Yeast Shepherding Part 3: The taming of the brew

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Welcome back for the thrilling conclusion of “Yeast Shepherding”. In parts 1 and 2, we’ve taken you on a philosophical journey explaining our impetus for and approach to collecting wild yeasts. Here, I’ll explain precisely how we get these yeasts and bend them to our will (or not).  This is the story of how we take wild, untamed single-celled fungi and teach them the elocution of beer-making.

Nomadic Saccharomyces can be found in various crevices within the natural and unnatural worlds. Some say they have a preference for oak trees or fruit skins. However, we have managed to find these microbes on all sorts of surfaces. As I mentioned in the previous post, we think of yeasts as opportunists, spreading themselves scantly over the Earth’s surfaces. In this way, they ensure that they are always in the right place at the right time, kind of like Batman. So we set out to find them by swabbing surfaces that inspire us, in hopes that we’ll hit the fermentative jackpot. In one case, we went to the top of a fire tower in Middlesex Fells and held up a petri dish to the wind. In another case, we had lab guru Randy grab swabs of some cool plants he found in Florida. All of these yield potential new brewing candidates.

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We typically collect the yeasts with swabs, and then feed them wort. Sometimes we drop them into liquid wort, other times we plate them on petri dishes. A key difference between these two options is that in a liquid, we aren’t able to separate any different species that we collect. We may be allowing one species to become enriched in this vial of wort, and therefore, we lose the chance to isolate the more sheepish creature. On a petri dish, each individual organism is separated on the agar and should be able to grow into a colony, so long as it is tolerant of the conditions we’ve provided. It also needs to be able to digest the sugars we’ve given it. Usually, we grow these yeasts on sugars that are representative of what you’d find in wort. If they can’t handle these, they won’t be able to make beer.

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Once we’ve purified the microbes, we start to check them out microscopically. Do they look like yeasts? Are they budding? Filamentous? It’s nice to get a sense for what these microbes might be. Next, we want to see if these yeasts can handle the rigors of the brewing world. Can they tolerate hops? Alcohol? Do they stay suspended or do they drop to the bottom of the flask? These tests are critical to weed out species and strains that might never work in an industrial brewing environment. A yeast needs to be more than just a tasty fermenter to make good beer. It needs to have the right behavioral properties as well for it to be viable. For our wind-borne strain, dubbed ABC3, we found that it behaved remarkably well, completing vigorous fermentations after a few generations in culture, flocculating (or clumping) well after fermentation was complete, and tolerating hops and alcohol reasonably well.

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After our first few rounds of developing wild yeasts, it became clear that we would want to be able to quickly eliminate strains that wouldn’t work. We’ve developed a rapid screening process that allows us to perform lots of mini fermentations in parallel and monitor their progress in real time. We call this device the Fermenator. We use it to ferment tiny batches of beer and collect the CO2 from each fermentation to get real-time measurements of fermentation activity and progress. This allows us to choose strains that will perform well in our beers and get to the next steps sooner.

img_1733Once we’ve screened the yeasts for all of these properties, we can start getting to the exciting bits where we get to smell and taste things. This sensory analysis part is really why we do this. Do they smell like pineapples? Taste like leather? All yeasts are interesting until proven otherwise. We give them some leeway in terms of their performance versus what their potential might be. We believe that some strains may be coaxed to perform better or even taste better using some selective breeding techniques or even just changing fermentation conditions. Therefore, we try not to eliminate too many yeasts too quickly. Getting back to our ABC3 example, we let it run through a few rounds of fermentation and selected the top fermenters and bottom fermenters, choosing to propagate those that performed better in our trials. Ultimately, we liked its wild, fruity and spicy aromatics, plus it fermented pretty reliably, so we kept it going.

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When a yeast shows real potential for brewing, that’s when we add it to our library and start to make recipes with it. When I take people on tours of our lab, I’m often asked how we choose yeasts to pair with our recipes. With wild yeasts, we typically do the reverse–we try to let the yeasts express themselves, and choose recipes that best feature the yeast. If, after a few rounds of testing, the beer tastes good, then the yeast is ready for prime time. For ABC3, we thought it had a spiciness and a hint of clove that would work well in either a wheat beer or a Belgian-style dubbel. Ultimately, it was the dubbel that proved to be our favorite.

