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The Challenges of Craft Brewing

Posted by Beer Cartel on 23rd May 2012

From our March Beer Club book:

Craft beer is a fantastic product – we love it and the industry. In Australia an organisation called Craft Beer Limited (CBL), which counts Matilda Bay, James Squire, Little Creatures and Stone and Wood amongst its members define a craft brewer as “A brewer producing less than 25 million litres of beer per annum.” At Beer Cartel we think there’s a little bit more to it than just this.

Our interpretation of true craft beer is one that is hand made with heart and flavour, amongst brewers that are often challenged by budget to meet their high exacting standards. We say handmade because the whole brewing process in comparison to the big brewers is hugely hands on. Craft brewers often lack the latest technology and really do earn their keep. You will see these guys in their brewery lugging around 50 kilogram bags of malt, hand placing bottles on their bottling line and hand packing every carton of beer.

Day in day out these brewers are challenged by making different styles of beer in small batches from around 200 – 2,500 litres, using the same brewing equipment for each batch. While CBL defines a craft brewer as producing less than 25 million litres of beer per annum, most craft brewers actually struggle to even get to 1 million litres. This compares to a single beer from one of the mainstream brewers of which 16 million+ litres will be produced!

With this understanding of small breweries it’s probably no surprise that on some very rare occasions something does go wrong with a brew – not quite enough carbonation, odd bottle not filled to capacity, beer not exact to taste etc. Last month we had a beer lined up to go in our club packs that we were pretty excited about. After working a full day putting together our hundreds of club packs we called it a day. Re-sampling the beers that evening we immediately knew something was amiss with one of the club beers. A few calls to the brewer and it was confirmed what we had suspected, something wasn’t quite right.

So four days prior to the packs going out we had to get on the blower and organise a replacement beer, print new booklets, remove the old beers, put the new one in and relabel the packs. While it was the first time we’ve had to do that in 30 months it meant the April packs were delayed - we hope you enjoyed them!