The craft brewing industry is often seen as a casual and creative environment with a wide variety of styles, ingredients, and techniques. While this is true for many breweries, most beer drinkers are not usually aware of the complexity of a beer’s make up and how the process can dramatically affect the product. A proper quality control program can help make beer better tasting and more consistent; this blog is about the Elkmont Exchange laboratory and what our brewers are doing to make our beer the best it can be.
Our Brewmaster, Alex, has designed a laboratory to accompany our brewing process that will give our team the ability to monitor and manage each style of beer through every step; from raw ingredients to finished product. The Elkmont Exchange lab overlooks our barrel aging room and is equipped with a variety of instruments to test the health of our water, malt, hops, and yeast. Each ingredient plays a critical role in beer, if one element is off, the whole beer can change. Alex and our Head Brewer, Chris, both have experience working in larger craft breweries where consistency is mandatory. They intend to bring this same level of quality control to Elkmont Exchange in a small scale, brewpub setting. Not only will the lab benefit Elkmont Exchange beers during the brewing process, but it will also provide the capability to manage proper seams in bottles and cans. This means that the six packs you take home will taste the way it was intended by our brewers. Many beers taste great when they are freshly poured from the keg but may taste different in a package due to oxygen getting into the seam and making the beer stale.
With a Bachelor’s in Biochemistry, Alex has a strong technical brewing background and even assembled the lab program at Upslope Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado. Chris spent eight years working for SweetWater Brewing Company which is one of the largest and most distributed craft brewers in the Southeast. Their shared passion for brewing goes even further with wild and barrel aged beers. Elkmont Exchange will be home to an extensive barrel aging program which will include the use of two foeders that are 42 barrels, or 1,300 gallons, each. The Elkmont Exchange barrel aging program will bring out the “explorer” in our brewers and allow us to brew using unique yeast strains. With the use of our laboratory, we will be able to maintain control over wild yeast strains, and eventually, harvest our our own strains from different environments.
The benefits of integrating a quality control laboratory is good for a brewery of any size. We believe that understanding our products and processes on a deeper, scientific level leads to crafting a better beer.