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Meet the Summit Brewing Company Team: Sensory Analyst Paul Bergeland

At Summit Brewing Co. one of our goals is that our brand is synonymous with quality. Two of our main pillars are authenticity and consistency, and we work to ensure every brew of every beer meets those standards. This includes everyone from those who make the beer to those who test it.

That’s right! Quality is so integral to our mission that we have a whole team devoted to it – the Quality Assurance Team. This team of chemists, microbiologists, sensory and tasting experts and otherwise respected brewing-industry veterans spends their days testing and analyzing each batch of beer we brew to ensure it’s up to our standards.

Recently, we met the head of our QA team, QA Manager Zach Quandt. Next up, we’ll meet Sensory Analyst Paul Bergeland!

Sensory Analyst Paul Bergeland testing beer
(credit: Summit Brewing Co.)

Let’s start with an easy question! What is your exact role in Summit’s Quality Lab and how did you come to work here?

I began working at Summit right out of college! My role here is running our internal sensory analysis program.

Tell us a bit about the sensory analysis program. What does a “normal” day look like for you? Why is this program important at the brewery?

Our sensory program is important because it gives us an incredibly deep bench of talented tasters. Beer is always tasted in panels, not just by a single person, because everyone has different strengths in tasting and we want to make sure our beer is signed off on as thoroughly as possible before it goes out the door. One of the most important things we do in sensory is “releasing” the beer we make. That means sitting down with a panel of trained tasters and going through each distinct brew before it goes out and making sure they are up to our standards.

Part of the way we know everyone has different strengths in tasting is that we learn different aspects of tasting in sensory. This can include learning off-flavors or aged flavors. Of all the different units we focus on in sensory, what is your favorite to lead?

I enjoying going through the beer aging process! I think shelf stability is a really vital part of how we approach looking at making a good beer.

It makes sense that understanding how a beer ages is vital in the recipe creation process. That in-and-of itself is an example of the importance of a quality lab, but in your words why is it important for a brewery to have a lab?

Consistency is so important and having a quality lab is one of the best ways to assure that. By taking such a detailed and analytical look at our beer, we can catch any sort of drift in a brand’s profile and correct it right away.

Knowing how important the work is that the lab does, what do you think most people misunderstand or misinterpret about the lab’s role at the brewery?

I don’t think people understand how much qualitative work we do! An enormous amount of effort goes into capturing and tracking beer flavor profiles.

That’s so true! It takes a lot of different individuals to ensure our beer is always on target! Speaking of consistency and quality, what does “quality” mean to you?

To me, quality is about making a product that’s not just good, but one that’s just as good every time you make it.

That is a great definition! Tell us, what is your favorite thing about your job? What do you love about working at Summit?

I love my coworkers here, I think it’s a really fun and kind group of people to work with.

Finally, what’s your favorite Summit beer? Why?

I would have to say the Twin Pils! It’s just such a well-constructed and easy to drink beer… I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of it.

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