in your final beer worries you, it’s easy to balance it with several brewing tools as Simon explains to us: “Bitterness level plays a great role and anything above 15 IBU for 0.5% ABV is a good target to balance the sweetness level. Increasing your water hardness gives a firmer bitterness too. On the cereal side, limit the use of caramel malts and the sweet flavour associated with them. To finish balancing the bill, there is of course the acidity. You can either pre-acidify your wort prior to fermentation or use greater carbonation and its associated carbonic acid which also propels aroma.”

Another important thing when we are talking about sensory profile is the fact that SafBrew™ LA-01 is a POF + strain. By being classified positive (+), SafBrew™ LA-01 owns a gene which expresses the POF character, POF meaning phenolic off flavour. In other words, this yeast has a specific enzyme that decarboxylates phenolic acids, like ferulic acid and coumaric acid, present in wort and thus producing respectively the flavour-active compounds 4VG and 4VP. These compounds contribute to spicy, clove-like flavours which, depending on the concentration, may produce a spicy and complex character. Note that in a NAB-LABs brewed with SafBrew™ LA-01, this phenolic side will be very light as described by Simon: “From a sensory perspective we really enjoyed the slight phenolic expression it develops. Keep in mind that the expression of a POF character depends on the amount of ferulic acid you have in your malt. In a NAB-LAB, you will therefore only have a limited expression from the recommended lower amount of malt”.

Last but not the least, the pasteurization topic. Pasteurization is a technique invented in 1865 by Louis Pasteur for food conservation by killing all living microorganisms in the product. The process is theoretically quite simple: you heat the product between 62°C to 88°C (144 to 191°F) before brutally cooling it. Pasteurization is not popular in the craft beer industry because it’s linked to standardization of the product or because, with this process, the beer is not really “alive” anymore and will not evolve over time.

But in regard to our recommendation for NAB-LAB, pasteurization is mandatory. You are certainly aware of how much yeasts and microorganisms like sugars and how much residual sugars we still have in a NAB-LAB at the end of fermentation. If a pasteurization is not done, any living microorganisms could eventually ferment maltose and totally alter the beer or even create overcarbonation in bottles, which could be dangerous. Different Pasteurization techniques exist such as tunnel pasteurization, whichever technique is chosen, Simon explains how much you have to pasteurize: “As soon as you have reached your max ADF of 13-15%, it will be important to inhibit eventual living friends from further fermenting. We studied different cross-contamination levels with Saccharomyces cerevisiae and observed a minimum safe limit of 80 PU in order to prevent growth in a brew fermented with SafBrew™ LA-01. We recommend the range of 80-120 PU.” PU signifies Pasteur Units, in terms of affect, one PU is equivalent to heating to 60°C in one minute. To calculate your pasteurization level, the formula is the following:

PU= t x 1,393 (T-60)

Where t is the time you heat in minutes and T is the temperature in °C.

A true alternative to pasteurization doesn’t really exist, it remains the best technique for ensuring optimal microbiology of a beer. We know that this technique is not accessible to every brewer and as Simon explains, we are constantly looking for solutions for small breweries: “Fermentis is aware that such equipment can be limited to big scale breweries. This is why we are working on alternatives to offer craft brewers the best performance in fermenting flavourful NAB-LAB with our SafBrew™ LA-01. Such alternatives exist through intrusive (biotechnology) or non-intrusive methods (cool chain). Feel free to reach out to us to learn more and receive tailor-made advice on your NAB-LAB fermentation management and hygiene practices.”

Simon Jeanpierre, Hugo Picard

Growing Your Distillery to Meet Demand

By: Kris Bohm: Distillery Now, LLC

Years ago, it all started with the dream of your own whiskey. Through meticulous planning, hard work, blood, sweat and tears your dream of a craft distillery became a reality. Then the real work began, with long days and nights of distilling. Barrels were filled with whiskey and tucked away to age. The whiskey aged and what came out of the barrels was not only delicious but loved by all those who tasted it. The distillery you dreamed of and built up is no longer in its infancy. The spirits of your distillery have been embraced by the public and sales growth is strong. Now here comes the harsh reality. The whiskey your distillery has created and the brand that you built up does not have enough supply to meet demand. The problem gets worse as your equipment is nearly maxed out, since you started with a small budget and limited equipment. With no immediate way to keep up with the demand for your whiskey, you stand at a crossroad where critical questions arise and important decisions must be made.

  How will you meet a demand for whiskey that greatly outstrips supply?

The good news is there are solutions that can allow your business to sustain the growth curve. We will take time to consider the problem in detail, by examining the routes others have taken to solve this exact problem. Some solutions presented here are simple and inexpensive, while other growth options are costly and complex. To help prepare you for the future, let’s break down production growth options with pros and cons of each option to help you find the optimal path to grow your business.

  Outsource Your Problem:  There are companies who produce spirits that are already aged, finished and ready to go in your bottles. Sourcing whiskey from another distillery is the most direct path to an abundance of ready to bottle spirits. Barrels of aged spirits can be obtained faster than producing them yourself and in large quantities. In some cases, distilleries will blend their whiskey with sourced whiskey to stretch their house made supply for the short term. Barrels of aged whiskey are often expensive per proof gallon, but this is certainly the quick route to continue to meet your growing demand.

  Is sourcing whiskey the right choice? If more whiskey is needed immediately, it is likely that sourcing is your only option.

Bringing in aged whiskey from another distillery is an immediate solution to fulfill the demand you worked so hard to create and certainly do not want to lose. Sourcing is the least expensive path forward worth considering. When it comes to cost, other than buying the whiskey, there is no requirement to spend money on equipment when you source whiskey.

  What is the downside to sourcing? Sourcing will require a change in label to disclose the use of sourced spirits.

Spirits from another distillery are unlikely to have identical flavor profile to spirits distilled by your distillery. This can be a challenge if your whiskey has a unique flavor profile.

Sourced spirits are not always received well by an increasingly aware consumer and furthermore may require changes to your marketing story to match the sourced spirits.

  Make More Whiskey: If there is room in your existing distillery to grow, producing more whiskey is often the most logical decision to meet growing demand. The addition of another still, or a stripping still, and more fermenters may be the best choice for you. An equipment addition can greatly increase your output. The decision to add equipment is often the first step a distillery will take to increase output. To grow in this way, a distillery must have additional capacity to add this equipment. Additional capacity is measured several different ways.

  First things first, do you have the space to grow? Additional space is needed to add the equipment, raw materials, and more barrels. A bigger still, more fermenters, and many more barrels of whiskey need to go somewhere and the space must be found first and foremost. The second constraint of additional capacity is heating and cooling. The boiler and chiller must have enough capacity to heat and cool the additional equipment, without overly stressing the equipment. If you have the additional capacity, let’s weigh  the pros and cons of going this route.

  Upside of Adding Production Capacity: The addition of new distilling equipment can greatly increase output of spirits produced daily. This allows you to continue producing your product from grain to glass, and maintains existing flavor profiles and processes to produce the exact spirits you are after. The addition of another still and fermenters is not nearly as expensive as an entirely new distillery build out, as long as the boiler and chiller have capacity for additional load.New equipment added to existing equipment can quickly increase output to work toward catching up with demand.

  Downside of Adding Production Capacity: The new still you add will be hungry and more spirits mean you need more raw materials. Increasing production will invariably increase operating expenses. This sharp increase in spending on raw materials, like grain and whiskey barrels, must be planned for in advance to ensure you have the capital to produce more spirits.Adding a new still will take months to procure, install, and get it up and running. This means it will be sometime before you are able to increase output. An extra still will certainly increase output, but may not be a big enough increase to meet demand in the coming years. This leads to a critical question one must carefully consider when planning to add capacity. Will this planned addition of equipment meet the expected demand in growth for the next 5 years?If the answer to this question is no then it is worth considering jumping into the big leagues of distilling whiskey with a continuous column still.

  Big Distillery Growth: For many distilleries that are making good spirits, they hit a ceiling rather quickly in their whiskey production that requires the consideration to build a new, larger facility to produce enough. If your distillery is on a growth track that many distilleries are currently seeing of +100% growth of sales year over year, the addition of another batch still may not meet your long term demand. Sales growth at this rate requires a massive jump in output of spirits that the addition of another still can not meet. You can look up to nearly any whiskey producer in America where their products are found nationwide and you will find they distill their spirits on a continuous column still. A continuous column still has a proof gallon output level that far exceeds the daily output of even the largest batch stills. There are many unique challenges that come with operating a continuous column still, but their capacity is massive in comparison to pot stills. If your distillery needs large production quantities to keep up with fast growing sales, a continuous column should be considered.

  The Mighty Continuous Still: The output of a single pass continuous still can easily produce seven hundred proof gallons of whiskey in 8 hours. Continuous column stills are extremely efficient and require less labor and energy cost per proof gallon produced. More proof gallons per pound of grain can be distilled on a continuous column still versus with a batch still as well. Distilleries running a continuous column often have excess capacity and can use that capacity to contract distill and create additional revenue streams. This means you have room to grow in your own production as needed.

