Anheuser-Busch didn’t hire Alastair Pringle in 1984 because of his experience working in pubs while going to college or because he had dabbled in homebrewing. He was teaching microbiology at UCLA, thinking he soon would return to his native England, when a headhunter approached him. “He asked, ‘Do you know anything about yeast?’ ” Pringle says. That had been the subject of his Ph.D. “They thought that was pretty applicable.”
Pringle worked at A-B for 25 years, with duties that eventually ranged well beyond yeast and fermentation. When he returned to teaching microbiology in 2009, at a small college outside St. Louis, it was only part-time. Most of his working days are spent consulting with both breweries and food companies; Pringle-Scott LLC turned into much more than he expected. “Sometimes I call myself the accidental consultant,” he said. The breweries he works with make 10,000 barrels a year or more, but he reaches a wider audience when he speaks at industry events such as the Craft Brewers Conference and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas conventions.
He advocates a practical approach to “beer quality”—which could be focused on process improvement and control or beer flavor and stability—telling brewers to identify the major factors they can control. “That’s usually seven or eight things, rather than making it very, very complicated,” he says. At Anheuser-Busch, then-CEO August Busch III famously demanded one-page solutions, so that people in production could easily implement them. “You didn’t get anywhere at A-B giving complicated talks where you looked clever.”
This profile appears in the November 2014 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here for a free trial of our next issue.