Since its Alpine inception, the lab has always been an integral part of Melvin Brewing. Exceptional beer quality is priority number one, and we have invested heavily in the equipment and the highly skilled individuals to get the job done like no other. From the beginning in 2015, the Lab/QC Manager at Melvin has been a female rad scientist, and the artwork for our newest beer Juice Theorem was a tribute to these amazing women. Sara Gertsch is currently running the lab in our beloved Mothership, so we sat down with her for a little friendly Q&A.
What is your role at Melvin? How does your role fit into the big picture?
SG: I like to call myself a beer scientist, but my official title is Laboratory/Quality Control Manager. My department is all about the details and analytics of brewing; we make sure that each batch of beer sent out into the market is consistent to brand flavor/aroma targets and is free from any contaminants. Each batch of beer doesn’t move through the process until it has the lab’s stamp of approval, which makes us a pretty big deal (haha!).
What is your day-to-day like?
SG: Like everyone else at the brewery, I just stand around and drink beer every day… just kidding (although sensory is a big part of my job)! Major focuses of the lab include yeast management (making sure our yeast is healthy and ready to ferment our wort), diacetyl testing (off-flavor in beer that tastes like buttered popcorn or butterscotch), a slew of microbiological testing (making sure we don’t have any bacteria or wild yeast in our product that could spoil it), and some analytical chemistry tests (water testing, IBUs, color, etc.). We also have dance parties pretty consistently in the lab.
Okay follow-up question: what is your go-to music for lab dance parties?
SG: Latin Party Anthems playlist on Spotify.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
SG: I would say drinking beer, but honestly, I love troubleshooting. I am a problem solver at heart, so when something doesn’t go as expected, I love digging into what happened, how we can fix it, and what we can do to prevent it. I really love how things constantly change within the brewery while trying to keep things consistent. Because beer is a biological product, there is always some kind of variation between batches and it’s our job to make sure the quality of the product is consistent and matches our targets. It takes a lot of organization and planning to make sure things work out, and that’s kind of my jam.
In what ways do you feel like a mad scientist?
SG: I have a lot of freedom in the lab to conduct whichever tests I think are necessary, which is super rad. I also like to play with fire, which really makes me feel cool. There’s nothing better than taking a blow torch to a sample port on a brite tank or setting cans on fire, all in the name of science.
What sparked your passion for beer/what brought you to work for Melvin Brewing?
SG: Basically, I went to school for Biological Engineering and was interested in genetic engineering, however the process of modifying microorganisms wasn’t as satisfying as I hoped it would be (it takes many iterations and lots of patience to create the product you are expecting). I had some interest in homebrewing, so per usual, I researched the shit out of it: $300 later I had myself a new setup, made some *okay* beer but was instantly hooked regardless (not to mention being the cool kid at every party). When I found out Melvin Brewing was opening a production facility in my hometown of Alpine, WY, I knew I had to get my name on the list. Sadly, they weren’t hiring, so I moved on. I worked at a small production brewery in Indiana (shout out to People’s Brewing Company) for about three years, but at that point, I was super homesick and missing my mountains. As if by fate, the Lab/QC Manager job at Melvin popped up and I snatched it up pretty quickly. Melvin has always been a dream job for me, and I am so stoked to be here and be a part of creating some of the best beer on the market!
What career achievements are you most proud of?
SG: As a woman, it’s really hard to have your voice heard and to be comfortable with who you are. It’s a work in progress, but one of my greatest achievements has been becoming comfortable in my own skin and knowing where I fit in this world. I feel more confident about exercising my voice, especially with things I am passionate about. At Melvin, I’ve helped our Production Manager (Patrick McNerney) improve our core beer recipes, specifically our lagers (which are pretty bomb), improved our microbiology program by adding in different media and new equipment, and included everyone in the brewery to come participate in sensory tasting. Beer is my passion, and I’m on a mission to educate as many people as possible!
What advice can you give to women interested in joining the beer industry?
SG: Come to the dark side; we need you! There are so many ways to get involved with the brewing industry without lugging around grain bags and kegs (if that’s your thing, then heck yeah!). As a female, it can be intimidating working with a bunch of dudes, but most of the men I’ve worked with have been so supportive of me and my aspirations. It’s really comforting to be so close to people you work with, and everywhere I’ve been, my coworkers have been like family. This industry is so laid back that even the stressful stuff isn’t too stressful. Come join the party…you know you want to!
India Pale Ale
7% | 70 IBUs
Since its Alpine inception, the lab has always been an integral part of Melvin Brewing. Our team of rad scientists has now proposed a theorem: that clear IPAs can be just as juicy as their hazy counterparts. The evidence you hold in your hand is a testament to the crew’s skill in the art of zymurgy; a post-modern IPA full of bright juicy flavors, yet crisp and clean in the body and finish.