Fri | Jan 18, 2019

How Heineken beer is made

Published:Monday | July 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
At the Red Stripe Brewery, waste is minimised as much as possible. The 'spent' grain is sold to farmers to feed their animals or for use as fertiliser.
There are 18 horizontal fermenters and an additional six new vertical fermenters, totaling 16,800 hectolitres at the Red Stripe Brewery along Spanish Town Road, Kingston. - Photos by Gladstone Taylo /Photographer

 Keisha Hill and Althea Reid, Gleaner Writers

If you have ever wondered what goes into the making of a bottle of Heineken beer, rest assured that as an industry leader, Red Stripe maintains a consistent and effective approach to its manufacturing process. Heineken beer has been brewed under licence in Jamaica by Desnoes and Geddes Limited for more than 40 years and was recently recognised as producers of the best Heineken in the Americas.

On a recent tour of the Spanish Town Road facility, The Gleaner team saw the Red Stripe Brewery where 66,000 bottles of Heineken beer are filled per hour. Heineken is brewed using the finest water, malt and hops, along with yeast that is supplied from the Heineken headquarters in Zoeterwoude in the Netherlands.

The brewing process uses the same recipe and method developed in 1873 and takes the better part of a month through the production process - from brewing to bottling. The malt used in the manufacturing process is stored in six malt silos from where it is transferred to the brew house, crushed and prepared for brewing.

According to Vayden Harvey, supply innovation manager and Heineken brewer, at the brew house the crushed malt is mixed with the brewing liquor and heated to release the starch and the enzymes in the crushed malt. There are at least four processes at this stage before the brew moves into the wort cooler and then into the fermenter, where the Heineken yeast is added to the wort to begin fermentation.

"There are 18 horizontal and six vertical fermenters in operation and an additional six new vertical fermenters totaling 16,800 hectolitres. This will add to our current capacity, thereby reinforcing the reliability of our supply to the market, as well as setting us up for growth in the future. There is also a new Heineken tank that will hold the equivalent of 40,000 cases of Heineken beer in liquid form," Harvey said.

Fermented beer

After fermentation, the yeast is removed from the beer and the fermented beer is transferred to the conditioning tank, then onto the beer filter to ensure it is cleared and free of haze. The beer is then stored in a bright beer tank where it goes on the bottling line, is packaged and palletised for dispatch. The beer in the final pack is delivered to the customer.

"We have two electronic bottle inspectors that inspect each bottle after the washing process to ensure the bottles going into the fillers are not damaged or soiled and are free of inclusions. We have two fillers rated at 33,000 bottles per hour, and three bottling lines; one can line and one keg line," Harvey said.

From a single brewery in Amsterdam 150 years ago, Heineken has grown into the world's most international brewer. Heineken lager beer contains five per cent alcohol by volume and has a fresh fruity aroma and taste along with a mild bitter note. It is bottled in the traditional green glass and key brand marks include the iconic Heineken word and medals as well as the red star.

"We have a tunnel pasteurizer, which ensures the beer in each bottle is free of microbes and will remain safe for consumption for the duration of its shelf life. We produce Heineken in a 284ml package. However, our plant has the capability of producing beer in a range of formats, including the standard 250-341ml serving, large format one litre serving as well as cans," Harvey said.

According to Harvey, so far, the Heineken brand is having a good year and they are setting the targets for the brand to have an even better year. Heineken is sold in more than 170 countries around the world.