from the President:
A look back at the year 2006
By Chris White
At White Labs we thank you for an exciting 2006 and
we look forward to continued growth and improvement in the new year.
The last 12 months was a time of growth for us and
our customers. As I have explained in this space in the past, we
increased our expansion by 30 percent. We accomplished this by adding a
new clean room and installing German and Czech-made 40-barrel
fermentation tanks. These larger tanks with Frings aeration equipment
are especially helpful in fulfilling demand for our most popular yeast
strains, including WLP001 California Ale Yeast.
While many organizations have chronicled the positive
growth of craft beer in the United States over the past year, the year
2006 also saw significant growth in microbreweries and brewpubs outside
of the U.S. In some ways it mirrors the growth of craft beer in the U.S.
10 years ago.
Like what happened in the United States, other
countries are removing some of the legal impediments to small brewers.
In many cases they are turning to the United States for their
ingredients, thanks to the positive examples set by craft brewers here.
We are excited to be helping fulfill the demand for brewer’s yeast in
these countries, and we now ship yeast to well over 30 countries.
We will have a chance to see much of this growth
first-hand in the coming year and talk with some of the people who are
at the forefront of these world-wide movements. Our travel plans include
visits to Asia, Canada, Europe and South America in the coming year.
In the United States, meanwhile, it is safe to say
that those who thought the craft beer movement was dying were wrong.
Many in the past were ready to write off the business because of the
many closures. Like any business, however, there are ups and downs in
beer, and we are seeing a surge once again in the craft beer segment.
Brewers were simply too stubborn to give up. Their
dedication has helped bring better beer to people not just in the U.S.
but, as I explained above, to people around the world.
One reason some breweries grew slowly at the
beginning was because it takes time to change palates. If breweries can
stay open long enough they can change the tastes of their customers.
Once people get accustomed to fuller flavor beers, there is no turning
Many of these brewers are experimenting with various
yeast strains, and by using a variety of strains they are bringing a
greater range of flavors to their beers.
We will be traveling to festivals and beer gatherings
around the country in 2007. And I am sure we will meet many happy
brewers – and beer fans – along the way.
Over the course of the next year we also hope to help
breweries expand their quality control, or QC, programs. We hope that
all breweries, even the smallest ones, will institute regular QC
procedures. To this end we are introducing the first "Big QC Day" at
White Labs in February. We are inviting breweries to send in two samples
of beer and we will put these samples through a variety of tests. If
these were done on an individual basis, the cost could be near $500;
because we are doing all these tests at one time we can offer the
service for under $100. It is somewhat similar to what we do with yeast
cultures – by growing the strains for multiple clients at one time we
can sell the yeast at a lower cost to our customers. This is why growing
private strains costs more than our regular yeast offerings. For more on
the Big QC Day, read the story that begins on Page One.
We are very interested in finding out how the beers
test in a variety of categories. Often times when a brewer sends samples
to us, it because there is a problem with the beer. Hopefully a great
number of our clients will participate in the testing so we can get a
picture of craft beer in general.
Based on what we are seeing in the U.S. and the
world, I have a feeling that many beers will test very well.
Chris White is President of White Labs Inc. and is
a chemistry and biochemistry lecturer at the University of California,
San Diego. He has a Ph.D in biochemistry. Feel free to write
him about this column.