My professional background is heavily spotted with education and outreach. I’ve always believed that there’s no point to research and science if the average person doesn’t understand or can’t apply that science to their daily lives. I recognize that this is altruistic, but perhaps that’s why I volunteer so much of my time to science education. Because I believe it matters.
Recently I was accepted in to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) Science Communication Fellowship. This program aims to train me to become a certified “science ambassador and skilled communicator. Fellows join OMSI in helping public audiences engage with science in meaningful and relevant ways.” We are trained to speak to non-scientists about science.
My science? Beer.
At the first workshop this past week I met my 16 peers who come from all sorts of science backgrounds. From cancer drug effectiveness, to atmospheric chemistry of toxins, to applications of entomology, to development of the human spine.
I am validated! OMSI, this awesome science museum, understands that Beer Quality is as important as these other scientific fields – just as I believe. And when we went through our first training, an interesting question was posed for each of us: “Why does your science MATTER? How is it RELEVANT to people’s lives?” This made me realize – I am asked this question CONSTANTLY. Homebrewers and breweries alike don’t understand the relevance of beer science or why it is important. Which leads to a lack of quality in the final product. Which then shows us that beer consumers aren’t aware that there is a difference between quality beer and quality marketing of bad beer.
I’m so excited about this workshop because it will help me to better educate beer enthusiasts about the science behind the brew.
Here are my answers to this question.
Why does Beer Science MATTER? How is it RELEVANT to people’s lives?
Set Industry Standards for a new and growing community.
Believe it or not, but beer isn’t very regulated. The laws surrounding distribution and labeling are pretty strict, but not so much for the actual product. In fact, tobacco products are required to pass five separate analyses of the final product before it can be sold. Beer only requires one (ABV). They are even regulated by the same government agency (TTB). Our industry needs to step up – Craft Beer should be synonymous with Quality Beer.
Weed out sub par beer and brewery practices
I’m not one to bash breweries – I think every brew has at least one good characteristic. And if the flaws outweigh those characteristics, then the brewery simply needs to be introduced to a bucket of strong sani and some consistent Beer Analysis. It’s no secret that a handful of Oregon breweries close their doors or change their names after getting a reputation for treating employees poorly, selling bad beer, and/or not selling enough beer – an indication that it’s not very good or not very original. Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to send another pint back?
Further our understanding of the fermentation process and applications
Beer research is only recently taking off with efforts like the Siebel Institute and Oregon State University Fermentation Science. It’s because of these important research hubs that we have so many great and educated brewers. The more we can get the better our collective beer is going to be.
Know the Ingredients in what you Consume.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This is well known and documented. And yet, while people are trying to change government policy for GMO labeling, no one is trying to get government policy on accurate ABV (alcohol by volume) measurements. Why be politically active for a method of food growth (in which no health issues or links have been scientifically proven), but not for an actual drug you are ingesting?
Accurate beer analysis is the difference between a DUI and a safe drive home.
I’ve tested beer that has been more than 1% off from its labeled ABV. A beer labeled at 4.5% is a brew someone might have 2 pints of and still safely drive. That is NOT the case for a beer that is actually 5.5%. Now, I’ve been using this fairly extreme example for some time now – but just you wait – a lawsuit will happen one day where a driver was drunker than intended because of poor beer analysis. Let’s just hope no one gets injured.
Give confidence to beer consumers
Once drinkers are knowledgeable in the process of brewing and in the final product they will be able to easily navigate entire coolers of six-packs and bombers. Picking a random beer will no longer be hard. High quality beer + educated consumer = match made in heaven.
Knowing beer science and understanding the process will make you a better brewer! And once people get a taste of how fun brewing is – changing different variables, temperatures, amounts, types of hops – they won’t stop! Beer is cool. Science is cool. Beer Science is the best.
What do you think? Is beer science important? Why or why not?
Your essay is due in two weeks, I don’t care if it’s summer.