Beer Fact Friday: Packaging
Well folks, we’ve made it. The final step of the brewing process. For the past couple months, we’ve been using Beer Fact Friday to go over every step of the brewing process. Those steps: Milling, Mashing, Lautering, Boiling, Whirlpooling, Cooling, Fermentation, Filtration, and Carbonation. (Go back through ‘em; there’s some good info in there!) In some breweries, once the beer is carbonated, the tank it’s waiting inside is hooked up to taps, and the party begins. But to get anywhere outside the brewery, the beer needs to be packaged—and that means kegs, bottles, and cans.
Kegs are large cylinders, usually made of stainless steel, that are used for transporting large volumes of beer. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the most common of which is known as a “half-barrel” and holds 15.5 gallons of liquid. Smaller keg types can also be found at bars across the country. Bottles and cans are the packages of choice for single servings of beer, and also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from about 12 ounces to around 25 ounces.
In the U.S., most of the beer that’s packaged in bottles and cans is pasteurized. The pasteurization process is much simpler than it sounds—it simply involves increasing the temperature of the beer to around 140 degrees and holding it there for a few minutes to kill any live yeast or bacteria still remaining in the liquid. This can be done before the beer is packaged through use of a heat plate exchanger (check back a few Fridays for an overview of that device), or it can be carried out after the beer is placed inside bottles and cans. Regardless of whether the beer’s going into kegs, bottles, or cans, great pains are taken throughout the packaging process to limit the amount of oxygen that sneaks into the package. That’s because exposure to oxygen, over time, causes changes in a beer’s flavor that can be pretty unpleasant. By limiting oxygen uptake, brewers can extend the shelf life of their beers, ensuring the bottles and cans you bring home—or the pints you enjoy at the bar—taste exactly as they should.
Thanks for coming along the Brewing Process ride with us, folks. It’s back to our regularly scheduled—but still super-interesting!—programming next Friday.
Beer Fact Friday is our weekly exploration of the topics that make beer the world’s most interesting beverage. Check back here next week—or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter—for more fascinating beer trivia.