The Thriving Craft Beer Industry Could Benefit from Implementing an Electronic Laboratory Notebook

craft beer
The craft beer industry relies on producing unique beer formulations.
Image source: Flickr user QuinnDombrowski

The craft beer phenomenon started taking off in the early 1990s and reached nearly 8% volume of the total U.S. beer market by 2013. With that kind of growth, I think it’s pretty safe to say that there is a thriving craft beer industry, especially while overall U.S. beer consumption is flat to declining. Craft brewers may start out as hobbyists in their garages and basements, making beer to share with their family and friends, but once they develop a unique and appealing recipe, they may soon turn to commercial brewing. Fortunately, craft brewing does not require a steep investment of capital and doesn’t face typical regulatory and supply-chain barriers that are common in the food and beverage industry. An absence of these typical barriers to entry promotes the surge in new microbreweries that averages over one per day.

Brewers who take the leap into the thriving craft beer industry are faced with the challenge of developing tasty, profitable recipes. But making a tasty brew isn’t as simple as mixing up water, malt, yeast and hops. Beer formulations can be very complex, requiring numerous trial and error runs and optimization. Specifically, yeast selection, fermentation temperature and refinement all heavily influence the final taste of a brew. Let’s take a look at two important scientific components of brewing beer and how the craft beer industry can benefit from implementing an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN).

Protocol management

Beer production has been around forever… well, at least since the early 1700s B.C. So you’d think there would have been a consensus on the best way to brew. But the effects of sugars, additives, hops and temperatures and timing of stages in production create distinct flavors that may challenge even the most educated beer palates. It is a challenge to brew unique, tasty beers that are popular among most customers. For brewers, it can be difficult to maintain a comprehensive record of formulations using a traditional notebook that is easy to navigate and allows you to locate information easily. An ELN, however, can streamline record-keeping and allow brewers to spend more time developing new beers. An ELN can help with the development of formulations by allowing brewers to design a standard protocol that can be easily accessed, altered, and re-saved as a new protocol with all important information included. The entry will be saved by date and can be added to a project for easy access. The ELN is fully searchable by date, project or keyword.

Yeast

Alcohol production depends on the presence of yeast for fermentation to occur. Fermentation creates alcohol and carbon dioxide. The process of fermentation is natural, but the type of yeast used can have dramatic effects on the qualities of the beer. There are hundreds of strains of brewing yeasts yielding hundreds of flavor and aroma compounds affecting a beer’s alcohol level, clarity and texture. Yeast genetics is a popular research area for brewers who are interested in how the genetics of yeast affect the final beer product. Brewers are also interested in preventing cross-contamination of yeast within a single brewing facility, as getting the wrong yeast in the production can drastically affect the quality of the resulting brew. Yeast selection is critical to beer formulation. An ELN can support brewers as they experiment and investigate which strains to include in production, with its valuable feature to keep complete formulation records and help ensure the correct yeast is added to each batch of brew.

Brewing beer is a science that requires extensive record-keeping and protocol management. As the craft beer industry grows, many firms should consider implementing an ELN to help protect their valuable research and streamline production. Visit the Accelrys website to learn more about how Accelrys Notebook could help your firm develop tasty brews.

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