Genetically Modified Beer
The famous Eurofizz brewers, Carlsberg (www.carlsberg.com) use to have an advert in the UK featuring Orson Wells declaring their main fizz to be "Probably the Best Lager in the World". Of course, it is not close to being the best, and it is a long way from being "The Best Beer in the World", their equivalent slogan outside the UK, Lager being a term used in the UK for beers, most of which are moderate to, for me, undrinkable fizzes, in the loose Pils (Pilsener) style. Carlsberg declare on their website that "Carlsberg has no current plans to employ genetically modified raw materials or yeast strains in beer brewing" and yet they manufacture their own enzymes, using a GM route, and use them to fabricate their dead beers; at the time that I discovered this, I thought of producing some T-Shirts with the Carlsberg logo and the legend "Carlsberg - Probably the World's Most Well Known Genetically Modified Beer". The GM-produced version of beta-Glucanase that Carlsberg produces was designed to be more temperature resistant (thermostable) than the version that naturally occurs in malt; it typically lasts three times longer in the mash and has thus more time to work at breaking down glucans. Diter von Wettstein, who was involved in the development of GM enzymes at Carlsberg, on his retirement, went to the USA and carried on equivalent work on genetically engineering thermostable beta-Glucanase in malting barley itself; click here for more details. Interestingly, although Carlsberg claim that they will not use GM materials when manufacturing their concoctions, they are clearly doing research into GM Barley, i.e. click here for a newspaper report giving details of their lawsuit against a company in the USA that Diter von Wettstein is involved in. They obviously believe that Diter has taken some of their GM Barley research information to the USA. But why would Carlsberg engage in GM Barley research if they were not one day going to use the malt made from it in the manufacture of their alcoholic liquids? That Carlsberg are doing research into many aspects of the use of GM materials in beer production is stated on the Competencies page of the Carlsberg Research Centre's website, which can be reached by clicking here.
I have a Dream that One Day Supermarkets will only Stock Decent Beers; I have a Dream!
I saw all this as a major weapon that could be used by CAMRA, since it was formed to promote unpasteurised, unfiltered beer. Major supermarket chains have well publicised policies of not stocking GM products. I had this vision of them having to rid their shelves of all their canned beers and replacing them with bottle-conditioned ones: Real Ale in a bottle from Belgium and England, etc. CAMRA did not have to state whether it was for or against the use of GM materials; it just had to make a simple statement: "Real Ale is not produced with any industrial or GM enzymes; most filtered mass circulation beers in the UK and the rest of the world are." (This statement may require a "small print" adjustment, as is explained below.)
After discovering the use of industrial, possibly GM enzymes, at the brewery in Tadcaster, I immediately sent a letter to the CAMRA Chairman, who expressed great interest. He obviously wanted to first check the facts with his own technical people, before commissioning a page one headline in CAMRA's newspaper, What's Brewing, for the November, 1999 edition, in time for the big Christmas party purchases of Eurofizz.
Then he backed off before this happened, after getting his technical advice; no story was printed in What's Brewing, apart from a small article inside the April, 2000 edition, in the "Guest Beer Writer" column, from myself. I believe he did a U-turn for two main reasons: firstly, European Union legislation lets brewers not declare the industrial or GM enzymes they use as an ingredient, since they are used in small quantities that are destroyed in the hop boil in the copper; and bad publicity for dead pasteurised, filtered beer could rub off on all beers, including Real Ale. So CAMRA is keeping a Trappist silence on the use of industrial enzymes, including GM ones, in the production of filtered beers. The big brewers who are using these ingredients must be really laughing at this. CAMRA continues with its silence to this day, and e-mails that I have sent to their most senior officials, in 2004, on the subject, have not been replied to or acknowledged.
