Steve Harrah

Steve Harrah is the Quality Manager for the Country Malt Group and has been with them for the past 11+ years.  Steve has held a variety of roles with CMG, starting production at the warehouse level and working his way up to a warehouse lead, which then led to a role of investigating non-conformances for CMG.  As the Quality Manager, Steve now manages the team that investigates non-conformances then implements corrective actions and makes changes to the standard operation procedures as needed in order to provide continuous improvement and to prevent a reoccurrence.  Steve is also involved in the food safety certification of the CMG warehouses

Jan Landry

Jan Landry has been the Food Safety Manager for the North American division of United Malt where she manages the food safety program for all the business units including the 27 sites of Canada Malting Co. Limited, Great Western Malting, and Country Malt Group. She works with all the owned sites and 3rd party sites handling our malt products to ensure they are compliant with all the food safety and food security requirements including ISO, HACCP, Organic, Kosher, FSMA, SFCR, and C-TPAT. Jan’s 20+ years of experience in the malting industry has proven effective in implementing workable solutions for the betterment of the operations.









Key Points From This Episode:

  • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP): What it means for malthouses.  

  • Why malthouses and now breweries are regulated by HACCP plans. 

  • Why you should be proactive when it comes to cross-contamination rather than reactive when it comes to food/drinks. 

  • Food Safety Modernization Act: How to document what was done with HACCP plans. 

  • Why sanitation is a top priority for site audits, or the environment becomes a breeding ground for pests. 

  • Why implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to meet expectations is important.  

  • How Steve manages/maintains the quality, freshness of malt and ingredients during shelf-life. 

  • How you should refrigerate and properly store hops by keeping them cool.  

  • How beer expiration depends on oxidation and using cans over colored bottles.  

Transcript - Quality... Grain to Glass



[00:00:00] TT: Welcome to another episode of The BrewDeck podcast. Glad that everyone could join us today. Grant, how are you?

[00:00:08] GL: I’m doing well, Toby. Good to be here, as always. I am excited to learn a thing or two from our experts. 

[00:00:13] TT: Yeah, absolutely. By the way, I’m Toby Tucker. As usual, in the seat next to me—well, not next to me, but 3 ½ hours from me is Grant Lawrence. We’re talking about food safety today—food safety when opening and many times to those operating an existing brewery is overlooked. 

Beer is considered food and should be treated as such whether you’re homebrewing or making 2000 barrels or 500,000 barrels a year. Ultimately, it winds up in our bodies, and thus many aspects of the production, process, packing, holding, and transportation of such are and should be regulated. 

In preparation for this, there’s a lot of acronyms floating around, Grant, that you probably know about. My wife is in healthcare, and they have acronyms all over the place like FDA, HACCP, SFMA, SOP, GMPs, and GBPs. It all gets me tired in the head. There’s a lot of info out there. 

I’m not claiming to be an expert on what the food safety and requirements are in the brewery or the distillery, but I can tell you amongst our team, Country Malt Group, Canada Malting, and Great Western Malting, for that matter, we have a really great handle on passive food safety et cetera because we are producing the material and ingredients that go into a lot of these beers. 

Today we are going to talk about all things food safety related to ingredients and material prior to the arrival at your brewery or distillery. Then we’re going to talk a little bit about proper cleanliness and storage at your facility and probably get a little bit sideways as we usually do in the podcast on some other banter about this topic and probably even others. 

I want to welcome a couple of highly regarded guests, and it’s good chatting with both of you. Thanks for coming on. Number one, Jan Landry, Food Safety Manager at Canada Malting Company. How are you doing, Jan?

[00:02:03] JL: I’m doing well, Toby. Thank you.

[00:02:05] TT: And then Steve Harrah, our Quality Manager at Country Malt Group. Steve?

[00:02:10] SH: Good morning. Thanks for having me, Toby. 

[00:02:11] TT: First of all, we talked about acronyms. Someone tell me what HACCP stands for?

[00:02:17] JL: HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. 

[00:02:20] TT: All right, you want me to quiz you on the rest that I went through, Jan?

[00:02:23] JL: Sure. 

[00:02:25] TT: We’ll save that later. Just kidding. All good. Jan, let’s start with you. You’ve been around Canada Malting for a long time. Tell us about your background in food safety and how you got started with the CMC/United Malt.

[00:02:38] JL: You’re going to make me date myself here, Toby. I’ve actually been with the company for over 20 years. I basically started right out of university. I’ve worked in many of the departments—logistics, quality, and production—before I switched over to food safety. I’ve been in this role for about ten years now. It’s grown and expanded, but I still love it every day.

[00:02:58] TT: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Again, I think a lot of listeners, brewers, and distillers don’t realize that there’s a lot of work and regulation that goes into their product prior to it arriving at their brewery. You are our expert and have a firsthand look into and actually keep all of our health and safety stuff at bay on a large scale as well. Malt houses are regulated by HACCP plans, correct? 

[00:03:26] JL: Yes. 

[00:03:27] TT: All right, walk us through what HACCP plan is for folks out there listening that may have never heard of it like me. What are they, and who needs them?

[00:03:35] JL: As I mentioned before, the HACCP, which stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, was actually created in the ’60s. Pillsbury did a bunch of work on behalf of NASA. NASA wanted to make sure that the food the astronauts were going to eat in space was 100% safe, so they created this program. 

Basically, it’s a risk assessment. The hazard analysis part is to look for all the biological, chemical, and physical hazards that could harm your food products—taking a look at your flow diagram, examining every step of your process, receiving, shipping, storage, and then all of those different hazards that could potentially be there. Then you look at what controls that you already have in place. 