  Downside of the Continuous: The manufacture, build out, and installation of a continuous column is a much more expensive project than the simple addition of a batch still. Producing large quantities of distilled spirits requires large amounts of raw materials and its downright expensive to operate. Distilling spirits on a continuous column requires an abundance of operating capital to purchase grain and barrels to keep the still running. When running a continuous column and producing dozens of barrels weekly, the need to store those barrels becomes a new challenge. A large barrel storage area or rickhouse is a must when planning to operate a continuous column.

  What is the Best Choice for You? First off, let’s take a moment and celebrate! You have built a successful distillery with growing demand. Hats off to you and your team as this is a massive accomplishment.

  Where to go from here is a daunting decision as the long term success of your business very well hinges on it. Careful planning and consideration is key here as you plan to make this critical decision. There are plenty of options and ways to go to create the opportunity for your distillery to grow. Long term strategic planning must be employed if the next stage of growth is going to work to support your business. If you are unsure which path is the right one for you, drop us a line and let’s talk about it.  Dream big and plan well for it.

  Kris Bohm runs Distillery Now Consulting and has helped oversee expansions for several distilleries. When he is not distilling Kris can be found racing cyclocross or defending his beer mile record.

Future of the Liquor & Spirit Industry: Based on the Integration of the Metaverse

By: Rohan Doodnauth, Co-founder — OpaLink

In late October of 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced his company’s intention to rebrand from Facebook to Meta and build an immersive platform fueled by augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). This platform — the Metaverse — will further blur the boundaries between our online digital lives and our more tangible, physical ones. In his 2021 Founder’s Letter, Zuckerberg remarked how the Metaverse “will touch every product we build,” and will allow users to socialize, attend events, create, work, shop, and more in ways that transcend how we think about the internet and digital technology.

  If the past few years have shown the liquor industry anything, it’s that staying on top of emerging technologies and shifts in consumer trends is vital to the success of our brands and businesses. Look at the growth of omnichannel marketing and sales, for example. Between December of 2019 and November of 2020, retail wine sales at multi-outlet stores in the US grew by some 11.4%. For some businesses in the industry, this operational pivot spelled the difference between surviving or closing during the initial stages of the pandemic.

  With these notions in mind, it’s difficult for us not to consider how the Metaverse could impact the liquor industry as a whole. According to Zuckerberg, the Metaverse aims to become a new central hub of e-commerce and consumer activities. As such, brands in the liquor industry will be forced to rethink how its integration into their operations, marketing, and sales will reshape the future of their business, those of their competitors, and even their consumer markets. Furthermore, brands and businesses must possess the capability to remain agile as they integrate more deeply within the Metaverse, and take notice of how this integration might spur shifts throughout the liquor industry.

Unique VR Dining Experiences

  Within the Metaverse, customers won’t be confined by geographical distance or other physical limitations in exploring the dining or drink options available to them. Rather, upon entering the Metaverse, they will have the availability and opportunity to talk with chefs, foodies, and beverage makers all around the world in the palms of their hands. This will inevitably create a deeper integration of and connection to other cultures, as customers will be able to connect and chat with anyone anywhere in the world at practically any time, and open the door for businesses to provide them with truly unique dining experiences.

  For instance, imagine logging into the Metaverse and browsing a list of restaurants you wouldn’t normally be available to visit in person. Upon selecting a restaurant, you and your party can enter that restaurant’s virtual space within the Metaverse and begin browsing menus for the dishes or drinks you’d like to have. Once your orders are selected and placed, the restaurant’s e-commerce sales system will automatically register the items ordered and be able to virtually send them to you and the others in your party, even without any of you being physically present. Additionally, this method of sales could be utilized for those guests who may not want to show up in person, but still want to try food or drinks they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

  This blend of convenience and experience, fueled by the AR/VR technology the Metaverse is founded upon, will grant brands the ability to offer customers a truly personalized, customizable experience. Through integrating their sales platforms into the Metaverse, businesses can not only reach a far larger range of customers directly, but also indirectly by allowing their customers to send meals and drinks to family or friends who cannot be physically present with them.

  Because such integration of businesses’ operations with the Metaverse will allow them to provide each individual customer with a one-of-a-kind dining experience, this will inherently create greater competition between brands. Much like we saw with the rise of omnichannel sales during the pandemic, those brands and businesses which are able to capitalize on such value earlier on will be far better positioned to outperform their competitors. Likewise, as the technological capabilities of the Metaverse continue to evolve, the businesses that are better able to remain agile to those evolutions and pivots will likely be the ones who see the most success from their integration with the Metaverse.

Adapting to a Hybrid World Amidst Growing Competition

  Whenever a new technology or trend emerges that impacts our business, it brings with it new sources of competition. This is simply the nature of business. Liquor and beverage industry brands seeking to integrate with the Metaverse will need to take note of how this hybrid digital space could affect their initiatives and create new competitive advantages both for them and their competitors.

  For example, dining experiences in the Metaverse will likely become a blend of futuristic physical features of restaurants and high-tech interactive technology. Knowing this, one method businesses could use to stand out from the competition is by making customers part of this immersive and interactive dining experience. Perhaps a craft brewery or small distillery might offer customers a VR-led tour of their facilities to learn more about their business, its history, and its available products. Maybe a gastropub offers new customers a coupon for a certain percentage off of their first purchase in the Metaverse, or offer them a redeemable code that customers can use to virtually send food or drinks to others. Because our appearance in the Metaverse will be one not of our physical selves, but instead a VR-generated avatar, another possibility might be for businesses like these to offer a free side dish or drink to customers whose avatars are sporting their brand’s logo on a piece of their avatar’s clothing. These are just a handful of examples of how businesses in the liquor and beverage industry could remain agile in adapting to growing and emerging consumer trends after integrating with the Metaverse.

  As a virtual universe that is speculated to become a converging point of consumer activity and e-commerce, it can be assumed that the AR/VR technology used to explore and interact with others will inevitably expand the possibilities businesses have to innovate. Although there is still much we don’t know about the Metaverse — and likely won’t know about for the better part of a decade, at least — this should not stop businesses from forming strategies to implement once they are more deeply integrated into the Metaverse itself.

Implementing a Metaverse Strategy

  Consider for a moment the ways in which the emergence and subsequent growth of social media platforms have impacted business over the last decade. If your own business was in operations prior to the rise of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or other social media platforms, it’s safe to assume that the way your business functioned then is vastly different compared to its current strategies and initiatives. When thinking about how your business can integrate successfully with the Metaverse, it’s likely that there will be similar variances — albeit to different degrees or extents — between its current strategies and those used in a realm driven by AR/VR technology.

  For starters, contemplate the initiatives your business has implemented for its marketing strategy. You might be paying for ads on social media to cast a wider net to rein in a greater amount of potential customers, or targeting existing customers with regular email newsletters to alert them of upcoming events or deals you might have. In the Metaverse, those paid ads might transition from sponsored posts on users’ social media feeds into a virtual brand ambassador traveling throughout different e-commerce sectors in a VR-driven environment to offer exclusive tastings or VIP events. Likewise, your business’s email newsletters could transmute into a kind of exclusive membership program for customers to use solely within the confines of its virtual establishment in the Metaverse.

  As another example, look to your business’s current strategy for handling reservations or private parties for events. When integrating these operations into a fully-virtual space, the tickets or codes used for referring to reservations could become their own kind of non-fungible token or NFT; a digital token representing a reservation. If your business boasts a signature dish or beverage, each sale of this item to a VIP member could come with a transferable NFT that could be redeemed at a later date for additional rewards like a free entree, bottled spirit, or customized apparel for their avatar in the Metaverse. Eventually, it may even be possible for chefs or brewers to mint the dishes or beverages they create as NFTs themselves, offering them greater creative freedom and additional means of providing (and earning) value from niche sectors of consumer markets.

  Each aspect of your business in its current state will need to eventually evolve to integrate with the Metaverse. Whatever that means or looks like will be subjective for each liquor and beverage brand seeking integration with the Metaverse, but nonetheless must be made if you wish to remain relevant and competitive in this next iteration of the digital world.

Final Thoughts

  Regardless of how far off we truly are from integrating our businesses and lives into the Metaverse, its influence has already left a lasting impression on markets and industries the world over. Though selling virtual drinks, beverages, food, or other consumables to customers sounds like a counter-productive initiative better left to the realm of science-fiction, the Metaverse’s projected capacity to blur the lines between our digital lives and physical ones could easily turn this into reality in a matter of years.

  Indeed, the Metaverse is perhaps the most literal representation of a “Brave New World” if there ever is one. The potential for brands integrating their business with this new frontier of virtual reality to experiment with marketing, e-commerce sales, and communication with customers will be essentially limitless. In turning passive consumption into active participation with their brand, the first round of businesses in the liquor and beverage industry to successfully integrate with the Metaverse are bound to set new precedents for the industry’s next generation of innovative technologies and tools.

