How biotech benefits brewers

Leather trousers, Tyrolean music and countless pints of beer – all the signs that Oktoberfest is in full swing.

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But why is beer good​ for you and what can biotech offer to brewers? Prof. Charles Bamforth from University of California-Davis s​​heds light on the benefits of beer and using enzymes in brewing.​

You have been an advocate for the health benefits of beer. Why is beer good for you?
Charles Bamforth: First and foremost it’s good for you as long as it’s done in moderation. It’s pleasurable and enjoyable and a great social catalyst, as long as people treat it with respect. I always come back to a pub in the North of England. There’s no television or dancing. There’s just beer and conversation and it’s very pleasurable and calming. I’m sure there’s a psychological role. 

But there’s more than that… Silicate is present in beer in large quantity and that counters osteoporosis. Beer contains anti-oxidants and significant levels of B vitamins. The levels of folic acid represent an ample contribution to the daily recommended intake. And it has soluble fiber in substantial quantities.

Can you tell us about the use of enzymes in beer?
Bamforth: Brewing is fundamentally an enzyme-based process. It’s fundamentally enzymes in action. The conversion of barley into malt occurs because of the enzymes within the grain. In the brewhouse the starch degradation into sugars is an enzyme process in terms of the amylases.

Some people still insist the only enzymes that should be used are the ones from the raw material. Equally, lots of people have appreciated that there are enzymes that can supplement the process and improve performance… For example, there’s a long-standing use of enzymes that break down proteins to improve the shelf life of beer and make sure it doesn’t go cloudy too quickly. There are also good reasons why people would take advantage of novel enzymes such as glucoamylase, which allows the brewer to get at all of the starch that is in the grain and eliminate any residual carbohydrate. This is part of the process of making low calorie beers.

What are some of the new trends in brewing?
Bamforth: The most exciting trend is the growth in the craft beer industry all over the world. I cringe when I use the term ‘craft’, because all brewers are craftspeople. But the newer brewing companies are very exciting. They bring with them different beers. In turn that encourages the bigger guys to experiment. That’s good for the beer drinker, as long as at the end of the day (brewers) recognize that it’s all about quality.

How can biotech companies help brewers to meet these new trends?
Bamforth: In a way, it’s a question of educating the brewer, pointing out to the brewer how and why the use of these enzymes will make their lives easier and will make their product better, of educating them on new options for doing things.

Brewers use malted barley. There are many people who feel that you don’t need to do the malting process you just use raw barley. But that is a step way too far for most in the brewing industry because they are wedded to malt. The whole notion of using raw grain with enzymes is offensive to many brewers.

The way in which a (biotech) company can best reach the heart of a traditional brewer is to say this is novel and it will allow you to do things you couldn’t do before. Those are the enzyme solutions. (You have to) show a new way, but it needs to be within the remit of the existing process and not a remake of the process.

* Charles Bamforth is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at U.C.-Davis. An award winning biochemist and author of 14 books on brewing, his current research focuses on the wholesomeness of beer, the psychophysics of beer perception, and the enzymology of the brewing process, among others. Over a pint, we asked him all about beer. View some of Prof. Bamforth’s brewing wisdom here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QFQVblxzSk

*Novozymes’ solutions for brewing​ enable use of raw materials and lower energy consumption. By optimizing the use of raw materials, these solutions also help brewers to use locally-grown crops in different parts of the world, thereby saving brewers’ money and benefiting local farmers.

*The Oktoberfest, which first took place in 1810, is the world's largest fair. It attracts around six million visitors every year to Munich, Germany, who come to drink the famous Oktoberfest beer.
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