Interview with Matthew Farber, PhD, 2016 February 5

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  • Biographical background and education
    Partial Transcript: "My dad was actually an academic as well" "…indirectly influenced to be a teacher…" "I started being charged with developing our graduate biotechnology lecture and lab.."
    Synopsis: Farber describes growing up in a science-minded family, relating a childhood anecdote about dissecting a fox in his father’s biology laboratory. He then details his education at Seton Hall University and the University of Pittsburgh, mentioning in particular that his minor in teaching during doctoral studies prepared him for his first post-doctoral position at the University of the Sciences.
    Keywords: biotechnology; cellular biology; childhood; cytology; interactive learning; molecular biology; proteases; research laboratories; science education; Seton Hall University; teaching; University of Pittsburgh; University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
  • Protease fluorescence and Proteinase A in beer fermentation
    Partial Transcript: "In the presence of the protease we see an increase in fluorescence." "…foam is a very sensory quality parameter that’s good to have in the product, and in stressful fermentation situations you get an increase of this protease and a decrease in your foam." "…implications in the industry…"
    Synopsis: Farber describes using recombinant antibodies and fluorescence spectroscopy to measure the presence of proteases, which are enzymes that break down proteins. He describes a particular protease, Proteinase A, and its relevance to brewing as it is secreted from yeast during fermentation. He mentions that he is currently developing a patent for a protease inhibitor that could improve foam performance in beer brewing.
    Keywords: biosensors; biotechnology; fermentation sciences; fluorescence spectroscopy; industrial research; protease activity; recombinant antibodies; yeast protease
  • First interest in beer and homebrewing
    Partial Transcript: "...brought into...art of brewing from other scientists in my department." "I was really a nerdy home brewer..." "...great blend of science, art, creativity, passion."
    Synopsis: Farber speaks of first becoming interested in homebrewing from departmental social hours during graduate school. He describes his first unsuccessful attempt and other early experiences with homebrewing. He speaks of gradually beginning to pursue brewing research in earnest after arriving at the University of the Sciences and gives his perspective on brewing as both an art and a scientific process. He also discusses his personal tastes in beer.
    Keywords: craft beer--Pittsburgh; homebrewing
  • Beginning a new brewing science program at the University of the Sciences
    Partial Transcript: "...there really is interest and curiosity in brewing science." "...big proponent of the program was my mentor...Peter Berget..." "...several stages of approval processes..." "...folks who were education-minded in the industry."
    Synopsis: Farber discusses the initial inspiration for beginning a brewing science program at the University of the Sciences, mentioning that he noticed a lot of interest in his brewing research at various conferences. He details the first steps of establishing the program, including gaining support from his mentor and university provost, doing basic market research, reaching out to local industry, and forming an advisory board made up of members from the brewing industry.
    Keywords: advisory boards; brewing industry; brewing science; Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant; malt industry; Malteurop; Yards Brewing Co.
  • History of University of the Sciences
    Partial Transcript: "...first pharmacy school in the country." "...being unique for us as a brewing science program because it makes us a little bit more on the analytical side..."
    Synopsis: Farber talks about the history of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, which began as the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in the nineteenth century. The institutional focus was later broadened to encompass additional science and healthcare-related professions, which Farber believes makes the brewing science program unique to others which are affiliated with agricultural schools or food science programs.
    Keywords: agricultural colleges; apothecaries; food science; science and technology schools
  • Demand for new brewing science programs
    Partial Transcript: "...strong preference for those who have formal training in brewing science." "...that was a big driver for creating new programming..." "...we have to prove ourselves a little bit more..."
    Synopsis: Farber discusses the dearth of brewing training programs in the United States, noting the current high demand for admittance to the ones available and the need in industry for brewmasters with formal training in brewing science. He remarks that this demand was a big factor in the decision to create the program at University of the Sciences and speaks about opening enrollment in 2015.