Bent Brewstillery:  Innovation on Tap

By: Nan McCreary

Bartley Blume may work twice as hard to produce both beers and spirits in Minnesota’s first combination brewery-distillery, but he also enjoys twice the opportunity to roll out new products that come from his ever-creative brain. They include a hoppy IPA without bitterness and a whiskey aged in American white oak and finished on toasted pimento wood to complement the spice of the grain.

  “When I opened the brewstillery, I wanted to bring more diverse beverages to the market, so we were not always drinking the same old pale ales, IPAs and sours,” Blume told Beverage Master Magazine. “We wanted to get away from mass consumption to a true appreciation of craft beverages, to sip and not swill.” 

  As the brewstillery’s name “Bent” implies, beers and spirits are “bent” and not made strictly to style. “This sometimes comes from combining the best parts of two different styles,” Blume said, “and sometimes from just making something I think my friends and family will like.” 

  Judging by the brewstillery’s success, not to mention its multiple awards, innovation-on-tap has been a big hit with consumers. Clearly, this is the place to go when you want to try something distinctive.

A Way to Make Money Off a Hobby

  Like many craft brewery owners, Blume started making beer as a hobby. While working as an engineer in the aerospace industry— and tiring of the corporate world — his wife gave him a Mr. Beer Kit. “This was in 2007,” he said. “I started brewing little batches of beer and quickly became addicted. I thought to myself, ‘This could be a way to make money off of a hobby,’ so I sat down and wrote a business plan for a brewery.”

  During that time, another brewery opened near Blume’s home in the Twin Cities, adding to the fifth or sixth already in the market. To Blume, that was too many, so he switched his interest to distilling. After poring over distillation books—and crafting whiskey and bourbons on his back porch — he rewrote a business plan for a brewstillery. Combining a brewery and a distillery seemed logical to Blume because the processes are similar, and the skills are complementary. “At the time,” he said, “there were only six brewstilleries in the country. Mine would be the first in Minnesota, which was pretty exciting.”

  Blume introduced the Twin Cities to his first product — and his innovative spirit — at the 2013 St. Paul Summer Beer Fest, wowing the crowd with an American Imperial Stout infused with ghost peppers, the world’s hottest chili pepper. At the time, he was brewing his beers under contract at Pour Decisions Brewing Company in suburban Roseville. Through working together, the two entities decided to merge under the Bent Brewstillery brand. The partnership was serendipitous for Blume. He now had a “home” when breweries and taproom locations were hard to come by. He also acquired the talents of Pour’s head brewer, Kristen England, long-time brewer and Grand Master Beer Judge from the Beer Judge Certification Program.

  After renovating the taproom in Roseville, Bent Brewstillery opened a 1,700-square-foot space in 2014. The taproom seated 115 customers and offered 10 beers on tap. Within months, Blume added the distillery. From the beginning, the brewstillery’s mantra was to set itself apart by creating fresh products and staying at the forefront of innovation. “Even if the market wasn’t ready for it, we’d do it anyway,” Blume said.

  As enthusiastic as Blume was initially, the business presented — and still presents — some challenges in operating as both a brewery and distillery. “Yes, there are some parallels,” he said, “but it isn’t quite as complimentary as I’d hoped it would be. You have to do all the work you need to do for a distillery and all the work you need to do for a brewery.” 

  Specifically, Blume explained that he has to rely on different ingredients, bottle suppliers, distributors, and even different marketing strategies for each entity because the audiences are different. “It’s really twice the amount of work, which is why most people haven’t decided to bite this off.” 

  According to Blume, there are currently only several dozen brewstilleries in the country. “It’s good for me because I’m a workaholic,” he said. “It’s a true family thing. My wife is the bookkeeper and CFO. Even the dog comes to work.”

  Despite the work, or maybe because of it, for a brewer who started with a two-and-a-half gallon Mr. Beer Kit, Blume has seen his vision surpass expectations. Now in its eighth year, Bent Brewstillery has grown into a 20-barrel brewhouse with four 40-barrel fermenters, plus three-, five- and ten-gallon fermenters that allow for the production of small-batch brews. The distillery features a column reflux still with four plates. The still can be converted to a pot still with a restrictor plate on the bottom, designed specifically by Blume for maximum versatility. Annual production is 2,000 barrels of beer and 2,000 gallons of liquor. Beer is sold in the taproom by the glass, pint, growler and crowler. Whiskey is sold straight or in cocktails. Besides offering products in the taproom, Bent Brewstillery distributes 16-ounce cans and liquor bottles to liquor stores and kegs to bars and restaurants. The brewstillery has 450 accounts in Minnesota, the south side of North Dakota and the west side of Wisconsin.

Invent, Innovate and Inspire

  With Blume at the helm as distiller and England as head brewer, Bent Brewstillery continues to invent, innovate and inspire. Since the beginning, it’s brewed over 200 beers. “When we started, we made lots of sour beers, reawakening old-style beers that no one had made until recently,” Blume told Beverage Master Magazine. “Now we have a whole line of sours, including barrel-aged sours and straight-up kettle sours.”

  One of their most unique products is a Chilean Stout, made in collaboration with a local brewery in Santiago and created from ingredients that England brings back after judging an annual beer competition there. Next on the agenda is a cold-fermented IPA. “Fermenting an IPA cold as opposed to fermenting it warm is extremely rare,” Blume said. “The process makes it more crisp, clean and clear. It’s the opposite of the hazys.”

  In the spirits category, Bent Brewstillery offers a traditional vodka and a nontraditional gin with 14 different botanicals. Blume prefers to use fresh botanicals when he can get them, which means the gins will vary from batch to batch. Some products are especially distinctive:  Flame Bringer, a bourbon barrel sriracha-infused rum, and Tropical Whiskey, brewed and distilled like any other whiskey, but includes passion fruit, guava, coconut and citrus, added during distillation. “These are the little fun things that make us distinctive in what we create,” Blume said. “These spirits are all great by themselves, but they really compliment a cocktail. Our signature drink is the Old Fashioned created from our whiskey, and the sriracha-infused rum makes a great spicy Margarita or Bloody Mary.”

  According to Blume, it took a while for the public to accept his distinctive beers and spirits. “At first,” he said, “people would say, ‘Oh, that looks weird. It’s different. I’m afraid of that,’ but now I can’t keep those products on the shelves.”

  Customer preference is mixed, Blume said: 50% like the same beer all the time because they are familiar with it; the other 50 percent want something new. It’s the same split in the liquor stores and bars. Blume also sees a mixture in beer versus spirits preferences. “Having a taproom that serves both beer and cocktails is huge for us,” he told Beverage Master Magazine. “We get so many ‘mixed couples,’ where one likes beer and the other prefers spirits. Instead of drinking a beer here and then leaving to get a cocktail, they simply stay here. It’s been pivotal to our growth.”

Pandemic Problems…and Solutions

  Like all breweries and distilleries, Bent Brewstillery’s growth took a big hit during the pandemic. But, again, like others, it turned lemons into lemonade by making hand sanitizer. Blume dived into this project with both feet. The brewstillery bought tankers of ethanol and produced 65,000 to 70,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. It provided supplies to a large portion of the police and fire departments in the state and to hospitals and support companies. Bent also offered raw materials to distilleries at cost so those distilleries could help their local communities. “We went all out,” Blume said, “and it’s a great feeling to know we did so much to help. We had a supply of beer and spirits in our taprooms, so at least we were able to sell products to-go. We survived just fine.”

  With the pandemic waning, Blume plans to go “full-throttle” ahead, both in creating new products and staging events. Traditionally, the brewstillery has offered a winter luau, beer dinners, a St. Patrick’s Day dinner and car shows in their large parking lot. This year Blume hopes to bring back one of the brewstillery’s biggest events — a crawfish boil that attracted 2,500 people. Bent also plans to hold its annual barbecue competition on the anniversary of September 11. The competition, which draws 25 to 30 cooking teams, is a fundraiser for the Invisible Wounds Project. The local charity provides services to Minnesota’s military, first responders, front-line medical staff, corrections, dispatch and their families relating to mental health, PTSD and suicide issues.

  Blume and his staff (the brewstillery has seven employees, not counting the dog) will continue to innovate, always looking for new opportunities. “We’re always looking to grow,” he told Beverage Master Magazine. “On the brewing side, we want to keep giving people something different to try. With the sheer number of breweries out there that are coming out with new beers, people can literally have a beer every day and never have the same beer twice. On the distilling side, we are playing around with different products that people will hopefully like. Growth is difficult, but it’s the challenge we signed up for.”

For more information on Bent Brewstillery, visit www.bentbrewstillery.com

Exploring the Rise of U.S.-Based Agave Spirits

By: Becky Garrison

According to research from the International Wines and Spirits Record Drinks Market Analysis, agave spirits represent one of the fastest-growing drink categories in the United States. The agave spirits category is forecast to grow by 4% compound annual growth rate through 2022. The most popular agave spirits, Tequila and Mezcal, posted respective gains of 8.5% and 32.4%. 

