September 9th marked the start of the 38th annual Craft Brewers Conference. More than 7,000 brewers, suppliers, distributors, and solutions providers, including FlavorSum, gathered to share ideas about connecting with customers through the quality and authenticity of craft brews.
The FlavorSum team also attended the BrewExpo America tradeshow, where nearly 600 exhibitors showcased tools, technology, and ingredients to support 10,000 North American craft brewers. Here are a few highlights from the 4-day event.
Fast Facts About the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America
The Craft Brewers Conference 2021 featured 123 speakers who led 50 seminars and 6 workshops. The 8 educational tracks of the conference addressed essential aspects of craft brewing:
- Brewery Operations & Beer Styles
- Business and Leadership
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Events and Hospitality
- Government Affairs and Export Development
- Quality and Ingredients
- Safety and Sustainability
- Sales and Marketing
The industry event attracted a diverse audience representing:
- 38 countries (including the U.S.) with 4 percent from outside the U.S.
- Top international countries: Canada, Germany, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom
- All 50 American states and Washington D.C., with 88 percent of attendees coming to Colorado for the conference and tradeshow.
Attendees headed to downtown Denver and the Colorado Convention Center for the conference and tradeshow.
- The Center’s 2.2 million square feet provided ample room with a central location that offered easy walking access to hotels and restaurants.
Seminars Focused on Supporting Craft Brewers’ Success
The educational sessions at the Craft Brewers Conference explored regulatory complexities, brewing challenges, and evolving consumer needs. Here are 3 summaries illustrating the value of the seminars.
Regulatory: One of the pre-show bootcamps examined the TTB regulatory requirements for craft brews. Brewers must submit formulas for approval to the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) if their products contain:
- Flavors with alcohol
- Compounded flavors
- Artificial sweeteners
- Food additives (unless exempted by TTB Ruling 2015-1)
- Frozen ingredients (i.e., ice beer)
TTB approval starts with an online application with guidance and data validation checks during the process. The TTB will return or reject a craft brew formula for reasons such as:
- The Ingredient Specification Sheet is missing for multi-component ingredients such as fruit juices made from fruit, sugar, and water.
- The Limited Ingredient Calculation Worksheet is missing for compounded flavors.
- The Flavor Ingredient Data Sheet (FIDS) is missing for products using compounded flavors.
- Formula approval isn’t required because the product features exempt ingredients or processes.
Brewing Challenges: As fruit beers become increasingly popular, brewers may need more complex formulation techniques to achieve a consistent quality product. A workshop explained that although adding fruit to the brewing process delivers residual sweetness and beneficial esters, terpenes, and lactones, products may contain unintended aromas or off-notes.
- And some fruits, like apricots, don’t survive fermentation. High-fruited beers can also lose their flavor ‘edge’ during fermenting.
- Flavor extracts (roughly 0.5-0.1 oz per barrel, ideally in the brite tank) can enhance taste and stabilize the flavor and the product.
Incorporating a large amount of fruit after fermentation is dangerous unless pasteurization is part of the process. Unfiltered beers must remain cold and still to avoid refermentation, which can create an explosive or unsafe product.
Brewers shared a few perspectives about fruit vs. flavor for fruit beers:
- Choose the option that delivers the best taste:
- “I try to stick to natural raw ingredients as much as I can, but I do think for specific brews, you have to turn to flavorings to make sure the right notes come out.”
- Find a solution that steadies product availability despite supply chain issues:
- “I have a relationship with a blueberry farmer in my area. Unfortunately, he’s still dealing with labor shortages, and it’s impacting one of our more popular beers. So I’d be very surprised if some of these folks at the conference weren’t worried about some of their upcoming seasonal brews because of farm labor.”
- Remain committed to your brand story:
- “I’m not opposed to using flavor extracts, but my biggest concern is losing the ability to market an authentically sourced product. If I showcase natural flavors on the can, how does that affect consumer perceptions?”
Evolving Consumer Needs: An emerging trend affecting craft brewers involves health-conscious, sober-movement-following consumers who are turning to lower ABV seltzers and RTD cocktails. Another educational session explored ways to compete. Unique fermentation techniques or enzymatic reactions can produce low calorie/low carb beers with the mouthfeel, flavors, and aromas of craft brews.
According to TTB regulations, a lite beer:
- Has 33 percent fewer calories than the reference standard calorie product.
- Calorie sources include:
- Alcohol (7 cal/gram)
- Carbohydrates (4 cal/gram)
- Protein which may be 1-2 g (4 cal/gram)
- Calorie sources include:
To reduce carbohydrates, exogenous enzymes offer a solution:
- Alpha-amalyase enzymes will convert starch to soluble sugar.
- Beta-amylases transform into maltose sugars.
- Amylogulosidases create glucose.
Here’s are several lite beer recipe guidelines:
- Focus on high fermentability:
- Use a low mash temp and longer mash time
- Activate beta-amylase (148-151 F range)
- Incorporate exogenous enzymes for the driest beer possible
- Incorporate a significant amount of fermentable sugars, using a minimal level (or no) modified grains
- Since a high residual gravity will result in high carbs, and more fermentability produces more alcohol (more carbs), use a recipe calculator to help understand fermentability
- And focus on delivering a final gravity with a negative Plato (or under 1.000 S.G.)
To create a lighter beer with body,
- Consider using high protein malts
- Reduce alcohol content
- Increase carbonation
- Add water (for lagers)
- Incorporate fruited flavoring solutions
- And be willing to recognize that the taste profile of low-calorie beers won’t replicate full-bodied brews
Partnering with FlavorSum: A Craft Brew Formula for Success
If you’re developing fruit beers and need the right balance of flavor notes, our portfolio of TTB-approved solutions can deliver results. And with FIDS documentation available on-demand through FlavorSum Access, you’ll streamline approval of your formula and speed your time to market.
Our flavorists and regulatory experts are available to answer your questions and support your next launch. Contact us for support!