Brewers are being called on to rethink their attitudes to pasteurisation in the wake of recent product recalls.
The process of heating a liquid to destroy harmful microorganisms was first developed by microbiologist Louis Pasteur in the mid-1800s. Pasteurisation has been popularised by the dairy industry but is also common in beer, especially amongst larger breweries. At the crafty end, pasteurisation is often seen as the hallmark of its ‘industrial’ counterparts.
However, it’s something that brewers looking to expand their markets may need to consider, says Diarmaid O’Mordha, Quality and Sustainability Manager for Endeavour Drinks Group. He told Brews News that while pasteurisation in beer is not an imperative, it does mitigate the risk of spoilage organisms appearing in the beer.
“That’s not to say that every beer that’s unpasteurised has that issue because it doesn’t, you have that risk, you’ve got a higher level of risk.
“So, [pasteuristation] is a risk mitigation excercise.”
He said that while pasteurisation is not always necessary, brewers must look to other quality measures if they choose not to.
“There are other options to be considered, like how do you run your microprogram, how do you verify all the way through your process that your beers are in good knick.”
He said that to achieve overall beer quality, it comes down to a combination of make well, move well, store well and sell well.
“Obviously, if there was a major issue, particularly with the unpasteurised beers, we’d be seeing a lot more of these issues than we are at the moment.
“There is a good level of control generally but what pasteurisation does is when you lose that control for a split second, you’re covered.”
O’Mordha told Brews News that Endeavour Drinks Group currently exports Australian wine and spirits to China, Japan and to Europe, but said that the company won’t look at beer exports, at least not yet.
“Export beer for us would be quite a challenging thing.
“Things need to be done differently when you are exporting beer to other countries, particularly longer distances and travelling across the equator and really knowing what that customer at the end is experiencing.
“We’ve looked at it before but I think from a stability perspective and how it needs to be looked after – if you want the best quality product – from a prioritisation perspective it’s much easier to establish a supply chain in a new market with something like wine and spirits other than trying to step in with beer.”
Gage Roads Quality Assurance Manager Clare Clouting told Brews News that at the Western Australian brewery, all products are pasteurised to achieve best possible stability and consistency.
“Like many of our fellow large-scale craft breweries, particularly those that ship over large distances, we recognise that when pasteurisation is applied using best practice and is supported with solid hygiene practices and good oxygen control, it benefits the product and end consumer,” Clouting explained.
“It also gives us confidence knowing that we’re sending out products that are not infected and susceptible to secondary ferment.”
Clare is also Secretary for BIRA, a laboratory proficiency testing scheme led and created for the craft beer industry. The scheme is not for profit and designed to suit the requirements of smaller breweries, testing beer styles not usually included in the lager international proficiency testing schemes.
Outside of food safety, Clouting said that the control of microorganisms in the brewery is a very high priority.
“Micro testing can be very expensive so it’s important to use it correctly and strategically,” she said.
Clouting said that adenosine triphosphate (ATP) testing is an effective way to rapidly measure actively growing microorganisms.
“At Gage Roads, we use ATP swabbing to validate the cleaning of tanks and equipment prior to using them. This is really worthwhile versus micro testing because it’s immediate, as opposed to three to five days turn around – not to mention costly and frustrating to have a brew already in tank only to discover it’s infected.
“ATP testing is becoming more reliable and affordable these days which is great.”
The recent product recall by Melbourne’s Moon Dog has caused the brewery to reconsider pasteurisation.
Moon Dog Head Brewer Adam Brown told Brews News that his team does its utmost to ensure the quality of its products, but that warmer weather and higher storage temperatures created an issue for a batch. Safety concerns arose when bottle tops shot off and the risk of beers exploding increased.
In light of the recall, Brown told Brews News that pasteurisation is an avenue Moon Dog is exploring to ensure better consistency, especially with a view towards export.
Moon Dog’s recall notice follows a similar move by Brisbane’s Newstead Brewing Co in November last year. After fears of package refermentation, the brewery recalled its Johnno Apple Cider 375ml cans from national, independent and regional retail stores.
An error saw the wrong dose of Potassium Metabisulphite, a common yeast growth inhibitor, added to a batch, which meant that there was a risk of the brewing yeast fermenting remaining sugars.
In wake of the recall, Newstead advised that it would flash pasteurise all further batches of Johnno Apple Cider to ensure safety and stability.
Other breweries to revise their approach include Stone & Wood which, as recently as 2014, highlighted that it packaged its flagship brew “without filtering or pasteurising it so you can enjoy our beer in the same condition we do when we try it from the tank at the brewery”.
The brewery has since begun to “use low-level pasteurisation to ensure shelf stability”, citing ‘hop creep’ or enzymes derived from hops converting unfermentable sugars into fermentable sugars and causing re-fermentation in package.