  Tequila represents an internationally recognized geographic designation, or, Appellation of Origin. As such, Tequila may only be produced in the Tequila region of Mexico, which includes the state of Jalisco and some municipalities in Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. Along those lines, agave spirits can be certified as mezcal in all or some of the municipalities within Oaxaca, Zacatecas, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Puebla and Sinaloa.

  However, hundreds of agave species grow throughout the world, with a diversity of distillation methods. In particular, 100% agave spirit brands and blends are being developed in the U.S., Peru, Australia, France, South Africa and India.

  On May 4, 2020, TTB Notice No. 176 governing agave spirits sold in the U.S. went into effect. The notice proposed to create, within the standards of identity, a class called “agave spirits” with two types within that class, “Tequila” and “mezcal,” replacing the existing Class 7, Tequila. Hence, Tequila and mezcal are now considered types within the Agave Spirits class, and the standards of identity for those products are not changed.

  The proposed standard would include spirits distilled from a fermented mash, of which at least 51% derives from plant species in the genus Agave and up to 49% derived from other sugars. Agave spirits must be distilled at less than 95% ABV and bottled at or above 40% ABV. Aging, blending, flavoring and coloring of agave spirits are allowed and provide distillers with the ability to develop a unique brand within this category.

  Currently, most agave spirits distilled in the U.S. use syrup imported from Mexico. For example, State 38 Distilling in Golden, Colorado, and NOCO Distillery in Fort Collins, Colorado, obtain 100% organic Blue Agave from Mexico. Each distills and bottles agave alcohol using pristine alpine water from the Rocky Mountains and then adds its unique signature to the spirit. According to Don Hammond, owner and managing partner of State 38 Distilling, they age their spirits in North American oak barrels. Sebastien Gavillet, co-founder of NOCO Distillery, said they triple distill their agave spirits for a smoother finish.

Distilling Agave Spirits in the United States

  The San Francisco Bay-Delta/Sacramento region, internally described as the “farm-to-fork” capital of the world, shows signs of emerging as a hub for growing agave. Situated at an edge of hardiness zones nine and 10, it does not have a prolonged frost or severe winters, making the region an ideal growing climate for various products, including agave.

  Craig Reynolds of California Agave Ventures, LLC in Davis, California, began experimenting with growing agave and producing spirits in Northern California after receiving seedlings of Agave Tequilana Weber Azul (Blue Weber Agave) from a grower in Southern California. Agave Tequilana has a higher sugar content and a faster time to maturity than other agave species. It’s also the type of agave exclusively used in Tequila.

  In Reynolds’ estimation, the appeal of growing this hardy plant in California is that it can be grown in numerous environments with different variables and soil conditions. Also, as this plant requires very little water, it can be an ideal crop for drought-prone areas. Depending on the species, agave plants take between five to eight years to mature. Hence, growers need to allow time before seeing a return on their investment.

  Because the agave spirits industry is still in its infancy, Reynolds sells his agave to distillers via word of mouth. Also, he custom cooks his agave in a traditional stone pit for clients upon request.

  Reynolds’ clients include Karl Anderson and Jason Senior, co-founders of Shelter Distilling in Mammoth Lakes, California. Anderson became interested in agave spirits after one of his investors, coming from a long line of landscape artists, had a friend pull a 700-pound Agave Americana from his yard and donate it to Shelter Distilling for experimentation. Typically, this variety of agave is used in landscaping, but is now harvested for distilling purposes in the U.S.

  Agave Americano produces flavors more in line with mezcal’s earthiness and vegetal notes than Blue Weber Agave Tequila. However, due to the scarcity of this particular species being used for distilling, Anderson and Senior began buying Organic Blue Agave Nectar from Mexico in 50-gallon drums. “Unlike grain, fermenting agave nectar is really difficult due to the lack of nutrients,” Senior said.

  As Anderson and Senior came from the craft beer industry, they did not want to be known as distillers who purchased other producers’ wares and sold them as their own. “Making a spirit from the plant or the grain all the way to the bottle is important to us. If we can use ingredients from our region, all the better,” Anderson said.

  Anderson connected with Reynolds because he sees him leading the charge in growing agave plants in the United States. “We have an opportunity to grow new and interesting varieties that are new to the U.S. market and are different and higher quality than all those gold tequilas on the shelf,” Reynolds said.

  Senior and Anderson started experimenting with their fermentation techniques to see if they could make something work. “The agave sugars are such that most yeasts can’t easily consume the sugars to produce alcohol. We have to make sure we have the correct yeast and that the yeast is healthy before pitching it into the agave fermentation,” said Senior.

  After purchasing the raw agave plants, brought over the Sierra Nevada in a boat, Senior steams the agave hearts in a mash tun for a few days until the plants are soft and sweet. Next, they send the plants through a wood chipper to shred the hearts and allow the yeast easy access to all the agave sugars. They add these agave fibers to a fermentation tank with pure alpine water, pitch yeast, add nutrients and allow the fermentation to proceed. Once fermentation is completed, and sugar has been converted into alcohol, they pump the liquid and fibers into the still.

  Then, they distill the agave wash twice in a hybrid pot still. The first distillation is a quick run to separate the solids and water from the alcohol and flavor components. The second run is the slow finishing distillation, where they separate the heads and tails from the hearts of the spirit. “The nice flavors of an agave spirit really only come out when the agave fibers are in the fermentation and distillation,” said Senior.

  Shelter Distilling primarily set up its distillery for using malted barley as a raw ingredient. As it doesn’t have room to install a dedicated facility for processing agave, Senior finds making agave spirits time-consuming and labor-intensive. “It’s not just dumping bags of barley into a mill. It’s chopping, splitting, pounding, steaming, pounding some more. It’s sweaty and difficult work, but it’s well worth it when you pour yourself a splash, and you can taste the product you’ve been working on for a month. With agave, you really get to taste the terroir and varietal of the plant. It’s always different, much like wine.”

Assessing Consumer Demand for Agave Spirits

  According to Anderson, while customers are drawn to the nuance and flavor of their agave spirits, they need to be educated about the agave spirits market. In his experience, most people remember Tequila and mezcal from their college days and haven’t learned the nuances of sipping premium agave spirits.

  Presently, consumer demand for Shelter Distilling’s agave spirits exceeds the amount available. Anderson attributes this to the lack of agave being grown in the U.S. and the difficulties of processing the plants.

  Along those lines, the growth of the agave spirits market has altered the availability of quality agave plants in Mexico. Lou Bank, founder and Executive Director of S.A.C.R.E.D., a nonprofit organization working to improve the quality of life in the rural Mexican communities where heritage agave spirits are made, has concerns that, as agave spirits increase in popularity, consumers will love the plants to death. “If you drive around Oaxaca today, it looks significantly different than it did 10 years ago. Where you used to see a lot of wildlands, now you see more and more agave farms popping up.”

  Bank is concerned that the greater quantity of plants may come at the cost of quality, that mass agriculture methods will raise lower quality agave, leading to lower quality spirits.

  With the TTB beginning to define agave spirits, Anderson predicts more distillers and growers will look to enter this new market. “We do what we can with putting out promotional material and educating our guests. The more U.S.-based distilleries who get into this market and educate their customers, the more people will understand that this is an American product that can be as good as, if not better than, what’s being produced in Mexico,” Bank said.

Palate-Pleasing Chemistry: Keep Taste Buds Excited with New Twists on Flavor

By: Cheryl Gray

In the flavoring industry, it’s all about chemistry. Literally. Food chemists work to identify, develop and improve upon a good thing. For beverages regulated by the TTB, the balance is in creating new tastes for drinks such as beer, distilled spirits, sake, wine and kombucha without comprising the integrity of the product.

Food scientists pair expertise with artistry, combining knowledge of the chemistry of flavor with the analytical techniques involved in creating new flavors. 

If You Can Imagine It, We Can Create It

  Just ask Mother Murphy’s Flavorings, headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, and servicing multiple industries in 30 countries around the globe. In business since 1946, its research and development team has created a catalog of more than 60,000 flavors,  lending credence to the company motto: “If you can imagine it, we can create it.”

  For the beer and spirits industries, Mother Murphy’s focuses on fruits and botanicals to enhance the naturally occurring flavor notes and characteristics in aged alcohol and infused liquors. It also works with craft brewers and distilleries to develop trademark, recognizable flavors. Neither size nor season matter – the company provides small-batch flavoring needs for small breweries and distilleries and much larger orders for international conglomerates. 

  Al Murphy, whose grandfather and great uncle started the family-owned business, is co-President of Mother Murphy’s. He is a member of several industry trade associations and has traveled abroad to learn about the beer and spirits industries. His knowledge includes the processes involved in producing gin, whiskey, botanical spirits, brandy and wine.

  Murphy told Beverage Master Magazine why creating flavored beers and distilled products requires specific skills. “A person that knows how to create flavorful beverages has a unique skill set in itself,” he said. “It takes a different skill set to make a blended spirit, unique skill set to create a distilled spirit, a different skill set to be a brewer and different skill set to create a flavored product.”

  Murphy said business savvy brewers and distillers recognize how uniquely flavored products can draw new consumers.

