Dutch brewers is a diverse community, varying from one man operations to huge multinational companies. Respondents are all possible forms and shapes and the outcome of the survey as representative, given the 27% response rate. It means the results give a clear picture of how Dutch breweries view the subject of quality. In an earlier piece I gave some numbers and data on the current landscape, today we focus on the Hygiene code and raw material treatment. Tomorrow: how do breweries control quality, and how do they view it?
Divers beer landscape
Producing and selling food stuffs is closely regulated in the Netherlands. As a basis serves a certified HACCP food safety system(Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). Putting this together is a complicated, expensive and time consuming process. Many industries thus have a Hygiene Code in place that serves the same purpose.
Dutch breweries may use the ‘Hygiene Code for Breweries’ which was put together at the initiative of Small Brewers Collective, currently known as CRAFT, in 2014. Just so you know: this hygiene code also applies to contract and gypsy breweries and is not voluntarily.
107 Respondents state to know this Code, and to adhere to it. Whether or not this answer is correct remains to be seen, particularly given some other questions – and the answers to those. Some breweries actually have their own HACCP or similar certification. This applies only to global players and those who focus on organic beers – they are the proverbial black swans.
Doubt starts setting in when we look at the answers on whether or not the breweries have had help when implementing the Hygiene Code. Almost three-quarters did it on their own, not seeking advice or help, and relying completely on their own competence.
Quality of raw material
A brewer is heavily dependent on raw materials and its suppliers. A fundamental part of a HACCP-plan, and thus the Hygiene Code, is a thorough check on incoming material and a concise administration on it. At the brewery’s gate a lot of issues may already be spotted, preventing problems further down the line, possibly resulting in bad product. Yet a mere one-third checks all incoming raw material, with 40% doing that randomly and 28% of breweries not performing any incoming raw material check whatsoever. Already this answer proves the shocking fact two-third of Dutch breweries do not adhere to the Hygiene Code.
How important these incoming material checks are is shown below. One-third of respondents has refused and returned incoming raw materials.
Reasons for it are as predictable as they are astonishing: raw material comes past due date, arrives in packaging that is either damaged or has clearly been opened and resealed. This applies to both malts, hops and yeast. Sometimes malt is supplied with visible traces of mice. Incoming raw material checks are, clearly, all but an unnecessary luxury.
Many breweries state to take quality seriously, and say they are familiar with – and adhering to – current legislation. Particularly the latter seems unlikely, given the answers on raw material checks. So, at the front end of production, it seems some improvements can and need to be made. How is the situation at the bottom end, with finished product? Will breweries perform better on the basic rules?