Hop Dreams

Hop Dreams

Combining beer and science, Scott Britton '07 has built a career that's taken him from Cooperstown, NY, to Belgium's beer capital.

Who He Is: Scott Britton ’07 is a Research and Development Scientist at Duvel Moortgat Brewery in Breendonk, Belgium. In other words? Britton’s a beer scientist.
Brewing Success: During his senior year at UC, Britton visited the FX Matt Brewery in Utica as part of a biology department trip. “Best field trip ever,” he says, laughing. Along the tour, Britton met the brewery’s microbiologist. “I made the joke, ‘how does somebody get a job like this?’ Combining beer and science seemed like the dream job.” After Britton graduated with a degree in biology and chemistry, he began shadowing biology professor Larry Aaronson. One summer afternoon, Aaronson heard that Ommegang, then just a locally known microbrewery in nearby Cooperstown, was looking for a lab assistant. “They wanted someone with a biochemistry background to set up a lab to help them expand production,” Britton recalls. “Professor Aaronson and I beefed up my resume, and I went for it.”
Learning Curve: In 2008, Britton was hired as a quality control manager for Ommegang, and his first order of business was outfitting the lab. “They gave me a lot of control, which I didn’t expect as recent college grad,” he says. Buying microscopes, glassware, chemicals and developing processes to test various aspects of beer quality were all part of Britton’s first months on the job. Though he was “slightly intimidated at first,” Britton found himself relying on his UC professors for advice and learning from his colleagues in the industry. “The beer community is extremely inviting,” he says. “People at other breweries are willing to share advice and help you learn. It’s a nice environment.”

"Beer is the perfect medium to study biology and chemistry."

International Delights: In 2015, Ommegang offered Britton the opportunity to transfer to the brewery’s global headquarters in Belgium, a much larger operation than the Cooperstown location where Britton had been working. “I knew it would be a huge transition,” he says, “but if you want to hone your skills, you have to step out of your comfort zone.” He made the move in November 2015 and is still adjusting to the country’s unexpected quirks— like the absence of 24-hour convenience stores. “The whole idea of stores being open 24/7 is very American,” he says, with a laugh. “I didn’t realize that until I moved here.”
Good Taste: Taste-testing beer is a huge part of Britton’s job—but he’s not imbibing casually. During daily “degustations” (a fancy word for tastings), “I smell the beer and take small sips to analyze the different components,” he says. Britton is checking for aging markers that impact flavor and aroma, and assessing the beer’s balance—how the bitter hops counteract the sweetness of the malt. An unbalanced beer, he says, is one that’s overpowered by either flavor. “I tend to like malt-forward beers, so my critique is usually ‘tone down the bitterness,’” he says.
A New Appreciation: At UC, Britton “was never a fan” of classes like statistics and research methods, he says. “I’d think ‘how will I ever apply this?’” But he’s got a new perspective since entering the beer industry. “Those classes taught me critical thinking and how to solve problems,” he says. “They’re the skills that have gotten me where I am today.” 

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