By Erin Crowell
Jason Pratt may have one of the best jobs in the world at least
thats what his buddies think.
The 30-year-old Traverse City native is a yeast and fermentation
scientist for MillerCoors, meaning, he gets paid to swig beer every
With a Masters in microbiology and molecular genetics from Michigan
State University, Pratt uses his scientific expertiseas well as his
nose and taste budsto assure consistent taste and quality during the
fermentation process of Miller and Coors suds.
This involves regulating the specific strains of yeast that gives the
companys beers their signature color, texture and taste.
Its one of the coolest jobs in the world, says Pratt, a 1998 graduate from
St. Francis High School.
Pratt was featured on the May 2010 cover of Black Enterprise Magazine
as one of several young professionals who are paving the way in the
math and science industry.
While its mostly lab work, Pratt says his job has its perks,
including his role on the MillerCoors expert tasting panel, a position
that won him the 2009 Golden Nose award among the companys tasters in
Milwaukee, his current home and central location for his job.
When youre evaluating a beer, you look at its appearance, color,
haziness and foam. Then you go for aromas, taste, mouth feel and
finish of the beer, he explains. Theres certainly different
characteristics you can identify and say with certainty about them.
Although Pratt lives in Wisconsin, he often travels throughout the
country to all eight head MillerCoors breweries, helping the companys
50-plus microbiologists with training and troubleshooting.
We make sure our brands are consistent, he says, so the same beer
made in Milwaukee is the same stuff as whats made in Texas.
The job also takes him across the world.
I send our yeast strains out to breweries in places like Vietnam,
Panama, Italy and Australia.
Another aspect of his job includes training new MillerCoors
employeesfrom the brewery to the marketing desksabout the history,
ingredients, brewing process, new products and enemies of beer
What are its enemies?
Time when the beer starts to oxidize and stale; heat keeping it
in hot places like the car trunk actually helps it age faster; and
light a lot of people call it import character. Brown bottles are
the only things that are going to protect the beer from getting
skunky, Pratt explains.
It may be neat having a keen sense of taste and smell, but Pratt says
its also a downfall.
Ill be out having a beer somewhere and Ill constantly be evaluating
it, he laughs. My friends call me a beer snob.
Pratt says hed always been a beer drinker, but never dreamed hed
have this job.
I kind of stumbled onto it when I was online and thought, thatd be
a cool industry to go into, he says.
With several job offers already on the table, Pratt interviewed with
the company in 2007 (before the Miller/ Coors merger) and was hired on
He hasnt looked back since.
I found a home here and I really love what I do, he enthuses.
As far as advice to those who want to follow in Pratts footsteps, he
offers this advice:
Its a tough industry to crack because theres so much interest now;
but theres some really good beer schools out there where you can
actually get a degree in beer. Just throw yourself in and take some
Oh, and it helps to have a good nose.
To read the Black Enterprise May 2010 article on Jason Pratt, go to
www.blackenterprise.com/magazine. You can also find an article on
expert tasters, which includes Pratt, entitled No Glass Ceiling for
the Best Job in the World, which appeared June 29 in The Wall Street
Journal by going to www.online.wsj.com.