Craft Beer

Care for a Primer with Your Pilsner?

It’s the dog days of summer, and you know what that means — it’s the perfect time for a nice cold beer!

With beach season upon us, our thoughts have been turning to the craft microbrews we love, and that makes us think of one of our favorite topics: qPCR. While it’s true that your Quantabio peeps can make the connection between qPCR and just about any topic, this one is a natural fit. It’s inspired by our friends at the Masthead Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio, where brewers adopted our qPCR technology to reduce costs, improve detection, and slash turnaround time for their all-important quality control testing.

We talked to Frank Luther, CEO of Masthead Brewery and its spinout Midwest Microbio, to hear more about the role of qPCR in making beer. Here are some highlights about why they leave it to Q for a better brew.

Traditional quality control testing for beer is expensive and time-consuming.

QC testing has to be performed on new batches of beer to check for microbial contaminants that could spoil the beverage. But it’s not an easy process. The tests can take as long as two days, leaving brewers with delays for products that are otherwise ready to be packaged and shipped. “Our previous traditional culture methods and DNA detection kits were also expensive — having an ongoing combined cost of more than $40,000 per year,” Luther says. “If that wasn’t enough, the results were very inconsistent and often inaccurate due to the many false positives or false negatives.”

A better approach was brewed up at a local bioscience conference.

Masthead’s principal biochemist Aras Klimas first encountered Quantabio at the Ohio Bioscience Expo & Showcase, where he realized that our Quantabio PerfeCTa® SYBR® Green FastMix and Q cycler might offer a faster, cheaper, more accurate method. “He was intrigued and immediately began thinking about how he could apply this technology in our brewery,” Luther remembers.

The new workflow enabled more testing, better results, and lower costs.

As the team implemented the Q cycler, they first had to develop a new process to identify the precise genes and other DNA targets needed for QC testing. They designed qPCR assays as well as optimized extraction and purification workflows to streamline sample prep. Now, the brewers can go from sample to data in just 90 minutes, and their annual spending has plummeted to $2,000 or less. “We are now running more tests and generating more accurate results in less than two hours for 20x less cost per sample,” Luther says. With the Q, they can run 12 samples at a time, or six samples in duplicate to check for all possible beer spoilers.

It even inspired a whole new business.

After all the development work to perfect qPCR-based QC testing, Luther’s team knew they had a solution that would be useful for other brewers too. So they launched and spun out Midwest Microbio to help other companies adopt on-site qPCR testing. With a fully validated portfolio of 21 assays for possible beer spoilers, they are ready for anything. Their clients “are now getting more accurate test results for a fraction of the time and cost,” Luther says.

To learn more about Masthead Brewing Company, Midwest Microbio, and quality control testing using our qPCR technology, check out this case study.

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