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When good beer turns bad

May 19, 2015
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BrewpallogoIn this sponsored article, Andrew Odd, scientific division manager at AMSL Scientific, provides an overview of common bacterial infections in beer, which can now be detected quicker than ever using the brewPAL™ rapid screening test. 

Beer is good. In fact, some might say it’s very good. Except when it’s bad. One reason good beer can turn bad is due to the presence of unwelcome micro organisms, such as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. These two culprits are well known among brewers for causing faults like off flavours and sourness as well as other problems such as odours and turbidity.

Stopping these bacteria from getting into the process at various stages can be very challenging; therefore brewers will take steps to prevent these from establishing themselves long enough to cause problems.

There are methods for detecting these bacteria, but most are very time consuming and laborious, and the result may come too late to stop the costly burden of spoilage.

Recently, Invisible Sentinel, Inc., a global molecular diagnostics company based in Philadelphia, USA, teamed up with Victory Brewing Company to develop a rapid screening test. brewPAL™ — Powered by Veriflow® is the first product that provides same-day detection for the presence of Pediococcus and Lactobacillus species throughout the brewing process. The test provides onsite detection and quantification and reduces the time to result significantly.

brewPAL™ - Powered by Veriflow®

brewPAL™ – Powered by Veriflow®

Instead of days or potentially weeks the time to result is less than three hours.

“These bacteria, once they start producing acid, there’s no rectification — you can’t neutralize the sourness” said Adam Bartles, the director of brewing operations at Victory Brewing in Philadelphia. “That’s why brewers have long turned to early warning systems.” he adds.

So these bacteria can result in loss of product which would obviously bear a heavy financial cost. However that’s not the worst that can happen; “If they make it into the final product, they can start to multiply,” said Dr. Kristen Kahle, senior research scientist at Invisible Sentinel’s University City Science Center headquarters.

If a spoiled product makes it to the consumer then the consequences can be severe; “We’re getting close to 4,000 other breweries in the country [USA] and we’re selling in 35 states. If somebody picks up a beer in Arizona that doesn’t taste perfect they’ll just go to another brewery,” said Adam Bartles. “They’re probably not going to give us a second chance.”

If a consumer has a bad experience with a beer it’s also possible they could spread bad word of mouth via social media and review sites, which would result in turning even more potential customers off of a product.

So knowing that the spoilage bacteria are present allows the brewer to manage the process, possibly saving the beer by taking remedial action when caught early enough, or at least preventing it from making it to the marketplace and affecting a brand’s reputation.

brewPAL™ can be of benefit to any commercial brewer, even smaller craft beer makers. As very little equipment is needed, a dedicated laboratory is not required, and the test is also very easy to use; “What’s really nice is that you don’t have to be a trained microbiologist to do this test,” said Victory CEO Ron Barchet “[The brewPAL] is not a panacea but the speed and simplicity make it a revolutionary step.”

Since development in late 2014, brewPAL™ has also now been formally validated by Yards Brewing Co., Weyerbacher Brewing Co., Russian River Brewing Co., and KettleHouse Brewing Co.

According to Invisible Sentinel, Inc. they will follow up the brewPAL™ with detection tools for additional micro organisms, with tests to include: “brewBRUX for the detection of Brettanomyces bruxellensis [currently available], brewDEK for the detection of wild yeast Dekkera species [coming soon] and brewMAP for the detection of Megasphaera and Pectinatus species [coming soon].”

brewPAL™ is available in Australia from Australasian Medical & Scientific Ltd.

For further information please visit: www.amsl.com.au

This post has been prepared and sponsored by Australasian Medical & Scientific Ltd, the Australian agent for Invisible Sentinel, creator of the brewPAL™ microbial detection tool.

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