I do not subscribe to this view that bad publicity for filtered beer produced using GM-produced enzymes would be detrimental to Real Ale, as they are only used in its production for unusual types with a very high Wheat content, see below. In fact, I sincerely believe that it would be beneficial. I feel that if handled properly, that it could give Real Ale a huge boost. It would also discourage producers of Real Ale from using industrial enzymes or GM-produced enzymes to replace or augment those in malt that actually convert the bulk starch in the malt to sugar. This would allow the backing out of malt and replacing it with adjuncts, such as the wheat starch that the Trappist brewery Chimay (www.chimay.com) uses (click here for a White Beer Travels page giving details of the materials used in Chimay beers). The ultimate beer with regard to the use of adjuncts is Citizen Original from East African Breweries Limited (www.eabrew.com), which is a 100% barley beer (it is described as "The World's 1st Malting Barley Beer" on its product description page on the site, www.eabrew.com/brands/citizen_original.asp). For this beer, the starch in the unmalted barley, which has no enzymes for converting starch to sugar, unlike malt, is converted to sugar by a collection of GM-produced enzymes, including the most important mashing enzymes. These GM enzymes, trade name Ceremix®, are produced by the Danish company, Novozymes, www.novozymes.com, who are part of Nova Nordisk: www.novonordisk.com. Note that I surmise that these enzymes are GM rather than just "industrial", as there is no declaration on the Novozymes website refuting this, unlike a manufacturer of enzymes cited above. In fact, if you click here, you can see (question/answer in bottom left of page) that Novozymes state that they produce enzymes by GM means. The enzymes used to produce Citizen Original include GM-produced versions of beta-Glucanase, along with alpha-Amylase and beta-Amylase (β-Amylase), these being the classic converters of the grain's bulk starch to fermentable sugars (collectively called diastase, hence the term "Diastatic Power" (DP) as a measure of the enzyme content of a malt or grain mix. With a ban on the import of malt into Nigeria, Nigerian Breweries (www.nbplc.com) goes one step further and uses Novozymes's enzymes to produce beer solely from Sorghum (a drought-tolerant grain, also known as milo) or Maize (Corn); click here for more details. Similarly SABMiller's Nile Breweries, in Uganda, manufactures "Eagle Lager" from Sorghum, using industrial enzymes supplied by the Irish company, Quest International (www.questintl.com), who are based in Kilnagleary, Carrigaline, County Cork.
Nova Nordisk supply over 50% of the world's industrial enzymes. These products are detailed on the Novozymes website, for example, click here to see the report on the aptly named Viscoflow®, the trade name for their GM-produced beta-Glucanase. This describes its trials at the renowned brewing institute at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), in Weihenstephan, in Germany.
Click here for another interesting paper on this site, entitled "Our best selling beer is made without malt"; it give details of a beer, called "Premium Senior" brewed by the Romanian company, S C Martens (www.martens.ro), that is produced using unmalted barley, with the help of the cocktail of enzymes produced by Novozymes. A reproduction of the label is provided on the left, which, as can be seen, is described, on the label, as a "Pasteurised Blond Beer" (in Romanian). Note that the brewery's website does claim that the beer "contains malt" (Contine malt), click here to see this, but how much, 5%, 10%? The Novozymes article claims that the brewery's beers have won Silver and Gold medals in competitions in Belgium. Note that S C Martens is 67.67% (two thirds) owned by the large, but independent Martens Brouwerij (Brewery) (www.martens.be), in Bocholt, in Belgian Limburg. The labels of the Romanian beers have the Belgian brewery's logo on them, as can be seen by comparing this label with the logo on the Home page of the Belgian Martens website. Another quote from the paper that is mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph is amazing when you consider that it comes from a Belgian Specialty Beer brewer, Raymond Moureau: "The real secret behind Premium Senior is, however, that I have put my soul into it." It is a pity that he has put little or no malt in it!
Some people argue that it is quite OK to use extra beta-Glucanase in a brew, even a GM-produced version of it, and that the sentiments of this White Beer Travels Web page represent a knee-jerk reaction to GM enzymes in beer. However, there are some fairly old references to the use of industrial enzymes in the production of beer, for example, in the classic 1989 book by George Fix: Principles of Brewing Science (ISBN 0-937581-17-9, published by Brewers Publications). On page 101, it states that " ... high molecular weight proteins can cause a variety of problems in brewing ... "; on page 31 "Many brewers view beta-glucans as a wasteful carbohydrate. They are known to greatly increase wort viscosity when not properly degraded, which can lead to filtration and haze problems. ... Their presence in raw barley is one of the main reasons special enzymes are used when this material is used in appreciable amounts as an adjunct." The interesting point for me here is that the use of "special enzymes", which means that industrially produced enzymes is not a new subject, but one which has been kept successfully hidden from the general drinking public for a number of years!
