Quality Control: Behind the Scenes at Grand Teton Brewing

Our Quality Manager Katie takes a sample of beer for testing.

Our Quality Manager Katie takes a sample of beer for testing.

Do you ever wonder what happens to a beer before it reaches your lips? At Grand Teton Brewing, we strive for consistency by taking a myriad of steps to reach our goals. Unlike many breweries our size, we have a full-time quality control manager who makes sure beer is consistent, has a good flavor and tastes great until the last day of its shelf life. We are lucky to have Katie making sure our beer is always at its best.

Each batch of brewed beer undergoes extensive testing to ensure the best product is sent to you. Before its even bottled, the beer is tested four times for any bacterial or wild yeast contamination. A small sample is taken and grown on four different types of media. Media are semi-solid gels made up of nutrients that will enable bacteria and yeast to grow, so that we can identify and count exactly what is growing. In the beer world, there are only a couple strains of bacteria or wild yeast that could change flavor. If any media shows bacterial or wild yeast growth, a single colony is mounted on a slide, stained for further identification and then studied under a microscope. If the plates come back without growth or if bacteria are identified as non-detrimental, we clear the beer to be packaged. Once we determine the beer is ready, it’s off to be packaged.  This is when the fun part starts.

Katie plates samples of beer to see what's growing.

Katie plates samples of beer to see what’s growing.

On bottling day, we perform a taste test (often before 8 am!), verifying that the quality and the taste meet our standards. Once bottled, we ‘force age’ a few samples of beer in an 85 degree hotbox to mimic shelf life in the average store. This beer is compared to properly stored beer in a blind taste test. These samples ensure that the beer is aging well, even when it isn’t being stored at the proper temperature. We taste test each batch of beer three times after it is shipped, using a panel of six ‘expert’ tasters to guarantee that the beer will be the highest quality throughout its shelf life. We strongly recommend that all beers in our Signature and Brewers’ Series be consumed within four months from the ‘bottled-on’ date.  

Even when all tests are completed, every once in a while we have a batch of beer that doesn’t meet our standards. This past year right before Christmas, we were getting ready to bottle a batch of Sweetgrass when our cellarman noticed a yeasty, tart flavor completely foreign to the American Pale Ale style. A number of staff tasted it and agreed that this was not what we wanted our consumers to drink. 140 barrels were dumped that evening, leaving us scrambling to meet order demands and to quickly start brewing another batch of our beloved Sweetgrass.

Katie, Quality Control Manager at Grand Teton Brewing.

Katie, Quality Control Manager at Grand Teton Brewing.

5 Reasons my job is awesome:

  1.  I work in a brewery. What? That isn’t reason enough?
  2. I get to wear steel-toed mud boots, every day.
  3. Safety glasses and earplugs make quite the fashion statement.
  4. Tasting beer before I’ve had breakfast is normal, and approved.
  5. At the end of the day, I’m able to sit and enjoy a beer at my favorite bar, without having to go anywhere.

5 thoughts on “Quality Control: Behind the Scenes at Grand Teton Brewing

    • Hello Sai,

      Signature and Brewers’ are good for 4 months. (Old Faithful ALe, Teton Ale, Howling Wolf, Sweetgrass, Bitch Creek, Pursuit of Hoppiness, Lost Continent, Fest Bier, Black Cauldron)

      The Cellar Reserve Series is cellarable; therefore, the beer changes as you store it. (Double Vision, Oud Bruin, Bone Warmer, Coming Home)

      Let us know if you have any further questions!

  1. I am one of the brewers and the quality control person at Saugatuck Brewing Company in Douglas, Michigan. I am curious what tests do you conduct in your lab? Currently I conduct test with the Hsu’s Lactobacillus-Pediococcus Agar and Walerstein Nutrient Differential Nutrient. Is there any other tests that I should be doing? I also do yeast cell counts on beer in the fermentation tanks. Is there a way that I can talk with Katie and geek out over science?

    Jason

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