Many craft brew and large beer companies are transitioning to pasteurized beer, and for valid reasons. This article provides a general overview of the process and benefits of pasteurizing beer.
Why Pasteurize Beer
There are two primary reasons for pasteurizing beer for commercial sale:
1. Extend shelf life
2. Ensure taste and consistency
The main purpose of pasteurization is to eliminate or reduce microorganisms in the beer that could cause spoilage over time, thus extending the quality and shelf life of the beverage. A longer shelf life gives distributors and retailers confidence that the product won’t spoil while in transit or on store shelves.
Many breweries use pasteurization as a standardization step for their products. By neutralizing the yeast through pasteurization, breweries can consistently maintain the expected flavor profile desired by consumers.
When to Consider Pasteurizing Beer
If your beer experiences flavor variations from batch to batch, pasteurization is the primary method used to standardize the product and ensure consistency across your product line.
Has your business grown to the point where it follows a regional distribution model? Non-pasteurized products typically require refrigeration throughout storage and transport, whereas pasteurized products can be safely shipped without refrigeration. The choice between refrigerated and non-refrigerated distribution is a cost consideration when planning regional expansion.
Managing barrel-aged products or those containing back sweetening or wild ingredients can be challenging. Pasteurization serves as a standardization method to minimize product failures.
The Process of Pasteurization
“Flash” pasteurization, also known as “HTST” (High Temperature Short Time) pasteurization, is an energy-efficient method with minimal impact on flavor and color compared to other methods.
In this process, the beer is rapidly heated to a predetermined temperature, held for a short time, and then rapidly cooled before filling. This process achieves the required 5-Log reduction of microorganisms while preserving the flavor and color of the product. The time and temperature can be adjusted to meet specific needs.
A flash pasteurizer for beer typically utilizes a plate-style heat exchanger. Plate-style heat exchangers are suitable for products with minimal to no solids, such as beer, cider, and kombucha.
Pasteurization Temperatures and Product Hold Times
Pasteurization temperatures usually range from 162°F to 180°F, depending on the product and yeast involved. Hold times typically range from 15 to 20 seconds but can be as long as 60 seconds. If you are unsure about the appropriate temperatures and hold times for your beer, a food lab or food scientist can assist you in determining them. Since the process can be time-consuming, it is advisable to start promptly if you are considering transitioning to pasteurized beer.