Manny Chao is part owner of Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing Company, a craft brewery located in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.  The brewery offers beers from pilsner to porter, but is best known for its Manny’s Pale Ale.  

Food Safety News caught up with Chao to discuss food safety issues that apply to beer.

Q:  Pathogens can’t survive in beer, but Clostridium botulinum, the pathogen that causes botulism poisoning, can survive in canned starter.  Do you use fresh starter for every batch of beer?

A:  We do not use a canned starter.  Our yeast is grown from a banked supply at Wyeast Labs in Hood River, Oregon.  We take a small quantity and then propagate it in small batches at the brewery until we have a suitable quantity for production on our 60 barrel system. We then re-harvest this yeast direct from our fermenters and reuse it for up to 15 generations.

Q:  How do you prevent post-processing contamination?  Is the brewing environment sterile?

A:  Each one of our brewing vessels has a CIP system or “cleaning in place” system that allow us to clean and sanitize that piece of equipment. Hoses and parts get a chemical soak prior to use as well. After the boiling process in the brew kettle, it is essential for us to properly clean and sanitize our vessels and equipment prior to adding fresh wort or yeast. We use the following chemicals for cleaning and sanitizing:

Purisan – peracetic acid sanitizer
Excel – highly alkaline circulation cleaner
BSR – acid for removing scale and buildup in tanks
I-O Safe – iodine-based sanitizer
Lustre – chlorinated caustic for cleaning

Q:  When you add fruit or other ingredients to beer do you have to take any special precautions in the name of food safety?

A:  The only adjunct we have used is chocolate for Lisa’s “The Sun is Trying to Kill Me” Chocolate Stout. We boiled the chocolate in the brew kettle for 60 minutes to pasteurize.

Q:  Are any of your suppliers using genetically modified (GMO) crops?  Do you have strong feelings about using GMOs in your beer?

A:  No.  Our suppliers, Great Western Malt and Hop Union, do not sell GMOs.  I would rather not use GMO’s as a brewer.  More importantly, as a consumer I would want to know if my food or beverage producer was using GMO’s.

Q:  Your parents owned a restaurant when you were growing up.  Did you pick up any food safety tips from the restaurant that have translated to your beer production processes?

A:  I learned how to eat.  Actually… I learned how to clean as a pledge in my college fraternity.

Q:  You have to eat out a lot in your line of work.  Have you ever checked the inspection reports for any of your accounts?  Have you ever noticed an egregious food safety violation that would make you consider calling a health inspector or never eating at that specific restaurant again?

A:  I’ve seen a lot of good and bad. I’d rather not give any of my customers bad press so I’ll just mention the good. Spring Hill restaurant in West Seattle has the cleanest kitchen I have ever seen. It gets a complete scrub down every night! Open kitchen concepts in restaurants are nice because they are inspected everyday by the customers walking in the door!