With worldwide revenue in the billions and roots that span millennia, today’s beer is an intriguing mix of passion, tradition, and innovation.
From charming microbreweries to sprawling industrial operations, the quest for brewing perfection has rapidly evolved this age-old craft into both an art form and a precise science.
While breweries from around the globe compete to create the ultimate ‘amber’, many are set to gather at the upcoming Brewers Congress in London.
With the prestigious event on the horizon, MacGregor Black sat down with industry expert Kieron Hall to delve into the ever-changing landscape of brewing, explore the latest cutting-edge techniques & technologies, and take a sneak peek at the brands that are set to cause a stir at this year’s Brewers Congress.
The Brewers Congress 2023
At its core, the Brewers Congress is a celebration of brewing excellence.
Hosted at the Business Design Centre in London, the event brings together some of the brightest minds in the industry, offering a unique platform for sharing knowledge, experiences, and innovations.
Brewers, both established and up-and-coming will unite under one roof to exchange ideas and push the boundaries of what’s possible in the world of beer. In its latest edition, the Congress will feature 30 guest speakers, 80 industry suppliers and over 300 breweries, bringing together not only some of the sharpest minds, but also the most tantalising flavours in the brewing world.
The climax of the Congress is undoubtedly the Brewer’s Choice Awards, which honours the finest accomplishments in brewing and recognises outstanding brewers, professionals, and innovations that have made a mark in the industry.
With such impressive past winners, it’s anyone’s guess who will take home the coveted titles this year!
Brewing Evolution – The Latest Techniques & Technologies
In an age where environmental concerns weigh increasingly on consumers’ minds, breweries worldwide are wholeheartedly embracing sustainability as a core principle. It’s not just a trendy buzzword anymore; it’s a vital commitment to environmental stewardship, resource efficiency, and ethical practices.
Sustainable brewing entails a multifaceted approach, focusing on key areas that make a real impact:
- Energy efficiency
- Water conservation
- Waste reduction
- Responsible sourcing
- Community engagement
When it comes to slashing energy consumption, breweries are turning to innovative solutions, such as investing in renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines. Simultaneously, many brands are also adopting energy-efficient equipment and practices, including optimising heating and cooling systems, implementing LED lighting, and recovering heat from the brewing process to preheat water.
“Take, for instance, Signature Brew,” Comments drinks specialist, Kieron Hall.
“They’re two-time winners of SIBA’s prestigious Brewery Of The Year Award and they’ve definitely made sustainability a cornerstone of their brewing philosophy,”
“Thanks to their state-of-the-art steam boiler that maximises heat energy, Signature Brew’s brewhouse efficiency is something to be proud of. They recycle heat energy from one batch to the next, so cooling one batch of beer provides the necessary heat for the next brew.”
Packaging also plays a pivotal role in Signature Brew’s sustainability journey, with the brand opting for cans over glass bottles.
Kieron goes on to explain the reasons behind their decision, stating that it “Comes down to a few different factors,”
“Cans are lighter, making them more eco-friendly during transport and they’re also easier to recycle. Their ‘stackability’ reduces storage space and energy use during transportation. Not to mention, cans chill faster, saving energy in the cooling process.”
Another concern amongst brewers is water usage. Water is a precious resource in brewing, and breweries in all corners of the world are making concerted efforts to reduce their water usage.
Adnams, a historic brewery hailing from Suffolk since its establishment in 1872, recently observed that their distillery produced a high temperature water waste stream, meaning a valuable resource was literally, going down the drain.
In response, a closed loop recovery system was developed to retain that resource. Now, the heat and water from Adnams’ beer and spirits production process is captured and reused, which has not only reduced water usage in their distillery but has also led to significant savings on their energy bills.
“Remarkably, Adnams now recovers over 90% of the steam generated during their brewing process and converts it back into heat for the next batch.” Adds, Kieron.
“Their forecasted water savings for this year alone is a whopping 2 million Litres. That’s a clear testament to the positive impact of sustainability-driven initiatives.”
Techniques such as closed-loop water systems are gaining popularity. Additionally, rainwater harvesting, and water-efficient equipment are also helping breweries minimise their water footprint.
Another aspect of sustainable brewing is crop cultivation.
Science and research have shown us that agriculture plays a significant role in climate issues, and breweries are now exploring regenerative farming techniques with the aim of reducing or eliminating the emissions associated with barley cultivation.
