Why Quality Control Checks Through Whole Process are Important

schlafly beer

Dumping beer is never fun. But it can be a necessity to save face and future profits. Bad beer in the market is never a good thing and multiple quality control checks are necessary. Sensory panels can be just as important as pre-wort cleaning procedures and post-boil checks.

For Schlafly Beer, members of the executive team recall an issue that was caught with a sensory check post-fermentation, which meant that beer never made it to packaging.

“Regular checks of finished beer and beer in process are critical,” said Ambassador Brewer Stephen Hale as well as Lead Quality Assurance Specialist Matthew Murphy and Head of Brewing Operations Emily Parker in an email to Brewer. “Having a PDCA program in place is helpful (the Deming cycle): establish proper training for all employees, follow all procedures as established, and observe everything to try to make things better.”

The trio suggest any brewery to validate the process from yeast storage to pitching to sanitation and everything in between. Review the training procedures and challenge testing methods.

“Examine your critical control points and make sure you can document and validate each step along the way from brewhouse to bottle,” they said. “Poke holes anywhere you can.”

The brewery catalogs and libraries its beers so it can see how the beers are changing over time.

“With all of our monitoring, we also do lots of tasting,” they said. “Don’t forget to taste the beer.”


Chicago’s Illuminated Beer Works had an issue about six months ago where it had a new person cleaning a tank and they didn’t use the proper ratios for cleaning and sanitizing and the beer went south.

“We were on a time crunch and re-dosed the harvested yeast into a second tank before we caught the issue,” said IBW’s Brian Buckman. “For a shop our size that was pretty painful to wind up dumping two batches of beer, but we had no choice, we weren’t going to put garbage out in the world.”

So on the operator side, now IBW has laminated paper describing just about every activity and every ratio all over the shop to keep its employees more on-point.

“We also keep two strains of each yeast that we alternate use for, so we are not immediately pulling from a tank and pitching into another,” Buckman said. “This also gives us time for better QC pre-fermentation in both the lab and sensory.

“This seems like obvious stuff — and it is — but it took a pretty painful lesson on our part to slow down and remove another few variables to ensure the quality we insist on.”

Ensuring good record-keeping, Schlafly’s Quality department stays on top of yeast pitches in an extremely organized fashion, constantly checking fermentation rates and attenuation for yeast performance and viability.

“Our micro program monitors the beer for possible contamination including wild yeast strains,” the Schlafly team wrote. “We also replenish our supply regularly with freshly propagated yeast which limits the potential for mutation or an undesirable yeast from establishing itself. Critically, we have a stringent sanitation program with rigorous documentation that includes process validation.”

Establishing a rigorous QC tasting program is hugely helpful, and sensory is vital, they added.

Ongoing analysis is key: monitoring the fermentation for consistent rates, correct attenuation, high viability, correct cell counts, and proper flocculation.

“It starts with a relentless commitment to quality,” they said.

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