Interview with Helen Isherwood & Eric van der Lugt from Jopen Bier Brewery

We talked to Helen and Eric from Jopen Bier Brewery about their exciting journey with Oculyze – from intrigued at first sight, through the hands of the people in the laboratory, and down to the brewers on the floor.


Oculyze: Can you tell us a few things about yourself and your role at Jopen Bier Brewery?
Helen: Hi! I’m Helen Isherwood. I’m the quality manager at the Jopen Bier Brewery in Haarlem in the Netherlands. We are a medium-sized craft brewery. We produce about 30.000 hectoliters of beer, of craft beer, and we make in the region of 15 to 20 different beer styles and, as an example of the types of innovations that we do, we have produced last year about 60 different types of beers.
Eric: My name is Eric van der Lugt and I’m a brewer at the Jopen Bier Brewery. We’ve got two locations and one of them is a converted church and I brew there and I make a bunch of these beers that Helen mentioned before.

Oculyze: You say at Jopenbier that “There is simply no excuse for boring beer!” What, do you think, makes a beer exciting?
Helen: At Jopen we believe that craft beer is for everyone and everybody has got a little bit of curiosity in them, so when we are making our beers we want to challenge people to experiment with our beers, to try something new. And if you try something new it’s quite exciting and surprising and we also want to make sure that the beers are very tasty. So this is our vision, our mission, so to do that we really use a vast variety of raw materials and we also apply technology and processes to create all the different styles and tastes that we want.

Oculyze: What sets apart Dutch beer from all the other beers out there in the world?
Eric: I think a lot of Dutch brewers, compared to our surrounding countries, basically, we try to experiment a lot and create different styles of beer but we also try to stay away from the set in stone guides a little bit more, we’re less conservative so, you know, for example we could make a weizen, which is a very traditional beer style, but then we add more hops, for example, to make it more hoppy or alternative grains, some grains that are not very commonly used anymore, so we try to expand that view a little bit more, and I think that’s, with a lot of Dutch brewers, one of the main things.

Oculyze: How did you come to discover Oculyze?
Helen: We really like to keep up to date with technology, with new things that are happening in the beer industry, and we have various ways of doing that. We’re members of the various brewers associations, but we also spend time going to conferences and exhibitions. It was actually at the BrauBeviale in Nürnberg, in Germany, that we saw Oculyze for the first time. It was a very small little stand, quite far away, and another one of our technologists walked past and said “Helen, have a look at that stand, it’s interesting!” And having looked at it we were really immediately aware that this is a new technology that can really make a difference for us, because it’s taking a rather complicated analysis we do in the laboratory and making it simpler, so that it can be operated on the floor. So, yeah, we wanted to use this technology to help us with our fermentation. Counting yeast is not an easy thing to do and this was really exciting to see a new technology on yeast counting, so when we saw it we immediately made arrangements to do some trials.

Oculyze: How did Jopen Bier’s personnel react to the introduction of Oculyze?
Helen: There’s, of course, two people involved so I’m coming in from the side of quality. So, when I started with Oculyze my idea was to start it in the laboratory and let the laboratory learn how to use the new technology first and develop it a little bit to the company  and become experienced with it, and then move it down to the floor, because, you know, the first let’s say “resistance” is already overcome. And that was fine, for the laboratory, but when we tried to bring it down to the floor, it was really difficult at floor level. And, yeah, there were various reasons for that, I think Eric was maybe not at the very beginning of it, so maybe I can explain that it… You need to have a little bit of fine handling with Oculyze and in the laboratory I have people there that really enjoy fine handling and spending time on making things really accurate. The people on the floor don’t have that time. They have a lot to do and they want to have something that’s immediately practical that can immediately be put to place and so there was just a little bit of resistance – “this is too difficult, it’s not working”, and there wasn’t a lot of acceptance in the beginning. But we’ve moved along from there because Eric came into the picture and maybe he can explain how Oculyze… what Oculyze did for him.
Eric: I wanted to check our fermentations and Helen had already gotten Oculyze so I asked her and the people from the lab to explain to me how the device works and how we can use it on a day-to-day basis and, like Helen, said it was a little bit of resistance there, because we need to do it in between jobs. But after a few practice runs it’s actually quite easy to get the thing going, and then you can actually… it’s less fiddly than it looked at the beginning, for me, and it’s actually quite practical, so now we can actually do it in between other jobs. We can do the cell counts when and it turns out to be quite nice to work with and it’s actually quite robust. So, yeah, it’s still hands-on, but the normal cell counts are also hands-on, but it’s actually more accurate. And you can do it at any desktop that you like so you don’t have a fixed spot, so if you’re moving  between workplaces, for example, you can take it along with you and do your job there. So that’s quite nice.
Helen: Yeah, so it really made a big difference when somebody really wants to get an analysis out then, yeah, then the interest is really there to try a new technology, you know. You need the time and maybe the real motivation to get it to work.
Eric: Another thing that for me was very useful is that we didn’t have to wait for the lab to give us the results. We work in two different locations as well, so sometimes we would have to send samples to the other location where the lab is located and then we had to wait for a result. And if the lab is busy it takes a little bit more time, so this actually gives us the opportunity to do it on the floor and do it instantly.

Oculyze: Reliability is everything. What would you say to someone who’s still reluctant about automatizing their yeast cell counts?
Helen: From my point of view, as quality manager, I’m always looking at techniques and the accuracy of the techniques and I’m aware that Oculyze is able to be, in principle, more accurate because it’s simply able to measure a lot more cells in the field than what we do in the laboratory, with the human eye. And if you want to do a lot of cell counting, then you really have the human element and it takes a long time. So I think the accuracy of Oculyze, the more you use it, because it’s using an algorithm, if you do it in the right way, I think that that makes it more reliable.

Oculyze: What, would you say, is the one “old-school” thing, notion, or conception that all breweries should stick to, no matter which new technologies they use?
Helen: I think the most important thing is you have to achieve a good quality and one of the most important things in achieving good quality is to achieve consistency.
Eric: I had a similar thing. For me, it’s always quality over quantity. If a beer is not good and, you have lots of it, then you’ve got a bad deal. You always have to achieve a good beer, it has to be a quality beer, so that’s an old-school thing to always say, “quality is key”, and I think that still applies and that will always apply.

Many thanks, Helen, Eric and Jopen Bier Brewery!

Passionate about the beer and/or wine making process? So are we! 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 pages:

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

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