  “Flavors create memories, and people want to have a product that tastes good,” he said. “The spirits industry has been able to achieve a lot of success through flavors, which brings more people that wouldn’t drink a traditional non-flavored spirit to try a product.”

  There are some precautions, though, Murphy warns, that every craft brewery and distillery should heed when entering the flavoring space. 

  “Flavor by itself is one aspect of building a flavorful product. There are other factors, such as acid blends and sugars, that are a part of the overall experience of tasting a product. If you don’t know how to build a beverage product without the other ingredients, then it is like building a car without an engine.” 

  Beyond flavorings, Mother Murphy’s provides various services for its craft brewers and distillers, lending invaluable expertise in many different areas.

  “We have expert folks within our organization and a variety of solutions to help all types of people in the category,” said Murphy. “We are constantly solving problems for small guys that need more than flavors. We provide market trends for different aspects. We also offer beverage services depending on the customer needs in the marketplace.”

Made From the Real Thing

  Potomac Distilling Company knows its way around the world of flavored rums. When Todd Thrasher launched his Washington, D.C.-based distillery in the wharf district near the banks of the Potomac River, he did it with his flagship Thrasher’s Green Spiced Rum, created with an original blend of herbs that he started out growing in his backyard.

  Now, nearly four years later, Potomac Distilling Company grows those same herbs on its rooftop garden. A combination of green cardamom, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and lemongrass creates the spirit. The distillery uses it in cocktails like Thrasher’s signature Rum and Tonic, conjured from his traveling adventures to the West Indies and South Pacific.

  “There are many contributing factors to the increased popularity of flavored rums. I like to think of Thrasher’s Rum as ‘vacation in a bottle,’ and I think we all crave a dreamy sense of escapism!” said Thrasher. “Flavored rums also make it really easy to mix cocktails at home because the spirit provides a depth of taste. Flavored rums and their aromas have provided a true sense of place for me – transporting me to my island-hopping adventures as a scuba dive instructor.”

  Potomac Distillery boasts six signature rums. Among them is Thrasher’s version of a dry – not sugary sweet – Thrasher’s Spiced Rum, made from a combination of allspice, cinnamon, clove, orange peels, star anise and vanilla bean, all steeped in Thrasher’s White Rum to create a flavored product.   

  Still another of the distillery’s flavored spirits is Thrasher’s Coconut Rum, among the few on the market made without extract. Instead, Thrasher uses 60 pounds of raw Thai coconut heated at 180 degrees Fahrenheit. He then places the coconut mix into a gin basket to transform its vapors into liquid. From there, the liquid is “proofed down,” dehydrated, toasted and left to sit for 80 days at room temperature. The result is a coconut rum made from the real thing.

  These variations of flavored rum do not come by accident. Thrasher has an extensive background in spearheading multiple well-known bars throughout Washington, D.C. He received his training at Moonshine University in Louisville, Kentucky, alongside gathering information from other distillers.

  In all, Thrasher has created six rums, including one just introduced last year, called Relaxed Rum, which is aged in American oak barrels for 24 months. The result, Thrasher said, is a rum with a smooth flavor touched by hints of vanilla and the smoky notes of tobacco. The Thrasher Rum collection is featured at the adjoining bar, Tiki TNT, and is also available for ordering through partner locations.

Teasing Taste Buds With Flavor

  Cream Ale is just one of the creations of 2 Silos Brewery in historic Manassas, Virginia. This award-winning brewery has launched flavored beers and ales with catchy monikers like Citralicious American IPA, featuring whole tangerine puree, and Squared Pants, a fruity sour made with pineapple and guava purees.

  The idea for 2 Silos Brewery took shape in 2014 when co-founders Forrest Morgan and Marcus Silva began trading ideas for creating a brewery that could become a hub for hospitality. That idea is now a popular destination spot in Northern Virginia on the Farm Brew LIVE campus at Innovation Park in Virginia’s Prince William County. The brewery draws locals and tourists alike, who come to sample beers flavored by a combination of fruits, spices and other natural sources. The facility also houses canning and keg operations and an in-house quality control lab.

  2 Silos creates products with the goal of teasing taste buds with flavors that are familiar but with surprising twists. Its Hua’ekola – translated as fruit beer – is ladened with purees of passion fruit, blood orange and pink guava. Seasonal options include a Gingerbread Ale infused with ginger, cinnamon and clove. Another is Pumpkin Ale which, as the name implies, features pumpkin puree. The brewery’s Indulgence Series showcases a dessert-worthy Fudgetastic Imperial Stout –a blend of the brewery’s Old Dominion Barrel Reserve Series with an infusion of chocolate fudge, coconut and natural almond flavors. 

  Though the flavor names are quirky, 2 Silos Brewery is committed to serving its area through philanthropy, funded by one of its flavored creations. One hundred percent of the proceeds from sales of its Raspberry Cream Ale support The Sweet Julia Grace Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit servicing children with serious medical challenges.

  Blending flavorings for beer and distilled spirits is a craft unto itself. Get it right, and breweries and distilleries can create a niche market for their products that broaden their appeal to consumers looking for new ways to enjoy old favorites.

Options and Improvements for Brewery & Distillery Tanks

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Various kinds of tanks and tank systems are used in both breweries and distilleries to create the amazing craft beverages we know and love. Brewing and distilling tanks also require specialized systems to work properly, ensure quality control and serve other purposes. Therefore, it’s important to understand the tank and tank system options available to brewers and distillers, including what’s been updated and what can still be improved.

Types of Brewery & Distillery Tanks

  In a brewery setting, there are often many different tanks in use simultaneously. Mash tun tanks mix grain and water for sugar conversion, lauter tun tanks separate grain and wort, and wort kettle/whirlpool tanks boil wort and add hops. Liquor tanks hold cold and hot brewing water, while fermentation tanks ensure proper removal of yeast once fermentation is complete. Brite beer tanks enable carbonation, yeast brink tanks aid in growing yeast, utility hot water tanks assist with equipment sterilization, and CIP tanks help clean the vessels, hoses and pumps.

  Jef Lewis, CEO and Chairman of Grass Valley, California-based BrewBilt, told Beverage Master Magazine that stainless steel cylindroconical fermentation vessels are the most commonly used tanks in commercial brewing.

  “The cylindroconical shape maximizes volume while minimizing footprint, allows for faster fermentation and facilitates the hygienic collection of yeast from the cone,” Lewis said. “The size of these tanks range from three bbls (93 gallons) for nanobreweries up to 1,000 bbls (31,000 gallons) for very large production breweries. Most breweries are using 10 to 30-bbl tanks. BrewBilt Manufacturing builds cylindroconical tanks from 10 to 120 bbls, all of which are crafted from American 304 stainless steel that has stricter quality standards than imported stainless.”

  Brandon Mayes, the brewing and quality manager for Pittsburgh Brewing Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, told Beverage Master Magazine that they use cylindroconical tanks and bright beer tanks.

  “CCTs are used to ferment wort into beer,” Mayes said. “BBTs are used to store finished beer ready for package. We have 15 500-bbl CCTs and four 250-bbl CCTs. There are six BBT’s.”

  Chase Legler, the chief operating officer of Sonder Brewing in Mason, Ohio, said that all of the tank vessels in his brewery are made from 304 stainless steel and built in Wisconsin by either Quality Tank Solutions or Pristine Process Solutions.

  “In the brewhouse, we have three vessels: Mash tun, lauter tun and wort kettle/whirlpool,” Legler said. “In conjunction with the brewhouse, we utilize a hot liquor tank and a cold liquor tank. Within the cellar, we use fermentation tanks, brite beer tanks, yeast brink, utility hot water tanks and CIP tanks.”

  Palmetto Distillery in Anderson, South Carolina, has been doing things a bit differently from other distilleries since it opened in 2011. It has worked hard to keep the distillery authentic, just as you would find a bootlegger using out in the woods. The big differences are that the Palmetto Distillery makes legal moonshine with government labels regulating what is inside the jar, pays taxes and is located directly behind the county courthouse, so it doesn’t have to out-run the law.

  Treg Boggs, President of Palmetto Distillery, told Beverage Master Magazine that his distillery started with a 30-gallon, 100% copper still made by a fifth-generation bootlegger in an undisclosed area of the mountains.

  “As soon as we were legal, we quickly graduated to our 250-gallon copper still built by the same fifth-generation moonshiner,” Boggs said. “We outgrew the 250-gallon immediately within the first year we were in business by the demand from people wanting ‘bootlegger-made but taxes paid’ moonshine!”

  Boggs said that Palmetto Distillery had to find a metal fabricator capable of handling the current 1,000-gallon copper still since that bootlegger was not capable of manufacturing anything that size.

  “Something that we learned from the old distilleries in Scotland over in the UK is if they duplicate, replace or rebuild a still, it has to have every scratch, dent or any type of character so that they can duplicate the same quality spirit,” Boggs said. “We took our time and made sure we copied this same process by creating the one-of-a-kind, 1,000-gallon still. We will not make a bigger still, only duplicate when needed to keep up with demand. We have a backup 1000-gallon still in the warehouse for our busy time of year, which is usually October to January 1. Keeping the size of the still the same is very important, so we do not lose the quality for the quantity while distilling our handcrafted spirits.”

