Swinging on Sunbeams was a collaboration brew for International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day (IWCBD) between ourselves and Creative Juices Brewing Company (CJBC). It was brewed entirely by a team of women, led by our Director, Larissa, at CJBC’s facilities. Every step of the brew process was to be handled by members of that team and were held to the highest standards of cleanliness and quality control. This included a thorough cleaning and sanitation regimen that was a considerable upgrade to existing practices implemented at the time by CJBC as well as additional Quality Assurance (QA) measures that are Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for us.
These additional practices yielded a beer that was free from defect and contained no spoilage organisms. For all intents and purposes, it was a fantastic beer.
One week before the agreed upon scheduled packaging date, a CJBC staff member, who was not a part of the brew team, chose to transfer the beer to a pair of Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC) for delivery to their packaging contractor. Despite having previously briefed that nitrogen was to be used to displace the volume of beer leaving the fermenter (the beer was uncarbonated at this stage, therefore N2 was a more cost effective alternative to CO2), he chose instead to significantly deviate from our SOP and instead rely on the CO2 “blanket” in the fermenter as a barrier against air ingress and the only precaution against O2 pickup.
Despite our protests, CJBC chose to continue with the transfer, only adding ascorbic acid (commonly used as an antioxidant in the food industry) at our insistence as the minimum mitigation against a potential air add (also the only antioxidant readily available, as CJBC did not stock or use any at the time).
When the beer returned packaged, we were informed that the accompanying lab report showed that final gravity and ABV matched the in-house values. No other information was shared.
In hindsight, we should have pressed for the full report, but at this stage we trusted CJBC to inform us if any other significant results were returned.
The beer tasted exactly as desired and customers gave it favorable reviews. For what it’s worth, Swinging on Sunbeams was, and still is, CJBC’s highest rated beer on Untappd.
On 18 July, 2022, during weekly routine quality checks on our products, we found that a random sample of Swinging on Sunbeams tasted stale. We tested it with a Dissolved Oxygen (DO) meter as well as several other samples of the beer from a dozen cans and one keg, and found all measured above 800ppb DO.
As you may already know, the presence of oxygen in beer does not pose any threat to human health. It does, however, cause the product to stale prematurely, often causing a “cardboard” flavor to gradually develop (there’s more to it than that, but we’re trying to keep this from turning into a dissertation).
CJBC acknowledged the DO meter readings we demonstrated in their taproom.
It was at this point that CJBC chose to disclose to us that they were *already aware* of the presence of oxygen in the beer, and that they had omitted that the lab report recorded 1025ppb at the packaging site.
To be clear, this is 10x higher than anything we have ever recorded during our own packaging process, and is 5x higher than what we consider the allowable limit for us to sell to the public.
We immediately informed our customers once we had assessed the number of individuals and organizations which had been impacted by our own sales of the product. We also strongly suggested to CJBC that they, at a minimum, disclose to their customers that the oxygenation had occurred and that it would very likely shorten the shelf life of the product.
Today we had to ask a shop to disassociate The Mad Yank Brewery from a social media post referencing us with the beer. When asked why, we provided full disclosure, as anything less would be a lie of omission. Given the fact that those who are actively involved in the sale of the product to the public (i.e. bottle shops) have not been given the information necessary to ensure the product remains viable while on their shelves, we have decided that public disclosure is necessary.
The Mad Yank Brewery is committed to producing quality products that you can trust and creating an open and transparent beer community. We are deeply regretful that a beer bearing our logo has been released to the public that is significantly below our standards – we will choose future partners with greater care and diligence and exercise significantly more oversight on all future collaborations in order to ensure our customers get products worthy of their patronage.
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