I joined Briess in October of 2013 as a Technical Service Associate. Prior to Briess, I worked at the USDA in their Cereal Crops Research Unit as a Lab Technician in the Barley Malt Quality Lab in Madison, WI. During this time, I specialized in small batch malting. At Briess, I have the opportunity to provide technical support services for quality assurance and control along with working on innovating R&D projects.
I really have to say, one of my favorite aspects about Briess is the ability to learn, research, and innovate. In regards to continued education and training, Briess offers its staff to attend industry events to expand our knowledge and stay in tune with current industry events. A great example of this, was this past October when I attended the MBAA Annual Conference in Jacksonville, FL.
My trip started out eventful, as I was flying out of MKE and my plane broke down, which delayed me three hours; I guess that’s part of the perks of traveling. I was lucky enough to catch last flight out to JAX and make my way to the MBAA.
My first day at the conference began with a sour beer course. In this course, they emphasized cleanliness and segregation of sour beer to avoid cross product contamination due to wild and unique flavors associated with sour beer. The course included sample tasting from each of the three presenters breweries. Wayne Wambles from Sugar City Brewing, who discussed their kettle souring method and the use of Lactobacillus in fermentation. Eric Salazar of New Belgium talked about their use of foeders and barrel building and repair techniques. And Jason Perkins from Allagash Brewing, who discussed a “wild beer” method that included spontaneous fermentation and Brettanomyces.
The evening was spent at the Bier Stube with Briess co-workers, meeting brewers and even past Briess employees. I also had the honor of sharing a beer with Carol Westbrook (Dr. Beer) the keynote speaker. It was no surprise, that everyone there was friendly and talkative, and of course over beer.
Day two was filled with events and presentations. The MBBA’s Keynote Speaker was, Carol Westbrook, who gave a phenomenal and entertaining talk entitled “A Bottle a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”. It included an interesting discussion on the nutritional aspects of beer and some of the myths. I love that there is a doctor that actually advises drinking beer daily, and something I can get on board with.
Two of the workshops I attended included a “Beer Safety from Field to Growler,” which illustrated the importance of good brewing practices, GMP and insuring food safety in beer. It also highlighted the Food safety requirements in breweries and the testings that are currently being done. The Second workshop reviewed was “Flavor First: Innovation in Barley and Malting for Today’s Brewer.” Pat Hayes from Oregon State University, gave an excellent presentation on selecting and growing malting barley varieties. He was joined with Andrea Stanley from Valley Malt and the Craft Maltsters Guild, who discussed her extremely small scale malting operation and the difficulties they face, which even made Briess’ Chilton operation (1 million bushel capacity) look big.
My last day at the MBAA included many Technical sessions, which one I presented. At a high level, the technical sessions included discussions on the use of tannic acid in the brewing process as a stabilizing agent (presented by Joe Formanek), commercial enzymes in brewing (presented by Iliana Yanez), a novel approach of a universal milling system considering any brewing grains and each mashing-in strategy and mash filtration system (presented by Tobias Becher), and surface forces and their effect on lautering (presented by Jorg Engstle).
My presentation was on “Specialty Malt Acidity,” this was actually one of my first public presentations. While I was slightly nervous, I felt my presentation went well. It was an engaging technical conversation with a Q & A portion that was partnered with A.J. deLange, who has developed an in-depth interest in creating a mash pH prediction model.
While there was a technical and professional feeling to presentations, the overall conference was a much more relaxed environment. The open discussions about projects and ideas were fascinating and encouraging to for someone who is not very experienced in the brewing industry. Everyone from MBAA Executive Committee President, Tom Eplett, to brewing authors like John Palmer and John Mallett, were very approachable and friendly. I am certainly looking forward to more opportunities to like the MBAA and am excited to be a part of such an engaging brew industry.