Over the summer of 2013 I was fortunate enough to secure an internship in the Quality Control lab of Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia. While I did complete my day-to-day tasks and testing, I was also able to begin thinking about an independent research topic. I knew that when I started my senior year at Arcadia I would need to begin research for my Senior Capstone or thesis. Luckily, my boss at Yards was very insightful and helped to design an experiment for me to complete over the coming semester. My only problem… Arcadia University is no brewery.
In September I was able to literally set up a brewery in Dr. Linda Mascavage’s independent lab in Boyer Hall of Science. Dr. Mascavage, who helped guide me in finding my passion for food science, took on my independent research despite its strange nature. With equipment and support from both the Chemistry and Biology departments, I was able to confidently begin brewing and begin research.
My first brew day began on a crisp September morning around 7:30 a.m. I didn’t have class till the afternoon, so I should have been able to accomplish a lot before then. Little did I know that I would be running to Calculus, just making it in time, smelling of beer and covered in grains and hops. When I was filling one of the brews into the fermenter, the tubing popped, splashing beer onto the lab floor and my unsuspecting face. After Calculus, it was back to the lab. Because of the nature of my research, I have to brew in quarters instead of one big brew. This adds on a lot of time, especially when making sure everything is properly sanitized. Finally, I left the lab somewhere around 10 p.m. that night with two batches of beer bubbling away.
So here’s the short and sweet explanation of my work. In conventional brewing, for the most part, yeast is evenly pitched into wort (unfermented beer) and allowed to ferment. I am investigating the effect of pitching the yeast early, at a faster rate, into the wort. It is proposed that this will result in a final product with lower levels of undesirable fusel alcohols and higher levels of fruity ester flavors. I have been testing both during and after fermentation and hope to follow up my study with a taste test. It’s been interesting to say the least so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes!