La industria cervecera experimentó, durante el último siglo y lo que va del corriente, un proceso de consolidación, concentración y transformación tecnológica sin precedentes en el segmento de las bebidas alcohólicas. La cerveza se convirtió en una bebida masiva y refrescante y, salvo en algunos países con una cultura más arraigada, su historia fue casi ignorada. Como respuesta a este proceso aparecieron, en varios países, a partir del inicio de los “80” (en Latinoamérica a fines de los “90”), movimientos llamados “artesanales”, que, en sentido contrario a la gran industria, buscaron reflotar estilos cerveceros olvidados, apelando a la gran historia de esta bebida, para luego ir más allá y generar nuevas versiones con una alta influencia regional.Estados Unidos es hoy el máximo exponente de la cervecería artesanal con cantidades récord de micro cervecerías.

El condimento que diferencia la industria artesanal latinoamericana, sobretodo en Argentina y Chile, está relacionado al tamaño de las cervecerías que, salvo pocas excepciones bien conocidas, se corresponde más con el de una industria “nano” que una “micro”. Estas últimas, en su mayoría, producen 1.000 a 3.000 litros al mes y se han convertido en una tendencia en la región. Su predominio se explica por varios factores, entre ellos, el económico. Sin embargo, con algunas pocas cuentas, es fácil concluir que es un segmento con problemas de subsistencia. En muchos casos, sólo la pasión de los dueños las mantiene en pie.

¿Cuál es el camino?

Nuestros países tienden a copiar, en forma exacerbada, modelos exitosos sin un análisis real del entorno local. Por ejemplo, los cerveceros solemos basarnos en la guía BJCP (del inglés: Beer Judge Certification Program) para diseñar nuestros productos y comunicarlos. El BJCP es una guía de estilos, surgida en respuesta al crecimiento del segmento artesanal en USA, por cierto, plagado de micro cervecerías y no nanocervecerías. Cuando esta guía se aplica a una realidad de “nanos”, las cosas no funcionan de igual manera. Vender IPA’s, Brown Ales, Scotch Ales, entre otros estilos populares dentro de las “micro”, no es viable para las “nano”, pues sus precios de venta no alcanzan los valores que necesitan éstas para su subsistencia. Hace falta más innovación, por cierto, desde el packaging hasta el producto en sí, y el BJCP no aporta mucho en este sentido. Es necesario agregar valor a los productos “nano” y diferenciarlos del producto “micro”.

New trends in the craft beer industry: nano breweries

The beer industry experienced during the last century and the current one so far, an unprecedented process of consolidation, concentration and technological transformation in the alcoholic drinks segment. Beer became a massive and refreshing drink, and except for some countries with a deeply rooted beer culture, its history was almost ignored. In several countries, from the beginning of the “80s” (late “90s” in Latin America), “craft” movements appeared as a response to this process which, contrary to the great industry, sought to revive forgotten beer styles, appealing to the great history of this drink, to then go further and create new versions with high regional influence. The United States is now the epitome of craft brewing with record amounts of micro breweries.
The element that distinguishes Latin American craft beer industry, especially in Argentina and Chile, is related to the size of the breweries which, with few well known exceptions, corresponds more to a “nano” than a “micro” industry. The latter, mostly produce 1,000 to 3,000 liters per month and have become a trend in the region. Their predominance is explained by several factors, including among them the economic factor. However, doing some simple math, it is easy to conclude that it is a segment with survival issues. In many cases, only the passion of their owners keeps them standing.

Which is the way?
Our countries tend to copy, in an exacerbated way, successful models without a real analysis of our local environment. For example, brewers tend to rely on the BJCP guide (Beer Judge Certification Program) to design our products and market them. The BJCP is a style guide, which emerged in response to the growth of the craft segment in the U.S., which is indeed full of micro breweries and not of nano breweries. When this guide is applied to a reality of “nanos”, things do not work the same way. Selling ​​IPAs, Brown Ales, Scotch Ales, among other popular styles within the “micro” is not viable for the “nano”, as its selling prices do not reach the values ​​needed for their survival. More innovation is needed, from packaging to the product itself, and the BJCP does contribute much in this regard. It is necessary to add value to “nano” products and differentiate them from “micro” products.
What to do? In the first place, it is vital to think about a different package. A 750 ml bottle, as with wine and sparkling wine is perfect for a “nano” product with high added value. It is an ideal size to be shared with several guests at a “boutique” restaurant table. You cannot expect each plant to have an exclusive bottle, but the segment could have a few models that identify with these products. It is also important to innovate and professionalize the design and move away from the extremely artisanal. The wine industry is a benchmark in this regard.
Concerning the product, the master brewer’s creativity must work to perfection and, perhaps, free us from concepts pre-established in guides as the mentioned BJCP.

Then, what would a “nano” product be like?
Entering the realm of speculation, from now on are some ideas for a “nano” product. In-bottle re-fermentation would settle well with this segment. However, the local version of this technique that we have adopted tends to be applied incorrectly and brewers exceed in its use, because it is simple and does not generate the dreaded oxidation problems, apart from avoiding the use of expensive bottling. This technique is conducted in most cases with the same yeast used in the first fermentation. The result is the appearance of autolysis notes, which are even more present in “micro” products of low or medium complexity. The solution is not a mystery and the Belgians managed it to perfection. When well conducted, products are unbeatable.
What is the secret? The first fermentation yeast is normally removed by filtration or natural clarification (applying cold) and then the re-fermentation is conducted with another strain, more adapted to this type of work, at lower concentrations, resulting in a more controlled autolysis in time. These strains have a powdery (low) flocculation type and can remain in suspension for a long time, which facilitates re-fermentation, then settle forming a compact layer well adhered to the glass. On the contrary, high flocculation strains settle earlier since they form larger aggregates. At the same time, these particles do not tend to compact and are a problem when serving the products. The sediment comes lose easily.
Re-fermentation is perfect for “nano” products, as it works with highly complex beers. Moreover in these products, controlled autolysis may be positive, as it releases polysaccharides and other substances that can greatly improve sensorial characteristics.
Raising the stakes, the traditional method, applied to the production of sparkling wines (known in Champagne as “champenoise method”), can be an alternative for “nano” products. This technique, which has already been explored by some brewers, can help generate value.
The method starts like a classic in-bottle re-fermentation, but is complemented with a procedure performed by experts to remove the yeast, which ends accumulating the yeast in the neck of the bottle forming a plug, and then is eliminated through “disgorgement”, leaving very stable products. The traditional method also considers the addition of expedition liquor after removing the plug – which often contains secrets – that “nanos” could use to promote their products.
High alcohol content is another characteristic which benefits a “nano” product. This requires working with strains that tolerate high concentrations, but it is also important to use a suitable fermentation strategy. Often, enological strains that are highly resistant to alcohol are used, without taking into consideration that these are adapted to work in environments that contain other types of sugars. When we talk about high alcohol content, yeast nutrition must be reviewed, especially in beer, whose recipes do not contain 100% malted grains (barley and/or wheat).

The use of innovative natural ingredients is also a trend that is being imposed on “nano” products. In this respect there are many natural ingredients that could be used to generate differentiation. The subtle use of fruits, honey from different origins, malts from grains that are not conventionally used, and even the complementary use of atypical yeast, not Saccharomyces type (not in spontaneous form), are alternatives that have already been explored and to which, this segment should appeal to more often.
Another alternative arises from the use of wood; oak, of course, as the main exponent, either in barrels or alternatives, such as chips, dust and staves. However, much more knowledge is needed about the interaction between oak and beers. But other types of wood can also be ventured in. Moreover, more should be known about beer aging processes. Aging, in contact with wood, is another alternative to explore.
Finally, there is the marketing aspect. “Nano” producers should get used to working in groups, associate and promote a new “nano” concept. Success is possible with all seeking a common goal.
More than ever, “nano” breweries set trends in our region. The subsistence of this segment will be linked to our ability to innovate and generate, for the market, what it would expect from a product of high added value.

3 Respuestas a “Nuevas tendencias en la industria cervecera artesanal: las nano cervecerías (Edición 7, marzo – junio 2012)”

  1. rodolfo says:

    muy interesante el articulo pero en el particular no me parece que las micro o nano cervecerias tengan un destino fatal en el caso de su subsistencia y permanencia en el tiempo o tal vez soy un enamorado enpedernido de esta bebida milenaria. la cual produsco y consumo.

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