Why ​Investing Into Your Lab is​ Paramount​

Monday Night Brewing‘s Joel Iverson said that the Atlanta brewery has shifted their thinking from the lab being an expense to the lab being an opportunity.

“Instead of just tasting barrels, we are running tests on individual barrels and then quantifying why they taste,” he said, adding they work on checking the combination of yeasts and bacteria in specific strains and quantities.

“This then shapes how we are making new beers.”

​Monday Night Lab Director, Dr. Jon Paluszynski, PhD, said that ​PCR has been the single greatest change to ​their lab program.

​”​It allows us to see what potential spoilers might exist in our beer that we quite simply can’t taste at the time of packaging, and gives us quick answers to decide when a beer meets our QA standards without having to wait several days as we did with traditional plates​,” he said​. “​A high quality PCR is expensive, but as soon as you are doing a meaningful amount of beer and especially if you are sending it to the market, I believe it’s a critical piece to ensure you don’t send out product that could damage your brand.​”​

For Odell Brewing, QA/QC Manager Eli Kolodny said that when the brewery made additions to its lab team — which is a part of the overall quality department — a four-year degree is a must.

“It was sought after in previous years before I was here,” said the seven-year veteran of the long-standing Colorado brewery, “but it’s a must have now.”

It doesn’t have to be a Brewing Science major he said, noting that many in the lab team have Biochem or Food Safety as their majors.

The overall quality team has focuses on not just lab work, but also in tasting panels, yeast management and micro analysis along with dedication to quality checks on raw material and packaging, all the way down to the glue for labeling.

The skill set for working in a brewing laboratory is multifaceted and requires a bit of flexibility between disciplines, as well as a disposition toward critical thinking, said Upslope Brewing’s Laboratory & Quality Control Manager, Mara Miller.

“For example, I have a degree in chemistry, however, I run all of the microbiological control and sensory analysis in addition to the chemical/biochemical analysis,” she said. “Often the best candidates are those who have college-level laboratory experience and technical skills. These skills create a strong foundation upon which brewery-specific tasks can develop. It is also a plus if a candidate can problem solve, work well in groups and won’t be distracted/bothered by the loud production setting.”

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