You’ve got sanitation programs. You’ve got, hopefully, a pest control program. Those kinds of things you already have to control those identified hazards, and then you just look for the gaps. If there’s something that you’re not controlling, you probably really should be looking at controlling it. 

It’s usually a team effort, obviously. It’s not one person. Depending on the size of the operation, it’s a lengthy process. It could take a couple of years to actually get a HACCP program, food safety program up and running to be eligible, or to be in a position where you could get certified.

[00:04:44] TT: The bare bolt is basically being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to preventing contamination in food and beverage, et cetera, right?

[00:04:53] JL: One hundred percent, yup. It’s all about being proactive rather than reactive. That’s the same thing with anything like customer complaints and stuff like that. We just want to make sure that we’re trying to do the preventative action to prevent it from happening again. 

[00:05:09] TT: Do breweries need HACCP plans? 

[00:05:12] JL: That’s funny that you should ask because yes, they do. As you mentioned, brewing, for example, because of the nature of beer—it’s low acid, low pH; the brewing process, of course, you’re boiling the mash—it’s been largely exempt. In 2017, when the Food Safety Modernization Act came into play, it was included. 

I’ve set it in my malting course presentations within three to five years. Of course, it’s probably been about three years since I’ve done one of those presentations, but they are. The FDA hasn’t been looking at it before, but they are looking at it now, and it’s becoming more and more prevalent. Depending on the size of your brewery, it’s just going to be more necessary as time goes on. 

As part of a HACCP program or a food safety program, documentation is the biggest play. If an FDA inspector shows up at your door, you can’t just tell them that, yeah, we did this and this and this. You have to prove it. You have to show them the documentation. This is what we did, and this is how we did it.

[00:06:08] TT: That makes a lot of sense. I’m with you. I think as the years pass, the regulations and expectations are going to be even more required, if you will.

[00:06:18] JL: Yeah, like with the beer itself. As I said, you’re boiling the mash, so the human pathogens aren’t really a huge risk, but there are still other chemical hazards or physical hazards that could be the risk. That’s why the Food Safety Modernization Act has included breweries in this program.

[00:06:35] GL: Yeah, that’s a great point. Brewing beer, historically, was to preserve grain in the first place. That there’s 2% alcohol in beer makes it inherently safe, but it brings us to the next question we had here for you. What are some things that brewers should be concerned with? I mean, the thing that comes to my mind (coming from a food science background) is glass. When I first got into brewing, I was frankly surprised there weren’t rules about HACCP around glass for breweries.

[00:07:03] JL: Yeah, glass is actually a huge one for breweries; I completely agree with you. From a physical hazard, any foreign material, whether it’s in your empty bottles, metal shavings in the empty cans, for example, glass can get damaged during the washing, during the filming, during the crowning. All of those kinds of things that could potentially—of course, if someone swallows some glass—harm them dramatically. 

Other things like chemical concerns, as I mentioned, would be like the concentration of your sanitizers. Is it too strong, or is it not strong enough to kill whatever’s in there? Was it not rinsed properly, and therefore there’s some residue left in there? Other things, especially in a brewery, is there potential for coolant leaks, or even just concentration of your ingredients? Allergens, as an example. There’s not that allergens are harmful to health, but they are to certain specific groups. If it’s not labeled appropriately, then that’s a chemical recall.

[00:08:01] GL: You bring up a lot of good points there. I want to take some of those, one by one. Let’s go reverse. Let’s talk about allergens a little bit. A lot of these brewers are loading up with peanut-based things. That would certainly be a concern like a peanut butter stout that uses the defatted peanut flour or something like that. I mean, that’s something that we could probably expect to get regulated soon, right? If this keeps going.

[00:08:24] JL: From an allergen standpoint, it is absolutely 100%. If somebody drinks that beer, they should know. A person with a peanut allergy should know I’m not to drink the peanut butter stout. But you have to go with the lowest common knowledge, and sometimes common sense isn’t all that common. You have to put a label on it saying, yes, it may contain peanut products. Because if somebody has an anaphylactic shock and dies from it, it’s 100% your fault.

[00:08:49] GL: Yeah, that’s a good point. Some brewers will use extracts and what’s neat is I do know that they make extracts that are peanut-flavored that are allergen-free. It kind of goes against the brewers’ mentality of using a more natural thing. But from an allergen standpoint, it’s pretty smart.

[00:09:08] JL: Actually, I agree. I didn’t realize they had something like that peanut flavoring without the protein.

[00:09:13] GL: Yeah, let’s go back one further. You mentioned coolants like propylene glycol; that’s what brewers are using mostly to cool off fermenters and things like that in their cooling loops. How would that work? That same thing is used in the malt house; what are the regulations around that?

[00:09:31] JL: You have to prevent it. Obviously, acknowledge that there could potentially be a leak, what you have done to try and prevent that contamination, and also detection. How do you detect if there is a leak? Is it contaminating the product? How are you going to segregate that product? What are you going to do with that product? Are you going to toss it out? Or is there a rework that you could do with?

[00:09:50] GL: Got you. If HACCP plans become more prevalent like we think they are; eventually, you just need to have that documented in some sort of a binder. Correct?

[00:09:58]: JL Yeah. 

[00:09:59] GL: Then one of the other ones you mentioned was sanitizing chemicals. You’re probably more familiar with sanitizing within the malt house, but in a typical brewery, peracetic acid is the main one that brewers use for sanitizer. That breaks down into water and vinegar, acetic acid. I’m not sure exactly; I’m trying to ask the expert here. Is that something that you still have to worry about if it’s a relatively safe chemical? I mean, even if you overuse it, it still breaks down in the presence of water and air.

