by Jamie Martin, Brewmaster, Dells Brewing Co.
Controlled Experiments – As a brewer you should always be learning and trying to improve your beer. Running a controlled experiment from time to time can give you situational knowledge specific to your equipment that you can’t get from a textbook or article. First and foremost make sure you have the basics of brewing down before you start to change things; you can only learn from experimentation if you understand the process and what normally happens. A few guidelines: Only change one thing per brew. This could be anything like using 2-Row Copeland instead of 2-Row Metcalfe barley, mashing a degree or two higher or lower than normal, or adding your hop addition 10 minutes sooner or later then normal. These incremental changes are small and subtle, usually only you will notice in the final product. If someone has a pint at your brewery and then comes back two months later, they shouldn’t be able to detect a change in the beer, but if they come back a year later, they should find your beer has improved 100%. Those subtle changes may not change the flavor profile much, but our goal should always be improving the overall quality of the entire beer.
Write everything down – Everything that happens in the brewery should be written down; the good the bad and the ugly! First of all it’s the law. We produce alcohol and need to have detailed account of the process and the materials involved in producing our beer. Second, if something goes wrong you’ll need to be able to research that particular batches process and material bill to locate where the problem occurred and correct it. Recording each step also creates a great reference library for you. If you document mistakes and your troubleshooting process, then later, if a similar problem arises, you’ll have a record of the steps and missteps you took previously and you can avoid wasted time and frustration. Your record can also be used as an invaluable training tool for your support staff.