November 10 & 11 mark the debut of the Brewing Science Symposium, a series of talks by industry professionals across a broad spectrum of brewery and lab-specific topics. Its mission is simple, and a bit radical: to allow free access to brewing science. Founder Dana Garves, who owns Eugene-based Oregon Brew Lab, spent the summer organizing the online conference. I spoke with her about her motivation, inspiration, and hopes for the future of the event.
“I’ve been given the honor of speaking to various groups in the industry, the MBAA, AHA, ASBC (Master Brewers Association of America, American Homebrewers Association, and American Society of Brewing Chemists). But I’ve had to turn down two of those this year because I couldn’t pay for the flight, registration, hotel, and missing a week of work.” The lack of affordability and accessibility was a key motivator for Garves. And she wasn’t alone.
“I was asking around, telling people my story, and all of these stories started coming out from folks who aren’t your standard, well-known people; that they couldn’t go, or had to cancel” due to financial restrictions, including the conferences not supporting the would-be presenters.
“One of the issues facing science in general, and driving a stigma against science in this society, is that it isn’t super accessible to the layman. There’s paywalls, terminology, and language barriers. I’m not saying that this conference is presenting cutting edge science in beer, but it’s making it more accessible for laymen or people who are just getting interested, who want to move from the taproom to quality control. I wanted to give a voice to people who have a lot to say, who have a personal message and belief that science should be accessible.”
“So I said, ‘screw it, I’ll make my own where people don’t have to travel.'”
Garves financed the Symposium out of her own pocket, and the conference has received support from small business sponsors, including the logo design by local designer Viridian Kai, and asks attendees for a $5 donation. All of the presenters are being paid, and any profits go toward the Women’s International Beer Summit. So far, it’s just broken even.
Garves has become a unifying and esteemed voice in the local beer community over her decade-plus career here. She organizes brewer’s meetups with a focus on education and networking, is an active member and soon-to-be president of the Cascade Brewers Society homebrew club, and travels to many of her brewery clients in Oregon in order to make personal connections and provide quality control advice. She’s also formed ties with other beer analysis labs, several of which are also woman-owned and are part of the Symposium.
Presenters will talk about beer foam, IBU calculations, cellar operations, and even “‘Hops and Oates: an early 80s Smooth Rock Approach to Starting a Sensory Program.'” If that doesn’t get you to register, I don’t know what will.
The Brewing Science Symposium is both a natural extension of Garves’ work and a challenge; a broader exploration of what can be done to educate, inform, and include all who want to join. “It’s a lot of responsibility, and I wanna take a nap,” she says. But here’s the crux: “If we raise the bar for all brewers, if a macro drinker walks into your bar and your beer doesn’t suck, that’s good for all craft breweries.”