    Keywords: American Brewers Guild; brewing schools--Germany; brewing science; enrollment; Siebel Institute, Chicago; University of California, Davis
  • Women in the brewing industry
    Partial Transcript: "The industry unfortunately is overwhelmingly white male." "...workplace isn't necessarily tailored to equal opportunity." "stigma of beer" "beer is I think embraced by both sexes pretty, pretty well now"
    Synopsis: Farber remarks that the first class of the brewing science program contains five women and seven men and goes on to discuss the current state of women in the brewing industry. He mentions the growing number of organizations tailored to women in both the brewing industry and homebrewing. He hopes the program at the University of the Sciences will be able to generate more interest in the brewing industry among women.
    Keywords: Barley’s Angels; Lady Birds Beer Club; Pink Boots Society; women brewers; women in brewing industry
  • Shifting attitudes toward quality control in brewing industry
    Partial Transcript: "...the industry association groups have really been instrumental in pushing quality." "...brewing industry really has lagged behind most manufacturing fields in their quality programs."
    Synopsis: Farber remarks that attitudes in the industry have been shifting toward rigorous quality control, particularly encouraged by industry association groups. He notes that growing regional breweries have increasingly been taking on a large manufacturing mentality in terms of the need for quality control.
    Keywords: American Society of Brewing Chemists; Brewers Association; brewing industry; industry association groups; Master Brewers Association of the Americas; quality control; Six Sigma training
  • Brewing and analytical equipment at the University of the Sciences
    Partial Transcript: "...our students will actually conduct brewing experiments." "...essentially a brewpub kind of setup." "...important that we have a food-grade lab."
    Synopsis: Farber describes the brewing and analytical equipment available to the students at the University of the Sciences. There are two small half-barrel brewing systems in the university pilot brewery with which students run brewing experiments. The analytical equipment is used to analyze sugar and ethanol content as well as hop chemicals. Farber also details how a carbonation stone works.
    Keywords: analytic chemistry; brewing equipment; chemistry, analytic--equipment and supplies; gas chromatography; high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC); microscopes; nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR); spectrophotometers
  • Brewing science program curriculum
    Partial Transcript: "Having a good idea of process is paramount to the field." "We wanted to make this a program that was accessible to people with families…” "Ultimately it's about application of those principles..."
    Synopsis: Farber details the courses that make up the post-baccalaureate certificate in brewing science at the University of the Sciences and speaks about the background and goals of the students who enroll in the program.
    Keywords: applied science; brewing science; engineering; industrial internships; microbiology; science curriculum; vocational training
  • Brewing-related laboratory experiments
    Partial Transcript: "Ultimately they will be tasked with coming up with an inquiry project." "Does salt in a Gose beer negatively affect the yeast health during fermentation?”
    Synopsis: Farber speaks of potential brewing experiments that students could conduct using the dual brewing system setup, such as a study on the effect of sodium on yeast. Experiments will include those that vary some parameters, such as the mash parameters, on a particular fermentation process.
    Keywords: barley enzymes; brewing yeast; experimental variables; fermentation; inquiry-based experiments
  • Quality control laboratory course
    Partial Transcript: “…a first in the country.” “We have wet labs where we're teaching practical skills mostly as they pertain to quality.” "...cookie-cutter approach..."
    Synopsis: Farber describes the quality control laboratory course, in which students learn common analytical techniques related to brewing. He also mentions the American hop industry and the laboratory procedure for measuring International Bittering Units (IBUs).
    Keywords: analytic chemistry; grist analysis; hop oil extraction; International Bittering Units; laboratory courses; laboratory techniques; malt analysis; water analysis; wet laboratories
  • Microbiology laboratory course and explanation of yeast fermentation
    Partial Transcript: "I'm really excited about the microbiology lab." "...teaching basic microbiology in that context of trying to identify new fermenters or wild fermenting yeast." "The brewer is really just the catalyst to make the chemical reaction move forward."
    Synopsis: Farber details how the microbiology laboratory course teaches basic microbiology techniques, such as culturing, in the context of identifying and isolating wild fermenting yeast. He notes the importance of yeast in brewing. He describes yeast fermentation as the process of breaking down glucose to release energy, resulting in ethanol and carbon dioxide byproducts.