Tank Systems for Beverage Production

  Concerning tank systems, Mayes said, “Each tank is equipped with level sensors, pressure sensors, temperature probes with automation to control the glycol jackets for cooling, spray balls for cleaning, sample ports for collecting analytical and microbiological samples, and safety valves to ensure we operate under the correct tank pressures.”

  Legler from Sonder Brewing said that it is common to have a pressure relief valve along with a vacuum breaker on the tank to protect it from over-pressurizing or creating negative pressure.

  “I would also recommend adding an additional PRV on the vent line when bunging (spunding) the tank for the same reason,” Legler said. “Having complete control over the product temperature is crucial for proper fermentation with regard to flavor consistency and quality. This is achieved by glycol jacketed tanks controlled by software integration, allowing you to have ramping capability whether decreasing temperature with glycol or increasing temperature with heat produced naturally in fermentation. The better the tank is insulated, the more efficient your system becomes.”

  Boggs from Palmetto Distillery said that his distillery uses every bootlegger tip that it has learned from some of the best and infamous outlaws on the planet.

  “For example, some fancy distilleries use clamps to make sure there is not any steam leaking out of the stills, but we used flour and wheat mixed together to make a thick, putty-like paste to put around all of the seals,” Boggs said. “If you see steam, you are losing liquor!”

Maintenance of Tanks & Systems

  However, having high-quality tanks in a brewery or distillery requires more than just buying the right products upfront. Tanks need regular cleaning and upkeep to ensure proper maintenance and avoid premature replacement.

  Mayes from Pittsburgh Brewing Company said brewers should “have a robust quality assurance program that tests and verifies complete and thorough CIP and tank sanitation.”

  “Cleaning the tanks is absolutely paramount and requires appropriate spray balls, pump curve calculations and process piping,” said Legler from Sonder Brewing. “Attention to detail is crucial for pressure and flow rate provided to the spray ball for proper wetting and cleaning. Inspection of the tank after the cleaning cycle, along with ATP swabbing, should be performed. Annually, the spray balls should be inspected for blockage and to ensure proper rotation. All connections on the tanks, such as zwickel, carb stone and racking arm, should be removed and cleaned. Ports should be hand-scrubbed and removed during the CIP process. Manway gaskets should also be removed and cleaned by hand, or better yet, in a clean-out-of-place pot.”

  “We use Brasso to clean the outside of the copper steel to make sure it stays nice and shiny,” said Boggs from Palmetto Distillery. “We use powder brew wash on the inside of the copper steel and our mash tanks.”

  BrewBilt constructs tanks with 304 stainless steel and food-grade welds done as smooth as possible and unable to harbor microbial contaminants.

  “The tanks also feature CIP spray balls for efficient recirculation of cleaning chemicals,” Lewis said. “BrewBilt tanks are ‘shadowless,’ which means that there are no areas of the tank that cannot be effectively cleaned by the spray ball, including the manway.

  All Craftmaster Stainless tanks come pickled and passivated, and this Rancho Cordova, California company provides cleaning instructions for its equipment as simple guidelines. These procedures provide instructions for first-time cleaning, removing brown spots and dark staining, removing krausen deposits, removing manufacturing residues and removing white powdery and calcium-looking deposits.

Tank Improvements & Recommendations

  In recent years, improvements have been made to tanks and tank systems that brewers and distillers may be interested to learn. For example, Lewis from BrewBilt said that real-time, comprehensive fermentation monitoring and analytics are a new development in the commercial brewing world.

  “These systems use a special tank probe that automatically measures dissolved oxygen, pH, gravity, pressure, temperature and conductivity and allow the brewer to remotely monitor all of these important parameters,” Lewis said. “Traditionally, the brewer would pull a sample from every fermentation tank each day to take the desired measurements. These new systems allow the brewer to be more proactive for fermentation control, as well as saving time and labor.”

  However, there are still improvements that need to be made. Lewis said that with the surging demand for craft lagers, many brewers struggle to produce crisp, clear lagers in a reasonable amount of time using the same cylindroconical tanks as ale fermentations.

  “Since lager yeast requires different conditions for a healthy fermentation, including colder temperature and more surface area on the bottom of the tank, the right equipment really does pay off,” said Lewis. “BrewBilt offers professional-grade horizontal lagering tanks that stack to maximize floor space and eliminate weeks of aging time to achieve the desired clarity and flavor profile.”

  Dave Silva, owner and operator of Craftmaster Stainless, Inc., said there have been a lot of changes in fermentation tanks and brite tanks throughout the years. These include advanced technologies involving the quality of material, thicker insulation–specifically zoned glycol jackets–and simple clean-in-place attributes to allow better sanitation during cleaning procedures. 

  “Over the years, Craftmaster Stainless has closely worked with brewers to design the ultimate brite tanks and uni-tanks, along with many more products for our customers. A few unique features of our tanks are industry-leading, three-inch-thick insulated glycol jackets, oversized racking arm handles, huge two-inch yeast outlets for drainage, and dedicated blow-off tubes to prevent clogging your CIP ball during fermentation blow-off. Also, all of our tanks come complete with a 10-year warranty, and all hardware with gaskets and tri-clamps are included.”

  Silva said the biggest complaint he hears from his customers is that they wish more industry suppliers had better customer service like Craftmaster Stainless.

  “Just a simple call-back or even answering the phone to help with customers’ questions goes a long way,” Silva said. “We love our customers and offer a lifetime customer service guarantee. We make it a point to answer our phone calls or call back any missed calls the same day. We pride ourselves on being the industry leader in customer service and believe having this service will lead into the best overall experience for our customers and steer the path to operating the best business in the industry.”

  “There are systems that range from simple to highly complex,” said Mayes from Pittsburg Brewing Company. “No system will function consistently without a robust quality program to assure proper flow rates, chemical dosing and chemical coverage through CIP. Start with well-written procedures, perform procedural audits and frequently verify tank cleaning through your quality program.”

Legler from Sonder Brewing said improvements in sanitary practices have come a long way in the brewing industry.

  “We brewers are fortunate that no known pathogen can grow in a properly produced beer, so innovative improvements driven from the pharmaceutical and food sectors allow us to piggyback on the newest tech,” Legler said. “As far as improvements to be made, it drives me nuts when I see threaded fittings on tanks. These should always be avoided, as they are inherently bug traps. If you do have these, then you should take these apart on every CIP and hand-clean. This practice seems to still be okay with brewery tanks, but hopefully not in the near future.”

  Boggs from Palmetto Distillery said that his team takes the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to tanks and tank systems. Last year, the distillery celebrated its 10th-anniversary and launched more than eight new flavors while still keeping the original favorites. Palmetto Distillery sells its products on its website and welcomes everyone to stop by the distillery in downtown Anderson for a free tour and tasting.

The Most Popular Spirit You’ve Never Heard of: “Vodka”

By: Tod Stewart

That’s likely the answer you’ll get if you ask any spirits aficionado—and even a few distillers—what is the world’s most popular spirit. Though whiskey would have been a better guess, neither of these categories combined can hold a candle to one that you may never have heard of, namely, baijiu, China’s “white alcohol.”

  You probably don’t see it advertised in North American magazines, on roadside billboards or as a sponsor of entertainment or sporting events. But baijiu’s lack of visibility in no way diminishes its incredible sales perfor-mance. A glance at the 2021 Brand Finance report on global spirits shows that baijiu brands captured the five top slots in terms of brand value. And though “popular” may mean different things to different people, most who make a living distilling would likely prefer high revenues over high visibility. The top baijiu brand—Kweichow Moutai—generated an eye-popping USD 45 million in sales in 2021. The next one down, Wuliang-ye, pulled in a modest $26 million or so. It’s not until you work your way to the sixth spot that you hit some-thing recognizable—Jack Daniel’s. Sales generated? Close to four million dollars in 2021. Nothing to sneeze at, to be sure, but pretty much chump change compared to Moutai or Wuliangye.

One reason China’s national spirit flies under the radar of most Western hooch lovers is simple: About 99% of the volume distilled never leaves its homeland. Another is likely that, to the uninitiated, baijiu’s aromatic and flavor profile is decidedly alien, but we’ll get to that. Also, the stuff isn’t cheap, with the most coveted bottles selling for hundreds of dollars. A few go for well over 1,000 Canadian dollars.

  In its homeland, baijiu flows like a river through birthdays, weddings, national celebrations and even diplomat-ic encounters. It was baijiu, after all, that helped thaw the ice during the somewhat tense Sino-American ne-gotiations of the 1970s. President Richard Nixon raised a glass, possibly two, in an historic toast with Chinese Primier Zhou Enlai in 1972. Margaret Thatcher was treated to a round of it upon conceding Hong Kong back to China. At one point, baijiu consumption by Chinese government officials got so out of hand that in 2012 President Xi Jinping ushered in austerity measures to prevent copious amounts of public funds from turning into copious expenditures on baijiu. In China today, baijiu enjoys a fanbase that runs into the hundreds of mil-lions who actively consume most of the billions of liters distilled every year, so why even bother with an ex-port market?

