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News from the Lab: Quality control

By Neva Parker
White Labs

Have you ever thought about introducing a quality control laboratory program in your brewery? Ever thought it was just too costly and too complicated?

Think again, my friend. Implementing a basic QC program during your normal brewing operations is actually very simple and cost effective in the long run. Depending on your brewery’s needs, there are a wide range of tools out there that can offer you the most basic to the most in-depth analysis that you can find.

On the microbiology side, one of the most important (and simple) tests you can perform is a cell count and viability check. This greatly improves the efficiency of your brewhouse by knowing correct amounts of yeast to pitch. It will also allow you more consistent fermentations from batch to batch. At the next level is testing your yeast, wort, or beer for brewery contaminants. This can be done at the brewery through media kits or out-sourced to a laboratory that specializes in brewery microorganisms. Many brewers send samples to us for this type of testing on a monthly or quarterly basis as a means to monitor their production and sanitation practices. If a problem arises in a batch, they can be sure to identify it and eradicate it quickly.

Other more in-depth tests on your yeast include: petite mutant, attenuation/flocculation analysis, microorganism identification, and vitality. Beer and wort analysis is another category of testing that can be integral to the brewery. Your beer can be analyzed for real extract, apparent extract, carbohydrates, calories, protein content, apparent attenuation, pH, color, and IBU. We can also perform valuable tests using gas chromatography. We can test for such factors as alcohol by volume and total VDK or diacetyl.

These tests are an important way to evaluate your products and can be used to cross-check your own analysis, procedures, or instruments.

Finally, look for our Valentine’s Day special. We all know brewers love their beers more than anything else. So have your beer tested during our first QC day on Feb. 14. Your beer, and your customers, will love you for it. More details will follow in CBQ and at our Website.

Neva Parker is lab manager for White Labs.