Typically at this point, we want to know what kind of yeast we are actually working with. Saccharomyces cerevisiae? Kluyveromyces? Something totally different? In our lab, we use some quick DNA sequencing methods to determine what genus and species we are working with.

By cross-referencing our sequences with public databases, we can identify these species and catalog them. We sequenced ABC3 and determined that it was most likely Saccharomyces paradoxus, a relative of our standard brewing yeast. Because we were ready to take this yeast to the next level, and because at this point, the one wild cell that we captured had produced so many offspring in our lab, we named ABC3 “Genghis Khan”, like the fecund warlord.ABC3DNA7- 2015-12-05 at 12.58.28 PM

Now that we’ve officially immortalized ABC3 by giving it a name and cryopreserving it, we can consider it part of our brewery yeast family. We now brew the Genghis Khan Dubbel seasonally and offer it up in our taproom. It’s a great way to taste a truly wild yeast and get to know our local microbial terroir.

Of course, our exploration of wild yeast will not end with Genghis. There are many more interesting strains and species out there waiting to be found. So we beat on, swabbing and plating ceaselessly into the future. The nature of this search means that we’ll discard dozens of new isolates for every one strain that is promising for actual beer-making. To really understand a yeast strain and what it’s capable of, we must brew with it over and over again, documenting everything. We must give these strains different grains and sugar profiles, ferment with them at different temperatures, and provide them with opportunities to flex their metabolic muscles. We must get to know them. That part takes years. So join us on our journey as we continue shepherding yeasts from the wilds of nature to our welcoming taproom.

The Aeronaut Team: Matt

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This is the third post in a five-part series on the people who make up Aeronaut Brewing Company. Here, we introduce the quirky characters who envisioned this brewery and urban farmhouse, and are now making it a reality.

Meet Matt Paonessa, one of our talented brewers here at Aeronaut. We asked Matt to share the experience of his beer journey with us. So read on fellow beer lovers to meet one of the makers of your favorite beers!

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When you’re in college and you tell someone that you’re any sort of humanities major, the expected response is “Oh! How are you enjoying working at Starbucks?” That’s exactly what I was doing when I brewed my first homebrew.

I had first learned how to taste when I worked in coffee. I also discovered that I loved learning how things work and how to do things. This fortuitously corresponded with a time where my taste in beer began to very rapidly expand beyond Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada flagship beers. Entrenched in the DIY ethos and beginning to fall in love with craft beer, I bought every single homebrewing publication I could get my hands on. I read for hours every day and researched how to build my own makeshift homebrewing equipment. It wouldn’t be long before I was brewing beer every weekend on my stove top, and shortly thereafter on a turkey fryer in the driveway.

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The marriage of barley and hops quickly overtook me. This was my calling. I emailed every brewery in Connecticut (which wasn’t many, at the time) asking to volunteer to do grunt work, if just to get my foot in the door. And after doing just that, I was offered a part-time job not six months later. Then shortly after, as fortune often favors the resolute, I was offered an assistant brewer position where I began to sponge up every bit of knowledge I possibly could. It wouldn’t be long before I could drop the “assistant” from my title.

In this time I discovered that the two most interesting things to me about brewing are the microbiology and history. The rich and vibrant history of brewing has always and continues to inspire me. The domestication of brewers yeast and it’s applications astonishes me and the domestication of newly discovered and wild yeast drives me. It is by no coincidence that I found myself being the liason between Aeronaut Labs and the production staff in matters of quality assurance and control, and as brewery-wide yeast manager and barrel-aged beer program leader.

As I continue to adapt to the ever-shifting niches of the modern brewer, so too do I wish to help lead Aeronaut along the path of discovery, innovation, and quality. With a passion for classic styles and an excitement for those new do I continue to look back to the past for a taste of the future.