  Okay, so it’s historic and popular, and expensive. But what the heck is it, exactly?

  Pronounced “bye-jeeoh,” baijiu is a clear spirit distilled primarily from sorghum, a hearty, drought-resistant grain of African origin. What makes it particularly useful in spirit production is its easy gelatinization—a fancy term for the breakdown of starch into a paste when steamed. (It can also be particularly useful in generating triple-word scores in Scrabble). Rice, glutinous rice, wheat, millet, peas and corn can also find their way into the mix. These are not the ingredients most international distillers would even contemplate using, with the ex-ception of corn. But if the ingredients seem a bit unconventional, it’s the distillation and aging of the spirit that raise the most eyebrows.

  The process that most of us are familiar with typically starts as a two-phase endeavor. For example, in whis-key making, grains are first subject to saccharification (another potentially winning Scrabble entry)—the con-version of starch to sugar. Yeast is then introduced to convert the sugar to alcohol before being distilled.

  In baijiu production, this becomes a one-step operation thanks to the use of jiuqu or just qu (pronounced “chew”). Qu is an interesting little beast. For those who know the ins and outs of sake brewing, qu in baijiu making can be likened to koji in sake brewing—both are fermentation starters, and they both result in what is referred to as “solid-state” fermentation. There is plenty of scholarly material floating around the internet for those curious about the process (or are having trouble sleeping). Suffice to say that it incorporates a solid ra-ther than a liquid fermentation catalyst (solid-state fermentation vs. submerged fermentation). The “solid,” in this case, is qu.

  Writer’s note: I should pause a moment here to say that what I’m describing next refers to grain-based “big qu.” There’s also a rice-based “little qu.” The ingredients differ, but the use of each and the end results are similar.

  Qu typically starts its life as a paste made from clumps of moistened grain. When raised in the proper envi-ronment, these clumps attract wild yeasts, bacteria, and assorted microorganisms from the air. Fashioned into bricks, the qu—having generated considerable heat (up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit) during the microbe infestation period—are cooled for several weeks before sitting in storage for a few months to maximize flavor. In the baijiu fermentation process, ground grains are soaked, and crumbled qu added. The enzymes in the qu convert the grain’s starches to sugar. The yeast in the qu then converts the sugar into alcohol. The fermented grains are then distilled—a process that involves forcing steam through the grains and collecting the concen-trated alcohol. This process is repeated, with each batch stored separately. Aging typically takes place in clay pots, sometimes buried underground (fermentation often takes place in underground clay vessels as well). In the final process, various batches of aged baijiu are married together. In some cases, up to 200 different batches make the end product.

  Okay, so what’s the result of all this toil? Upon their first nosing and sip, Baijiu newbies may wonder why so much time and effort went into creating something so, well, “unusual” (I’m refraining from using more descrip-tive language here). Baijiu is a complex spirit, no question there. The real question is whether or not you have any hope of warming to the sort of complexity baijiu offers.

  First, it’s helpful to know that baijiu “styles” are defined aromatically and fall into four broad categories: light aroma, rice aroma, sauce aroma and strong aroma. These are pretty self-explanatory, but you probably won’t be able to figure out which is which by looking at the label, even if you can read Mandarin. Of these, the most popular—and probably the most challenging to the new-to-baijiu crowd—is the strong aroma variety. I’ve tried a few of these, including Wuliangye and Yanghe, and, personally, find them a bit tough to describe. Funky, fruity, fishy, earthy: To some, fascinating, maybe not so much to others.

  I’ve also tried a few in the sauce aroma category, including the famed Kweichow Moutai. While I wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to get up early to secure a bottle, I’ll admit I found Moutai to be rather pleasant—in an “I have never tasted a spirit that even came close to something like this,” pleasant. With its penetrating soy sauce, herbs and fermented bean aromas and flavors, it’s a savory, slightly salty, and certainly distinctive tip-ple. For those into the umami-rich profile of nato, soy sauce, kimchi, miso and other fermented delicacies, sauce aroma baijiu might be your next thing.

  A note of caution: Baijiu is potent stuff, typically bottled well over 40% ABV. The traditional Chinese way of toasting with it involves a rather complex ritual, culminating in the knocking back—or more accurately, re-peatedly knocking back—of thimble-sized glasses of the clear liquor amidst cries of “ganbei!” which trans-lates, somewhat loosely, as “bottoms up!”

  On that note, I wish you ganbei and good luck in your exploration of a new adventure in the spirits world!

Taking it Easy With Light Spirits

By: Hanifa Sekandi

You want to be the life of the party, but you do not want the party to take the life out of you. So you are on the hunt for a middle ground where you can entertain and imbibe with friends yet feel refreshed in the morning. So far, you have tried mocktails and light cocktails with just a splash or two of tequila. Globally, you are not alone. Just like you, people are looking for lighter spirits that maintain a robust flavor profile. Luckily, the industry is catching on. Spirits, ready-to-drink beverages and beer brands create must-have light spirits and drinks to keep the party going with-out tipping the scales.

  This change is a major innovation in an industry where consumers desire more than just the same thing packaged differently. Light spirits attract discerning beverage enthusiasts who seek a healthier lifestyle or simply to consume less alcohol. However, craftsmanship and ingredient still matter, and consumers are not ready to compromise quality. Brands who plan to enter this bur-geoning, niche market must understand consumer demand and how and what to bring to the shelves.

What is a Light Spirit?

  When discussing light spirits, it sounds like we are talking about the paranormal. Alas, we are not. However, it does seem like magic when thinking about a once hard liquor becoming less po-tent.

  So, what is a light spirit? A light spirit, also known as a spirit drink, is an alcoholic beverage that contains a low alcohol percentage between 0.05% and 1.2%. This percentage scale is not con-sistent across the board and is dependent on the alcohol type. Some lighter alcohols are referred to as “reduced alcoholic” beverages since they contain higher alcohol content than light spirits. Anything above a 5% ABV is considered a reduced or moderate alcoholic beverage. Moderate alcohol drinks contain approximately 9.5% ABV. This percentage scales up to 20% ABV for spirits, far below the higher alcohol range for spirits with a legal minimum of 40% ABV.

  As the market gains momentum, lighter spirits will provide consumers an outlet to create and imbibe quality cocktails and drinks that still taste as good as their full alcohol counterparts. One could consider lighter Scotches, whiskeys and gins as the rebellious offspring of the spirit world, having one foot in tradition and the other in modernity. An example is Scotlands’s Whyte & Mackay Light with a 20% ABV. This smooth, earthy spirit is aged in bourbon and Sherry casks. The fact that it can be enjoyed neat or over ice is a true test for a moderate spirit.

  This trend has seen gains in North America and across the globe. A study conducted on alcohol consumption in the U.K. found that Brittons are either reducing their alcohol intake or opting for no or low alcohol alternatives. According to the study, by 2030, there will be a decrease in alco-hol consumption per adult by 11 liters. The change is predominantly led by individuals 18-24 in the U.K. and 25-34 in the U.S.

  The results provide perhaps an unexpected pivot from previous generations who viewed these years as a time when drinks were endless and throwing caution to the wind was the norm. The “viva forever” celebration no longer fits the ideals of many younger imbibers. Light spirits seem like an appropriate transition for these consumers, who have less desire for wild nights of binge drinking.

  Globally, the light spirit trend is set to grow 34%, a significant marker since product selection in this category can be limited. This growth possibility opens the door for some brands to change focus and become light spirits producers.

  Two things that cannot be compromised when crafting lighter spirits are that they must be pre-mium quality, and they must blend in. It is not about standing out. It is about being a welcome addition to a bar cart or restaurant menu selection. The pleasant surprise for a low ABV spirit should be that there is no compromise on taste, so much so you cannot tell the difference be-tween it and its higher alcohol counterpart.

Taking it Light & Easy

Around the Globe: South Korea

  Change in every industry is inevitable. The transition to lower alcohol spirits has been slowly happening over the last ten years. Notably, in 2015, Diageo debuted a 35% ABV “spirit drink” – W Ice by Windsor – in South Korea. The spirit was the first low ABV whisky.

  What spurred this change in South Korea? Simply, whisky is no longer the desired spirit. There was a time in South Korea when Scotch was the drink of choice and often used to make a popu-lar drink called poktanju, a combination of beer and Scotch. Another reason for this change, sim-ilar to other countries around the world, is affordability. Younger consumers in South Korea want inexpensive spirits. In addition, spirits synonymous with youth appeal to this generation. Although there has been a shift and the younger generation is finding interest in what was once considered an “old man’s” drink, the creation of spirits that appeal to younger consumers has taken hold as brands observe the popularity of vodka.

  As a result, the goal of whisky brands in South Korea is to entice people to see it as a viable drink choice by lowering the alcohol content and promoting it under the guise of light and con-scious imbibing.

