How to Start a Brewery Lab in 2020

If you have a passion for beer and are planning on opening your own brewery, there are a few things you may not yet have considered. You likely have a deep knowledge of all things relating to the brewing and consuming of beer, but you may not know just what it takes to ensure your beer is fit for the consumer market. 

While you can send your samples out to be tested by third-party labs, doing your testing and analysis in-house can help you to gain more insight from results and make more precise and informed improvements/changes.

 Having your own brewery lab isn’t just about becoming better or improving what you have already been perfecting for years. Having an on-site lab ensures you will always have access to the information you need in order to ensure your recipe stays consistent and that your ingredients are top-notch. 

If taking control of your brewery’s testing and analysis sounds like the best next-step for your facility, keep reading to learn some of the basics of how to start a brewery lab.

Benefits of Having Your Own Brewery Lab

There are some brewers that manage to open and sustain their breweries without the presence of an on-site lab, but for many, sending samples out to third party labs to be analyzed can become time-consuming and difficult to organize. The results gathered from brewery samples are typically related to quality control (QC), shelf-life and stability, and the presence of microorganisms within the beer, wine, or liquor, all necessary pieces of data to determine whether each product is fit for sale.

In order to sell consumable food or beverage products, manufacturers must meet certain criteria before they can legally be sold for consumption. An on-site lab provides brewers the opportunity to test their batches throughout the brewing/fermentation process in order to prevent unwanted bacteria growth, additional acidity, etc. 

Knowing the fine details of a beer’s pH balance is about more than just meeting a food/beverage safety standard, it’s about ensuring that your customers can rely on a consistent experience every time they reach for one of your products. Any good brewer knows that testing and quality control are the keys to making sure every batch stays on track, and with so many samples being taken each and every day, the sheer volume of data to organize can become overwhelming. 

Building your own brewery lab can help to reduce errors in both data collection and analysis since everything will be stored in the same place. As your brewery grows, you can use your lab to collect data in order to create new recipes, distinguish new or exciting flavor combinations, and experiment with yeast and fermentation.

Functions of a Brewery Lab

While tasting is an important part of beer QC, the majority of the work that goes into creating the perfect beer happens behind the scenes in the lab. On the outside, the process of brewing beer in large vats for months on end may not seem that hectic, but in reality, it can be a seriously stressful and complicated process. 

From the moment raw materials arrive to the moment the last bottles of a batch are shipped off to the store, brewery personnel are performing testing and QC checks to ensure each and every component of the batch is in order. Brewery labs come in a variety of sizes and configurations and are frequently outfitted to perform multiple types of testing within a single facility. 

Some breweries find that they can manage just fine with a lab that performs only one or two vital functions, while others choose to include the whole range of possibilities. Some key operations performed by a brewery lab can include the following:

Chemical Analysis

Chemical analysis refers to the measuring of chemical compounds present within a given sample. In the case of brewery labs, chemical analysis is performed on water samples, wort, and finished beer products. 

The same types of chemical analyses are also used in wineries and distilleries to assess the profile of their raw materials and finished products. Chemical analysis is used broadly by brewery lab teams, and can include some of the following procedures:

●       Testing the brewery’s water supply for its mineral profile and how it changes over time

●       Measuring beer, wine, and spirits for alcohol by volume

●       Assessing the source of off-flavor profiles

●       Measuring Internal Bitterness Units of beer and wort

●       Determining wort quality and yeast potential

Fermentation Control

Yeast, which powers fermentation during the process of beer brewing, requires specific environmental conditions in order to thrive. Most important to the health of a batch’s yeast is the presence of adequate dissolved oxygen (DO), which can fluctuate depending on outside factors like temperature. 

To ensure fermentation is occurring and advancing appropriately, many brewery labs measure, track, and analyze dissolved oxygen levels within wort and beer. By tracking DO levels throughout the fermentation process, brewers are able to catch problems early to avoid spoiling batches.

Microanalysis and Microbiological Control

Brewing beer means handling lots of yeast, and because yeast is a microorganism, brewing beer also requires a certain amount of knowledge regarding microbiology. While microanalysis procedures are frequently used by brewery labs to measure the presence of desirable yeast, the key reason for their use is to test for the presence of undesirable or invasive microorganisms that may cause spoilage or off-flavors like lactic acid bacteria. 

Microanalysis is used to detect the presence of unwanted microorganisms, identity what type they are, and help to determine what can be done to eliminate them or reverse their effects.

Raw Material Analysis

Like all things, the beer, wine, or spirits you brew/distill are only as good as the ingredients you use, to begin with. Testing your raw materials is about more than ensuring grain or water hasn’t gone bad, it is also to ensure that there is a general level of quality control and consistency with every batch. 

Both spoilage and simple seasonal changes to water supply, air quality, soil, temperature, etc., can affect the flavor and profile of grain and other crops used in the production of beer, so all new materials should be tested in order to determine their quality prior to use. Besides testing the quality of ingredients, it is also important to perform raw material analysis on packaging and packing materials. 

Bottles should be checked for cap tightness. Cans should be checked for any bulging of the seams. Six-pack carriers should be checked for adhesive strength and thickness.

Quality control checks should be issued at every stage of production, not just on finished products.

Yeast Management

Yeast is one of the most important ingredients any brewery keeps on hand, so naturally, most brewery labs perform a certain amount of testing and research on their yeast supply. Yeast must be examined for attributes like cell count, viability, and quality of the raw ingredient. 

Not all yeasts are created equal, and being able to get an up-close and personal look at each batch of yeast before it is put to use can help ensure the brewing process gets off to a good start.

