By Dave Comber, ALC Madison
Many of us like to enjoy a beer at a sporting event, while watching our favorite sports teams on TV, at picnics, or at any other gathering with family and friends. Most of us never think about the fact that beer is considered a perishable product. However, beer is a fragile product that needs care when being transported.
Beer is food. As with most foods, it deteriorates as a result of the action of bacteria, light, and air. To combat this, breweries, prior to bottling, make beer undergo some form of stabilization to extend its shelf life. The two primary forms of stabilization are sterile filtration, where the beer is passed through a microporous filter that will not let through any crunchy bits larger than 0.5 microns, and pasteurization, whereby the beer is heated briefly to kill any microbial wildlife.
The length of time it takes for a beer to become stale is determined by the alcohol strength and hopping level of the beer. Alcohol and hops help preserve beer – stronger beers with more hops keep longer. The freshness for a lager is about four months, five months for stronger craft brewed ales, and about six months to one year for high strength beers such as doppelbocks.
In most cases beer is at its best before it leaves the brewery. The further it travels from the brewery, the more difficult it becomes to maintain quality. Everyone involved in the production, distribution, and service of beer shares a responsibility for familiarizing themselves with, and maintaining product freshness. The sooner the beer can get from the brewery to the consumer, the better. Transportation providers play a large role in ensuring beer gets to the consumer expeditiously to ensure product quality.
When transporting beer, it is critical that carriers understand what it takes to cross state lines. Many states require permits to be able to legally haul beer in and out and through their state. All transportation providers need to ensure they have the proper permits to haul the product. Fines are possible, and delays getting the product to the store can occur if a truck is detained because they do not have the appropriate permits.
Since beer is a food product, the trailer needs to be inspected to ensure that it is clean and free of any odors. Some beer companies require that reefer trailers are used to haul their beer to slow down the oxidation process to keep it fresh longer. The temperature of beer hauled in reefers is generally around 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the beer at the proper temperature keeps beer fresh longer. Also, in the winter, if hauling beer in a dry van trailer, it is imperative that beer is not kept outside too long depending on the outside temperature. Beer will not freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit due to the alcohol and sugar in beer. However, if beer is being transported on a dry van in cold temperatures in winter months, it should be delivered straight through to the receiver, or early the next morning. If temps are extreme (15 degrees F. or less) beer loads should only be transported with a reefer trailer, with the reefer running between 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit.
The transportation industry plays a big role in ensuring that beer goes from the brewery to the consumer in a timely manner. When purchasing beer, remember to think about all that the transportation industry does to ensure the freshness of beer. Enjoy and respect beer, and always drink in moderation.
Dave Comber is the manager of ALC Madison and has been with the Allen Lund Company for eight years. He worked for three years as the assistant manager, before being promoted to his current role. Comber brought with him over 20 years of management and customer service experience within the transportation industry from Northern Freight Service, Inc. and Schneider National, Inc. Comber attended Lawrence University in Appleton, WI and earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts with a Major in History.