What is in your glass? How is it packaged?
I am a Tusker person through and through. I come from a line of Tusker drinkers, starting with my grandfather, who started the tradition with his ever-present suit jacket that was 2 sizes too big and his gum boots stained with red mud synonymous with the highlands around Kiamariga. If you have no idea where this is, then you haven’t lived. I have always wanted to see the underbelly of the beast where this sweet nectar of the gods is brewed and packaged but it was guarded worse than the crown jewels.
Anyway, yesterday, I was granted backstage access to the packaging of beer at the EABL plant in Ruaraka. After watching a safety guide and taking a quiz to make sure I understood enough that I would be going home with all my body parts intact, they took me (and a few other people) into the plant to see the bottling process first hand. The first thing I noticed was that the plant is noisy, with a lot of moving parts and grinding metal bits. This is when I understood why they made us take that safety quiz; losing a limb or several is not a distant prospect.
So anyway, the process is pretty straight forward, the bottles are unloaded from the cases, what we call in this part of the world crates, and loaded into a washer. The washer handles aver 60,000 bottles an hour and I remember thinking about how much that would help with my dirty dishes situation. At the washer, the labels are removed, the crowns too and then they are taken through a washing process that includes heat treatment and a caustic soda solution. The bottles then move to this nifty 3D imaging machine that sorts out those with breakages, with dirt on them and those that don’t belong. Yes, some people do put soda bottles in the crates, the anarchists.
The conveyor process then moves to the bottler, where the all the air is sucked out of the bottles and replaced with CO2. This ensures that the beer does not go bad before the sell-by date. They are then filled with whatever brand of beer is in the reservoir tank, say Tusker, capped and taken through this conveyor belt to a pasteurization chamber. This is done at about 4 degrees C or below. The pasteurization chamber kills off any microbials that might have escaped through the cleaning process through heat treatment. Finally, every morning before a batch leaves, it is tasted by beer experts to make sure it passes the taste test. Yes I checked and they have filled all the taster positions.
Through this entire process, I learnt two things from Mr Amos Kiguru, the plant engineer who took us through the tour. First of all, beer is best served chilled, at between 8 and 10 degrees. This explains why a Tusker baridi tastes better than one at room temperature, even in the July cold. Second, the beer label has a lot more information than I initially though. Other than the alcohol content and the sell by date, it has enough information to enable them to track that batch down to farmer that sold them the barley. Who knew!