I have expressed no explicit personal view on the merits or otherwise of GM products in this Web page; I make no implication that adding additional enzymes is a bad thing, even the ones most favoured by brewers: those having a high degree of thermostability, the GM ones. If an enzyme is declared to be thermostable, you can be sure that it has been produced by a GM route. What I am getting at is that it is a bit like a war, a war against the brewers who are still trying to kill Real Ale by replacing it with pasteurised, filtered, gassy keg beer. In a war, all weapons ratified by the Burton Convention (the beer world's equivalent of the Geneva Convention - sorry I made that up) are legal. Therefore, as the general public's perception is that GM is bad, why not tarnish their filtered, pasteurised beers with a GM label and somehow throw in the fact that the GM-produced material is based on a bacteria? As they say: "All is fair in love and war". CAMRA, for me, has lost a lot of its fighting/campaigning spirit by not using all such weapons in the fight. However, if less militancy is the order of the day, when compared to the pioneer days of CAMRA, a less aggressive, more measured approach as to how CAMRA could start fighting back is covered in the next paragraph.
The Brewers and Malsters Guild of Ireland has a Charter that states that its members will not use industrial enzymes to produce their beers. Of course Guinness is not in the Guild and uses them, perhaps GM ones, in all its beers. I believe that CAMRA should push for similar "rules" in their Charter or Code of Practice for brewers who joined an equivalent guild in the UK, or were members of organisations such as SIBA (www.siba.co.uk), the Society of Independent Brewers, and IFBB, the Independent Family Brewers of Britain, www.familybrewers.co.uk, whose members are all committed to producing quality, character beers. No doubt, the bigger regional brewers of Real Ale, who are not members of SIBA, would follow suit, which would, hopefully, put pressure on the bigger brewers to do the same. CAMRA could also, in parallel, actively encourage all brewers to declare that industrial enzymes are not used in the production of any of their Real Ales (with one proviso, see below). Similarly, in other countries, beer consumers' organisations, such as Belgium's Zythos (www.zythos.be and White Beer Travels Web page) and The Netherlands' PINT (www.pint.nl), or the umbrella organisation, the EBCU (European Beer Consumers' Association) (www.ebcu.org), should do the same with regard to their countries' Speciality Beers, as could Craft Beer (Specialty Beer) organisations in the USA, etc.
There are two categories of industrial/GM enzymes that can and should be attacked by beer consumer' organisations: those which aid filtration, such as beta-Glucanase, which is used by the producers of filtered beers, but not unfiltered ones, such as Real Ale or bottle-conditioned beers in the Belgium, The Netherlands, the UK and elsewhere; and those which are used to replace malt with adjuncts (which include unmalted barley) in the mash, such as alpha- and beta-Amylase. CAMRA should make it clear that the latter can be used to make Real Ales more cheaply, to the detriment of quality, and should thus be actively discouraging their presence in the mash, and the other beer consumers' organisations should be doing the same for their countries' Speciality/Craft/Artisanal Beers.
Smooth Flow is doing Real Ale no Favours or Flavours
Although CAMRA truly did save Real Ale for the nation, following its formation in the early 1970s, the fight is not over. In England we are now being inundated with another form of pasteurised and filtered beer: Cream Flow or Smooth Flow. Many examples of this beer have the same name, or one similar, to a Real Ale produced by the same brewer. For example Tetley's Bitter has a Real Ale (cask-conditioned) and a Smoothflow form, with very similar pump/font clips. In pubs where the Real Ale version is available, there will usually be a keg tap for the Smooth Flow form alongside it, how sad, or even replacing it, how, very, very sad! In the town where I live, Grimsby, in England, we have, in just one year, in the early part of the 21st Century, lost over twenty Real Ale pubs to the moderate product that is Cream Flow or Smooth Flow. These beers are generally produced using industrial enzymes, most likely GM ones. Rubbishing them could bring the handpumps back to these pubs and many hundreds of others around the country.
The website for Tetley's Bitter, which is excellent as a Real Ale, but is now available in Smooth Flow form, is not www.tetleybitter.co.uk, but www.smoothlydoesit.co.uk, honest, you check it out! Most amazingly, I was travelling on the M1 motorway, in 2002, in the vicinity of the Carlsberg-Tetley facility, in Northampton, England (since just called Carlsberg); a car shunted into the back of my car; the young woman driver produced her business card, which declared that she was the Product Manager for Tetley's Bitter; in the old days, this position would have been held by an older man from Yorkshire, who swore by his handpumped Tetley Bitter! Tetley's Bitter, both Real Ale and Smoothflow variety, is brewed in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.
