Saturday, March 29, 2014

Industrial Revolution and Pasteur (1780 - 1860)

The Industrial Revolution provided the tools to make large batches of consistent beers for the first time in history. This is because the hydrometer, thermometer, and microscope were all invented during this period. Industrialization provided breweries with the infrastructure to brew, package, and distribute large quantities of beer.

The hydrometer is an instrument used to measure the density of a liquid, which describes the amount of sugar in solution. With the thermometer, the brewers were able to analyse for the first time how different processes affected sugar yield and fermentability. They discovered yield from the mash was greatest between 145degF and 160degF degrees and in lighter roasted malts. Additionally, they were able to measure that beer mashed at 160degF degrees will ferment less than one mashed at 140degF, leaving a sweeter and less alcoholic beer. 

The microscope allowed Louis Pasteur to discover yeast are responsible for turning the sugary wort into an inebriating beer. The first yeast strain to be isolated was saccromyces carlsbergensis, the lager yeast used by the Carlsberg brewery in Denmark. With the discovery of the microbial origins of fermentation, brewers developed sanitation methods to avoid unwanted infections. This allowed breweries to send their beers further distances.

Distribution became the focus after microbial control was established. In America, German immigrants raced to become the dominant brand in the nation. Even though bacteria was eliminated from packaged beer, spoilage would still occur due to chemical reactions. Cold temperatures reduced the reaction rate, which led Adolphus Bush to ship his beer in refrigerated rail-cars. After touring Europe, Bush modeled a pilsner after a local favorite in Budweis, Czech Republic. Budweiser would become the first national brand of beer by the end of the 19th century. 

The Industrial Revolution changed the brewing industry more than any previous time period; the only other comparable event being the present Craft-Beer Renaissance. Styles that were perfected for thousands of years are being eschewed for hop-bominations and chocolate peanut butter porters (I'm still waiting for a durian fruit beer). Several new styles, particularly the pumpkin ale, will likely survive the test of time. However the bulk will follow Pepsi Blue into obscurity. 

Reinheitsgebot (1487 - 1988)

That's right. Reinheitsgebot. Otherwise known as the "German Purity Law" In 1487, Albert IV, the Duke of Balvaria, introduced a law that limited the ingredients of beer to hops, water, and barley.  Twenty-eight years later, two neighboring dukes adopted the law in their areas and added a standardized price per liter.  The law was amended in the 18th century after Louis Pasteur discovered that yeast were responsible for the conversion of sugar in to alcohol. After standing for 501 years, the law was lifted in 1988.

The intend of the law was two fold. First, it standardized hops as the preserving agent in beer. Hops posses antibacterial properties that favor brewer's yeast (which is a fungus) over beer spoiling bacteria. At the time the Reinheitsgebot was enacted, brewers were using everything from psycho-active plants to soot from fires to preserve beer.

The second intent of the law was to reduce the demand for rye and wheat. By limiting the brewers to barley, the bakers were free to using rye and wheat in bread. The law, however, did not stop some royalty from drinking their hefeweizens. The Dukes of Wittelsbach gave one brewery the exclusive rights to make a wheat beer. A brewery would have to pay for the license to brew the beer, but were the exclusive provider of the style.

The beer industry today doesn't follow the Reinheitsgebot. The largest brands use corn and rice to provide fermentable sugars instead of barley, and the smallest brands are adding increasingly esoteric ingredients to stand out (I'm still waiting for a durian fruit beer). It has become more of a market gimmick, and tries to dupe the consumer into a perception of quality.