FB*Propak managing director Paul Baggio recently attended the German beverage production expo BrauBeviale. He shares some key insights from the show.
Germany has hosted BrauBeviale in Nuremburg since 1978, and I have been visiting for the last 20 years. In this time I’ve seen the scale of the exhibition increase exponentially in correlation with the growth of the craft beer industry.
BrauBeviale is now one of the world’s leading beer and non-alcoholic production expos, attended by more than 35,000 manufacturers and producers. It provides valuable insight into industry trends and technologies.
Where Brau was historically dominated by German or Eastern European suppliers, the latest expo in November saw a noticeable increase in representation from French and Italian stainless steel fabricators.
Known for their leadership and ingenuity in beverage (juice and wine) production manufacturing technologies, the French and Italians have invested their knowledge and skills in craft beer production, and were at Brau to showcase their innovative solutions to brewers.
With the rapid expansion of craft brewing, it’s not just the manufacturers that are crossing over from other industries to craft beer.
Brau also showed that European winemakers and juice producers are transitioning their artisanal skills and abilities. Again, the French and Italians, who are not known for beer, are applying their complementary skills to really experiment with craft beer flavours.
Technology has enabled alternative beverage producers and winemakers in Europe to transition into craft beer. From fermentation to bottle, the quality of welding and craftsmanship of Italian and French stainless steel fabricators allows for ready-made solutions to suit the production of different beverages.
Fine-tuning the flavour profile
France and Italy, along with other European countries, have been producing beverages for centuries where flavour has been driven by food. Only now are we seeing their influence transfer to craft beer.
In the south west of France, near Bordeaux and the Pyrenees, craft beers are being created to complement more pungent cheeses such as Roquefort and Bleu de Causses. In the south-east of France, where lighter cheeses such as Chambarand, Reblochon and St. Marcellin are made, local brewers are producing lighter beers to match.
Because of the rich heritage of food and beverage production in France and Italy, knowledge sharing is more fluid in the regions. Different food and beverage producers across all industries including juice, bread, wine, beer and cheese are sharing their successes and challenges. This leads to a more cohesive production process.
A new place for food trends
Australian brewers were initially chasing bold and different brew flavours as a standalone product rather than focusing on food.
Our local craft beer market tends to follow the UK and US craft beer industries. In the last 12 months, producers in the UK and US are looking beyond pale ale and creating other ales which are made specifically with food matching in mind.
Here in Australia, we’re now recognising that craft beers need to fit into a wider cuisine story.
In my view, beverage producers who are now turning to craft brewing have a competitive edge as they understand the importance of consistency and control, and have the skills required to produce a quality product.
Experienced beverage producers recognise that each time a consumer drinks their product they expect the same taste in every bottle. Packaging is instrumental in maintaining product consistency.
Consistency is crucial
With new craft brewers lacking in beverage production experience, it is not uncommon to open two different bottles of the same craft beer and find the taste is distinctly different. As craft brewers achieve brand recognition and market penetration, the challenge is to provide consistency to their creation for consumers.
The challenges and risks increase as the geographic location and scale of production increases. Investing in the right brewing technology, such as convection steam heating and well-designed lauter systems, is fundamental.
Overall, it seems, the Achilles’ Heel for craft brewers is packaging. In packaging their prized production, they are making shortcuts or limiting the overall delivery of their craft beer produce.
My number one tip to craft brewers is get the best advice. Explore a supplier that isn’t tied to any one particular brand of filler or can packaging plant. Get the broadest spectrum of advice and invest correctly the first time round. Shortcuts with your brewing investments such as the brewery and packaging, could destroy even the best product and business idea from the outset.
Paul Baggio is the managing director of FB*Propak, a company that provides tailored processing and packaging engineered solutions to the food and beverage industries. He has worked in the wine and beer industries for 20 years.