Nick Larson and Jake Devincenzi
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Kinesiology senior Nick Larson and aerospace engineering senior Jake Devincenzi are Mustang News beer columnists.
Beer is awesome, we all know that. But there’s so much more that goes on at a brewery than simply making beer. Breweries these days can drive the economy of a town and put it on the map. I mean, who would know Petaluma existed if it wasn’t for Lagunitas Brewing Company? A brewery is a destination for beer geeks, and helps other local businesses by bringing in customers. In addition, breweries do all they can to be environmentally conscious by recycling. You may think glass, aluminum and cardboard would be the most important recyclables, but you’re wrong.
Grains are the core ingredient in beer. They give it color, flavor and sugars, which are converted by yeast into alcohol. During the brewing process, the wort (the term for beer before yeast is added) goes through a mash. A mash is a temperature-controlled container where different flavors are extracted from the inside of the grains using heat. Once this process is done, the wort goes into a lauter tun. This contraption is essentially a French press, bringing the excess grain husks to the bottom of the tun to get it out of the wort (no one wants to drink grain husks) and recycle it. There are a lot of leftover grain husks, so many breweries make deals with local farms who will take the grain and use it to feed their livestock. Sounds like a great deal where everyone wins, right? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t feel the same way.
The Food Safety Modernization Act wants to put an end to this efficient and “green” process. If passed, the act will require breweries to dispose of the grain in a different way, which essentially means sending it to a landfill. The FDA’s argument is that this will help prevent foodborne illness, but there have been no documented cases of grains from a brewery creating foodborne illness in livestock or humans. So what’s the real motivation for this act? Money.
So what’s the most expensive ingredient in beer? The yeast? The hops? The grains? All incorrect. The most expensive ingredient in beer is taxes. It’s the reason we sometimes pay more than $10 for a six-pack. If this act were to pass, beer prices would continue to increase. Prices of meat and dairy would also dramatically increase. Feeding a group of animals is not cheap and adding the cost of new grains, rather than recycled ones, to a farmer or rancher’s budget would decimate a lot of them. As we’ve discussed throughout this year, we, along with most of our readers, are college students. If beer prices go up, a lot of us would be forced to settle for a 30 of Natty or, even worse, water. The small, local craft breweries we’ve grown to love would fade into obscurity.
Fortunately for us, there’s plenty of opposition to these new regulations. Not one brewery supports this, nor does the meat or dairy industry. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado has come out opposing it, as Colorado is the hub of beer. He also wants to get reelected, but hey, at least he’s doing something. It looks like it’s a long shot that this will actually go into effect, but you can never be sure. Keep an eye out for any news about this and any way to fight against it. We love beer, cheese, butter and In-N-Out way too much to let this happen. Oh, and Earth and life and breathing clean-ish air.
So that’s our drunk’n public service announcement for the year. Stay hoppy, friends.