21. februar 2019
Fingers in the Fermentation
”We don’t know exactly what happens when we make mead. We just know that it’s working”.
Brew master Mikkel Petersen looks at the 11 biotech students standing around him.
“That’s why you are here. We hope that you can make us much wiser”.
The students are visiting the mead brewery Petersen & Sønner, which is located in Løve, Zealand. As a part of their biotech education they are visiting smaller local companies in order to use their theoretical knowledge about chemistry and molecular biology to find out what exactly happens when you are producing for example cheese, yoghurt, beer – and mead.
“These students have only been studying for two years, but they already have a biochemical background that allows them to develop and solve problems which the mead brewers face. For example, why the mead sometimes become cloudy and how it can be prevented”, says assistant professor at the biotech program Anne Louise Vaarby.
The mead brewery Petersen & Sønner sells their products to top restaurants all over Denmark. Among other things they have developed a mint mead in corporation with the local Michelin restaurant at Dragsholm Slot.
“It’s exciting to get a visit from the students from biotech because they have a totally different and more theoretical view on our products than we have. We hope that we can get some of their knowledge so that our mead can become even better”, says brew master Mikkel Petersen.
The first thing the students do is mixing honey and water and heating it to 40 degrees Celsius. Then yeast is added and the fermentation – the real creation of the mead – begins. The mix is stored in oak barrels for at least a year. That is where the real magic happens, as the brew master says.
“As a bachelor of engineering both theory and practice is very important”, assistant professor Anne Louise Vaarby explains.
“The goal for many of our students is to work in the industry where fermentation often is the whole production. But in the industry, you can’t get your fingers into the production tanks because everything needs to be sterile and controlled. But that is possible here. The practical knowledge they get by doing that is very valuable when they are going to get a job in the industry”.
Honey in the pockets
"There’s honey everywhere – even in my pockets", says one of the students laughing while he is mixing the mead.
The visit at the small local brewery is very popular with the biotech students who are from both the Danish and the international class.
"It’s really interesting to see all the processes up close – and to literally have our fingers in the fermentation" says Seán O’Sullivan from Ireland.
Haris Dedic from the Danish class agrees:
Here there is a real opportunity to optimize and develop the products. And that’s inspiring. What we learn here is very attractive to both the industry and smaller companies like this one. There are lots of opportunities
After visiting the brewery, the students will bring their mead mixture back home to Kalundborg where the biotech program is located. In the coming time they will be making different experiments with the mead. Some of them will examine what difference it makes using organic honey compared to conventional honey. Others how it’s possible to incorporate new flavors into the mead.
“We will visit the brewery again in May. Then the students will show their experiments and results to the brewers. In that way we all get some knowledge out of it”, says assistant professor Anne Louise Vaarby.