South-London based brewery; Gypsy Hill Brewery is claiming a world’s first with the release of their carbon negative beers, without the use of offsets. The brand’s new brews are based on two main technologies, regenerative barley, and recaptured hops. To achieve this impressive goal, Gypsy Hills has partnered exclusively with Wildfarmed, who work hand-in-hand with farmers to implement practices like intercropping, cover cropping, and reduced tillage.
Commenting on Gypsy Hill’s success, Kieron states, “Gypsy Hill’s practices have many far-reaching benefits.
“They enhance soil health, curbing erosion, and perhaps most significantly, sequestering carbon. In simpler terms, the process of farming this regenerative barley locks away more carbon in the soil than it releases into the atmosphere.”
Whilst brewing beer is steeped in tradition, there’s no denying that the industry has recognised the potential of technology to enhance the process and increase efficiency.
More and more breweries are adopting advanced brewing technologies, including automated brewing systems, data-driven analytics, and innovative packaging solutions.
When asked about automated brewing systems, industry expert Kieron comments that, “They control all aspects of the brewing process, from mashing to fermentation, right the way through to packaging. Basically, the more automated the brewing process, the lesser the chances of human errors and inconsistency, which in turn can save the brand money, time, and effort.”
American craft brewing company, Bell’s Brewery is another great example of a brand that has made significant advancements in the world of technological brewing, with their Comstock based facility adorning all the hallmarks of a modern industrial manufacturer. The facility boasts a centralised control room, automated systems, and advanced robotics. Including, automated filling stations and keg lifting and palletising robots.
Speaking to Automation Alley on the state-of-the-art facility, tour guide, Ray Bristol comments,
“We have the robot arms that replaced the human power of having to move kegs. All of the things our automated systems do to prevent the repetition and wear and tear on the human body,” Bristol said. One robot arm flips kegs to the upright state after they are filled. The other neatly stacks pallets of beer set for shipping out across the country,”
“Prior to this we were more limited in throughput because it required someone using human power to flip kegs. . .Obviously, this is really tough on the body, and nobody wanted to do this for a long period of time. So we didn’t run at the same rate we are able to run at today.” Bristol said.
Packaging is also an integral part of the brewing industry, serving multiple purposes such as, preserving the quality of the product, promoting brand awareness, and ensuring regulatory compliance.
“New packaging technologies are helping brewers all over the world preserve the quality and flavour of many much-loved beers,” States Kieron.
“Beavertown Brewery are a great example. They use cans with special linings that prevent oxygen from getting into the beer and contaminating its flavour.”
‘Brands to Watch’ at BC 2023
With 30 guest speakers, 80 industry suppliers and over 300 breweries attending the Brewers Congress this year, there’s bound to be many brands making a splash.
Industry expert Kieron Hall has listed the brands, alongside those mentioned throughout this article, that we should be watching out for at the brewers Congress 2023, and why.
Founded in 2018, SALT is a brewery that has successfully married traditional techniques with modern innovations, crossing styles, exploring new ingredients, and producing many award-winning craft beers along the way.
The Yorkshire based beer’s branding draws inspiration from Sir Titus Salt, a pioneering industrialist who is best known for launching Salt’s textile mill and building the village of Saltaire in West Yorkshire, the brand’s homeland. With the aim of adding to the rich history and legacy that surrounds them, the SALT beer factory is proudly nestled within a Unesco World Heritage site, housed in a Grade 2 listed building that was previously used as a tram shed in 1904.
In 2022, the brand debuted their Double IPA, brewed with a ground breaking new form of hop from Yakima Chief Hops. Considered a much more reliable product than standard whole leaf hops, Yakima Chief Hops combines the concept of fresh frozen hops and the innovative technology of Cryo Hops®, which are pellets packed full of resins and aromas.
Late year, SALT also took steps towards brewing a brighter future, having teamed up with the world’s first plastic-offsetting service and ocean clean-up organisation – Seven Clean Seas to launch the hazy craft pale ale.
SALT’s Head Brewer, Colin Stronge, winner of the Brewer of the Year award at the 2022 Brewers Choice Awards, will be speaking at the Brewers Congress this year, dishing out advice, support, and encouragement to new and existing brewers. With an impressive career in brewing spanning over two decades, and five exciting years dedicated to SALT, Colin’s extensive industry experience ensures his speech at the Brewers Congress will undoubtedly, one to watch.
