It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who once professed: “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”
We’re not sure if Aristotle ever brewed a batch of beer, but if he had, there’s a good chance Brewers Association director Paul Gatza would have enjoyed it. Last year, Gatza urged Craft Brewers Conference attendees to pay closer attention to the quality of their finished products, pleading with them by saying, “don’t f*ck it up!”
Following his rallying cry, the discussion of “quality beer” was had at various industry events and atop many bartstools across the country. Now the BA, via its “Quality Subcommittee,” has introduced an official definition:
“A beer that is responsibly produced using wholesome ingredients, consistent brewing techniques and good manufacturing practices, which exhibits flavor characteristics that are consistently aligned with both the brewer’s and beer drinker’s expectations.”
Gatza, for his part, believes quality is an “abstract concept” and said that some parts of the definition will mean something different to those reading. Regarding the decision to use the word “wholesome” when describing ingredients, Gatza said, “I think that is one that is left for the interpretation of the reader.”
“With definitions, you can pick apart each word and some of the words will be extremely clear and some of the words will be vague,” he added.
Nonetheless, the definition — which Gatza said is designed to be more inward facing — is the first step in outlining a set of best practices for craft brewers to follow as they scale.
“How can we best help the members?” he asked. “We had to figure out what quality is and provide a definition that people can focus around.”
The organization is preparing to rollout a set of six guidelines, presented in the form of a pyramid, which Gatza believes will help small brewers as they grow. The pyramid will be broken into six parts, he said.
“At the foundation of the pyramid is good manufacturing practices,” Gatza said. “For newer breweries, this is where they need to start.”
Other stages include Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points considerations, shelf life issues and preventive maintenance practices, among others.
Additionally, the Brewers Association has committed $150,000 towards university grants dedicated to researching raw materials, Gatza said.
The organization is also developing a “lab testing plan” which would give member brewers an opportunity to have their products analyzed for things like calorie and carbohydrate counts, IBUs and even contamination issues.
“As this evolves, we hope to have more articles and seminars on quality as well as more power hour presentations,” he said. “It’s all aimed at providing resources for our members to get better at what they do.”
Additional details on the BA’s new definition of “quality beer” can be found on the BA website.