[00:10:32] JL: From a brewing standpoint, I would probably think that might affect your flavors of the beer as opposed to the human hazard. 

[00:10:40] GL: Absolutely.

[00:10:42] JL: But again, it comes down to concentration. 

[00:10:44] GL: Okay.

[00:10:44] TT: That’s all good stuff. Let’s switch over to more general food safety and talk about CMG’s bulk malt transloads. Canada Malting, Great Western Malting, but both Canada Malting and Great Western have transloads spread out throughout the US to better provide bulk malt service to craft brewing and larger brewing customers. 

When I say transload, for those that don’t know, it’s basically holding areas in between. We load them at the malt house in a railcar, store that railcar out of the facility, and then have the pneumatic truck pull the material out of that train or railcar and deliver it into the brewery silo. Jan, you’re the one who writes SOPs for these transloads to follow, right? 

[00:11:29] JL: Yep, that’s me.

[00:11:30] TT: I’ve had the pleasure of visiting translaods with you, and I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of your expectations and what you’re looking for at these transloads. It’s obviously a necessity, and you have very stringent, and we have very stringent expectations of how the process works, the SOPs, and the handling because, obviously, as our material moves in the kind of supply chain logistic route to the customer, every aspect of everything and every individual that handles and touches that material we have our eyes on. What are the main things you look for when you audit these sites?

[00:12:07] JL: Obviously, sanitation is the top priority. That’s the first thing. Any dusty environments, any grain handling environments, if it’s not properly kept up, they’re breeding grounds for pests. Whether it’s the equipment or the property, we just want to keep it as clean as possible. 

We are making sure that we’re doing spot checks. Obviously not during the pandemic, but I have traveled, as you mentioned, you and I have traveled to some transload facilities. I want to make sure that they’re not just making sure it’s cleaned before I show up, that we do spot checks occasionally. 

That’s where, like yourself, Toby, and Grant, the sales teams kind of come in, or the logistics team can go in. They can point out things that maybe I don’t see because I’m not there constantly, obviously. I want to make sure that it is being maintained at all times. 

Going along with that, the second would be pest control. Making sure that they have a qualified third party to maintain some traps, or bait stations, insect detection, spraying and keeping the weeds down. That kind of stuff to prevent harbored areas just to make sure that there’s no opportunity for any type of pests to contaminate the product. 

Then the last thing, the biggest thing that I look at is the handling. Making sure that the equipment that they’re using—how they’re using it, sometimes there are variable speeds—is not damaging the product unnecessarily or cross-contaminating. 

Most of our transloads, actually I’m quite certain just about all of our translators, are using dedicated equipment. The conveyors that they use or the handling systems it’s all dedicated to malt products. You’re not going to get some flour, sugar, or lentils come through from a conveyor that’s been used for other products. They’re all dedicated strictly for us, and 100% of the reason is to prevent cross-contamination.

[00:13:48] TT: Is that the same as far as organic products are concerned too? Do we have dedicated vessels for those, or is there a process of cleaning?

[00:13:57] JL: It’s the process of cleaning, yeah. Just for the cost, it’s not cost-effective to have two separate conveyors or handling systems for organic. It’s a cleaning process that’s in between.

[00:14:07] TT: Okay, very good. Do you have oversight on the trucks as well? 

[00:14:12] JL: Trucks are part of the supply chain, yup. 

[00:14:14] TT: Okay, very good. You mentioned cross-contamination. You mentioned pests. Obviously, Steve has oversight on the quality side of all of our distribution centers here in North America, and he deals with that on, I’d say, a daily basis, unfortunately. But this time of year, even more so. Steve, we’ll definitely get to you on some of what you see and know what you deal with on a daily basis out of the DCs. 

Jan, any tips for brewers out there listening when it comes to receiving malt grains, raw ingredients into their breweries from suppliers? What to look for, putting some SOPs themselves in place just to assure that they’re getting a product that’s up to speed and up to par.

[00:14:56] JL: The biggest thing is the COA. It’s not even just malt products. It’s all your products. Your biggest control is making sure that the COA is giving you the appropriate information. Having suppliers that are certified to food safety programs obviously is a huge benefit; then, you don’t have to go and audit them or ask them to fill out forms. Here’s their certificate. 

Obviously, they’ve done all of these things in order to gain that certificate. That’s kind of like the letter of the law here. Watching the COAs, of course, as I mentioned, from an industrial ingredient, malt is considered an industrial ingredient because it’s not processed for human consumption. It’s processed to be an ingredient. 

It’s hard because of our systems; the raw materials are picked up off the ground. Sometimes there are tiny rocks, or there are other grains in it. We have several cleaning steps within our process to remove the majority of those impurities, but sometimes tiny particles get through.

From a brewing standpoint, having a screen and magnets on your receiving shoot or your receiving pit are huge preventers to prevent damage to your mills, plug shoots, or those kinds of things. That’s something I would recommend to a brewery if they’re looking to set up. This is something that I would recommend.

[00:16:09] TT: You’ve worked for and brewed at some very sizable breweries, is there anything else that you guys would put in place?

[00:16:19] GL: I can tell you what I’ve seen. Jan said shoot, and she said pit, at least down where I am, for a pit that’s like a belly dump system. At least I don’t typically see those in the US. There are a few of them, but not many. Most of them are pneumatic. Then the places I see them, at least at the brewery I was with, we had a nice mill with a great set of magnets above the mill, and we would clean that every week. 

As Jan said, this is an agricultural product. It comes out of the field. There’s a combine that picks it up. It goes through a bunch of cleaning steps in the Malthouse, but some things are inevitably going to make it through. We would get like little magnetized pebbles sometimes would stick to the magnets. I think the craziest thing ever found was a spoon, like the top part of a spoon and then pulled out of the magnets. 

