Science in Brewing – A response to A Good Beer Blog’s recent post

The following is a response to a recent blog post by a fellow beer blog. Details can be found below.

Woah there, brewers. Woah.
Put down those ledgers and sensors. Stop using those algorithms. That fancy book learnin’ aint helping nobody.

“Timings, temperatures and volumes… I can’t be doing that… couldn’t be arsed. At all.”

We like our beer how it is, and aint nobody gonna try and improve brewhouse efficiency on our watch. Aint nobody gonna show those big brewers using adjuncts and chemicals that they could actually produce a decent beer if a bit more research was to be done on the ingredients.

“Yet, we have to cope with knowledge and science and stuff like that. But does beer need any more of it? Really?”

Screw yeast development – why bother breeding a species to give more desirable traits? My grandpappy bred horses and dogs back in his day, but that was a legitimate form of artificial evolution, not like this fancy-pants genetically modified stuff. Why bother improving the metabolic processes of yeast when it already does a good enough job? I like my improvements to be made incredibly slowly and clumsily, instead of with precision and expertise.

No. I’d love to see more science in brewing. I’d love to see the macros embrace a higher quality product, not just in terms of a consistent, premium (shudder) product, but one that doesn’t need to be served ice cold to stomach. I’d love to see the craft breweries be able to use yeasts that maximise efficiency so that maybe the reduced overheads can offset the ludicrous taxes they’re already paying.

I’ll admit, I’m completely biased here. I am studying biotechnology, and planning to do my masters in brewing science, particularly in yeast development. But I’m doing this because of the world of possibilities available to geneticists and food scientists. Beer is great, and you won’t hear me saying otherwise, but there’s still plenty of distance yet to cover. There’s still so much to improve. What about speeding up the uptake and metabolism of those pesky compounds that currently requires breweries to spend so much time and money in the lagering stage? What about developing yeasts that will reliably produce a certain ester profile to match a recipe?

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Yeast is a far more complex critter than many people give it credit for, and there’s still plenty to learn about improving its use.

Jason Silva says it best when he says “now we have software that writes its own hardware!”, and this is the perfect way to look at it. Yeast is the powerhouse of brewing, and we’re now developing the tools to be able to manipulate it into doing exactly what we want. Why limit ourselves to ancient hardware, when a little more research and an increased adoption of scientific thinking could give us the tools to make the whole brewing process more efficient, more reliable, and more interesting. We’re already able to make animals glow, and have microbes synthesise medicines – why not extend that creativity and ingenuity to something we can really enjoy.

J.

A Good Beer Blog is really quite a good beer blog, and I’ve been a subscriber for quite some time now. The post I’m responding to is here. Check it out and subscribe.

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One thought on “Science in Brewing – A response to A Good Beer Blog’s recent post

  1. Alan says:

    Sorry to have missed this response. Maybe my post was more about need than science but your comment about making animals glow is gold. Me, yes, I do prefer brewing husbandry.

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