Food and Drink Inventions

Posted: 18 September 2012

Author: Stewart Tricker

The Royal Society has just published a top 20 list of food and drink inventions. This came from a project which listed 100 innovations that were then short listed and voted on by fellows of the society and experts in the food and drink industry. The judging criteria were accessibility, productivity, aesthetics and health. I was interested to see how many of these top twenty are relevant to the brewing industry.

No.1 Refrigeration: within breweries there are a number of times that refrigeration is used – cooling the wort before filling the fermenters, cooling at the end of fermentation prior to maturation, cooling before filtration. Outside the brewery there is also the vital stage of cooling your cans and bottles of lager in the fridge before you enjoy them
No.2 Pasteurisation / Sterilisation: most canned, bottled or kegged beers are pasteurised to increase their shelf live
No.3 Canning: many beers are available in can (as well as in bottle)
No.4 The Oven: not one for us really
No.5 Irrigation: many crops are irrigated including many hop gardens and fields of barley
No.6 Threshing Machine / Combine Harvester: since we order around 8000 tonnes of malted barley a year a combine harvester is a must for getting the barley off the fields
No.7 Baking: this is vital for our daily bread but less so in the world of brewing
No.8 Selective Breeding: you may think that there is no connection but the selection of the best growing barleys or the most productive hops is by a selective breeding programme - something that has gone on for many generations
No.9 Grinding / Milling: malted barley has to be milled before it can be mashed so that the starch is accessible to be converted into brewing sugars, mill it too fine and you end up with flour that blocks everything up, mill it too coarse and the sugars are left when the grains go to animal feed
No.10 The Plough: to quote a well known hymn “we plough the fields and scatter the good seeds on the land” – our good seed are the barley that is planted in either the winter or the spring
No.11 Fermentation: the heart of the brewing process, this is  where we combine the wort (sugar solution) from the brew house with the brewers yeasts under controlled conditions to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide as well as many of the flavours and aromas
No.12 The Fishing Net: no
No.13 Crop Rotation: this allows the nutrients to be restored to the land – vital for good crops of barley
No's 14, 15 and 16, the knife, pot and eating utensils are less related to brewing
No.17 The Cork: although more associated with wine many fine beers have had cork closures
No.18 The Barrel: not only the traditional container for beer but also the most common unit of measure in the brewing industry – one British brewer’s barrel being 36 gallons
No.19 The Microwave: vital for heating the brewer’s supper on a long brewing day
No.20 Frying: how a brewer’s breakfast should be prepared!

So from the list you can clearly see that of the top 20 food and drink inventions 11 are directly related to the overall brewing process (from field to glass) whilst a further 3 have a slightly more tentative link – makes you think doesn’t it !!!

Stewart Tricker - Senior Brewer