By: Zoe Bernardi, Community Editor
Over the summer, four students started an ongoing project with testing local beer and its chemical content when new ingredients were added into the recipe. This internship allowed Kristi Hanscom, Scott Eugley, Zach Rohman and Gabby Hamm to work closely with the Maine Brewers Guild and the USM Quality Control Collaboratory Laboratory (QC2 lab). The QC2 lab is located on the Portland campus on the third floor of the science building.
The QC2 lab works in collaboration with the Maine Brewers’ Guild. The guild defines itself on their website as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the craft beer industry in Maine.”
The lab’s ongoing work is mostly confidential. The name of the brewery, beer used and equipment has to stay secret until more information has been found.
Since the project is still new and continuous throughout the school year, none of the actual testing has begun. These students are all working individually on gathering information and collecting data based off of testing samples, to prepare for the legitimate testing of the beer. Students are practicing the techniques and various ways of testing the chemical content with new and different equipment methods. These methods will be released when more data has been collected.
Each student plays a very important role in getting prepared for the true experiment. Benedict described how important it is that each student has their own task, “ students have a unique, hands on lab experience. There is no better way to learn in the science then by working in a lab. These types of experiences give students a leg up when they graduate and apply for jobs and graduate schools.”
Zach Rohman, a senior from Portland who is studying Computer Science with a chemistry minor, said his goal in one section consists of testing the aromatic profiles of beer. For example, one of the breweries involved with the QC2 lab is looking into adding honey to their beer. When honey or any new ingredient is added to beer many changes to the smell, color and taste of the beer, changing the chemicals within the beer.
Another student is Gabby Hamm, a Biochem major with a Physics minor. Her job within the internship is completely different to Rohman’s. Hamm’s project is device development. She is testing for bitterness, color, and alc content. The device Hamm is creating would work with a smartphone to allow brewers to do their own quality control, rather than sending in samples to other places.This device would help save money for brewers, be more convenient — results a lot faster and be less time consuming more regular testing.
According to USM chemistry professor and QC2 lab Director, Lucille Benedict, the goal of the internship and ongoing projects is, “because there was a need in the local brewing community for help with quality control testing. The tests they needed could be done on the instrumentation in the lab I had, so I thought, what better fit then having students work with the community to provide them with the services they need and get a unique hands on education in chemistry.”
This lab is specifically used to provide quality control testing, research and education for the local craft brewing companies. Benedict explained that the QC2 lab is, “dedicated to providing the craft beverage industry with quality control testing, research and education. All of these services are provided by USM faculty and students.”
Benedict concluded with, “this lab has a unique twist, with the testing and brewery connections, there are great undergraduate research experiences all throughout USM. It’s one of the things that makes USM a great choice for STEM majors. You don’t get these types of experiences at other universities.”