I’m Dr. Luci Benedict, Director of the Quality Control Collaboratory (QC2 lab) at the University of Southern Maine. Throughout my teaching career I have always focused ways to make learning chemistry feel more authentic to my students. By connecting the course content and labs to real world situations and applications, and current events it seemed to make the content ‘click’ for my students. When I first started teaching general chemistry and analytical chemistry in 2007 I connected chemistry content and principles to real life environmental applications, because that was my research focus at the time. I saw these connections greatly increase student engagement. As the years went by I wanted to expand the connections in my course, and I was also looking for a new direction for my research program. As luck would have, during a tour at Allagash Brewing Company, I was introduced to their Quality Control Manager, Zach Bodah.
Our first conversation started it all. While talking with Zach it was clear that there were numerous connections between analytical chemistry and brewery quality control testing. The challenge for brewers was access to testing services, equipment and knowledge on how to perform the methods. At USM we had much of the equipment needed to provide testing, and I had students eager to use their chemistry knowledge to help the community. This conversation planted the seed for the development of the QC2 lab in 2016. The QC2 lab gave me what I was looking for, a way to provide a unique educational opportunity for my undergrad students through collaboration and support of the craft beer industry. The mission of the lab is to provide educational and laboratory opportunities for students and brewers.
My overall goal for this blog is to make the science behind many of the tests we do accessible to everyone. I’m creating this blog to help you better understand what each test does, and how it works. I’m also writing these blog posts to help me.
I’m an analytical chemist, not a brewer (but I was a homebrewer!), so by writing these posts I can share my knowledge about the methods used to test beer and, at the same time, learn more about their connections to brewing. We both know that the worlds of brewing and science are massive, and bringing them together helps us answer so many questions, but it’s a daunting task. So this blog is here to bring these two worlds together so you can continue to perfect your craft and I can better educate myself and my students about how different scientific methods help brewers know more about their beer. I mean don’t you wish you’d learned about the science of brewing when you were in college?
Of course you’re involved already if you’re reading this, but there are other ways to be involved. You can comment, share ideas, ask questions, or you could even write a guest post! Our lab is made up of me (a chemist), my lab coordinator (a biologist), and a team of amazing undergraduate chemistry, biochemistry and biology students. And while we work with a great community of brewers, we are not brewers. So if you can, and want to add to the conversation, please do!