[00:17:05] JL: Interesting. 

[00:17:08] GL: I think Jan makes a good point there. If you’re a brewer out there, get some magnets because if not, something like that is really going to destroy your mill. Just having little checks here and there when you receive bulk malt and when you’re brewing with it, you need to have like magnets, or I guess Jan said the screens. I’m not as familiar with those on the craft side, but I’ve seen them in the malt house.

[00:17:32] SH: We have mills at most of our facilities, and we have a screen usually in the hopper above the mill in every single one of those, and we have a magnet below that to catch all sorts of debris and things like that. Using a combination of both, we have been able to catch most items that we may receive in some of our bulk malts. 

[00:17:48] GL: Good to know. You’re talking about whenever we are milling at our various warehouses for our customers on our four roller setups, and you’re saying they all have magnets and screens on them? 

[00:17:58] SH: Correct.

[00:17:59] GL: Very cool. 

[00:18:00] TT: With that being said, it goes through several runs over magnets before it actually gets to the customer. Going back to the basics of it, too, you talked about the inspection or receiving malt grains or raw ingredients. You may be able to attest, Grant, but you’d be surprised that a lot of times, the simplest take in a visual of your product as it comes off the truck or just to see it there. 

I’ve heard stories of brewers taking material in totes doing two giant runs with it, and then after the fact realizing that the product that they thought was in the totes was roasted as opposed to a crystal. It could be as simple as just visually inspecting that product whenever they get it in-house.

[00:18:43] JL: Yeah, 100% having a receiving process. We’ve had customers that have mixed—whether it’s roasted malt with a pale malt—in their silos because they didn’t have that process in place.

[00:18:53] GL: Yep, always important. At least receiving bulk malt from my experience with it is to have the trucker bring you a little bag of it as they load from the transload into the truck and physically hand you the bag. At that point, you could check it out in your lab or whatever, but a brewer would know visually seeing it. Does this look right? Does this look like my […], my pale, or my pils? Does this look like it’s got crystal in it or something? 

[00:19:18] TT: Grant, you may have been involved with some of these, but we’ve worked with breweries too in putting some SOPs in place to help them inbound material. It could be as simple as, hey, let’s have some three-ounce clear glasses of all the products we typically bring in. And it’s as simple as, hey, let’s compare it to what our product in the glasses is and does it look similar. Does it chew similarly just to make sure that what they’re using is what they expect?

[00:19:49] GL: Good process to have in place for any brewery out there listening to receiving malt. Don’t just take them at their word. Check out the CLA and visually inspect.

[00:19:58] JL: Trust, but verify. 

[00:19:59] GL: Trust, but verify. That’s a good way to put it. 

[00:20:02] SH: Toby, one of the things that we have at our Vancouver facility is we have samples of everything that the malt should look like. We have a small sample there at the warehouse of every single kind of malt that we receive and so then what we’ll do is every time we get a big bulk load in, we’re going to pull three samples from the beginning, middle, and end. We’re going to compare those against what the malt should look like. 

If anything isn’t visually matching, we can keep that. We also keep the sample so that if a customer ever comes back and says, hey, something doesn’t seem right here. We can go back, look at our retain samples, and compare what the customer is getting with our retain samples. We try and keep that visual all the way down the line.

[00:20:39] TT: That’s great. Jan, one last question for you. Your longevity there at CMC, you’ve seen a lot. When you started in food safety, was it pretty much the wild west up until the Food Safety Modernization Act back in 2011? We mentioned a little bit about how things are progressing and keeping an eye on food safety in general, but how was it when you first came on board? Was it completely different as far as expectations and requirements?

[00:21:05] JL: Not really, no. We’ve been certified, our food safety program since 2009. There were always still these processes in place. We had our food safety plan, we had our hazards, and we have our controls. Not much has changed; we still have those same hazards, same controls. We may have added hazards and more controls, definitely more control for sure. 

But then also tightening that up and making sure that all of our sites are doing it, doing internal audits every single year, making sure our certifier comes to do audits, and meeting all of those requirements. It hasn’t changed all that much in the last ten years, no. 

[00:21:40] TT: Good stuff.

[00:21:41] JL: Not for us, anyway.

[00:21:43] TT ​​: Steve, you’ve been quiet. Let’s jump to you. Tell us about your background and what you do at Country Malt.

[00:21:49] SH: Well, unlike Jan, I didn’t really start with food safety and quality. I actually started back with a company, Brewcraft—one of you may have heard of—and then we were eventually acquired and became part of the Country Malt group. I started out my days of packaging hops for eight hours a day and sealing those. I was part of the production team there, eventually worked my way through the warehouse, and then became a lead at the warehouse after about five years or so. 

Then I eventually got moved up to what we call the NCR coordinator but looking at nonconformances. Eventually, some of that is looking at what went wrong, and then obviously, parts of that are going to be quality, food safety, and trying to correct those. As part of that, I’ve learned more and more about food safety and quality. 

Now I’m in the position of Quality Manager. It’s taken, I think, 11 years to get here, but it’s been a long road and going a much different route than Jan there. 

[00:22:44] TT: Well, it’s great to have you. You do a lot, and actually, you have oversight on thousands of different skews over a lot of different DCs as far as Country Malt Group. It’s got to be hard to keep track of that many items, shelf life, storage, et cetera. 

What are some products we really have to watch for shelf life expiration, as far as the Country Malt Group side, DCs? Sometimes certain items are good long after their “best by dates,” and the vendor can extend that depending. Can you tell us a little bit more about what goes into that and how you manage so many skews? Make sure that at the end of the day, brewers, distillers, and customers are getting the freshest ingredients we can send them out.

