Tech Services = Science & Solutions (a Conversation with Bob Hansen)

From the pilot brewery to the lab, Briess is committed to using our resources to help develop lasting solutions for our customers. There are many ways we do this and you are always top of mind. To help communicate ways we strive to strengthen our relationships with all of you, I wanted to have a conversation with Bob Hansen, our Technical Services Manager — who is one of our top technical experts living the science and creating needs-based solutions.

Dan Bies and Bob Hansen evaluating the sensory aspects of Briess malt

M – Bob, what are some of the ways technical services works to find solutions for our customers?

B – We listen to customer needs and then develop solutions through new products, packaging and unique ways to use our existing products.

M – Could you give me some examples?

B – Sure,  Often customers are trying to develop unique products to differentiate themselves and they need to understand the possibilities. We maintain a high degree of expertise in brewing in general and stay on top of new trends in beer as well as the processes and ingredients involved.  Say a brewer is interested in making a stable haze IPA — or completely the opposite, exploring producing a hard seltzer and wants a colorless/odorless beer — we understand the technology and ingredients to do both and will advise customers how to execute their plan.

M – Could you elaborate on specific ways the pilot brewery can be a resource and demonstrate the qualities of our products?

B – When we develop a new malt, we do several targeted test brews using the product in various ways and with various percentages. That allows us to get to know the influences the ingredient can have on the finished beer. From those results, we pick some of the best and most unique uses of the product and formulate specific, focused beers to demonstrate how the product is best used. We can then provide actual finished beer samples, strong technical information on the beer, and excellent recipes for customers to use. You can tell someone the analytical characteristics of a malt, describe the flavors it brings and give them recipes — but when they can taste the finished beer, they can really understand what the ingredient can do for them.

M – Tell me more about the methods your team developed to test products. I’ve heard about Cold Steeping and a quick way to color test.

B – Making high-quality products and helping our customers is core to what we do at Briess. Sometimes it’s not just making a product, but making a process or technology that is important to test the qualities of the ingredient. Case in point, other (non-Briess) methods that currently exist for evaluating malt are mainly focused for making base malt for pilsner beer and involve sophisticated and expensive equipment. These methods aren’t as relevant for specialty malts or for craft beer and they aren’t available to many of our smaller customers who lack the resources to use them. We’ve developed testing methods that are valuable for describing the properties of our products that are most important to our customers (i.e., color & flavor) in ways that are accessible to them. For example, we created methods to describe and evaluate arguably malts most important characteristic, flavor — where a recognized method didn’t exist previously. We were instrumental in creating an accurate and repeatable malt sensory method which could be done with simple, affordable equipment. We took that method to the larger industry and worked with the ASBC
(American Society of Brewing Chemists)
to ensure the method was recognized, repeatable and reproducible.

M — That’s what all good science is about.

B — Yes, definitely. Our Hot Steep Method, developed by Cassie Poirier, became the first ASBC malt sensory method — and Betsy Roberts developed and shared with the industry a Rapid Malt Color Method, which is an inexpensive method for determining malt color. In addition, we’ve been working recently on a representative mashing method that’s more relevant for craft brewers.

M — When can our brewers expect to hear more about this new method?

B — Within the next 6-12 months, keep your eyes on our website and blogs. It would show up there first as a useful internal method. Putting a method through the rigors of official recognition can take several years.

M — You just hired another person for your technical team. How will he contribute to helping our customers?

B — Scott Heimerl has been working for Briess for several years and has experience in the laboratory, in quality control and assurance and importantly — operations.  There’s a lot of work that goes into what we do and a lot is operational…running pilot equipment, creating small samples, brewing and testing; he will help in all those areas.

M – How does quality and the lab fit into all of this?

B – Many of our technical assets such as physical labs and equipment are shared resources and our department is intertwined with quality in that we technically support them in troubleshooting our customer’s challenges to ensure our products meet our customers’ needs and that we offer them true solutions.

M – When a customer is experiencing a challenge in their process, what is the best way for them to reach out to Briess for help?

B – Contact your Division Managers; they are great at coordinating within the departments to bring in Quality, Operations and Tech Services as needed.

M – What resources do we have online that could be of assistance? Which specific blogs could assist brewers with solving their challenges?

B – The blogs are one way we provide resources to our customers. A lot of great information is included and it is a convenient and easy way to share electronically. The Hot Steep Method blog offers  step-by-step instructions for the process. The Understanding Carapils® Malt blog offers information on how this malt differs from caramel malt. We also post recipes for both brews and foods using brew ingredients — which often include brewing notes, flavor profiles, or technical details. Our Malting 101 page is a great place to start. Historically, we have also captured information in our presentations that are available on the technical resources page of our website and we have white papers available as well. In many cases when we give presentations, the information is available through the host or craft brewer. One example is the MBAA (Master Brewers Association of the Americas), which has a great website.

M – Is there anything else you would like to add?

B – Craft Brewing is a young, old industry. We are rediscovering, recreating and reinventing an old art. Having been in the industry for 30 years, I am an old, young brewer. It’s really awesome to be a part of this beer renaissance.

M – I have only been here for a few months, but I love working for Briess for many reasons; one is that we truly focus on our customers. Staff at Briess have brewer and industry friends across the nation. To me that is an incredible testament to our company. Briess has a synergy with many of you because we truly care about the quality of our products, your customer experience and about the relationships that brew from this great industry! If you have topics you would like to see addressed in future blogs, please comment below.

Posted in Technical & QC, Uncategorized | Tagged , , .
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