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Tech. Q. Master Brew. Assoc. Am., 1995, 32(4), 241-243.

Brewing! Have things changed so much? Brewing "esoteric"? Methods "old fashioned"? "Master brewer" displaced by "chemist"?

McCabe, J.

The series of old papers reprinted under the heading "Brewing! have things changed so much?" continues with an article (by an unnamed author) entitled "Shifts in Beer Picture", originally published in Business Week, 17 July 1948, (98), (page numbers not given), together with a letter from Mr. E.H. Vogel, Industrial Relations Chairman of the MBAA, to the editor of Business Week in which some errors in the article are pointed out. Most of the article deals with the state of the US brewing industry in the 1940s (beer consumption figures, the decreasing number of breweries, the increasing size and market share of a few large brewing companies and the concomitant economic decline, frequently ending in amalgamation or business failure, of many local and regional breweries), but the final paragraphs discuss the supposed reasons for the problem and suggest possible solutions. The anonymous author is criticized by Mr. Vogel for describing the traditional methods (of German origin) then used by most US brewers as "esoteric" and "inefficient" and for claiming that "new production line methods" in which "the brewmaster merely carries out the chemists' instructions" were responsible for the large brewing companies' success. The letter points out that an industry working with natural processes (such as the enzymic reactions which take place during malting and mashing) must operate within the constraints of the natural laws governing these processes, that the only significant use of "production line" technology in breweries at that time was in packaging, that a qualified brewer knows as much about those aspects of chemistry relevant to brewing as an industrial chemist does, and that in spite of the increasing scientific understanding of many aspects of the brewing process, its materials and products, the skill and experience of the trained practical brewer were, are and will continue to be essential for the production of high quality beer.
Keywords : beer brewing brewing industry economics history production quality