Mug Shots: Meet Kyle Butler
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of Colorado's First Craft Brewery? We'll take you beyond the beer you love to drink with our blog series titled, "Mug Shots." There are a lot of folks here at Boulder Beer who play a huge role in our day to day success. This is our way of introducing you to the team that makes it all happen. It's time for you to meet our Director of Quality Control, Kyle Butler.
Let us take you into the world of microbiology where we use science to ensure that the quality of our beer is at its best. To better explain, Kyle broke his job into four main categories: Microbiology, Analytics, Sensory and Internships. While some tests and procedures happen daily here at the brewery, there are always challenges that come up and new projects to begin adding an array of variety to Kyle's day.
Here at Boulder Beer, we test our beer up to 22 times before it leaves the building. Samples are collected by brewers and the production team every time beer moves through the system. For example, when it moves from the fermenter to the filter, a sample is collected for testing. When it moves from the filter to the bright tank, another sample is collected and so forth. Tests include spot plating, incubation, micro filtration and plate readings to detect beer-spoiling organisms such as lactic acid and wild yeast.
Analytical and Chemical Testing:
These processes will test things like bitterness, color and PH levels. Samples are kept for up to a year so that testing can continue. In these archives, we subject samples to things like light and air to see how they will react in less than optimal conditions. About a year ago, we purchased a very expensive piece of equipment called a 'Cbox.' This device allows us to measure dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen in about a minute as opposed to ten minutes per test as before. "To put it in perspective," said Kyle, "we are able to test about 90 cans in one run on the canning line whereas before, we were only able to test about 7 or 8 cans per run."
Kyle heads up a weekly (sometimes biweekly) sensory panel with our Brewmaster, Head Brewer and a Brewer. In these panels, they are tasting the base beer, beer 3-4 days post dry hop or additions, and then the packaged product. For example, Mojo is tasted after it's brought down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit and again 3-4 days after dry-hop before it's moved to filter. Kyle also holds WOS tastings or, 'Week of Sensory.' "This is where I take a packaged beer and place it in an incubator for one week," explained Kyle. "The result is a forced aging with one week in the incubator roughly equal to three months on a shelf." This way, we are able to learn how our beer holds up as it ages.
Kyle runs an ongoing internship program in the lab with 3 interns who help him push through the volume of testing. These interns are usually students with a bio-chem or chemical engineering background. Kyle finds interns through CU's website and word of mouth. "My best piece of advice for students looking to get an internship, would be to come by the brewery and introduce yourself," said Kyle. "The element of face to face interaction is very important." We are not hiring any interns at this time, but that will change from semester to semester. "I really enjoy the internship program because I love to teach," Kyle said. "It's also how I got my start here at Boulder Beer and I have a passion to keep the program successful."
Originally from Canada, Kyle holds dual citizenship after becoming an American citizen last year. Many of his family members still live in Canada and Kyle visits often. He lived in Singapore and Hong Kong for five years when he was growing up. "We also lived in Florida and Kentucky before moving to Colorado," said Kyle. His parents currently live in Louisville, KY and Kyle lives right here in Boulder with his friend Mackenzie. He graduated in 2014 from CU with a degree in Biochemistry. Fun fact, Kyle has had all female roommates 4 out of the 5 years he was in college. He has one younger sister named Crista who is a student at the University of Arizona. Kyle told us two of the strangest things he has eaten while living abroad are guinea pig and fish eye. Yum! His favorite item on the menu here at the pub however, is the Southwest Chicken Salad.
About two years ago, Kyle began homebrewing which peaked his interest in working in the brewing industry. "Yeast is a cornerstone in the bio-chem field," said Kyle, "and I found the brewing industry to be a great fusion of science and fun!" His favorite Boulder Beer in the summer time is Sweaty Betty and he enjoys Dragonhosen in the fall. "I'm partial to Dragonhosen because it was the first propagation I ever did," said Kyle. There's a lot of pressure involved here because generally one propagation can affect 7-8 generations or two months worth of beer. So, you know- no big deal or anything. Read about propagations here. In 2016, Kyle is looking forward to new tests and process improvements through continued growth and education. "I try to be as much of a scientific resource for the brewery as possible," Kyle said. He is also very much looking forward to his fly fishing trip to Alaska with his dad scheduled for summer 2016. In addition to fly fishing, Kyle is passionate about staying physically active, cooking, playing sports and drinking good beer.
Thanks for all your hard work, Kyle! We sure appreciate you.