[00:23:30] SH: There’s a lot to unpack there. One of the things that we need to differentiate is the shelf life and quality of malt. One of the things we’ll run into sometimes long before that is pest control issues. Your malt may still be in great fine condition, but we need to be careful around pest control. While a lot of the things are the same, we want to make sure that we’re storing our product to avoid pests, and we’re also storing our product to make sure that we maintain quality. 

Many of the things are the same, but they are two different separate things as well. But we continually have conversations with our vendors and with ourselves, looking at what the shelf life of things is. Yes, we do work with some vendors to see if we can get certain things extended, or maybe we need to adjust those. 

I have a meeting scheduled tomorrow with a vendor to say, okay, if you’re telling us that it’s good beyond this date, then maybe we should just bump out that date so that we’re clear from the start. But if you look at malt to start with. Some of your base malts are going to be more prone to getting what we call slack, picking up moisture, and things like that. 

Whereas your roasted barleys, your black malts, or anything that’s really deeply roasted, that’s going to probably last a really, really long time. You’re not going to have a whole lot of issues with that. Those are sometimes a little bit slow movers. You may see those stick around a little bit longer because most people, that’s not the big part of their grain bill.

Other items, obviously yeast, especially the liquid yeast. You want to use those as soon as you can get them. The longer they’re around, you’re going to start to have some issues with something like that. Dry yeast is a little bit easier, but yeast is going to have some of the shortest shelf life of things there. Those are some things you want to probably not keep a whole lot on hand. You want to order those for your batches. 

But if we’re talking about other things, milled malt, that obviously is going to have very different characteristics than the whole kernel malt. When you mill, it’s going to be more prone to picking up moisture and things like that. Additionally, as I mentioned, milled malt is also very, very prone to picking up pests, things that create dust. 

Within the pests, you can get things like a sawtooth grain beetle. Those guys actually live off of the dust of the grain. You are going to start to see those pretty quickly with milled malt; very similar situation with your flake product. Those have a shorter shelf life, but those two are also very, very prone to pests as well because you’ve crushed the kernel there and laid out everything on a nice silver platter for the pest. 

We do see a lot of pest issues creeping up on milled malt and flake products; those are usually the two main products we will see issues with there. 

[00:25:56] TT: A lot of that really depends on the environment. Our San Diego facility might be a completely different environment than Champlain, New York. At the brewery, somebody out in Arizona where it’s dry probably has completely different longevity because of the environment and storage than somebody in Houston where Grant lives. 

It all comes down to the environment and along that route, too, is just the other question; you mentioned pests. You and I have dealt with some occasions where there have been breweries or distilleries that have reached out, and they’ve had an infestation of pests and actually lean on you, Steve, to help investigate and figure out how that happened. 

At the end of the day, it usually comes back to (and correct me if I’m wrong) Steve, about just poor storage—FIFO for that matter, storage, or what’s happening at the brewery, unfortunately. Do you probably have (you could talk about this for a while) tips and suggestions on storage and pest control at the brewhouse to help mitigate the potential of pests and products going poor pretty quickly?

[00:27:08] SH: Of course, Toby. As you mentioned, the environment is everything. One of the first things you need to look at is where your brewery is. The things we have at our distribution centers, we treat our San Diego distribution center (obviously, as you said) differently than our Champlain site just because of the environment, the heat, the humidity—Florida has warm, high humidity. Those create breeding grounds for pests, but it also creates moisture in the air, which also is not quite as good for our product as well. 

As a brewery, you want to look at that, and if at all possible, get something where you have temp control in your brewery. I know that’s pretty tough because a lot of breweries have their doors open, people are coming and going. Those aren’t ideal situations. 

We need to also be aware that a brewery in general, probably not an ideal storage situation for malts and also help try to avoid pests. We’re already kind of behind […] in both those situations. That’s where we do need to take steps to try and do what we can to mitigate those risks.

Obviously, with our warehouses, one of the main things we do is we keep all of our products upon pallets, and then we keep those pallets up in the racking. The more you can keep stuff off the floor, the better you’re going to be. We try and keep everything close. We don’t want anything open packaging in our distribution center. 

Even in milling, we open it, we mill it, and then we seal it right back close as soon as we can. We have a really stringent cleaning and sanitation program because I mentioned the pests loved to eat off of the dust. It’s all about sanitation, but if you can, keep the place cool and keep it dry. Again, it’s tough because beer is liquid. You’re constantly washing things. If you can, if you have a storage room for malts, that’s ideal. 

I’ve seen several larger breweries where they do have storage rooms, and they’re completely separate—doors are closed. If those doors are closed, and it’s separate, that’s going to eliminate foot traffic coming in and out. It’s going to create a barrier that’s going to make it tougher for the pest to get in there. Also, it’s going to change the storage condition in that as well. Those are things that we can do to help out there.

Obviously, if you can work with a pest control provider, there’s plenty of them out there. They don’t need to come all the time but work with them. Depending upon the size of your brewery, they can give you an ideal schedule. They can do things such as putting down traps, […] traps that you can see, do I have a problem? You can assess the level of the problem. They can also help you with foggings and fumigations if you need them. They can help you find where the source of the problem is. 

I’ve seen sources anywhere from the […] and racking. Sometimes they’re in the beams of the rackings. Sometimes you can actually get them in your walls if you don’t have a good seal between the floor and the wall; you can actually get pests back in there. They can become a breeding ground as well. There are lots of things to consider, but a really good pest control provider is going to help you manage those risks there. 

[00:29:49] TT: You mentioned storage at the brewery or distillery. Would you recommend segregating malted grain versus adjuncts or other items or even milled products?

