Last week the Brewers Association (BA), the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to supporting and promoting the craft brewing industry and community, announced that Mary Pellettieri will be the their first-ever quality instructor. The new role will involve working with the BA Quality Subcommittee to plan and present brewing best practices, systems, and parameters to breweries in the U.S.
Pellettieri brings decades of experience to the new role, having had past positions in the brewing and beverage industry, such as chemist and microbiologist at the Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy in Chicago; quality manager at Goose Island Beer Company, also in Chicago; and quality manager for MillerCoors in Milwaukee. She also speaks at national events on topics including quality, sensory analysis, and brewing science.
Not to mention, as BA director, Paul Gatza pointed out in the announcement, she literally wrote the book on the subject: Quality Management: Essential Planning for Breweries, a guidebook published by Brewers Publications (the publishing arm of the Brewers Association) providing key insights on quality management for breweries.
“Mary has an unparalleled understanding of how quality management is intertwined at all levels of brewery operations,” Gatza said. “She literally wrote the book on what it takes to manage quality at a brewery, and her appointment underscores the BA’s commitment to advancing quality standards."
We had the chance to speak with Pellettieri about her decades-long experience in the brewing industry, her new role with the BA, as well as the other ways she’s spends her time — such as running her own beverage company, and working as a consultant and auditor for breweries.
“I actually left the brewing industry four years ago,” said Pellettieri, who founded her own soft drink beverage company, Top Note Tonics, in 2014. “The craft beer ethos is needed in soft drinks right now.”
As the quality instructor for the BA, Pellettieri is currently working on developing content for a one-day course for breweries, which will take place at the end of the year, likely at a Brewers Association member brewery.
According to Pellettieri, creating a role that incorporates an education aspect to quality management at breweries “is great, because the Brewers Association has a lot of small breweries that don’t have the opportunity to get these tools through larger associations or schools,” she said. The program, which is still in its early stages, is being developed in partnership with the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC).
We couldn’t resist asking Pellettieri about Sierra Nevada’s bottling mishap last week: “A glass defect is a risk for any brewer, especially proprietary glass [like Sierra Nevada’s],” she said, noting that Sam Adam’s had a similar issue in the past. “It’s called a bird swing. The glass is hot when formed into a bottle, and when it cools, it should form a cavity. Sometimes, the temperature and energy going into the glass isn’t exactly right, and a little string of glass can hang between the sides of the glass in the bottle. With the filling process, it breaks off, and there can be shards of glass in the bottle. It’s a real problem, because there’s no real easy way to find it,” she said.
To promote awareness and prevention of such issues, and to keep quality assurance at the forefront of the craft brewing industry as a whole, Pellettieri believes the most important thing is communication between breweries. “It’s important that we’re sharing information and that there’s somebody who's there to help breweries understand the common risks that are out there, and also the new ones,” she said. “Breweries are innovating so much that quality has to go up, too.”