University of Nottingham: Food Innovation Centre supports small breweries to identify spoiling issues

Brewing experts at the Food Innovation Centre have been helping small breweries across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to prevent a beer spoiling issue which can be more prevalent during hot weather.

Infection can occur at any point in the production process of beer, but as temperatures rise, so does the chance of it happening.

Large breweries have formal laboratories to test for infections during the production process but that’s cost prohibitive for many very small breweries.

Brewing experts at the Food Innovation Centre at the University of Nottingham have been helping local small breweries to introduce a relatively new, simple technique – developed in Germany – which flags up an infection issue using a simple colour change system.

The technique can be used at any time during the production process – helping to identify infection problems at the earliest possible stage and avoiding costly recalls.

Brewing expert at the Food Innovation Centre, Rod White, said: “Beer is inherently microbiologically stable due to the presence of hops and alcohol but occasionally an infection can take hold and spoil a batch of beer ruining thousands of pints of beer at a time. The technique developed by the Technical University Munich at Weihenstephan is very simple to use and helps pin point infection issues as early as possible.

“Infection in beer is a particular problem in the peak of summer, as it’s often temperature dependent, so this has been a timely issue.

We were familiar with the new technique from PhD work undertaken at the University and it turns out that it is particularly useful for the very small brewer. We’ve now helped to introduce this system to a number of local breweries, and we hope it will help them to avoid unnecessary costs.
Rod White, brewing expert at the Food Innovation Centre
The new technique – known as “Fast Orange” – is a range of selective growth media that will help to identify specific beer spoilage organisms. It works when a tiny sample of beer is added to a tube containing the liquid. If spoilage organisms are identified, the media will change colour from red to orange. The beauty of the system is that it can be carried out without the need for the full laboratory which opens up the technique to the craft brewing community.

“We are blessed in Nottingham to have one of the most vibrant craft brewing scenes in the UK,” added Rod. “Support from the Food Innovation Centre is helping the amazing craft brewing scene to flourish and expand into new markets.”

Working in conjunction with the International Centre for Brewing Science at the University of Nottingham, the Food Innovation Centre is offering a range of support to small and medium-sized breweries in the D2N2 area under the Driving Research and Innovation project – a three-year project that runs until the end of December 2022. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the D2N2 LEP, the project is run by the Food Innovation Centre at the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences, in conjunction with the Chemistry Innovation Laboratory in the School of Chemistry and Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and in association with the Midlands Engine. It is a unique collaboration project that provides free specialist innovation support to small and medium-sized businesses.

Richard Worrall, who runs the Food Innovation Centre, said: “Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire is well known for having many fantastic small, individual breweries. It’s great that we have been able to transfer key knowledge to the sector – gained during academic work.”

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