We talked to Landon, head brewer at Pueblo Vida Brewing, about the importance of yeast monitoring and how using technology can help brewers eliminate human error.
Oculyze: Can you please tell us a few things about yourself and your role with Pueblo Vida Brewing?
Landon Swanson: I’m the director of Brewing operations at Pueblo Vida Brewing. We’re a pretty small craft brewer here in Tucson Arizona, in the States, and our Brewery mostly focuses on hop-forward beers.
Oculyze: Small breweries typically like to experiment a lot. Is that your case as well?
Landon Swanson: Yeah! We sort of pride ourselves on being what I like to call a R&D brewery. We pretty much do R&D all the time. We have two flagships, and that’s really new for us, maybe the last six months… We release a new beer every week. It’s not like the styles we’re producing are tremendously different, it’s just that we have the ability to kind of mess with cell counts and ingredients and all different kinds of things, and, play with water… we get to do all kinds of different things. I think that we get to play around all the time and we’re never making the same thing.
Oculyze: When did you realize that doing yeast cell counts is so important and did you use to do manual counts?
Landon Swanson: So we manually counted just with a regular hemocytometer; we did that effort for six years / seven years. I’ve been doing it for 15, so that’s just the old way, that’s how you have to do it. I like to really play with cell counts so it’s pretty important to be able to make sure that you can get a number, even if it’s not the, you know… Manual counting has a lot of error involved, so, just dialing that in, yeah… we’ve definitely had to do that all the time just to be able to maximize yeast generations and look at viability and do all that kind of stuff, we need to have that.
Oculyze: Is it even possible to obtain consistency when having different brewers doing the manual counts?
Landon Swanson: It was me mostly doing it. We’re a pretty small staff here so we don’t have a lot of people, but we are growing and so there’s more people that are actually doing the cell counts. And cell counts between people in the past five, six years has always been really up and down, but the one thing I noticed is that everybody’s very consistent with their counts. And so, usually, in just a manual chamber count one person would, you know, count those five blocks and the numbers would be consistently different.
And so that was really important, to notice so that we could find some sort of like… keys along the way and then follow with fermentation health and stuff and just make sense of it. But it’s just so much easier with something that’s automated. I don’t know enough about the technology of it all, but I pretty much realized that that thing is… it’s a robot, it’s not going to change anything along the way. It’s always going to take the same picture of everything, all the time and so it is going to be the only real variable in there.
Oculyze: How else does Oculyze help you, as a brewer, besides eliminating human errors and obtaining consistency?
Landon Swanson: That’s the biggest thing… between users, and then consistent cell counts was really important. But the one thing I really like is that you’re storing data instead of just like putting a number into a spreadsheet or something like that, you’re storing data so you can look back and I can see pictures of yeast health and what’s going on, and that kind of thing. And being able to have… to look back at what happened, that’s pretty awesome, to be able to look back at past analyses… that’s been pretty big.
Oculyze: So, technology all the way right? But is there any old-school brewing thing that you would keep?
Landon Swanson: Man, it’s a tough one… Um, you know, in reality I’m a big fan of it… We’re a really small brewery, we made 1100 barrels, so I don’t know how Europe tracks beer like that, but we did 1100 US barrels, and that’s not a ton of beer in the grand scale of things. But I really like instruments, so we don’t do any hydrometer readings or brix readings or anything, we do everything with, you know, DO meters… I mean everything we have is a machine. I mean, everything that tests… We test our gravity of our wort with the densitometer, so… Humans are the biggest mistake and they make the biggest mistakes and so the one thing about instruments is that, even if they’re off, they’re going to be consistently off, and so, if they’re consistently off, I mean that’s really all I need: repeatability. And then, you know, you can pay attention to what’s happening in fermentation and so you can be able to kind of track those things and say “hey, this happened, this happened” and you can make sense of it.
As for old school things that I would hold on to… Um, no! If I could afford it and somebody gave me a tool that I could trust I would absolutely do it. You know, the one thing I don’t like is automation on a brew house, and that’s a very different thing – something controlling valves, and things like that, because it’s not fast enough to be able to make corrections. I like to manually turn most of my valves, but that’s the only thing that I would really give up on. I mean I have all my pumps, meter all my chemicals, I’m trying to be as automated as I can as long as there’s fail safes, so that if something does go wrong I can quickly move it out.
But, for the most part, with testing and stuff like that, I mean, anything that saves time because we’re a really small brewer, we don’t have a lot of labor, and when you do grow and you bring in new people, if you just have a machine that you can like, you know… with our densiometer we can just dip it into a tube and it tells you… There’s very little room for error from humans. And so with Oculyze and stuff like that like, I’m just…, I love that stuff!
I’m very excited to remove the human element.
Many thanks, Landon Swanson and Pueblo Vida Brewing!
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.