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– Matt Paonessa

PASSIONFRUIT SOUR PLANET

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[Howdy readers … enjoy this guest blog post, a photo-journal by Ben & Gillian accompanying today’s passionfruit can release while your faithful editor and labs chief Ronn is out of town! We promise a return to form upon his happy return! –B&G]

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MARCH 2016 — FRUITY BEGINNINGS

It began with a fruit lunch…

Every once in awhile, we join up for an R&D lunch as a team. March 3, co-founder & blog writer Ronn set a feast before us! What treats! Together we sipped sour beers and sampled fruits, imagining the flavors of new brews to go with them.

Kumquats! (Sours?) Peaches! (Saisions?) Grapefruit! (IPAs?)

Joy– and food for thought of many beers to come, but “ALAS”! One pointed out…. a favorite flavor was missing… the puckering passionfruit!

FALL 2016 — PASSION, PLUCKED.

Fast forward six months, and Foods Hub tenant, the awesome Alexandra of gâté comme des filles, had returned from a foraging trip– her treasure? Freshly plucked passionfruit, plus pictures! These morsels were picked plush, from the Southern California shrubbery and destined to be packed into delicious bon bons.

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FALL 2016 — “HOWDY”

…Said Ronn.

“Perhaps some fruit for our brews?”

“A passionate pairing?”

… and so it was!

 

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WINTER 2016 — LAB BREWS

Ronn took the fruits back to the brewery and in a series of puckering tastings, we sought to match the lushly textured, sweet, and sour flavor of this exquisite tropical fruit with a well-matched fermentation profile of one of our house-cultures of AERONAUT labs’ yeast. We tried it with many different beers in nano-batches, carried out in the multiplex test-fermenters of the labs.

Far and away our favorite experiment combined fresh, maceracted, passionfruit and the gently tart, “First Steps on a Sour Planet”, a Berliner Weisse created from a recipe first tested in our first days of homebrewing in our Somerville backyard.

We had a winner!

 

FEBRUARY 14, 2017 — VALENTINE’S PAIRING

And Alexandra had been busy!

Using fresh passionfruit, newly foraged, she had crafted a brand new batch of bon bons, ready for release with our first single-barrel batch of beer that would become the “Passionfruit Sour Planet”!

On that day, in a valentine’s special we shared it with guests before a silent movie and were overjoyed by your feedback. Folks were insistent that it return. Your love notes & haiku-ed entreaties brought warmth to our wintry hearts.

Passionfruit Sour Planet would be back…

Passionfruit Label PNG-01  … and so it is.

To all of you that participated, thanks! Keep drinking and keep learning! You are the wind beneath our wings.

Thank you!

–GILLIAN & BEN

PS: Stay Tuned for the next Article digging deeper into  the roots of AERONAUT labs’ take on the base style of this beer, the effervescent & classic BERLINER WEISSE steel-soured session beer.

 

 

Yeast Shepherding Part 2: Beer from thin air

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In our never-ending quest for interesting and new beers, we’ve set out on a path that takes us in a very biological direction, focusing on yeasts and other microbes that contribute to beer flavor. This is a path that we’re betting will lead us to a Shangri-La of beer, where new and untold sensations greet us at every sip.  If you read our manifesto on why we collect new yeast strains (part 1 of this series), we hope you’ll agree that this is a worthy and noble mission. In this post, I will explain our approach to collecting yeast and how we begin to tame these wild microbes.

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For all of those non-microbiologists out there, it may be difficult to imagine going outside and wrangling a wild yeast, especially since they’re invisible.  Obviously we need a microscope to find these critters.  Of course, just trying to search the landscape one micron at a time would be a tedious task, so we have to get clever. A good starting point is to think about habitat: where do yeast like to hang their microscopic hats when they’re not in bread, wine or beer? It turns out that’s not entirely clear.

One might think, if yeast are so great at fermenting, then we can just find a good sugar source and the yeast should be there, fermenting. Indeed this is what wine- and cider-makers (and some brewers) have been doing for a long time. By just crushing the fruits and letting nature take over, they are encouraging the growth of naturally occurring yeasts and the subsequent production of alcohol. One might think that this implies that yeast are abundant on fruits. However why, then, aren’t copious amounts of alcohol available in nature? Why do we even need breweries and wineries? The answer, at least in part, is that yeast only tend to grow to large numbers in manmade environments. 

