Why 6 Is The Magic Number

By The BottleShop's founder and MD Andrew Morgan

I’ve been asked ‘why have you chosen six-degrees as the temperature to transport your #ColdChain beer?’ several times lately. It’s not a number we’ve made-up, there’s science behind the refrigeration of beer that was pioneered by Sierra Nevada back in the 1980’s.

Sierra knew that keeping beer cold helped preserve freshness and decided to research how and why it was important. They discovered that anything below 6 degrees Celsius doesn’t make much difference - but every degree above makes a proportional change to the stability of the beer over time. So, if you hear people referring to having cold-rooms at 12 degrees, bear in mind this is a long way off the magic number and though the beer will be happier than stored at 20 degrees, it certainly isn’t as happy as it could be.

Sierra Nevada realised refrigeration was important and they were selling a lot of Pale Ale to distributors who were storing their beer at ambient temperature. They made the bold move to insist that all of them upgraded their facilities otherwise they wouldn’t supply them. They all ended up agreeing to do it.

BrewDog publicly announced their move towards refrigeration last year and now have temperature controlled storage in their warehouse and bars. They conducted their own research which showed the hoppiness of their beer changed dramatically in the few weeks after packaging - which led to a mandate that all Punk IPA served in their bars should be 2 weeks old or less.

We’ve had a few rocks thrown at us by people saying we should be talking about local and how ecologically awful transporting beer around the world is. I want to have lots of independent, local businesses around me but I want them to be offering #WorldClass products and services. Local for local’s sake isn’t good for anyone - but it’s often convenient and we’re certainly seeing a movement towards local beer consumption in America. However, this is with a new-wave of breweries who are absolutely nailing quality without compromise.

I’ve learnt a lot about transporting beer over the years and the most efficient, cost effective way of moving beer is on a boat. It costs (roughly) the same to transport a pallet of beer from LA to Southampton as it does from Glasgow to London. The amount of energy used to do this is considerably less via the boat than by road-haulage - and this is why the price of beer we import is such great value. Sure, air-freighting costs a lot more - but to be able to offer an experience which is identical to travelling across the world to drink beer at an American tap-room is worth it. Surely, bringing 500 bottles to the UK on a plane is more ecological than 500 beer-tourists individually travelling to an American tap-room to drink fresh beer?

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  • Should cask condition’ing’ beer be kept at 6c? Wouldn’t the yeast drop out and stop working it’s magic. This is probably where 12c has developed in the UK.

  • Andrew,
    I loved this article.
    Very informative and well written.
    Hope all is well.


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