As anyone that works in the food industry – from someone making burgers on the line to someone in charge of safety at a large food facility – knows, food safety and science go hand in hand. Without food industry workers with baseline knowledge of how different microbes can impact food freshness, shelf life, and flavor, consumers can be at a very real risk.

When it comes to beer, microbiology is perhaps even more important, because without knowledge of microbiology, it would be impossible to even begin the brewing process.

Keep reading for more details on how microbes and microbiology products have a modern influence on the ancient process of brewing beer.

Microbiology is Essential to Brewing Beer

While in a more general sense, all food safety includes the management of microbes, beer specifically could not exist without microbiology. One expert notes that “Every time someone brews a batch of beer, in a very real sense he or she is doing a microbiology experiment.” This is because yeast, an inescapable part of the beer fermentation process, is indeed a microbe. The type and amount of yeast used can change the brewing process dramatically. For instance, whether a top culture (ale yeasts) or bottom culture (lager yeasts) yeast is used can determine what style of beer comes out of the fermentation. Without the help of microbiology products, cultivating those different types of yeasts would have never been possible.

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Quality Control is Key

When someone orders their favorite beer at a local pub, they have a very clear expectation as to what that beer will look like and how it will taste, regardless of whether it comes from a tap or in a bottle. To maintain this consistency, rigorous testing with microbiology products is necessary. Quality control during the brewing process includes establishing and maintaining consistent fermentation. A consistent fermentation process must include control of essential brewing variables such as yeast, oxygen, and temperature. While every brewery will use different variables for their brewing, the building of most processes include the counting of yeast, with microbiology products such as hemocytometers, or through in-line approaches. Yeast may also be controlled through the use of methylene blue stains. Both of these aspects of the process allow brewers to see what type of yeast is in use and whether the yeast is alive or dead, which impacts how the beer progresses. To assess the actual health of the yeast, measurements of glycogen, sterols, ATP, oxygen uptake, and acidification can all be measured.

Improved Shelf Life

Finally, microbiology is also essential to maintaining the shelf life of beer. Some of the microbes that can lead to beer spoilage include lactic acid, acetic acid, zymomonas and pectinatus. Testing the beer during the fermentation process using microbiology products can help to detect these problematic microbes, leading to better shelf stability.

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Microbiology is an important part of the beer brewing process and microbiology companies are able to make entire businesses from testing and maintaining brewery facilities. Without the right microbiology products, beer can be inconsistent or even spoil, putting consumers at risk. It is critical for breweries and even home-brewers to understand the role that microbes and microbiology overall play in making better beer.