[00:30:02] SH: I think everything should be segregated to a degree if you have the space. It goes back to the receiving process that we talked about earlier. One of the things you want to do when you receive a pallet from us is take a look at it, break it down, make sure that everything’s there, make sure there are no signs of damage, make sure that there’s no pest riding along that got picked up somewhere along the way in the transportation. But break that down, if you can. 

Additionally, if you do have your stuff segregated, it’s spread upon on different pallets; you’re going to find if you do have a pest control problem, that’s going to slow the spread. It’s going to make it tougher for them to get from one pallet to the next. Especially if you have that product up off the floor, it’s going to help mitigate some of that. 

If you do have a pest problem in your mill malt, keeping that on a separate pallet, try and keep a slip sheet, or we have it wrapped up, but that’s going to keep it from spreading into your base malt in situations like that. 

One of the worst situations I’ve seen is one of the breweries had a toting station, and they actually never really cleaned underneath the toting station. They would change up the totes all the time, but there was a platform, and they never actually lifted the platform up and looked underneath, something like that. As much as you can keep everything segregated, you’re going to find it helped up quite a bit.

[00:31:09] GL: Those are some excellent points, Steve. Just from being in the trade and going to a lot of craft breweries, I realize space is an issue. But you bring up an excellent point. When you get a mixed pallet of malts—be it specialty malts, adjuncts, everything—I know it’s easy to just leave that in your brewery wrapped up. But it’s much better to break it down, check it out, and separate it. Like you’re saying, even if you got a small racking system, I’ve seen a lot of craft breweries successfully take their flaked adjuncts and stack them on a small rack at the brewery in their base malt and just keep it apart versus just leaving it all wrapped up in plastic on a pallet. 

A little bit more work, but it definitely keeps contaminations or pests from spreading to absolutely all of the grains that you have there. 

[00:31:59] SH: And additionally, we’re not perfect. We make mistakes. There are times where we’ve accidentally sent our customers the wrong bag of malt. If you break that pallet down, look at it, and make sure you got all the right items. You’re going to help reduce that chance that you get to brew day, and uh-oh, this sure wasn’t what I ordered. Now I can’t make my brew here, and you scramble to find solutions and things like that. Break it down and look at it, and you’re going to find out that that helps out quite a bit. 

[00:32:22] TT: Hey, this might be a question for Jan and for Steve, but are there inherently weevils or bugs even in processed barley in the malt? Just for a layman like myself, how is there the opportunity for infestation as far as bugs after a product has been malted? Is it always there?

[00:32:42] JL: No. It’s not always there; it’s in storage. The longer it sits in storage, the more susceptible it is. The malt itself is more susceptible because it has a very sweet smell. The barley kind of smells like dirt because we picked it up off the ground. But the malt has a nice, sweet, roasted malty smell. That’s attractive. Trying to keep that smell down, like Steve said, keeping the bags closed or close them up if you only use a partial bag, close it right back up, store it on a shelf, store it off the floor, that kind of thing, just to keep the smell from being an attractant to pests. 

But the insects themselves, they’re not inherent. They’re always around. Like Steve said again, they’re attracted to the dust. They’re going to eat the dust. There are weevils that actually bore into the kernel of grain. Those are a little bit rarer than the sawtoothed grain beetles, for example, but they’re always around. Because they’re so small, they move very easily. 

[00:33:36] SH: Now with the weevils, as Jan said, they do bore into the grain, and they seal the grain back up. They put their eggs in there. They can be inherently in the grain to the degree there. Most of the malts that we have—your crystal and your roasted malts—are going to be roasted, and that’s going to take care of the problem there. 

Some of the base malts, stuff like your […] pale malts, they’re not heated quite as high. Some of those can survive there. But we also do rely on some of our suppliers and our farmers to make sure that they’re taking care of their crops and doing what they need to do to make sure that it’s not inherently in the grain.

[00:34:09] GL: Yeah, I’d echo that, Steve. Just from being in a brewery, typically, if you have any kind of bugs, it’s generally not roasted or crystal malts. I don’t know if it’s that they don’t go for them or if that extra drum roasting step gets rid of them. But even malt, it’s usually not malt. It’s usually from flaked adjuncts, is at least what I see, the ones that have the most critters. 

[00:34:33] SH: One hundred percent agree there. Occasionally, we’ll have somebody reach out, whether our customer or even our own site, to say, hey, I’ve seen pests. If they’re saying, “I see some pests in this […] malt,” I’ll usually reply like, “okay, that could be that we might want to take a look around and see what else is around there,” because odds are, that may not be the source of the problem because you said it’s usually going to be base malts. We don’t often see issues in our roasted malt there. 

[00:34:56] GL: Absolutely. If it’s in something like that, yeah, you probably have bigger concerns. 

[00:35:01] JL: It’s how you like your steak. Like you want the shoe leather steak versus the nice, soft, luscious medium-rare. 

[00:35:08] SH: Yeah, for sure. I was just going for the low-hanging fruit first.

[00:35:11] JL: Yeah, exactly.

[00:35:12] TT: Steve, is it a complete panic mode for a brewer, distiller if they’re about to run a brew and they look around their pallet of base malt, and they see some bugs crawling on the exterior?

[00:35:25] SH: I’m glad you asked. The answer is no. I’m not going to say it’s not always no, but it’s a matter of figuring out where the pest came from. As we said, the sawtooth grain beetle is what we see most, and they just feed off of the dust. They very well could be enjoying the dust on the grain bag. It doesn’t mean they’re inside of your bag there. 

