“That must be a fun job”
It is, it really is. Though, it is nothing like what you think it is….well, maybe a little.
I think 17 year old Jeremy would have been rather surprised if you told him he would be doing quality control for a microbrewery. After 6 or so years in the industry the job opened up at Village for a Quality Control Manager and as a brewer with a science degree, I had to jump at the opportunity. So the question is: what exactly do you do for quality control at a brewery that isn’t Budweiser? In other words we don’t have a giant lab with every fancy toy, though we have a very good foundation for that.
My position here allows me to have an overview of the general quality of our beer by focusing on several aspects of the process. Record keeping is a huge part of my role. Whenever our brewers make a new batch of wort, they collect samples and measure pH’s, temperatures and gravities. These get recorded in a master sheet where I can track trends and any inconsistencies. After the beer ends up in the fermenter, gravities, temperatures and pH’s are again checked to ensure healthy fermentation is occurring. After beer is filtered, a ton of stats are gathered and also recorded: CO2, ABV, colour, calories, density, pH. All these help paint a picture for how consistent we are and where any improvements can be made. Now that we are nearing the years end (at the time of writing), we can truly get a good idea of where we are at in terms of the level of consistency in our products. I also store two bottles from every batch in a warm area and a cold area. This will give me a good idea of the theoretical best condition and worst condition our beer will be in in the market.
Another key area I get to participate in is the development of recipes and operation of our test brew system. I am a firm believer in sharing this process with our brewers and all production staff. Everyone should get their say in how the future of our beers come together. We are all hoping that the future of our test brew system gets us to have a designated line upstairs in the taproom for a “brewer’s tap”.
Regardless of the test brew system or the production system, yeast is absolutely vital to any brewery. One of the more important things I do here is manage yeast health. This includes propagating yeast up to a production size brew from a single test tube, or slant. I also measure vitality and viability of the yeast, which help paint a picture of how healthy the yeast in our fermenters are. During fermentation, myself and all our brewers will periodically sample beer from the fermenters to ensure the flavour profile is exactly where we want it.
Another aspect of the role is in training staff on newly implemented procedures and updates to current ones. Writing SOP’s is very important as it keeps everyone on the same page in a formal way, which is great for ensuring consistency with different operators.
A couple other features to being in quality control are ensuring our brewers and cellar men have the ingredients available to meet the demands of the production schedule. No one wants to run out of hops at an unexpected time. Also problem solving seems to be a huge part of the job, it sometimes seems like there is always something that needs repairs…from bottling lines to pumps and from underground drains to pallet jacks.
I like to tell people that I feel I drink more Village beer than anyone else out there, too bad most of it has sat next the radiator for our glycol chiller, which runs really warm, for several months. #brewerproblems