Cleaning and sanitizing, it’s the brewer’s mantra. Professional brewers live and breath this every day, using logic, math, and calculations, to isolate and destroy any potential contamination in the brewhouse. Larger breweries can make these tasks infinitely more complex, and could lead to people standing in their tanks, chipping away at calcium deposits with a paint scraper. I’ve learned that an acid rinse can help with these problems, clearing away mineral deposits such as beer stone.
Some lager breweries actually use beneficial bacteria to acidify their mash, and lambic breweries in Belgium use wild yeast and bacteria to infuse a special character in their beer. Papa Louie’s, however, only uses good ol’ fashioned beer yeast. In order to consistently produce good beer, my cleaning and sanitation techniques must be immaculate.
For cleaning, PBW at 140 degrees F works great. With a simple plastic brush, I can clean nearly any mess. PBW is used for CIP (clean-in-place) applications in breweries, a safe alternative to caustic cleaner. After reading a few horror stories about caustic and a brewer pulling a hose out before thinking, I pictured myself as the likely culprit of 3rd degree burns and decided to go with PBW. Rinse water should be at the same temperature as the cleaner. Even after a long soak, it is possible to have soils that will not lift, necessitating much elbow grease.
There are two sanitizers I use, Starsan and Saniclean. Starsan leaves copious amounts of foam that oxidizes, making it useful for sanitizing anything with small nooks and crannies, hoses, and pre-fermentation wort. Due to the yeasts’ need of oxygen during the first stages of fermentation, this sanitizer works perfectly. Saniclean is used for all post-fermentation tasks, as it does not leave any residual oxygen that could stale the finished beer.As a homebrewer, I have wallowed in the valley of sour beer. In order to hike out of this figurative place, I have learned the obsessive cleaning techniques that will make the beer I want to drink.Getting back to work this evening, I passed by the horrible fire that engulfed one of our local restaurants on the Plaza. We are constantly reminded of our fragile place in this world, unrelentingly. Our prayers go out to everyone involved in this disaster.