In nature, there is an unseen battle among untold varieties of microbes to get at any available energy.  Importantly, though, in a manmade system, we can set up this game so that the winner is predetermined. For vintners, when lots of fruits are mashed up and put together in a giant container where oxygen has trouble getting in, the yeast start to grow and dominate, creating alcohol and ultimately, wine. The specific way that yeast choose their sugars and create acids and alcohol in a certain order allows them to outcompete a large number of other microbes and come out on top. Winemakers (and certain Belgian brewers) have been taking advantage of this for centuries by sticking to strict traditions. The specific steps taken to prepare the ingredients and the fermentation vessels create conditions that favor the dominance of certain yeasts. By being rigorously methodical in their techniques, these artisans have managed to obtain reproducible results from a seemingly chaotic ecosystem without even being aware (until recently) of the microbiological underpinnings of their strategies.

blog-post_Poker-01It is important to note that conditions set up by traditional vintners or brewers, with lots of sugar available in a vast container, do not occur in nature. This man-made setup is the very determinant of what microbes will grow in a spontaneous fermentation.  Is it possible, then, that by creating such a winner-take-all setup that favors certain yeasts, we are forgoing an opportunity to taste the products of other microbes that may have been outcompeted in this scenario?

At this point, I should mention that I’ve been focusing on winemakers because many of them still rely on “spontaneous” fermentation, which is simply fermentation that takes place using ambient microbes, rather than inoculation with specific strains. With a few exceptions, most modern brewers rely on domesticated commercial yeast strains and seldom provide an opportunity for other microbes to even make an appearance. These commercial/industrial yeast strains have been passed down for generations and most likely originated from a winner-take-all spontaneous ferment that occurred centuries ago. A recent article from the Verstrepen lab in Belgium suggested that most modern industrial beer yeasts originate from just a few domestication events. In their words, “the thousands of industrial yeasts that are available today seem to stem from only a few ancestral strains that made their way into food fermentations and subsequently evolved into separate lineages.” Wouldn’t it stand to reason, then, that the vast diversity of genes in wild yeast populations is a largely untapped resource for flavor?

With the tools of microbiology, we should be able to collect specific, purified wild microbes in controlled conditions and culture them so that they have exclusive access to our wort. Our hypothesis is that there are some yeasts out there that make delicious flavors, but because they don’t have Type A personalities, they never make an appearance in commercial beers, even spontaneously fermented ones. If we can simply create a nurturing environment for these creatures, they might thrive and really express themselves. If we can isolate these unusual yeast strains, we believe that we will find flavors that dazzle the senses.

To collect these new strains, we’ve been looking everywhere. The surfaces of fruits, plant leaves, and even the wind have been sources for our prospecting missions. Despite their known tendency to be found on the skins of grapes and such, some researchers have suggested that yeast are nomads, with no obvious niche. They are opportunists, waiting for the right moment to get at that sugar. It is possible that our association of yeasts with fruit skins has more to do with our own preference for fermented fruits than any yeast preference. Therefore, it seems just as reasonable to isolate a new yeast from a banana as from a stop sign.  Indeed, one of our most successful new wild strains was isolated from the wind atop a fire tower in Middlesex Fells. More on that yeast strain and how we go from wild untamed microbe to industrial workhorse in our next and final post of this series.

-Ronn Friedlander

Illustrations by Becka Schuelke

 

Yeast Shepherding Part 1: Why we search for yeast

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How many beer styles are there? Well, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), which is widely considered to be the authority on beer style guidelines, lists around 114 subcategories for beer styles. To a neophyte craft beer enthusiast, this may seem like a lot to learn, but to any one of the 4000+ breweries in this country, such a small number of styles means that any single beer style can be expected to exist in a mind-boggling number of iterations. To give an example, a search for “IPA” on Beer Advocate gives nearly 16,000 results. Even searching for one of the more esoteric styles, “sahti” yields 20 commercial examples. If the thousands of craft breweries want to try something new, we’ll have to be very creative.