The Sensible Imbiber

  Taking something old and giving it a new image needs to encompass more than beautiful pack-aging. A complete product delineation needs to be undertaken to make spirits appear new and fresh. The central premise must sit within the ideal of living a more healthy lifestyle. Drinking just one glass of spirit neat or over ice and not feeling the effects also signifies the end of an era of binge drinking, ushering in a new time of sensible imbibing. For the light spirits consumer, drinking is about living life while not feeling pressured to be anything other than yourself. It is not about standing out or being the life of the party. Instead, it is about connection and requires one to slow down and experience moments that build memories worth remembering.

The Brewstillery Movement

By: Kris Bohm: Owner of Distillery Now Consulting LLC.

Breweries make beer and often their equipment has the capacity to brew more beer than there is necessarily a demand for. Plain and simple, idle equipment does not help generate cash flow. An alternative use to consider to keep idle brewery equipment running is whiskey. American single malt whiskey is the new hot trend in spirits. Single malt whiskey has been touted for decades in America as a premium whiskey, and now bourbon whiskey is absolutely booming worldwide. If your brewery has a brew house that is sometimes sitting idle, it is time to put it to work. With the addition of a commercial still for distilling, a brewery can turn an idle brew house back on, and start producing single malt whiskey. The addition of a distillery will create a new business avenue for a brewery that can bring in new customers and generate more revenue for the overall business.       

Brewers Making Whiskey

  A few of the well known breweries, who have jumped into the distilled spirits world, are Ballast Point and Rogue Ales. There are amazing spirits being produced and distilled by breweries all over the world and your brewery can seize this opportunity as well. Brewstilleries, as we will call them, are pioneering a new business model. By using existing equipment to produce the wort or mash for distilled spirits, a brewery can create a diverse portfolio of products which can appeal to a broad base of customers.

  Ballast Point Brewery is a notable and very successful brewery that added a distillery to their operation. The Ballast Point took on a wild side project in 2007 where they added a still to their brewery in California, to experiment in spirits production. The brewers there mashed a beer recipe, then lautered an un-hopped wort that was then fermented and distilled into single malt whiskey. They also used their equipment to cook corn mash for bourbon production. A few years later, their whiskies had aged in barrels and it was bottled then released. Both their single malt and bourbon were wildly successful and well received spirits. Ballast Point Brewery sold a few years after the distillery was started and their distillery branched off to become Cutwater Spirits.

Tools of the Trade

  Breweries and distilleries use equipment that is very similar for the production of beverage alcohol. Fermenters, pumps, hoses, yeast, mash tuns, lauter tuns, and fermenters are common tools utilized by both distillers and brewers. Some breweries have capitalized on this opportunity and co-utilize their equipment and expand into distillery operations.  Let’s detail a few of the tools that brewers use that distillers can co-utilize for whiskey production. Of course this can only work if the brewers are willing to share.

Brew House Mash Tun

  A brew house is the essential tool used for the production of beer. This brew house will sometimes be idle when there is not enough demand. The steam heated mash tun in a 4 vessel brew house is used to mash malted barley for brewing beer. This equipment can also be utilized to produce mash for whiskey. With a few small changes, a mash tun can be used to produce cereal mash, made with corn or rye, that is cooked and fermented for bourbon whiskey.

  The production of malt whiskey in the Scottish tradition, using 100% malted barley, requires more complex equipment than the basic cereal cooker utilized by most distilleries. The lauter tun is a unique equipment for separating barley from the sugary wort in beer production. When making American single malt whiskey, the lauter tun is used to produce wort for distillation in the same way it is used to make wort for beer.

Fermenters

  Every brewer and distiller has fermenters in which they transform grain from sugary liquid into alcohol through fermentation. The fermenters used in a brewery work perfectly for fermenting wash or wort destined to become whiskey. If the excess space is available to ferment, a distillery can make use of otherwise empty tank space. Often distillers ferment their wort for whiskey fast and warm. A fermentation is often finished and ready to distill in as little as 4 days.

Pumps and Hoses

  The workhorse tools of brewers and distillers are their pumps, hoses and tri-clamps. The same pumps and hoses can be used to accomplish liquid transfers in a brewery and a distillery. Sanitization is important to mention here as it is easy to introduce unwanted bacteria or yeast into hoses if a distiller is not careful and conscientious of proper sanitization, which is required in a brewery for beer production, but not as necessary for a distillery.

Yeast

  The essential ingredient that all producers of beverage alcohol must utilize every day is saccharomyces cerevisiae, or the fungi simply known as yeast. The yeast used by distillers and brewers is closely related. In fact, many brewstilleries will use the exact same strains for both brewing and distilling. The use of yeast and the knowledge of how to handle yeast effectively is similar for brewers and distillers. Sharing yeast strains and yeast propagation equipment between a brewery and distillery increases the value reaped from every batch of yeast.

  All of these tools above can be made to serve double duty for a brewstillery. Careful planning, management, and execution are key to successful sharing of equipment.

Behind the Scenes

  Many questions come up in the discussion of adding a distillery to a brewery. Let’s go through and look at some of the common questions.

  How does a brewstillery function and get licensed from a legal perspective?

  The answer to this question will vary widely depending on the location of the brewstillery. Every state and country has different laws on what a brewery and distillery are allowed to do when working in conjunction. Typically, the distillery operations are required to be separate from the brewery both in physical location and in bookkeeping. The way a brewery meets this requirement of separation is as simple as a wall that keeps the two businesses apart with a separate exterior door to enter the distillery. A distillery can share steam for heating and glycol for cooling with a brewery, but the key here is that the still and the vessels holding distilled spirits are kept separate from the beer. On licensing a distillery will need to get a federal and state distiller’s permit before they can start producing spirits and may also need local licenses or permits.

  How are records and bookkeeping managed for a brewstillery?

  When it comes to bookkeeping, the distillery part of the brewery is typically an entirely separate business. This means a separate business entity or LLC must exist for the distillery which will hold its own business license, separate books, and tax reports. For the day to day operations and transactions, a distillery within a brewery will often buy the grain from the brewery and lease the brewing equipment on a daily basis to make wort for whiskey production.

  How is a distillery taxed?

  Taxes are a big concern because distilleries and distilled spirits are taxed very differently than beer. Although they are taxed differently, by having the distillery operate as a separate business it makes the bookkeeping and taxes simple by not mixing them with the brewery. Volumes have been written on taxes of distilled spirits all about proof gallons, wine gallons, and gauging, but we will save a deep dive into taxes for another day.

  How much beer does it take to make whiskey?

  In the production of a single malt whiskey the sugar content of the wort is on the high side to maximize the potential amount of whiskey produced per batch.

  Often the ABV of a fermented wash is as low as 7% to upwards of 12%

  There are a multitude of factors that will affect the amount of whiskey produced per pound of malt, including mash procedures, fermentation, distillation and maturation.

  When distilling a beer you can expect to roughly see the following yields. This estimated yield includes the distiller’s cuts and loss from barrel aging.

  A single 31 gallon barrel of 10% abv beer can produce upwards of 25 bottles of whiskey.

Beer to Whiskey and the Hops in It

For the vast majority of whiskies both malt and bourbon are strictly made from grain. No hops or other flavoring agents are added. Beer, of course, has hops and specialty grains in it. A beer that is distilled into whiskey which we will call “hopped malt whiskey,” will carry the distinct flavor of hops and into the spirits. This can be good or bad, depending on who you ask.

  Let’s weigh the good side of whiskey made from hopped beer.

  Hopped malt whiskey tastes very different from traditional Scottish malt whiskey. Because it tastes so different and can be marketed as part of the beer story, a hopped malt whiskey is often well accepted by the public as a new kind of whiskey, since it is not compared against bourbon or scotch.

  There is a downside to distilling hopped beer into whiskey. Beer that is distilled into whiskey and then barrel aged carries a strong and unique flavor profile dominated by the hops. For some consumers, this flavor is off putting even to the biggest IPA loving hopheads. Most people that enjoy whiskey have a pallet that is trained to like bourbon or scotch single malt. A hopped malt whiskey tastes nothing like either of these spirits, your average whiskey drinker may not like unique flavors of such a spirit. This warning is not to deter a creative brewstillery from distilling such things, but to merely inform.

Let’s Make Some Whiskey!

  For those currently running breweries, you may be considering getting into distilling. If you are, be sure to do your homework or hire a pro to help you, as there are many differences between brewing and distilling. This learning curve can be expensive without prior experience. For those just getting started, the brewstillery model is a business worth considering that will give you access to a larger customer base, and create better returns on your equipment. Consideration of state laws is essential as they vary widely on the legality and requirements to operate on this business model. The future is looking bright for craft beverage alcohol production and brewstilleries are on the lead in producing new variations of traditional spirits.

  Authored by Kris Bohm the Owner of Distillery Now Consulting LLC. When Kris is not helping folks build distilleries and creating great whiskies, he is out riding cyclocross or defending his beer mile record. Would you like to talk about making whiskey? Drop us a line. Distillerynow@gmail.com