Today in 1871, US Patent 114671 A was issued, an invention of Duby Green, for his “Improvement in the Manufacture of Yeast and in the Application of the Same in Mashing and Brewing.” There’s no Abstract, and in the description there’s never really any simple overview or summation of the invention, Green just dives right it to explaining his formula and how it works. I guess he figured the crazy long title was enough.
Today in 1962, US Patent 3033762 A was issued, an invention of Robert C. Gadsby, Schwaiger Joseph, and Frank H. Schwaiger, assigned to Anheuser-Busch, for their “Straining Tank.” There’s no Abstract, but in the description it’s stated that the “invention relates to an improved straining tank or grain extractor or lauter tub, and more particularly to an improvement in an existing kind of lauter tub presently in widespread use in the brewing industry to remove extract from brewers grains.” They later elaborate a bit more:
This invention relates to an improvement in existing lauter tubs having agitators therein which increases the efficiency or reduces the draw-o time to about two-thirds of the time previously required. This is important because the lautering step in the brewing process has in the past been one of the slowest and one of the bottlenecks in the production of beer. In other words, in the usual brewing operation today, the capacity of the step which uses lauter tubs or straining tanks largely determines the capacity of the brewery.
Today in 1894, US Patent 519513 A was issued, an invention of Harry Torchiani, for his “Apparatus For Racking Beer.” There’s no Abstract, but in the description it’s stated that the “invention relates to that class of. devices that are used in drawing or filling beer from casks into the barrels, half-barrels, kegs, etc.,” adding this. “The object of my invention is to provide an apparatus of this kind, which can readily be adjusted for barrels or kegs of different sizes, and which prevents the spurting of the beer from the apparatus or keg when the apparatus is withdrawn from the keg.”
Today in 1919, US Patent 1302549 A was issued, an invention of Herman Hausen, for his “Process For Brewing Beer.” There’s no Abstract, but as Prohibition began, the invention was specifically for non-alcoholic beer to satisfy demand for at least the taste of beer once the regular kind was outlawed. Here’s a fuller explanation.
My invention relates to the manufacture of non-alcoholic beer, of beer containing less than one-half of one percent of alcohol, and of temperance beer. In the processes heretofore employed for making such beverages, the de-alcoholizing occurs by distillation of the alcohol after the liquid vis fermented or the beer brewed. These old processes involve certain disadvantages which are obviated by my invention, which, generally speaking, consists in simultaneously boiling and fermenting the beer wort in a vacuum and within the range of beer fermentation temperatures at which the activity of the yeast is not destroyed to evaporate the alcohol and preserve live yeast in In the accompanying drawing I show more or less diagrammatically and mostly in sectional view all the apparatus required to carry out my new process.
Today in 1949, US Patent 2468840 A was issued, an invention of Robert C. Schock, for his “Heater For Wort Kettles.” There’s no Abstract, but in the description it states that the “invention relates to means and methods of heating wort prior to its use in the making of beer.” A little later on, they add that the “invention comprises a heating unit having varying heat units supplied to it for their exchange with a mass to be heated, and to keep said mass heated, such exchange taking place at relatively lower temperatures, then at relatively higher temperatures, and then again at lower temperatures, the latter if desired.”
Today in 1973, US Patent 3729321 A was issued, an invention of N.L. Vacano, assigned to Rainier Companies, for their “Preparation Of Beer.” There’s no Abstract, but the description summarizes it. “This invention relates to the production of beer. More particularly, this invention is concerned with improvements in the process of producing beer starting with the wort, fermenting the wort with yeast to form green beer, aging of the beer and the subsequent finishing operation, as Well as improved apparatus for producing beer.”
Today in 1987, US Patent 4659662 A was issued, an invention of Win-Pen Hsu, assigned to J. E. Siebel Sons’ Company, Inc., for his “Batch Fermentation Process.” Here’s the Abstract:
Ethanol and fermented beverages such as beer or wine are produced in a batch process by contacting a fermentable substrate with yeast cells encapsulated within a porous, semi-permeable material. Contacting is carrier out in a vessel containing the substrate and a semi-permeable retaining means submerged in the substrate. Encapsulated yeast cells are maintained below the retaining means and in contact with the substrate during fermentation while being freely movable in a portion of the substrate. The retaining means is permeable to the substrate and is substantially impermeable to the encapsulated yeast cells. Preferably, the matrix encapsulating the yeast cells is an alginate gel.
Today in 1926, US Patent 1581918 A was issued, an invention of William Hastings Campbell, for his “Production of Fermentable Worts.” There’s no Abstract, but the description states that “This invention relates to the production of fermentable worts, the production of industrial alcohol and the cultivation of yeast, and has for its object to provide improvements therein.” Here’s a bit more.
The invention consists broadly in the process of producing fermentable worts and the cultivation of yeast which comprises introducing the liquor component of the wort and the solid material from which the fermentable bodies are derived into apparatus in which a plurality of superimposed inclinable diaphragms are arranged, allowing the solid material to settle on the diaphragms, withdrawing the wort and discharging the solid material from the apparatus after a suitable washing operation to extract the soluble bodies mechanically held thereby.
