Beer Brewing Equipment


The Lengthy Evolution of Beer and Brewing Equipment

Man’s earliest attempts to create alcoholic beverages from cereal crops date back to prehistoric times and appear to have been initiated almost simultaneously in several regions of the world, the most notable being Egypt and Mesopotamia. It seems likely that it was the domestication of cereals that led to the widespread brewing of beer, with none of the sophisticated equipment required today, as well as enabling the mass availability of baked bread. Ironically, given the effects of drunkenness, it has been postulated that these two innovations were most instrumental in the subsequent development of the technological civilisation that would emerge many millennia later.

Today, perhaps as much as 7000 years since its invention, this iconic brew remains as popular as ever, although its appearance, its composition, and the methods used for its production have changed beyond recognition. From a porridge-like appearance, similar to the sorghum-based recipes still common in Africa today, to an array of first cloudy and later crystal-clear array of colours ranging from pale yellow, through various shades of brown, to almost black, this has been a remarkable evolution.

From the early days of individual preparation, to mass production by commercial breweries with a worldwide reach, the art of beer brewing has now gone full circle. Today, equipment designed for use in small-scale production is available to a growing number of microbreweries that now offer some unique and flavoursome products. In addition, there is a variety of kits for the DIY enthusiast. In fact, some of the finest craft beers in the world are being produced locally by the more than 200 microbreweries now operating in South Africa, of which almost half are located in the Western Cape. Their popularity leaves little doubt that these products are providing some worthy competition for the nation’s giant international brewer – SABMiller.

From those humble beginnings when stone basins and pottery jars were the vessels used both for its preparation and for its consumption, the simple art of fermenting cereal grains to create this alcoholic beverage has developed steadily. Over the centuries, it has reached a point where it has now become a complex and exact science. Today, it is stainless steel, and not stone and porcelain, from which fermentation vats and other items of beer brewing equipment are manufactured. In addition, the modern process is closely regulated and must be carried out under the strictest hygienic conditions, and on completion, the final product must be subjected to a battery of stringent quality control tests before it may be released for sale.

The qualities tested include colour, degree of bitterness, pH and alcohol content, each of which may vary according to the type of products. As a result, different products, such as lager, Pilsner, pale ale, bitter and stout, will each be required to conform to a different set of standards. Such qualities would once have needed to be evaluated individually, and often the tests required were complex and time-consuming, creating lengthy delays before a product batch could be deemed suitable for release.

Given the vast increase in demand, quality-control testing has required streamlining. IEPSA now offers those engaged in beer brewing, an item of equipment called BeerLab. It is able to perform all common quality control tests rapidly and on multiple samples.

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