North Coast Brewing Company Brewmaster, Chuck Martins, recently shared insight with Brewer Magazine on the logistics of tracking product through a brewery’s distribution network. An excerpt from Brewer Magazine’s article is as follows:
North Coast Brewing’s laboratory personnel perform a battery of tests on its packaged products. In addition to microbiological plating, North Coast Brewmaster Chuck Martins said the lab will check bitterness level and color to be sure that the beer in the bottle is within specification.
“On the line, we do scheduled spot-checks of headspace air and dissolved oxygen to ensure maximum shelf stability,” he said.
The North Coast quality program has expanded as the brewery has grown.
“While we have always employed rigorous multi-point batch testing for biological contamination with a zero CFU count tolerance, we lacked the equipment for checking IBUs, testing headspace airs or dissolved oxygen content in the earlier days,” he admitted. “When we moved into our production facility in 1994, it was necessary to invest in more sophisticated lab equipment to ensure product leaving the brewery was in spec and would have good shelf life.”
That meant adding a UV spectrophotometer to replace an old visible spectrum unit and, along with some ancillary equipment, it allowed Martins and his team to check bitterness. A headspace tester was also set up on the bottling line.
Later, it purchased instruments for measuring dissolved oxygen that are employed in various stages of production but primarily during beer clarification and packaging.
“Because of our barrel-aging program, and the inherent potential for biological contamination of clean beer resting in wood barrels, we have added polymerase chain reaction testing equipment to identify potential contamination almost immediately,” Martins said.
Martins said that North Coast Brewing has a solid track record for responding to questions and concerns from customers. The brewery’s website has a contact page which makes it easy for people to get in touch.
“Our brewmasters reply personally to all beer related inquiries, usually the same day that we receive the information request,” he said. “We take all feedback very seriously and do everything in our power to be sure that the customer is satisfied.”
On the occasion that the contact reports a quality issue, they collect as much information from the customer as they can provide, then investigate it from their end to find an answer or explanation for the customer’s issue.
When appropriate, North Coast will arrange to replace the affected product. “This approach typically leaves our customer very satisfied,” Martins said.
Read Brewer Magazine’s full article.