Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Pellettieri, a renowned sensory analyst for the brewing industry. She was honored as November’s “Scientist of the Month” by the Chicago chapter of Association for Women in Science. You can find the profile article here.
In essence, Mary incorporates science into the beer brewing process. The resulting beer can be significantly enhanced when brewing is viewed through a scientific lens.
Mary adds a scientific perspective in two major areas: quality control and sensory analysis. A quality control program sets specifications for the brewing process and determines how well the instruments can measure those specifications. A sensory analysis program aims to quantify the flavor components in beer.
In doing research for the profile article, I found some really interesting items that didn’t make the published version:
- There is a Beer Flavor Wheel that sensory analysts and beer judges use to evaluate beers.
- What is considered a defect flavor in most beers can be an accepted flavor in certain beer styles.
- Most brewers test monthly (but as frequently as every batch) for contamination with bacteria and wild yeast strains.
- Beer yeasts are characterized by their flocculation time, the point during fermentation at which the yeast clumps together and sinks to the bottom of the tank.
- Servers can become a certified Cicerone (pronounced “sis-uh-rohn”) to prove their expertise in selecting and serving beers.
- Some folks pursue a PhD in hop chemistry.
This list just scratches the surface of the ways science influences beer and brewing. I was amazed and learned so much while I was talking to Mary and researching her article.