For those who ever doubted the old adage “When one door closes, another one opens,” look no further than Bill Mowers.
After moving from Boston to Hattiesburg in 2010 to work with high-temperature polymer composites for the United States Department of Defense, Mowers saw the project he was working on at The Accelerator come to an end after funding for that endeavor dried up. Realizing there weren’t many other options in Hattiesburg for someone with a PhD in polymer and organic chemistry, Mowers decided to reinvent himself.
After doing some consulting work and starting Magnolia Green Industries – a biofuel and green technology company – Mowers was building a lab for a beer brewer about a year and a half ago when he had the idea to start his own lab.
“They were complaining how much labs cost, and I told them I could sell my services,” said Mowers, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “And they were like, ‘No, no, no,’ so then I just came up with a great idea.
“Those guys couldn’t really afford a PhD scientist, so I decided to redo everything and set up at The Accelerator.”
And so was born Bac Yeast, a yeast and bacteria provider and bank for regional breweries that also offers analytical support and consulting services. The company offers a variety of locally-cultivated bacteria and yeast, including commercial-style strains and wild yeast and bacteria.
Laboratory services, which are staffed by two PhDs and an automation engineer, include tests for Alcohol By Volume, sterility, comprehensive flavor profiles, International Bitterness Units and DNA profiling. Currently, Bac Yeast mostly works with breweries in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas.
“We’re a full beer analysis lab,” Mowers said. “I can do the lab work from anywhere, so that’s what I’m working on now – expanding the lab work to be done to have people come from all over.
“There’s basically two large yeast labs in America, and they’re both located on the west coast, and now they’re starting to branch out. So now is the time to try to secure the Gulf Coast region, so that’s what I’d like to do.”
Bac Yeast also makes and produces homebrew kits – including a Golden Eagle Pale Ale and a Chocolate Thunder – designed by the company’s brew team, the Funky Brewsters. Homebrewers also will find a variety of brewing equipment and accessories, including carboys, fermentation buckets, hydrometers and brew kettles like the SS Brewtech.
“It’s going good,” Mowers said. “We’re actually going into the second round of funding, so that’s what we’re working on now, to be able to hire some more people and take it to the next level.”
The Bac Yeast name itself is dual purpose: a pun on the fact that Mowers is from “back east,” and a reminder that the company deals in both bacteria and yeast.
“I wanted to keep the ‘bacteria’ part of it, because in fermentation either the bacteria or the yeast are the main workhorses,” Mowers said. “So I didn’t want people to think that we just did yeast. So (coming up with the name) was kind of fun.”
For the future, Mowers would like to keep his laboratory setup as the main focus, while adding a space specifically designed to grow yeast.
“That would make it easier to distribute into other regions,” he said. “Maybe have one over in Houston, Texas, and then maybe have one down in Tampa, Florida.
“Then we could take over the southeast, and have this (lab) as the main entity, because it’s expensive to have a gas chromatograph in every location. This lab has all the higher-end equipment.”
Bac Yeast is located in The Accelerator at 46 Shelby Thames Drive in Hattiesburg. For more information, call (601) 266-5884.
Haskel lives in Oak Grove with his fiancée, Heather. After one or two failed attempts at making their own beer at home, they eventually became pretty good at it – within the confines of any given laws, of course.