The future of beer in the world ...


Beer historians should not engage in some forward-thinking and try to read the future into the beer dregs!

However, a discussion on the future of the Brewery (in the general sense that we give to this word) puts into perspective the major trends of its several thousand year old history. Here we develop two sketches of analysis, without claiming to exhaust the topics.


The first one opens up the issue of the reciprocal influences between Asian and Western brewing traditions. From the scientific discoveries were born in the 19th and 20th centuries of such encounters, made possible by the great European colonial companies of those times. But none of these encounters modified either of these brewing traditions. So much so that Asian beers are still poured into the category vin ("rice wine", "millet wine", etc.), whereas scientists, engineers, biotechnologists, ethnologists have long recognised that they were a true kind of beer. What does the 21th century and its highly globalised economy have in store for us on this subject?


The second asks about the link forged between scientific research and beer technology in the 21th century. This very close and fruitful collaboration dates back to the end of the 18th century, when the scientists of the time were trying to understand how the starchy materials could become sweetened, and how these sugars were transformed into alcohol. The making of beer was their privileged field of experimentation. At the dawn of the 21th century, this collaboration between science and brewery is enduring. the biotechnologies now make it possible to modify very finely the biochemical mechanisms and the metabolism of microorganisms. They are also oriented towards the construction (the invention?) of cells and organisms endowed with new properties thanks to genetics. This mechanics of the living will impact the Brewery's technologies since biochemistry is one of its technological axes.

In the 20th century, the brewing industry was a precursor in some cases. It held the rank of a high-tech industry that it had acquired in the 19thth century with the European industrial revolution. In the 21st century, industrial brewing reaches the same level of industrial and capital concentration as the whole food sector. The Inbev holding company holds stakes in the world's leading brewery groups and manages more than 500 commercial beer brands. Asian brewery groups are aiming for the same level of capital concentration. The revolution in craft breweries that began in Great Britain in the 1970s (CAMRA) has not changed the situation. They are tapping into local micro-markets and sometimes exploring new types of beer by playing with starchy raw materials, aromatics, hop substitutes or even the micro-organisms that control alcoholic or lactic fermentation. But they stick to classic Western brewing processes and the technical equipment that supports them. In the end, there's nothing revolutionary about it. Craft brewing will have a greater social and technical impact in Africa, Asia and South America, where traditional beers have survived the colonial wave of industrial beers.



25/10/2012  Christian Berger