Air Products and microbreweries – what the fizz is about
28 June 2017
Craft beer brewing has evolved from being a home-brewing hobby to a precise and complex process, aimed at delighting craft beer lovers who have become enthusiasts of this new era of beer where there are more distinguished tastes on offer in the market. As a supplier of gases, which is vital to the brewing process, Air Products has been playing an important role to support microbreweries in creating craft beers suited for this local, expanding and trendy craft beer market.
Words such as hops, vessel, malt and fermentation comes to mind, but it is much more complex than simply adding certain ingredients together and hoping for the best taste once the ‘beer’ has matured. Craft beer brewing has become a form of art and the use of the correct gases, at the correct time, in the correct quantities are vital in ensuring the best outcome. Air Products supplies gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen to a number of microbrewies in Gauteng.
Craft beer is an art – a brewer is able to create unique beer by producing small quantities which delivers strong flavours. The ingredients used by microbrewers are different to those used by large, commercial brewers. The introduction of craft beers to South African beer drinkers has created a new excitement in the marketplace as there is now a wide range of tastes available and beer drinkers are no longer restricted to the same brands and styles which have been available over the last few years.
Freshline oxygen, which is added to the wort during the fermentation process, modifies the yeast activity, ultimately affecting the flavour of the beer. Freshline carbon dioxide is used for carbonation of the final product and the Freshline nitrogen is used to create the ‘head’ or ‘collar’ of a beer, which adds to the attractiveness of enjoying a ‘cold one’.
Air Products’ Freshline Product Manager Nelisiwe ‘Neli’ Dlamini explains the use of Freshline oxygen in craft beer brewing: “Brewing craft beer is an intricate process and it is important to ensure a secure supply of oxygen to the brewery – malt and hops, water, yeast and oxygen is required for the fermentation process and without the oxygen, the entire process and ultimately the quality of the beer is affected. We understand the process and aim to ensure that we supply product to the microbreweries, enabling them to produce quality, tasty craft beer”.
Air Products has formed a strong relationship with a number of microbreweries in Gauteng and is proud to be associated with their growth in market share in the last two years. For breweries such as Drayman’s Brewery, Mad Giant and Ubuntu Kraal Brewery it is of extreme importance to ensure that gases are available during specific parts of the brewing process, as delays or interruptions as a result of a lack of oxygen and other ingredients will have an impact on the final product.
Air Products’ infrastructure enables them to supply microbreweries via cylinder, Maxitank, Minitank or CryoEase®, which is an effective and convenient alternative to cylinders, suited for customers with smaller operational spaces.
Moritz Kallmeyer from Drayman’s Brewery comments: “As a craft beer brewer, I strive to constantly improving the brewing process. A part of what I would like to achieve is to brew beer with a lower oxygen count, more stability, greater clarity, improved balance and better head retention. As a micro brewer, modern technology is costly to acquire, however, we do not hesitate to consult the Air Products team to advise us on improving our beer quality by altering our gas usage and composition. We consider Air Products to be a part of our brewing team”.
According to Chief Beer Officer at Ubuntu Kraal Brewery, Ndumiso Madlala, Air Products has been a part of their operations from the beginning when the brewery was being commissioned. On the role of Air Products in their operations, Madlala states: “It is important for us to ensure that our product is available to our customers at all times. With the assistance of Air Products, we can ensure that our beer is available to our Soweto Gold lovers through the focus on prompt delivery and efficient customer service”.
“As a chemical engineer and a beer lover myself, quality is of the essence, whether it be the clarity or taste of the beer. Through Air Products’ commitment to ensure a supply of product when we need it for our delicate brewing processes, we can pride ourselves in the quality and availability of our blends as the market demands, especially in the light of the fact that we also sell our beer at the brewery” says Eben Uys from Mad Giant.
According to the craft brew masters, craft beer is expected to take at least 10% total market share of South Africa by 2022.
Dlamini concludes: “We are fortunate to form part of the growth of the craft beer market. With the knowledge, skills and insight of brewers such as Kallmeyer, Madlala and Uys, the growth of craft beer is inevitable. There is no question – Air Products will be supplying the product needed by the brewers to continue to brew quality craft beer”.