In the mash for beers designated as Wheat Beers, there is typically only 30% to 40% Wheat, with the rest being Malt (Malted Barley, Barley Malt), since since Unmalted Wheat has none and Malted Wheat has less of the enzymes that occur naturally in Malted Barley that are needed to convert the starch in the grains to sugar. Therefore, if someone wanted to produce a Speciality Beer with an unusually high percentage of Wheat in the mash, then this would only be possible with the addition of enzymes to the mash tun.
But has anyone that ordinarily brews meritorious, conventional brews, produced such a beer? Well, I know of one, and it is from a highly regarded brewer of Real Ales, in Burnley, Lancashire, England: Moorhouse's (www.moorhouses.co.uk).
In June, 2006, as the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Football world cup was taking place in Germany, Moorhouse's produced a clear Wheat Beer called FIFA Pitch (4.2%). However, this was no normal Wheat Beer, its grist being as follows: 75% Malted Wheat, 5% Torrified Wheat, and 20% Maris Otter Barley Malt. A little Invert Sugar was also used in the FIFA Pitch mash. With less than 20% Malted Barley in the mash, conversion of the grain's starch to sugar was facilitated by the addition of an industrial enzyme to the mash tun: Trizyme, a brand name for a cocktail of three enzymes, including the principal ones required to convert Starch to Sugar: alpha-Amylase and beta-Amylase. As with other Moorhouse's beers, the hops used were Fuggles and Willamette (late addition for aroma). I found the beer to be absolutely top class; it reminded me (taste and visually) of one of France's very best beers, a clear Wheat Beer called L'Angelus, which is brewed by the Brasserie d'Annoeullin. Industrial enzymes are generally used for poor quality, filtered beers; this is the first example I have come across of them being used to produce a top quality, very innovative Real Ale. If anyone knows of any other examples of the use of industrial enzymes in the production of top class Speciality/Craft/Artisanal Beers, I would be most grateful if you could let me know.
Of course, it would be a sad day if Trizyme or its equivalent were used to back out malt in a Real Ale mash, should the malt be replaced by something dodgy (any starch source), rather than the noble Malted Wheat of the Moorhouse's FIFA Pitch.
Comments Received on this Web Page
I get quite a few e-mails commenting on this Web page, and depending in which camp they reside, usually defines whether the comments are positive or not. Some just fail to see a problem with the fact that, for example, Freeman Street, a street in Grimsby where I live, that is famous for its pubs - it has nine on it - all have no Real Ale, although they all did when I moved to the town in 1984; all now have only filtered and pasteurised beer from International brewers. However, I actually got a quite reasonable one from someone who was the Marketing Manager for one of the major producers of industrial enzymes, who has responsibility for the brewing industry. He welcomed a further dialogue in the hope that he could convince me that the use of industrial enzymes had a positive side to it.
I replied that this would be certainly be interested to hear any positive use of enzymes from the beer consumers' point of view, other than that it reduces the price, since, the main focus of my website is Specialty Beers, for which the audience that I am targeting it at are quite happy to pay extra for a more individualistic beer. I pointed out that I am particularly concerned about those enzymes that allow the replacement of part or even all of the malt in a mash with adjuncts, the latter including unmalted barley. I stated that whilst I could see a benefit in doing this for developing nations, I saw no merit in doing it for those interested in Speciality Beers in Western Europe; I stressed that, in my view their use will only be to the detriment of quality, but we see Martens doing it in Romania, see above, something this Belgian company could do in Belgium, to cut cost. I also pointed out that in the UK, we are not immune to dumbing down of quality that could result from the use of industrial enzymes. With my website, I stated that I am trying to bring this to the attention of people so that the backing out of malt, that is facilitated by industrial alpha- and beta-Amylase, does not become commonplace; I emphasised that I am not really concerned about filtration aids such as industrially produced beta-glucanase, since the beers it is used to produce are of no interest to me from a drinking point of view, but, as is clear from my website, I am disappointed that this weapon is not used by the consumer organisation, CAMRA, see above.
I did not receive a response to my responding e-mail. I sincerely believe that this is because for the consumer of quality Speciality Beers, which includes British Real Ales, that the use of industrial/GM enzymes offers no advantages, apart from the special case detailed above.