I have been laying off blogging for the last week since we were doing a one week business of brewing and case studies module. I figured most people don't want to hear about accounting. The class got split into two sections this week. For two days, one section split into groups and worked on technical case studies. Then, the next two days we played a simulated brewing business game that intended to teach us about accounting, finance, and marketing basics.
The case studies were definitely the more interesting part of the week. Our group was faced with a the following situation: You are the head brewer at a brewery that is expanding. Ownership decides to buy a second brewery in a different location. The shape of the fermenters in the new location is rectangular instead of cylindroconical. The new rectangular fermenters are horizontal, close topped fermenters and we have to match the flavors while using minimal investments.
This would be quite a problem in real life. Our first thought was "It's time to leave this brewery and find a new job." The first things that would need to be addressed would be water chemistry in the new location, and if the raw materials are not from the same source, you might need to get creative to make sure that all the specifications of the malt will fall within the same parameters. The more difficult problem though is due to the shape of the fermenters. The horizontal fermenters will be much more shallow, so the hydrostatic pressure will be lower. That means the yeast will be under less stress, thus producing less esters and fusel alcohols. It would also mean that the yeast would flocculate faster, leaving it less time to clean up secondary metabolites. Typically, rectangular horizontals also don't have precise temperature control, instead relying on cold rooms to help maintain fermentation temperatures.
So some ideas that we talked about to match flavors included: attempting to put head pressure on the fermenters to increase ester production, however that would also increase diacetyl production, and without the fast flocculation of the yeast, it might not have time to remove the diacetyl. We would also have to rack the beer quickly off the yeast in the horizontal fermenter since the yeast can't be dropped out of the bottom, thus resulting in quick autolysis.
My favorite solution that we came up with was to transfer half the fermenters from each brewery to the other brewery, ferment the beers and blend. Our presentation ended up going really well, and it was a good way to end our Chicago classes. Tonight, I'm off to Munich to start classes at the Doemens Academy!