How Science Saved Beer

Beer is major part of the Thanksgiving diet thanks to Thursday night football. Yet, nothing is more disappointing than a beer that's been spoiled by the treacherous bacterial microbe known as Lactobacillus, usually found in yogurt. That's why Philadelphia-based biotech company Invisible Sentinel is helping breweries detect the bacteria with its Verfiflow and brewPAL products before it ruins the beer. This allows purveyors of beer to maintain a consistent taste throughout the country and football enjoyment for all.

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Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia
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Lactobacillus is a bacterial microbe that can spoil a beer if it's not caught in time. "If we're measuring lactic acid, the spoilage is too late. It's done. Your beer is finished. You're not going to remove the lactic acid," says Adam Bartles, the director of brewing operations at the Victory Brewing Company in Parksburg, Pennsylvania. Here, he shows how beer is cleaned via centrifugal force.
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The Victory Brewing Company brews its beer in large stainless steel vats. Hygienic advances like this and refrigeration help prevent the spoilage that colonial-era beers fell victim to as a result of wood brewing vessels.
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Empty bottles of beer being rushalong to be filled.
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A glimpse into Victory's beers bottle labeling process.
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Storm King Stout is one of Victory's most popular beers. Here, it can be seen in the final stages of packaging.
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Lots of beer ingredients flow through this room, allowing for easy quality control checks. A Victory employee takes samples of beer to be tested.
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Adam Bartles proudly stands in Victory's main brewery. He firmly believes maintaining consistency by preventing spoilage. According to him, a funky-tasting beer can prove disastrous for a brewery. "We're getting close to 4,000 other breweries in the country and we're selling in 35 states. Somebody picks up a beer in Arizona that doesn't taste perfect they'll just go to another brewery," said Adam Bartles, director of brewing operations at Victory Brewing Company in Parksburg, Pennsylvania. "They're probably not going to give us a second chance," he says.
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It can usually take up to a week for a brewery to detect a bacterial problem in its beer. If it's caught in time, it can be filtered out. Invisible Sentinel is a Philly-based biotech company that is helping breweries detect spoilage before it gets out of hand. This winter, it will release the new Molecular Diagnostics kits for small and commercial brewers.
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Invisible Sentinel's Veriflow/brewPAL products work like a miniature pregnancy test that can detect lactobacillus and other lactic-acid producing bacteria in just a matter of three hours. After separating potentially harmful bacteria from a sample of beer, breweries can ultimately pipe a solution onto the cassette to see if they have a problem and, if so, how bad of one. Here, a line shows the presence of bacteria. The sample can be then be placed into a machine for a more thorough molecular breakdown .
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With a smile on her face, Kristen Khale-a senior research scientist at Invisible Sentinel, Inc., opens a beer for testing.
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Invisible Sentinel’s lab is testing the new Molecular Diagnostics kits for brewers.
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Nancy Rigberg and George Hummel are the owners of Home Sweet Homebrew. For 25 years, the store has been dedicated to those who want to make their own beer or wine.
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Some German malt sits on the shelves at the Home Sweet Homebrew in Philadelphia.
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