by Greg Foss (Brewing Techniques)
Understanding the processes and chemicals involved in the all-important work of cleaning and sanitizing your brewery can help make your routine more efficient and effective.
In doing research for a new line of brewery cleaning chemicals my company was planning to carry, I was mystified by how different the products and processes were from those of my more familiar territory, home brewing. I read catalogs, articles, and product data sheets, but found most of the information too technical for the average brewer (professional and home brewer alike). I deepened my research.
I talked to a number of brewers and discovered that they all practiced their own individual rituals, often passed on to them by brewery policy or their brewing mentor. Everyone exhibited huge differences in beliefs and practices, and new ideas were often shunned as if a change might anger the gods. Thus I discovered a kind of personal voodoo of brewery cleaning and sanitization — like superstitious baseball players looking for the next home run, brewers often rely on reproducing exactly the same scenario that contributed to their last successful at-bat.
On the one hand, I understand the lack of interest in experimentation and exploration here. Cleaning the brewhouse is one of those things you just don’t want to mess around with; you want it to work, period. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The less time spent muddling around with chemicals, the more time you can spend doing what you like most — brewing quality beer. On the other hand, cleaning and sanitization is one of the most essential procedures in the brewhouse.
The lack of standard methods, however, makes it all the more difficult for brewers to progress in their understanding of the basic parameters of brewery cleaning. When I asked people why they did things a certain way, the answer was almost always, “Because that is how we do it.”
The whole experience of researching this topic became so interesting and fruitful that I decided to document it in the hope that someone else might gain an understanding of brewing chemicals and how they are used. Although I do not claim to be an expert, I trust fellow brewers will find the results of this research informative and useful. At minimum, this article just might help some brewers find a new and improved personal voodoo.
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