Unfortunately, as Jan said, it’s a breeding ground, so they could be having eggs anywhere, all the way from the production facility through the warehouse’s transportation, even the breweries. They could be picked up anywhere along the line. But if you just see one or two on there, they likely just got picked up along the way. They’re probably not even in the bag there. If it’s crawling and there are just tons on there, it will probably have an issue, and that very well may be the source of the problem. 

That’s one of the things I try and stress to people is we need to figure out where the source is because if you just see one or two bugs, that’s probably not the source. It’s going to be an issue somewhere else. Whether it’s in the brewery or transportation to the warehouse, all of them, it’s the same message. We need to figure out where the source is, where these guys are coming from, because until you find that source, you’re going to continue to see the same issue. 

We’ll see that sometimes with our customers. They’ll try and fix the problem, but if they never get the source, they’re going to continue to see small problems over and over until we actually figure out where they’re coming from. That’s where I say, sometimes they can be in the racking or they can be on the walls. It’s all about finding that source, and it’s not so much worrying about those one or two little guys there. 

[00:36:48] GL: What you’re saying is sawtooth grain beetles, for instance, they can have their entire life cycle just on the outside of the bags, off the dust, correct?

[00:36:57] SH: Correct.

[00:36:57] GL: Okay. 

[00:36:58] JL: I think their life cycle is like 28 days or something. 

[00:37:00] GL: Right, yeah. Pretty sure. 

[00:37:03] TT: The reason I mentioned that Steve, I’ve had customers that see a couple of bugs in the exterior of the bag, and they throw the entire pallet outside for fear, and then it rains the next two days. It just ruins some very usable products. Certainly, whether it’s from another vendor or from us and you have any questions, just reach out to us, and we obviously have some people on our team that have seen pretty much everything when it comes to pests and bugs. 

I want to throw a curveball here because, as mentioned earlier, I would love to spend two or three hours, and we could probably talk for two or three hours with both Steve and Jan about a lot of different things on the topic here. But Grant, you put together eight or nine different bullet points that some other stuff you wanted to bring up. Do you want to jump into some of those? I see one of them, which is very odd. We mentioned snail traps for alternative purposes for expired beer. 

We don’t have to start there, Grant, but I’m putting it out there.

[00:37:58] GL: Yeah, some of those actually weren’t mine; they were just general ones with the group. I think they’re all good, but we covered some of these. I would like to talk about properly storing hops, though. I’d like to hear Steve’s take on that or Jan, for that matter. 

[00:38:12] SH: For us, our SLP is very clear. The hops need to be refrigerated and cooled all the time. At 34°–36°, we get them on a refrigerated trip from our supplier-vendor. We immediately try and get those into the coolers as soon as we can. You’re going to find that you’re going to keep the quality and shelf life of those for a much longer period of time. As you start to age or keep those warm—the warmness increases the aging process there—and what you will hear is it has an off cheese type smell to those as well. Keep them cool.

[00:38:44] GL: Yup, isovaleric acid, that cheesy smell that can develop. It’s funny; some brewers actually want that, some of them even age it for that and then like some of those Belgian styles, and it ends up working.

[00:38:56] SH: Occasionally, I heard that. 

[00:38:56] GL: For the vast majority of them, you don’t want that. We talked a little bit about beer expiration. I’m happy to jump in here and talk about this. Most people know about this, but let’s talk about light and just the oxidation of beer. Jan, you want to start us off there?

[00:39:13] JL: I’m actually probably the least qualified person to answer that question on here. Obviously, as I’m with Canada Malting and Great Western Malting, I’m focused on the malt. I know the basics of beer, and that’s about it all. 

[00:39:25] GL: Okay. 

[00:39:26] SH: Grant, I kind of have a question on that, maybe that you can answer the question. Obviously, we know that light is not good for the beer, and that’s why the bottles are usually brown and green. But cans, certainly not transparent at all. Does that mean that a can is going to hold the last better than a glass bottle?

[00:39:40] GH: It absolutely does. In my experience. A lot of people used to consider cans to be an inferior product to bottles. Bottles were seen as more luxurious, but over the past decade, that has just really changed with craft brewing. The cans today are not the cans of your dad where it had the metallic taste of the beer. The ones now are lined, and especially for these hoppy beers that are very susceptible to oxidizing and losing some of their flavors, the can is superior, and it’s more recyclable. 

[00:40:13] SH: I imagine cans are probably cheaper, they stack easier, they probably take up less space in some sort of production facilities. So then, why would people continue to use glass, or is that kind of a dying breed there?

[00:40:23] GL: It’s definitely a dying breed, but it’s something that some consumers, I would say—talking generalities here but generally—older consumers prefer bottles. 

[00:40:33] JL: I was going to say it’s probably a preference thing. 

[00:40:35] GL: It’s a preference thing. I think it comes down to when you drink directly out of the packaging, like what you would prefer. I get it. If you’ve got canned stuff, just pour in your favorite beer glass, and you should have a better experience that way. 

[00:40:35] SH: It was surprising to me; I remember being at a conference a number of years ago, and in the US, you guys don’t reuse your beer bottles. In Canada, here, they’re all returned to your local distributor and go back to the breweries to be washed and refilled. It’s been like that since my dad was drinking when I was a baby. 

[00:41:07] GL: Yup. It used to be a thing in the US. I’m not sure exactly when it went away. I believe somewhere in the ’90s. But yeah, it’s something that I think would be really neat with the growth of craft especially, if we could get back to something like that. They still do it in Germany, for instance, and the bottles are just made completely different. They’re made to be like CIP-ed and reused. It’s just different. 

I really like the can aspect of it. It’s a better container, and they’re 99% recyclable. They’re just better for the environment, really. 

