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More on the myth, or not, of handcrafted

Ashton Lewis, a sometimes book author and “wizard” for homebrewers, but more important brewmaster for Springfield Brewing Co. in Missouri, takes the notion that “manual brewing equipment produces beer with more ‘character’ than beer brewed using automation” to task this week.

His post, titled “Progress Is a Funny Thing”, concludes:

So the next time you take a brewery tour at some a brewery with awesome automation, like New Belgium, Boulevard, Sierra Nevada, Harpoon, New Glarus, etc, etc, don’t bag on this great modern technology. Rather look at all the details of brewing that are given more attention because the brewers are not busy raking out spent grains by hand or manually turning valves that, thanks to modern automation, are being controlled to do what the brewer has pre-determined should be done.

The topic of “hands on” always gives me reason to pause. It’s important to be skeptical about change. But what we should be focusing on is ingredients and process, not if a brewer manually opens a valve or uses a computer to control that valve.


6 Responses to More on the myth, or not, of handcrafted

  1. Tim November 3, 2009 at 6:19 pm #

    Have you seen the documentary “It Might Get Loud”? Jack White has a great line on this topic, even though the subject is different.

    “Technology might make your life easier, it can get you home sooner, but it won’t make you a more creative person.”

  2. Mike November 4, 2009 at 4:58 am #

    As a beer drinker, the issue is not the brewing (or brewer), but the beer.

  3. Ron Pattinson November 4, 2009 at 5:59 am #

    Some of the best beer I’ve had in Franconia was brewed on a space age computer-controlled brewery. A tiny one, admittedly, but achingly modern.

  4. Bobby Don Johnson November 4, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    Even the most automated brewing session had to have began on a simple pilot brewing system, similar to the ones homebrewers use (the lucky ones). This is where all the kinks were worked out of the ingredients and processes with countless batches. So, the fact that the beer is now made with full automation is neither here nor there. It all starts with the basics.

  5. Lew Bryson November 13, 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    Holy crap, doesn’t anyone argue with Stan anymore?

    It’s CRUCIAL that every single part of the brewing process be done by hand, especially the stirring of the hot wort — with your hands, please, wooden paddles are for sissies — and the cleaning with caustic (only pussies use rubber gloves). And unless your steam plant is heated with wood you cut yourself, I don’t want your shitty-assed so-called ‘beer.’ I can’t believe all of you knuckled under to automation: computers kill beer. That’s a fact, you can look it up in Wikipedia.

  6. Stan Hieronymus November 14, 2009 at 6:59 am #

    Gee, Lew. How did you get past security?

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