Quality, quality or quality?

Quality, quality or quality?

I recently stated my thoughts at a SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) meeting regarding a few issues, one of those was in regard to SIBA’s FSQ (Food Safety and Quality Certificate) Quality Audit which is only needed for selling into Tied Pubcos via the SIBA DDS/Beerflex program. I’ll get to this in a bit more detail later.

I see ‘Quality’ as having 3 basic streams.

  1. Procedure
  2. Microbiological testing
  3. Knowledge and skill with the use of ingredients

These three streams of quality can be combined or separated in any combination and a brewer can make either good, bad or indifferent beer with any or all. A combination of all three seems like a pretty good idea.

I am somewhat spoilt in that my background from Saltaire Brewery taught me a great deal of solid procedure, this procedure should be written down and followed, full and complete records should be kept. This is something that ALL brewers should be adhering to from day one of brewing beer.
Its basically Food Safety and the production of beer inline with known procedure which helps eliminate the chance of making anyone poorly. Everything Cleaned and Sanitised before beer goes anywhere near it.

Microbiological testing:
Ideally a brewer should be able to trust their cleaning procedures and demonstrate that what they make is free from contamination. Samples should be taken and various stages for analysis to verify that casks, vessels, yeast, wort are all free of contamination. The simple solution for cleaned vessels is an ATP meter and swabs that tests for protein residue after cleaning and give a score from ZERO upwards with zero being no detected protein. Samples could also be plated up in lab conditions to see if any bugs grow so they can be identified.

Knowledge and skill with the use of ingredients:
I’ll be blunt here, you can give the best ingredients in the world to a brewer and they can still make shit beer. Conversely you can give the worst ingredients in the world to another brewer who will make amazing beer.

I guess what I am trying to say is that ‘Quality’ needs to be a combination of all three points to be fully confident in the beer you produce.
Good Procedure gets you a long way, so long as its adhered to! Though you could make technically correct, contamination-free beer that still tastes pants!

I feel FSQ is a box-ticking exercise and I would argue that is it ‘money for old rope’ for a lot of brewers and has consequences for brewers having to spend more money on some potentially unneeded services or schemes without any real quantifiable standard being achieved.
Join SIBA each year £150 (for arguments sake as a small brewer)
FSQ Audit £300 per year
BFBi Feed Assurance Scheme £175 per year (SIBA require you to register)
Pest Control Contract £250 per year (Contract required by SIBA) *As a food producer you need to have regularly checked pest control in place*

FSQ is no use for selling to Supermarkets, SALSA or BRC would be required if Supermarkets are your thing, SALSA or BRC can be used in place of FSQ in all areas.
FSQ is not required by Bottle Shops
FSQ is not required by Free House pubs or bars
FSQ is not required for direct sales to the public

Then there is the Flying Firkin thing, SIBA just bought a controlling share in Flying Firkin Distribution, (Apparently with members money and without asking the membership) Flying Firkin sells beer to Beer Festivals and Freehouse Pubs and neither of which require SIBA membership or an FSQ audit. Though SIBA’s plan for Flying Firkin is to make all brewers who use them join SIBA and gain the FSQ, so the brewers have to jump through hoops and spend money to be able to continue supplying via FF and all the time SIBA can potentially grow its membership and gain more funds from membership fees and FSQ audits.

I think it is time that SIBA offered a simple membership option for those brewers that wish to support their petitioning of government on Taxation and Beer Duty issues but don’t feel like any other part of SIBA is of benefit to them.