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Brewing Better Beer – Quality Control at Allagash

inspecting the mash tun

We take the quality of our beer seriously. But what does quality even mean? To start, we’d point you toward a beer’s ingredients, a beer’s taste, a beer’s carbonation, a beer’s freshness when it’s packaged, a beer’s ability to stay fresh on the shelf (or in your fridge)… We could go on.

In short, a beer’s quality covers every aspect of what makes a beer, beer. And the pursuit of quality stretches to every corner of our brewery. The truth is, there’s no single magic “good beer” bullet. Making quality beer—defined as beer that we’re proud to drink—takes extra effort, across the board. This blog series dives into what that looks like in real life, for all of us at Allagash.

As a prologue to the beer quality journey that takes place inside our brewery, we need to talk about outside suppliers. Across the board, we make sure to work with only the best partners. This involves visiting all of our suppliers, seeing how they work, and actually getting our hands on all the raw materials we’ll eventually use. It’s a vital step we take for everything we receive, from glass to grain. 

sampling local grain

PART 1: THE WAREHOUSE

The logical place to start in all this is our warehouse. This is the place that our ingredients, labels, bottles, barrels, and much more are received and stored.

Beer is fundamentally made up of water, grain, hops, and yeast—though other ingredients can be added. Our water, we’re happy to say, is some of the finest in the country, so no extra work from us necessary. Yeast, we’ll talk more about in a later blog. Hops, grains, and spices, though, all receive their first inspection in our warehouse. For an ingredient like grain, we’ll take a sample from every shipment we receive. The sample is then inspected by our Warehouse quality team, who are looking for more apparent flaws like moisture, foreign objects, or *gasp* any critters along for the ride. LET IT BE KNOWN: if critters are found, the whole lot goes back. Often, though, the problems that are found at this stage could go unnoticed without the extra precaution. Problems like: incorrectly labeled malt, improperly packaged materials, even worn-out pallets that make transportation of materials dangerous.

Speaking of materials: bottles, caps, labels, kegs, and more also undergo the same sensory checks we described above. As a rule, everything that eventually gets to the brewery will already have been checked out by our warehouse team.

Allagash Warehouse sample of buck farms White Wheat

A sample of Buck Farms White Wheat.

Dave uses the boomstick to sample from a super sack of grain

This regal-looking tool, called the “Boomstick,” is how we sample grain from larger packages.

Allagash boomstick in action

The Boomstick lets us look at grain from the top to the bottom of the package, so we can make sure that it’s all in good shape.

We also use a strict first-in, first-out method of making sure our ingredients are used in a timely fashion, so nothing sits around for longer than it has to. These logical first steps actually nip a whole host of problems in the bud. They’re the straightforward, but necessary, first line of defense in our brewery’s quality network.

Once the ingredients and materials have been inspected and sampled, they head to our brewhouse—where our beers’ quality journey continues.

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