After having the opportunity to attend Brewing Conferences/Summits and meet many beer lovers, like myself, it seemed that the importance of microbiology testing and the importance of microorganisms in beer was novel to some brewers. As our booth was approached by many master brewers, the main concern was: How is microbiology testing good for breweries? In other words, why should we spend money on microbiology testing?
Microorganisms play a major part in every single step of brewing. Aromas, flavors, appearance, and sensation are some of the main characteristics of a beer that microorganisms help determine. With that being said, not all microorganisms are desired in the production of beers and can have a negative affect on both product quality and a brewery’s bottom line if not caught on time.
The big problem with microorganisms is that they are small as their name suggests and can be very difficult to see with the naked eye until they have overgrown. Keeping a sanitized workspace is the key to limiting the spread of potential contaminants. Routine laboratory testing of the beer, the equipment, and even the environment being used during the brewing process can help prevent unwanted microorganisms from getting out of control and mitigate the financial loss of throwing out a bad batch.
Brewers want to produce a beer that can preserve its quality and stay fresh for as long as possible. Not knowing what type of microorganisms you might have around your beer can affect shelf life and stability as well. Even though there are many, some of the most common organisms that can affect your product are:
- Lactobacillus: Like brewers’ yeasts, lactobacillus metabolizes sugars as the main source of energy. However, unlike yeast, it produces lactic acid instead of alcohol. This is a desirable quality for an organism used in making such foods as yogurt, but notable lactic acidity is an off flavor in most types of beer.
- Pediococcus: A very common spoilage bacteria. Often considered one of the most difficult types of bacteria to remove from an infected brewery. Pediococcus causes high acidity, buttery aroma, and can inhibit yeast growth, which results in decreased fermentation rates.
- Wild yeast: Wild yeast is unpredictable, and even the most welcome wild yeast can cause beer to taste like baby vomit or urine. All yeasts produce different flavor profiles; it is one of the elements of beer that make it taste like, well, beer.
Most big breweries have a fully equipped microbiology labs that help make sure the quality of their product is up to par. However, small and mid-size breweries sometimes do not have the budget to be able to build a lab in their facility that can help keep track of contamination or even confirm the quality of the microorganisms being used in the beer production.
Some of the equipment that we use is very costly, making it difficult for some breweries to purchase. Not only is the upfront cost of the equipment a factor, but also having a clean space to be able to do testing to ensure there are no false positives is very important as well. At Biolog Lab Services, we can offer microorganism identification through MALDI-TOF (Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization-Time of Flight), DNA Sequencing, and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction). We also have highly trained staff that you can trust to give you accurate results.
The goal for a brewery, big or small, is to produce great beer that will sell and create consumer trust. I sure do not want to crack open my favorite beer after a long day at work only to have it taste like a barn. Investing in microorganism testing to ensure you have a repeatable quality product will increase your consumer satisfaction and brand integrity.
To learn more about our testing capabilities for the brewing industry: