On 26-27 September, the 5th Annual SEA Brew Conference was held in Bangkok, Thailand. Oddly enough, in a country where craft brewing is still illegal over 500 attendees joined the South East Asian Brewing Conference to network, meet with vendors, and to seek inspiration from a variety of sessions from both a technical and a managerial perspective. For me, it’s been a few years since I last attended the conference (Singapore 2016), and I was very impressed to see how much the event has grown in popularity which is an encouraging indicator of the state of the industry in the region. In this post I will be sharing a brief recap of five takeaways that I gleaned during the sessions.
Dick Cantwell - Magnolia Brewing Co.
The Brewers Association Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery: The Lost Two Chapters
It’s very important to establish and revisit your company’s Mission/Vision Statement in order to address problems as they come up. It’s equally important to consider your Exit Strategy sooner than later. All of this was based on his experience in starting, and subsequently selling to AB Inbev, Elysian Brewing Co.
Stu McKinlay - Yeastie Boys
Export is Dead
Stu shared the strategy that Yeastie Boys applied in basically contract brewing while building their brand. Initially they brewed in fewer locations and exported to other markets, but more recently they decided to reduce their exports to less than 10%, while establishing new partnerships to supply domestic markets in the U.K., Australia/New Zealand, and Asia. He suggests the same strategy to others who want to avoid the challenges of export, citing anecdotal evidence that many of their customers are shifting to more locally-sourced vendors for craft beer.
Tom Lowe - Fourpure Brewing Co.
Tom shared the story of Fourpure with a focus on a few details of lessons-learned. For me I appreciated the candidness in outlining the difficulties in establishing a sensory panel in the brewery (as well as the importance). He also mentioned some of the efforts made in company culture in the context of hired staff and how they treat them as a vital resource.
Olivier Caille - Fermentis
Yeast Protein Extract & Haze Stability
This one was definitely on the technical side of things, but this yeast derivatives scientist was able to simply explain the different categories of yeast derivatives (fractions of yeast cells), how they are isolated, and the role of yeast protein in stabilizing haze in white beers. They highlighted their product, “Spring Blanche”, as a way to consistently maintain haze in any products that you want to be cloudy - from Witbier to New England IPA.
Konstantin Ziller - Ziemann-Holvrieka
Get Rid of the Bottleneck in Your Brewhouse
These guys manufacture brewing equipment, so essentially the talk was designed to introduce some of their innovative products - specifically lauter tuns. Konstantin shared a few parameters that are helpful to keep track of in terms of lautering, such as the collapsed grain bed depth as well as the density of the remaining wort in the spent grains after run-off is completed. He then shared the concept of this non-traditional, continuous lautering vessel called “Nessie”. It consists of a series of four vertically-cascading disc-shaped vessels in which your mash is continuously pumped and sparged/strained into different strength wort. It’s supposedly very efficient since you have the option of sparging with weak wort that is collected and recirculated. It’s a weird-looking thing and I have my doubts that it’s “easy to clean”, but I just love the idea of rethinking the basic brewing equipment that has been in use for centuries.
Chris White - White Labs
High Temperature Fermentation
Chris basically used this opportunity to talk about the benefits of Norwegian Kveik yeast. While he doesn’t seem as keen on the resulting beers produced using the strain, it is certainly the hot topic and has been intriguing brewers since it is able to produce fairly clean beers while fermenting at 30-40 C. The higher temperatures greatly favors cell reproduction, which means the yeast attenuates very quickly (i.e. 2-3 days), doesn’t require as large of a pitch rate, and doesn’t leave you with typical nasty flavors from high temperature fermentation.
Steven Allsopp - Galmegi Brewing Co. (Korea)
All About Brut
Steven shared his experience in developing a recipe for Brut IPA. While I’ve never tried making one myself, it involves using an enzyme called amyloglucosidase in either the mash or the fermentor in order to make your wort very fermentable. Final gravities are typically less than 1 degree Plato, which actually make it a challenge to keep your beer balanced - not overly dry or bitter. He shared a few iterations of recipes as he tweaked it to find something palatable. It seems that you’d need to carry out your own trial and error, but his best result came from a smaller addition of the enzyme late in the mash (only 10 minutes or so) and a large reduction in bittering additions and even the dry hop bill. While I’m not so sure that I’m into the Brut IPA style, I think the enzyme could be beneficial for other brews that have difficulty attenuating fully.
Patrick Jensen - Yakima Chief Hopunion
This is a phenomenon that I’ve witnessed first-hand and Patrick was able to share some studies highlighting the documented history of the further attenuation of beer, post dry-hopping. Just when you think the yeast is finished, the gravity can drop another Plato or more after dry hop additions. The reason is simply due to the fact that hops have several enzymes on them that are able to break down unfermentable dextrins in the beer so that active yeast will continue metabolizing sugars, which can result in over-attenuated beer. This is a problem for ABV and the stability of the beer in the package. Short term solutions include pasteurizing the beer, dry hopping at a cold temperature, or using a product that has less vegetable mass (i.e. cryo hops or extracts).
Steve Anderson - Barossa Valley Brewing (Aus.)
Steve shared his experience in working with Ballast Point after their buyout by Constellation Brands which resulted in massive growth in a very short period. I appreciated this more candid, philosophical talk which highlighted the importance of getting the right team together and keeping them engaged by providing opportunities to learn and grow. He also emphasized the need for thorough record-keeping and preventative maintenance in order to keep things organized and running as much as possible to meet increasing demand. If you aren’t collecting data then you might miss something trending in your brewery. Likewise, even if you have data, if you choose to ignore it then it can lead to bigger problems down the road - as was his experience in overestimating the growth of the barrel-aging program, despite sales data that indicated an opposite trend.
All in all SEA Brew was a wonderful conference and definitely worth taking a few days for the trip out to Bangkok. I’m looking forward to next year’s conference which will be hosted in Taipei, Taiwan! See you then.