Fermenting for flavor infuses brewery skills
As flowers, fermentation and flavor increasingly inform the growing art and science of beer brewing, Southern Illinois University scientists recently undertook an academic study to determine the effectiveness of various catalysts for the crafted concoctions.
Researchers at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, led by chemistry and biochemistry professor Matt McCarroll — who serves as director of the Fermentation Science Institute at SIU — determined the impact of hops on fermentation.
Hops are flowers that add a “bite,” or bitter flavor, to beer ingredients. They are measured in International Bittering Units, or IBUs, not unlike hot peppers’ calibration system for heat. The team experimented with varied cultures, fermenting batches at three different IBU levels, and discovered that the IBU level can fine-tune the interaction of bacteria and yeast to impact the finished product’s flavor.
Collaborating with brewmaster Marika Josephson of Scratch Brewing Co. in the Southern Illinois community of Ava, the professor co-authored the study with Josephson and presented the results at Denver’s World Brewing Congress in August, concluding that the project represents great potential for fermentation science, both for campus applications and on an industrial scale.
“While many brewers are finding great success, they have largely relied on anecdotal and empirical experience to guide their process,” McCarroll said. “We believe our research has the potential to provide brewers and barrelhouse managers with new tools to better understand how to control production quality and flavor profile in beers produced with mixed cultures.”