The science behind clean beer

Storm Team 2

Science probably isn’t the first thing you think of when enjoying a cold beer, but without it there would be no beer!

Making beer on a basic level isn’t that complicated. Heating up mashed grain, water, and hops creates a sugary slurry called wort that yeast will consume to create two by-products which we know and love in a brew: alcohol and carbonation in the form of carbon dioxide. Wait a bit of time for fermentation to finish and you got yourself beer. 

Creating consistently good beer on a large scale with subsequent batches takes a lot more work, planning, and you guessed it- science! 

“It’s just our due diligence to insure our customers that the beer we are serving is as we intended and clean and delicious.”

Nicole Steinhilber- Lab Director at Revelry Brewing

Nicole Steinhilber is the lab director at Revelry Brewing and is known around the staff as the “yeast beast.” Which is appropriate because yeast is both the most important ingredient in beer but also a main source of contamination.

Behind the scenes at the lab

The importance and hazards of yeast

Brewers’ typically use “domesticated” yeasts, which have been specifically selected and cultivated to create a specific end product. “Wild yeasts are much more unpredictable, some wild yeasts can chew through sugars that brewer’s yeast is not able to and can produce some issues if we detect wild yeast in the beer here,” Steinhilber says.

If introduced- these wild yeasts can run amok and wreck an established recipe by producing an end product that may taste nothing like the beer you were trying to make!

How do they end up in there? Well it’s hard not to as wild yeasts, bacteria, and other contaminants lurk in the air around us- too small to be seen. Deep and through cleaning prevents a lot but as your mother told you “it’s better safe than sorry” so she monitors and tests the beer through the entire process:  from the initial wort all the way through fermentation and packaging. Because in the end- a clean beer is a good beer. 

But wild yeast and other micro-organisms isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to beer! Sour beers use wild yeasts paired with bacteria such as lacto-bacillus to create the tart/funky flavor that is becoming more popular. Revelry plays around with those bacterial strains in a separate building called the Hold a short walk from their main brewery in downtown Charleston.

Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson

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