Certainly, chemically reconstructing ancient recipes from archaeological sites is one option–and an exciting way to reintroduce beers that were previously lost to history. Of course, this process is limited to what has already been done in human history and regardless, could never keep pace with the current rapid growth in breweries and beer demand. The recent increase in overall market share of craft beer indicates that the American public has, on average, become more discerning and sophisticated in its beer consumption. Increasingly, folks at bars are demanding new beers. They want something they haven’t tried before.

Obviously, there are many beers that cannot be narrowly defined by traditional style guidelines and indeed, these are some of the most exciting beers out there right now. However, given the composition of beer, we find only a few dimensions over which to vary our recipes. Hops have been a popular choice, giving way to the myriad IPA recipes mentioned above. In turn, several new hop varieties are being bred and added to our lexicon each year. Malted grain is another avenue of exploration, and the recent explosion of “ancient grains” as well as enthusiasm surrounding heritage grains provides us further means of expanding our craft brewing color palette.  If that doesn’t excite you, there are numerous breakfast cereals that can be made into beer. Although water chemistry is another possible variable, brewing water itself has not yet ignited a fervid passion among beer drinkers (with some notable exceptions). That said, varying water chemistry is a more subtle way to explore flavor profiles. For those who disdain subtlety, there is always the option of adjunct ingredients–adding something beyond the holy Four. This has also been done extensively, with ingredients that run the gamut from hot chili peppers to lobster. So what’s left?

Disciples of the Reinheitsgebot (at least the ronn-blogpost_yeastmatingmodern version), will note that I haven’t mentioned yeast yet. Well, that’s what I’ve been leading up to, I suppose. Those who claim to know their beer will often divide known beers into two categories: ales and lagers. The distinction relates to genetic differences between the yeasts that are used to ferment these beers. Ales are the product of fermentation by Saccharomyces cerevisiae, whereas lagers are fermented by S. pastorianus, now widely considered to be a hybrid product of fusion that occurred between S. cerevisiae and S. eubayanus, perhaps in the 15th century. Lagers are thus the half-sisters of ales. Until fairly recently, this was pretty much it in terms of brewer’s yeast biodiversity. Some breweries have begun carrying out primary fermentations with strains of Brettanomyces, a genus typically associated with contamination or secondary fermentation of sour beers. The use of new species in beer fermentation has opened doors to a world of new flavors.

In traditional lambics and Flanders reds, fermentation is carried out spontaneously. This means there is likely a large population of microorganisms that work in concert to ferment these beers. This population is undefined and can vary substantially from batch to batch. Because this is largely controlled by what organisms happen to inhabit the brewery (walls, ceilings, dust), it is unpredictable and difficult to tease apart. Some work has been done to study the ecological succession in these wild ales, but thoroughly controlling flavor in each batch is still a difficult task. When we look at the actual ronn-blogpost_koelschip-smorganisms present in some American wild beers, we see not only S. cerevisiae, but members of Pichia, Candida, Dekkera (Brettanomyces), as well as lactic acid bacteria, Leuconostoc spp. and Streptococci. Whoa. So who’s doing what? And how do we replicate it reproducibly? What other species can make beer? What unknown flavors are hiding out there right before our eyes? Also, whence can we harvest even more flavors and aromas?

Perhaps, rather than thinking along species lines, we can think about tastes and aromas themselves. Flavors produced during fermentation are metabolic byproducts, often in rather low concentrations. Because the taste thresholds for these are also low, we detect them easily and note the flavors. One such example is 4-vinylguaiacol–a compound that can be detected in beer at concentrations as low as 200 parts per billion and gives hefeweizens their notable clove-like flavor. This is produced only by specific yeast strains that have the so-called POF gene. This gene codes for an enzyme that can convert ferulic acid, found in malt, into 4-vinylguaiacol. The example of the POF gene is a particularly interesting one, because it shows us not only the connection between genetics and beer flavor, but the complex relationship between flavor, context and perception. If you were wondering what “POF” stood for, the gene was named for “phenolic off-flavor”. That’s because in the wrong context, a clove flavor is considered a beer defect or off-flavor. But in the context of a hefeweizen, it is not only acceptable, it is required (see BJCP guidelines, above).

