How Technology Is Changing The Beer Industry

Posted: Aug 14 2017, 4:37pm CDT | by , in News | Technology News

 
How Technology Is Changing the Beer Industry
image: wired

Beer” and “technology” aren’t two words you’d often pair together, but every industry can be improved — and technology will help to do so.

Technology has permeated our daily lives and has changed what we do and how we do it. For the most part, this has been a positive development. In other ways, it has forced us to change or reexamine our societal norms. Get-togethers and kids’ sleepovers can be planned without ever actually speaking to another person. You can still ask people questions, but you might get better answers by looking them up online.

Technology has even crept into the brewing industry. “Beer” and “technology” aren’t two words you’d often pair together, but every industry can be improved — and technology will help to do so. Most beer drinkers like their beer the way it is. Don’t be alarmed! Technology won’t take away your favorite beer. It will only be used to make more of it, make it more efficiently and maybe make it better.

History of Beer in America

No one knows how long beer has been in America, but we can assume it came over with the immigrants. The first commercial brewery got its license in Boston in 1634. Robert Sedgwick set up his brewery on Boston Harbor and sold beer to sailors and merchants. At that time it was common for people to drink beer while they worked.

Harvard University had its own brewery and served beer to students in the main hall. It wasn’t until the Blue Laws started going into effect that any restrictions were put on the consumption of beer and other alcohol.

England placed heavy taxes on the grains used to make beer, so there was a shortage for a while. Americans used their excess apples to make cider and sugar to make molasses and with that, rum.

Beer and beer taverns played a big role in the American Revolution. Beer was part of the daily food and supply rations given to soldiers fighting for independence. In addition to bread, beans, meat and milk, soldiers were allotted one quart of “good spruce or malt beer.”

After the war, beer production rose — particularly in the Boston area. Beer brewers were not taxed, in the hopes that it would encourage more beer production and steer people away from consuming liquor, which was thought to cause more problems. The Boston Beer Company (not affiliated with today’s company bearing that name) began sending its beer as far away as New Orleans. Beer production boomed in Boston even further, particularly after the arrival of German immigrants.

Boston was the original unofficial beer-making capital of the U.S. and has continued by serving as home to many of the craft beer brands popping up all over the country. Making beer is an old art, but technology has given us new ways to produce this old world beverage.

Cavitation

Cavitation is the forced formation of tiny bubbles of vapor inside of a liquid. It’s a scientific way to streamline the beer-making process. Scientists have used technology to change the way beer is fermented in order to produce this unique character and taste of the beer.

Cavitation pulps the malted barley, which makes it unnecessary to mill it in advance. This saves on production costs. The spent malt — a waste product in beer making — is more biodegradable and better for the environment.

Cavitation also reduces the amount of starch left in the malt at the end of production. This means that ”sparging” — the rinsing of the malt to remove starch and sugar — becomes unnecessary. All of this means significant energy savings somewhere in the 30% range. Cavitation may be the biggest change in brewing technology in over a hundred years or more. Whether it tastes as good or better is up to the individual drinker.

Better Cans

The craft beer industry seems to prefer cans to bottles, since cans don't break, they're lighter and they're more portable. They get cold faster and stay colder longer. Aluminum cans are cheaper to make than bottles and they recycle well.

Cans have been around since the 1930s. The technology didn’t change much until the 1980s, when more efficient opening mechanisms were added. The pull tab was replaced with the pop top. The weight of the can has been reduced 30% since then, which saves on production costs.

There are also dual-opening systems which poke holes at either end of the can. This results in a smoother flow of the beverage while drinking or pouring. Better airflow means less foam.

Companies are also working on resealable cans. You may have noticed aluminum bottles with resealable twist-off tops. They want to make them attractive so people won’t mind drinking right out of the can. Supposedly, this also discourages people from throwing containers in the trash instead of recycling them.

Keg Supply Measurement

This has nothing to do with making beer, but is a practical invention for those who serve it. Since kegs were made, we’ve had to shake them and guess how much beer was left. Some people are really good at this, but it’s hard to be exact. Now there’s a device called an iKeg system, which can tell bartenders or a party host just how much beer is left so they can know when to change or buy a new keg.

Technology is going to change the way we do everything. It’s inevitable. Technology can give us ways to do things quicker and more efficiently. Whether it will make your beer taste better remains to be seen and is up to the consumer. But technology certainly provides more options and more convenience in our consumption of whatever beer we call our favorite.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/56" rel="author">Scott Huntington</a>
Scott Huntington is a writer and journalist from Harrisburg PA who covered movies, tech, cars, and more. Check out his blog Off The Throttle or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.

 

 

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