As I am one of the very few Irish adults who do not own any kind of motorised vehicle, and Irish public transport being what it is, I spend quite a bit of my time walking. My mp3 player is something of a life line for me, taking the monotony out of the journey as I plod though the same rainy Dublin streets day after day to get to/from work, shops, pubs, etc. As I am always looking for a way to extend my obsession with beer and brewing into new areas of my life, brewcasting might as well be tailor made for me.
“But what is brewcasting?” I hear you cry. Well, brewcasting is quite simply podcasting about brewing. Little downloadable radio programmes that you can put on your mp3 player so you can listen to other beer geeks talk about beer and brewing techniques while you walk down O’Connell Street.
As anyone who has read any of my articles, or posts in the forum will know, I am a pretty obsessive amateur brewer. And, like most amateur brewers, I harbour the dream of going professional and brewing for a living.
Now, I have no formal training in brewing and have learned everything I know about the subject from books, the internet and trial and error. I would like to think that, at this stage, I have a fair bit of brewing know-how, but how much this applies to the world of commercial craft brewing, I have no way of knowing.
From their website: http://www.brewlab.co.uk
“What is Brewlab?
We are a recognised centre for brewing studies and microbiological services, based at the University of Sunderland in the North East of England, and have been trading since 1986.
We teach various brewing courses such as Start Up Brewing and British Brewing Technology and also provide specialist training in taste evaluation, microbiology and small scale bottling.
Our analyses services assist brewers with quality control, Tax & Excise compliance, and yeast storage and culturing. The due diligence service helps breweries to maintain quality and to comply with industry codes of practice.”
Having been brewing basic kits for a while I had been thinking it was time to move on to dry malt extract. So when Séan kindly offered a dry malt extract kit it seemed like as good a time as ever to start, with a California Common Beer.
Compared to most kits we are used to here it provides incredibly in-depth instructions and lots of useful tips for the less experienced brewer (the last kit I did said something along the lines of: open tin, pour contents into bucket, add boiling water and 1kg sugar, leave for a week, bottle then drink). Obviously with a kit there is less control over the overall outcome but this one was definitely a great way of learning more and making the step from the basic kits to using DME in a gentle manner.
At this moment, world leaders are meeting in Glasgow at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). Which brought me to thinking about what the Irish beer consumer could do about the crisis facing our species. By the way, our planet does not need to be saved – just our existence on it as it changes. It is easy to take the view “let them sort it out” and continue with our daily lives. This would be a mistake for two reasons; first, they are mostly politicians subject to lobbying by big players (fossil fuel industry, mining, agriculture, and fishing interests) so could you trust them? Second, it’s an easy way out to hope that “they” can sort out a complex issue and absolve us of any action.
What can the Brewers do?
The Brewers of Europe have signed up to a new EU-wide pledge to support the shift towards sustainable food systems. Individual mega brewers like Carlsberg have gone further and pledged to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by next year and to achieve zero emissions by 2030. What can Irish brewers do? By its nature, brewing often involves the importation of ingredients from across the world in the form of speciality malts and hop varieties not grown locally (or indeed on the continent of Europe). It’s hard to see how this can change, and who would wish to stifle innovation? But they can start by reducing the amount of water they use in the brewing process. They can look at being more efficient with energy. Then try to use sustainable packaging, labelling and transport options. But that is for them, not the consumer.
What can the Consumers do?
The first thing is the most obvious – drink locally produced beers. Support your local brewery! Reducing the distance from producer to consumer is a clear way of reducing the carbon footprint of a product.
Does this mean that you should avoid imported beers? I will leave that one up to you!
John Stephens, 1st November 2021