Interview with Garry McShane from Cabarrus Brewing Co

We talked to Garry McShane from Cabarrus Brewing Co about the importance of yeast monitoring in a brewery in terms of product quality and consistency, about the benefits of using Oculyze and the challenges and rewards of the creative process.

Oculyze: Tell us a few things about yourself and your role with Cabarrus Brewing

Garry McShane: My name is Garry McShane and I’m the director of brewing operations for the Cabarrus Brewing Company. We are a production facility Brew Pub and we do about 3,000 barrels a year. I joined the brewery about two years ago now, I moved out here from the West Coast. And, yeah… we love using Oculyze!

Oculyze: How about your history with yeast? When did you start doing yeast cell counts and what was your process before Oculyze?

Garry McShane: When I first joined Cabarrus, I should backtrack a little, they were doing a lot of pitching from cone to cone and they weren’t really checking viability or cell counts. They would just move, like I said, from cone to cone and they kind of had a level in the cone that, in their mind, thought was good to go. They had great fermentation, it seemed, but they really had no hard data to track, batch to batch – what the yeast was actually looking like and the viability and so forth. So when I joined I had come from a background where we had a lab that would do extensive cell counting for us. I definitely knew how to count cells as well, but here, at Cabarrus, like I said, we do about 3,000 barrels a year, it’s a crew of two people and I am one of those people. So the amount of time it takes to collect some yeast, prepare it, put it under the microscope, count it, do all that… we just simply don’t have the time for it in a day. We’re always doing a lot of production moving beer, brewing beer, and canning beer, sometimes all in the same day.

So we needed something to help us save a lot of time, and that’s where Oculyze came in. So now we are counting yeast throughout fermentation, we are using the cell counter on the app to give us a correct dosing rate, whether we choose to do it in gallons or by weight, which we… nine times out of ten do by weight, so that’s how we’re now using Oculyze and we’re keeping track of generation to generation, how the yeast is doing. Just trying to make sure we get the most out of our uses possible, really.

Oculyze: So not just pitching fresh every time, but instead saving and reusing the yeast…

Garry McShane: We do not pitch fresh every time. We try to get as many generations as we can out of the yeast, as long as it’s still viable and looking really good but, most importantly, as long as the beer, batch to batch, still is the same final product, isn’t changing, say getting a little more bitter or drying out more or so on. And if we notice some change on that side of things, we’ll get rid of that use and start a fresh pitch.

Oculyze: Is monitoring the yeast also part of your creative process?

Garry McShane: It’s definitely a part of the creative process! You know, this new beer, this new style that’s getting really popular, the cold IPAs, we did one recently, the beer came out awesome, but lager yeast fermented a little warm… we were trying to get creative with that and try to see… do we pitch at the same rate we would our lagers, do we pitch a little little less…?

So we did some trial runs and that’s where Oculyze really helped with that. The Pitch Rate Calculator really helped us to give us a number to go off of and then, from there, depending on how fermentation went, we could we could pitch a little more, pitch a little less.

So it’s really great! It’s almost like having a whole ‘nother employee to help us with the creative side, which is really handy.

Oculyze: What, would you say, have been the most positive impacts of using Oculyze in your brewery?

Garry McShane: I’d say the most positive impact is making sure batch to batch we’re having consistent fermentation. We do a daily track of pH, viability, and, of course, checking the Plato. So having Oculyze and just being able to quickly pull a sample, check the yeast, see how everything’s going and then looking from that style of beer, say just our blond ale, for example, going back batch to batch and seeing how fermentation is going, is definitely a huge positive side for us. We’re data freaks and we love collecting as much data as we can. And so, yeah, having the ease of collecting more data is so positive for us.

Oculyze: You do both “ultra small-batch beers” and “full-production, year-round brews”. Tell us about the difference in process between the two

Garry McShane: We have a 15 barrel brew house, that’s our main production brew house, we sometimes do a double, triple, quadruple batch in the 60 barrel fermenters. We also have 30 barrel fermenters. On the other side of the brewery we have a three and a half barrel brew house that we brew into three and a half barrel fermenters and we have we have a couple sevens, as well. So we really like utilizing that and trying to get creative, explore new ingredients, play around with new yeast. And these beers we really just serve in our Tap Room only to try to get some feedback from staff, see how sales go. If, you know, we’re selling three and a half barrels of beer in a week, that’s really really good, so we try to use that and also use it like an R&D type of setup to take some of that sales data, sensory, and say “hey, maybe we’ll brew 15-30 barrels of this beer and do it as a seasonal release, in a couple months from now.” So, yeah, we do a lot of that, and that’s where we really get to have fun and play around with some new ingredients, yeasts and so forth.

Oculyze: Which are your go-to Cabarrus beers and why?

Garry McShane: I’m, you know, I’ll say it, I’m a hop head, I do, I love hoppy beers, they have a special place in my heart. So our West Coast IPA is definitely my favorite, it drinks like a pilsner, has a little higher ABV, it’s 6.5%, and it is just a really awesome hoppy beer. Right now, though, we have a really great Czech lager that we brewed on our pilot system. That beer is absolutely delicious. So those have been my current go-tos.

Oculyze: And, finally, what’s next? What do you have in store for your customers in the near future?

Garry McShane: What’s next…? So, we’re going to explore some hop waters, those are getting really popular. There’s some great products that we saw this past CBC, so we’re going to do some experimentation with hop water, something I’ve never really played around with before. I certainly enjoy them, I think there’s a market out there for it, whether it’s small or large, we’re not really sure yet, but we’re going to play around with those a little bit. We’re always experimenting on our pilot system, we’re doing some collab beers coming up here soon, with some other local breweries that we’re really excited about, and then, you know, every weekend here at the brewery is quite an event: food trucks, bands, so just trying to keep up with production, really.

Many thanks, Garry McShane and Cabarrus Brewing Co!

If you’re interested in finding out how you can use our technology to control fermentation and monitor your yeast, save work hours and improve the cost-efficiency of your business, drop us a line at [email protected] or check out our product page: Oculyze BB 2.0 (Better Brewing) Yeast Cell Counter App + Hardware

Also, you can now get access to a fully functional demo account to test your yeast via our Web App. Completely free of charge and with no commitment to purchase.

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