[00:41:42] TT: I have a note here on one of those talking points, and I made it through a complete curveball here, but I wanted to bring it up. Spent grain. There’s been a lot of talk about regulation on the brew side on spent grain. And Grant, you may have some info or know a little bit more than I do. Specifically on food safety, and obviously, it’s for consumption for animals. But there’s been a lot of chatter about it and when that’s going to be regulated. Do you know anything about that, Grant? Any information to share there? Or Jan or Steve, for that matter?

[00:42:12] GL: Yeah, I’m happy to start. I’ll just come at this as a brewer and let Jan and Steve follow up. No, I don’t know anything about the regulation of it. Generally, people just partner with their local farm because the spent grain is an awesome source of protein for cattle, pigs, anything like that, most farm animals. It can be a problem sometimes if you’re a small brewer trying to get your farmer to pick up from you regularly because then what do you do with it? You have to keep it somewhere, and it’s going to attract pests. 

As far as regulation, I don’t know. It would make some sort of sense to have something like that, in my opinion, because then the farmers would know exactly what they’re feeding to their livestock. 

[00:42:54] JL: To be honest with you, actually, the animal feed market is actually a little bit more regulated than the human feed market. As I said, when Toby sent me these questions, I kind of did a little bit of research, and I found this document from MBAA that actually confirms. It does go into the information about the Food Safety Monetization Act and when compliance started for breweries, which was September 2016. There’s a section in here on the spent grains. It 100% has to comply with the food rules, just the same as any beer going out the door. 

[00:43:24] GL: Got it. 

[00:43:24] TT: Interesting. I always hear people chat about it. I’ve always wondered what they’re doing—all good. 

[00:43:30] SH: But then does that regulation impact what the brewers can and cannot do of their spent grain then?

[00:43:35] JL: Not generally, no. As Grant said, they’re usually sending it to a farm. They just have to make sure that they’re not contaminating it between the brewery and the farm. The farm is aware of the risk. Obviously, it’s wet, so as you said, there are risks there and how they’re storing it or how they’re using it. 

[00:43:52] TT: I think you get into more of a pickle or regulation if that brewery processes it in some form or fashion before it goes on to animal feed. I know there are some larger breweries out there; they’ve got machines they put in place that are actually drying it and then send it off as a dry product. 

[00:44:15] JL: Yup. Palletize. 

[00:44:17] GL: That’s more stable that way. 

[00:44:19] JL: It is, absolutely. But still, the same rules apply. It’s going to the feed market, but the same rules apply whether it’s human food or animal food. But yeah, absolutely, feeding it, drying it out, palletizing it, or even the brewery is sending it to another facility that is doing that, that facility needs to have, obviously, their food safety plans to make sure that they’re doing what they need to do to protect it. 

[00:44:39] GL: Got you. 

[00:44:40] TT: All right. Any other questions?

[00:44:42] GL: I think that about wraps it up. But we got to do the final question that we always do for our podcast.

[00:44:47] TT: Oh, that’s right. What’s your sign? I’m just kidding. That’s not the question. The question is, what are you enjoying? What’s in your beer or otherwise fridge as far as adult beverages? Let’s start with you, Jan. What do you enjoy drinking these days?

[00:45:04] JL: I’m actually into the spirits right now. I’ve got some—for the summer—flavored vodkas, that kind of thing. I have the local beers. I’ve been partaking with some of the local breweries and picking up some of those to bring home and to enjoy there as well. 

[00:45:19] GL: You live in Calgary, correct?

[00:45:20] JL: I sure do. 

[00:45:21] GL: Cool. When you say local beers, for those out there listening, we have listeners in Canada, for sure, but we have a bunch of listeners across the US and other parts of the world. What’s the style of Calgary? Like everything? Is it heavy stouts for the cold weather or?

[00:45:36] JL: There are some heavy stouts, but it’s a lot of everything. IPAs are still huge out here, double IPAs as well. You get some sours, and we got a lot of wheat beers, raspberry wheats, that kind of thing. There’s actually quite a big variety at a lot of the different breweries. 

[00:45:53] GL: Got you. 

[00:45:54] JL: Steve, what about you?

[00:45:55] SH: I don’t want to say that I’m thankful for the pandemic here, but one of the benefits is that we now are seeing certain breweries can that have never done that before. Right now, in my fridge, I have some Boneyard RPM IPA, which up until last year, you always had to get it on tap somewhere. I’m so thankful to be able to get that in a six-pack nowadays, and I have it in my fridge right now. 

[00:46:17] GL: Boneyard makes great stuff. 

[00:46:18] TT: Yeah. With five kids, I assume you’re in that fridge quite a bit. 

[00:46:24] SH: Yeah. 

[00:46:28] TT: I got two, and I need to stay away from that fridge. It’s good. All right. Hey, I appreciate you all coming on. Jan, Steve, I always enjoy speaking with you all. I’d rather not speak with you when situations come up that we have to address, which is rare. But it’s always enjoyable chatting with you. I miss seeing you, and hopefully, we can connect soon. Grant, I really appreciate you all coming on. 

For the listeners out there, whatever portal you get your podcast content, please subscribe, listen to us as much as you can. We’ve got a couple of interesting podcasts coming up, including the next one I believe is on talking about the Rising Hope beer, the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. We’ll have Chris Geib from the foundation, as well as Mike Hess with Hess Brewing and some folks from Cigar City, to talk about what we do every year for that—looking forward to it. 

Again, thanks to everybody for listening, and we will touch base and catch up soon. Cheers.

[00:47:22] GL: Cheers.

[00:47:22] SH: Thanks for having me, Toby. 

[00:47:23] JL: Thanks very much. It was fun.