The alcohol industry is one of the largest in the entire world.
With annual revenue that runs into billions of dollars, it is by far one of the most important industries in several economies.
And this is true for almost all kinds of alcohols, ranging from beer to whisky and everything in between.
When it comes to the preparation of beer, one of the many things that people notice is that much of the equipment happens to be made of stainless steel. It is very rare that the standard equipment used in breweries is made of anything else.
While many consider this to be a standard industry practice and move on, others tend to ask questions; questions such as,
“Why are most brewery equipment made of stainless steel?”
And indeed, this is an important question when it comes to the brewing industry. There are several reasons why stainless steel is used for the brewing process. The reasons are as given in the list below:
- It is part of the evolution of the industry
There was a time in the history of beer, when the drink used to be fermented in caskets made out of wood such as oak. In fact, most people still think that the beer they drink is produced in these barrels, when the reality is actually quite different. The fact is that almost no modern brewery produces alcoholic drinks in traditional wooden barrels; even if they do, it is largely done as a ‘tradition’ or ‘relic’, rather than standard industry practice.
The fact is that most modern breweries produce alcoholic drinks in stainless steel barrels or tanks, with some exceptions.
One of the most important reasons is simply because of the way the industry has evolved. The change of material happened to be a part of the larger industrial transformation.
- Stainless steel equipment is easier to maintain
This is by far one of the biggest advantages of using stainless steel equipment.
When compared to wood caskets, it is very easy to maintain steel equipment. From unwanted residues to waste products, it is possible to have all of them eliminated with ease in the case of stainless steel equipment.
The reason for this is simple. Stainless steel is tough and offers a fairly smooth and sleek surface, which allows for the use of everything from abrasive cleaning tools to harsh chemicals, which is simply not possible in the case of wood.
Wood, on the other hand, offers a fairly rough surface, which tends to chip, break and warp with the passage of time. All of this makes it very difficult to wash and maintain the equipment.
- Stainless steel equipment doesn’t leak
Another advantage of stainless steel equipment is that it is leak proof.
There is simply no chance of leakage, unless there is a hole of some sort. Given that the material is fairly tough, it is very difficult for any sort of leakage to emerge from stainless steel equipment.
This is however not the case when it comes to wood. Although wooden caskets and other such equipment are fairly tough and waterproof, they aren’t really one single unit, but rather made out of numerous individual units. In the long run, the spaces between these units or pieces can give way, allowing for leakage.
- Stainless steel doesn’t degrade
This is one of the biggest reasons why stainless steel has become popular.
One of the biggest problems that old breweries had was that the caskets, among other equipment, would fall apart with the passage of time. This was because most of them were designed from wood, which tends to decay with the passage of time. Whether from external factors like rot or insects like termite, the fact is that wood always degrades with the passage of time.
Stainless steel on the other hand is a very long-lasting and rigid material, and doesn’t have issues related to iron such as rust. With very few exceptions, there is no loss of structural strength or integrity in stainless steel. As a result of this, people using stainless steel in beer manufacturing found it to be a very effective and efficient material choice.
- The absorption of chemicals is not an issue in stainless steel
Another important point that is to be mentioned here is the ‘absorption’ issue.
Wood tends to contain a variety of materials, which may ‘leach’ into the beer. While some of it has been used to provide a ‘flavor’ to the beer, it may not always be the case in others. On the contrary, there is a possibility that anything harmful that might have existed in the wood might end up contaminating the beer.
Stainless steel on the other hand, is not something that ‘leaches’ any chemicals into the beer. On the contrary, it tends to maintain a steady flavor in the beer throughout the fermentation process as well as beyond.
- Stainless steel is considered eco friendly
The manufacture of traditional equipment usually involved the usage of wood like oak.
While plentiful before and in many cases even now, the fact is that it does require a great deal of timber to manufacture the equipment of any standard brewery.
This has considerable environmental impact when applied on a large scale, often leading to the loss of great many trees. In addition to this, not all trees can be used for the manufacture of beer equipment, since they need to be of a certain thickness before they are ready for harvest. And given that the beer demand is rather large in many countries, it would be environmentally destructive to have all of the beer made in wooden equipment.
This is where stainless steel is a great choice. Given that it involves no trees altogether, it serves as a useful replacement alternative for the beer industry. In this regard, stainless steel is a fairly eco-friendly alternative, in comparison to the cutting of trees.
In all, the above mentioned reasons are some of the most important reasons as to why beer is manufactured using stainless steel equipment.
It should also be added that the industry hasn’t entirely shifted to the use of stainless steel. On the contrary, there are many people who still cling on to the old ways, largely out of nostalgia for tradition and history.
But the fact is that stainless steel is here to stay in the beer industry, and will be around for a very long time.