One can imagine how and why the phenolic flavors imparted by certain Brettanomyces strains, often described as “band-aid”, “barnyard”, “smoky” or “mousey”, could be construed as defects. For these reasons, brewers have historically done all they could to keep this species away from their beer. But given the right context, the aroma of a horse blanket could provide a welcomed complexity to an otherwise “clean-tasting” (read: boring) beer. Aromas, given their connection to the reptilian brain, are strong evokers of memory. So instead of that beer being a simple thirst-slaker, perhaps a more interesting choice of yeast would trigger vivid memories of those halcyon caballero days, lazily trotting around the ranch on your increasingly sweaty horse in the hot New Mexican sun. Or, that time you had a hay ride at your niece’s birthday party. Either way, there is a complexity here that elevates the drinking experience to something more than a drinking experience, and it’s all due to some nano-sized molecular differences among micro-sized organisms.

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Getting back to the role of context, there are certainly some beer recipes that are well suited for the phenolic flavors, yet even these require a suitable cultural context. The growth of the craft beer movement in the US has led to greater interest in complex beer flavors. It is this gradual enlightenment of the beer-drinking community that has enabled a wider acceptance of beers with unusual flavors, thereby giving the economic impetus and support to brewers who pursue these avenues of creativity. It is this pattern that has led to the proliferation of göses, American wild ales and yes, sahtis.

Here, I am actually understating the role of the drinking community, since it is the drinkers’ demands that determine which brewers succeed and fail. Given the increasing demand for new beers, craft brewers not only have a newfound ability to experiment with nontraditional flavors and organisms, they should feel an imperative to do so. This brings us back to the discussion of how to push the boundaries of new beer flavors. At Aeronaut, we built a laboratory that allows us to isolate and examine new species of yeast (and what the hell, bacteria too). We can not only capture never-before-brewed-with strains, but we can characterize them and identify them in-house. Yeast are everywhere, and every one of them is filled with numerous genes that produce flavors and aromas. Because these flavor-active compounds are all produced in different amounts and ratios, we cannot yet predict how each of these organisms will fare at making beer, nor can we anticipate what strange new flavors we will find (or, for that matter, their public acceptance). Our thesis is that these strains, purified and well characterized (and perhaps selectively bred), will create not only a rich variety of new beer flavors but will behave in a reproducible manner. In this way, we will contribute completely novel beers to the craft brewing world.

So, we have set out on a journey to collect these strains and begin taming them for brewing purposes. More on our first results in a follow-up post…

-Ronn Friedlander

Thanks to Becka Schuelke for the awesome sketches!

Aeronaut lets its beaker flag fly

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Those of you who frequent the Aeronaut establishment will astutely notice (it is assumed that Aeronaut customers are both astute and highly sophisticated) the dynamic nature of the space–from the art on the walls that changes monthly, to the ever-changing beer menu. You’ve probably also noticed that we put up a new fermenter every few months. Perhaps you’ve come in one week to find a shuffleboard court, and then come back a few months later to find a 9-course tasting restaurant in its place. Well, Aeronaut has another new addition that you may have noticed if you’ve strolled our halls in the past two months–a new laboratory!

Now, to be fair, we’ve had a yeast lab all along, since day one. But it was out of sight, tucked away in the far corner of the brew space, behind the pallet storage. The only way one of our guests would have seen it is if they were on a VIP tour. The setup back there was a bit cramped, so on the rare occasion when we took a tour to the lab, it was single-file. Despite its diminutive size, this lab enabled us to grow a diverse variety of yeast, experiment with bioreactors and begin to isolate wild yeast strains to be used in brewing. But as we grew the lab’s functions, it began to outgrow that corner space. So we decided to move it to the far end of the building, in the Foods Hub near Tasting Counter. This space is much bigger, isolated from the grain dust of the brewing area, and more visible. We are very proud of our lab and what we do in it, so why not give it some more prominence?

