Ask Mr. Wizard

Multi-function Brew Room


Verne Leo asks,

I am a beginner brewer and have a strong interest in brewing both beers and wines. I also make cheeses and other food items on the side. I am planning a new home construction, which includes a basement and possible sub-basement of my own design. My main question is if I can ferment beers and wines in the same room without the risk of contamination? And with the other foods, I use bacterial cultures as well as several other types of yeast both engineered and wild. I also work with edible mushroom spores to grow my own mushrooms. 


The short answer to this question is that you can certainly ferment
beer and wine in the same room without a huge risk of contamination. In
my mind this is no different than using multiple yeast strains in the
same brewery. This practice at one time was very uncommon in commercial
breweries, but these days the practice is quite common and commercial
brewers are doing this with great success.

So how about the other organisms in the same room? The mushrooms don’t
worry me much because mushroom spores don’t spoil beer. However, the
bugs used to make cheese can and do spoil beer and wine. But again,
look at what a large number of US craft brewers are doing to make sour
beers. These brewers are intentionally bringing the most obnoxious beer
spoilage organisms into their breweries and encouraging them to grow.
Most sour beers use a mix of lactic acid bacteria and the ever-funky
yeast Brettanomyces to develop the flavor complexity in these beers.

The keys to handling multiple organisms in the same general area are:
A.) A good understanding of how cross-contamination occurs. B.) Using
common tools that can be cleaned and sanitized. C.) Having special
tools dedicated to your various special processes (a special tool is
something that cannot be safely used for multiple duties, such as an
oak barrel inoculated with Brettanomyces). D.) Adopt a fanatical
approach to cleaning and sanitation. With control over sanitation you
will have a fair shot of success.

Response by Ashton Lewis.