Benefits of Hop & Beer Testing
Alpha Analytics® is designed to provide reassurance that you’re doing what you intended. As a third party lab, our strength is filling in gaps in your quality assurance program by providing analysis that requires equipment you don’t have or validation that your own analysis makes sense. We also engage in research or process development projects with hop growers, brewers, and researchers.
We do a lot of work around harvest to provide growers with information they can use to determine “ripeness” or harvest timing. Traditionally this is dry-matter analysis, but more and more, growers are using Alpha acids or oil content to help inform their harvest timing. Craft brewers are particularly focused on high oil content hops, but the timing of oil development isn’t as well understood as Alpha production. We can analyze hops right from the field or out of the kiln for quick turnaround of feedback to inform your harvest.
We also work with growers on process development studies. Analysis of the Hop Storage Index (HSI), Alpha acids, or oil content can be used to better design kilning methods or assess damage to hops during hop picking. Hops don’t lend themselves to easy visual analysis like a bruised apple. Knowing how much alpha is lost to handling or how much oil may be evaporated off during kilning can help a grower ensure they’re delivering their best.
Once hops are baled and delivered, our lab runs full speed analyzing lots for Hopunion LLC. We do the same for hop growers across the US, providing results that are used by brewers once the hops are sold.
We analyze beer mostly because we want to conduct sensory analyses on all the fine beers brewed around the United States. We focus on analytical testing that’s less accessible and time critical for small brewers, primarily alcohol, bitterness (IBUs), and color. For small breweries without access to a spectrophotometer or an Anton Paar Alcolyzer, we are a great resource for routine bench marking. A lot can be learned just by regularly tasting your beer and keeping good records of brewing and fermentation (Plato or SG, pH, time, temp), however, it’s wise to occasionally run third party tests.
Some favorite scenarios for testing:
- Analysis of alcohol for TTB compliance or entering new markets
- When changing major variables in your process (yeast, timing of hop additions or substitutions)
- Raw material changes
- Flavor matching color and bitterness when upgrading brew houses or scaling from home brewing
- Developing hop utilization curves for your brewhouse or cellar (dry hop methods) to help in recipe formulation
- Benchmarking your beer for consistency batch to batch, month to month, or year to year
- Analysis for labeling or website info for color, ABV and bitterness
- Fun! Regardless of where you fit into the market, it’s nice to know some quantitative metrics about your brews.
Regular in house analysis of micro, taste, dissolved oxygen and brewing and fermentation records can take a brewer to very high levels of proficiency and consistency. When coupled with occasional outside analysis a brewer can be assured of high quality beer anywhere they send it. Eventually brewers tend to invest in the same analytical equipment when they are ready to build out full QA department. In the meantime, Alpha Analytics® can cover your ancillary needs and provide advice on setting up routine QA programs.
Beer Analysis Best Left to You
Our role is really secondary to a brewery’s own internal QA program. We don’t try covering these areas because they function most effectively when done in house so real-time results can be used to brew your best beer:
- Microbiological Analysis – needing to resample is common and sampling technique is critical. We’re hop experts, not microbiologists, so we encourage you to contact these folks for micro trouble shooting: Wyeast, White Labs, or Brewing Science Institute
- Taste Panel – Learning to know your beer in fermenter, bright and package is critical and it’s doubtful you’ll want to send us beers everyday of the week. (though if you ask we’ll give you our feedback!)
- Analysis of Dissolved Oxygen - Dissolved oxygen dissipates by reacting with beer so it must be tested during transfer or at packaging. Plan to factor a dissolved oxygen meter into the cost of your bottling operation.