QA/QC laboratory instrumentation and procedures are important for producing high quality beer in any brewery, but they are absolutely critical in a brewery like The Virginia Beer Co. where we will be purposefully introducing wild yeast and souring bacteria into some of our fermentations.
Brettanomyces (a family of "wild" yeast strains) fermentations will often grow a pellicle (especially in the presence of oxygen) as seen in this photo of our Saison Tournante- Bretta taken just prior to packaging. Brett in a primary fermentation or mixed culture, like this Saison, will drop the pH of beer further than typical ale or lager yeast strains, producing a fruity tartness, but not a true sourness. To get a truly sour beer, lactic acid bacteria such as lactobacillus and pediococcus must be introduced into the culture.
Our Sour Saving Daylight Citrus Wheat was fermented with three brettanomyces strains as well as a mixed bacteria culture, and it eventually dropped to a very sour 2.98 pH before packaging.
These beers are exciting, but they're also inherently risky for the other beers in our brewery, so we're making significant investments in our laboratory infrastructure to ensure I can sleep at night knowing our clean ales are indeed clean. Now back to your regularly scheduled craft beer programming!