Special Equipment

Like other food and beverage testing facilities, brewery labs have particular equipment and furniture requirements in order to ensure all processing is carried out in a safe, cleanly, and efficient environment. Not all brewery labs will have the same extensive array of equipment, but the majority will contain the basics like microscopes, incubators, and other temperature control tools.

Microscopes

In a brewery lab, microscopes are used to examine yeast, assess samples for the presence of unwanted bacteria, and look for other vital pieces of data to determine the progress/condition of each batch of beer. Some brewery labs may own one or two basic microscopes, while others may utilize an array of models each equipped for different vital functions. 

Regardless of the number or types of microscopes, your brewery laboratory will use, ensuring they are safely and conveniently housed is of the utmost importance.

Microscopes are typically rather expensive pieces of equipment and can be sensitive if handled too frequently or roughly. If broken, repairing or replacing a high-quality microscope can be extremely costly, and can reduce lab productivity until the problem is addressed. 

To help preserve the quality of your facility’s microscopes while also providing easy accessibility, OnePointe Solutions offers designated microscope tables made to fit the specifications of your facility.

Microscope tables (and other specialty equipment housing options we offer) allow for the easy and safe storage of expensive and sensitive equipment while still ensuring these commonly used pieces of equipment are readily accessible by all lab personnel. Our microscope tables are made to be ergonomic and comfortable, easily adjustable for technicians of various heights, and anti-vibration to ensure your research is uninterrupted.

Incubators

Incubators are a common piece of equipment found in most brewery labs and are used to encourage the growth of microorganisms like yeast. Test tubes, plates, dishes, and other samples are placed into the incubator where they are kept under strict temperature control in order to assess yeast for viability and quality as well as testing for the presence of unwanted bacterial growth.

Refrigeration

As is the case with much other food and beverage testing/manufacturing facilities, refrigeration is also a key component of any successful brewery lab design. Certain ingredients and finished products require lower temperatures to prevent unwanted fermentation and to preserve quality, so accounting for the presence of ample refrigeration is key when creating the layout for your facility.

Brewery Lab Furniture

In addition to specialty equipment, breweries and their labs often have extensive storage requirements and are best when outfitted with easy to clean, heavy-duty furniture that won’t rust or warp when exposed to water/moisture. Additionally, breweries handle a variety of bacteria that, in the right conditions, can easily overgrow and become a problem.

 To avoid bacterial contamination, most brewery labs choose naturally anti-microbial materials or materials made with anti-microbial coatings to reduce the risk of unwanted bacterial growth.

At OnePointe Solutions, we have helped our customers to design and furnish countless laboratories, including many in the food and beverage industries. Brewery labs are always an exciting kind of project to tackle since they present their own unique design challenges and requirements. 

Since breweries and their labs handle large volumes of water and regularly perform liquid sample testing, careful consideration must be made to facility plumbing access, surface material durability, and so on. To help our customers create the best and most efficient environment, we offer the following furniture solutions among many more:

Easy-Clean Surfaces

Because brewery labs handle a large number of liquid samples and potentially harmful microorganisms, selecting easy-to-clean surfaces can be a great way to save time and ensure the facility is properly sanitized at all times. At OnePointe Solutions, our lab furniture is available in a broad range of worksurface materials, each with its own set of unique attributes and distinct advantages. Surface materials we offer include:

●       Epoxy resin

●       Phenolic resin

●       Stainless steel

●       Maple block

●       ESD laminate

●       HDPE

In applications where furniture is likely to come in contact with water or other moisture sources, we recommend choosing epoxy resin, phenolic resin, or stainless steel. Stainless steel is particularly optimal for use in brewery labs since it is not only highly water/moisture/corrosion resistant, but also has natural antimicrobial properties that do not encourage the growth of bacteria.

Storage and Casework

With frequent sampling and testing done throughout the brewing process, brewery labs often have extensive storage requirements in order to keep track of and organize the vast number of samples. In addition to samples, brewery labs may also temporarily house raw ingredients while performing quality control testing and store special equipment and tools.

At OnePointe Solutions, we offer a huge range of storage and casework options that can easily be customized to fit the specific needs of your facility. Our casework comes in a variety of configurations including:

●       Wall-mounted cabinets

●       Base cabinets

●       Lab islands

●       Mobile casework on wheels/casters

●       Suspended casework

●       Corner cabinets

Ergonomic Seating

Comfort and posture may not be the first considerations you make when choosing furniture for your brewery lab, but ensuring personnel is comfortable while performing testing is an important factor in designing a brewery lab. Hunching over microscopes, samples, and computers for hours at a time can wreak havoc on the health of the back, which in turn can cause pain and stiffness, which then can reduce productivity and the accuracy of results. 

To combat workplace fatigue, invest in quality ergonomic seating options that won’t hurt your technicians’ backs.

Custom Design

One of the ways we help our clients to find the perfect solution for their laboratories is by offering in-person design support. Our team of designers can visit your facility anywhere in the US to meet personally with your staff in order to determine your specific needs. 

We’ll walk through your facility in order to assess the space, learn more about the nature of your work, and collaborate with you to create a plan to move ahead with the design.

We’ll create custom renderings of our design ideas, then send them along to you so you’ll have a full visual representation of our proposal. During our visit, we will also work with you to come up with a custom quote and work together to determine the scope of your lab’s design requirements.

Once you settle on a design you love, we will get started building your custom furniture at our facilities right here in the US, and eventually visit you once more to install the finished products.

Need Helping Designing Your Brewery Lab?

Call us at (866) 222-7494 to speak with one of our experienced lab designers. They will help you in selecting the right furniture and guide you through the designing and layout process for your brewery laboratory to have it ready for testing, production, and shipping.

Questions? Concerns? Want to start today? Get in touch. 866.612.7312

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