Brewster science

This piece, published in BeerAdvocate last month, describes the trajectory of White Labs’ senior researcher Karen Fortmann.  It argues that efforts to address the STEM gender gap also have the effect of getting more women into jobs in the beer industry (even though programs focusing specifically on brewing science remain mostly populated by men). Interestingly, Fortmann both characterizes working in the beer industry as doing “fun and important science” and acknowledges that “traditional scientists may laugh at brewing scientists because we’re not doing the same type of work.”

Update: I think it’s worth exploring these connections between “traditional science” and the not-quite-science work that brewers see themselves as doing. Heather Paxson’s collaborators in The Life of Cheese (2013) characterize their cheesemaking work as a mixture of art and science. I’ve seen similar characterizations in brewing contexts. But this idea of brewing science as a nontraditional science is interesting, especially considering the ways in which beer (and bread) serve as (“traditional”) points of reference for understanding fermentation’s other applications. I think there’s an interesting attempt to “science up” beer production that sits uneasily with its “traditional” sheen.

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