A DTU brewery?!

Tuesday 05 Jan 10

A biotechnology student in his third semester has decided to create sustainable beer production that may become an interdisciplinary project for the entire DTU in the long term

The project was actually busted in January. DTU Systems Biology had made an agreement with one of the big Danish breweries to develop a method for brewing more carbon-friendly beer on the basis of a newly developed enzyme from Novozymes. But when the financial crisis struck, the brewery had to withdraw. However, one DTU student refused to give up:

“I thought it was a shame to abandon the project so I kept in touch with Novozymes and raised the funds here at DTU to set up this small-scale test brewery in cooperation with Preben Bøje Hansen from DTU Food,” says Anders Nielsen on the start of what may now turn out to be the first academic brewery at a university in Denmark.

Carbon-smart Pils

With a cooperation agreement with Novozymes to use a newly developed enzyme, Anders Nielsen has made it possible to cut emissions of CO2 by 8.2 g per bottle. This may not sound like much, but when you think that Danes alone consume 500 million litres of beer a year, it could add up to quite a lot.

Normal beer production involves mixing malt with barley in a mash tub to produce a special type of sugar that is essential to the beer later in the process when, together with yeast, it ferments to produce alcohol. The malt is then dried and roasted to coax forth different hues and flavours in the finished beer. In Anders Nielsen’s version of a brewery, this stage is omitted altogether.

“Using the enzyme, we are able to process the barley so that we avoid using malt. This alone saves a lot of water and energy in the brewing process, equivalent to 8% less CO2. However, to this should be added the CO2 emissions from transporting the malt from abroad, because it is imported, so in reality the saving is slightly higher than 8.2 g per bottle,” says Anders Nielsen.

His studies at DTU have made it possible for him to refine the ingredients using biotechnological processes. The yeast used for beer production has benefitted in particular from his knowledge, and this also represents an opportunity for the DTU brewery to expand its range in future. This is because, when the malt is omitted on the way from water to beer, the yeast suddenly takes on an extremely important role.

The future: Department of Pils?

The vision for the project is not only to further develop the range of beer types but also to spread the enterprise out across the entire campus. Currently, Anders and Preben Bøje Hansen are the only two permanently involved, with Anders drawing on the expertise of other departments where necessary. But the young brewer would very much like to change this situation:

“The project is of academic relevance for everyone, from students of mechanics to electronics to management and everything in between. There is huge potential for creating synergies between the many different types of expertise here at DTU and for creating something completely unique together. Just imagine DTU as a self-sufficient beer producer with its own academic brewery,” says Anders Nielsen with a smile, when he is asked to outline his dream scenario.

What is the beer called?

Alert readers will have noticed that the name of the new beer is not mentioned anywhere in the article. This is for the simple reason that it has not yet been given a name. Anders Nielsen has therefore requested the DTU newspaper to ask readers to submit ideas for what the new beer should be called. The person who comes up with the name that ends up on the labels on the bottles will be rewarded with appropriate quantities of DTU beer.

Send your ideas to: brygg@bio.dtu.dk