    Keywords: culturing; fermentation; metabolic processes; microbiology laboratories; wild yeast
  • Discovery of yeast's role in brewing and role of yeast in beer flavor
    Partial Transcript: "...relying on everything being dirty, essentially, to make fermentation happen." "...other intermediates in that process that can get secreted, different alcohols, different esters, that ultimately will contribute to flavor." "...trend to try to find new novel yeast..."
    Synopsis: Farber briefly goes over the history of how brewers came to understand and appreciate the role of yeast in beer brewing. He goes on to discuss the new trend in beer brewing of using novel yeast strains, and he remarks that studying how different yeast strains change beer flavor is something he and his students can easily do in the laboratory at the University of the Sciences.
    Keywords: Carlsberg; Reinheitsgebot; German Beer Purity Laws; brewing trends; brewing experiments; fermentation; Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Yeast supply firms in the brewing industry and yeast propagation process
    Partial Transcript: "Growing yeast is relatively easy." "...general rule of thumb is that you step up your cultures one to ten..."
    Synopsis: Farber discusses the yeast supplying industry, which produces yeast by large-scale fermentation. He states that while it is an easy process for brewers to propagate their own yeast, it is time consuming, takes planning, and requires a sterile environment and proper storage facilities. Because of this, brewers often choose to go to yeast suppliers instead of growing their own yeast. Farber notes that Victory Brewing Company is an exception to this.
    Keywords: American Society of Brewing Chemists; fermentation; yeast propagation
  • Industry norms of yeast use and the role of quality control during the fermentation stage of brewing
    Partial Transcript: "Eventually the scars will compromise the integrity of the cell wall on that yeast and that cell will die." "...careful monitoring of process measurements are important."
    Synopsis: Farber discusses why it is fairly standard in the brewing industry to use a yeast no more than ten times, as brewers can collect the yeast slurry at the end of one fermentation and reuse it in the next. Farber emphasizes the importance of quality control, such as tracking gravity over time, in monitoring yeast health and determining when to stop using a particular yeast sample.
    Keywords: density measurements; quality control
  • Needs of different yeast strains and lager yeast evolution
    Partial Transcript: "...hybridization was an event that leant strengths from both species into one." "'Top' and 'bottom' ferment is a little dated."
    Synopsis: Farber explains that while the needs of different fermenting yeast strains are fairly uniform, the slight differences may affect the outcome of the beer. He uses initial dissolved oxygen levels as an example of differing needs. He then explains that the ability of lager yeast to ferment at lower temperatures is the result of a hybridization of two yeast species, one of which is the primary ale yeast species.
    Keywords: flocculation; lagering; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Saccharomyces eubayanus; yeast evolution
  • Yeast hunter program at University of the Sciences
    Partial Transcript: "...really great inquiry-based project where students can discover new things."
    Synopsis: Farber describes his new yeast hunter program, in which undergraduate microbiology students collect yeast samples and identify them in the laboratory. Farber explains that only two per cent of the world’s yeasts have been identified and details the process of identification and characterization. Thus far, two students have collectively discovered four previously unidentified yeast strains. Farber mentions that he is particularly interested in finding new strains of fermentable yeast which might have direct applications in the brewing industry.
    Keywords: applied microbiology; Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST); DNA sequencing; polymerase chain reaction (PCR); undergraduate research
  • Prospects for innovation in craft brewing from discovery of new yeast strains
    Partial Transcript: "...might accelerate our sour beer production."
    Synopsis: Farber does not go into detail but mentions that he and his students have identified a few fermenting yeasts which may have applications in the beer brewing industry. Farber is particularly excited about one of these fermenters, which is producing a sour beer after lowering the pH of the ferment at an accelerated rate compared to Lactobacillus.
    Keywords: research applications; sour beers
  • Brewing industry involvement with the University of the Sciences brewing science program
    Partial Transcript: "...great two-pronged approach that has worked really well."