Mash Gang, a name that’s been making waves among beer aficionados, is known for its innovative approach to brewing. Founded on the principles of quality, creativity, and sustainability, this brewery has steadily carved out a niche for itself in the competitive market, now and low craft beers.
Stemming from a dedication to inclusivity and a commitment to sustainable brewing practices, one of Mash Gang’s defining moments arrived with the introduction of their vegan beer. Mash Gang’s vegan beer is crafted without the use of any animal-based additives. This means no honey, no lactose, and no gelatine in the brewing process, right down to the glue used on their labels. Instead, they rely on innovative techniques and plant-based ingredients to achieve the same depth of flavour and quality that beer enthusiasts have come to expect from the brand.
Mash Gang’s commitment to vegan beer is not an isolated endeavour. It aligns with their broader commitment to sustainability. The brewery has implemented a range of eco-conscious practices, from energy-efficient brewing equipment to waste reduction initiatives, ensuring that their commitment to ethical brewing extends beyond just ingredients.
Mash Gang will be exhibiting their range of exciting craft beers at the Brewers Congress this year, with their very own Founder & Chief Product Officer, Jordan Childs has been shortlisted for the 2023 Brewer of the Year Award.
BigDrop Brewing Co
Non-alcoholic beer, once a marginalised category, is now taking centre stage, and Big Drop Brewing Co has solidified itself as a name worth knowing in the industry.
Their range of non-alcoholic beers includes a stunning array of styles, from stouts and IPAs to pale ales and lagers. These aren’t mere imitations; they’re fully realized, delicious brews that deliver a world of taste without the alcohol. Not to mention, they brew all their beers with carefully selected brewing partners, so their beer comes without the nasty taste of an unnecessary carbon footprint.
The process of creating Big Drop’s non-alcoholic beer is unique in that it starts as regular beer. After brewing, the alcohol is gently removed, allowing the flavours to remain intact. This is in contrast to many non-alcoholic beers that are essentially diluted versions of their alcoholic counterparts.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Big Drop Brewing Co’s commitment to quality has been recognised with numerous awards and accolades, including World Beer Awards and the International Beer Challenge.
Most recently, in May of this year, Big Drop Brewing Co initiated a licensing agreement with In Good Company, the proprietor of Fourpure Brewing and Magic Rock Brewing. This strategic move is a pivotal part of Big Drop’s overarching strategy to significantly expand its operations and support its global growth aspirations.
The core idea behind this move is to create seamless collaboration with brewing partners in three pivotal markets: the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.
Building on their already successful history of contract brewing at Fourpure in Bermondsey, Big Drop views this new partnership as a natural progression of its decentralized business model. This model enables them to produce fresh 0.5% ABV beer locally and ethically, all while keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum.
This collaboration also benefits In Good Company by diversifying its portfolio to meet the evolving preferences of craft beer enthusiasts. According to the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, the compound annual growth rate for the alcohol-free beer market in the UK is projected to reach an impressive +12% until 2026.
Amongst SALT, Mash Gang and Big Drop Brewing Co, industry specialist Kieron Hall recommends checking out Northern Monk, who’s very own Quality Control Manager, Tanya Kondratyuk will be speaking at the Brewers Congress.
Over the past two years at Monk, Tanya has displayed her remarkable prowess by spearheading the design and supervision of the brand-new Quality Control (QC) laboratory. In addition, she masterminded the launch of Monk’s current analytical and microbiological sampling programs, established a comprehensive yeast propagation plan, organised sensory panels, and diligently managed the barrel aging program.
Her contributions extend beyond the laboratory, as she also played an integral role in production planning and the development of new and exciting recipes.
Northern Monk has the potential to collect multiple accolades at the Brewers Congress this year, with the brand being shortlist for the Brewery of the Year Award, their Faith beer making the shortlist for the 2023 Beer of the Year Award, and their Brewery Manager, Pietro Maltini, who has been shortlisted for the 2023 Young Brewer of the Year Award.
In an industry where every drop of creativity matters, the Brewers Congress 2023 is gearing up to be a grand celebration of diversity, sustainability, and innovation – the driving forces shaping the world of brewing.
With trailblazing brands like SALT, Northern Monk, Big Drop Brewing Co, Mash Gang, and Signature Brew leading the way, we’re on the path to a future that’s not only more sustainable but also more inclusive and technologically advanced.
Here’s to raising a toast to that exciting journey! Cheers!