Since all of the Aeronaut founders are scientists, and two-thirds of them have worked in biology labs, it’s been a big priority of ours from the beginning to have a large, capable and sophisticated lab [see post on yeast strains]. Getting the right equipment without breaking the bank has been a long process. Even though we haven’t had the room until now, we’ve been accumulating awesome lab gear, like shaking incubators, a spectrophotometer, a laminar flow hood, gel boxes and a PCR machine, to name a few. While we’ve been waiting to expand the lab into its own space, we’ve kept all of the gear in storage.

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With our new space, we were able to pull this equipment out of hiding and start putting it to use. The lab team has grown to 3 scientists, so there’s a lot going on. Broadly speaking, the lab now performs three unique functions. The first is to maintain, grow, monitor and propagate a large variety of yeast (and bacteria) for our production beer. This has been the lab’s bread and butter since day one. The second main function is experimentation. This is pretty far-reaching, and includes testing yeast growth techniques, brewing nano-size batches of beer and purifying and testing wild yeast strains to bring into the brewery. The third function is quality control. This is a very important part of the lab’s functions and includes microbiological checks and measurements of color and bitterness in beer. We’re also developing tools for sensory analysis. As diverse as they are, all of these functions really serve a single purpose: to continuously make our beer better, more consistent and more unique.

We’ve already got our benchtop bioreactor running and are actively testing new growth conditions for our yeast. We’re not only isolating and purifying wild yeast, but we are running test fermentations and selecting the best specimens for genetic analysis as well (we can do that too now!). We’ve developed a system for rapid prototyping of beers so that the brew team has more information to work with when designing recipes for production. Stay tuned, because we’ll be following up with more posts about each of these exciting ongoing projects in Aeronaut labs.

“Bites Beats Beamers & BENEFIT” (with Room To Read)

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“imagine Dr. Seuss” – LIVE POSTING from “Bites, Beats, Beamers & Benefit 001″

Hello folks – Ben here reporting from the happy trenches of AERONAUT on a Friday night. As we test a new series of Friday events, “Bites Beats & Beamers” {featuring multimedia collaborations between light and audio artists filling the walls and airspace of AERONAUT). I’m live blogging tonight, joined by special guests, the awesome group, Room to Read – adding a fourth B onto our series: Benefit!

Adding “BBB & Benefit”, AERONAUT is opening up the taproom to connect our community with local charities doing amazing work at home and abroad. There’s no group that we’d rather have on board for the launch of this initiative than R2R.

What’s Room to Read? They’re a non-profit that works with communities around the world from Africa to Asia, raising money for literacy with a special focus on making direct investments in the tools – including schools, materials, and education – that allow local authors and teachers to produce learning materials that work for children in their home communities.

Visiting with Deepti Kanneganti & Barbara Heffner from Room to Read, she explains to me the concept:

“Imagine Dr. Seuss. You could translate Dr. Seuss into Nepalese, however at Room to Read, we would instead seek out and invest in a local author who could write a work in the cultural context of that country, or village”

In Somerville and abroad, AERONAUT stands with those who stand for the preservation of cultural identity. This is a personal mission in addition to a corporate one. As once-travellers & teachers abroad (before the brewery gobbled us up), founders Ronn, Dan & I have had the fortunate opportunity to visit Nepal, India, and Vietnam amongst many other beautiful places that Room to Read invests in. In sketchpads and schools, we’ve experienced firsthand the joy of learning and the power of communication.

So Friday we’re hosting a free benefit event including a Bites, Beats, and Beamers DJ / VJ team for a live juke boxing where you can pay $1 to either request a song or to enter a raffle full of beer-tastic prizes. Each dollar buys one book for girls in third world countries, to further their education and promote gender equality and literacy in education in the developing world.

One Dollar, One Song, One Book.

Thank you Deepti, Barbara, and our awesome DJs – Aidan and Darren, plus Marissa who’s made it happen on the AERONAUT side. And Readers – if you have any charities that you’d like to suggest for BBBB, please let me know!

Ben // ben@aeronaut.net