Have you ever wondered how beer is made and packaged? Have you ever thought of how it goes from barley to that bottle of beer that you graciously open on a Friday night? I have always wanted to know the process that beer goes through before it reaches the consumer but that kind of information has always proven hard to come by. Well, two weeks ago we were given the golden chance to witness how beer was packaged at the EABL plant in Ruaraka.
When we got to the Ruaraka we were first taken through a video on safety after which we did a quiz on what we had learnt before being granted access to the plant. Thereafter we were issued with safety equipment which included googles, special boots, reflector jackets and earpieces to shield from the noise at the plant.
Once in the plant, we were ushered to the start of the production line. This is where recycled bottles are picked from their crates by a machine and taken to a washer. The washer cleans over 60,000 bottles in an hour. Here the bottles are unloaded, labels removed and thereafter the bottles are taken through a solution of filtered water, caustic soda and heat treatment that thoroughly and efficiently cleans the used bottles. Since the bottles are recycled, this process is one of the most important in the packaging process and the management at the factory assured that the temperatures and chemicals used in the cleaning process is carefully supervised.
The bottles are then taken through a very high tech 3-D imaging machine that eliminates bottles that might still contain impurities, have cracks or a different shape. Considering that the bottles are recycled, a soda bottle might find its way into the line so the machine ensures that it is eliminated.
They then have carbon dioxide pumped into them to reduce the level of oxygen, because oxygen makes the beer go bad. This is but one of the numerous processes that the factory puts in place to ensure quality control through every stage.
Later, the bottles are filled with whichever brand of beer that is in the reservoir tank. What I found interesting is that the beer is first tasted by a panel before being packaged. If a particular batch is found to be bad, it is out rightly rejected which means that the entire batch won’t be used. Our tour guide for the day, Mr Amos Kiguru, the plant engineer said that they always make sure that before packaging, the beer has to meet every level of exceptional taste for their consumers.
After the beer which has gone through the tasting process, it is then packaged and taken via a conveyor belt into a pasteurization chamber. This chamber kills off any microorganisms that might not have been eliminated during the cleaning treatment. This is done at about 4 degrees Celsius or below. After this, there’s an intricate process of labeling and packing of the bottles into the cases required.
The Kegs go through almost the same process but produce up to 480 Kegs an hour per line which totals to an average of 18,000 Kegs per day.
Some interesting facts I learnt through this process are the fact that beer is not only obviously best served chilled – it’s also packaged in that way to maximize its quality as it’s transported out and also maximize its shell life which varies from 6 months up to a year.
Also, given the very high demand for EABL’s products in the country, they have two very efficient working lines which produce an average of 60,000 crates per day. Although the demand varies depending on the time of year. Demand increases during Christmas and other major holidays and decreases during months like June and July. However, work on the production line the work never stops. Mr Kiguru explained that for them, their lives revolve around making sure that the consumer is completely satisfied with their product from the moment it leaves their warehouses to the moment they open their beer. If you didn’t know, now you know!