Vital Lab Work Needed to Succeed for Fat Head’s

Fat Head Brewery’s lab started in a closet in its first facility.

“It was a part-time guy,” recalled co-founder Matt Cole in a recent interview for the January/February 2023 issue of Brewer Mag. “Then we realized after we had a few beers go south on us that we needed to invest a little bit heavier in it.”

A few years later, Cole and fellow partner Chris Alltmont, made sure to invest much more heavily when the brewery opened its production brewery in Middleburg Heights, Ohio.

A part of a walking tour with a load of windows for consumers to see the entire brewery’s back end of production, the lab is near the end and it’s for a reason. It’s the last line of defense to make quality products.

“We started to have a full-time lab tech in 2013,” Cole said. “Before that, it was part-time. Now we have two full-time lab techs, and we do an internship over the summer.

“We’ve invested in a lot more equipment, and now we’re doing qPCR testing and a lot of intensive testing.”

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Kelly Murphy joined the lab team in 2019 and has been impressed with the “toys” he gets to play with daily.

“Dozens of tests get to run here on every batch,” he said. “We do temperatures, gravity, pH, cell counts, and do microbiological testing with qPCR. IBUs, grain shaking, grain analysis, we do sensory in here. Taste panels. That is the lifeblood of this room.

“So I’m a huge nerd, and getting into beer while doing the qPCR is pretty, pretty high in science. My wife works in biotech and her company uses almost the exact same equipment so I get to do cool high-end science stuff and still get to do things like sensory panels and hop selection like this. It’s kind of the best of both worlds for a nerd like me.”

Murphy added that even with all the bells and whistles a brewery can have, what the consumers will tell you is whether or not it tastes good or not.

“That’s the bottom line,” he said. “That’s where all the right tweaks and improvements end up.”

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