    Synopsis: Farber mentions again the program’s industry advisory board which is involved in the decision and curriculum making process. He remarks that the program also brings in instructors from the industry, primarily as guest lecturers. Farber views the roles of the university and industry in the program as complementary, with him and other academic instructors teaching basic scientific concepts and problem-solving skills and the industry instructors focusing on industrial applications of those concepts. Farber and Hargreaves also briefly discuss the growing professionalization of the craft brewing industry.
    Keywords: curriculum; professionalization
  • Internship and networking opportunities in the brewing science program
    Partial Transcript: "We want our students to be able to tailor their internship with their career aspirations." "I don't want...anybody to see us as trying to capitalize on that industry."
    Synopsis: Farber discusses the expectations for the internship component of the brewing science program. He emphasizes the importance that the program places on networking, and he describes various opportunities for students to network, particularly an event for the Project in Brewing Science course in which students serve samples of their beers to people from the brewing industry. Farber states that his goal is for the program to serve the brewing industry, rather than to profit from it.
    Keywords: apprenticeships; brewing industry; networking events
  • Choosing the mid-Atlantic for the brewing science program and defining craft beer
    Partial Transcript: “To me craft beer is being able to experiment and be curious and develop new things.”
    Synopsis: Farber states the following reasons for choosing Philadelphia as the location for a new brewing science program: the region has a large craft beer industry, the region lacked comparable programming, and he and his mentor were already at the University of the Sciences. He then defines craft beer as having traditional ingredients, limited annual production, and an independently-owned business model.
    Keywords: craft beer; Mid-Atlantic craft beer industry
  • Changing cultural attitudes toward beer
    Partial Transcript: "...fueled by a big home brewer base." "The industry itself is incredibly cordial."
    Synopsis: After mentioning the historical stigma of beer as an inferior beverage to wine, Farber speculates on the reasons for the general public’s growing interest in both beer and brewing. He credits the craft beer sector for bringing innovation to the American beer industry, which previously had been dominated by large-scale brewers specializing in a limited selection of lagers. He remarks on the welcoming environment the industry has towards the public and the mutually beneficial relationship between home brewers and the craft beer industry.
    Keywords: American brewing industry; Anheuser-Busch, Inc.; Boston Beer Company; Coors Brewing Company; craft beer; homebrewing; industrial innovation; large-scale brewing industry; Miller Brewing Company; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  • Homebrewing as apprenticeship in brewing industry and the benefits of the brewing science program to home brewers
    Partial Transcript: "...the approachability of learning the process…hooks people. It’s where they take it to whatever their specialty is."
    Synopsis: Farber remarks that people who become interested in homebrewing as a hobby often connect it with their personal areas of expertise, such as he did with his microbiology experience. He observes that much of the innovation in the craft brew industry begins at the homebrew level, which facilitates experimentation. He then provides a short sales pitch for home brewers wanting to transition to industry who might benefit from the brewing science program at University of the Sciences.
    Keywords: apprenticeships; brewing science; hobbies
  • Brewing science programs potential impact on the brewing industry; impact of supply and distribution sectors on the brewing industry
    Partial Transcript: "...the industry has now...started to react to new programs" "I think somebody beat us to it and that is the supplying industries."
    Synopsis: Farber remarks that the brewing industry has created an accreditation agency in response to the proliferation of new brewing education programming. After Hargreaves suggests that brew science programs could play a role in ensuring that product quality issues will not hamper the industry as they did in the mid-1990s, Farber responds that the supplying industries have largely already addressed such issues. Farber sees the brewing science program’s role as one of helping potential brewers understand and appreciate quality of supply and quality control in production. He also remarks that quality concerns still remain at the distribution level.
    Keywords: accreditation; American Society of Brewing Chemists; barley industry; distribution; hop industry; malt industry; Master Brewers Association of Americas
  • Final thoughts on the future of the American brewing industry
    Partial Transcript: "...the bubble exists for the people in the middle."
    Synopsis: Farber speculates on the future of the American brewing industry. He believes that while small-scale brewpubs and large national brewing companies will continue to be successful, the regional craft beer sector may struggle to compete in an increasingly saturated market.
    Keywords: American brewing industry; brewpubs; industrial expansion; regional craft beer sector