Adventures in Chemistry: Beer!

Last night, I had the opportunity to tour Summit Brewing Company with a bunch of other local cosmetic chemists. I met some really cool people, including a new chemist that just moved to town from India, and also a scientist that creates another local brand’s lipstick colors. It was interesting talking a little shop with folks, and it makes me grateful that we don’t have a marketing department that decides our formulas based on a marketing plan. (Heads up to marketers: What you’re asking for isn’t always chemically possible, or feasible, or stable!)

When I arrived for the social hour, I tried a Summit Pilsener , made in the traditional style with Saaz hops, just like the old-fashioned Czech version. As I wandered around the room, I came across this letter on the wall would make any small business owner laugh:

Good advice to any small business owner: You have to be a little bit crazy!

It was fun to see the inside of the brewery and learn how beer is made on an industrial scale. I didn’t get too many pictures, but I did capture a few:

The industrial scale copper kettles that start the process of beer making
Fermentation tanks: Where the magic is made
Bottling lines: They start with a vacuum, then CO2, then another vacuum, then more CO2...


The Kegging Room
In case of a zombie apocalypse, the entrance fee to hide in Summit's beer cooler is a bag of pretzels

Beer factoid: We’ve all heard that heating and cooling beer repeatedly causes it to “skunk” (or, in chemistry terms, “oxidize.”) But this isn’t true at all: It’s only the heat that’s a problem, not the cold. This is obvious to a cosmetic chemist, because that’s one way we stability test our products: The longer the product is exposed to elevated heat, the faster it ages–so by exposing your product to elevated temperatures for a few weeks, you can age it a year. So, if you want to keep your beer (or your cosmetics) fresher, keep them nice and cool, and they’ll last longer.