Today in 1994, US Patent 5304384 A was issued, an invention of Cameron R. Murray and William J. Van der Meer, assigned to Labatt Brewing Company Limited, for their “Rapid Cooling.” Here’s the Abstract:
A process for preparing a fermented malt beverage wherein brewing materials are mashed with water and the resulting mash is heated and wort separated therefrom. The wort is boiled, cooled and fermented and the beer is subjected to a finishing stage, which includes aging, to produce the final beverage. The improvement comprises subjecting the beer to a cold stage comprising rapidly cooling the beer to a temperature of about its freezing point in such a manner that ice crystals are formed therein in only minimal amounts. The resulting cooled beer is then mixed for a short period of time with a beer slurry containing ice crystals, without any appreciable collateral increase in the amount of ice crystals in the resulting mixture. Finally, the so-treated beer is extracted from the mixture.
One of the highlights of this years Craft Brewers Conference in Portland was a potential innovation in brewing undertaken by Alan Sprints at Hair of the Dog Brewing. Alan posted a picture of his newest fermenter arriving to be displayed at the trade show, with Steve Rosenblatt from Sonoma Cast Stone, who manufactured the concrete fermenter.
I was immediately intrigued and finding it in the trade show was one of my first missions of CBC. It turns out it was made in Petaluma, which is just down the road from where I live. The company has been making concrete fermenters for the wine industry, but this is the first one they’ve made for a commercial brewer. They have a separate website for this part of their business, Concrete Beer Tanks.
Their brochure lists the benefits of a concrete fermenter:
- Concrete has natural temperature stability, and our tanks offer an optional, embedded glycol system for precise control.
- Concrete allows the design of organic shapes, promoting convectional fermentation flow with no corners for fluid to pocket or stagnate.
- The porosity of concrete allows for micro-oxygenation to aid in initiating the fermentation process.
Apparently the wine industry has been using these increasingly in recent years, but they have been used for centuries prior to the advent of stainless steel. Just a quick search reveals quite a few articles about their growing use in winemaking. For example, in Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wines and Vines, Seattle Magazine and the North Bay Business Journal. And there’s at least one other domestic manufacturer, Vino Vessel and a German company, Speidel, that makes a Gärei Fermentegg, or Fermentation Egg.
Here’s how Speidel describes their fermentation egg:
The organic fermentation in the egg-form is based on the golden ratio without corners and edges. Wine, beer and cider could move fluently during the fermentation and storage. This gentle process guarantees on keeping the completely development of the product. The idea of fermentation or aging in the egg is just to come back to the ancient methods but with the new materials. Already in the ancient times beer has been placed for resting into the egg-formed amphoraes. Recently there were several successful tests for storage wine in the egg-formed fermentation vessels made of concrete. Shortly after Speidel has developed the fermentation egg made of food-safe polyethylene.
The fermentation egg is appropriate for the fermentation of wine, beer and cider. Fans and devotees of the fermentation egg confirm that the fermentation process runs spontaneous, therefore wine and beer taste more filigree and complex. Check it out and convince yourselves! Our food-safe polyethylenes have high permeability of oxygen. This ensures the evenly influence of oxygen and perfect conditions for the fermentation and maturation. It is very easy to clean the egg because of its smooth surface inside.
Sonoma Cast Stone online has their reasons why brewers should consider concrete beer tanks:
Winemakers love concrete…
Winemakers all over the world are rediscovering the benefits of using concrete as a medium for fermentation, finding the virtues of both of oak and stainless steel with the drawbacks of neither. Now, most of the world’s highest-rated wines are made in concrete.
The craft beer industry is at least as creative and dynamic as the wine industry, and we at Sonoma Cast Stone are thrilled to offer you artisans of fermentation a new medium to create with. We predict a renaissance of innovation, producing an exciting, new generation of wild beers, sour beers, meads and porters.
Concrete is cool! No… really.
Concrete can take the heat, or the cold. It’s a natural insulator and will stabilize the temperature of whatever is inside of it. This stability makes for a smooth and gradual fermentation, because there are no temperature spikes to make the yeast become aggressive.
Sonoma Cast Stone also offers a unique temperature control system. Our system is hidden within the walls of the tank itself and does not make contact with that wine.
Concrete is porous, albeit on a microscopic scale, and that’s where it beats stainless steel. The environment in stainless steel is too perfect to be ideal for fermentation. A gradual introduction of micro-oxygenation, the wine remains flat. It cannot breathe and evolve.
Wine fermented in concrete has the round mouthfeel of wine fermented in oak, but it has much greater purity of fruit flavor, even a greater intensity of fruit color. For fermentation, storage or aging, concrete is simply phenomenal.
Even neutral oak is not neutral. All oak will give a bit of itself to your beer, whether you like it or not. Concrete makes for a truly neutral vessel, imparting only a slight and desirable minerality.
What this means for a beer maker is control. Control over what your beer tastes like, and with the optional, embedded glycol tubing system, you also have precise control over the temperature you maintain throughout fermentation.
Hair of the Dog Brewing had their new concrete tank delivered yesterday and it should be installed and ready to go shortly. Alan told me that Adam will be the first beer he makes in concrete. It will be interesting to see how the new Adam tastes, especially in comparison to the old version.