As you may know, the state of Michigan has a plethora of fantastic beer makers. But did you know microbiologists are working hard to consistently produce high-quality craft beers? Behind the malt, yeast, and hops at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan is Online Food Safety Program Alumnus and microbiologist, Wade Begrow.
Wade’s job is to ensure a safe and high-quality product at Founders, the largest brewery in Michigan. He is a member of the Quality Team, and they use a Quality Assurance/Quality Control plan to produce a consistent product. “Malt, water, hops, and yeast are the ingredients to make beer, and it’s surprisingly challenging to hit specifications if ingredients or processes are out of control,” said Wade. “Fortunately, pathogens are not a threat to our consumers because of the physical and chemical properties of beer, but there are microbes that can dramatically alter the taste and appearance of our beers.”
Wade helped develop the cryogenic yeast storage system at Founders. “It’s one of three cryogenic storage banks where we house our yeast strains. We can store them safely for decades this way,” said Wade. He has been with Founders for about a year and a half, before that he was the microbiologist for Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Wade earned his BS in Biology and his MS in Food Safety (MSFS) from Michigan State University (MSU).
After completing his undergraduate degree Wade began his career with Summit Laboratory in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a small third-party microbiology lab where he was first introduced to food safety. “I was working full-time at Summit while going through the Online Master of Science in Food Safety Program. It took a tremendous amount of hard work and discipline to balance work and school, but it paid off,” said Wade. “I really liked that I was studying something that directly impacted my work.”
While new professional opportunities were materializing for Wade, the online masters degree played an integral role in this success. “I believe having the masters degree set me apart from other qualified candidates…it was instrumental in my career moves throughout the brewing industry,” said Wade.
Wade’s journey through the masters program is complete, and he now enjoys educating industry members on the importance of food safety, specifically with brewing microbiology. He has presented at many brewing science conferences such as the 2016 World Brewing Congress, the 2017 European Brewing Convention, and the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference. “These conferences are a great resource for education and networking. Brewing microbiology is a rapidly-changing field,” said Wade. He has also published an article for Brewing and Beverage Industry International titled Fighting Quality Threats: Notable microbiological contaminations of craft beer in the United States.
His expertise in the science of brewing has also provided him the opportunity to create a brewing-centric module for one of the Online MS in Food Safety (MSFS) program courses. This module titled “Beer Food Safety” is part of the one-credit VM 834 Beverage Safety course. “It was rewarding to be able to contribute my knowledge into a course that will educate other masters students. I hope to continue working with the program to educate students in brewing science,” said Wade.
The Beverage Safety course covers fermented beverages, coffee and tea, infant formula, juices, bottled water and energy drinks. In the “Beer Module,” Wade takes students through Brewing 101, outlining: The Brewing Process and Science Behind It, Brewing Ingredients, Types of Beer, History of Brewing, What Can Go Wrong, and Why, Beer HACCP, Beer is Food- Per the FDA and Good Brewing Practices.
“It’s enjoyable to see the evolution of Wade’s accomplishments from being a MSFS Student, advancing in his career, and having him contribute to one of our courses,” said Heather Ricks, Assistant Director of the Online Food Safety Program. “We hope to see this kind of success in all of our students and alumni.”
If you would like to find out more about the VM 834 course visit, https://foodsafety.msu.edu/curriculum/courses and for more information on Founders Brewing Co. please visit https://foundersbrewing.com/.