By Christopher E. White
The end of the 1900s, a time of great advances in beer making, leaves
me with mixed feelings. Craft brewing is more competitive, the number of homebrewers is
declining, and many homebrew shops are shutting down. But when homebrew shops close, we
are usually not surprised.
The good stores are not closing. Why? Because homebrewers want to make
good beer. They will return to a store that gives them quality ingredients and advice. The
same goes for beer drinkers; they want to drink good beer.
The breweries that are providing quality beer are for the most part
surviving. This has resulted in an increase in quality beer from both homebrewers and
craft brewers. I have seen this all over the U.S.
At homebrew competitions, the beer has steadily improved. The good
shops are providing quality ingredients and advice to homebrewers. The homebrewers, in
turn, are learning to make better beer. And when I mean better homebrew, I mean craft-brew
Another reason U.S. homebrewers make craft-brew quality beer is the
fact that there are suppliers providing professional, quality ingredients. The malt, hops,
and yeast that homebrewers can get in this country are of the same quality and freshness
that are sold to professional breweries.
At White Labs, we treat the yeast destined for homebrewers with the
same process and attention to detail that we treat yeast destined for professional
breweries. It is produced fresh weekly and tested for performance and purity.
Actually, I started in this business because I am a homebrewer, and I
wanted better yeast. When the homebrew revolution began in the early 1980s, some companies
that produced bakers yeast packaged what they called "brewers yeast." What they
didnt realize is just how important yeast is to beer flavor.
Yeast produce over 500 flavor and aroma compounds in beer. This is not
so in other yeast products like bread and wine. It takes care, attenuation and scientific
expertise to propagate yeast and keep it in that condition.
Beer produced by craft breweries has also improved. The industry is not
growing at the same rate now as five years ago. The public is more educated about craft
beer. In order to survive and prosper, microbreweries and brewpubs need to produce quality
beer. Craft brewers tend to thumb their nose at large breweries, considering their
While it is true that beer from large breweries has fewer flavor
profiles, they understand the importance of quality and what it means to consumers. It is
essential for survival. Craft brewers spend a lot of money and energy to produce
distinctive beer. They also need to incorporate some of the quality control measures used
by large breweries, especially when packaging and shipping beer. If your brewery does not
focus on quality control and have active measures to monitor it, plan to incorporate that
into your growth in the 21st century.
We at White Labs will help to ensure that beer is produced of the
highest quality, and we will work with you going into the millennium.
White is president of White Labs Inc. He holds a Ph.D
in biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego.