On February 2nd, 2015 I had the joy of starting to work in the largest brewery in Venezuela – but it is not only the largest one because of its capacity but by the quality and passion in everything that they make there. I worked as apprentice brewer for 10 months -trainee-, a position in which you must learn “ALL” the beer process, from the raw materials to the final product, so you have to rotate through each one of the areas within the plant and work hand by hand with the workers, supervisors, and brewmasters.
When I started working in Polar my beer knowledge was really basic as I didn’t have any work experience. I had just recently graduated from the University and I had just done a course in craft beers – which has nothing related to the brewing process- and the internships in the food industry. I’m really grateful because I had a great tutor within the company, who taught me a lot. During my training, we used to use a technique that I would love to share with all of you. It is the same technique used by Mc. Donalds to train their staff – the only one that has gained recognition of the American Council on Education (ACE) for its management training programs:
First, he gave me the theoretical method then I made a tour around the areas to get familiar with the whole process step by step. I learned how the supervisors, operators, and workers do their work and at the end, it was my turn to put into practice everything I have learned- I have also put this technique into practice in all aspects of my daily life from the day I learned it until now-.
In Polar Brewery, the whole process is divided into 3 main departments: Brew House, Filtration, and Packaging. I had the good fortune to receive a trainee in each one of those areas and also I could produce my own beer in a pilot plant. Polar is the best example that if you want to achieve something -even in hard times- you can make it, because in Venezuela now everything is really difficult. Nevertheless Polar uses prime technology, the best raw materials, and a good staff which allow them to produce a quality beer.
In addition to brewed our own beer. I received a sensorial training, which is extremely important in a brewery because it depends on it, the quality of the final product. The brewmaster and all the staff trained in the sensorial analysis should be able to detect any failure present in each of the different steps of the process, from the wort to the final product. A satisfied customer is the result of a successful industrial process and a very well trained sensorial panel.
AND TO START …
THE HISTORY OF POLAR BREWERY…
Polar Brewery is the largest one in Venezuela. It started in 1941. It was founded by Jose Manuel Saez, Rafael Henrique Lujan, Yepez Andres Santamaria, Carlos García Martín Benitez and Toledo, from 1944. Dr. Lorenzo Mendoza Fleury figures as the largest shareholder of the company. The first plant was built in Antimano, Parroquia La Vega (Caracas, Venezuela) with a capacity of 30,000 liters per month. The eastern brewery was established in Barcelona in 1948 with an installed capacity of 500,000 liters per month. In 1951 the third plant was established in Polar Los Cortijos with a capacity of 500,000 liters per month. In 1959 began the construction of “Planta Modelo” in Maracaibo with installing 4 million liters per month and in 1977 the San Joaquin Plant began to produce, it was conceived to be the largest and most modern brewery in Latin America. I worked in Los Cortijos, located in Caracas. There, I began my training in the raw material department and then I finished the trainee in the packaging area and laboratories.
They produce the following types of beer:
My favorite one, it is the beer that represents Venezuela the most. It exists from 1941 and is really the essence of what Polar means for our Country. What I love the most about this beer it is the aroma and the hops that are used to produce it. It is also a highly refreshing beer with an alcohol content of 4.70%.
It is a light beer, the bitterness is not high, a light body and clearly perceived flavors of cereals. Drinkability: high (you can drink it easily). Alcohol content: 4.10%
It is the one that I like the least, it doesn’t taste like beer for me, however, it is the one of the best-selling one at the market because the high drinkability and very low alcoholic strength which allows you to drink many without realizing. In the Caribbean, we boast about the number of beers we drink and this beer is perfect for it with an alcohol content of 3.80%
It is a beer with more body and alcohol, low drinkability. It is a balanced beer and has a higher bitterness than the previous one. Alcohol content: 5.8%
It is one of my favorite. Some people say it’s almost water or it’s a beer for girls but I love it and I always recommended it. It is refreshing, all the ingredients are balanced, has less body than a green Solera and for that reason, you can take more than 3. The flavor of the malt and the bitterness is in perfect harmony with the rest of the ingredients. It is a light beer, which indicates the yeast ate all or almost all the sugars present in the cereals and it could be considered as the most recommended when we are on a diet. The alcohol content is 4.0%.
Currently, in Venezuela we are experiencing our worst political, economic and social situation of our history and Polar does not escape from this problem. The socialist government of Nicolas Maduro has declared the war to the only Company that has been produced for years in our Country and it manufactures quality products, offering jobs to more than 10,000 employees. Polar Brewery Plant located in Los Cortijos, Caracas, stopped its operations about 5 months ago, because of the lack of the raw material required to produce, the government is the only “legal” provider of foreign currencies and it has still a debt of 270 million dollars which haven’t pay to Polar suppliers yet. That fact prevents open the credit lines to acquire more raw material. This crisis, forcing 740 employees to stay at home “work stoppage” until they get the raw materials and operations can continue.
For me, as a former polar employee, this is a truly alarming situation. Luckily, I am right now in Germany, but many of the workers from polar brewery don’t have the same good fortune to leave the country or even to seek for opportunities in other companies in Venezuela. The main fact is that all the companies in our Country are in the same situation or even worse – and the idea is not to be lucky, is to be able to work freely in the Country where you were born which guarantees of free production, free trade and also a really high quality of life or high living standards. I have only words of thanks to POLAR and it greatly hurts me to hear about the internal situation that exists inside the Company but when the sun rises again and the crisis will be over, Polar will be victorious, because so are the warriors. Despite the terrible moments they are still betting for a better Venezuela.
And here are some brewing tips:
* Be a brewer or to work in a brewery involves a daily training of the senses and we must be able to recognize very well the sounds of our plant, the taste of raw materials, the wort and beer in each of its stages And also should will have a very well trained of the all our senses: sight, smell, and touch throughout the brewing process. Above all, we must have a well-trained brain, so we must know in depth the theory of the process and put it into practice, very important it is also to solve all the problems because in a brewing plant there is something new to learn every single day. As my tutor always said to me: “Here you learn more than just how to make a beer.”
* All the processes have their respective loss, this should be monitored to make it controllable and not excessive.