Student Spotlight: Lauren Woods Salazar

Upping the Flavor Profiles of Craft Beer

New Belgium’s “Chief Curator” Applies Sensory Science to Brewing

Lauren looking at beer
Lauren Woods Salazar

Known for its flagship amber ale, New Belgium is fast-becoming synonymous with provocative, risk-taking beers. Lychee, plum-skin notes, piney hops, lemongrass and mango, chocolaty malts—the tasting notes go on. But how does the brewery bring these flavors to life? Meet Lauren Woods Salazar, New Belgium’s wood cellar director and blender, otherwise known as the company’s chief curator. Salazar is also a graduate of UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s world-renowned Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program.

She developed New Belgium’s sour beer line and simultaneously built the company’s world-class sensory program by focusing on the development of its flavor panel. When she started at New Belgium Brewing, Salazar immediately began learning as much as she could about sensory science, but she lacked a sounding board and the actual true-life application. Then she found UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program. “There are so many things you can’t get from reading a textbook, and the interaction with other students and the professors elevated all the things I thought I might know and brought to light the things I was missing,” said Salazar.

“I was so eager,” said Salazar, who graduated from the certificate program in 2003. “It filled a vacuum that I couldn’t wait to fill.” Armed with the foundational blocks for setting up a sensory program, she worked to elevate craft brewing by sharing her knowledge with brewing associations, presenting at conferences and even co-writing and teaching a three-day class in sensory panel management at Siebel Institute of Technology.

As Imbibe Magazine’s “2016 Beer Person of the Year” and a craft beer ambassador, Salazar is a leader in the brewing sensory world. She is as passionate about sharing her knowledge of beer as she is about the beers she brings to life, and she strongly believes that the key to an expert flavor profile is that it is founded in science. “The Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Program was a dream come true,” said Salazar. “You 100 percent need to get the basic skills to do this.”