It’s International Beer Day today! My name is Tony Toebak. I work as Marketing Communications Manager for Perstorp Animal Nutrition, but I am also an avid homebrewer. Working at Perstorp, made me realize the many similarities between my daily work and brewing beer.
International Beer Day takes place on the first Friday of August and has three declared purposes:
• To gather with friends and enjoy the taste of beer.
• To celebrate those responsible for brewing and serving beer.
• To unite the world under the banner of beer, by celebrating the beers of all nations together on a single day.
As an avid home brewer I have come to see a lot of similarities between brewing beer and my daily work at Perstorp. When I started working for Perstorp Animal Nutrition a strange new world opened up for me as I had dropped most exact sciences as soon as I got the opportunity, focusing on an education in marketing communications instead. Now I was in a world of animal feed and performance and chemistry. I needed to catch up. By no stretch of the imagination am I an expert today but my hobby helped me to understand a lot of day to day topics from work better and vice versa. Time for me to geek out over this, starting with the raw materials used in beer: water, malts (germinated and dried grains), yeasts and hops.
Raw materials: water
Water constitutes the major part of any beer. It’s under-emphasized among home brewers but adjusting your water profile will greatly improve the resulting beer. Water profiles are adjusted with salts and acids, some of which have parts to play in our industry as well. Lactic acid is often used to lower the pH of the water before mashing a better conversion of the starches from the malts into sugar and therefore a beer that ferments better. Calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, calcium chloride and a few others are used to adjust the water profile to highlight specific flavors or adjust mouthfeel to the style that is being brewed.
Raw materials: grains
Grains are the basis for any beer and many animal feeds as well. Barley is the main grain used in beer brewing but wheat and corn are also used quite often. Oats, rye and even rice are used less often but do all have their purpose in brewing. For brewing the grains are germinated and then dried to unlock enzymes and starches. The spent grain husks that are left after the brewing process are an important traded commodity in animal feed.
Raw materials: yeasts
There is a saying in the brewing world: brewers make wort (sugary liquid extracted from the malts) and yeast makes beer. No yeast, no alcohol or other flavor compounds. Yeasts are used in animal nutrition for their nutritional value. In some cultures the yeast residue in the bottle of a beer is considered a delicacy for that reason. Working for Perstorp has made me understand what yeasts do in terms of chemical processes.
Raw materials: hops
Hops are not used or referenced a lot in our industry, though they have been researched for their preservative functions (the original purpose of hops in beer) and on performance parameters.
Of course acids are at the core of most of our activities at Perstorp Animal Nutrition. In our business it’s organic acids such as propionic acid preserving grains and feed, in beer brewing it’s the so-called alpha acids derived from hops that have that same purpose. Acids and acidity also have a role in brewing especially once you start improving after those first few batches or start looking for particular challenges. Targeting a very specific mash pH with lactic or phosphoric acid enables the enzymes to extract more sugars from the mash. Lactic acid and lactic acid bacteria (commonly used for silage preservation) are used in sour beers such as Belgian Geuze beers and German Gose’s or Berliner Weisses.
Anti-oxidants were also always a bit of an enigma to me. They still are, but reading about them from a brewing perspective has helped to narrow that gap. In brewing oxidation is a common fault in competitions. Aging hoppy beers are especially prone to this and will develop a ‘cardboard flavor’. Therefore – similar to feed ingredients – contact with oxygen (including dissolved oxygen) needs to be as limited as possible.
Though enzymes are no longer a part of our portfolio, I was around to work with them for a while. Somebody explaining to me what they do before I started brewing, made this an easy to grasp topic in the first brewing books I read. Especially creating visual representations of how lipase releases butyric acid from tributyrins in the intestines was a great aid. In brewing amylase enzymes convert starch to sugar and then the yeast converts the sugars to alcohol. In animal production xylanase and beta-glucanase convert non-starch polysaccharides of grains into simpler sugars to improve feed digestibility. The latter enzyme is sometimes also stimulated in brewing (by providing the perfect temperature for it) to break down beta-glucans in beers that are likely to produce a highly sticky wort.
Some of our products use the synergetic effects of the combination of organic acids with essential oils. Similar oils can be derived from hops to create aromatic hoppy beers.
Chemistry is all around us here at Perstorp and you can’t help but get the occasional introductory class from one of our specialists. This has helped me a lot to get a feeling for what molecules are, how they are related and how they can be modified into simpler or more complex forms for specific purposes. Esters are a great example: we esterify propionic, butyric and valeric acid for several key benefits. Esters are also a big contributor to the subtle fruity flavors in some beers. Especially classic Belgian and English beers or German Weizens can be high in ester content.
There might be more. Are you a brewing enthusiast too? Let me know what other parallels you found between brewing and your work. Or maybe you make another form of drinks or food where you see similarities? We’d love to hear about it! And if you’re a beer lover: have one tonight on International Beer Day!
You can find specific relations between beer and silage here>>